Tag Archives: faith

Barnabas Baker: That’s Not My Name, But It Would Be Nice

Preaching Through Acts

This is my fourth time preaching/teaching through the book of Acts, and yes, I’m still learning things. Even though it’s all been over Facebook on Sunday evenings, it’s still been exciting (especially chapter 12 – I’ll included a link at the end – you should watch it).

But one person stands out to me, especially at this time in my ministry. How he is described is what I am lacking in my own life. When I read of him and preach about him, I am convicted. Wouldn’t it be nice if people thought my name was different than what it is?

Every pastor, to one degree or another, should be more like Barnabas. Yes, I want to be seen as a reflection of Jesus, but Barnabas was certainly that. So, if they every forget my name, Barnabas Baker would work.

Barnabas

Barnabas was a Levite from the country of Cyprus who became a follower of Christ. He was a generous man, a godly man, and one whose name fit his personality; he was the “son of consolation” (Acts 4:36-37).

Barnabas was the type of guy that truly cared about people and wanted to see them succeed. He was more than just a team player; he was a motivator, the kind of man who would step down from the pedestal so that someone else could shine. As a matter of fact, it was Barnabas who introduced Saul (Paul), the former persecutor of Christians, to the church at Jerusalem (talk about having someone’s back!).

But in preaching through chapter 11 of Acts, I came across a description of Barnabas that left me very convicted. The way Barnabas was described should be how we are described: good people, full of the Holy Ghost, and full of faith (11:24).

A Good Man

The first thing said about Barnabas was that he was “a good man.” Now, a lot of people think they are good people, but not all are. As a matter of fact, there’s no other place in Acts where Luke describes a person as “good.” Only Barnabas gets that distinction.

Being described as “good” meant that he was a man with whom no one could find fault. He must have been a man of strong character, a man who kept his word, and a man who would do anything for anybody, including give the last coin to one in need. He was the kind of man Jesus was talking about when He said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good” (Luke 6:45). Barnabas was genuine, the “real deal.”

Full of the Holy Ghost

Barnabas was also “full of the Holy Ghost.” What does that mean? Well first off, let’s think about the description of “full.”

The Greek word translated as “full” is one that meant not only to be filled up but filled up to the point of overflowing. Barnabas was totally yielded and filled with the Spirit, so much so that His presence spilled over onto others. The “son of consolation” was an encourager, just like the Spirit controlling and empowering him.

Full of Faith

Barnabas was not only full of the Holy Ghost but also of faith. Simply put, Barnabas was fully convinced and persuaded with what he believed to be true. There was no doubting, no hesitation, no reluctance, no hiding, no timidity. Barnabas was sure in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that is one reason he was sent by the church in Jerusalem to see what was going on in Antioch of Syria.

The Result

Now, let’s look at what happened because of Barnabas’ character, his spiritual power, and his sure faith.

“Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.” – Acts 11:23-24 

First, because he was a good man, he was not jealous of the good things happening in Antioch; he rejoiced that the grace of God had been poured out on the believers there!

Second, because he was full of the Holy Ghost, what was in his heart (as Jesus described) had to be shared, so he “exhorted” them and encouraged them in their faith.

Third, because Barnabas knew what temptations and trials could come, especially with the persecution following Stephen’s death fresh on his mind, he encouraged the new believers to be pro-active in their devotion to the Christ. He knew that the only way to have a strong faith is to purposefully “cleave unto the Lord.”

Fourth, many people were added unto the Lord! Because of the spirituality and faith and character of godly Barnabas, not only were new believers in Antioch strengthened, but many more people came to know Christ!

The Challenge

Here’s the thing. Why aren’t more people coming to a saving faith in Jesus? Why aren’t more of our churches encouraged? Why aren’t more Christians spiritually maturing in their faith? It’s because we don’t have enough men and women like Barnabas.

Be a good person! Seriously, be the type of man or woman that people can trust and rely on. Be the type of person that people can tell you care. Be generous, compassionate, trustworthy, and consistent. Be people of honor and character.

Be filled with the Spirit! Do you know what it means to be completely filled with the Holy Ghost of God? It means there are no little rooms, closets, or boxes in your heart where there is written a note to God which says, “Private! Hands off!” Every are of your life – every secret part – should be yielded to and controlled by the Spirit of God. Otherwise, you are self-controlled and rebellious, and thereby powerless.

Be full of faith! Grow your faith. Study God’s Word. Know why you believe what you believe. Don’t be a coward! If you are shy or feel intimidated to share your faith with others, ask yourself why that’s so!

Would you be afraid to warn your neighbor a murderer was crawling through his bedroom window? Would you be afraid to yell “fire!” if flames were engulfing the rooms of a hotel where people were sleeping? It’s only because you are NOT full of faith that you are not bold; you have doubts the fire is real and the murderer really means to harm.

You and I need to be more like Barnabas.

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Is There Really a “Universal” Gospel?

The following is an outline (nothing but an outline) that I prepared to preach one Sunday several years ago. I found it while searching through some documents on my computer and felt led to share it with you. Feel free to use it, if that’s what you do. Other than that, maybe you could use it as a study tool. 

Maybe I’ll share it with the folk at Bethlehem Baptist one day 🙂 


“Examining the Universality of the Gospel”

I.   Introduction

Luke 2:9-10. Is the Gospel good news for all people?

The word “people” was “pointing specially to the people of Israel.”

II.  What does it mean to be universal?

The term universal is described by one dictionary as an “adjective relating to or done by all people or things in the world or in a particular group; applicable to all cases.”

III. What is the Gospel?

Dictionary Definition:

The gospel is the The Eng. word “gospel,” i.e. “good message,” is the equivalent of euangelion (Eng., “evangel”). In the NT it denotes the “good tidings” of the Kingdom of God and of salvation through Christ, to be received by faith, on the basis of His expiatory death, His burial, resurrection, and ascension, e.g., Act 15:7; 20:24; 1Pe 4:17.[3]

Paul’s Definition: In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 Paul makes it very clear that the gospel is simple, not complicated, and consists of two central features:

  • Jesus the Messiah died on the cross and
  • He rose from the dead according to the Scriptures.[4]

IV. Objections and False Gospels  Some object to a Universal Gospel because race, culture, past experiences, etc.

  1. From those who have been hurt or don’t understand. “You say that you are sent to instruct us how to worship the Great Spirit agreeably to His mind; and, if we do not take hold of the religion which you white people teach we shall be unhappy hereafter. You say that you are right and we are lost. How do we know this to be true? We understand that your religion is written in a Book. If it was intended for us, as well as you, why has not the Great Spirit given to us, and not only to us, but why did He not give to our forefathers the knowledge of that Book, with the means of understanding it rightly. We only know what you tell us about it. How shall we know when to believe, being so often deceived by the white people?”[5] – Chief Red Jacket, 1805, in a speech to the Six Nations and an American missionary, Mr. Cram.
  2. The Jews. In the eleventh chapter of the book of Acts, for instance, we read how that Peter, when he went to Jerusalem, “contended” with the Jews over the issue of the gospel being presented to the Gentiles. In 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 Paul mentioned those who forbade him to “speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved.”
  3. Prosperity Gospel. It is certainly not a gospel that expects “blessing and favor” as evidence of God’s grace.

V.   A Gospel that IS Universal

  • Not limited by race, gender, age, nationality, boundary of any kind, or economic status. It is truly “good news” to anyone and everyone as long as they first realize they have a need for it.
  • Meet the most basic needs of Humanity.
  1. Sin. All men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Because of Adam, sin entered the world, and death by sin; therefore death has passed as a consequence upon all men (Rom. 5:12). Jesus Christ died for the sins of all, and whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13).
  2. The gospel is universal because it addresses the world we all live in. It answers the questions of pain and suffering. It gives meaning to the struggles of life. The gospel is not a drug or panacea of some sort; it is a reality pill.
  3. Love and Compassion. Mother Teresa said, “Maybe they are starved for bread in Africa. You are starved for love in the United States.”[6] What greater message of love can one share than that of the gospel of Jesus? “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

 VI. Conclusion  The gospel that is truly universal in its scope and application.

  1. All men are born in sin – Romans 5:12
  2. There is none righteous – Romans 3:10
  3. All have sinned – Romans 3:23

But…

  1. Jesus is the only Way – John 14:6
  2. One day ever knee will bow and ever tongue will confess – Phil. 2:10-11

“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” – Mark 16:15 KJV

A message of love to every “creature” (κτίσις , εως f creation, what is created, created order, creature [7]) – how much more “universal” can a gospel get?

 

 

 

[1] Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887), Lk 2:10.

[2] Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

[3] W. E. Vine, “Gospel (Noun and Verb: to Preach)”, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Blue Letter Bible. 1940. 24 June, 1996 3 Dec 2012.

[4] Donny Mathis, “Gospel” In , in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England et al. (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 671.

[5] Bryan, William Jennings, ed. The World’s Famous Orations. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1906; New York: Bartleby.com, 2003. www.bartleby.com/268/. [Accessed Dec. 2, 2012].

[6] G. Curtis Jones, 1000 Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1986), 257.

[7] Barclay M. Newman, Jr., A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft; United Bible Societies, 1993), 104.

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The De-Grandeurization of God

Proud Doubter

Last night I was scrolling through the Facebook posts of a friend. Actually, I wouldn’t exactly call the person a “friend” as much as a former acquaintance. The person I used to know as a young, vibrant Christian student, one who boldly proclaimed his faith, has now become proud doubter.

Look, let me be the first to say that moments of doubt are not uncommon, and far be it from me to cast judgment on those who do. I have had my moments of doubt, and there have been many times when I’ve had to pray, “Lord, help my unbelief.” But one thing I’ve never done is boast about my doubting. G0d forbid!

Yet, as I scrolled through the posts and the comments of my young friend of years gone by, what I saw was one who was proud of the fact that he felt free enough to doubt, even to allow his doubts to affect what he believed about God.

A Blown Mind

Come to find out, my young friend has been doing some study. He has become fascinated with astronomy, specifically the “Big Bang.” As many have done, he has proudly ditched the supposed illiterate belief in a Young Earth creation and taken off full bore down the road of “true” science. He has been blown away by the scientific “evidence” that led him not only to doubt his earlier beliefs, but to look forward to other areas in which his understanding of God may be changed.

In other words, because of what my young friend has now learned, he is looking forward to the de-grandeurization of his God.

Did God?

If you will remember, it was Satan, in the Garden of Eden, who posed the first doubt-inducing question, “Did God…?” This led to Eve questioning the motives of her Creator.

Unfortunately, developments in modern science have been used in the very same way to create doubt, to cause believers to question the abilities of their Creator. They look at the marvelous works of creation and ultimately conclude that it was natural forces which created what we now see, not God. By doing so, they unwittingly fall prey to the gradual undermining of their faith, going from one “enlightening” conclusion to another, saying: “Well, if what I believed there is not true, then what else about God is not true?”

They proudly march forward with a presupposition of doubt leading the way, redefining God and His creation.

The Declaration 

Most detailed image of the Crab Nebula

Credit: NASA, ESA and Allison Loll/Jeff Hester (Arizona State University). Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin (ESA/Hubble)

But here’s the thing: Psalm 19:1 says that “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” Even more, Psalm 97:6 says, “The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory.”

Is the universe expanding? Yes, it is. But what does that necessarily mean about God? The universe is expanding, and men are made up of the same elements found in stars. Does this mean that believing God created the heavens, including man, “as is” is out of the realm of possibility?

The God I serve is so big, so powerful, so awesome, so grand that when He said, “Let there be…” it was. There’s no reason to doubt, even if it doesn’t all make sense.

After all, the grandeur of creation was created out of nothing. If God could do that, then nothing is impossible for Him. Science doesn’t have to disprove anything; it should be declaring.

I’m a proud believer.

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An Important Afternoon Devotional: “Cancer Treatment”

On Monday afternoon I did a Facebook LIVE devotional for my church congregation. It became very personal and displayed more transparency than I intended.

But, you know what? Maybe that’s exactly what a lot of people needed. Honesty.

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Accepting Forgiveness vs Faithless Unbelief

Just this week I uploaded a daily devotional I do online to YouTube. Then, as I usually do, I posted it to our church’s Facebook page.

The subject of this video is that of accepting God’s forgiveness, even when we don’t feel forgivable.

I would love your feedback.

Sorry for the goofy-looking face 😉

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Is It Perception Or Deception?

The Way We See It

If I have heard it said once, I have heard it said a thousand times, “perception is reality.” And if I have puked once…well, you know the rest.

What is it with man’s twisted view of reality and truth? Where do we get the idea that reality is what we perceive it to be? Is truth really relative to our own perception of the way things are? Just because a person believes something to be true doesn’t make it true, only believed.

Have you ever argued with someone who is color-blind over the color of a tie? Have you ever tried to convince someone dying of thirst that it’s not really water, but a mirage? Have you ever tried to convince a 3-year-old that germs are real and that hands need to be washed before eating? Some people think they know what they see, but they don’t.

Have you ever tried to argue with an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) about the letters on the wall? Yes, a “B” may appear to your flawed eyes as a “D”, but that doesn’t change what is on the wall.

Hot or Cold?

Sure, there are certain times when it seems like truth is relative, and here is a good example.

When my wife and I walk into a room, both of us will perceive a different sensation. If the temperature on the thermometer reads 70 degrees, then my wife is going to exclaim, “Why is it so hot in here?” On the other hand, I am going to say, “I think it feels fine.” I may, depending on how hot the temperature is outside, think that what my wife perceives to be hot is actually cool.

Both are correct based on our individual experiences and perceptions, but in reality the truth of the temperature is still 70, regardless of how we feel about it.

Clean Drunks

Several years ago I was unfortunate enough to transport a bunch of college kids to a party. It was unfortunate because long before some of them ever got on the school bus they had already been drinking.

The place they were going to was up a mountain. About 5 minutes into the trip, about the third or fourth curve, one girl decided to vomit on the window, down the inside wall, and between the seats. It was all liquid, all alcohol, and all nasty. A few minutes later she felt she was ready to go party some more, for, in her eyes, she was perfectly clean. The only problem was that we (everyone on the bus) could tell she was soaked…in other words, we weighed the “spirits.”

God Sees Everything

When it comes to self-perception, reality is what God sees. He not only sees the outside, but the heart is bare before Him. As the proverb says, a man may consider himself clean, which is his own perception of reality, but the Lord knows what’s really going on.

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

It is foolish for men to try to justify their sinful, dirty actions before a holy God. It is foolish to depend on our own perception of what is right and wrong. Our eyes only want to see what makes us look good, not evil.

That is why we need God’s wisdom.

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Filed under General Observations, Life Lessons, voting, wisdom

This Is Why We Struggle With the Enemy

Pastor, preacher, minister, Christian… if we feel like the Enemy is winning, like he’s not even intimidated, there’s probably a simple reason.Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray (1828-1917) was a South African preacher and pastor (of Scottish decent). But more than anything, he was a prayer warrior. Some of his theology may not sit well with all of some of us, but one thing is certain: this man had a heart for God like few others.

The following is from his book Living a Prayerful Life:

The Enemy uses all his power to lead the Christian – and above all, the minister – to neglect prayer. Satan knows that however admirable the sermon may be, however attractive the service, however faithful the pastoral visitation, none of these things can damage him or his kingdom if prayer is neglected. – Andrew Murray (p. 28)

I’m not going to lie – I don’t pray like I should. What a waste! What a sin!

I have preached some pretty good sermons and tried to do all the pastoral stuff, but how much more effective could I have been had I spent more time on my knees and less time at a desk?

What if I spent more time talking with Jesus than talking about Him?After all, the whole reason the disciples called for the selecting of deacons was so that they might first give themselves “continually to prayer…” (Acts 6:4).

Preachers, before you worry anymore about your outline for Sunday, your clever illustrations, or your Power Point, spend some more time prostrate before the throne. If we neglect earnest prayer, we’ll have no power, so what’s the point?

Battles may be lost on our feet, but they are won on our knees.

One finger pointing, three back at me.

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If We Could Only Comprehend!

This morning my prayer for you (and myself) will be the same as what the apostle Paul prayed…

I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:16-19 CSB

Oh, that we might comprehend the width, the length, the height, and the depth of God’s love through Jesus Christ! If we could only even slightly comprehend the vast, expansive spread before us, mercy and grace for every need; the never-ending, eternal, infinite promise of his love and care; the heights to which we are raised, far above the lowly, humble truth of our natural condition and state; and the depths of Christ’s love – humble depths to which the love of God had to reach down in order to pluck us from the pit of sin… If we could only even slightly comprehend them!

Yet, through His strength (v. 16), and being rooted and grounded in His love (v. 17), it is possible! Hallelujah! Because He “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us! (v. 20 NKJV)

This morning, and every morning, to God the Father be all glory in the church by Christ Jesus, to all generations, wherever they may be, forever and ever, “world without end” (v. 20).

And all the people said… “AMEN!!” 

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Something Good Worth Waiting For

I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. – Psalm 40:1

There’s an old saying, “good things come to those who wait.” Where did it come from? Who said it first? I don’t know, although I’m sure it’s traceable. All I know is that the first verse of Psalm 40 says almost the same thing, only what comes to the one waiting is better than anything this world can offer.

Something’s Wrong

Let’s think about some things that have to be going on for this verse to make any sense. First, something is wrong. Why else would David be crying out to God? Something is wrong. Why else would he be wanting God to do something.

Last night I dealt with some serious prayer requests. One thing led to another and I brought up the question that so many ask: “If there’s a God, then why is there pain? Why do good people suffer?” Here’s another question, though: If there is no God, and still there is pain and suffering, then what’s the point? Either there is pain and suffering and people going through bad times for no reason whatsoever, or there is a great plan beyond our understanding, one being worked out by a loving God.

The pain is there, regardless. Why not believe there’s hope?

In God’s Time

The second thing to observe is the fact that God works on His own time table. David cried out, for how long we don’t know, but God’s response was not immediate.

How often to we find ourselves calling out in prayer, “Do something! Do it NOW!” In David’s case, whatever was wrong was more than he could handle on his own; he needed divine intervention. How often do search for immediate answers? How often do we question God and His timing all because we know more about what is really needed at the moment?

David waited patiently. Patience requires faith. It is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). Are you waiting patiently?

To Those Who Wait

To those who wait patiently on the Lord; to those who have faith that God will indeed do what is best; to those who wait God gives something that most do not realize they never truly have – His undivided attention. David waited patiently on the Lord, and He “inclined” unto him.

Picture two people sitting at a table. Lots of other people are at the table, too, just going on and on about all manner of stuff. One person tries to talk to the other, but there are so many distractions. Eventually, when the other notices how much the one wants to talk, he leans over, rests on an elbow, bends an ear, and says, “Now, what were you saying?”

God is omniscient; it’s not like He can’t hear all prayers. But within this verse we get a glimpse into the reality that there is something special, a sweet privilege that comes to those who “wait patiently on the Lord.” To reach that point of communion with the Creator of the universe, to know you have His ear: now that’s a good thing for which to wait, don’t you think?

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What Was It Like, The Night Before?

Wells Branch Community Church: Austin, TX > Despair and the Key ...

 

Just imagine … the night before the resurrection.

Tomorrow is Easter, the day that we celebrate the risen Lord, Jesus Christ. But here it is the night before, the night before the celebrations, and few of us have any idea of the sense of total despair the followers of Jesus must have been experiencing on this night – the night before.

For three and a half years his disciples had followed Him around, listening to His stories, His parables, and His prayers. They had witnessed miracle after miracle which should have confirmed to them His claims to be the Messiah. Yet, just two days ago they witnessed the supposed Son of God, the “resurrection and the life” (that’s what he told Mary and Martha, you know, on the day He raised Lazarus from the dead), betrayed, beaten, falsely convicted, and tortuously crucified.

Then, after his tormentors had done all they could do, Jesus died. It was pretty obvious to all who were present.

It grew dark and the earth shook violently, as to add insult to injury, for even creation sensed the tragedy of it all.

They saw Him buried.

Some ran…some huddled as they hid…would they be next?

What of the “Kingdom” the Jesus had spoken of?

What good were the words “he that believeth on me shall not die, but have everlasting life” if the one saying it could be unjustly convicted, abandoned by heaven, and left to die in the most disgraceful and painful way? How could HE make such a promise if HE could die?

It was the night before, just like tonight, yet there was no anticipation of worship services or egg hunts – only the expectation of another sunrise without the Son.

They were afraid…broken…discouraged…faithless…confused…angry…directionless…without hope…

They were totally unprepared for what was about to happen, because the last thing they were thinking of was that this was…

the night before.

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