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Professor Howdy said...

*UNC is the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Specializing in a wide range of degree programs including:
B.A. A.H.F.(Advanced Hamburger Flipping), A.P.E., N.U.T., B.R.C.
(Bar Room Conversations), etc. Institution was founded in 1898
for sons/daughters of local Chapel Still politicians that were
unable to qualify for the more prestigious institutions of higher
learning such as Duke, Wake Forest, and N.C. State.


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Professor Howdy said...

Beyond Your Walls

And you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth...

The season of Pentecost is the birthday of the Christian community. For Christians who celebrate Pentecost Sunday, a celebration is the order of the day to commemorate the birth of the church and its growth in numbers and witness. The book of Acts records the events surrounding the momentous day: the violent wind from heaven, the appearance of tongues of fire, and the miraculous gift of languages that caused the Jews who had come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Harvest to wonder if the disciples were drunk.

The ancient feast of Pentecost celebrated by the nation of Israel, however, was a celebration of harvest. The weeks of sowing were completed and now it was time to reap the gifts of the land. That the Spirit would be poured out during this Hebrew festival is no coincidence. Jewish pilgrims from many different lands had
gathered for this feast and were astounded as they heard their native dialects and languages being spoken by a small group of Jesus-followers. These were the languages representing every region of the known world. The harvest was not just of crops, but of peoples—peoples far beyond the boundaries of Jerusalem.

And this is exactly what Jesus had promised would happen with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The good news of the Messiah would go out beyond the walls of Israel to the "remotest parts of the earth." What is often not realized—as modern people living in a pluralistic and multicultural world—is that taking the gospel to the remotest parts of the earth would have been bad news for those who believed the Messiah was only for Israel.

To understand why this mission of the Holy Spirit was so radical, we have to understand how religious Jews viewed Gentiles in the first century. Gentiles were unclean and Jews had no dealings with them. Jesus was often
criticized for ministering to Gentiles or to Samaritans—half-breeds—who were also despised by the Jews. This background gives understanding for a conflict in the earliest Christian community in which the Hellenistic Jews (Jews from Greece) were angry at the native Hebrews for overlooking their widows in the serving of food.(1) Outsiders in general were treated with inferiority.

It also helps us understand the strange vision of the great sheet covered with unclean animals that appeared to the disciple Peter. In the vision, Peter is commanded to "kill and eat" what would have defiled him according to Jewish law. Peter cries out when he is told to kill and eat, "By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean!" This was not merely a protest against a new dietary law; Peter could not conceive of bringing the gospel to those he would have considered unclean. The narrative tells the reader that at the same time of this vision, Cornelius, a Roman solider was
praying—praying as it turned out for Peter, his reluctant evangelist.

(Continued Below!)

Professor Howdy said...

As a result of this vision, Peter later declares about the Gentiles, "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the one who fears God and does what is right is welcome to God. The word which God sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ...of him all the prophets bear witness that through his name everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins."(2)

Peter ministered to those who were considered outside the bounds of God's grace. And when he returned to Jerusalem, the Jews took issue with him over his "eating with the uncircumcised." Peter explained the events and the Jews eventually declared, "God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life." The gospel had pushed outward beyond the walls of Jerusalem! The words of the prophet Joel were being fulfilled: "In the last days, God says, I will pour forth
my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams" (Joel 2:28-32).

In this season of Pentecost, I marvel at the irony of God calling Peter, and later Paul (who was Saul of Tarsus a "Hebrew of Hebrews") to be "apostles to the Gentiles." God was calling them to reach out with the good news that God was saving those deemed unlikable, unworthy, and far outside the promises and plan of God. Whether or not we celebrate the season of Pentecost, we might wonder about the ones in our lives we might be tempted to consider "Judeans or Samarians" or those "who dwell in the remotest parts of the earth." The same Spirit who changed the world by changing the minds of a handful of disciples beckons still, pushing us outward beyond our own walls.

Margaret Manning is a member of the writing and speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.

(1) See Acts
(2) Acts 10:34-36, 43.

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