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JULY 2018

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For He was a Good Man

 

Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord. (Acts 11:22-24 KJV)


Paul and Barnabas

Many men had a part in the establishment of what we call Christianity today.  We know that there were twelve apostles of which one was a traitor.  Of the other eleven, Peter, James and John seem to be prominent.  When we come to the Acts of the Apostles, we see Peter and Paul taking the lead in spreading the Gospel.  Peter was used to convince the Jews that the Gospel was for the Gentiles as well as for the Jews, but Paul was the instrument that God used to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles (or non-Jews).  But one other man was prominent in the early church and that was Barnabas.  He was named Joses and was surnamed Barnabas by the apostles. Barnabas means son of consolation.  See Acts 4:36.  As the son of consolation, he provided comfort and encouragement.  He refreshed the hearts of those around him.

 

This seems to be born out in his life as he sold land that he had and gave the money to the apostles to use as it was needed in the early New Testament church.  Obviously, he was living out the principles found in the Sermon on Mount.  He was laying up his treasure in heaven rather than on this earth. 

 

He vouched for Paul when Paul tried to join himself to the church at Jerusalem. (See Acts 9:27).  He sought for Paul who had gone to Tarsus because of persecution and brought him to the Antioch church in Syria where he could be publicly used of the Lord.  Barnabas went with Paul on a humanitarian journey that was designed to care for the poor in Jerusalem and he went with Paul on his first missionary journey.  But Paul and Barnabas had a fight.  And it had to do with showing compassion to Mark who had turned back during their first missionary journey.  Barnabas, true to form as an encourager, wanted Mark to go with them on their second missionary journey.  Paul didn't.  There are a lot of commentators who seem to know the reasoning behind the disagreement but all we really know is that Mark had turned back the first time when he went with Paul and Barnabas.  Many commentators point out that the story from this point on deals with Paul and not with Barnabas and so Barnabas must have been wrong.  They say he was likely showing favoritism to Mark who may have been his nephew. 

 

My Take

I think it was in God's plan to use Paul without Barnabas for whatever reason.  But I personally would rather be known as a Barnabas than as a Paul.  Barnabas had stood with Paul and helped him every step of the way in his early ministry and in his first missionary journey.  What Christian would have trusted Paul at Jerusalem after he had tried to destroy Christians if Barnabas hadn't stood by Him and commended Him.  Paul was confrontational and “stood for the truth.”  Barnabas was a nice balance to Paul.  He tried to encourage those that others didn't trust.  I don't know who was right and who was wrong, but I would rather be a Barnabas than a Paul.  To be perfectly honest however, I probably have played the role of Paul in personal relationships more than I have played the role of Barnabas.

 

Patching Up Relationships

One reason I think that Barnabas was probably right to encourage Mark in his service to the Lord when Paul wouldn't is because Paul realizes that he needs him when he is in prison in 2nd Timothy.  In 2 Timothy 4:11 Paul tells Timothy, "Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry (2Timothy 4:11)."  Apparently, the relationship between Paul and Mark got patched up.  I wonder if Paul got his relationship with Barnabas patched up.  It seems to me that Paul could have deferred to Barnabas’ judgment in view of the encouragement he had been to Paul.  However, the dissension between the two was likely used of God to spread the Gospel more widely.  If the early church had not been persecuted, the Christians would likely have all stayed at Jerusalem rather than being scattered.  That scattering of the early Christians seems to have been the cause of the Gospel spreading to new communities. Act 8:4 says, “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word."

 

But I would still rather be a son of consolation than a son of confrontation.  I would rather be a Barnabas than a Paul. . 

Meditation for the week of July 1, 2018

Pleasures Forevermore!

 

You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalms 16:11 NKJV)

 

Pleasures for ever More!

Many people look for pleasure, that is for things that make them feel good, in different ways.  Some seek money, some seek honor, some seek power, some seek friends, and some seek entertainment and sports.   And I am sure that there are other ways to find pleasure.  But when we think about pleasure that is available in this life, it is always fleeting and temporary.  Even if some of the satisfaction that we get in life lasts for quite some time as friendships and marriages should, yet they are still “over” when we die.  And if the Lord prolongs His promised coming--die we must!  In 100 years everyone reading this will be dust.  Their lives will be over.  The pleasures they pursued will no longer be needed to satisfy.  Now even if there were no existence after death, that makes life seem futile to me.  The writer of Ecclesiastes summed it all up by telling us that he had tried everything and had learned everything and had possessed everything, but all was vanity and chasing after the wind.  King Solomon who is the writer, even tried other gods and all that did was make God mad and it caused the kingdom to be divided after his death.  But David who wrote the sixteenth Psalm says that there is a place where there are pleasures forevermore. This promised pleasure is not passing pleasure.  It is permanent pleasure. 

 

The Frustrations of this Life

If one looks for joy or pleasure in drugs or alcohol or licentiousness living, pretty soon the thing that brought joy or pleasure will bring bondage.  Joy is the inner happiness or satisfaction that comes from things that we think will make us happy in this life.  Pleasure can give us joy.  The words are closely related.  I think that in the passage we are studying, the two words may be saying the same thing—they may be interchangeable.  I think the passage could just as easily read,  “In the Lord's presence is fullness of pleasure, at His right hand is joy forevermore.”

 

Prophetic Truth in this Psalm

Peter uses this Psalm in Acts 2 to show that it applies to the resurrection of the Lord.  David wrote the Psalm but David's body saw corruption.  The Lord's did not.  The path of life that is referred to in this Psalm seems to be a revived life according to some dictionaries.  The Lord is now sitting at the Father's right hand according to the writer of Hebrews, who says that in running the marathon of the Christian life we should be, “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2 NKJV).”  The Lord then is enjoying the pleasure that comes with enduring the cross, which was not pleasurable.  He was motivated by considering the joy at the end of his trial.  That joy involved being raised from the dead.  It involved the prospect of having a bride with Him in heaven.

 

Can we Apply the Psalm to those of us Who have been Redeemed?

Kind David wrote the Psalm and a lot of it applied to Him.  While his body saw corruption, I have not doubt that He was looking forward to a day when he would be raised from the dead. When David says, "For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,"  he likely was thinking of both himself and the Lord.  When he says, "Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption" he was definitely speaking prophetically of the Lord only.  The right hand is a place of power but it is also a place of privilege and favor.  We who are saved today are going to have the privilege of being the Lord's bride and we will enjoy the pleasure of the Lord's right hand for evermore.

 

Our Hope, Blessing, Pleasure, and Joy

These words are all associated with one whose sins are forgiven.  The believer's blessing is not necessarily found here in this life.  The writers of the New Testament write to encourage those undergoing persecution. One of those encouragements is the joy of knowing that we will enjoy the presence of the Lord in eternity.  I realize that eternal life begins the moment we  believe on the Lord but that life has trials while we represent Christ down here on this earth.  But eternal life is a not only a quality of life but a quantity of life and it is a life of pleasure, hope, blessing and joy for all eternity.  If all we have to motivate us is the passing pleasures of this life, if we don't really believe in the resurrection, if all is over and done when we take our last breath, then truly life is meaningless.  We may control corporations, we may have been leaders of countries, we may have amassed great wealth, but some day each of us is going to die. Then what?  

 

True happiness is not found in this futile meaningless temporary existence.  True happiness is found at the Lord's right hand.  We who have been convicted of our sin and have trusted the Lord for salvation will enjoy true happiness and  joy and pleasure that never ceases.

 

Meditation for the week of July 8, 2018