You Can’t Please Them All (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

You can’t please everyone all of the time

I heard this story the other day and thought I would share it with you.

An older father and his son were heading into town. The father allowed the son to ride on the family donkey. When they arrived in the town, the people said, “Look at that! Insolent youth riding on a donkey and making his father walk like that!”

The next time, they swapped places and the father rode the donkey while the son walked beside. Again the people cried, “Look at that! Irresponsible father riding along while his poor boy walks!”

Another time they went into town while both riding the donkey. This time the people protested, “Look at that! That poor donkey! Having to cary two people on its back!”

The final time they went into the town, both father and son walked beside the donkey. This time the people laughed, saying, “Look at that! Those idiots! They have a donkey and yet they are walking!”

Moral of the story – you can’t please everyone all o the time. That doesn’t give us the right to do what we want or to deliberately displease, but we must ensure we are following God’s commands.

Let us please God with all that we do and say today, even if there are those who moan about us!

Peter Preaches

Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday and I shared some thoughts on Acts 2 and the coming of the Holy Spirit. You can read that post here or even watch the video version on my Facebook page – Andy Brown on Facebook .

Acts 2 is a fairly lengthy chapter, so I won’t include the entire text in this post. Today I want to focus on Peter’s sermon which he gave to the crowd after they saw the results of the coming of the Holy Spirit. You can find the full text of Peter’s message here – Acts 2:14-41.

The Sermon

Seeing the Apostles so moved by the Holy Spirit, and hearing them speak in all manner of different languages, the crowd accuse them of drunkenness. It would be quite some drink that allowed them all to speak in various languages, but let’s not get distracted!

Peter stands up and begins to speak. It is a powerful word with conviction of the Holy Spirit behind it. What does he say?

Peter points out that what they are seeing is nothing to do with alcohol, especially given the time of the morning, but instead goes straight to the Old Testament Scriptures.

But this is what has been spoken through the prophet Joel:

Acts 2:16 (WEB)

This is interesting to me, as my expectation might have been to use the Hebrew Scriptures to a primarily Jewish audience. We know from the same passage though that there were many different nations and tongues present on the day of Pentecost. In our evangelism, we might choose not to be too Bible-heavy, quoting Scriptures and pointing our biblical texts, thinking those outside of the church may not respond to it. This is a mistake! People are saved by hearing the Word of truth!

having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which lives and remains forever.

1 Peter 1:23 (WEB)

So we see Peter is right to quote the Scripture, and we should too.

Peter shows them that what they are seeing is the fulfilment of prophecies given long ago in the Old Testament. Joel speaks of the “last days” that God would pour out His Spirit freely, and various spiritual gifts would be displayed. What this audience is seeing in the disciples behaviour, is the release of that promise. We will read later that those who came to Christ as a result were also in receipt of the Holy Spirit and too displayed these gifts.

May I also point out that if those were the “last days,” then we, two thousand years later, live in even later days. Christ is coming, sooner or later, He will return. Every one of us must be ready for that hour.

Peter then goes on and sets out the truth of the Gospel of Christ.

Men of Israel, hear these words! Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved by God to you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him among you, even as you yourselves know,

Acts 2:22 (WEB)

He tells them that they know of Jesus, what wonders and miracles He did among them, and yet was delivered up to be crucified. Peter shows them that this was the plan from the beginning, yet those who did this wicked thing were lawless men. He tells them that death was not able to hold Him in the grave, and that He rose to newness of life.

Peter again draws on the Old Testament, and particularly cites Scriptures of King David. He explains to his hearers that David could not have been speaking of himself, because they knew precisely where David’s tomb was in that very day. Peter shows them that David was a prophet, and was pointing to the Christ who would come after him, and that was Jesus.

Let all the house of Israel therefore know certainly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.

Acts 2:36 (WEB)

The Response

How do they respond to this sermon preached at Pentecost?

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:37-38 (WEB)

Peter’s words are wonderful, but only the conviction of the Holy Spirit can bring about such a response.

They immediately know that what Peter has said is true. They knew of Jesus, and the miracles He worked among them, and yet they knew that He had been executed without cause. What can we do! They cry out in fear, knowing they holdsome part of the guilt.

Peter tells them to repent, to change their ways and their minds and to be baptised in he Name of Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. They must submit to Jesus, giving their lives over to Him and receiving the forgiveness that His death brought about. If they do, then they too will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit just as the disciples have done.

In closing, we read:

With many other words he testified, and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”

41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized. There were added that day about three thousand souls.

Acts 2:40-41 (WEB)

With many other words Peter convinced them, and I do wonder what those words might have been. What we do know though is that many turned to Christ that day. Verse 41 says that three thousand were added to their number! Amazing!

And this was just the beginning…

Pentecost Sunday

It was my privilege to share with the church in our village this morning, celebrating Pentecost Sunday. Not all of the church’s members have access to video so I’ve written out a short message which I share below. I will put the video version out on my Facebook page later today. Here is a link to the Facebook page if you are interested in following there – Andy Brown on Facebook .

It is Pentecost Sunday, and the day we remember what is essentially the birth of the church. The word “Pentecost” means “50 days”, and it occurs fifty days after the Jewish Passover. We may associate Pentecost with the church, but if you look at Acts 2:1, you will see that the Apostles met together on Pentecost, and then the Holy Spirit came.

Jesus, prior to His Ascension and after His death and resurrection, had instructed the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they had been “clothed with power from on high.” (see Luke 24:49). The Ascension, usually celebrated on the sixth Thursday after Easter, reminds us of how Christ ascended into Heaven. For ten days, the disciples have waited for this event, not really knowing what would happen.

The Holy Spirit descends on them with great power. As Jesus ascends into Heaven, He does not leave the disciples to fend for themselves, but sends His Spirit to dwell in and with them. We see this power displayed in an amazing way in Acts 2, with a great rushing wind and tongues of fire. The Apostles then begin to speak out in the languages of the people around them, sharing the Gospel of Jesus with them. This is perhaps a reversal of the events at the Tower of Babel, centuries earlier when God confused the language of mankind and scattered them about the Earth. Now all people are united in hearing the news about Christ and what He has done.

For us, living in the 21st Century, these first Pentecost events may seem like something out of a movie. Very few of us, I imagine, can claim to have seen such works of power. I do not think such miracles are restricted to the Early Church, but such things are not the subject of our message right now.

For today, I want us to focus on the Apostle Peter. As the people see the strange actions of the Apostles, they begin to imagine they might be drunk. Peter leaps to their defence and begins a very eloquent sermon. With authority, he speaks of Old Testament prophecies from Joel and how God would pour out His Spirit. Until that point, the Spirit was reserved for only a select few of the Old Testament believers.

Look at Peter, and listen to his words. How he has changed in such a short time! Less than two months prior to this, he denied that he even knew Christ let alone was one of his closest friends. Now he stands tall and proud, proclaiming the good news about Jesus to a huge crowd. Later in Acts 2 we read that 3,000 people believed in Peter’s words, so the crowd was at least as large as that and of course probably more.

What has driven this change in Peter? What has made him so bold?

I suggest two things. Firstly, no one who encounters the Risen Christ can remain unchanged. Shortly after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter and the others travelled north to Galilee. There he met the Risen Lord by the sea, and told Jesus that he loved Him three times (see John 21). Jesus restores Peter, and although the road ahead would not always be smooth and would in fact lead to martyrdom, Peter knew he had been accepted and forgiven by Jesus.

Secondly, Peter has indeed now been clothed with power. Peter no longer acts alone and impetuously, instead he is guided by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit shapes his words and gives him the confidence to face the crowds and Jewish authorities. Peter does not do it in his own strength, but in the Lord’s.

For us, we can likewise encounter the Risen Christ this Pentecost. We may not see Him with our own eyes, but that makes Him no less real or accessible. In the same way as Peter, we too can draw on the power of the Holy Spirit for our everyday lives. While we may not be called to speak to crowds like Peter was, the Spirit is as equally willing to aid us in raising our children, doing a good job at work or witnessing to those in our community.

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

Luke 11:13 (WEB)

Amen!

Togetherness

Over the last few days we have started to work our way through the book of Acts. You can catch up on any posts you’ve missed by selecting Acts from the categories list on this page.

I want to try and complete chapter 1 today, as tomorrow is Pentecost and it would be great to be able to move on to chapter 2 in time for that…

We pick up at chapter 1 verse 12, but I won’t include the entirety of the text here because it’s rather long. You can read the full section on Bible Gateway here.

In summary, Jesus ascends into heaven and the disciples and a group of others return to the Upper Room where they spend much time praying. Peter talks about what happened to Judas, how it fulfilled Scripture and then they set about finding a replacement for him.

I must confess to often struggling to write or speak about passages like this one. My make up is such that I immediately look for application and lessons, but some passages just are not there for that reason. This one is narrative in nature, just telling us what happened, and contains no direct instruction for us.

The wonder of the Bible is that there is always something of value to find. What you see in these words may be quite different to what I see, and only in sharing together can we learn and grow. So do feel free to comment below (on any of my posts) of things you see in the Scriptures which I do not mention.

The Disciples

When they had come in, they went up into the upper room where they were staying; that is Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James

Acts 1:13 (WEB)

Verse 13 lists the names of the disciples who were gathered. I just want to point out that if you compares the lists of names in the Gospels, sometimes you end up a little confused. Different names appear, and so it can lead us to ask who actually were the Twelve? Just bear in mind that some of them were known by more than one name. The Twelve were consistent throughout, but one Gospel might use a different name to another.

One Accord

All these with one accord continued steadfastly in prayer and supplication, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Acts 1:14 (WEB)

Verse 14 tells us that the believers were together with “one accord.” I love this little phrase! The modern day church comprises of all manner of different denominations who believe slightly different things about God and the Bible. Too often we are known by our division, not our “oneness.”

As churches, we are all in the same family of believers. We should not spend our time focusing on our differences of opinion and doctrine, but on what we can agree on. I am not saying we should compromise our beliefs or unite with any group who does not accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour, but let us all show the world how we can be of “one accord.”

I am struck by how often the early church met for prayer. It seems a constant marker in their lives that they did not just pray, but prayed together. It is a great privilege, seldom recognised, that we can join with other believers and pray to our Father in Heaven.

Peter and the Others

In these days, Peter stood up in the middle of the disciples (and the number of names was about one hundred twenty), and said, “Brothers, it was necessary that this Scripture should be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who was guide to those who took Jesus.

Acts 1:15-16 (WEB)

Verse 15 notes two important things to me. Firstly, Peter is already starting to step into his leadership role. Despite his many failures, he is already beginning to fulfil Jesus’ command by the sea of Galilee to “feed my sheep” (see John 21:17).

I mistakenly imagine this gathering in the Upper Room to be small and intimate. The remaining eleven disciples, holed up and avoiding the authorities, waiting for the promise of the Holy Spirit. This verse challenges my imagination, telling us clearly that there were over a hundred gathered there.

During His ministry, Jesus probably did not move around in a small group with just the disciples in tow. For starters, the women who travelled with Him went largely unmentioned. Jesus had no small following, and the events of the upcoming Pentecost would only multiply this.

Peter sets out how the betrayal of Jesus by Judas was foretold by David, and he shares some the Scriptures concerning this. For me at least, one of the reasons I am fully convinced the Bible is true is because of the Old Testament prophecy. It is undeniable that it was written in advance of the events, and yet clearly tells of what would happen. If so many were fulfilled by the coming of Christ, then we can have complete assurance that He is who He says He is. And we can also be sure that those prophecies which are yet to be fulfilled, certainly will.

Of the men therefore who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John, to the day that he was received up from us, of these one must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

Acts 1:21-22 (WEB)

Verses 21 and 22 again challenge us that there were those who were with Christ from the beginning of His ministry, who were not included in the Twelve.

The passage ends with the selection of Matthias to replace Judas. They do not take a vote, nor conduct a series of interviews and selection processes. They cast lots and seek the will of the Father in this matter. The consensus of the group may have made a different choice, for all we know, and only God knows the heart and can make the right choice.

Doing it like this strengthens their togetherness in “one accord.” There is no division, preferring one party over another. In meekness and humility, they submit to God’s will.

Praise be to the God and Father who knows us inside and out, and let us always seek His will in every matter. Amen!

Don’t Just Stand There

Let’s pick up where we left off with the book of Acts:

Therefore when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, are you now restoring the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them, “It isn’t for you to know times or seasons which the Father has set within his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

9 When he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 While they were looking steadfastly into the sky as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white clothing, 11 who also said, “You men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who was received up from you into the sky, will come back in the same way as you saw him going into the sky.”

Acts 1:6-11 (WEB)

A conversation is recorded between Jesus and the disciples, and we recall that this is happening between the Resurrection and the Ascension. Having seen all that they had seen, the disciples ask a question. Will you now be restoring the Kingdom to Israel?

It is hard for us to imagine what they had been through. They find a Man they believe to be the Christ, see Him perform many miracles, signs and wonders, and they watch as He is arrested and executed. Their hopes and dreams are dashed. Wasn’t He the One who was supposed to restore Israel to the good old days of King David?

jesus has challenged them all throughout, trying to help them understand that He is the Suffering Saviour, not the Warrior King they are expecting. One day He will come riding a warhorse, but not now.

Having seen the resurrection, they now think it is time for Him to rise up and conquer the Romans… it wasn’t the kind of King He was that they got wrong, just the timing right? Their question betrays all of this.

Jesus gives them something of a rebuke. It is not for you to know! Times and seasons are set by the Father, by and through His very own authority. He is in charge, and He calls the shots.

Jesus turns their thinking on its head once more. They are told they will be given power to be witnesses for Christ. yes, in Jerusalem of course, but also Judea, Samaria and the whole world. The mere mention of Samaria might have made them catch their breath, for the Jews and the Samaritans were not friends. Jesus tries to turn their Israel-centric thinking into a more global perspective. The Kingdom Jesus speaks of is not an Israeli one, but a worldwide one.

After Jesus had said these things, He ups and leaves – quite literally! The disciples watch as He ascends into Heaven, leaving them behind. They perhaps felt rather alone, His words ringing in their ears and highlighting that perhaps they had little idea of what was about to happen.

Verse 10 tells us that two men were standing by them, dressed in white clothes. The Greek word here is aner, and it means adult male. Some translate this as angels and many of us assume these are two angels standing there. And of course, it could well be.

The last time we saw Jesus enveloped in a cloud and touching Heaven was on the Mount of Tranfiguration, where there were also two men standing there.

About eight days after these sayings, he took with him Peter, John, and James, and went up onto the mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became white and dazzling. 30 Behold, two men were talking with him, who were Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory, and spoke of his departure,[d] which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

Luke 9:28-31 (WEB)

The word “men” in verse 30 above is the very same word – aner – as in Acts 1:10. It could be, and I would not make a new doctrine out of it, that these two men of the Transfiguration (Moses and Elijah) are the same two who spoke with the disciples at Jesus’ Ascension. It is just an idea, but interesting nonetheless!

Our passage today started with a question – the disciples asking Jesus about the Kingdom, and it too ends with a question. The two men, whoever they were, asking the disciples why they stood gazing into the sky? Do you not know that Jesus will come back the same way that He went?

The implication is that there is work to be done. Don’t stand around staring at the sky, roll up your sleeves and get on with the work of witnessing. Wait, of course, for the coming of the Spirit, but then let’s get on with the job until He returns.

I pose that same question to you today. Are you standing around, or do you know that Jesus will one day return (and perhaps soon)? We have the Holy Spirit, so let us all get on with the job of telling the entire world about Christ! Amen!

You Are What They Need (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

You may not feel like the one they need, but you’re the one they’ve got. And it’s not an accident!

As a parent, I rarely feel like i’m doing a good job of it. Sometimes I see myself reflected in the behaviour or words of my children, and it isn’t always pretty! Being a parent is the best but toughest job there is. I often feel like I do not know what I am doing myself, let alone helping to shape another life and ready them for the world.

The same is true at work sometimes. People come to me asking for help and advice, or looking for a solution to a serious problem. I feel a tremendous pressure to come up with the right answer, even if I haven’t a clue what it is!

Bottom line – I’m only human, and I’m just doing my best. The same is true for you I’m sure!

You may not feel like the right person for the job, whether that is a form of employment, caring responsibility or anything else. Even if you do not feel like the one that is needed right now, you are the only one that is there, and that is no coincidence.

Whatever situation you find yourself in, whatever job, whatever family commitments, you are there for a reason. God has specifically placed you there and you can deal with what is in front of you.

That does not make it easy of course, but draw strength from God to do what you need to do. Take heart in the fact that there are no accidents, and God has chosen you and placed you in your situation to bring Him glory in whatever way you can.

You might believe others are more qualified or better suited, but God chose you. Trust Him to have made the right decision, and do your very best with His help.

Wait!

Yesterday I began to write about the book of Acts, and you can find that post here if you didn’t get a chance to read it before – The Acts of the Apostles. Today I am continuing with chapter 1 concentrating on verses 4 and 5.

The first book I wrote, Theophilus, concerned all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, 2 until the day in which he was received up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 To these he also showed himself alive after he suffered, by many proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking about God’s Kingdom. 4 Being assembled together with them, he commanded them, “Don’t depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which you heard from me. 5 For John indeed baptized in water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Acts 1:1-5 (WEB)

As we discussed yesterday, these words describe the time between Christ’s Resurrection and His Ascension into Heaven. This was a period of approximately forty days in all.

Verse 4 begins “Being assembled together,” and although perhaps contains no great revelation for us, it should remind us that believers are meant to be together. This is but one example of how the Apostles met together, and indeed were almost constantly together in prayer and worship.

For them, this was of course a time of preparation for the launch of the church. They would not have known this necessarily, but dedicating this time to God in prayer was readying their hearts for what would be a difficult but amazing time ahead.

We must not neglect being together either.

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)

I have quoted this verse often in recent days, and mentioned it on the blog more than once. It is vital that we – the family of believers – continue to join together. That is especially difficult at this time, as many are still in isolation due to COVID. But I thank God for the technology that allows us to meet virtually if not in person.

The Apostles were together, but they were together with Christ. Note verse 4 which says “Being assembled together with them, he commanded them,” the “he” here is of course Jesus. The Lord was among them and part of their gathering. That’s the way it should be! Church should never become a meeting about God, but a meeting with Him.

Jesus instructs the Apostles to wait. None of us particularly like being told this! Yet Christ always has a good reason for His commands. Some of the Apostles may have been eager to get out there and tell the world about the Risen Lord, desperate to fulfil the Great Commission given them in Matthew 28. Others might have been fearful, afraid of what the Jewish leaders might do to them.

Yet Jesus is clear. Wait.

And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Luke 24:49 (ESV)

They must wait for the promise of the Father. They must wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus refers to John’s baptism in water, reflecting repentance and a new start. This new baptism would be a baptism of the Holy Spirit Himself. They would be immersed in the Spirit and His power. Eager they may be to go out and tell others about Christ, but such witness would be ineffective without the aid and strength of the Spirit.

I remember, many years ago, asking God to allow me to preach. I was exxcited about the Word of God and wanted to share it, yet I had little opportunity to do so. God told me I was a pencil… which confused me at first! A pencil you may be, I felt Him say, but you must be sharpened before you can be used.

What are you trying to do in your own strength right now? Has God told you to wait? Are you listening, or are you trying to push the door open anyway? Wait until He tells you the time is right, and has equipped you with all that you need to do the task well.

The Acts of the Apostles

This is a brief introduction to the book of the Acts of the Apostles, or just Acts, from the Bible. I am not committing to a series on the book, but we shall see if it ends up becoming one!

Acts opens as follows:

The first book I wrote, Theophilus, concerned all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, 2 until the day in which he was received up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 To these he also showed himself alive after he suffered, by many proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking about God’s Kingdom.

Acts 1:1-3 (WEB)

The author is someone named Luke, and he also wrote the Gospel associated with his name. You can think of the book of Acts as a “part two” of the book of Luke, or if you prefer, a kind of sequel!

While the book of Luke focusses on Jesus’ life and teaching, covering in detail the events of His birth, ministry, death and resurrection – Acts tells the story of the early church. What happened after Jesus left the earth? Acts tells us.

The books of Luke and Acts fit nicely together. I do not know if they were originally written together and intended to be read as a pair, but Luke’s opening words above suggest Acts as a separate work.

When someone wants to read the Bible for the first time, I often think reading Luke then Acts is a good place to start. Together they describe the foundation and formation of the church we are a part of today.

Luke is writing to someone named Theophilus, also mentioned in Luke’s Gospel. He sets out why he wrote the first book, and what it covered. He picks up the narrative after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and begins with the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven and the promise of the Holy Spirit.

I love this phrase at the beginning of the book of Acts – “concerned all that Jesus began both to do and to teach.” His account of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke was just the beginning of what what Jesus did. Note the word “began” in verse one. On the one hand, Jesus had completed His earthly ministry and His work was done – reflected in His words at the cross “It is finished!” And yet, it was also just the beginning. Through His Holy Spirit, He would continue to do and to teach, and build His church.

One of the things I think we can miss sometimes is the frequency of Jesus’ appearances to the Apostles after His death. Verse three above points out that Jesus appeared to them over a period of forty days, showing them “many proofs.” The Gospels give us a number of accounts of the Resurrected Jesus, but clearly cannot describe them all. Jesus appeared many times, and this served to strengthen the faith of those Apostles, many of whom would go on to die for their belief in Christ.

Acts contains many miracles, great sermons and displays of God’s power. It may be known for the miraculous conversion of Paul on the Damascas Road, but also notes the astonishing change in Peter from the one who denied Christ to one who would preach to thousands and suffer arrest and persecution for it.

When we truly encounter Christ, we cannot help but be changed forever.

The opening chapters of Acts is often read and thought about at this time of yar. We celebrated the Ascension of Christ in the week just gone, and this coming weekend recall the events of Pentacost described in Acts chapter 2.

I encourage you to read and study this book over the coming days. There is much we can learn from how the early church conducted itself, and may you be encouraged and uplifted as you read of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit being praised and worshipped throughout the ancient world. May He ever be praised as He was among those few early believers!

The Gospel of… Barnabas?

Over the weekend, I read an article about an ancient manuscript they recently found. The headline read: “1,500 year old manuscript rocks Christian Church!”

According to the article, this newly discovered manuscript is the Gospel According to Barnabas, and dismisses the Apostle Paul, claims Judas was actually crucified and more critically, states that Jesus did not die on a cross but was just taken up to heaven.

It claimed that the church has been “rocked” because if Christ was not crucified, then it essentially breaks the major doctrines of the church. The article referenced the Roman Catholic Church particularly, and how the Vatican will be examining the manuscript carefully and were even accused of trying to suppress its contents.

This Gospel of Barnabas dates back to around 500 AD and the article claims it is “genuine.” It was written in Aramaic and this somehow lends credibility to it. As well as the article itself, there were many comments saying such things as “At last! The truth comes out!” Some even claimed that the person of Jesus never even existed, let alone anything the Bible says about who He was.

Much of the article’s claims are clearly false. I see no reason why the church would be rocked by this. This is not the first, nor I suspect will it be the last such manuscript to be unearthed and dispute the Christian faith. There are a number of ancient works not included in our Bible which make all kinds of claims. Most of them never made it into the Bible because they were questionable at best.

They cite this as an ancient work, written 1,500 years ago and the age alone somehow gives it credibility. The manuscript, if accurately dated, was written some 450 years after the time of Christ. The Gospel of Mark was written around 70 AD and some of the original readers might well have been alive at the time of the events described in its words.

Old it may be, but it is not as old as the Gospels we know and rely on in the Bible. Many historical texts were written years and years after the events, but not some of the biblical ones. Had someone just made up the Gospel of Mark, then those living at the time would have verified it and dismissed it as nonsense. Yet we still read it today, and we can trust its contents.

People are rather quick to believe the claims of this new work, dismissing the traditional and established history. What people fail to realise is that many have set out to disprove the Christian faith, and yet it stills stands. Seriously scholarly effort leads to having to face the claims of Christ and a whole lot of evidence supporting them.

I am not certain what the author of the article means by saying the work is “genuine.” Genuine does not mean true, and even if properly dated and authenticated as a real work of history, then it still does not equate to being true. I can write down a total fabrication and if someone finds it in a thousand years, claim it to be a genuine handwritten note from Andy Brown… but that does not make its contents a reality.

If this newly found gospel, which is no gospel at all, were true, then it leads us to ask an important question about the Apostles. If they were there and knew that Christ did not die, why would they themselves surrender themselves to death in belief of it? IF they knew it was false, they would not have given up their lives for it. There is no benefit to them of doing this.

If you have set your mind against believing in Jesus Christ, then there is little I can say to change it. Anything I argue will be disputed or ignored. Those looking for an excuse not to believe will welcome this Gospel of Barnabas with open arms, and are glad to undermine the church’s teaching.

Do not be closed minded. Even if you remain unconvinced, do not just believe what others have told you. Investigate it for yourself. If you take an honest look at the claims of the Bible, I think you will be surprised how coherent and convincing they are.

Don’t take my word for it though, find out for yourself.

Who Are You When No One is Looking? (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

How you act when no one is watching you is who you really are.

How you act and behave when no one is looking says a great deal about your character.

I am a manager at work, and it is very interesting to see how some staff behave when they think you are not watching them.

At one place I used to work, the staff arrived early and the managers not until later. It was surprising how little work was done in those minutes before the managers arrived. Some staff would read the paper while others surfed the web. Others might ask a colleague to clock them in even if they were not ready to start work.

The temptation to cut corners is powerful when no one is watching us. We might think if no one knows, then there’s no harm in doing a slightly less than perfect job.

But God is always present. And for the Christian, we must live before God as if He is always watching… because He is.

We need to do the right thing even when no one is watching us. That’s called character, and who we are when no one is looking should be no different than if we are being carefully observed.

Do you live two distinct lives? The one when someone is present, and the other? If so, I encourage you to remember that God is always with you and sees all that is done in secret. And the person you are when no one is watching is who you really are.

Working Hard

Writing is a funny thing. Some days I sit down at the keyboard and in minutes have a thousand words down and a blog post ready to go. Some days not. Today was one of the latter days.

I’ve stared at a blank screen for some time, and done a few miles of pacing up and down the room. It might be because i’ve been working on other projects and my creative juices need replenishing, but who knows.

It got me thinking about the various gifts and talents those in the church have been given by God. Whether spiritual in nature, musical or administrative, God has liberally given us all gifts to use for His glory in supporting the Body of Christ.

Yet just because one has a gift in a certain area, does not mean its use comes easily to them. I hope I have some small gift of writing and teaching, and yet today neither has come easily. I’ve had to work hard at it to get the words out.

Having a gift in any area does not negate the need for hard work and practise.

I am reminded by this verse penned by the Apostle Paul:

So then, my beloved, even as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

Philippians 2:12 (WEB)

Paul is not telling his readers that they must work to achieve their salvation. Far from it. Paul went to great lengths to preach the Gospel of grace meaning that salvation is a gift from God and achieved by Christ’s work at the cross. We cannot earn salvation any more than the Old Testament believers could fulfil all aspects of the law. We all need a Saviour to be our substitute.

Paul is saying that we ought to work out our salvation, that is, live it out in our everyday lives. We have it already, it belongs to us because of Jesus, so now let’s live like a saved people.

From the moment we accept Jesus as our Saviour, we begin a journey. On the one hand, we are sanctified at that very moment, but on another, we must work towards sanctification through surrendering ourselves to God and His ways.

Similarly, Paul tells Timothy:

But refuse profane and old wives’ fables. Exercise yourself toward godliness.

1 Timothy 4:7 (WEB)

Another translation renders this verse as “train yourselves to be godly.” While we fully possess salvation, we must also train ourselves for godliness. It takes work to do this.

God makes us righteous in our spirits, exchanging our unrighteousness for Christ’s righteousness. That position will never change. But we are more than just our spirits, and our mind, will and emotions all need to be trained in line with God’s Word.

Romans 12:1-2 tells us to renew our minds that we might be transformed into Christ’s likeness. This is a process which takes time.

Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. 2 Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:1-2 (WEB)

In the same way, we are given spiritual or natural gifts by God the Father who made us. These gifts must be trained and practised in order to grow strong and effective.

My teaching gift has been apparent for some time, and yet I still have much to learn to use it effectively. I must study to grow in the knowledge of God’s Word, and I must practise both writing and speaking, learning what works and what does not. There is no shortcut to doing this.

Perhaps you are a natural singer. Even so, you will still need to practise the songs you sing, harmonies and melodies, and different ways you can use that voice.

Perhaps your gifts are in church administration. Again, you too will need to practise those skills to deploy with great effect. You might need to learn how to use a new accounting system or piece of software, you might need to learn different organisational skills or you may simply need to give time to tidying, clearing and sorting.

Do not neglect your gift. It is a precious thing, and it needs to be nurtured to grow strong. How can you develop it for the Lord today?

Apparent Contradiction

Some accuse the Bible of contradicting itself, and cite that as evidence for not being able to trust it. The premise is correct, and if even one part of the Bible is flawed, then you cannot trust any of it.

I want to address one apparent contradiction today, and point out why it is not any such thing.

I follow a number of Bible reading plans, and one is a chronological reading plan. This just means that instead of reading the Bible in the order it appears in the book, you read it in the order it happened in reality. This can be extremely helpful in understanding how the Bible fits together as a whole.

Today I was reading from the books of 2 Samuel in the Old Testament. 2 Samuel follows 1 Samuel, as you might expect… and gives the account of Samuel the prophet, Saul the first king of Israel and his successor King David.

1 Samuel ends with the death of King Saul, and 2 Samuel starts with the same event. Yet, the two accounts are different.

How did King Saul die?

The Philistines fought against Israel, and the army[a] of Israel fled before the Philistines. They fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines pursued Saul and his sons. The Philistines struck down Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchi-shua, Saul’s sons. 3 The heaviest fighting was directed toward Saul, and when the bowmen who were shooting located Saul, he was severely wounded by them.

4 Saul told his armor bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through with it, or these uncircumcised people will come and run me through and make sport of me.” But his armor bearer did not want to do it because he was very frightened, so Saul took the sword and fell on it. 5 When his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword and died with him.

1 Samuel 31:1-5 (ISV)

And from 2 Samuel:

The next day, a man escaped from Saul’s camp! With torn clothes and dirty hair, he approached David, fell to the ground, and bowed down to him.

3 David asked him, “Where did you come from?

He answered him, “I just escaped from Israel’s encampment.”

4 David continued questioning him, “How did things go? Please tell me!”

He replied, “The army has fled the battlefield, many of the army are wounded[b] or have died, and Saul and his son Jonathan are also dead.”

5 David asked the young man who related the story,[c] “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?”

6 The young man who had been relating the story[d] answered, “I happened to be on Mount Gilboa and there was Saul, leaning on his spear! Meanwhile, the chariots and horsemen were rapidly drawing near. 7 Saul[e] glanced behind him, saw me, and called out to me, so I replied, ‘Here I am!’ 8 He asked me, ‘Who are you?’ So I answered him, ‘I’m an Amalekite!’ 9 He begged me, ‘Please—come stand here next to me and kill me, because I’m still alive.’ 10 So I stood next to him and killed him, because I knew that he wouldn’t live after he had fallen. I took the crown that had been on his head, along with the bracelet that had been on his arm, and I have brought them to your majesty.”

2 Samuel 1:2-10 (ISV)

This is a clear contradiction. Saul could not have killed himself, as it says in 1 Samuel 31 and also have been killed by the man from 2 Samuel 1. The Bible must be wrong… right?

For a long time, I missed the obvious answer. I read both accounts and could not understand how both could be true. It left something of a question in my mind.

The answer is simple though. Both are not true. And yet, there is no contradiction here.

There is no loophole or trickery to make both true, or to deny the contradiction. In short, the man from 2 Samuel 1 was lying. Not everyone recorded in the Bible is telling the truth, and this man came to King David with a story about how Saul had been killed. But it was fabricated.

In reality, I can only guess, this man found the body of King Saul and removed the crown and bracelets. He then raced to tell King David what had happened thinking he would be rewarded. He believed that David would have been happy to hear of the death of his enemy, and would reward this man for being the one to give the fatal blow. He was wrong!

Meanwhile, David asked the young man who had told him the story,[j] “Where are you from?”

He answered, “I’m an Amalekite, the son of a foreign man.”

14 At this David asked him, “How is it that you weren’t afraid to raise your hand to strike the Lord’s anointed?”

15 Then David called out to one of his young men and ordered him, “Go up to him and cut him down!” So he attacked him and killed him.

16 David told him, “Your blood is on your own head, because your own words[k] testified against you! After all, you said, ‘I myself have killed the Lord’s anointed!’”

2 Samuel 1:13-16 (ISV)

David, far from being happy to hear of the death of Saul, was outraged that this man would dare raise his hand to the Annointed King of Israel! So he has him executed for his crime.

This is but one example of apparent contradiction of course, and critics will often point to other things to find fault with the Bible. I believe that contradictions are not in the text, and in fact these apparent ones can lead us to new revelation of what God is trying to say to us.

The Word of God is perfect, and we can fully rely on it. Perhaps we do not understand every part of it, but that does not mean it cannot be trusted.

Do not worry about the parts of the Bible you do not understand, pray about them and ask the Spirit to reveal their meaning to you. Instead of focusing on what you do not understand, pay attention to what you do understand and make sure you live it out in your life.

Thank God for His precious Word to us!