Sunday, February 24, 2013

Breathing Threats

"Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord
went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, 
so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, 
he might bring them bound to Jerusalem." 
Acts 9:1-2.

Simply put, Saul was not a nice man. He was one of those men that made the hair stand up on the back of your neck, bringing the I-have-a-rock-in-my-stomach feeling wherever he went. He even speaks poorly of himself, saying that he "persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons. (Acts 22:4). 

He first comes into the scene in Acts 7:58, where he watched the stoning of Stephen. So filled with vigor and zeal after seeing this, he began "ravaging the church, entering house after house; and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. (8:3)"

This guy was nasty! He deserved a time-out of heavenly proportion, which is exactly what he was given. God looked at this man, and decided He would use him. He tells of his "time-out" in Acts 22... But the drastic change can be seen in verse 9, with the first account of what happens.

In 9:1, he is breathing threats against those who follow Jesus Christ.

In 9:18, "immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he arose and was baptized..."

(In 9:19, he eats. Being baptized was so important to him, that he was baptized before he ate. Which, if I've learned one thing about guys, means this was huge to him. It ranked above food... And he hadn't eaten in three days!)

In 9:28, after a heavenly blinding, he is "moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord."

27 verses. That's all it takes. In my Bible, I don't even have to turn the page to see this change, and both verses have been highlighted vigorously so that it stands out. God wanted Saul on His side. He told as much to Ananias, the one who prayed over Saul so that he would receive his sight again... "He is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles (9:15)."

When God decides, nothing can stand in His way. Who are we to say who will, and will not, carry His name? Who are we to decide if someone is worthy of His calling? If someone deserves to show His Love to others?

Who are we, to think that we can change the hearts of men, with law?

We think we can. We think giving rules, mandates, stipulations, and requirements will force people to follow us in our blindness. We think that saying "no smoking, don't get drunk, pray before you eat, always shake hands, don't sleep around, read your Bible three times a day, brush your teeth after every meal, attend church three times a week, serve on a ministry team, and do not get a tattoo" will somehow show someone that Christ is worth following.

"Let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses. (13:38-39)"

No matter how many rules and regulations we apply.. We cannot change the heart of man with laws. Ananias had the opportunity to show Love to someone who was viewed as a wicked, ruthless man.  He didn't want to, and he struggled with going to Saul in the beginning. But he trusted the Lord, and referred to Saul as his brother (9:17) from the beginning. 

We are here to Love, realizing that only God in Heaven can change the heart of a man. 

Saul became Paul and eventually made it back to Rome, "preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered. (Acts 28:31). Our Lord does not allow our attitudes to stand in the way of His plan, and we are foolish to believe that anyone other than He changes their hearts to make them His Servants.

Saul became Paul, and traveled the world risking his life many times, Because God wanted him too. 

If God wants you to do something for His glory, He will orchestrate your life so that it happens.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What is Forgiveness?

And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, 
put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 
bearing with one another and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone;
just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 
Colossians 3:12-13.

Forgiveness is a choice. Not a feeling. 

Forgiveness is an act of the will.

Forgiveness is not saying that ______ didn't matter, or that I probably deserved _______.

Forgiveness is saying that _______ was wrong. Very wrong. It did matter, and it hurt me deeply. And now, I choose to release you and give you to God. 

The feeling to forgive someone may not come for a very long time, because our hearts are fragile and vulnerable. We don't easily forget when someone wounds our hearts. Thankfully, forgiveness does not ask us to forget, but to choose to take the offender and place them and all the pain they have caused, at the feet of Jesus. To let Him work in their lives, and have the freedom to work in my life, as well. 

When we hold on to the wrongdoings, we become so entangled in them that God has no ability to work in our hearts. We are so distressed, so frustrated, so wanting justice, that we miss what He may be trying to teach us.

Forgiveness means choosing God over bitterness.

It means choosing Love over lies.

It means choosing Healing over hurt.

It means choosing Kindness over cruelty.

It means choosing Christ.

It is not impossible, but it calls for a daily surrender to Him. A willingness to let go, and let God. A wanting for God's place in my life to rank higher than the hurt, anger, and fear that may be present.

Even if we never hear someone say "I'm sorry. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?" we still must be willing to forgive, trusting that God will bring them to a place of true repentance.. Because only He can change hearts. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Poison & Salve

Black, cold, and hard, the heart hides under the covering. Lifeless. Loveless. Beating only to please itself, producing many poisons...

Pride. Lust. Sarcasm. Disparity. Anger. Deceit. Haughtiness. Jealousy.

The poison is pumped through the body, overtaking it with a power than seems impossible to fight. It encases the heart and mind with a thick black crust. Saturating the mind until it believes it belongs. Life is simply an endeavor to please the poison. To fill the desires the poison brings.

It does not belong.

We do not have to live with hearts of stone.

The Light comes and breaks through the smallest crack in the poison. The tiny ray pushes it's way through the crust, bringing a sudden burst of life to the heart.

Somewhere deep within, it begins to beat.

Slowly at first, for it is still encased in the crust of the poison, which is desperately trying to close the crack created by the Light.

But the Light cannot be stopped.

The center of the heart grows warm as the Light continues to push through the crust. It beats stronger and faster, breaking the crust open wider and allowing more Light in.

The heart thirsts for the Light. It soaks it up, and soon the heart is glowing pink. Fleshy. Warm.

The burning lines of poison are being overtaken with the salve of the Light.

Hope. Kindness. Love. Gratitude. Humility. Thankfulness. Grace. Mercy.

They course through the veins, saturating the weary mind with a new life. Soon, the whole body glows, as the salves heal the burning, charred areas where the poison once was.

The salve of the Light has healed the heart, but the battle is not over. The poison will always try to come back for what it once held so tightly as long as there is any life in the heart. The Light will always reveal the poison and smother it with salve, letting the salve overtake the body.

The beauty comes when the salve covers the body completely. The salve begins to glow, reflecting the Light onto the other bodies it encounters.

The Light is now able to penetrate the poisonous crust in their hearts.. The tiny ray pushes it's way through the crust, bringing a sudden burst of life to the heart.


"Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." Ezekiel 36:26