In his sermon "Taking the Hazard," John H. Jowett offered this description of Paul's co-worker, Barnabas:
"He was gentle, companionable, sweet. He was pastoral where Paul was militant. He was the son of consolation while Paul was a man of war. Where Paul would carry a sword, in readiness for an adversary, Barnabas would carry a wallet, filled with oil and wine, in readiness for any traveler whom he might find robbed and beaten on the road. He was a peacemaker, and he was great in the ministry of reconciliation. When Paul would have dismissed a man for cowardice, Barnabas would give him another chance."
BIBLE -- Many don't read
The minister had worked with a man in his church to teach him to read from the Bible, and the man became a good reader very quickly. For a short time after the lessons ended the pastor was unable to visit the man.
When he finally did get to the house, he found the wife at home. "How is Bill doing with his reading?" he asked, and the wife replied, "Very well, pastor."
"And is he able to read his Bible easily now?" the minister questioned, to which Bill's wife answered, "Why pastor, he's made it through the Bible and into the newspaper long ago!"
Too many Christians don't even make it through the Bible, but spend all their time with the newspaper and television and none in God's Word.
CHRISTIAN LIFE -- Requires involvement
In a report to the Central Committee of the Soviet Union in February, 1956, Nikita Khruschev said, "A Communist has no right to be a mere onlooker."
How much more is that true of the Christian! We are not called to be observers, but to be active players in our world -- loving, serving, living so that a lost world sees Christ at work in us.
When the Duvaliers ruled Haiti, they used a despised secret police to intimidate the Haitian people. The group was named the Tonton Macoutes, which translates as "the boogey man." While we may remember childhood fears of the "boogey man," the Haitian people had real "boogey men" to fear.
Yet when the Duvaliers left power in 1986, the Haitians who had lived in fear of the secret police suddenly became the hunters: they searched them out, and many were ruthlessly killed. However terrible the excesses, the people's newfound freedom produced new courage.
As Christians, we have been set free in Christ. Sin and death have been defeated, and we are called to face life with courage. (David W. Robinson, College United Methodist Church, Warrenton, MO)
Barry Beames, pastor of First Baptist Church of Blue Ridge, TX, reports that one of the main causes of domestic stress in his home is the television remote control. It allows you to change the channel with the touch of a button. If you are bored with a program, or want to skip commercials, simply press the button and move immediately to another channel.
"Sometimes life presents situations in which we would rather not participate," explains Barry. "Many people would like the privilege of a remote control to switch from one experience to another. Yet life offers no such privilege.
"While life comes to us as a package, with no quick fix, Jesus' desire is that we "might have life, and have it more abundantly" (John 10:19). Living dynamically in the midst of crushing experiences is never easy, but always possible. Durability comes from living in the presence of the unchanging Christ."
EXAMPLE -- Must set
The church bulletin carried an unusual announcement: "Sunday Night Topic: Walking The Way of Sin. The pastor will be the leader."
Christian leaders in both pulpit and pew are to set positive examples. Unfortunately, too often the world sees just the opposite from those who claim to represent Christ.
GRACE -- Can't be described
"Religion is always a surprise to anyone that gets it. The story of grace is an old story. Apostles preached it with rattle of chain; martyrs declared it with arm of fire; deathbeds have affirmed it with visions of glory; ministers of religion have sounded it through the lanes and the highways, the chapels and the cathedrals. It has been cut into stone with chisel, and spread on the canvas with pencil; and it has been recited in the doxology of great congregations.
"And yet when a man first comes to look on the palace of God's mercy he exclaims with prayers, with tears, with sighs, with triumph: 'The half was not told me'." (T. DeWitt Talmage)
GROWTH -- Takes time
"A husband and wife take hours and days and years to know each other, and yet some would know God before the parking meter expires. Lifetime questions take a lifetime; questions of conscience require conscience; issues of morals and religion can be handled only after one has achieved some size, some dimensions of pathos, sympathy, concern and sensitivity." (Fred C. Craddock, Overhearing the Gospel)
OBEDIENCE -- Letter and spirit
Rick Shannon, pastor of Second Baptist Church, Greenville, KY, tells of a period when his preschool son fought the idea of going to bed at night. As soon as he was in bed and father was in the hallway, a little voice would cry out: "Daddy! Can I have a drink of water?" The water would only be the first of several necessities that would need to be met before he would go to sleep. Each night the list of requests lengthened.
So the parents finally said, "Do not yell for us tonight, OK?" When the boy said OK, it seemed the battle was won. But once in bed, it was only moments before they heard the word "Daddy!" in the loudest whisper imaginable.
"Son, I told you not to yell," Rick said, to which his son replied, "I wasn't yelling. I was whispering."
The next night's list of don'ts included: Don't yell. Don't whisper. He was tucked in, and within a few minutes came the inevitable summons -- not a yell or a whisper, but a loud whistle!
Rick applies the point: "Our son was respecting parental directives in a technical sense, but disobeying the spirit of them. How often we may obey the letter of God's law, but fail to keep its spirit. We would do well to remember that God "judgest righteously and triest the heart ..." (Jeremiah 11:10)
"Some preaching is like wine: it has color and sparkle, but does no permanent good; some is like drinking coffee: it stimulates, but does not nourish; some is like carbonated water: a fuss over nothing; some is like spring water: good, but hard to get." (George Bernard Shaw)
PRIORITIES -- Circumstances change
On the night of April 14, 1912, the great ocean-liner Titanic crashed into an iceberg in the Atlantic and sank, causing great loss of life. One of the most curious stories to come from the disaster was of a woman who had a place in one of the lifeboats.
She asked if she could return to her stateroom for something and was given just three minutes. As she hurried through the corridors, she stepped over money and precious gems that littered the floor where they had been dropped in haste. In her own stateroom she ignored her own jewelry, and instead grabbed three oranges and returned to her place in the boat.
Just hours earlier it would have been ludicrous to think she would have accepted a crate of oranges in exchange for even one small diamond, but circumstances had suddenly transformed all the values aboard the ship. Oranges were now more precious than diamonds.
When we yield our lives to Christ and begin to live for Him, our priorities and values are transformed. What was once most precious now means little; what we once ignored is now of eternal significance.
RELATIONSHIPS -- Must work at
Charles L. Allen told of the experience of the author Carl Kopf. He was watching police searching for the body of a young woman who had jumped from Harvard Bridge. When one person asked why she had jumped, Kopf commented: "Maybe she had no work and nothing to eat. Maybe she had no friends and was lonely." To that the person replied: "Well, she won't find any friends in the river." (Victory in the Valleys of Life)
It is a truth that to find friends, we must go where people are. Relationships don't just happen -- they require effort.
SERVICE -- Makes an impact
Dr. Brackett was a dedicated physician who ministered in a small Southwestern town. He gave much of his time aiding poor people who were unable to pay for his services, often traveling miles to reach a family in need.
He never married. He fell in love once, but on the day of his wedding a call came for him to go and aid in the birth of a Mexican child. The girl called off the wedding, declaring that a man who would delay his own wedding for the sake of a Mexican child was no good to her as a husband.
When he died in his 70's, the funeral was the largest ever seen in that town. People began to argue about what would be an appropriate memorial, but nothing was done. One couple, however, was unwilling to wait -- they were the parents of that Mexican child Dr. Brackett had delivered at the cost of his own wedding.
Too poor to afford a stone, they went to the place of Dr. Brackett's downtown office and removed the brass plate that had been there so many years. The next morning, the undertaker found the brass plate on the grave, sitting atop flowers, and read these words:
As W. E. Sangster observes: "Wherever men and women engage in Christ-like service, caring for the sick and needy, and doing it for love, there they are bearing the cross for Jesus." (W. E. Sangster, "The People Who Ministered to Him," They Met at Calvary)
SPIRITUAL GIFTS -- Must develop our own
A parable tells of a group of animals who decide to start a school. The curriculum included swimming, running, climbing and flying.
The duck, an excellent swimmer, had problems in other areas, so he majored in climbing, running and flying. As a result, his swimming suffered greatly. The rabbit, a superior runner, spent so much time trying to learn other areas that his speed began to fade.
The squirrel, who had rated an "A" in climbing, dropped to a "C" because the instructors spent hours trying to teach him to swim and fly. And the eagle was disciplined for soaring to the top of the trees when he was being taught to climb. (John C. Huffman)
How ludicrous! Yet it is just as ludicrous to try to force all Christians into a particular mold, expecting each to have the same spiritual gifts, instead of letting each find and develop those skills that God has already given.
TONGUE -- Sometimes best silent
John Adams, second president of the United States, walked with a friend into a great hall where they found two busts, one of George Washington and the other of Adams. Tapping his cane on the closed lips of Washington he said, "That fellow knew how to keep his mouth shut." Then, using the cane to tap his own bust, Adams said, "And this fool didn't!"
There are times when the greatest wisdom is displayed by refusing to open our mouths!
TRUTH -- Found only in Christ
John Killinger tells of a philosophy professor he knew from graduate school days. This brilliant man had studied widely abroad, and loved to read old books and mentally argue with their authors. He was an agnostic, refusing to commit to any system of thought lest it hamper his exploration of other systems.
When his second child was only a few months old, she took ill with a bad fever and was placed in a hospital. Because the mother was exhausted, the father sent her home and stayed overnight in the child's room.
As he sat there feeling helpless, his mind raced from one thing to another until finally, in the midst of his worry and grief, he began to recall the words of a hymn learned in childhood: "O Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end ..."
"Over and over I sang them in my head, until finally I found myself singing them aloud. I got down on my knees by my daughter's bed and I prayed, 'Oh Lord, I did promise, I remember; but I have gone away from you. I have let all my learning turn my head. In searching for the truth with a little 't' I have lost the Truth with a capital T'.'"
There on his knees beside his daughter's bed, he recommitted his life to Christ, then committed his daughter to God's care. That night her fever broke, and a couple of days later she left the hospital.
"But even if she had died," he asserted later, "I believe I would have remained committed to Christ. I learned that night that there isn't any truth apart from Him."