2020-21 Ministry Year Focus: "Connected in Faith"
- Connecting with God - Drawing near with a true heart.
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:22)
- Connecting with our Church Family - Holding fast the confession of our hope.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)
- Connecting with our Community - Stirring up one another to love & good works.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. (Hebrews 10:24)
This month we take a look at the third theme of our ministry year focus, as we contemplate what it looks like to “Connecting with our Community – Stirring up one another to love & good works” (#3 above). Do you from your reading of the Bible the person of Joseph the Levite from Cyprus? Joseph also had a nickname. Have you heard of Barnabas? Would you be able to tell me who Barnabas was and for what he is known?
Well let me back up some and try it from a different angle. Do you know who the Apostle Paul is? Hopefully, there is a little bit of a larger positive response from our readership. Have you ever heard of a writer by the name of Mark? He wrote a little book about Jesus entitled the Gospel of Mark in the Bible? You may be more familiar with Paul and Mark, but did you know that if there wasn’t a Barnabas you probably wouldn’t have heard of a Paul or a Mark? Joseph’s nickname of Barnabas was significant because it told you what kind of persons he was. Barnabas means “Son of Encouragement.” You see at all the opportune times in the book of Acts, Barnabas was present encouraging others. Barnabas first shows up in Acts 4:36-37. “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet.” He is encouraging the apostles and the early church with a generous gift to benefit others through the mission and the compassion of the early church. Next, he shows up in Acts 9:26-27. When no one else in Jerusalem wanted to believe this recently converted man name Saul, it was Barnabas who came alongside him and spoke up for him. Next, Barnabas appears in Antioch in Acts 11:22-23, as the word has now spread to the Gentiles there. Barnabas not only encouraged these Christians who were young in their faith, but he also saw a “job” that would be perfect for Saul who had returned home to Asia Minor. Barnabas brought him back and started Saul, soon to be Paul, on his first long term, permanent missionary responsibility. Throughout the next several chapters Barnabas and Paul work side by side, but in Acts 15:36-41 they part ways over an argument. An argument? But I thought Barnabas was a son of encouragement. Once again Barnabas proves true to his nickname. Paul doesn’t want to take Mark on their latest missionary journey because he had unexpectedly left them on their last one. Barnabas, however, is so intent on encouraging Mark through his past failures that Barnabas and Paul go their separate ways. Yet, what is the result? More mission work! More preaching by two teams of preachers—Paul & Silas and Barnabas & Mark.
So, why am I telling you this? A nice lesson in biblical trivia? A nice walk down memory lane? By no means! This is the very image of the type of believers that we are called to be. This is the very picture of what our reading from Hebrews 10:24 is trying to express. “Let us consider how to stir up (i.e., encourage) one another to love and good works.” We do it not by manipulation or strongarming. We do it not by badgering or belittling. We stir up one another by faithfully inviting, encouraging, and celebrating those around us, just like Barnabas. Who have you been encouraging through this time of the pandemic? Who have you been encouraging within their Christian faith? Who have you been encouraging that is outside the church? Who has been encouraging you?
I think in these difficult days we all could use a little encouragement.
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6)
— Pastor Kurt Ebert