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I know it’s obvious, but I believe there is a fundamental difference between dogs and cats.
They are both pets, they can be adoringly cute (and they can be really annoying), but there is one thing that separates them, apart from anatomy and apart from the fact that one goes ‘meow’ while the other goes ‘woof’?
It is all to do with shows of affection.
Take my two cats for example. Reho (the white one) and Toosy (the black evil one, should have called him ‘Vader’) will occasionally act as if they like me. Reho will donate large wads of fur as he rubs himself against my leg, purring away as if to say, ‘I love you; you are so wonderful…’ etc. Toosy will give a little chirp of delight when I enter the room as if to call out, ‘It is SO good to see you, please stay awhile’.
I don’t believe a word of it!
They want me for what they can get out of me – food, an extra bit of attention, you name it.
On the other hand, dog owners will tell me how excited their canine friends are when they get home, barking and licking with excitement. They are not after any treats, they just love being with their master.
Too simplistic? Your pet may or may not fit that mould, but I was thinking about this as I read Acts 13: 2 recently. The church in Antioch were worshipping, fasting and praying and the Holy Spirit spoke (presumably through one of the prophets mentioned in verse 1) these words, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. Set apart. There is a conscious decision here, not least in the hearts of Barnabas and Saul, to something deeper than just attending a prayer meeting. Something deeper than just doing church.
If I am honest, there are times when I treat God in the same way that I believe my cats are treating me. I am at home in God’s house like Toosy and Reho are in mine. I belong to God like my cats belong to me, but I sometimes worship and pray to God because I want something from him. It might be peace, wisdom, guidance, a miracle, and God graciously keeps his Word and gives me those things, but how often do I just come to him to enjoy a moment with him? To say thank you. To say, ‘I love you’ and mean it.
There are some lovely descriptions of Barnabas in earlier chapters of Acts. He was a ‘good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith’ (Acts 11: 24) and he saw the grace of God in others (v 23). You get the impression that he was a ‘man after God’s own heart’ like David was centuries before him.
I imagine Barnabas to be already ‘set apart’ for God even before that important prayer meeting in Acts 13 – set apart in his heart. He didn’t just go to church because that’s what he did (or because he had to – he was the pastor!), I bet he didn’t just present a list of requests every time he prayed. You get the impression that Barnabas simply loved God – no strings attached!
Are you set apart for God? I think the world is in desperate need for more people like Barnabas.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Terry Nightingale is a pastor serving in the southern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia, having previously worked in Christian education both in the UK and Perth. He graduated from Vose Seminary with a Masters in Divinity in 2016. He loves sharing the Gospel and teaching the Word of God.
Terry and Sue arrived in Australia in 2003 from the UK for a 1-year adventure. They never returned! The beaches, the sun and God’s call upon their lives persuaded them to settle in the land ‘down-under’. Today they have two grown-up children both married, with four grandchildren and counting.
Terry writes a popular weekly blog at terrynightingale.com called ‘4-minute Devotions’, short Bible -centred messages for the busy Christian on the go. He also writes Christian worship music and plays the guitar.
Looking Back To Move Forward is his first non-fiction book for Christian leaders – in fact for anyone who occasionally faces discouragement or setbacks. His second book, based on his blog, is entitled Bite-Size Devotions For The Busy Christian.