About the Journey 13 - from Kerry

About the Journey - Acts 13:1-12 - from Kerry Flemington

Among the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch of Syria were Barnabas, Simeon (called “the black man”), Lucius (from Cyrene), Manaen (the childhood companion of King Herod Antipas), and Saul. One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Appoint Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.” So after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way.
So Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the Holy Spirit. They went down to the seaport of Seleucia and then sailed for the island of Cyprus. There, in the town of Salamis, they went to the Jewish synagogues and preached the word of God. John Mark went with them as their assistant.
Afterward they traveled from town to town across the entire island until finally they reached Paphos, where they met a Jewish sorcerer, a false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He had attached himself to the governor, Sergius Paulus, who was an intelligent man. The governor invited Barnabas and Saul to visit him, for he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas, the sorcerer (as his name means in Greek), interfered and urged the governor to pay no attention to what Barnabas and Saul said. He was trying to keep the governor from believing.
Saul, also known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he looked the sorcerer in the eye. Then he said, “You son of the devil, full of every sort of deceit and fraud, and enemy of all that is good! Will you never stop perverting the true ways of the Lord? Watch now, for the Lord has laid his hand of punishment upon you, and you will be struck blind. You will not see the sunlight for some time.” Instantly mist and darkness came over the man’s eyes, and he began groping around begging for someone to take his hand and lead him.
When the governor saw what had happened, he became a believer, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.
Acts 13:1-12
Discomfort.  So much of the Bible is laced with discomfort.  Discomfort at being told what to do, discomfort in believing, discomfort in not believing.  It’s a reality of the human condition that we will find ourselves in discomfort.
Somehow, somewhere, we as Christians have believed the lie that our lives are meant to be comfortable.  And if it’s not, we’re doing something wrong.  Perhaps we’ve been led astray by the knowledge of God as our comforter i.e. our sugar-daddy, the guy who will sweep away all hard and difficult situations, will rain down a surplus on us if we just have enough faith.  Maybe this is slightly exaggerated but at the same time, I don’t think it’s too far off from the truth.  We rarely wonder where God is when things are going well in our life.  But when life takes a turn for the worse, we secretly, or maybe even outwardly, believe that God has abandoned us.
In order to shore up our wobbly faith, we focus on the god of certainty.  We carve our secure career paths, we focus on being debt free or at the very least, having a surplus amount of cash flow to ensure comfort.  We believe the right theology, surround ourselves with like-minded folks, equally as successful as we are, and build a well meaning legacy of good works, whether in business or personally. We naturally use our talents and abilities to provide stability for ourselves and our families.  And essentially, we tack God on to all of this for good measure, like a good luck charm on our key chains.  Our faith is that God is with us, indeed. But just in case he’s not going to handle things the way I would, I build myself all sorts of safety nets to ensure that my life is disrupted the least amount should unfortunate circumstances arise.  
Essentially, this is also the story of Bar-Jesus. He was a Jew, believing in Yahweh.  But he had a few extra resources to fall back on (his sorcery) and he surrounded himself with the right people to maintain a comfortable position of power over himself and his small dominion.  He had God in one hand and Plan B, just in case, in the other.
Saul and Barnabas then enter the picture.  Their focus wasn’t on Bar-Jesus and his sorcery; they had come at the request of Sergius, the governor of the region.  I’m not sure why this threatened Bar-Jesus.  What did it matter if his friend became a Christ follower?
I think perhaps what rattled Bar-Jesus was a suspicion that when Jesus enters the picture, life gets uncomfortable.  Things no longer go as we planned or anticipated.  If we’re really interested in being in a relationship with him, we have to let go of our own agendas.  We have to let go of our well-meaning safeguards and trust in the good-ness of God.  That doesn’t come easily to us when the systems that are already in place serve us so well.  We get displaced from being the centre of our universe.  And I think we would do well to listen carefully to Paul‘s words because they are an arrow straight into the heart of the matter: when we live like this, we are full of deceit and fraud, the enemy of all that is good.  God is slow to anger and abounding in love, but he will not be mocked.  We cannot tack God on to our key chains for our own purposes and pursuits or we will end up like Bar-Jesus - living life veiled in mist and darkness but believing we’re enlightened.

you can connect directly with Kerry at kerry@arnuthill.com

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