Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Continue

And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” – Acts 14.21-22

Troublesome times were there and it was only going to get worse. ‘Through many tribulations we will enter the kingdom of God.’ Paul and Barnabas knew that and so they spent a good part of their missionary journeys returning to the churches they had started to encourage and exhort them to continue in the faith.

Continuance in the faith. At the end of the day that is really what it is all about. Sometimes the Christian walk is really just about carrying on and staying faithful. Sometimes it is just plodding on. Sometimes it is only about sticking to it. Sometimes it is not glamorous or exciting or heroic or anything like that. Sometimes it is just putting one foot in front of the other.

Be steadfast, unmoveable, always bounding in the work. Don’t be weary in well doing. Seeing we have our ministry we do not lose heart.

Continue in the faith.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

A witness

But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” And with these sayings they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them. – Acts 14.14-18

As Paul and Barnabas moved into some of the Hellenistic cities they encountered a serious problem. The people saw the miracles they were doing, but instead of turning to God they tried to worship Paul and Barnabas. The saw them as the manifestation of Zeus and Hermes!

They tried to persuade the people. They turned to God as the Creator but who allowed people a choice. But, they said, He did not leave Himself without a witness. He does good, He controls creation, and He meets our needs. This description of God’s natural revelation to man reminds me of Pslam 19 and of Romans 1. Psalm 19 speakers of how the heavens declare the glory of God and Romans 1 about how God’s invisible attributes are seen in His creation.

Maltie Babcock was an athlete and later a pastor. Every morning he would go for a run to ‘see his Father’s world’ and be reminded of who God is. This is the witness that God leaves with us all. Pastor Babcock’s words ought to be a challenge to us all.

This is my Father’s world,
And to my list’ning ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world:
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world:
Oh, let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world,
The battle is not done:
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Full of joy and the Holy Spirit

And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region. But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. – Acts 13.49-52

God word was spreading, but everywhere they went there was also persecution and opposition. The religious leaders expelled them for the area where they were preaching. It certainly did not look like things were going well for them. It would seem that there would be discouragement and despair.

Instead of despairing Paul and Barnabas left those areas behind, moved on, and continued to be filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

Look at that. Instead of being discouraged, despaired, depressed, and defeated the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

I really wish I could do that when I face apparent failure. I wish I could do that when I face fearful situations. I wish I could do that when new trials come. I should be able. I know what James writes when he says ‘count it all joy’ when you face all sort of trials, but the doing is so much tougher. Sure, I continue on and try to stay faithful and do right, but this joyfulness is something I struggle with.

When we do that I think there is a connection to the rest of the verse. The disciples were not only full of joy, but also the Holy Spirit. When we are full of the Holy Spirit we manifest His fruit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. Look, near the top of the list is the word joy. If I am truly filled with the Spirit joy will be the result.

I know all this, so why do I continue to battle? Why can’t I walk that consistant persistent joyful life of faith?

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Encouragement

Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. - Acts 13.43

After Paul and Barnabas he’d been sent out several of the people followed them out and persuaded them to continue in the grace of God as they pursued their ministry.

There are a couple of things here. One is the importance of continuing on. That can’t happen apart from the grace of God. Those of us who deal with the realities of life know the challenge of just continuing to put put one step in front of the other. Barnabas was by his nature the encourager, but even he needed encouragment.

We are need a cheerleader or two. We that brother or sister is always ready to pick up and draw alongside us and push us to continue on our way in the grace of God. Sometimes we are going to want to quit. We are going to be tempted to give up. We need that encourager behind us.

But we also need to be aware that we need to be encouraging others. Who do you know who may be struggling today and need that little push to keep on keeping on. We can’t assure anyone to keep on going in their own strength, but we can encourage them to keep on going in the grace of God. His grace has brought us safe thus far, and His grace and His grace alone will see us though.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Justified

For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; but He whom God raised up saw no corruption. Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. – Acts 13.36-39

‘Justified’ is an awesome word. I have heard all kinds of explanations as to what it means. I like the notion that it means to be ‘just as if I’d never’ sinned. It means that we have been made right right God. People have tried all kinds of things to be justified with God, but Paul makes is clear here that justification could not happen by the law of Moses, but by believing.

My favourite picture of what justified means is something a lot of us see every day. When you work on a document one of the options you have it ‘justification.’ That word means to line up. We can line up your text to the left or the right or fully on both side. It means to bring your text in line.

It seems pretty simple, but that is what justification means theologically. It means to be lined up with God’s standard. Failure to be lined up with God’s standard means that we fall short of heaven. We can’t do anything to align ourselves with God’s standard. No matter how much we work we can’t do anything.

We are only justified by faith and by beleiving what God says. It only happens through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

Friday, 7 December 2018

The first missionaries

And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their ministry, and they also took with them John whose surname was Mark.
Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. - Acts 12:25 - 13:3

Barnabas and Saul had completed their mission and they returned to Damascus to the church there. They hadn’t quit, they did the job there were supposed to do and they came home. This ‘sticktoitiveness’ is an important part of serving God. They went out, they did the work, and they came home.

They weren’t done though. God had more for them to do. When Paul and Barnabas, along with John Mark, returned to Damascus the church which was prepared to send them out again. As they prayed and fasted the Holy Spirit separated Paul and Barnabas to go back out again. In essence these became the first missionaries. The church laid hands on them and prayed and sent them on their way.

Since that day the church has done the same. Local churches pray and fast and send out missionaries today. The Holy Spirit separates and we send them out. Though we have all kinds of modern advances and conveniences and technology God still needs ‘boots on the ground’ to love people and show Christ to the people and share the gospel and plant churches and train believers to do the work of the ministry.

God’s work of missions continues on today. Thank God for those who are willing to go out and cary on the work that the Holy Spirit started 2000 years ago. They need our prayers and support and encouragement today

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Christians

Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. – Acts 11.25-26

‘Christian’ is a word used in a lot of ways today. We have the Christian west and we speak of Christian nations. It is used culturally to speak of people who have had a  concept of Christian principles and has those written into their laws.

But there is a much deeper origin to that word. It was first used of the beleivers in Antioch. Some say it was first a term of mockery or derision. I honestly don’t know about that. What I want to see is what a ‘Christian’ is. The word, it is basic form simply means ‘of Christ.’ That term has been debated and described a ‘little Christ’ or ‘follower of Christ’ or a few other things but I think ‘of Christ’ really nails it. That mean that our essence is not His essence. We are born again because of Him and through His power. He is in us and we are in Him. Christ in us is our hope of glory.

The question we must ask ourselves is if the people we encounter everyday see Christ when they see us. Do they see Him in our words and actions and attitudes and behaviour and how we treat others? If not are they any better than that cultural generic use of the word ‘Christian.’

Do people really see you and me as ‘of Christ?’