Friends again

RE Verse reading–Acts 4:36-37, 11:19-26, 15:36-40 (day six)  “Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service” (2 Timothy 4:11)  It is possible to have a positive end to a difficult chapter.  Sometimes being “friends again” is better than being “friends the first time”.  No narrative is supplied to this encouraging story.  Barnabus is not mentioned.  Did he die?  Did he go on to an eternal place from which he could watch with satisfaction his two friends became friends again?  We don’t know.  What the Scripture does tell is that, eventually, Paul’s attitude toward John Mark changed.  Perhaps Mark just grew up and out of his early irresponsibility.  Perhaps Paul’s hard-drivenness softened some with age and wisdom.  Whatever the explanation, there is great hope here!  “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you”  (Ephesians 4:2) When conflict happens, forgive and wait!  It is possible to be friends again.

Brothers divided

RE Verse reading–Acts 4:36-37, 11:19-26, 15:36-40 (day five)  “And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another and Barnabus took Mark with him and sailed to Cyprus.  But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord”  (15:39-40)  Sometimes godly people disagree.  Sometimes strongly.  It is a mistake to minimize the conflict between Barnabus and Paul.  “Sharp disagreement” translates a single word that means” to stab from the side, to be betrayed by a trusted brother”.  I am grateful that both men knew to continue to serve Christ.  Conflict with a brother is often painful and always dangerous, but  it does not have to be fatal to the parties involved or the common mission of the church.  These things have a way of sorting themselves out over time.  Do not become resentful! Do not quit or harbor anger!  Continue to serve and leave the management of your brother to your Father.

God’s gift to us

RE Verse reading–Acts 4:36-37, 11:19-26, 15:36-40 (day four)  “He (Barnabus) rejoiced and began to encourage (parakaleo) them”  (11:23)  “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper (parakaleo) (John 14:16)  “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the GIFT of the Holy Spirit.  For this promise is for . . .all. . .our God shall call to Himself”  (Acts 2:38)  The Holy Spirit is our incentive.  He is God’s promise to us.  The Bible describes Barnabus as an encourager employing the same word used elsewhere for the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit coming and calling to us is our encourgement!  How carefully we should guard against grieving or provoking Him.  ” ‘He who believes in Me, out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water’.  This He spoke of the Spirt” says John 7:38-39.  Discovering strength in Him, we become an encouragement to others.  He is God’s gift to us.

Full of the Holy Spirit

RE Verse reading–Acts 4:36-37, 11:19-26, 15:36-40 (day three)  “For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (11:24)  The Greek word pleres meant “full”.  It described a vessel filled to the top, a surface covered in every part, or a soul completely permeated.  The Bible says that we must be filled with the Spirit of God.  There will be no power otherwise.  Luke 4:1 says that Jesus was “full (pleres) of the Holy Spirit”.  Acts 2:4 says “they were filled (pleres) with the Holy Spirit”.  Acts 11:24 says that Barnabus was a good man as a consequence of being filled (pleres) by/with the Holy Spirit and faith.  this past Sunday I showed the children a glass.  To be filled, the glasss had to have only one thing and that one thing had to have all of it.  The human heart does not have the luxury of loving two things at once.  We must be filled.  All of us. Only Him.

A call to courage

RE Verse reading–Acts 4:36-37, 11:19-26, 15:36-40 (day two)  “He rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord”  (11:23)  I sometimes think that encouragement should be written enCOURAGEment.  Most moderns miss the heroic call that the ancient word implied.  Perhaps this explains the nickname “Barnabus” (Arabic, bar=son of, nabi=prophet)  Like a prophet of old, Barnabus called the new Christians at Antioch to the high purposes of God and the sacrifices that would be required.  No soft comforter, Barnabus coached and called them to be resolute (a Greek word that meant “to place before”, a call for bold, fearless witness).  Sometimes encouragement is more than a kind word or a note in the mail.  Sometimes it is a spine-strenthening call to not take the easy road, to “pay the price” in a conflict that is worth every sacrifice!  May the Lord give such prophets to us, people who call us to courage as we serve the Lord.

Son of encouragement

RE Verse reading–Acts 4:36-37, 11:19-26, 15:36-40 (day one)  “Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabus by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement). . .sold it (his land) and brought the money and laid it at the apostle’s feet”  (4:36-37)  Encouragement!  What a great word.  In a world that can be routinely ungrateful and regularly critical, the people who encourage us are gifts from God!  This week, our thoughts turn toward a man whose nickname meant “Son of Encouragement”.  Joseph was so dependably helpful the Apostles decided it was genetic!  Remember our theme for this summer RE Verse study?  The generosity of God!  Our Father is abundant in mercy, lavish in His gifts.  One of the ways we see it (and one of the places we owe Him our thanks) is in the encouragers He provides for us.  Who are the people, past and present, who have spoken challenge and instruction and hope and help into your life?

When church is awe full

RE Verse reading–Acts 2:41-47, 4:32-35 (day seven)  “Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles”  (2:43)  Occasionally, I hear people say that awe means “respect or reverence”.  Maybe so, but the Greek word used by Luke in Acts 2 is the common word for fear. (phobos-“panic, dread or flight”)  One more place where the New Testament is obviously not designed to appeal to consumers.  When the Holy Spirit makes the presence of Christ real, we will fell afraid. . .uncomfortable. . . not in charge. . . vulnerable.  Unless we encounter a God who makes us “want to run” (at least in part), we may not be dealing with the true God.  Until we fear (sin and discipline and the possiblity that the Father would be displeased), we have probably not gone far enough into the life He has promised.  Church is supposed to be awe full.  Those who fear God ususally don’t fear anything else.

Walk by the Spirit

RE Verse reading–Acts 2:41-47, 4:32-35  “For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. . .If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit”  (Galatians 5:22-23, 25)  It can be discouraging to look at the picture of the early church.  Their “first love” (Revelation 2) expressed itself in such dramatic and desirable ways.  We, sadly, do not present the same picture and feel ashamed by the contrast.  Facing this, it will be a mistake to focus on outcomes rather than cause.  It is not our job is to shape ourselves like the early church.  It would be impossible even if we tried.  Our task is to follow the Spirit of God.  As we do, He will shape our church in ways, old and new, that will powerfully impact the world for His glory and people’s good.  What was possible then is possible now–and more!  The way forward is to walk by the Spirit.

Pack strength

RE Verse reading–Acts 2:41-47, 4:32-35 (day five)  “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own.” (4:32)  “Now is the law of the Jungle–as old and as true as the sky; And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.  As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk, the Law runneth forward and back–for the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”–Rudyard Kipling.  No coincidence that Acts 4:32 follows the events beginning in 4:3.  When the Apostles were arrested and threatened, the danger taught the whole church an important lesson.  We have many enemies.  We must stand together.  How wise of God to use something bad, to teach something good.  They were of one heart and soul, in part, because they had no other choice.  Do we?

The fruit of the Spirit

RE Verse reading–Acts 2:41-47, 4:32-35 (day four)  “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common”  (2:44)  I am at Youth Camp this week.  Thank you for your prayers.  Our evening sessions are focused on the fruit of the Spirit.  Galatians 5:22-23 (taken together with our reading in Acts) gives powerful testimony to the words of Jesus, “that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit”–ie. it has the characteristics and shared life of the Holy Spirit.  I am being pulled to my knees as I consider the stark difference between what is promised to those who “walk by the Spirit” and what is real experience of the average Christian in our land.  Scripture predicts a supernatural unity and generosity and joy that will include “all”.  Why are so many in our church not bearing  the promised fruit of this LIFE?  As I reflect on these things I am praying for wisdom and courage.  Will you join me?