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            Our study for All Comers class this fall will be in the book, The Barnabas Factor, by Aubrey Johnson. This is a book I used in my Wednesday night class in 2019. For that reason some of you will have the book. Others will not have it. Either way, enough time has elapsed that you have likely forgotten it anyway!
            When I taught this book in my Wednesday night Bible class I developed my own class notes on each chapter. Rather than using the book itself I will follow my class notes. Each participant will receive a notebook with these notes in outline form. We will put the “meat on the bones” (so to speak) as we go through this material. I am trying to work open ended questions into these studies in order to provoke discussion as we work through the lessons. I will ask class members, “What do you think?” There were times when Jesus asked people, “What do you think?” (Matt. 17:25; 18:12; 21:28). It is only proper to get people to think! These notes will give us the gist of the book, which, for this study, I am calling, The Best of “The Barnabas Factor.”
            I want this study to be a good dose of encouragement for us. I hope that we will not only enjoy the study, but benefit from it. I hope that this study will help us to walk closer with God, to be more like Jesus and reflect more of the Word of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I hope it will remind us how small acts of encouragement will make a lasting impression in people’s lives. In every pew there is a broken heart. Every congregation has its share of people who are a shadow of themselves because of the loss of a mate, parent or child. Every congregation has emotionally troubled people who just need a listening ear. In every congregation are people who are suffering family problems and chronic pain. In view of these realities, if one does not think this study to be vital I would question if they have any of the heart of Jesus at all.
           Regardless of your age, or how long you have been a Christian, there are times when you need encouragement. In the days when Ezekiel predicted the approaching Assyrian captivity of Israel, the prophet wrote, “And when they say to you, ‘Why do you groan?’ you shall say, ‘Because of the news that it is coming. Every heart will melt, and all hands will be feeble; every spirit will faint, and all knees will be weak as water. Behold, it is coming, and it will be fulfilled,’ declares the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 21:7, ESV). And in the words of the Hebrews writer, “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees” (Hebrews 12:12, ESV). Sometimes our spirits groan, our hands are feeble and our knees weak! We need God, and the people of God, to lift us up; to breathe life back into our spirits, lift up our feeble hands and strengthen our weak knees!
            A study of encouragement is always timely and needed. It is the fuel that keeps us going. A study of encouragement is based on reality and anchored in God’s truth. It will not be about just saying nice things to people. It will not be a Pollyanna approach to life. It will not be accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative. Encouragement is not all pleasantries, sweetness and smiles. Encouragement is not about optimism vs pessimism. It is about grace and truth. It will be about exploring the details and intricacies that made Barnabas a “son of encouragement.” How might we take those same qualities into our own lives? How much can we overcome in life with the help and encouragement of God’s people? That’s the question that should drive us!
            Before we can follow in the steps of Jesus (1 Pet. 2:21) we need to pattern our hearts after his heart. That means learning to look at life the way he looked at life. When we learn to look at life the way he did, what do we see?

            A purpose like his – to do the will of God the Father.

            A view of life – not to be served, but to serve.

            Those who through ignorance do wrong to us – Father forgive them.

            Those who fail – give them a second chance, and another, and another…

            Social outcasts – eat with me. I’ll be your friend.

            All Comers class will resume on September 12th. We meet on Tuesday mornings from 10:00 until 11:00 in the Adult 2 classroom, across from the children’s library. If you have never participated in All Comers class please consider it. Add it to your schedule. I think you will be glad you did. This class has a very comfortable atmosphere and usually generates more discussion than most classes. I have elected to teach this fall session myself. There will be times, however, when I will need to be away and will call on my co-workers Daniel Webster and Wayne Brewer to stand in for me. I hope you will join us beginning September 12th!