No Change

bible.com/72/heb.13.8.hcsb

Do you hate change? I do. I like being able to rely on the aisles at Walmart being the same every time I go so that I can find stuff I need. Like last night, I went back to the electronics department to look for a WiFi usb stick for my wife. I used to know where to look. It took me longer this time because they had completely CHANGED the department. I was annoyed. I had to ask a sales associate where to find it. I knew where it was supposed to be, but they had changed. Not so with Jesus. If you are looking for peace or hope of grace today. You can still find it, because it is right where you will be looking for it, in Jesus Christ. He never changes.

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Feeling Overwhelmed?

bible.com/72/mat.6.34.hcsb

All of us, at one time or another, can confess to being overbooked, overstressed, and anxious for the future. I’ve been having a season like that lately. Faced with yet another stack of things that needed to get done, I felt anxious at first, but then remembered that God sees the future. God knows what coming before I do, and He’s already prepared a way forward. I put my faith in that, even though I couldn’t see far enough ahead to know it. Just knowing I have a loving Father who knows what I can handle, who wants me to grow and be challenged, I know that the path ahead will be difficult, but He will walk the path with me because He already knows the way through. Thank You Lord that I have to only worry about today. Help me be prepared for what’s coming, but appreciate you in the now for the joy and beauty you bring.

Thought for the Day

bible.com/72/jhn.7.38.hcsb

My community has come through some flooding recently, and many of our people have had s tough time working through the recovery. Ironically, this is the verse of the day in the Bible app. The verse describes the joy of life-giving faith that Jesus gives to believers. Water is a powerful force, and when under control, in our faucets and fountains, it can be incredibly useful. But when unleashed from the heavens it can be a terrible force for destruction. What Jesus extends to us is an incredible, life-giving power through the Holy Spirit to give us joy and peace and life through His saving power. It is the power of a flood to sweep away all the debris in our lives, but also the power to cleanse us and make us pure. It is a power that can flow from us into others, giving them hope and joy as we share with them the source of life-giving water we have found. He is the fountain that fills us to overflowing. Take a moment today and thank Him.

Connecting the Dots – Barnabas

In Bible Study last night, we saw this passage from Acts:

When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. (Act 12:12)

By itself, it is just an historical note. but note also this passage from Colossians:

Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), (Col 4:10)

And then we remembered that Barnabas used to own land around Jerusalem (due quickness he was able to sell the land in light of the church’s need):

Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Act 4:36-37)

So we remember that Mary, the mother of John is the one who owned the house in Jerusalem. This is possibly the same house that Jesus and the other disciples met in to have the Last Supper.

And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. (Mar 14:12-16)

We’ve always found this passage odd, because men don’t carry jars of water. That is a servant’s job, or the job of a woman. Yet, and this man stands out from the crowd here for this act, here is the sign for the address for the Upper Room. Whoever the Master of his house is, this is the only mention we have of him (AD 30). If this is Mary’s house by Acts 12 (AD 44) then this family has been through a few things.

We might explain Joseph’s presence by being the eldest male member of the family. Even if he is a Cypriot, we would be obligated to come back to the homeplace to help take care of things, and even be a father to John Mark in a sense.

Thus we see him first in Acts 4 already given his nickname by the fellowship due to his encouraging nature, but then infrequently through Acts 15 where he decides to take Mark with him to Cyprus against Paul’s desires. This disagreement may have stemmed from Barnabas’ nature of encouragement, trying to encourage his young cousin’s work in missions against Paul’s objections. Barnabas wants to give Mark a second chance while Paul does not. Barnabas and Paul separate, and Barnabas takes Mark to Cyprus. According to tradition, Barnabas eventually is martyred in Salamis, whose dying wish is that Mark follow Paul after he is gone.

Some early church fathers attest that Barnabas was one of the original 70 disciples that Jesus sent throughout Judea. (“According to Clement of Alexandria (Strom. 2, c. 20, vol. 2, p. 192, ed. Klotz), Eusebius (Hist. Ecc_1:12), and Epiphanius (Haer. 20:4), he was one of the seventy disciples (Luk_10:1).” – “Barnabas”, Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, 1895) ) If so, Barnabas was involved in the Christian movement from the very beginning, even causing some to say that the other disciple proposed to replace Judas was a misspelling of Barnabas, spelled Barsabbas. Even so, we find Barnabas involved early in the work of the Church. His family, that is his cousin’s mother (sister-in-law?) Mary may have hosted the very Passover that Jesus instituted the elements of Communion. His family’s home became a place for the early church to meet and pray, at least as we find it in Acts 12, within the walls of Jerusalem.

With this, the persons of Barnabas and John Mark become more significant. If we read between the lines, we find a family who is involved with the birth and growth of early Christianity and culminate in this family’s contribution to the New Testament in the gospel of Mark. Perhaps Mark’s gospel is more than just the preaching of Peter, but also of Barnabas.

Connecting the Dots – The Death of James

About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. (Act 12:1-3)

James is the only apostle whose death is recorded in the Scriptures. While many are familiar with the death of Paul who was beheaded in Rome and Peter who was crucified upside down outside of Rome, both are attributed to traditional material, the Early Church Fathers and so on. Only James’ death, of all of the original 12 apostles (with the exception of Judas) is recorded within its pages.

Outside of what we find in the gospels, James (or Jacob)’s ministry is virtually unknown. Thus it is a great mystery why he was selected for this act of persecution by Herod Agrippa I. We know James was one of the inner circle of disciples, along with his brother John and business partner Peter. He and his brother are noted for their desire for special privilege in the coming Kingdom by asking to sit at the right and left hands of Jesus (Mark 10:35). They were given the special nickname “sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17) and were especially incensed by the reaction of the Samaritans to Jesus, asking that Jesus lay waste to their cities with fire (Luke 9:54). We might gather that before the resurrection, James was a hot-tempered individual, but these few examples may merely point to a greater degree of zeal on his part. Their family was aligned with the house of the high priest, and may have had frequent business dealings there (John 18:15). It seems that James and John, whose mother was Salome (Mark 15:40; 16:1) and father Zebedee may have been related to Mary and Joseph as Mary’s sister, but this isn’t conclusive. Even so, it is Salome who approached Jesus (along with her sons) to ask for the right and left hands, something Jesus’ aunt might have felt entitled to, as Jesus’ own brothers didn’t believe in Him.

As the other disciples, James saw the risen Lord, and heard the commission to go into all the world. According to tradition, James obeyed the commission and went to the Iberian peninsula (Spain) and the origin of the word “Santiago” or Saint Iago ,means “Saint James”. After his death, his remains were allegedly taken to Spain and are in the Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.

However, some early church sources refute this claim, Clement of Alexandria and Apollonius (See Eusebius Eccl. Hist. VI.18) saying that James never left Jerusalem before he was martyred in AD 44. Paul in Romans 15:20 and 24 intended to go to Spain, but did not desire to build upon another man’s foundation. Wouldn’t Paul have known if James had gone to Spain? Wouldn’t that have been a noteworthy trip for even Luke to make a note of before James was martyred? Strangely, James’ travels are more famous after he died.

Iberia is in Biblical terms the ends of the earth. Jonah desired to escape to Tarshish, as far as he could get from Nineveh. Paul desired to go to Spain (to satisfy his apostolic commission). Perhaps the truth is somewhere in there. Perhaps James, as the fathers said, never left Judea because the church up to that point was still wrestling about extending the gospel to Gentiles. It wasn’t James who first made that invitation, but Peter. We should not be surprised that James was still under the impression “to the Jew first” for most of his ministry, for Jesus said, “You will not finish going through the towns in Judea before I come.” (See Matthew 10:23) Ironically, if tradition is at least partly correct, James went on to evangelize Spain after his death, a martyr to the message of Jesus to an extent far more notable in death than during his life.