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Archive for March, 2016

Verses 25-26: “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.”

“I know a guy.”

That’s what Dr. Hank Pym said when wondering how to retrieve his shrinking technology from Darren Cross in the movie Ant-Man. It’s also what the Falcon tells Captain America when they are trying to figure out who can help them with the captured Winter Soldier in the post-credits scene of the same movie (they weren’t sure about contacting Tony Stark, or even if they could contact him, at all).

“I know a guy.”

That’s what the Falcon said; he and Pym were both referring to Scott Lang, the Ant-Man. He was just the perfect person they needed for the situation.

“I know a guy.”

That’s not exactly what Barnabas said, but he was probably thinking along those lines. Having seen the young church at Antioch, Barnabas knew they needed instruction and teaching. And who better than his close friend and brother-in-Christ, Saul? (by the way, don’t let the last sentence of verse 26 slip by you….the first calling of the believers as “Christians”!) Barnabas travelled to Tarsus, got Saul, and they both travelled back to Antioch, thus spending a year teaching the congregation.

That same Jesus that Saul (later Paul) and Barnabas told the Antioch believers more about, is the same Jesus who died on the cross, was buried, and rose again the third day to ascend to Heaven, and is our only way to salvation, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Do I really need to repeat that first statement again? 🙂

Have a blessed day in the Lord!

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Verses 23-24: “When he [Barnabas] came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.”

I once heard a story about a young woman and a young man who had fallen in love and gotten married. She had a beautiful singing voice, and he was a talented music teacher. The young man tutored his young wife in training her voice, but the music teacher was a perfectionist, and was often negatively critical. After much scolding and rebuking by the husband during his lessons, the wife’s singing voice seemed to suffer. Even more, she began to lose the joy she had taken in singing, and it showed in her voice.

Eventually, the music teacher passed away of a heart attack. After grieving and getting used to life as a widow, the woman met another man, and they fell in love and married. He was an avid lover of music, though not professionally trained or formally schooled. When he found out his new wife had a singing voice, he coaxed her into singing again. Fearful at first, she sang for him; unlike her first husband, the second man was helpful and supportive. If he gave any criticism at all, it was positive and constructive, always bolstered by his reassurance of how beautiful her voice was. He continued to help her in training her voice; he wasn’t a professional, but his helping and loving assistance helped her regain her confidence. Before long, the woman returned to singing in public with the full joy in her voice that she used to have.

Sometimes, the only “help” someone needs is just a measure of encouragement…of someone telling you that they believe in you and in what you are doing. Barnabas’s own name meant “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36). The church at Antioch was new, and its believers were eager and sincere; still, any group starting in a new opportunity needs reassurance, and that is why Barnabas was there; to help lead and to help encourage this bold new church, and to fan the flame of Christianity in this north African locale.

We always remember fondly the people who encourage us. My oldest son had a “difficult” teacher in 2nd grade that didn’t know how to handle his personality. As a result, she isolated him from the rest of the class, which really hurt his spirit. God blessed us with a great 3rd grade teacher, though, who worked with my son, to bring out his joy in school and to successfully help him with inter-personal relationships with his classmates. He began to enjoy school again and do well. She was a modern-day Barnabas to us and to a lot of children that came through her 3rd grade class.

Is God calling you to be a modern-day Barnabas to someone who needs a little…encouragement?

Happy Easter!

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Verses 17-18: “”If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”

What a crazy Presidential election year it has been thus far! I can’t ever recall such “drama” on both sides of the election from both parties. Outsiders, traditionalists, conservatives, liberals, socialists…I’ve never seen the like in a long time. One of the “plotlines” in this campaign has been from some of the entrenched establishment of one political party versus the popular contender for their party’s nomination (I’m not going to name names…I think you know whom I’m referring to…this blog is not about politics, nor is it about endorsements…just follow along with me here 🙂 ). The “entrenched” party members aren’t too happy with who could represent them, and I’m not sure how this is going to play out (God knows, though). Could be they don’t like how the candidate is coming across, or that he is not “one” of them. Either way…someone is not happy.

After Peter visited with Cornelius and his group, some of the Jews met him when he came to Jerusalem…and were asking, “What is going on? Do you realize who you met with?” Peter didn’t immediately fire back like he might have once…in anger and in indignation. Instead, he told the Jews all that happened to him with the vision, Cornelius’s messengers, and God’s revelation that salvation was available to EVERYONE. The NKJV translation says “who was I that I could withstand God?” The NIV reads a little more plainer here: “who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” Peter was convinced by God’s vision of the New Covenant that He revealed here…salvation was accessible for Jew and Gentile alike! And once Peter explained it to the Jews…they had no reply (silence), but then glorified God that He was granting “repentance to life” to the Gentiles, too.

There is an old phrase that reads “if you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem.” So, fellow Christian… which are you today? Part of the problem…or part of the solution?

Something to think about.

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Verses 28, 34-35, 44-45: “Then he said to them, You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”
“Then Peter opened his mouth and said: In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.”
“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.”

“I love it when a plan comes together.” That was the favorite catch-phrase of one LTC John “Hannibal” Smith, the wily leader of The A-Team. I enjoyed watching that old television program for its characterizations of this team of freelance soldiers of fortune and the wild inventions and schemes they would concoct to capture the bad guys. No matter how daunting the odds (or how much things went astray at times), the plan always came together in the end. Sometimes, even events that the team couldn’t foresee were used to work in their favor.

Our church had been “in the wilderness” for some time; we didn’t have a full-time pastor. God, in His perfect timing, brought us our current pastor, who’s been serving for the last 5 months here. As he shared his testimony with us upon his start in our church’s pulpit, we could see God’s hand in the absolute perfect timing of bringing our church and this pastor together. This man had been serving God in several capacities before finally bringing him to our town. Though he was able to get work in religious schools and such, teaching the Bible, he knew in his heart that God had something else in mind for him. The amazing thing was that his resume was in our list of candidates, but our pastor search committee only came back to it upon a second look through the stack. When he he shared that testimony with us, we could now easily see God’s hand in some of the reasons it took a while for us to get a new pastor…and that it took the same “while” to bring this man to our church. God was in control!

Peter’s vision and Cornelius’s vision now dovetail in this passage. Peter shares with Cornelius’s household and friends that God has revealed to him that He shows no partiality…salvation is available to all, not just the Jews. This is literally earth-shattering news at this stage of history with Jews and Gentiles (as you’ll see in Acts 11). God told Cornelius that he was to summon Peter; God showed Peter his change to the status-quo…and then brought them together for a memorable revelation.

When I shared these devotional thoughts with my wife, she stated “He (God) brought His plan together.”. This, in turn, made me remember the motto of Hannibal Smith.

I’m smiling right now, as I say….I love it when a plan comes together!

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