Saturday, June 6, 2015

Who Is Your Barnabas?

1st Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.

Have you ever had someone come up to you at just the right time and say what you needed to hear to pick you up and get you going again? Someone who was there for you, encouraged you with word and deed, and helped you if even in a small way?

Who was it?

On the flip side have you ever had someone come up at exactly the wrong time and say something negative that pulls you down? Something that made you feel horrible and worthless?

Who was it?

Why is it usually easier to bring to mind the one who hurt us instead of the one who encouraged us? Why do we wake up at night gritting our teeth remembering the one who wronged us? Why do we fail to be thankful for the encourager even when we appreciate the results of the encouragement?

In the biblical book of Acts we meet a man named Barnabas who was known as the “Son of Encouragement”. Nearly everyone, Christian or not, has heard of the Apostle Paul but not even many Christians know all that Barnabas did. However if it weren't for this man then Paul would have never gotten his foot in the door, the term “Christian” would most likely not be known and the Gospel of Mark may have never been written. (1)

Barnabas stood up for Paul in the Jerusalem church, and discipled him in his ministry. He encouraged and supported the church at Antioch were the term “Christian” - meaning little Christ – was first used to describe believers. He took famine relief to the church in Jerusalem and he took a chance on a young somewhat skittish missionary named John Mark who would later pen the gospel that bears his name.

We remember the result of the encouragement even though we forget the encourager. However God never forgets when we take the time out to pour a little bit of ourselves – and Him – into the lives of others. God did not forget Barnabas and His word describes him as “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” (Acts 11:24 – HCSB). What a wonderful, eternal testimony!

So my question to you today is who is your Barnabas? Who is your encourager? Do you remember them and if you do have you thanked them?

And if you ever feel like the encouragement you have shared with others is getting drowned out in the business of life, take heart. Even if everyone else has forgotten the kindness you have done, your Heavenly Father has not.

Discover more in this week's podcast "Choosing Love: Love Encourages"

Till next time,
God Bless!

(1) See Acts chapters 4, 9, 11 & 15 among others as well as this entry in the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary.

NOTE: This series was written to coincide with the Bible Studies For Life series "Like Glue" by Pastor Ben Mandrell available here.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Who Is Your Samaritan?

Luke 10: 29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Who is the one type of person you could never show love to? Who is the one that you expect God to give you a pass on when it comes to showing love, forgiveness and grace to. We all have that person or group of people that we hold out of our heart and say surely God doesn't want me to love them!

For some of us it is a cultural bias. Maybe someone of a different race or with different political views. For others it may be more personal – a father who was abusive or a friend who betrayed you. Whatever the justification we all have the person or people who we will not show love to.

In the gospel of Luke chapter 10, Jesus was approached by a scribe who asked how he could inherit eternal life. Jesus pointed him back to the scriptures, emphasizing the need to love God above everything else and to love our neighbor as our self. Then the man asked a follow up question. “Who is my neighbor?”

This was more than an intellectual exercise. This man was looking for an excuse. Perhaps a more honest way to ask this question would be to say “If I have to love my neighbor then tell me who is not my neighbor so I know who I can freely hate.”

In response Jesus told a story – and not just because He is a masterful story teller, though He is. Jesus looked into the heart of this man and saw his prejudice. He picked the one group of people despised by the Jews above nearly all else – the Samaritans – and used them as the best example of loving your neighbor. The Jews of the first century hated the Samaritans. They would walk miles out of their way to avoid Samaritan villages. Anyone who had contact with a Samaritan was considered unclean. That is what made this story so shocking. A Samaritan saving a Jew. Imagine a member of ISIS saving the life of a Coptic Christian and you begin to understand the impact of Jesus' story.

The unasked question to the scribe is clear: “Would you show the same love to a Samaritan as the Samaritan showed in this parable?”

You see we all have Samaritans in our life, the ones we expect God to give us a pass on or an excuse to leave out. Yet God's answer is still the same. We are to love them just as God loves us. Fortunately God realizes that amount of unconditional love is impossible for us on our own, that is why He sent His Son to save us and His Spirit to empower us. It is through God that we can truly realize that everyone – regardless of our differences – is our neighbor and choose to show them love.

Discover more in this week's podcast "Choosing Love: Love Is An Action." 

Till next time,
God Bless

NOTE: This series was written to coincide with the Bible Studies For Life series "Like Glue" by Pastor Ben Mandrell available here.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Walking In the Light and Seeing The Truth

This past Sunday I shared the following story: 
While finishing his studies in medical school a young intern was tasked to go each Monday to a state run psychiatric institution and make his rounds so that he could better grasp the range of mental illness. Each Monday he would show up, be given a list of patients to visit and then an orderly would unlock the door to the ward and quickly lock it back after he walked through. One Monday while walking through the ward a doctor called over to him and offered to accompany him as he visited the patients. The doctor gave him detailed information on each patient and the treatment they were being given. He used terminology in a polished, professional way that would have made the intern's professors proud. He greatly helped the young intern better understand the scope mental illness and the way to treat it. As they walked back to the locked door with the orderly standing guard, the intern turned and shook the doctors hand, thanking him for his invaluable information and signaled for the orderly to unlock the door. The orderly then told him that he could freely leave – but the patient he was speaking to would have to stay behind. (1)
I used this story to illustrate how so very often sickness doesn't look like sickness, and the sin in our life doesn't always look like sin.  It is easy for us to look around and even at ourselves and not see
the sickness that is everywhere. The biggest challenge to our walk with Christ is sometimes knowing where the darkness is – especially the darkness within ourselves. That is one of the key points from the book of 1st John in the New Testament.
9  The one who says he is in the light but hates his brother is in the darkness until now. 10 The one who loves his brother remains in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.11  But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and doesn’t know where he’s going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. [1 John 2:9-11 HCSB]  Read more at

However even though the young intern in the story was fooled and led astray at least he was LOOKING.  He was earnestly trying to understand and help the patients at the hospital.  Far too often those of us who know what to look for don't bother even looking in the first place - it's as if our eyes are blinded.  But I have a shocking truth for you, Jesus wants us to look and to see the hurting people around us.

The Apostle John describes the Christian faith as walking in the light, and if we truly walk the way Jesus walked then that light in our life should be used to see the truth of those around us.  We are surrounded by people who are hurting, in need, and lost in this world.  There are three ways we can respond.  We can close our eyes and refuse to see, we can let the world lead us astray into thinking there is nothing wrong, or we can follow the example of Christ and not only see the people in need around us but move to help them with the same compassion God has shown to us.  To walk in the light we must love our brother.

Join us this Sunday, January 18 at Oak Grove Baptist as we start a new study in our morning small groups called "Ready: Ministering to Those in Crisis" by Chip Ingram and I start preaching a companion series I have written called Christ in the Crisis looking at the traits Christ exhibited when encountering people in trouble.

(1) I found this story in my files but unfortunately I do not have a source listed with it and I had no luck in tracking one down on Google.  If anyone knows the source of this illustration, please share it with me in the comments. Thank you.