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2nd August 2015
Have you ever had a nickname? Some nicknames are just a fun play on our actual names; others have a meaning – they are connected to how we behave and what we do. Barnabas had a nickname with a meaning.
When the church in Antioch was just getting started, the apostles in Jerusalem sent Barnabas. When they were looking at who to send, they picked an ordinary member of the Jerusalem church and sent him.
There are three reasons for this. Firstly, Barnabas was an encourager. It was so much who he was, that it had become his name. His actual name was Joseph, but it was changed to ‘Barnabas, son of encouragement’.
Encouragement is seeing the good in someone and building them up, helping them to grow through our words. It’s really counter-cultural, so we need to be really proactive about doing it. We don’t quickly build up with our words – we pull people down, complain and criticise. So we need to become encouragers behind closed doors, firstly, so that pulling out the positives and speaking well of people becomes how we are publicly too.
Do people feel built up when they’ve been with you, or do they go away feeling torn down?
The way Barnabas encouraged people was to point them to Jesus. When we encourage someone by pointing them to Jesus, we are helping them to be courageous. If our hearts’ desire was to help people to stick with Jesus and look to Him, our church would mature at an incredible rate.
The second reason Barnabas was chosen to go to Antioch was that he had a good heart. God is far more concerned about our character than about our gifts. Barnabas is the only person in the book of Acts to be described as “good”. Does goodness characterise you?
Barnabas was also filled with the Holy Spirit. This is vital to being who God has created us to be. We need to cultivate a habit of being filled with the Holy Spirit and being dependent upon Him. Barnabas was full of faith too. Faith is about trust and it is based on the character and promises of God. We don’t muster it up or manufacture it by effort – it comes by meditating on the Word of God.
Thirdly, Barnabas understood what it means to forgive others. It was Barnabas who brought Saul (later called Paul) into the church, even though he had approved Stephen’s execution. Barnabas understood God’s forgiveness – he knew that God had sent Jesus so that we could be forgiven, and he knew that he himself had been forgiven.
Sometimes we struggle to forgive because we’ve misunderstood what it is: forgiveness is choosing not to hold something against someone, even though it still hurts. Ultimately it’s saying that God’s the judge, He’ll work out justice, and I’ll leave it to Him. Forgiveness isn’t a one-off thing; it’s a choice we sometimes have to make over and over again.
What happens in a church when someone like Barnabas is sent? It thrives and it plays its part in God’s mission. The church in Antioch became known for their love of Jesus – these were the first people called Christians. It was a negative nickname, but it was based on the fact that they were characterised by their love for Jesus.
It also became a church that heard from God and acted in response, foretelling a famine and deciding to send money to help those affected.
The Antioch church understood God’s heart: that’s why they sent money to people they didn’t know, cutting across geographical and ethical boundaries. Just as Barnabas had demonstrated through accepting Saul and bringing him to Antioch, so the church showed their understanding that God’s forgiveness brings equality.
We need lots of people like Barnabas. We need lots of sons and daughters of encouragement so that our church will thrive and play its part in God’s mission.
Are you a Barnabas? If someone was giving you a nickname, would ‘Barnabas’ fit? Do you encourage people by pointing them to Jesus? Are you focusing on your character, being full of the Holy Spirit and faith? Do you understand God’s forgiveness so it leads you to forgive others?
How can you be a Barnabas this week?
Posted by Andrew Bunt
3rd January 2014
Even as I clink my champagne glass and take a sip on the stroke of midnight, most New Year's Eves I find myself in the midst of a slight malaise. It is partly the season – miserable weather and too few hours of sunlight – but it's also the mingling of hope and disappointment: hope that this year I'll stick to all the goals I set for myself; disappointment that I probably, actually, realistically won't. I've become so used to the cycle that I feel the disappointment even as I'm setting the goals, and I already anticipate feeling the same way 12 months down the line when I haven't changed as much as I hoped.
But on January 1st I read what may well be the most liberating and encouraging blog on New Year's resolutions that I've ever read. Entitled Ringing in the New Year, it begins:
"It's that time of year again – time to ring in the New Year with dramatic resolutions fuelled by the hope of immediate and significant personal life change."
The all-too-common disappointment I experience, along with many others, may actually come down to a culturally-corrupted, X Factor-styled "big drama Christianity" that promises radical change overnight, ignoring that little doctrine known as sanctification or, in other words, the effort-required, blood, sweat and tears process of becoming more Christ-like.
"...Biblical Christianity – which has the gospel of Jesus Christ at its heart – simply doesn’t rest its hope in big, dramatic moments of change. The fact of the matter is that the transforming work of grace is more of a mundane process than it is a series of a few dramatic events. Personal heart and life change is always a process."
Of course, this doesn't mean we shouldn't expect deep, lasting change. Much the opposite. It challenges me to appreciate the little steps – sometimes so teeny-tiny that no one else could spot them – that come when I daily access the grace that is sufficient for me, exercise my faith as small as a mustard seed, and choose God's ways rather than my own. Realising that these small steps add up to a great journey that takes me "from one degree of glory to another" (2 Corinthians 3:18) helps me keep my eyes on the bigger picture and remember that there is One more committed to my transformation than I: the Author and Perfector of my faith!
"You see, the character of your life won't be established in two or three dramatic moments, but in 10,000 little moments. Your legacy will be shaped more by the 10,000 little decisions you make in 2014 rather than the last-minute resolution you're about to make."
So this year won't be the same old because I'm approaching it differently: I'm still hoping for change, but this year I'm resolving to make 10,000 small steps in the right direction and, as I do so, to relish one degree of glory at a time...
Read the full Ringing in the New Year blog by Paul Tripp here.
Image: 'I always know how warm it is!' by minxlj
Posted by Natalie Williams
17th November 2013
Can we know if God exists? If so, can we know what God is like? And can we know God? The Bible claims to have the answers to these questions, telling us we can both know about God and know Him personally.
Exodus 20:1-19 may sound like a list of rules to you, but actually it tells us a great deal about God. He wants us to know Him: He speaks to us (v1) through creation, through lives He's transformed, through the Bible, even sometimes directly to people. God rescues (v2), is the true God (v3) and is holy and different to anything in creation (vv4-6).
We also find in these verses that God cares about our relationships with each other: He cares about family (v12), which was His plan all along; marriage is to be protected as He designed it to be the most intimate of relationships – one man and one woman for life (v14); human life is sacred, to be nurtured and protected (v13).
Another important aspect of God's design for life we can learn through these verses is that people are more important than stuff! Contentment with what we have is great gain (v17). We're not to steal, but more than that, God wants us to be caring, compassionate and generous (v15). We also find that God cares about people, priorities and rest (vv8-11). We find that our words are powerful and God loves the truth, hates what is false (v16) and cares about how we speak (v7).
The Ten Commandments weren't a contract nor a negotiation. They are a revelation of who God is, showing us what He is like and how He has designed humanity to flourish. But we can have an even clearer picture of who God is and what He is like – by looking to Jesus! The Bible tells us that Jesus is the exact representation of God (Hebrews 1:1-3) – in the same way that when you look in a mirror, the exact image of you looks back, so Jesus is the exact image of God and so when we can look at Jesus we find out exactly what God is like.
But Jesus didn't just come to show us what God is like; He also came to restore our broken relationship with God. The Ten Commandments reveal what God is like, but they also reveal how far we have wandered from HIm, and how helpless we are to restore that relationship ourselves. Jesus died for us, taking all of our sin on Himself, so that we could be restored to God. Those who were baptised today have encountered this Jesus and found that they can know God. How about you?
To download the sermon or the life application questions, click here.
Posted by Paul Mann
1st April 2012
This morning we looked at one of the more contentious passages in the Bible – verses that don't seem to fit with our 21st century Western culture or that some of us simply may not like!
The apostle Paul is writing about issues that can hinder prayer and worship, and because men and women are different, he deals with different issues: for men, he is writing about anger; for women, it is modesty with proper submission. For both, it's about the heart – it's about worshipping God, raising holy hands in prayer and putting aside things that can be a distraction.
Following on from this, Paul begins to write about church leadership. In setting out male eldership, he isn't drawing on the conventions of the day or the lack of educated women at the time or anything like that. Instead, it's the paradigm of creation – pre-fall creation – to which he looks: the differences between men and women were part of God's original design. We were designed to be equal, but different, complementing each other.
Male or female, we are all created in God's image. Let's pursue God and become all He has created us to be.
Verses: 1 Timothy 2:8-3:2 (see also 1 Peter 3:3-4)
Food for thought:
Posted by Paul Mann