“Come Holy Spirit, fill me with Your fire so that I can be more like You; help me, I trust You. Father, open my eyes so that I may see You clearly. Open my ears so that I may hear You soundly. Open my mind so that I may understand You plainly. Open my heart so that I may love You more. Open my hands so that I may give generously and receive humbly. In Jesus‘ name, Amen.“
Today‘s reading is: Acts 9:1-11:18
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.“ The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Acts 9:6-7
I started “Live Boldly“ with the words “Being with Jesus, well, it changes you.“ And truer words could not be spoken over today‘s passage! Saul was a religious zealot. He was obsessed with stopping these people, who were calling themselves “the Way“, from speaking blasphemous things. And by the looks of it he was willing to go to about any lengths to stop them, including murder. But, it‘s impossible to have a personal encounter with Jesus and not be changed from the experience. Saul was just walking down the road, minding his own business, when BOOM! Jesus stops him in his tracks and the sudden appearance of the glory of God knocks Saul to the ground, as it should. Saul was so overwhelmed from his experience with Jesus that he was blind for three days! While Peter accepted Jesus‘ messiah-ship immediately, Saul took a while. I‘m sure some of us can relate to this!
Personally, I‘ve accepted Jesus‘ role in my life as Savior immediately and easily; but His role in my life as Lord (or leader) has been much more difficult for me. I don‘t know if I was a strong-willed child when I was younger, but I certainly am now, just ask my husband! When I get something locked into my sights, I go for it, and I don‘t stop until I get it. When we took the Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage seminar by Mark Gungor we took a great personality quiz called the Flag Page. The symbol for my secondary personality was a bulldozer; that describes me to a “T“! I am unable to leave things alone. If I‘m in the middle of a project, it‘s next to impossible for me to leave it unfinished before I move on to something else. I get very stuck holding on to an idea or a thing just because it‘s what came along first. When I first started writing my husband and I wrote a book about Godly sexual intimacy in marriage (True Intimacy). And for the longest time I thought that we would be doing ministry work together and it would be all about marriage and sex. It took two years for God to wrangle that concept out of my grasp and get me to open up to the idea that maybe God had an even wider scope for our ministry. I was so focused on what I thought His plan was for us that I couldn‘t see His actual plan. I thought I knew what it was and I was pushing everything else aside. On top of that, because I knew that He has called me to be a writer for Him I had this concept of being a “published author“, you know, someone with books in print. I have held on to that dream and image of myself for three years. But as the director of the local library told me “You have to get into the modern era! E-books!“ It‘s taken me three years to give that one up to God too. But I think I‘ve actually gotten to that point… I hope so anyway. God helped me with that the other day by making sure that I heard on the radio that Encyclopedia Britannica is no longer printing their books anymore, they‘re going totally digital. That made me feel so much better!
You see, GOD knows the plans that He has for us (Jeremiah 29:11), and those plans may not look like the plans we have for ourselves. And they might not look like the plans that we even think that God has for us. But I can guarantee that His plans are WAY better than our plans, because unlike us, He can see the whole picture. He can see the whole plan from “In the beginning“ to the “Amen“. He‘s helped me realize that my dream of having printed books was severely limiting my own creativity. You can‘t put links to other websites, songs, other bible verses, pictures etc into a printed book. You generally can‘t put color text or color pictures in the interior of a printed book either. But with a blog/website the sky is the limit, with the internet there are no rules, no “trade standards“ and no denominational guidelines to follow. I can write precisely what He leads me to write and I don‘t have to worry about someone telling me that I‘m not allowed to post that. Sure that opens me up to plenty of criticism from every side, but that‘s just part of ministry. Someone will always tell you that you‘re doing something wrong. (Like Saul.) But we‘re not supposed to be following the direction of the people around us, we‘re supposed to be following the directions of the Holy Spirit. And when we do that, we are truly living according to the Spirit!
When I was reading this morning there was a word that caught my attention. It caught my attention because it kept coming up, over and over and over again in the reading. It first appeared when Jesus spoke to Saul on the road, “rise and enter the city…“, and then “Saul rose from the ground“. I was so taken by the repetition of these two words that I actually took the time to go back through and count them, fourteen in all! In these three short chapters the words “rise“ and “rose“ appeared fourteen times in the ESV translation. Now I‘m a big believer in the idea that if God says something once you listen. But, like I said, sometimes I‘m a little hard of hearing. Thankfully God is patient! He knows that usually He has to tell me things over and over again before I will hear them let alone listen. By the end of the reading I was starting to get the picture, but I‘m a digger, I love to dig deeply into the fertile soil of the Word and see what treasures I can find. Each and every word in scripture is important and can hold a treasure within it. There is this wonderful site www.biblos.com in it there is a WEALTH of knowledge and the tools to discover it on your own as well! My favorite tool on this site is the lexicon, where you can look up any verse in the bible and click on the word that you want to learn more about and it will tell you the original Greek or Hebrew word and what they mean. It is amazing to me how the Holy Spirit has used this tool in my life. Knowing all the possible translations of a word gives that word so much more depth and meaning within the verse, which then gives the verse itself more depth and meaning as well.
Of course, I‘m telling you all this to tell you about the word “rise“ that Jesus speaks to Saul on the road. In Greek the word rise is pronounced “anistaymee“ and according to biblos.com means: “I raise up, set up; I rise from among (the) dead; I arise, appear“. Did you catch that my friend? It means to rise from among the dead!!! Up to that point in his life Saul was DEAD. His body was animate, but his soul was dead… until he came face to face with Christ. It was from that moment on that he was truly alive. When Jesus said “rise“ he was commanding Saul‘s soul to LIVE.
While I held on firmly to my own plans for my writing and ministry they were dead. But the moment I encountered His glory and released my plans to the grave, that‘s when God was able to breathe life into them. My plans hindered God‘s plans, and who am “I that I could stand in God‘s way?“ (Acts 11:17) Do you have any idea how many times I questioned if God was really blessing my ministry? I don‘t know for sure, but it was a lot! And it wasn‘t because He wasn‘t blessing my ministry either, because He was in huge ways, it just wasn‘t in the one way that I wanted Him to bless me. The ways in which He was blessing my ministry didn‘t line up with my plans, so therefore they weren‘t blessings in my mind. Thankfully, I couldn‘t stand in God‘s way. Oh, let me say that again! You can‘t stand in God‘s way. Period. Who are you to think that you can? He‘s GOD. And, I‘m sorry, but anyone who says otherwise is underestimating who God is.
He is God ALL-mighty,
He is ALL-powerful,
He is ALL-knowing,
He is Yehovah God, the maker of the heavens and the earth.
WE were made by Him from the dust of that earth. We are worms compared to Him. And yet, not only does He love wormy-little-ole-us, but He tells us His plans for us in Isaiah 41:14-16 to
Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I am the one who helps you, declares the LORD; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I make of you a threshing sledge, new, sharp, and having teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and crush them, and you shall make the hills like chaff; you shall winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the tempest shall scatter them. And you shall rejoice in the LORD; in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.
We may be mere worms, and we are, HOWEVER nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). While we are fragile and weak worms unable to defend ourselves in any way, He is the one who helps us. He is the one who has redeemed us and made us so much more than worms! A threshing sledge, NEW and SHARP, not only are we alive and made new in Christ, we are also made powerful and strong. With the baptism and indwelling of the Holy Spirit comes the power to turn “impossible“ into “possible“, “weak“ into “strong“. Jesus told Saul to “rise“ because he was on the ground; he was a dead worm in the dirt. But because Jesus had plans for Saul, just like He has plans for each and every one of us. He told him to rise and go into the city where He would instruct him further at the proper time. And until that time those instructions would have to be sufficient for Saul. So Saul rose from the ground. He got up! He came to life for the first in his life. No longer a weak worm, but a tool used for harvesting!
Oh rise up my friend! Have you been like me? Clinging to plans that are getting you nowhere fast? Give those plans a fast burial! Cast them aside and empty your hands so that they are free to receive the plans that GOD has for you! Get rid of those black and white paper and ink dreams and allow God to dream for you in full and living color! The sky is the limit.