Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

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Superstition

Acts 28

Superstition\r
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, superstition is: ?A belief that some action not logically related to a course of events influences its outcome.? \r
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In this case the islanders of Malta believed that Justice, with a capitol ?J? and called ?Dike? was a force that if not satisfied through the punishment of a wrongdoer would, through nature render the due punishment man failed to impose.\r
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Their logic went this way: \r
a) Snake attacks don?t come by natural consequences or coincidence\r
b) The reason must have something to do with the man attacked\r
c) If you do wrong you will be punished\r
d) Paul must have done something wrong\r
e) Wrongs are punished by a force outside of human action\r
f) The shipwreck was Justice way of inflicting punishment on Paul\r
g) It must be a serious offense\r
h) Escaping the sea didn?t mean escaping the punishment\r
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It is logical to assume that a snake, stiffened by the cold and hiding in a stack of wood picked up by Paul, would strike simply because it feels threatened. The action of Justice is not logically related to that course of events ? it steps in and breaks up the logic ? but is accepted by the superstitious.\r
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When the watched to see if Paul would swell up and die, and he didn?t ? they figured, again according to their own superstitious logic, that instead of a victim of the gods, he was a god himself, and immune to ordinary human misfortunes.\r
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The Bible is filled with instances of superstition\r
The Philistines refused to step on the threshold of the temple of Dagon, The Israelites believed the actual Ark of the Covenant would save them in battle, the sailors threw Jonah into the sea thinking it would stop the storm, the disciples thought they saw a ghost when Jesus walked on water to them.\r
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Today?s Superstitions\r
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Of course we laugh at the silly Maltans for being superstitious. We in the 21st century never allow ourselves to hold such primitive beliefs. Oh really?\r
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It's bad luck to walk under a ladder. This came from the early Christian belief that a leaning ladder formed a triangle with the wall and ground. You must never violate the Holy Trinity by walking through a triangle, lest you be considered in league with the devil. (And you all know what good Christians did to people they suspected of being in league with the devil.) \r
Beware of Friday the Thirteenth. Those who know about these things, inform us that Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden on a Friday, Noah's flood started on a Friday, and Christ was crucified on a Friday. Christians also noted that twelve witches plus one devil are present at Satanic ceremonies so Friday and 13 make a deadly combination. \r
God Bless You. During the sixth century, it was customary to congratulate people who sneezed because they were expelling evil from their bodies. Later, when a great plague took hold of Europe, and people began sneezing violently, the Pope passed a law. Since sneezing meant that the person was going to die of plague, people were required to bless the sneezer. \r
Don't spill the salt. Although some people believe that Judas spilt salt during the last supper, this claim can't be proven. Salt was a very precious expensive commodity in the middle ages. It was also used for medicinal purposes. If you spilled any, you must immediately throw it over your left shoulder to strike the nasty spirits in the eye, thus preventing sickness. \r
Wear a St. Christopher Medal when you travel. Historians don't believe there ever was a Saint Christopher. \r
Black cats are evil. In ancient Egypt, the Goddess Bast, was a black female cat. Christian priests wanted to wipe out all traces of other religions so convinced their ignorant followers to destroy the evil demons that were black cats. While they were at it, they destroyed the kindly little old ladies who cared for the cats believing them to be witches. \r
Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home. It is bad luck to kill a ladybug because it represents the Virgin Mary. \r
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Our Daily Superstitions\r
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Superstition is anytime we substitute God?s sovereignty in our lives for anything else. It is also when we substitute our philosophies of how things work for God?s truth.\r
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For instance ? When something bad happens it doesn?t mean God is punishing you. Bad happens, good happens ? many times it is simply the natural course of events or just coincidence. Now, that?s not to say that God will not move to prevent bad things from happening ? especially when we pray ? but we should not take our circumstances as a judgment from God.\r
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Another superstition we can fall into ? putting a picture of something we want on our refrigerator then visualizing that we have it. I?ve heard Christians preach that we should do this ? only they include God somewhere in the equation that He owes us. This isn?t just superstition, it?s idolatry. And really, at it?s base, superstition is idolatry ? substituting something or someone for God, focusing, even worshiping that dead thing instead of the living God.\r
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What we want is a way to explain what happens to us and others, and to know how to react to the world around us to follow God?s will for our lives.\r
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We don?t need to create some external mechanism to explain it ? the explanation is easy ? we our sinful beings living in a fallen world that a good God sent His Son to redeem. Sometimes bad things happen to good people and sometimes good things happen to bad people.\r
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Listen to how Asaph the psalmist looked at life:\r
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Ps 73:2-3\r
2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;\r
I had nearly lost my foothold. \r
3 For I envied the arrogant \r
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked\r
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Ps 73:16-17\r
16 When I tried to understand all this,\r
it was oppressive to me \r
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;\r
then I understood their final destiny.\r
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The bad will be punished in the end, those that trust in Jesus as their Savior will be rewarded ? and in the meantime we need to cling to God, pray to God, and trust in God to guide our lives.\r
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Instead of trusting something else to intervene in our lives ? we should trust what it says in Romans 8:28 ?And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.?\r
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By the way ? there are no poisonous snakes on Malta today. It?s possible that there were around 60AD but the natives destroyed them all. One other historical note ? the bay where Paul?s ship ran aground is now called St. Paul?s Bay.\r
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Vs 7-10\r
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Publius is a Roman name ? but most likely this man was the local chieftain or ?head man?. We don?t know if he was a representative of Rome or just the leading man on the island ? but he welcomed Paul and his group to stay with him.\r
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Luke mentions the healing of Publius? father. Some commentators suggest that dysentery and fever were common on Malta ? but that the healing in vs 8 is different than in verse 9. The Greek word in verse nine is where we get the word therapy. It?s possible that Dr. Luke himself treated the Maltans during the entire three months they were there. \r
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So it makes sense that the islanders would send off our castaways with lots of stuff.\r
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Vs 10 ? 14\r
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First they arrived in Syracuse ? which is directly to the north of Malta on the eastern side of Sicily. From there they arrive at Rhegium, which is on the southern most part of the toe of the boot of Italy. From there they sail quite a ways along the coast and came to Puteoli ? this is the normal port for Alexandrian grain ships. \r
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From there they travel on land ? and Luke jumps ahead of himself saying ?And thus we came to Rome.? Actually they were some miles from Rome, but after all they?d been through it certainly must have felt like they were already there as they traveled along the Appian way ? the straightest and best kept of all the Roman roads.\r
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Vs 15 ? 16\r
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Apparently Paul was allowed to rent a home and lived there for two years. It wasn?t very comfortable, though, because Paul had a soldier chained to his wrist 24 hours a day.\r
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As his custom ? Paul calls the Jewish leaders in Rome together and preaches to them.\r
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Vs 17 ? 22\r
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It?s interesting that the Jews in Rome didn?t know anything about the controversy with Paul ? especially in light of how vehemently the Jews in Palestine pressed their case against him. It?s also interesting that the Jews in Rome didn?t seem to know much about Christianity despite there being a Christian community in Rome.\r
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The reasons could be: A representative could have been sent but was delayed due to the difficulty of winter travel ? or the leaders in Jerusalem probably didn?t think they had much of a chance to plead their case in Rome after failing to convince Roman authorities in Palestine. Add to that the fact that the Roman government had harsh penalties for unsuccessful prosecutors.\r
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The Jews had been removed from Rome for a time (remember Priscilla and Aquilla?) so the Roman church was probably gentile in its makeup and thus wouldn?t have had much contact with the Jews there.\r
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Vs 23 ? 28\r
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Paul?s discussion with the Jews is pretty typical ? initial curiosity, then hardness with some conversion success. Even all the years that he suffered rejection didn?t deter Paul from speaking about the good news to his brethren.\r
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Vs 30 ? 31\r
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Paul stayed in Rome for two years ? during which time he wrote the letters of Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon - then was released from prison. The abrupt ending to the book comes from the fact that Luke probably wrote it shortly after the events in Rome concluded.\r
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Conclusion\r
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So what happened next? We don?t know for sure. Tradition tells us that Paul won his freedom, went on more evangelistic campaigns, and probably visited friends in Macedonia and Asia. He might have gone to Spain, but we can?t be sure.\r
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At some time Paul was again arrested ? imprisoned, and wrote more books ? including the pastoral letters of 1 and 2 Timothy. He was martyred sometime between 64 and 67 AD ? beheaded by Caesar Nero.\r
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I think the book of Acts teaches us some very important lessons ? lessons we?ve seen in the nine months we?ve been journeying through it. Here are just a few:\r
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? Waiting is better than walking sometimes\r
We saw that as the disciples were hasty to gamble on who would be the next apostle ? then as they waited on the Lord to send His Spirit.\r
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? The Lord gives power to His people ? but the focus of that power is not inward, but outward\r
We saw that with the giving of the Holy Spirit baptism ? not so believers could put on a show or enjoy Holy Ghost goose bumps ? but so the Lord can work through us to reach the lost and hurting.\r
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? We learned that there are as many ways to share the gospel as there are people to hear it.\r
From listening in to what people are already thinking ? to preaching before kings and rulers ? we saw the faithfulness of those dedicated to spreading the good news.\r
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? We learned that hard times can be expected but God uses those times to strengthen and use us.\r
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? We learned that sometimes what we want isn?t what God wants ? and we should listen and not worry if He turns us in different directions than we anticipated.\r
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? And we learned that God knows when the storms are coming ? He?ll warn us sometimes, but doesn?t necessarily steer us out of their way. But he ALWAYS stands by our side, comforting us, and using the storm to strengthen us and spread His love to others.\r
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In two weeks we head into a book written by the man we started with in Acts ? the Apostle Peter. Peter has many many valuable lessons for us on living life and anticipation of heaven.

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