Today, I want to introduce you to my friend, Jill McSheehy, of Russellville, Arkansas. I met Jill through a Christian writers group and often stand amazed at all she accomplishes. In addition to seeing about her husband and two young children, Jill blogs regularly about gardening, as well as her faith. She’s also written two other books. Learn more at her website.
As I looked through my copy of Journey Through Acts, I was impressed by the amount of work that must have gone its production.
Here’s a sample of what you’ll encounter through the study. After reading it, I have a feeling you’ll want to join us.
I’ll never forget the day. The hope of spring with the warm sun and bright yellow jonquils contrasted with dread and fear in my heart. We had just made the decision to seek in-home hospice care for my mom as cancer overtook her body. On that beautiful spring day, we were to meet her hospice nurse for the first time. With my heart in such a tender, fragile state, I couldn’t believe my eyes when the nurse assigned to my mom happened to be my best friend’s neighbor. Small world.
Later that day, I met, also for the first time, the ladies my mom hired to help with cleaning the house while she was unable to do so. I was shocked to see my own neighbor standing in the doorway to Mom’s house! Again, small world. This was not a coincidence. I knew that God used these two women to tangibly show that He was with me. He knew that the next few weeks would be the hardest I’d ever endured. But knowing He was with me gave me courage to face the unknown as I walked down that lonely road with my mom.
In Acts 23, we watch Paul, under arrest by Roman authorities in Jerusalem, go toe-to-toe with his accusers — the Jewish religious leaders who want him dead. The following night, Jesus visits Paul with the words, “Have courage!” After rejection by his Jewish brothers and seeing no evangelistic fruit from his effort, it’s not surprising that Paul may have experienced some discouragement. Not only that, but his journey is only beginning.
He spends the next two years as a prisoner in Caesarea before he heads to Rome. On the way to Rome he encounters a seemingly hopeless shipwreck. Then, once in Rome, he’ll remain a prisoner under house arrest for another two years before he, at last, is freed. But in today’s reading, he is at the beginning of this long journey that lay ahead. How kind is our Lord to encourage him at this beginning? But, as the saying goes, “he ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
Clearly Jesus visits him not only to encourage him after the turmoil he has already endured but to give him strength for the many struggles that lay ahead for him.
When we’re walking in God’s will and find ourselves traveling a difficult, unknown road, Jesus provides His word to give us strength and encouragement for the journey. He comforts us through the words, hugs, and love of the people He places in our path. He may not give us a road map, but what He gives us is everything we need.
In the final days of my mom’s life, the strength I read about in Scripture became real to me. With every fear, with every concern, with every unknown, He met me. If you find yourself on an unknown journey, seek the strength of the Lord. The circumstances may not be easy. They may be downright awful. But with the strength and presence of Jesus, you’ll have courage to face it all and glorify God through it.
What about your own difficult times? Can you look back and see the kindness of our Lord to walk with you along the way? Don’t you have to admit you’re stronger now than you were before that time of difficulty? And aren’t you better able to comfort those who go through similar times now? Our pain has purpose!
Filling the Need
During a Sunday School lesson, my youth leader led us in an activity to go along with the week’s lesson on Barnabas. He gave each of us small “certificates” printed with the words, “Barnabas Award” and instructed us to write the name of someone we thought was an encourager. I don’t remember to whom I gave the certificate, but I was surprised when my friend Hope gave me hers. I never saw myself as an encourager, but she apparently saw something in me. To this day I have that certificate, and looking back, she was the one who encouraged me, because she saw something in me that I didn’t.
Most of Acts 11 deals with the birth of the church at Antioch, the first church consisting of both Jews and Gentiles. This church explodes in growth, and after the church in Jerusalem hears rumors of this, they send Barnabas — the man who previously took a risk and brought Saul to the disciples — to investigate this news.
Barnabas finds not only a rapidly-growing church in numbers but in spirit. He found the Antioch church made up of people filled with the Holy Spirit and committed to the Lord.
Written between the lines is something else Barnabas sees — a need. Perhaps it is the need for a leader. Perhaps it is a need for a Christian well-versed in the Old Testament to teach the new church the fullness of truth. Perhaps Barnabas simply knows that Saul had been sent by Jesus to proclaim truth to the Gentiles, and what better place to start than a new church plant full of them. We’re not quite sure what need Barnabas sees, but we do know what he does next. He travels to Tarsus to find Saul and brings him to Antioch where they teach together in the church for a year.
Antioch soon begins to establish itself as a hub for missionary activity in the land of the Gentiles. They’re a discipling church and a sending church. And these characteristics exist in the Antioch church because Barnabas sees a need and seeks to fill it.
What happens when you see a need? Do you immediate think you’re the one to fill it? Or do you search for someone else to do it? Perhaps someone who can do it better than you? The example set by Barnabas in this passage indicates that perhaps the most discerning and effective action is to find a person whom God has equipped and bring that person to the ministry. It builds up the body of Christ and does what Barnabas did best — encourages others in their specific gifts.
Who can you encourage today to use their gift?
Today’s guest post is taken from Jill McSheehy’s new Bible Study, Journey through Acts. Click here to order your copy, and enter the code RIDGE15 to get 15% off and free shipping!
(Link to product: http://journeywithjill.net/product/journey-through-acts/)
Jill is also hosting a Journey through Acts Facebook group starting January 16th, where she will provide weekly video lessons and discussions. Members of the group also will get free downloadable memory verse cards. Click here for more information. (Link: http://journeywithjill.net/product/membership-journey-acts-facebook-group/)