Week 3 – Add Fabric Softener
CARING LIKE BARNABAS
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 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. [NLT]
GENEROUS – Acts 4:36-37 – Barnabas sold land to provide for fellow Christians
ACCEPTING – Acts 9:26-28 – Barnabas took a chance with Paul when the other’s weren’t accepting him.
ENCOURAGING – Acts 11:23-24 – Barnabas was glad to see what God did through others and encouraged them to all remain true to God.
GRACIOUS – Acts 15:36-41 – Barnabas extended grace to John Mark, not giving up on John Mark.
Embrace – Encourage – Equip – Empower
Put yourself aside and let others get ahead (Philippians 2:3-4)
Speak what is helpful for building others up (Ephesians 4:29)
2 Timothy 4:11 – Paul later requested John Mark because he was profitable to the ministry.
Breakout Session Questions:
1) Read Acts 15:36-41 and Philippians 2:3-4. How does this passage in Philippians relate to the narrative in Acts 15?
2) Read Ephesians 4:29. What does Paul describe in this passage? How do we live this out?
3) Read Romans 15:1-6 Who are we to please? What does this passage describe as the relationship between the strong and weak? How can we live this out?
4) Read 1 Timothy 2:1-3. What does this passage say is most important, and why is this most important?
Handle with Care is a 6-week series focused on studying God’s Word and responding with care. The six weeks of messages may sound like instructions for laundry care — but you will soon find Handle with Care beckons you to examine within, to gauge how you truly love God and love others, and to grow inward and outward. Caring starts with the heart and pours out into the community.
- Week 1 – Stain Removal – Caring for God’s glory
- Week 2 – Do Not Bleach – Caring for Truth
- Week 3 – Add Fabric Softener – Caring like Barnabas
- Week 4 – Fasten the Zipper – Caring for Unity
- Week 5 – Empty Pockets – Caring for Treasures
- Week 6 – Iron Low Heat – Caring without Complacency
Over the years, I have seen the importance of having insurance. Car insurance. House insurance. Medical insurance. Fire insurance. Flood insurance. Life insurance. Insurance is necessary. You never know when something is going to happen and you will need it. I have sadly seen many people have the unexpected creep up and they were without insurance; the results were painful to watch.
In Proverbs, it says: “Good character is the best insurance.” The GOD’s WORD translation says, “Decent people are saved by their righteousness, but treacherous people are trapped by their own greed.” When I personally think of good character as insurance, it reminds me of some people I know with good character. When they got into a situation where they had a great need, dozens upon dozens of people came to help them. Yet when someone deemed a crook or a treacherous person also fell upon hard times, the floods of people didn’t head their way.
In Proverbs 11, it discusses a false balance and it goes back and forth between the upright and the wicked. It goes back and forth between the two types of people. Good character is associated with righteousness, with being blameless, with being humble. The one with good character is merciful, gracious, a guarantor for the stranger. As we read this Proverb, it is quite clear we want so badly to be the one of good character. To be this person, the only way to be this person of good character, is to know the One Who is Righteous and Holy. He is the most gracious. He is the most merciful. He is the greatest Guarantor. He is faithful. He is understanding.
“Good character is the best insurance;
crooks get trapped in their sinful lust.”
-Proverbs 11:6 [MSG]
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” – Philippians 4:8-9 [MSG]
When the temperatures rise, my dog Max likes to be in the air conditioning. Though he comes down in the morning for his breakfast, bone, and a walk, he quickly persuades me to let him back upstairs with the kids because of the air conditioning. He wants to be where it feels good. He wants to be where he is comfortable.
We are told to focus on what is good, pure, and lovely. We should seek those things out, focus on those things, and keep ourselves from turning elsewhere. Sometimes we find ourselves losing our focus because other things catch our eyes. Perhaps the things that are good do not look to help us feel comfortable. Sometimes we are to stay away from what appears comfortable, stay focused on what is pure, and patiently wait for the true comfort that only God can give us.
Comfortable does not always mean it is right. Something that feels good to us may not be good in the eyes of God. Continue to focus on Him. Today, remember these words from Paul and trust God’s promise of peace. Oh, the peace that only He can bring.
God used Moses as well as Aaron to perform many signs and wonders to get Pharaoh to let His people leave Egypt. During that time, Pharaoh brought forth his magicians to show his power. Exodus 7:8 is the start of the signs and wonders, and it actually begins with God saying that when Pharaoh says to “perform a miracle,” then throw down the staff and it will be a snake. The staff gets tossed down, leaving us to understand that Pharaoh started the ball rolling by asking for the sign. This act by Pharaoh is to suggest that he and his magicians could compete and be shown to be more powerful than God.
As we continue reading onward, the “plagues” start coming. At the beginning, the magicians of Pharaoh were demonstrating that they could do the same things with “secret arts.” However, as time went on, the magicians could not compete. When the gnats came, they realized they couldn’t, and so they said, “This is the finger of God,” acknowledging God as the source of the signs and wonders (Exodus 8:19). As the signs and wonders continued due to the hardened heart of Pharaoh, the furnace soot was tossed in the air to bring about dust over all of Egypt and boils on the people. At this point, “The magicians could not stand before Moses” (Exodus 9:11). They went from being able to perform the same actions to not even being able to be present.
We face many things each day. Sometimes we are like these magicians. We put ourselves in the position of God, but we soon find that we cannot deliver all of the time. We are human and we can only go so far. It is important to acknowledge where the true power comes from as these magicians did. As we start acknowledging God we soon find that He is El Elyon, “God Most High” and El Shaddai “God Almighty.” In all reality, there was a time when we were not able to be present before Him. Thankfully God is gracious and has given each of us a way to be present before Him through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ.
We all have moments when we are angry. Jonah got angry. He wasn’t angry because the boat ride was shaky. He wasn’t upset that he was swallowed by a fish. He was irritated by the fact that God showed compassion on Nineveh. Jonah was sent to tell the people of Nineveh to change their ways, and he ran at first, because he did not think they deserved the grace and mercy of God. It upset him that people who were so evil would be given the opportunity to repent and be forgiven.
We all are undeserving of the love, the grace, the mercy, the compassion that God shows for us. Jonah recognized that God was “a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity” (4:2 NASB). Jonah saw all this good in God, and yet he did not immediately follow God’s instructions. Why?
There are often moments in life when we are not so easily supportive of God showing His grace and mercy on others. It is difficult for us to see people who have destroyed the lives of so many, and know that God has forgiven them. We believe our wrongs, our sins aren’t as bad as the sins of others. Why should someone who abused his wife and threw away his marriage and his children receive the same love from God as a “good Christian” who only lied a bit and missed a few church services? Why should someone who committed murder be shown the same love as someone who only took a tank full of gasoline from the local station?
These are tough questions that are sometimes difficult for us to accept and to keep ourselves from asking. We know the answer. Jonah knew the answer. God is gracious. He is compassionate. He is “abundant in lovingkindness.” But it made Jonah angry. Nineveh was filled with bad people. Why should they be forgiven for all they did simply by changing their ways and following God?
There should not be any question for us to ask except one. Why has God sent His one and only Son to be our Substitute and pay for our sins for we are unworthy? The answer, again, is that He is a compassionate, gracious God. He shows us grace– which is a gift– and we have no say on who He does and does not show His grace. Remember the parable of vineyard workers, where the workers who were there all day were paid the same as those who came to work late? “Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:14-15 NASB).
Jonah did not appreciate the generosity of God. God asked Jonah if he had a good reason to be angry. He didn’t. He actually told God that death was better than life. Jonah thought rather than see God show compassion on those he thought were undeserving, it would be better to be dead. That is a lot of anger to have simply because God was gracious to people. I wonder if there are times when we also get a bit upset at His graciousness, at His mercy.
I pray that if you are angry today, that you may take the time and steps needed to give it to God and let it go. I pray that you are able to “take what is yours” and move onward. God gives us the greatest gift of all. I pray that we never lose sight of that great gift, and that we continue to offer a heart of gratitude toward our loving, compassionate, gracious Father.
“For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You… You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.”
– Psalm 86:5, 15 [NASB]
I recommend reading this wonderful article “What Do I Do If I’m Angry With God?” written by Alexandrea J. Wilson, founder and director of the Mt. Ephraim Center, for some great insight.
I have been so busy with this semester’s coursework that my writing has been very scarce lately. More recently I have be plagued with a cold which has taken its wrath upon my ear. I went to the doctor only to find out that I had a very bad ear infection, and I was given antibiotics to aid in the healing process. As I opened the bottle and peered at the pills inside, I started to remember a time I’d like to forget.
Some people take pills daily for whatever health reasons or simply to fulfill a vitamin regimen. Most people have no problems taking pills; however, I am not most people. I can remember a day when ibuprofen and I didn’t get along. It wasn’t so much the medicine that left a mark, but how the medicine was administered.
When my children were younger and unable to take a particular kind of medicine, I always went to the store to get the appropriate medicine in a form they could take best. Perhaps I took that extra time because of this image still stuck in my head, or possibly it was because I wanted to show some grace.
God is so very gracious with us. We are all sinners. Romans 3:23-24 states: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (NIV). The love He has for us is incredible, with no words great enough to describe how amazing. His grace is something we all receive, and we are all to share it with others.
There are many people who look at God as an angry God in the Old Testament. People will page through the books and read the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and not see His love. But if we look solely at the story and don’t grasp the full picture, we miss God’s grace and we miss seeing the love that has been there since the very beginning. 1 John 4 tells us that “God is love.” When reading the Bible front to back cover, it can be seen that God is love. God is faithful. God is just. And God is so very gracious with all of us.
I know some people who believe God will just toss a lightning bolt down to remedy a situation without seeking another solution. What these people do not understand is that from the very beginning, God has been moving and working in our lives for us. He is not against us and not looking for any of us to fall, to hurt, or to not be with Him. And He is not so forceful, administering what He wants without grace. At times He is so gentle, that He is like the wind gently blowing by. If you read about Elijah’s encounter with the prophets of Baal, you will note that God’s glory was shown. It was a great victory. When Elijah was on Mount Carmel he believed that God would be faithful and God answered with fire. Yet after that event, Elijah ran away and hid. He got fearful and let his fear get the best of him. In 1 Kings 19, God did not go after Elijah and pour His wrath upon him for not continuing his mission. He was “a sound of gentle blowing.”
God comes to us again and again with His loving arms wide open. He meets us wherever we are and asks us if we are ready to come back to Him. He is not forceful. He gives us an invitation, not an order. We have the free will to make the decision. As John 3:16 states, “whoever believes in Him will not perish.” It doesn’t say all will believe. He put out the invitation and He simply wants us to respond. He would love if we all checked yes, but He will never force us in the matter.
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.” – Isaiah 49:15-16 [NIV]