Thursday, April 17, 2008

Monday, April 14, 2008

Hi. I'm Barnabas.

But at other times I'm Paul. I think I spend most of my days as Timothy though.

Dr Howard Hendricks, Professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, is credited with saying "Every person should seek to have three individuals in their life: a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy." I am usually hopelessly out of touch, so even though he said this in 1993, I've just came across it recently.

We are in the process of trying to get small groups started in earnest at our church right now. There seems to be a real need and desire for a couples/marriage ministry so, following on the attendance of several church members at Family Life's Weekend to Remember, we have decided to use the HomeBuilders Couple series to get started. To help get us going, we asked someone with lots of experience leading HomeBuilders groups to come in and speak to our "core" team.

In his talk, the speaker introduced the concept of having a Paul to follow, a Timothy to mentor, and a Barnabas to partner with. Now it seems to me that the role of Paul is pretty clear and popularly known: the older guy who has been there, done that, and now dispenses wisdom and guidance to you. And while some what lesser known in most cases, the Timothy role is pretty easily identifiable for many: the younger person who has a mentor or guide and is seeking spiritual growth.

The Barnabas role was the one that kind of took me by surprise. I recalled the name fro Acts But I had never really given much thought to who he was or if he was important. My first impression was related to facts: Barnabas traveled with Paul in Acts while Paul went from place to place and did a lot of great stuff. But once he was brought up in this new light of importance, I began to get who Barnabas really was: Paul's ally, his friend, his partner, his buddy, Sundance to Paul's Butch Cassidy (minus the violence and bank robbery). I can imagine times where Paul looked across the breakfast table at Barnabas and said, "Well, what do you think? You wanna do it?" and Barnabas replies "Oh yeah, I'm in!"
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:2-3, NIV)

As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God. (Acts 13:42-43, NIV)

Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. (Acts 13:46, NIV)

So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders. (Acts 14:3, NIV)

Now, recognizing the importance if Barnabas, I see where I have played that role for others several times before. But my struggle is to find the Barnabas in my life right now. I can be fiercely independent and stubborn when it comes to getting something done. Most of my life I have considered asking for help to be a big sign of weakness. This has hurt some of my relationships and probably stopped others all together. I've come to understand that my relationships with people are often a good barometer of my relationship with God (from my side). And asking for help is a major struggle.

So I'm looking for the Barnabas in my journey right now. For my work on the small group ministry, for my daily walk with God, and for many other things I have or will have going on.

Is there someone playing the Barnabas role for you right now? What are they doing to be Barnabas for you? How has it helped you?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Are you comfortable?


Does that word evoke a response from you? Do you like the response? Or did you cringe?

I have found that there are few things that get a response from people like discussing or proposing change. I think this is because it is in our human nature to try to get comfortable. A friend of mine so liked getting comfortable, and avoiding change, that he adopted a mantra for his way of life: "Get in a rut early."

While this may be human nature, I don't think it is the nature of God at all. And that may be one of the biggest things humanity holds against Him.

I've heard it said time and time again that God finds us where we are. That is, He doesn't require us to change and get our lives straightened out and to get all our junk cleaned up BEFORE He loves us and accepts us. No, He takes us as we are. Praise God for that!

The trouble comes in when we start to understand that He doesn't want to leave us where He found us. Se what Paul says:
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor 5:16 - 17 NIV)

Perry Noble is the pastor of NewSpring Church in Anderson, SC. He has a good blog and recently posted "15 signs that you (or your church) lacks vision." Just looking at the first 4 items in Perry's list speak to the importance of change:
#15 - No one is ever challenged to radically rearrange their lives to be a part of what God is doing.

#14 - God hasn’t asked you to give something up.

#13 - Everyone in your church is perfect. (If you are truly reaching lost people then you will discover that ministry is messy.)

#12 - Nothing in regards to how you lead has changed in the past year.

You can easily take this list and move away from the church and apply it to our lives in general. What has changed in your life as a result of inviting God in? Have you given up anything or added something to your life?

I know that for me personally, this is a key part of my daily struggle. In my almost 38 years, I have found my self in rut after rut. Almost all of my own making. In my career developing software, I have often chased the goal of getting it 'just right' so that I don't have to change anything any more. In raising my kids I often get agitated because they won't do what I told them, how I told them.

For all my high ideals, I just want to get to a point of comfort where I don't have to expend much energy, physically or mentally, to enjoy my life. There are plenty of things in the world that make that hard to do. And the Lord also upsets these plans.

The Gospels are not passive in what they tell us. They are a call to action. Just like the disciples, we are called to "drop our nets" and follow. We are called to change things in our lives. Not in order to get comfortable in the world. Not in order to be accepted by a group of people. Not in order to "go along to get along."

We are called to change things in our lives because God is changing all of creation. Paul tells us about the beginning of this change:
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Cor 5:18 - 19 NIV)

And John tells us where it is ultimately headed in Revelations:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away (Revelations 21:1 NIV)

He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" (Revelations 21:5 NIV)

So now what do you think of change? I'm still scared of it at times and I still find it hard to accept or affect sometimes. And I'm praying for strength and wisdom to follow through with the changes that God is asking of me.

If you feel so inclined, please pray too.