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Lectionary

In praise of encouragement

Today (I write Monday’s Posts late Sunday because I have to travel most Mondays) there was an altar call at church and hands went up. My beloved peeked. I was looking at the floor (but my eyes were closed).

There is an altar call every week.

The gospel is preached every week.

The time is short, we cannot do otherwise. And we do not discriminate by nation or creed or condition. For the gospel is for all men. The Early Church expanded from the Jewish groups to those who sought God and then to the wider community.

This encouraged me, for I had been hearing about how there is oppression of Christian organizations, and corruption within the church all week. We are being encouraged into despair. But if we, as a church, preach the gospel, God will change things. And we will become the church of Revelations, Glorious, Powerful, and Hell itself will tremble.

But it all started with connections and encouragement. The Apostles did nto send an Apostle to Antioch, but a good man who encouraged. Barnabas.

Acts 11:19-30

19Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the word to no one except Jews. 20But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. 21The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord. 22News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; 24for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord. 25Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians.”

27At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. 29The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; 30this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

You can blame Barnabas for the global faith, for he bought Saul, now Paul, from his home town to minister in Antioch. Paul was the man who converted many Greeks and established the church through Macedonia and Anatolia (where it remained until the Greek-Turkish war of 1920 — 1922). From that came the Church that conquered the Roman Empire, and has been preached to the farthest end of the world.

But note how he acted when he came to Antioch. This was a new thing, a church that was not Jewish. Barnabas, a Jew, rejoiced.

Then he encouraged and exhorted these new believers to remain faithful in the ways of the Lord.

We need to do both with new converts: rejoice at their salvation, and then encourage them to remain within the faith. Our salvation came at a great cost.

Then to teach them, he called Saul, who was not merely qualified (he was a disciple of Gamaliel, something even the council never disputed) and had a track record of evangelism. They worked together: they did not attempt to lead a church alone.

Finally, they did good for others, including preparing for hard times that were predicted to come. As should we: for times of economic uncertainty happen, crops fail, and we need to care for those in our family first, then those of our faith.

The synagogues of Satan may preach some other thing: that we must become united in some post human manner, or that we must follow the regulations of the new pagan narrative, and that the old examples are not worthy of consideration.

Ignore them. Shun them. Leave them. They do not preach Christ as Lord, and our salvation through his blood.

They want the forms of religion without the cost, and the fear the power of the gospel.

Such men will find many of their superiors have preceded them to that ultimate convergence in the second judgment and the second death.

Do not be them. Do not be like them.

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