What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Anyone and Everyone Might Be Saved: Acts 9:13-15

Last week we were introduced to Ananias, the God-fearing and Scripture-believing man in Damascus. He had many positive characteristics, but he also exhibited fear of going to Saul. He knew Saul was a man that had come to Damascus to persecute and arrest believers. He may have viewed Saul as being so far off from Christ that nothing could change him. He may have felt he was putting is life in danger by going to Saul.
He actually questioned God as he saw Him in a vision. “But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon Thy name.” One commentator said that essentially Ananias was saying, “Lord, not him; that’s impossible. He could never become a Christian.” [Clarke] Yet, God told Ananias to go anyway because He had big plans for Saul, plans that could not be carried out if no one was willing to share the truth about Jesus with Saul.
Before I was a Christian, some may have looked at my lifestyle and listened to my words, and said, “She’ll never become a Christian.” In fact, I was viewed as being a long way off when it came to being open to the Christian message. However, several women persevered in befriending me and eventually one of them did share the gospel message (salvation through Jesus Christ) with me. And I believed. Those women may have thought that their efforts might be in vain, however, God had a plan. Those women were obedient to God and shared with me in spite of my apparent reluctance and antagonism toward spiritual things. Just like Ananias, they did what seemed impractical and a lost cause, and God worked, having prepared me for His Word and hope.
So, I’m challenged today to never say a person is beyond hope. Everyone and anyone is within God’s reach and might be saved. My job is not to judge or decide the path of others. My job is to share as I have opportunity and let God work. No one is beyond God’s reach, not even the persecutor of Christians, then or now.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Being Available to God: Acts 9:10

So we already know that Saul/Paul was a zealot in regards to the Torah (Old Testament). However, he was caught up in believing the various commentaries by Rabbis of the past. He knew the Scriptures, but he couldn’t see how they related to Jesus the Messiah. He thought that the very idea that Jesus could be the Messiah was going against the Scriptures.
Then Saul met Jesus while he was on his way to arrest Christians in Damascus. This encounter profoundly affected Saul’s ideas about what was right and wrong about Jesus and the Scriptures. He was blinded and heard Jesus’ voice telling him what to do. After three days had passed, with Saul still blind, God sent a man to Saul to further explain the way of the gospel of Christ.
This man was Ananias. Ananias was described in Acts 22;12 as “a man who was devout by the standard of the Law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there [Damascus].” Ananias was also a devout zealot of the Torah. Ananias was a man to whom Saul could relate. Ananias had the “credentials” required for ministering to Saul in a way that Saul would appreciate and be willing to listen.
I don’t think every believer needs to have “credentials” i.e. college education, years of Bible education, to witness to another person, even one “above” them in stature, but I do think we need to be sensitive to the preparedness of their hearts and minds. Saul was prepared to listen to Ananias because he had been praying and hoping for some instruction. God provided a learned man to give Saul the instruction he needed to become a full-fledged follower of Jesus Christ.
There are a couple of lessons for me in this passage. First, would I be identified as someone who is “devout by the standard of the Law? And would I be characterized as being well spoken of by those to whom I was trying to witness? Second, am I prepared and listening to God to be of service to Him, and open to sharing the gospel message with whomever God places in my life? It doesn’t matter what my schooling, or my status in life: am I willing to share Christ as I go about my daily life? All these questions need some pondering and praying about. And I need to open my heart and spirit up to God’s directions in my life and be willing to serve Him however He directs.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Being Scriptural Fact-Checkers

Now we enter into a new era in the New Testament story. Acts 9 gives us the testimony of Paul’s becoming a believer in Jesus Christ. I’ve only studied the first 9 verses so far. There were a lot of interesting things in the Scriptures, and I found out that there are some things I believed about Paul’s story that are not accounted for in Scripture.
So, mostly this section of Acts was a fact finding and fact checking experience for me. In this season of elections and debates, we are hearing a lot about fact-checking. People are digging into newspapers, previous video, social media, magazine articles, tax returns, and going to sources directly to verify what statements are true and which are false.
Where as I’m getting tired of it all in regards to the elections, I challenged to never get tired of doing it when it comes to the Scriptures. I need to be as zealous as the election fact-checkers are when it comes to knowing the truth about Jesus and His message. To do this I need to be willing, even eager, to read and study the Scriptures, to look at cross-references, to clarify and verify the things I’ve come to believe. I also have to be open to acknowledging when I’m holding onto incorrect knowledge or beliefs. I need to be willing to change those beliefs to line up with the truths found in Scripture.
I was challenged this week to be more diligent in being a Scriptural Fact-Checker. I need to be careful to know Scripture and share truth from the Scriptures, not just spouting things I believe to be true but don’t know where I learned those things. As I continue to study Acts (and any other book of the Bible after this), I will be eager to observe the truths and check them against my long-held beliefs. I think that’s something every Christian should be doing. I don’t think we do it enough.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Meet People Where They Are

Continuing my study in Acts 8 I was reminded of a principle that was taught to me early in my Christian life. We need to develop relationships with people in order to know where they are in their spiritual quest. Some may appear to be ignoring the spiritual part of their being, but even that tells us something about where they are at.
In Acts 8, Philip (the evangelist) is sent to a desert road where he meets up with an Ethiopian eunuch (a leader in his society). The Ethiopian was reading from the Scriptures in the passage we now label as Isaiah 53. This passage talks about a suffering servant whose life was removed from the earth. Philip asked the Ethiopian if he understood the passage he was reading and the eunuch said how could he if there was no one to guide him.
Acts 8:34-35 tells us how Philip responded to the Ethiopian. “And the eunuch answered Philip and said, ‘Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself, or of someone else?’ And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.” Philip started with the questions the Ethiopian had. This is Philip meeting the person with where they are in their understanding of Scripture and God.
That’s what the women who shared with me in college about the good news of Christ started with. They had spent some time getting to know me, and figuring out where I was spiritually. I didn’t give them much to go with, but eventually, one of the women were able to speak to me in private and discovered all my doubts about the ability to be clean before God. She started from there and shared the gospel message from the Word of God, showing me from the Word, that Jesus was the only way to measure up to God’s expectations for us. Due to her meeting me where I was, she was able to present the gospel in a way that made sense to me . . . and I responded to the Word and came to believe.
I need to be that kind of person also . . . one who gets to know people, build relationships with them and, because of the knowledge of them and the leading of the Holy Spirit, share with them about Christ in a way that meets their needs. I also need to start and end with Scripture because God’s Word has all the answers to life’s questions. I, too, like Philip, need to meet people where they are.