Heated Debate

fightActs 15: 36-41

37 Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. 38 But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.

I read a recent article on a Christian website titled:  “10 Honest Observations from a Former Church Insider.”  The author of the article had been a pastor for many years and then at a relatively young age (for reasons not cited) had to step down.  He mentioned what it was like to now be an “outsider” in church.  He listed 10 things that he saw were problems that perhaps someone so close to the heartbeat of a church might be blinded to.  I agreed with him on just about everything and appreciated his insights… and was about to move on.  Then I read the comments from pastors that read the article before me.  Many were not kind!  They didn’t like much of what the author had to say, but sometimes it bordered on people not liking him personally.  One critic wrote:  “I will gladly take advice from anyone willing to get in there and do the work. Not just leave when things are not going their own way.”  Another wrote:  “I became bored with hearing the same “complaints” from yet another disenchanted church goer.”   The idea of hearing ideas from a “quitter” was too much for some.

Just when I was completely discouraged… a number of Barnabas people stepped in and saved the day… offering encouragement and peace.   Some were among bloggers that I trust David I. Guinn and Joe McKeever.

I call these men Barnabas people because the comment page appeared to me at times to be a retelling of the sharp disagreement Paul and Barnabas had over Mark way back in the book of Acts.  It was a “sharp” disagreement… as the Greek will bear out.  Barnabas wanted to give his cousin another chance.  Paul wanted to show him the door.

The Bible does not tell us who was right or wrong,  just that the debate was heated and the result was a split of the Apostolic Missionary Super Team.   NT Scholar A.T. Robertson remarked:  “No one can rightly blame Barnabas for giving his cousin John Mark a second chance nor Paul for fearing to risk him again.  One’s judgment may go with Paul, but one’s heart goes with Barnabas.”

There is so much irony in this passage.  the second missionary journey began with the idea of checking up on people and churches from the first journey and seeing how they were doing spiritually .   Yet Paul is ready to give John Mark the boot before he even takes the young man’s spiritual temperature!  The second ironic thing is that Paul should have known by now the heart of his friend, Barnabas.  It wasn’t too long ago that Barnabas pulled a snot nosed kid out of the gutter and offered that young man a chance when no one else would even trust him… I refer, of course, to Paul himself.

My heart goes out to those who wrote out of concerned for this young man and his quest to find God… and to all Barnabas types that may face some rough criticism, but are still willing to extend a hand to “quitters” in an effort to help.

More on this… and a story too… later this week.

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Song Origin: “Blessed Be Your Name”

Job 1:20-22

In my short list of contemporary Christian songs that I feel will one day become cherished hymns, one song has surely risen to the top.  “Blessed Be Your Name” by Matt Redman has been sung in just about every church I have visited in the past few years.   Its lyrics which invite us to praise God in the midst of whatever is going on in our lives, has truly touched the hearts of millions. 

Blessed be Your name when the sun’s shining down on me.  When the world’s “all as it should be,” blessed be Your name.  Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering.  Though there’s pain in the offering, blessed be Your name.

This modern hymn, written by Matt and Beth Redman, was penned during the aftermath of 911.  Matt wrote:  “It struck me how little a vocabulary we have in church worship music to respond appropriately in dark times of life.  We all face seasons of pain and unease. And in those times we need to find our voice before God. The church, and indeed the world, needs songs of lamentation.”

In an article about the song’s origin, Lindsay Terry writes:  “Many believe the Book of Job is about suffering, but Matt has a different interpretation.  ‘I think it’s really about something much grander–the sovereignty of God–of which suffering is a subcategory. At the end of chapter one it says: ‘The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised.’   Trust is a beautiful act of worship.  It says to God, ‘I believe in You–in Your unfailing goodness and greatness–no matter what season of life I find myself in.'”  (“Story Behind the Song: Blessed Be Your Name,”  Lindsay Terry, Today’s Christian, May 1, 2007.)

I think Matt’s song captures the spirit of what Job had to say.  Job’s statement reminds us be happy with what the Lord has given us… and to remain content if He decides to take it away.  I struggle with one side or the other of these two things.

When I receive things, I struggle with a desire to “Super-Size” what has been given me.  I love the words of Bob Russell:  “It is a rare person who, when his cup frequently runs over, can thank God instead of complaining about the limited size of his mug!”

I also struggle with the bitterness of those times that things are taken away from me.  Being uprooted from place to place can create a resentment if one is not careful.  Contentment is to be delighted in God, the giver and taker.

Thank you, Matt Redman, for making Job’s words even more memorable for us today.  Feelings of joy and sorrow flow freely in this work of worship that will be sung for generations to come.