Acts 9:1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
Saul’s question, “Who are you, Lord,?” was the unexpected beginning of his identity with Christ. We see the reality of the man God created Paul to be unfold in a large part of the New Testament. Those words still inspire us today to discover the reality of our own identity with Christ.
You know Paul’s story. He walked down that Damascus road convinced he knew the unassailable truth about God. Paul saw himself as obedient, full of moral virtue and willing to brutally ensure the future of what he believed. God saw something more: a committed man who was not Godless, but not Godly either when He asked “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
Paul’s identity with Christ began when he replied “Who are you, Lord?” The answer would open his eyes and change his heart from the unassailable truth he knew ABOUT God to the unassailable truth OF God. The Bible is filled with stories of flawed, but not Godless, people we can easily identify with who were changed into Godly people with a new identity. Paul wrote about his own experience of God’s revealed truth. That truth still has the power to change the identity of those who dare to ask “Who are you, Lord?”
√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken
NIV Acts 2:2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit…
• from the prophet Joel Acts 2:17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people…21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
• from David the king 2:28 “You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”
• from Peter 2:32 “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.
A big part of renewal in a life of faith is having the courage to come to grips with the Holy Spirit. Identifying the Holy Spirit as wind is familiar but I’ve never noticed the word “violent” before [other versions use “mighty.”] The idea that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit might not be a gentle and virtually invisible interaction at all but the surgical removal of the sin within us that’s so violent it might even require fire to cauterize the wound. That’s just my theory. The truth is the moment the Holy Spirit enters into us the dramatic renewal and healing within us begins. ‘God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.”
The disciple Peter speaks in Acts 1:17 Judas was one of us and shared in the ministry with us…21 “So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus— 22 from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.”
I’m continuing my look at the first chapter of each Bible book from the perspective of my three New Years’s questions. In some respects Acts 1 is easy: Judas made the one of the most heart wrenching bad choices on record. Look at the credentials we can assume he had because he was a chosen disciple: he was one of the “men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus—from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us.” Whatever Judas was committed to in those years required real sacrifice and hardship and then everything was not only wasted but destroyed. How could that possibly be?
These men were face to face with God “in the flesh” and even that wasn’t enough to protect Judas from himself. Judas was a victim of his own spirit, his own mind and his own answers on the night he betrayed Jesus. Those are the most important facts of this pitiful story that remind us to be thankful. God has chosen to promise us protection and assurance of grace and forgiveness through the indwelling Spirit of his Son.
Judas’s story is ugly but there is beauty in this same scripture that changes the story. It’s the backstory of the “other” betrayer, Peter. Peter is the disciple who surrendered his own denials made that same night to the reality of Jesus and God’s promise of grace and forgiveness to become “a witness of Jesus’ resurrection” and it’s promise for us today.
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’…
Don’t be fooled into believing any details of the birth of Jesus were God’s last ditch effort to provide a place for him because there was no room in the inn. That stable and food trough became the sacred space, the temple, where the needs of the people and the holiness of God finally came together.
“God did this so that they [we] would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him…” This is the reality of temple building and Advent; it’s not a blueprint of a grand structure that will save us. It’s God’s intervention into our daily lives that fills a sacred space within us where our needs and his holiness can finally come together.
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own. I Cor 6:19
We’re on the last leg of our road trip and three long days of driving have left me unprepared for today’s post so I decided to go back to the very beginning of my digital journaling, October 10, 2012. This beginning was a challenge from the pastor to spend 40 days with God to see what he might do for each of us personally and for the church. It’s proved to be a lasting blessing.
5:32 am. Day 1 for the body & the BODY!
How odd it feels to get up and not flick on the tv to watch my recorded home improvement shows while I knit. This is a clue that I’ve chosen rightly I guess; 30 minutes to explore what God has in mind. High time.
“How great you are, Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.” 2 Samuel 7:22 Biblegateway VOD
My search begins: in Christ.
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
I love gifts, giving and getting. My heart is so full right now of creative giving as Christmas approaches. Dredging up the old illustrations of the Christmas Story for the card for the children at church; the wooden trees for the pastor’s girls and the Prayer Shawl ministry. You know how much these things mean to me. They’re really gifts from you that happen to pass through my hands. Thanks for that.
When I do those Spiritual gift tests I feel like I come up so short. I’m not a helper, I’m not an evangelist, I’m not a teacher but I have this one thing that you can use… creativity. It’s really my only voice and its taken so long for me to find a way to use it for you. The new thing is not the creativity itself but the people connection that has come with it [the prayer shawl ministry]. Having a way to take the words out of my heart and put them in someone else’s life is so perfect. It’s the exercise my Spiritual body has needed.
Acts 1:21 …Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us….
The pastor’s idea of considering a two-word based testimony, was such a simple one. But it gets my award for the best “2 or 3 minute” class on witnessing. That was information #1. Then in Sunday School we took it a step further with a moment of silent prayer to choose our two words. Then we had the chance to share them and to hear why they were chosen. This is a practical idea that can be used in at least two ways to develop your story…Before and After OR Cause and Effect. That was affirmation #2. And here I am this morning reading chapter 1 in Acts and there are the exact two words I chose; “IN and OUT” from v21. I call that confirmation #3 Pay Attention! So here’s my own two-word based testimony.
IN and OUT
There’s a way to protect yourself from the negative effects of life and disappointment. You just carefully build a nice little protective egg shell around yourself. If you do it well, you look just right to people around you and you can safely live IN that shell and ignore that all is not well. The only problem occurs when you realize you’re trapped IN it as well.
Thankfully Jesus can show you a way OUT. This is what He does best, moves IN and OUT among us. It’s just the same way that a baby bird begins the journey OUT of it’s shell. First there’s just a small hole IN that shell. After all you’re working IN a confined space and it’s a big shell. It doesn’t happen all at once. You work a bit, rest a bit and then repeat it all over again. The difference is now you’ve had a little glimpse of a new world – a world OUT of that shell – a world with Jesus. The promise of a world where you’re not trapped; a world where you’re good just as you are, right now. It’s a brand new world where Jesus promises to make you all you can be. Suddenly there’s a goal. Get OUT of that egg! Finally the shell falls away. You may be exhausted and vulnerable but you’re safe IN the nest until it’s time to fly.
Watch this visual. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6JCSNvoQl20