Friday, May 1, 2015

Road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19, John 3:7-8)

"I hope these are really oxen : )"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.
Ok I have a confession.  I have always lived in cities, except Utah and I don't remember seeing any oxen there.  So I'm not sure but I hope these are oxen.  If not we can all imagine hahaha.

Sometimes we think we have it all figured out.  The real problem in the world is because other people are different.  They just don't understand or, "get it."  Saul was one of these people.  If he had all the believers taken to Jerusalem where they could be destroyed his life would be so much easier, better.  But that's not exactly what God had in mind...  It's not what God has in mind for us today. 

1 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”
Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
Basically Jesus is telling Saul, "I am Lord, you can't run away." 
It's a lesson for us too.  Sometimes life takes turns and events take place that make us wonder if the planet is falling apart.  Maybe these are times when Jesus is guiding us to new thoughts and ideas.  He can use anything to help us succeed in His kingdom.

Jesus is describing how a man goads an oxe to go in the right direction to plow fields.  A good farmer would use the stick to gently move the oxen along.  So, here's Jesus speaking in the wind to Saul.  We've seen lots of people like Saul who have a plan in mind and everyone WILL agree and go along or take the consequences.  I found a link that describes more about, "kicking against the goads (link)."

I love how Jesus just shows up and speaks to Saul.  A light shone around him and he fell to the ground.  He asks who He is.  He must've known it wasn't just a man.  So Jesus tells Saul He's the one he's been persecuting.  That would be frightening for sure!  It reminded me of the verse below. 
7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.
(John 3:7-8 NKJV)

If I was in Saul's shoes I'd be looking for a way of escape!  But Saul realizes he's been killing people that were innocent.  And that would be scarey.  I've always believed Saul was a man who thought he was doing something just and true.  But he had nowhere to turn except to the Lord with the real truth.  I felt that way too when I came to Jesus.  Everything was so messed up at home I finally gave up and accepted Jesus as my Savior.
6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?
Then the Lord said to him, “ Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. 8 Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.”
And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”
11 So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. 12 And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.
Now comes the "yeah buts"...  I'd be pretty scared about this assignment.  But honestly when the Lord has a tough job for me He usually provides this amazing joy and peace.

13 Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”
15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake.”
And he did!  Most of the letters in the Bible, "Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Romans, Thessalonians, Corinthians and Colossians," were written by the new, "Saul," who became the Apostle, "Paul."  Jesus changed him in wonderful ways.  Paul had the knowledge and self-discipline of a Roman military leader and the formal education from the top Bible teacher of the time, "Gamaliel." 

To Ananias' credit and faith, he obeyed Jesus and treated Saul as a brother.  He may have had some jitters and wobbly knees in the process : )  But it went extremely well.  It usually does when it comes from the Lord.

17 And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.
When you read Paul's letters he writes of his vision problems.  This made him rely on Timothy and others to write for him.  I have wondered if Jesus allowed him to keep some of the problems with his eyes so he would remember.  We all have weaknesses and thorns in our sides.  I would've loved to hear the discussion with Paul and the disciples.  I imagine lots of hand gestures, laughter, and serious discussions.

19 So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.
(Acts 9:1-19 NKJV)

Dear Heavenly Father,
I thank and praise You for the changes taking place in Baltimore. I pray for parents, teachers and the Police to join together to make inner cities safer for kids to grow up in.
  Bless the fathers with jobs so they can stay home and raise their kids with their wives.  Let Your Church arise in Your name to bring healing and hope to these people.  I've been so busy praying Father, I forgot about Nepal. Let Your loving hand and the angels comfort those who are mourning.  This is such a poor nation to begin with I can't imagine the pain and depression. I continue to lift up the middle-east:  Saudi Arabia, Europe, Ukraine, Russia, Israel. Bless France, Egypt and all those in harms way.  You know all and see all.  I pray the good will prevail.  Please bless our nation with wisdom as we elect the next President.  I pray You will revive our Churches and encourage our people
to work together and look out for each other's needs.

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
10 Set the world right;
Do what's best––
  as above, so below.
11 Keep us alive with three square meals.
12 Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
13 Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You're in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You're ablaze in beauty!
  Yes. Yes. Yes.
(Matthew 6:9-13 Message)

In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen   

Here's a song from Matthew West, "Day One" (link)

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