Monday, September 15, 2014


Jesus spoke the truth ~ He repeats what He wants us to hear ~ In the book of John, Jesus repeated "I tell you the truth" many times but the proud could not hear Him. "You have never heard His voice nor seen His form, nor does His word dwell in you, for you do not believe the One He sent. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life. I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts....IF you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me....How can you believe if you accept PRAISE from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?" John 5:37-44 ~ The reluctance of the priests to believe in the Son of God ~ revealed the sin of pride that prevented their hardened hearts from accepting the truth. Unlike the Twelve Apostles, there is no indication that Saul or Paul ever met Jesus before our Lord was crucified. According to the inspired word of God, in the book of Acts, Saul converted to Paul when he was given a vision of the resurrected Jesus. His blindness to the truth, his stone heart towards Jesus, his conversion from Saul ~ the well respected Jewish Rabbi ~ to Paul the founder of the Christian church is a TESTIMONY of involuntary transformation! God calls us, and God equips us to do His bidding. Paul was chosen by God, just as we are chosen by God. Even the reluctant and unwilling can and will be used by God! While traveling the road to Damascus Saul was temporarily blinded. Saul / Paul asserts that he received the Gospel not from man, but by "the revelation of Jesus Christ". God stopped Saul in his tracks and revealed that Who He was. Jesus asked him "why do you persecute me?" Has Jesus stopped you in your tracks to ask why you have not listened for His voice? Have you failed to RECOGNIZE His intervention through words of those saints He sent? Saul had a plan, but God's plan was imposed upon Saul with a revelation of the truth. What truth did the Holy Spirit reveal through the scripture "Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there." Have you uttered threats under your breath, eager to silence the advice of a saint sent by God to warn you? Do you seek the scriptures or for the advice of those who consistently agree with your plan or choices? God's selection of Paul to serve Him gives all us with stubborn hearts a bit of HOPE! Fourteen books in the New Testament are attributed to Paul, though in some cases the authorship is disputed. Paul had often employed a scribe, only occasionally writing himself. The letters that were circulated within the Christian community was God's way of using those He chose, those He assigned with the gift of writing to be the scribes that wrote Paul's new zeal for God's way. Paul's influence on Christian thinking arguably has been more significant than any other New Testament author. God blesses us through the people He sends into our lives. Jesus perfects our faith in Him as we recognize His will in those He sends to speak the truth to us. As the Author of our soul, Jesus gives us insight into His ways, and He is Who gives true vision to those blinded by their passion and ways. (Gal 1:17). His preaching in the local synagogues got Paul into trouble, and he was forced to escape from Damascus, being let down over the wall in a basket (Acts 9:23). God is faithful to His word and as Paul was persecuted, he was blessed and protected as God's instrument of change. Three years after his conversion, Paul went to Jerusalem, where he met James, and stayed with Simon Peter for 15 days (Gal 1:13–24). Paul attempted to join the disciples and was accepted only after the intercessory prayer of Barnabas — the apostles were understandably afraid of Saul. Who has God sent as intercessory prayer warriors? Acts reports, that the followers of Jesus were first called "Christians" in the town of Antioch. This is a photo of the HOUSE OF ANANIAS where Paul preached. Paul’s first missionary journey begins in Acts 13 in Antioch. During this period the Christian church (community of believers in Jesus Christ) grew in prominence. The father's of our faith preached the gospel in homes, around the table. Do we need a church building fund, or do we need more lay people equipped by the Holy Spirit to speak the living Word of God with power in homes, in schools, in public places? IN ACTS 13:1 The Holy Spirit, spoke through one of the prophets ~ it identifies Barnabas and Saul, both appointed “for the work which I have called them to.” The group (the church) released the pair to spread the Gospel into the predominantly Gentile mission field. The significance of the Holy Spirit selecting Paul is in God's word “not through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father.” Barnabas grew up in Cyprus and along their journey from home to home, in the city of Paphos they met the false prophet Bar-Jesus, described by Luke as “full of deceit and all fraud”. The two rebuke the magician, causing him to go blind and, upon seeing this Saul is astonished at the teaching of the Lord. Once having left Cyprus, Saul exchanges his Hebrew name for the more appropriate Roman name of Paul for ministering to the Gentiles. It is also here that their helper John Mark departs from them - an act which later becomes a source of much tension between Paul and Barnabas and ultimately leading to their split in Acts 15:36-41. The two then set about strategically preaching to major cities as they make their way across Asia Minor. With no formal place to preach in they come across a man who has been crippled from birth. Seeing that the man has faith enough to be healed at Paul's instruction, he gets up and walks. Paul is hunted by disgruntled Jews from Antioch and he is stoned to the point where all thought Paul was dead. God's will and in His power, Paul amazes all and gets to his feet and flees to Derbe and preaches there. He then opts to return to the cities he visited to encourage disciples, establish churches and appoint elders. This emphasis on the role of the whole church is strengthened once at home in Antioch where he finally gathers together the unified church to report to them on all his experiences. Here he summarises the aim of his journey well, to “give God the honor and the glory” (Acts 15:4) Saul’s Conversion to Paul: "He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains. As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! 6Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! Saul picked himself . up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. (the above painted in 1600's by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio of Saul's conversion) He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink. Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord!” he replied. The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.” “But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.” But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength. Paul's life as a Jewish Rabbi was easy compared to his converted Christian life. Our New Year's Resolutions and our best intentions cannot change us. Only the Holy Spirit in us can make us more like Christ. TRUTH IS: God did NOT create heaven on earth. God gives us time on earth to build and strengthen our character for time with Him in heaven. It is the Holy Spirit's job to produce Christ like character in us, just as He did in the reluctance of Saul, and in the revival and transformation of Paul. Lord Jesus I ask that the Holy Spirit remove the scales from my eyes that I may see clearly as the Holy Spirit transforms me. AMEN

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