Barnabas Brothers

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.” – 1 Thess 5:11

Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul wrote this passage for believers living in a land where they were at odds with the sinful culture around them. He implored with them that, at all times and in all places, Christians are to help one another with their burdens and cares as they navigate through the trials of life.

Well before Paul wrote any of his letters, before the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, and even before the major and minor prophets of the Old Testament, God demonstrated his grace in the life of Moses. After leading the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage, Moses was overwhelmed with the quarreling and day-to-day disputes among the people and his expected role as the one who would resolve all conflicts. He was in desperate need of wise and godly counsel.

For Moses, wisdom was given by his father-in-law Jethro, who offered insight to help decrease the burdens Moses was experiencing. And notice that in Exodus 18:21, Jethro mentioned the qualifications of those who were to share in carrying these burdens:
• Capable
• God-fearing
• Trustworthy
• Haters of dishonest profit

We should be people who exhibit these qualifications, and these qualities should also be applied to the people with whom we share our own burdens in today’s world.

Now the question is, how do we go about sharing our concerns?

Many self-described Christians stay away from church, saying there are too many hypocrites inside. But God’s Word tells us that we should not neglect “to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” Church fellowship is more than just a service we attend once a week on Sunday morning. It is a group of people from the larger body of Christ that God has, in His divine providence and mercy, placed directly in our lives to rejoice with, share with, pray with and be encouraged by. This is a gift of fellowship that we need to take advantage of every day as we seek to build one another up in the faith in which we are also being sanctified.

May God encourage all of us to continue in fellowship with our brothers and sisters as we seek Him while being co-laborers in all of our struggles.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. – Gal 6:9-10

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-Written by Dan Seager – Dan is a good friend of mine with a great grasp on Christian truth. He is starting a new blog called Barnabas Brothers. Be sure to check it out. Content coming soon!

Follow Dan on Twitter at @Patriotbone

When God Disappoints

Men are so ignorant of their own hearts that they are incapable of determining what is best for them. Even regenerate men are but partially sanctified and enlightened. But God searches the heart. He understands our whole case. He knows what is most for our good. He sees our strong corruptions and sad deficiencies. When, in mercy to His child, He comes to heal his spiritual maladies, He does not take counsel with human reasoning or desires. It is right, it is best that He should act according to the wisdom which is infallible. He employs the requisite remedies. Often they are distasteful to flesh and blood. Sometimes they are frightful to contemplate, and terrible to endure.

Then man, in his ignorance, too often says, “If God loved me—He would not give me so bitter a cup to drink!” But this is man’s folly. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Shall human weakness control divine power? Shall finite knowledge prescribe to omniscience? It is the height of wickedness for a worm of the dust—to revise the decisions, or pre-judge the justice of the Almighty. We would expect that God would deal with us in an incomprehensible way—if we did but remember how base, sordid, and narrow are our views and plans; and how holy, glorious, and eternal are His purposes and designs.

We are quite prone to magnify both the good and evil things of time—to the disparagement of those of eternity. But when God thwarts, afflicts, and mortifies us—He makes us look at the things which are unseen and eternal. If He racks this body with pain—it is that we may think of our house, not made with hands, eternal, and in the heavens. The shaking of this clay tabernacle forces upon us the recollection that this present world is not our rest—and that we ought to be seeking a heavenly country. If the godliest man on earth had his own way without divine guidance—he would soon be in full march towards destruction!

How kind is God in wisely and mercifully deciding so many things for us! God very mercifully marks out our course for us. God is governor. We are servants. To us belong obedience, submission, acquiescence. It is not ours . . .
to guide,
to decide what is best,
to rule the world,
to shape the course of events.

“But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say
to him who formed it—Why did you make me like this?”
– Romans 9:20

-William S. Plummer

A Tale of Two Preachers

Both men had a fire in their eyes with Jesus at the center, but their flames were different. Have you ever noticed that you can listen to someone talk about Jesus, but as they are saying all of the right things, there still seems to be a disconnect? While others you run into always seem to be able to focus you like a laser beam on what truly matters.

When I see it in churches, I sometimes call it the programmatic versus the spiritual, but I doubt that is the best way to describe it. It is hard to put a fine point on it because the programmatic is not wrong in itself. Even spiritual churches have programmatic elements. I think I use the word programmatic because it sometimes feels that way. The leaders appear to be doing what they know they should be doing, but they do not seem to be doing it in a way that tells me that they believe their very lives depend upon the Gospel they are preaching. So what makes the difference? I suppose it all comes down to the hearts of those involved.

The first man, a church leader, had a fire in his eyes and Christ was at the center, but Jesus seemed to be a means to an end. Everything surrounding the ministry where he labored was orthodox. People came, heard the word, and were often even blessed by his preaching, but in his heart, he was building his own kingdom. A place where the people would revere his name; a place where he could leave his legacy. His faith was real, but he still seemed to have one foot planted in the world, and it showed. Well, not to everyone. There were many in the congregation with hearts split between heaven and earth as well, and they did not seem to notice.

They did not notice, at least, until they got a chance to hear the second man begin to speak because the fire in his eyes was pure. Where the first man had the tendency to view knowing Jesus as a means to building his ministry, the second man saw knowing Jesus as the goal. He had found the Pearl of Great Price and was willing to sell all he had to have it (Matt. 13:45-46). Christ was beautiful to him so that is what he pursued. His ministry was something he did to show the world the beauty of Christ so others could know Him too. There was a love for his Lord in his eyes that made believers want to know their Savior the way he did.

Two things seemed to separate these men and their ministries. The first had to do with their reliance. The first one worked with a high degree of self-reliance, where the second one knew his weakness so well that he dared only to rely on Christ. The second aspect had to do with their focus. The first, to some degree, still had his mind set on the things of the world. Even when he preached on setting your mind on things above, he did it with a heart that hoped he was establishing his own glory. The second man had been broken. His heart had been set free from this world. He knew it could no longer satisfy, so he had given up pursuing its glory a long time ago. One seemed to be walking home and calling others to go with him while the other appeared to be fairly content in this strange land.

Here is what I noticed in their preaching, to take a thought from Jayber Crow, one of them was troubled enough to have something worthwhile to say. The first one was unable to show us the emptiness of even the glorious things of this life in comparison to Christ because he had yet to see their vanity. The second one felt a shuddering within him, that knew that the things of this world were trembling all around us. No matter what the topic, his words, and actions shone like a spotlight on our glorious Savior and our true homeland.

So what about you? Where is your heart? Is Jesus the end you seek, or a means to an end? Are you awake enough to feel the frailty of this world convulse beneath you to such a degree that you dare not place your hope in it? We aspire to be like what we find beautiful. May your love for Jesus compel you to grow into His likeness, because if we have no desire to be conformed to His image or make his name known, we may not truly find Him beautiful like we say we do. We may still have our hearts set on this world. May God show us its vanity compared to Himself and turn our eyes heavenward. May we be troubled enough by this world to have something worth saying, and if we are too comfortable, may the Lord shake us from our slumber. May we be able to acknowledge that we are strangers and exiles on the earth.

For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. – Hebrews 11:14

-Doug Eaton

12 Things God Does for the Believer

Do you love Me?” – John 21:17

Does not Jesus in thus appealing to me, in effect say:

  • For you, I left the realms of glory, and the adoration of ten thousand times ten thousand holy ones!
  • For you, I became incarnate, took on the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.
  • For you, I obeyed the law and wrought a perfect righteousness for your justification.
  • For you, I endured the cross, and despised the shame.
  • For you, I gave My back to the smiters, and My cheeks to those who plucked off the hair.
  • For you, I endured the crown of thorns and gave My hands and My feet to be nailed to the tree.
  • For you, I shed My blood, and laid down My life!
  • I loved you with a love of pity and compassion—when you were dead in trespasses and sins!
  • I opened your eyes, revealed to you your sinfulness and guilt, and awakened your cry for mercy.
  • I sought you in your wanderings—and found you!
  • I brought you up out of the horrible pit, and miry clay—and set your feet upon the rock.
  • I have loved you with an everlasting love—and therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you!

-Unknown Puritan Author-

7 Lessons When Prayer Seems Unanswered

Sovereign Lord, what I most desired you have denied, yet I praise you! On what account, I know not, yet I praise you. You have done it; that silences me. Your will makes it indisputable, and renders it my indispensable duty to your wise determinations. Hitherto I have had no complaint on the conduct of providence; nor shall I complain until all the mazes are explained. Do, then, all your counsel, though all my counsels should come to nothing. Can a person expect favors from God–who will not wait for God’s way and time?

But what does it matter how the affairs of a present world go, if the interests of the next world are secured? The weather-vane is whirled about with every blast, but the iron spire is still at rest, because it cannot be displaced. So, what does it matter though the outward man decays–if the inner man grows? What does it matter though the temporal condition be perplexed–if the conscience is possessed of spiritual peace? I praise you that you interpose your providence, even in disappointing my dearest plans; and do not give me up to the blind desires of my own heart, and to wander at random in counsels of mine own. I can resolve the present case into nothing but your will; yet I rejoice more to resign to your will, and to be submissive to your disposal, than to have my will in every point performed. This is the only way in my private capacity that I can glorify you.

If all things went as I would have them, I could not positively learn the care of God. But when providence, beyond all human probability, twists enterprises out of my hands, and well-resolved designs out of my heart–this clearly shows to me your condescending concern about my lot and life. Thus you take the wise in their own craftiness; for when all my schemes were so well laid, that human policy approved of, and wit itself commended; yet, when you did blow upon them, how did they like rainbows painted on the watery clouds, when thunders break, or boisterous winds attack–scatter into disappointments and pain!

Hence, in the school of providence I am taught some lessons.

  1. Not to look to the appearance of things, but to the power of God, who brings light out of darkness, and calls the things that are not, as though they were.
  2. That from probabilities, impossibilities may spring; while apparent impossibilities dissolve into easy escapes. As for the first, it was very probable that the Egyptians might overtake and put Israel to the sword, yet it became impossible for them to do it. And as for the second it seemed impossible that Israel could escape ruin, when enclosed with insurmountable hills, and swelling seas, and pursued by enraged foes; yet, in what an easy way did they walk to their deliverance!
  3. I am taught to believe, and to give glory to the almighty power of God, when impossibilities throng thick before me.
  4. To see my own finite wisdom to be but folly, that I can neither prevent nor foresee those events which I do not desire.
  5. To hold all my mercies, all my privileges from God, and not from the certainty in which they seem to stand.
  6. Not to think that things are lost, when so they seem to be. When I think I am most sure of some things, they are all on a sudden taken from me; so when lost, they can all of a sudden be restored.
  7. And, lastly, to see the mutable and fickle state of temporal things, and therefore to hold a loose grip on the creature, however dear, however near–and to set my affections on things that are above.

-James Meikle, 1730-1799

Times of Refreshing

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out,” that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. -Acts 3:19

Has your life grown dim and stale because you are no longer walking closely with the Lord? Our God is so gracious that even after we have rebelled against him, he not only wipes out our sins, but he also goes on to give us times of refreshing. This phrase, “times of refreshing,” encompasses quite a bit, including the return of our Lord, but it also seems to include a sense of spiritual refreshment that comes to the individual believer. Think back to when you first came to know the Lord. The burden of your sin was heavy upon you as you felt the curse and judgment it demanded. Then someone pointed you to Christ, and through faith, your sins were washed away. Then, do you remember what followed? Do you remember being refreshed as the Joy of the Lord became your strength? The world was just a little brighter, the mountains where a bit more majestic, and the burdens of the world seemed lighter, because you knew nothing could separate you from his love.

What we experienced during these times was the Holy Spirit’s work, as he bore witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16). As Paul told us, even if the outward man is perishing, the inward man is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16) because even in this fallen world, the Spirit has been given to us as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Cor. 5:5). As he works in our lives, our spirits are refreshed knowing that our sins can no longer condemn us because of Christ’s work, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever when this life is through.

There are, however, times in the believer’s life when this refreshing may fade. If we begin to turn our focus to the things of this world, whether its vanities or trials, there is an intimacy with Christ that can be lost; much like when Peter was walking on the water and turned his eyes away from Jesus. Maybe you are finding yourself in that place right now. Something has caught your eye that is luring you away from the Lord and seeking first the kingdom of God is no longer your main desire. Maybe the straight and narrow is not as appealing to you anymore because some lesser light has stolen your heart as it offers you more than it can actually provide. The problem with this is that you are being tempted by your own evil desires, and when it is conceived it will give birth to sin, and sin, when it is full-grown gives birth to death (James 1:15). As this process is taking place the Holy Spirit grieves within you, and there can be a dimness that can come back to your eyes as you once again try to shoulder the weight of this world without Christ’s abiding presence. So much so, that at times you can begin to wonder if you were ever a child of God to begin with.

It is at this point, that the enemy begins to mock you for taking the bait, and begins to tell you that you’ve gone too far and that you have never been his child. But the Spirit of God, who has never left you, has many ways of stirring you to a remembrance of the times of refreshing you once had. He moves you to recall the former times for at least two reasons. First, to remind you that you are his child and give you strength as you deal with the sin in which you now find yourself entangled, and second, to call you to repentance because the times of refreshing can be experienced again.

If you find yourself in this situation, and the joy of your salvation has been eclipsed by the cares and sins of this life, remember the times you once had with your Savior. By doing so you can be confirmed that you are his child, and you will hear the call to repentance saying, come back to your First Love, and as you “draw near to me and I will draw near to you” (James 4:8). And if you have never come to Christ for the forgiveness of sins, you too can have your sins wiped out, that times of refreshing may come.

Good and Gracious King by CityAlight

May your spirit soar as you worship your king with this beautiful song.

I approach the throne of glory
Nothing in my hands I bring
But the promise of acceptance
From a good and gracious King

I will give to You my burden
As You give to me Your strength
Come and fill me with Your Spirit
As I sing to You this praise

You deserve the greater glory
Overcome, I lift my voice
To the King in need of nothing
Empty handed I rejoice

You deserve the greater glory
Overcome with joy I sing
By Your love I am accepted
You’re a good and gracious King

O what grace that You would see me
As Your child and as Your friend
Safe, secure in You forever
I pour out my praise again

You deserve the greater glory
Overcome, I lift my voice
To the King in need of nothing
Empty handed I rejoice

You deserve the greater glory
Overcome with joy I sing
By Your love I am accepted
You’re a good and gracious King

Holy, holy, Lord Almighty
Good and gracious
Good and gracious
Holy, holy, Lord Almighty
Good and gracious King

Holy, holy, Lord Almighty
Good and gracious
Good and gracious
Holy, holy, Lord Almighty
Good and gracious King

You deserve the greater glory
Overcome, I lift my voice
To the King in need of nothing
Empty handed I rejoice

You deserve the greater glory
Overcome with joy I sing
By Your love I am accepted
You’re a good and gracious King

-CityAlight

Wayward Christian: The Lord Wants you to Come Home

“Yet return again to Me, says the Lord.”–Jeremiah. 3:1

Could there be a more touching “Thus says the Lord” than this? The voice of Jesus, as it echoed over the mountains and along the valleys of our unregenerate distance from God, seeking and finding and bringing us home, was inexpressibly sweet and irresistibly gracious. But, to hear that same voice, after our many wanderings, our repeated relapses, our sad backslidings, still seeking, still inviting, still imploring us to return, though we had “played the harlot with many lovers,” oh, there is music in that voice such as the heavenly minstrelsy must bend their ear to catch.

My soul, you are “bent upon backsliding, even as a backsliding heifer.” Your heart is as a broken bow, treacherous to the arrow fixed upon the string, and ready for its flight. Your purposes of good formed, but thwarted; resolutions of amendment made, but broken; plans of usefulness laid, but frustrated; prayers for grace offered, but forgotten; desires and aspirations after God sent up, but, through a deceitful and wicked heart, dissolving into air. Oh! how many and aggravated have your backslidings from God been–backslidings in heart, backslidings in deed–secret wanderings, open wanderings. You have “left your first love,” have “forgotten your resting-place;” and, straying from the cross, have gone back to walk no more with Jesus. Truly, your “heart is like a deceitful bow.”

But, has the Lord, by some gentle movement of His grace, or by some solemn event of His providence, aroused, overtaken, arrested you? Has He set a hedge around your path, that you could not find your lovers, bringing you to reflection, to penitence, to prayer? Then, listen, O my soul, to the gracious words of your “first husband;” “Yet return again to Me, says the Lord.”

Spiritual restoration implies a spiritual re-conversion. In this sense we are to interpret our Lord’s words to His fallen apostle Peter–“When you are converted, strengthen your brethren,”–that is, when you are restored, recovered, turned back again, employ your restored grace, the experience you have derived, and the lessons you have learned by your fall and recovery, in strengthening your weak brethren–in warning and exhorting, in restoring and comforting those who have been alike tempted, and have alike fallen.

There is something very expressive, tender, and touching in the word–“Again.” “Yet return again.” It sounds like the “forgiveness of seventy times seven.” Lord! I have wandered from You times without number–“Yet return again.” Lord! I have so often sinned and repented–“Yet return again.” Lord! You have received and forgiven me more than seventy times seven–“Yet return again.” Lord! I come confessing the same sins, deploring the same backslidings, acknowledging the same self-will and base ingratitude–“Yet return again to me, says the Lord.” Then, Lord! I come with weeping, and mourning, and confession, since Your tenderness, grace, and changeless love, and outstretched hand bid me.

“Return to Me.” My soul, rest not until you rest in Jesus. Let nothing come between your returning heart and your advancing, loving, forgiving Father. There is no true return of a backsliding believer but that which takes him past his repentance, past his tears, past his confessions, past his amendments, past his minister, and brings him at once close to Christ. There is no healing of the hurt, no binding up of the wound, no cleansing, no peace, no comfort, no joy, but as the soul comes to the blood, and nestles once more within the very heart of Jesus. “Return unto ME.”

-Octavius Winslow

You Cannot Satisfy Sin By Sinning – John Owen

Abstain from the passions of the flesh, which war against your soul. – 1 Peter 2:11

The general nature of indwelling sin is that it is always at enmity with us. There can be no terms of peace. It must be abolished and destroyed, every part and parcel of it. Every drop of poison is poison, and will kill; and every spark of fire is fire, and will burn. We can admit no terms of peace or compromise. It is in vain to have any expectation of rest from lust, except by its death. Some, in the troubling of their corruptions, seek for quietness and laboring to satisfy them. This is to douse a fire with oil. Casting wood into the fire will not satisfy it, but increase it: so it is with seeking to satisfy sin by sinning, it only inflames and increases it. You cannot bargain with fire to take only so much of your house; you have no way to quench it. It is so with indwelling sin. Sin opposes duty, and temps us to unbelief, because of its enmity toward God. Every act of sin is a fruit of being weary of God. The great means to prevent the fruits and effects of this enmity is to constantly keep the soul in a universally holy frame. As we are directed to ‘watch unto prayer’ (1 Peter 4:7 KJV ), So watching every duty. Whatever good we have to do, and we find evil present with us, we must prevent it from parlaying with the soul. We must prevent its insinuating poison into the mind and affections. Be sure you are not worn out by its persistence, nor driven from your hold by its importunity. Do not faint by its opposition. It is so dangerous when the soul gives over in part or in whole, either by being wearied in the battle of sin against holy duties or wearied of communion with God. Labor to possess a mind of the beauty and excellence of spiritual things – obedience, and communion with God – so that they may be presented lovely and desirable to the soul and this cursed enmity of sin will thus be weakened.

-John Owen

You Will Soon Be Home

“These all died in faith . . . they confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” – Hebrews 11:13

The day of life with them is ended. Its duties are ended. Its responsibilities are passed. Its hours are fled away.

What a trying day some of them had! How stormy. How sultry. How often overcast. How gloomy. But it is now past–and past forever! The toils of the wilderness are over! They had much to afflict and pain them . . .
a difficult and dangerous journey,
a long wearisome march,
many a heavy cross to carry,
many a stubborn foe to face,
many a painful doubt,
numerous gloomy fears.

But now the wilderness is all behind them! The afflictions of the pilgrimage are terminated. Those sufferings were sharp, and some of them continued long. Many of them were endured in secret, without sympathy and without relief. They were soul sorrows, agony of mind–as well as sharp pains of body. But however multiplied, however severe, however protracted those sorrows–they are past and gone, never, never to return!

The sweetest repose is now enjoyed. The poor tabernacle has been taken down, and is laid in a quiet resting-place until the resurrection morning. The soul is gone to be with Jesus. It has traveled through the rough path of life–and is now in God’s presence, where there is fullness of joy, and pleasures for evermore!

As Christians, we are going to the same place. The graves will soon be ready for our bodies–and the mansions of glory for our souls. We are going home! Home to our Father’s house! Home where our hearts have long been. Home where all our prayers will be answered, and all our best desires will be gratified. “Home, sweet home! There is no place like home!” Especially our home! A paradise without a tempting serpent! A paradise where all are holy, all are safe, all are happy. Those pure and perpetual joys, which are at God’s right hand, await us! We taste them now and are delighted with a sip–but there we shall soon drink full draughts of eternal glory, eternal joy, and eternal blessedness!

Amidst present toils and trials, dangers and distresses–when wearied, way-worn, and tempted to fret–remember that you will soon be HOME! Think, think, O my soul, of an eternity of enjoyment–when the sufferings of time are ended!

“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away!” Revelation 21:3-4

-James Smith (1802—1862)