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Friday, May 30, 2014
On Monday, after the hustle and bustle of lower Manhattan and crossing the crowded Brooklyn Bridge, it was nice to comfortably ride in some lovely residential areas in Brooklyn. The trees provided nice shade as we pedaled along.
"A Sharp Disagreement,
A Painful Parting,
A Blessed Reconciliation"
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"After some time had passed, Paul said to Barnabas, 'Let’s go back and visit the brothers in every town where we have preached the message of the Lord and see how they’re doing.' Barnabas wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul did not think it appropriate to take along this man who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone on with them to the work. There was such a sharp disagreement that they parted company, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed off to Cyprus. Then Paul chose Silas and departed, after being commended to the grace of the Lord by the brothers. He traveled through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches" (Acts 15:36-41).
When we assumed a pastorate in Taunton Massachusetts in 1993 we enjoyed serving the New England congregation. Right away we met Rick and his wife Elizabeth and their three young sons, Peter, Richard and Samuel. Rick was saved while in the Navy after living what he describes as the stereotypical life of a Navy sailor; drinking, cursing, fighting and immorality. A fellow sailor reached out to him in a Bible study on board his ship and challenged Rick to follow Christ. He recalls laying in his bunk and struggling with the decision, realizing the war raging within his soul. At that time he surrendered to Christ and the change was dramatic, forsaking his old ways he became a diligent follower of Christ and a deep student of Scripture.
Rick was a good friend through our years in Taunton, Massachusetts and often taught Sunday School and would preach occasionally. We so enjoyed having his boys over, who were similar in age to Ester. They had vibrant personalities, although each quite different. Often the family would visit with us following the Sunday evening services.
But one Sunday we had an issue in church over a matter and a serious misunderstanding and disagreement arose between Rick and another church leader.* Rick and his family left the church immediately with no intent of returning. Those things sting as a pastor. Typically when something like this happens the divide only becomes greater. Rick and his family got involved in another church where they still attend to this day.
But something interesting happened. Bill Shibilo, an older and very esteemed member of our church, was nearing the end of his earthly journey and was in a rehabilitation hospital. Several months after the incident that led to Rick's departure Brooksyne and I went to visit Bill and were surprised when we walked into his room and saw Rick was sitting at his bedside. It was awkward at first, but the ice was now broken. It touched our hearts to witness the deep ministry heart that Rick had months after he broke fellowship with our congregation. Bible in hand he was reading the Scripture and then prayed over Bill. We visited for a few minutes at that time and, although we never were in the same local church again, our fellowship was restored. He came with his family to our farewell gathering from that church.
He is visiting our home after attending a Bible conference in our area. We've had the pleasure of hosting him over the last several years. In recent years he has gotten even more involved in ministry and now preaches and/or leads Bible studies 4 to 7 times a week! He joined me yesterday in making a chaplain call to one of our companies and expressed what a blessing it was to serve Christ together.
Today we share a message with three points that essentially describe our experience with Rick:
Paul and Barnabas had a long ministry together. Of the two, Barnabas appears first in the Bible in Acts 4:36,37 and later his encouragement was vital following Saul's conversion mentioned in Acts 9:26-30 (of course Saul became known as Paul). On the first missionary trip they worked together and, initially at the time of their call, Barnabas' name was listed before Paul's in Acts 13:2. This might have indicated that he was more prominent on the mission's team, which also included John Mark, who for some unspecified reason deserted the team in Pamphylia (Acts 13:13).
As they prepared to depart for a second mission trip they had a sharp disagreement concerning whether to include John Mark as a result of his earlier desertion. Essentially Barnabas wanted to take him; Paul didn't. They parted ways over this matter which was surely a painful, awkward, and uncomfortable parting with Barnabas taking John Mark and Paul teaming up with Silas. The record in Acts follows the ministry of Paul and Silas, whereas there is no Scriptural record of Barnabas and John Mark's ministry after this.
We don't have a record of how they reconciled but both parties remained faithful to Christ. It resulted in two mission teams.
The sharp disagreement notwithstanding, I'd sure like to know the attitude of both as they departed and to what degree they had reconciled up to that point. How did they handle the disappointment of not getting their own way? Did they pray blessings upon the other team or a "sick 'em" type of prayer that God would help them see the error of their way?
But we see later in his writings, Paul speaking well of Barnabas and Mark indicating that at some point reconciliation had taken place. In fact in his last letter he asks Timothy to "Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry" (2 Timothy 4:11). According to William L. Lane, an "unbroken tradition" identifies him with Mark the Evangelist, the writer of the Gospel of Mark.*
Rick gave me permission to share our story. We hope it will be stimulus to others who may have a longstanding need to reconcile with a brother, sister, or family member. It's wonderful to experience reconciliation, but we also know that it requires the humble participation of both parties. When you have prayerfully made the effort and reconciliation does not come about may you find solace in this Scripture from Romans 12:18: "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men."
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, the Scriptures, filled with principles and doctrine, come alive when applied to everyday life. We see this when reading the positive and negative examples of Bible characters and the way they handled everyday disappointment and conflict in their lives. Though Paul and Barnabas were in sharp disagreement they surely both made important points regarding the merit of John Mark's qualifications. Help us to exercise the gift of disagreeing a point without being a disagreeable person. Instead of slandering an individual(s) help us to respect differing views when the answer isn't clearly laid out in Scripture. As we prayerfully discuss our differences and remain respectful toward one another we will be bound all together in perfect unity, bearing with each other and forgiving the one we have a grievance against. We will forgive as You have forgiven us. And over these virtues we will put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
(Adaptation from Colossians 3:13,14)
* Rick has also restored his relationship with that leader and in fact attended his daughter's graduation party from medical school several years ago. It's important to note the matter that prompted his departure was not doctrinal or moral but rather the way a matter was handled.
One of Rick's ministries is in a state prison where he has taught a weekly Bible Study for 20 years. An additional memory came out last night in our fellowship with Rick. While he was away this week Tom Hanley taught his prison Bible study yesterday. Tom came into our church, recently saved out of a very rough life. He had been a bar bouncer in the tough section of Boston among other illustrious experiences in life. We called him last night and I was heartened to hear that he prays for us daily! I told him, "Tom, I recall you telling me you had been stabbed in the chest." He told me, "Preacher, I've been stabbed all over." Isn't redemption wonderful!
Expository Footnote: I enjoy studying God's Word as I prepare these messages. Luke wrote the book of Acts and as a close associate of Paul's may have been inclined to omit this dispute from the record since it may tend to cast Paul in a bad light. But inspired by the Holy Spirit this dispute is indeed a part of the Scriptural record. In Paul's final epistle (2 Timothy) he writes "Only Luke is with me" and then makes an appeal for Mark to come, acknowledging, "for he is useful to me for ministry." So Luke, who recorded the dispute concerning Mark's fitness for ministry, was with Paul many years later when he specifically acknowledges that Mark was helpful to him in his ministry. I also consider how Mark had to overcome a potentially bad attitude toward Paul as he had once faced rejection from him!
New York City bike trip (3rd set of photos)
On Monday Brooksyne and I joined our friends, Lee and Pam Smucker, for a day trip to New York City where we rode our bikes through lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Here is a Google map with some of the spots we went to. Below is our final set of photos. Lee is quite a navigator and knew where to park free, which as many know is very expensive in NYC. He also knew how to get around the city, something we would have found quite daunting. We arrived in the city around 9am and had breakfast together at the Cornerstone Cafe before embarking on our 16 mile bike ride. Today's photos are all from the Brooklyn side except the final one which is a delicatessen in lower Manhattan where we had dinner together before leaving the city.
A view of the Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan. Easier to view it in the photo than when we're forcefully pedaling the long incline up the bridge anxious to finally reach the crest for relief.
Underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. We made it!!
The Carousel at the Brooklyn Promenade.
Brooksyne and Pam with the Manhattan Bridge in the background.
Notice the brick street.
We rode through an Orthodox Jewish area with Hasidim Jews in the Williamsburg neighborhood. There was bus after bus moving about shuffling the people around. They have a distinct dress much like the Amish in our area!
After a long day of riding our bikes as well as quite a bit of walking where "Dismount Bike" signs were posted we had dinner at the Katz's Delicatessen near our parked vehicle. Brooksyne and I split a huge Reuben sandwich made with Pastrami. It was delicious!
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
"The Bond Of Love " Video Studio Musicians
Stephen and Brooksyne Weber (Click on photo to enlarge)
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