Over the last few months, our Wednesday classes have been covering the book of Acts. About six weeks ago we were in chapter 15.36-41, and covered the section where Paul and Barnabas go their separate ways after a sharp disagreement over John Mark. Relationships, among brothers, are not always smooth. Let’s examine the text, observing the principle characters and a couple of key points:
Mark - disappointed. Mark had withdrawn from them once before. Why is not stated, but everyone has disappointed and been disappointed. Everyone has not “been there,” when needed and expected.
Barnabas - good intentions. Despite Mark’s failing, his cousin wanted to bring him along. Is this Barnabas giving Mark a second chance? Knowing Barnabas, his intentions were good regardless if what he proposed was wrong or right.
Paul - insisted. The wording in Acts 15.38 means that Paul did not think it was wise to take John Mark along. Is this Paul holding Mark to his own high standard? Is Paul being unforgiving, forgetting that Jesus gave him a second chance?
Separation - contention came because these two friends could not agree. What is good is that both men continued to do good even if it meant doing it without the other. Nevertheless, division is always regrettable.
Healing - Paul and Mark healed their riff, 1 Timothy 4.11, where Paul said that Mark was useful to him in ministry. Mark wound up being the person who wrote the second gospel account.
What lessons do we learn? My preaching friend, Perry Hall, observes:
- As outsiders, we don’t always have all the facts, so we need to be leery of taking sides.
- Even if someone close to us shirks their responsibility, it does not mean we should.
- Past failures do not predetermine future success.
- Forgiveness is the key to healing all separations.
- Our God is one who gives second chances, and so should we.
— Matthew Allen
During the fall of 2010, I had the opportunity to go to Indianapolis and meet one of the hosts of Monday Night Football. Ron Jaworski did color commentary for ESPN for a number of years. I remember walking up to him and introducing myself. We shook hands. He gave me his autograph. We had our picture made together. Then I walked away. The next person approached him, and the process repeated itself. Thirty seconds after I walked away, Mr. Jaworski most likely could not have repeated my name. There was nothing personal about our experience.
It’s certainly refreshing to find how God’s word continually stresses that there is nothing impersonal about our relationship with Jesus. There are two instances in Mark where Jesus’ work of healing stands out. In Mark 7.31-37, a deaf man with a speech impediment is brought to Jesus. In Mark 8.22-26, a blind man was brought to Him. In both instances, people in the crowd begged Jesus to lay His hand on these men and heal them. Why would the people ask Jesus to touch these individuals? The answer is obvious. They had seen Jesus heal many, many times through the laying on of His hands. Does Jesus simply touch these individuals, pronounce them “healed” and move on to the next person?
In both instances, Jesus took these individuals aside, away from the crowd, to a more private place. With the deaf man, Jesus placed His fingers inside the man’s ears and after spitting, touched the man’s tongue. Then, “looking up to heaven, He sighed and said to him,... ‘Be opened,’” Mark 7.34. With the blind man, Jesus spat on the man’s eyes and healed him. Was there some miraculous power in Jesus’ spit? I think not. These were simple methods to communicate to these individuals that Jesus was going to heal them. But exactly why Jesus spat on the individuals is not the point of either of these instances of healing.
Everyone that approached Jesus meant something to Him. That, I believe, is one of the main points of the two accounts of healing in Mark 7 and 8. These individuals were not just another person out of the hundreds that He healed. He took their cares and their sorrow and made it His own. There is a reason why Mark tells us before healing the deaf man that Jesus sighed, 7.34. I think Jesus felt the man’s sorrow. It was true sympathy. It was genuine care and compassion.
What can we take away from this? He cares! Jesus cares for you and for me individually. “You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways,” Psalm 139.3. No matter how far you have wandered away from the cross, Jesus cares - and He wants a relationship with you. He promises to help you bear the burdens of your life, Matthew 11.28-30.
— Matthew Allen
“You just can’t imagine how great this was. This week has helped me by giving me the opportunity to be fed spiritually instead of always teaching. I’ve learned how to be a better servant and man. I wouldn’t change a thing and I hope you do this for us again next year.” These are the reflections from just one person on this week’s preacher conference we had in Cali, Colombia with eight of the nine men we help support. Jason Schofield and I walk away very satisfied with what we accomplished. Almost 18 hours of instruction and study over three days. Personal interviews with our men. Late night conversations letting some of them talk through their problems. Watching them encourage each other, get to know one another better, and just talk. Time to relax, visit, and laugh with one another. It was all so good.
Between Tuesday and Thursday we were able to cover topics on the work and role of a preacher. We challenged them to allow their individual congregations to get more involved in the local work and support them more. We talked about the importance of sexual purity and setting an example as an evangelist. Jason challenged them with a class on church discipline from the perspective of grace — rather than a harsh spirit that gives little consideration to Christian weakness. We talked about the need for their personal spiritual growth and gave them ideas on how to plan on how to address their weaknesses. And finally, we talked about the very important topic of local congregational preacher support and the need to move away from dependency on American congregations.
Kettering family, thanks for making all of this possible. Over and over again, from each one of these men, we’ve been asked to tell you “thank-you”. They’ve all remarked what a difference it is for them that we have taken the time to get to know them, their families, and their work personally. It is much different from what they experience from other American congregations who often communicate very little other than through sending a monthly check. Our relationship and partnership with them means more to them than we may be able to understand. So again, thank you for the difference you all are making in bettering the lives of our Colombian team. To God be the glory!
— Matthew Allen
It’s been quite a first week in Colombia. Jason, Greg, Collin, and I have appreciated your prayers. Thus far, we have been able to visit with four of the preachers we support. Our journeys have taken us to the far northwest of Colombia and now SE of Bogota, on the Colombian plains. We’ve been humbled and encouraged at the same time. And, it’s been so wonderful to serve and build up others.
Many of the brethren we’ve visited are very poor. But their dedication and willingness to sacrifice is evident. On Tuesday, we visited a new place, Cerete. A small congregation meeting in a brothers home. Some of the people present that day drove 5 hours each way for an 11 am service on a Tuesday morning! On Wednesday we were in a difficult and dangerous area, Guayabano. But the hospitality and kindness we received meant so much. Just getting out to that village was an adventure in itself. Carlos had difficulty finding a driver for us because they were all too scared to drive out there. The unspoken rule is that any visitors to that area need to be out before nightfall due to lawless guerrillas who live there. We did leave after dark, because the Christians were determined to serve us with hospitality after the service ended. Let’s just say the driver drove twice as fast out of there as he did going in. The churches in these isolated areas are small and any outside teaching they can absorb is always well received. In my judgment the risk going out there is far outweighed by the encouragement they receive.
On Thursday we traveled down to Villavicencio and worshipped with the church there. It was my privilege to see Greg and Jason deliver two excellent lessons that night. On Friday, we were with the church in Acacias and we spent yesterday about 100 km south of Villavicencio in the village known as Fountain of Gold. The small group here began five years ago when a family from Spain moved to ColombIa. They found Jaime Restrepo’s website and began asking questions. Jaime and Wilson drove down here, began to study with them, and a local church was soon formed.
We are all doing well. It was good to have Greg and Collin with us. They both did an excellent job. Jason and I fly to Cali tomorrow morning where we begin the preacher conference on Tuesday. We appreciate your prayers and kind words. God bless!
—- Matthew Allen
God’s Warm and Inviting Family
True love has its origin in God. John said, Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love, 1 John 4:7-8. God is the very essence of love, and when we demonstrate our love we reveal to others that we belong to Him. Hatred, envy, wrath, and malice all have their origin in something other than God. God has never commanded such, and does not approve of such. If a person does not love, then a person does not have an acquaintance with God.
It is amazing, when we think of it, that God loves us. In us, He sees beings that He can love and that can love Him in return. John explains why God loves us: By this the love of God was manifested in us, that god has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins, 1 John 4:9-10. Praise God for the great love with which He has loved us!
We have been created in the very image of God, Genesis 1:26-27. It is in our nature to love. One of the greatest needs in humans is the need to love and to be loved in return. John says, Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another, 1 John 4:11. We need to look for ways to share our love with others. It might be a kind word spoken, a deed done, a telephone call, or a visit to the hospital or nursing home. There are so many ways we communicate our love for our brothers and sisters. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us, 1 John 4:12. When we demonstrate our love, the product of God’s love becomes complete. Loving one another enables god to accomplish His love in us.
Look today for ways that you can demonstrate your love for those around you. Have someone in your home, send the sick a card, say a prayer for those who are spiritually struggling. Each of us can help make being part of God’s family warm and inviting!