Tuesday, January 22, 2013

GUATEMALA 2013: (3) Pure Religion

“But God doesn't call us to be comfortable

He calls us to trust Him so completely 
that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations 

where we will be in trouble 
if He doesn't come through.” 

~Francis Chan, Crazy Love

A feared and powerful man once walked down a long road between to ancient cities on a mission. It was a 6 day journey that spanned over 130 miles of unshaded heat and dry dusty roads. He was known to be the best at what he did, and this thing he did was the pursuit, torture, and destruction of those who claimed to follow The Way.

His sandals stepped closer and closer to the city of Damascus where he intended to further solidify his claim. He was sure he would find more of these radicals, and his mission was to scrape the surface of the earth clean of them and their teachings of their messiah, this so called savior.

Saul wasn't looking for Jesus on that day... and yet, Jesus was looking for him.

As a young man studying with the religious power-brokers of the day, the Sanhedrin, he was witnessed to be at the stoning of Stephen, the first recorded christian martyr. While he watched the life being beaten out of this man, without a doubt the scene was etched into his memory as Stephen died crying out that he could see Jesus, and as the stones fell on him he could be heard saying, "forgive them."

Now, the grown man Saul was the most aggressive persecutor of these that followed the way of Jesus... traveling with his men, sure of his position in society, highly educated, and with impeccable heritage. In short, he was untouchable. 

And he wasn't looking for Jesus on that day... 

...suddenly persistent and blinding light strikes him with such force that he collapses to the ground in fear for his life. He shuts his eyes so tight that it hurts, and tears flow from them as this impossible light permeates his eyelids and sears his eyes--blinding him.

A voice that seems to come from everywhere and somehow no-where shakes him to his very bones as it thunders, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 

With his body still pressed flat in the dust he cries out, “who are you?” 

The entire earth seems to shake with the immediate answer, “I am Jesus, who you are persecuting.”

How do you react when you are confronted with the presence of God? This day changed Saul's life forever. His encounter with the one he was persecuting...this realization that the story of Jesus was more than a band of lunatics, this confrontation with true belief changed his life immediately and forever.

Through obedience Saul found his way as directed by Jesus into the city and his sight was restored. His willingness to follow the voice of God, even through the dark of sightlessness led him to receiving the promises of the one he sought to destroy.

Can you imagine? This man who martyred the first christian was chosen by God to become His first missionary. This one who was crushing the message of The Way, leaving a trail of blood and bodies in his path... went on to become the most influential bearer of the gospel of all time. 

Surely God then... can also use you.

His name became new as he took on a new mission... from destroyer to a life of belief fueled by his experience. And this belief carried him through tragedy. The persecutor became the afflicted: beaten, abandoned, stoned, shipwrecked, mocked by his friends, outcast from society, and even rejected by other followers of The Way. He found himself imprisoned and even put to death. 

During these times of imprisonment, he wrote to the early church and told them of his joy and he spoke of a peace that comes from God that defies understanding. 

He showed us all that the promises of God are fulfilled when we are obedient to his voice.

Peace and Joy are not based on context, but on content. Not on where we're at, or what has happened to us... NO, they are rather a reflection of the condition of our hearts! Have we had an encounter with the God of the universe?

If we have heard his voice... and we are obedient to his direction... then our lives are changed.

Through obedience we can find the promises of God: peace, joy, true contentment that lives above circumstance. How can we live lives of inaction if we have encountered a God Experience? How does this not change our lives? Do those around us see the influence of our belief? 

Do we carry the peace, joy, and love of The Way... or are we still face-down in the dirt?

If you question whether or not God still speaks... I am here to tell you that indeed He does. 

He comes to us when we least expect it... and most importantly, 
He speaks when He choses. I assure you that His timing is 
when we need it most.

And... God doesn't call us to be comfortable.

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 

for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets 
what kind of man he was. 
James 1

(Excerpts from the intro of my message at Poasttown on Jan. 20, 2013)
Poasttown First Church of God
6376 Germantown Rd.MiddletownOH45042

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