"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Friday, January 21, 2011

Raising the Standard: Cautiousness Is Living Within the Protection of My God-Given Resources

God's biographies reveal the secrets of warning and instruction for our daily lives. "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope" ~ Romans 15:14
"Also, that the soul be without knowledge, it is not good; and he that hasteth with his feet sinneth." ~ Proverbs 19:2
From the Pages Of Scripture:
All of life is an exchange. We exchange our work time for wages. Then we exchange our wages for food, clothing, and other items. Those who want to learn the important insights that are required for wise giving must enter into another level of trading. They must exchange temporal things for greater spiritual discernment. The Apostle Paul testified that he willingly suffered the loss of all things that he might know more about Christ (Philippians 3:7-10). Years before Paul discovered this principle, it was demonstrated to him by one who had exchanged his possessions for spiritual discernment.
How Is the protection of Living Within God-Given Resources Illustrated In Scripture?
The difference between blind fear and wise caution is spiritual perception. Who increased his faith and spiritual perception and was able to make a bold decision while those around him hesitated in fear? Barnabas. William Tyndale, one of England's leading reformers was approached one day by a sincere-looking young man who offered to help him. In reality, the young man was a spy employed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Tyndale, one of the first men to translate the Bible into English, was arrested, tried for heresy, and on October 6, 1536, was strangled and burned at the stake. In A.D. 37, one of the early Church leaders was approached by a sincere-looking man who offered to help him and other Christians. Most of the Christians, however, were in hiding from this very man! Burning with hatred, he had dedicated himself to one cause --- the destruction of anyone who followed Christ. He regarded them as politically and spiritually dangerous. His unrelenting persecution had already resulted in the murder of one Christian and the imprisonment of many others. Armed with new authority from the religious leaders of his day, he traveled from city to city to broaden his attack against the followers of Christ. This was the background of the man who now offered to help the people he had so recently persecuted. Little wonder that all church leaders had fled from him. All, except for one man. This leader was a man of Godly reputation. He had been a wealthy landowner on the island of Cyprus, who after believing had totally dedicated himself and all his possessions to the Lord. That complete dedication included selling his land and giving the money to the Apostles to sustain needy Christians. In return, God gave him a greater faith which increased his ability to discern the motives of others. The hearer cautiously listened as the man who had so oppressed the believers told how God had struck him and his companions to the ground with a brilliant light. The man also revealed that he had heard the voice of Christ from heaven asking why he was persecuting Him. This experience, claimed the man, had brought him to repentance. He himself was now a follower of Christ. As the respected leader listened, he perceived a spirit like his own, the spirit of one totally dedicated to the Lord. With confidence he brought the man to the Apostles and introduced him as a new brother in Christ. Because God had provided Barnabas with special wisdom and insight, he was able to open the door of fellowship to a new convert. He later helped open the Mediterranean world to the Gospel during missionary journeys with this same man --- the Apostle Paul. When Barnabas kindly received Paul as a brother in the Lord, he demonstrated his confidence in the Lord to protect him from a possible trap. This spiritual discernment was a God-given resource that would continue to benefit him and Paul throughout their missionary journeys. (From Acts 4:36-37; 9:26-31)
How Did Barnabas' Name Indicate His Character?
The man's given name was Joseph, but he was surnamed "Barnabas" by the Apostles. In Aramaic, which the Apostles spoke, Barnabas means "son of prophecy", but the Greek translation given by Luke is "son of consolation." (Acts 4:36) This is the same word used by the Lord when referring to the Holy Spirit, whose ministry is to exhort, console, and encourage. (John 14:26). In the city of Antioch, Barnabas, Simeon, and Lucius functioned as "prophets." Their task was to proclaim the good news of the salvation in Christ Jesus. Manaen and Paul were the "teacher." Theirs was the task of instructing the believers in foundational doctrine. Exhortation was an important aspect of prophecy as illustrated in Acts 15:32, "And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the bretheren with many words, and confirmed them." Barnabas was engaged in this ministry in Antioch. He "... exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord." (Acts 11:23).
Why Was Barnabas Able to Discern Saul's Motives?
There is a rare Biblical eulogy given to Barnabas, "For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith..." (Acts 11:24). Three things characterized Barnabas. first he was a good man. James described a good man as one who had compassion on the needy. (James 1:27; 2:14-17) Barnabas had pity for the poor. He removed any barrier between himself and the Lord. Proverbs 21:13 states, "Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard." Second, he was filled with the Holy Spirit. He was obedient to the prompting of God's Spirit and did not grieve Him. (Ephesians r:30; 5:18). Barnabas was in a position to receive spiritual discernment concerning Saul's character and motives. Third, he was a man of faith. He was able to visualize the great work which God had planned for Saul. While others were dwelling on Saul's past, Barnabas was focusing on his future.
How Did Barnabas' Generosity Encourage Others?
Barnabas' gift was held up as an example for others to follow. He is contrasted with Ananias and Sapphira, who also sold a possession but kept back some money for themselves, lying to the Apostles (Acts 5:1-10). Barnabas had been exhorting the disciples in Antioch for a year when a need war revealed concerning their fellow believers in Judea. "Then the disciples, every man according to his ability. determined to send relief unto the bretheren which dwelt in Judea" (Acts 11:29). Barnabas was able to teach about giving, because he practiced it himself. He was an example to the Apostle Paul, who encouraged the Gentile churches throughout the Roman Empire to contribute to the needs of their poorer brothers in Christ. This was no doubt a major factor in the mutual love and cooperation which developed between the Gentile and Jewish Christians.
Illustrated In the World of Nature:
The prairie dog is a sociable rodent that digs extensive burrows underground. Together with the bison, the prairie dog is responsible for changing the character of the earlier prairie. The prairie dog is only fourteen to seventeen inches long, but it consumes incredible amounts of food. To prepare for the hot, dry summer weather, the prairie dog has a unique water storage system.
How Is Living Within the Protection of God-Given Resources Illustrated In the World of Nature?
A steep tunnel led to the entrance mound located ten feet above the home of four furry pups. Several hours earlier, their father had cautiously peeped through the narrow shaft, carefully scanning the surrounding habitat. The experienced father knew that a hungry coyote could be lurking behind any nearby brush or rock. Confident that the area around the burrow was free from predators, the pups' father and mother scampered from the nest to search for food. Lured from the safe proximity of their home by succulent vegetation, the pair failed to notice the quiet and calculated movements of their deadly enemy. A clever coyote silently stalked them. Without warning, it suddenly sprang forward and raced toward the entrance mound. Cut off from the protection of their underground lair, the parents found themselves helpless. They tried in vain to escape, but the coyote quickly cornered them and turned them into a tasty meal. The four pups began to wonder why their parents had not returned. Finally they realized that they were on their own. Survival would now depend on their ability to live within the protection of their God-given resources. What seemed to be an unending and useless maze of tunnels crosscutting beneath the prairie floor would soon become a valuable provision left behind by the parents. Early one morning the prairie sky turned an ominous gray. Large drops of rain began to pelt the young pups as they played. Fearing the growing intensity of the thunder and lightning, the instinctively retreated to the shelter of their home. The well-constructed rim of the entrance mound that their parents had designed successfully protected the burrow from serious water damage. While the pyramid-shaped entrance was able to protect the pups from rain, it could not keep a large rattlesnake from slithering into the main passageway. Pursued by the deadly reptile, the pups scurried down the tunnel and huddled breathlessly in the dark. The rattlesnake slid pas them into a side tunnel. Using loose soil, the pups hurriedly sealed the poisonous intruder within the dead-end chamber. While this underground drama unfolded the fury of the storm increased, sending flood waters across the basin. The flood waters overflowed the protective entrance mound and burst into the hollow chambers. With their main escape route cut off and the burrow filling up with water, the pups followed a narrow shaft that led them to within a few inches of the surface. The air trapped within the shaft lasted long enough for the pups to dig their way to freedom through the rain-softened sod. By living within God-given resources, four furry prairie dogs escaped destruction.

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