Thursday, March 1, 2012

I've started this new blog as part of my Religion class--FDREL 212 at BYU-I. We're studying the New Testament, Acts through Revelations. It's only the first week, and I am already have such a wonderful experience. I'm sure I studied this part of the New Testament in Seminary--30+ years ago, but I seem to have missed a few points!

This initial post has to do with Paul and Barnabas--Acts 14:9, 13, and 14.

Paul's first mission began in Seleucia, north of Jerusalem. From there he sailed to Island of Cyprus and taught in the cities of Salamis and Paphos. From there he sailed to Perga and continued on, teaching in Antioch, Iconium, Derbe, and Lystra. Throughout this missionary journey he met often with other missionaries, in what would appear to be "zone conferences". They fasted together, prayed together and received priesthood blessings. It was in Antioch that Paul met was joined by Barnabas, a Levite, of Cyprus. Barnabas, as a result of the spiritual outpouring during the day of Pentacost, sold his possessions and freely gave the proceeds to help the apostles. Barnabas and Paul set out as missionary companions.

There is much wisdom in sending missionaries two by two. I put the comment to my daughters while I was researching this section of the assignment--one has served a mission, one strongly considered it but in the end did not. They suggested the blessings of safety in numbers, two or more witnesses teaching together, helping one another when one or the other might get discouraged, someone with whom to study. Alma and Amulek come to mind as outstanding, supportive missionary companions. Each takes a turn to teach and testify.

Acts 14:8-18

In Lystra Paul and Barnabas miraculously healed a man who'd had crippled feet from the time he was born. V10--"..Stand upright on the feet. And he leaped and walked"

The people of Lystra began to worship Paul and Barnabas, giving them the names of Jupiter and Mercurius--which are Greek gods. They brought oxen and garlands to sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas. Paul and Barnabas rent their clothes and ran through the people asking why the people would worship them -- men 'of passions with you". Paul and Barnabas were trying to teach the people to not worship these false gods and here they were, being worshipped as false gods. They taught of Christ and but were not able to restrain them. This must have been very frustrating for Paul and Barnabas, having healed a man through the power of Christ and then to have the people give credit to false gods, and to even worship the two of them as false gods.

Evidently the some Jews came into town from Antioch and Iconium who got all enthused stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. The disciples found him outside the city and once he was revived, he and Barnabas headed for Derbe, where they successfully taught many people.

These two situations are examples of very contrasting frustrations for missionaries. In the first, they performed a wonderful miracle--healing a man who had been born a cripple. Those who witnessed the miracle promptly gave credit to Jupiter and Mercurius--Greek gods. They Lystra-ites (?) were totally blinded to the real source of the power to heal.

In the second situation, the frustration came because of physical persecution. Wouldn't you be frustrated, and perhaps want to go home, if you had been stoned to the point that your persecutors assumed you were dead and dragged you outside the city and left you? But Paul, being, Paul, as soon as he was revived, proceeded to gather himself and his companion, and travel to his next "transfer" area, where he taught, seemingly successfully. Upon his return to those same cities where he had been so violently persecuted, he taught that we must all expect to pass through, and endure well, tribulation in order to attain the kingdom of God.

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