Tag Archives: believers

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2016 writers collage

 

 

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Job 26-28; Acts 11

Soon the news reached the apostles and other believers in Judea that the Gentiles had received the word of God. But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him. “You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!” they said. Acts 11:1-3, NLT.

I spent a few years living in a Christian bubble: Christian friends, Christian music, Christian books. These things aren’t bad … in fact, they a still a huge part of my life. One day, God pushed me out of the bubble. Suddenly I was hostess around a table to many who weren’t believers. So, I served them. I showed hospitality and inclusion to them (and their kids). I welcomed them. This was all God’s doing. He planned that party, so to speak.

When I read these verses in Acts today, I wonder what the world would have been like if these men had limited their influence.

17 And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?”

18 When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.” Acts 11:17-18, NLT.

And:

Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews. 20 However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. 21 The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord. Acts 11:19-21, NLT.

I read a heated thread of fury on a social media feed this week. One person said (of Christians) that the basis of (our) religion is to cram it down other people’s throats (then he referenced a scripture about spreading the gospel). I felt horrified and grieved. I didn’t comment for several reasons, one being that it was obviously a battle ground for attack, and not a forum for understanding. But I did wonder: how is it that they perceived Christians in this light? What experiences (or lack of) have others had with Christians to describe them in such a way? How does one go from being good/full of the Spirit/strong in the faith to throat crammer? In my daily interactions, what do people notice first: his love or an agenda? (I can think of times when all someone was interested in was sticking a tract in my hands rather than asking my name or about my story. At the time, it made me mad.)

24 Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.

25 Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. 26 When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.) Acts 11:24-26, NLT.

I take some cues from these scriptures today, about sitting across from someone (perhaps over a meal like Peter), and spending time with them (investing in their lives like Barnabas and Saul/Paul).

In what ways has God given you opportunities to invest in the life of another?

Lord, you’ve wired us all in unique ways. Show us opportunities to glorify your name. Let us not love in word or tongue, but in deed and truth.

Courtney (66books365)

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Judg.11:12-40; Acts 15; Jer. 24; Mark 10

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.”  Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.  They had such a disagreement that they parted company.   Acts 15:36-39a

Why would Luke record this uncomfortable, and perhaps unflattering, episode?  Undoubtedly, part of the reason is that Luke is a historian who takes seriously his responsibility to accurately report facts.  But on a different level, I suspect that the purpose of this passage is to teach me something.   Here are a couple of insights I have picked up as I have pondered the meaning of these verses:

1) There is room for honest disagreement within the body of Christ.
No evidence suggests that the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas was between “right” and “wrong”.  In fact, Paul later comments about the value of Mark in his ministry and requests that Mark be brought to him (2 Tim 4:11).   We know Paul’s path bore fruit from the continuing account of Acts after this episode.  It certainly sounds like the path chosen by Barnabas and Mark also bore fruit.  Honest disagreement between two mature believers resulted in both still effectively serving God.

2) God accomplishes his purposes through different types of people.
The disagreement between Paul and Barnabas appears to be rooted in differing priorities.  Paul valued his mission too greatly to risk it by including someone (Mark) who had let him down previously.  We learn throughout Acts that Paul was always task-oriented, sticking to the plan, whether the plan was to round-up and imprison believers (as he did before his conversion) or preach the Gospel to Gentiles.   Barnabas valued Mark and his continuing development too greatly to abandon him at this time.   As a matter of fact, when we first are introduced to Barnabas we learn that his name means “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36).  The kingdom of God has room for both task-oriented and people-oriented personalities.

A recent disagreement I had with another believer that resulted in “parting company” highlights my struggle in learning these lessons.  I am ashamed to say that part of me screamed out for vindication.  I wanted the world to see that my position was right and the position of the other party was wrong.  Paul’s example, by reconciling with Mark and affirming his value in spite of their earlier disagreement, is an example for me.

Lord, may I be more like Paul in his humility.  Strip me of the pride that requires me to be “right” all the time.  And may I be more like Barnabas.   Help me to be a “son of encouragement”, especially given my tendency to place the value of the mission above the value of your children.  Amen.

Greg (gmd40187)

from the archives, July 28, 2010

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Gen. 47; Lk. 1:1-38; Job 13; I Cor. 1

Belief and unbelief.

Joseph trusted in God. His brothers trusted in their own plans (their plot to be rid of a little brother–good thing for them that God had other plans!).

Job was grappling with faith in the midst of an unimaginable hardship. His friends were at work to find his human flaws to justify punishment.

Zechariah asked a question of the messenger–Mary did too!–but what was at work on a heart level differentiated them. One, who was perhaps doubtful. The other, seeking.

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” Luke 1:1:38 NLT.

Paul talks about God using the least expected to confound the wise–and it’s splayed across chapters: a brother sold into slavery who becomes a leader … a wealthy man who loses everything in moments … a virgin girl and a barren, old woman to both conceive children who would change everything … and even Paul, hater turned lover of Christ.

26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 1 Corinthians 1:26-27 NLT.

Overall, a message of being chosen, and a reminder that nothing is impossible with God.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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1 Kings 19, 20; Acts 13:26-52

  • 11 “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. 1 Kings 19:11-13 NLT.
  • “The Israelite gods are gods of the hills; that is why they won. But we can beat them easily on the plains.” 1 Kings 20:23b.
  • 38 “Brothers, listen! We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. 39 Everyone who believes in him is declared right with God—something the law of Moses could never do … 44 The following week almost the entire city turned out to hear them preach the word of the Lord. 45 But when some of the Jews saw the crowds, they were jealous; so they slandered Paul and argued against whatever he said … 46 Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and declared, “It was necessary that we first preach the word of God to you Jews. But since you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we will offer it to the Gentiles. Acts 13:38-39, 44-46

Sometimes I look for Him in the wrong places.

Sometimes my mind limits where He can work.

Sometimes I feel like I can’t get out from under the weight of condemnation.

Note to self: He is the one who whispers gently. He has no limits and is victorious in the hills and on the plains. Everyone who believes in Jesus is declared right with God.

And the believers were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. Acts 13:52.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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Psalms 12, 13, 14; John 8:28-59

They said … they declared … they replied … they retorted. An argument seems to be brewing here. And at the end, stones picked up to throw. I’m thinking to myself: must be religious leaders. Weren’t they always looking to stop him? I read it again a little more slowly, and these snippets stand out:

28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I Am he. I do nothing on my own but say only what the Father taught me. 29 And the one who sent me is with me—he has not deserted me. For I always do what pleases him.” 30 Then many who heard him say these things believed in him.

31 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:28-31 NLT

It was the believers. It was the believers who said, “What do you mean ‘You will be set free’?” They weren’t slaves, they insisted. But Jesus corrected:

34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35 A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. 37 Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because there’s no room in your hearts for my message. 38 I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father.”

Oh, it gets heated. They declare, they reply, they retort: Abraham is our father! God is our father!

“You say, ‘He is our God, 55 but you don’t even know him. I know him.” John 8:54b-55a.

Rocks aimed at yesterday’s adulterous woman. Aimed in today’s reading at Jesus. In my own heart, whose advice do I seek? Is there room in it for the Lord’s message? Are there rocks in my hands today–and who am I aiming at? Brother-sister-neighbor-adversary … perhaps the target is actually my Lord.

Lord, I grow closer to you when my heart is open. When truth confronts and stirs, I pray I would put down my rocks and turn to you. I am so grateful for your forgiveness and love, that you long to restore. I want to know you better and more each day. Help me to show the very same mercy you’ve shown me to others. I don’t want to throw rocks at anyone anymore.

Courtney (66books365)

 

 

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Exodus 31; John 10; Proverbs 7; Galatians 6

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.     Galatians 6:9-10  NIV

 

Sometimes conviction comes upon me slowly over time in a whisper.   Other times it hits with all the subtlety of a sonic boom, and Galatians 6:10, figuratively speaking, just broke the sound barrier.

Do good.  Got it.  No problem.

Especially to…

Really God?  Believers?

I’ve read through the entire Bible more than once so I’ve certainly read this multiple times, but this command has apparently managed to escape my notice to date.

Don’t mistake me for a great evangelist, because I’m far from it.  I witness occasionally, but I have yet to experience the joy of leading someone (other than my children) to Christ.  Yet, it is with unbelievers that my heart lies.  It is to them that I try to direct any good works, hoping that perhaps God will use me to draw them to Him, hoping that they might yet escape the fate that otherwise awaits them.

When it comes to my church family, the focus is different.  We worship together, we grow in the Lord together, we encourage and edify one another.  Are they the targets of practical acts of good?  Yes, but not often and not in any truly remarkable way.

Reading Galatians 6:10 this week immediately brought a recent event to mind.  A gentleman in my church had a medical emergency that kept him from his job for a couple of months last fall.  His job doesn’t come with the benefits some of us enjoy — no pay for sick days.  His is the only income for his family, so they were in a genuine financial crisis.  Word got around and many in our church family helped them as they were able.  He eventually returned to work, and the help we provided was apparently sufficient to see them through.

Today’s reading also includes Exodus 31, in which God informs Moses of the skilled craftsman He had prepared to produce all the articles of worship He had commanded to be constructed.  I may not have remembered Galatians 6 well, but I do remember what happens a few days from now in Exodus 36.  The people gave so generously to the construction of the tabernacle and sanctuary that Moses actually made them stop giving.

I can’t help thinking that I (and my church family) struck out last fall.  We helped this family through, and they issued a heart felt thanks for our efforts.  During their crisis though, they never came to the congregation and said we’d given too much, that we should cease.  I can’t help but think that such an announcement, and only such an announcement, would have indicated we had fully met the command to “do good to all people, ESPECIALLY to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Dear Lord, you’ve commanded that while we are to do good to all people, our finest acts should be bestowed upon our brothers and sisters in the faith.  You command this “as we have the opportunity.”  My neglect of your Word has allowed me to pass up such opportunities all too often.  I pray that now that you have made me attentive to this command, that you’ll send more such opportunities, and that I will embrace them to your fullest satisfaction.  Likewise, when I am in need, please pour out on me a spirit of humility so that I may allow my church family to keep this command by doing good to me.  Finally, please continue to draw my attention too all the other commands I’ve neglected or have remained unaware of.  You alone know what they are, but we both know the list is long.  I pray this in deepest appreciation of your patient grace, Amen.

Michael   (mmattix)

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