“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 more, 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: Acts 22:22-25:27
The following night the Lord stood by him (Paul) and said, “Take courage for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.“ Acts 23:11
I have to admit to you, I wasn‘t really sure how this Bible in a year challenge was going to go… I get excited about things easily, start them, and then burn out about as quickly as I start them. But already I can tell that this is different. For the last ten days I‘ve gotten up at five in the morning, stumbled sleepily out to my kitchen to pour myself a cup of hot water for tea and then trudged to my faithful rocking chair in my library where the daisy blanket my Mommy made for me when I was little, my Bible and a pen are waiting for me to join them. I set down my steaming cup of tea to allow it to cool off a bit before I drink it; one morning I learned that lesson as I took a big gulp right away and was forced to spit the scalding liquid back out of my mouth, thankfully I was still next to the sink in the kitchen when that happened! My tongue was numb for three days after that! Anyway, I set my drink aside momentarily while I pray the prayer above in preparation for what God has in store for me today. Then I kid you not, every day as I crack my Bible open to read my heart gets titillated with excitement as I anticipate what God is going to say to me through His word today. I read those words with joy as I wonder how He will apply them to my life in some way, how He will use them for the blog today, how He will weave them into my existence and yours. When that feeling first started I really expected it to wane quickly, it is still five am after all. But as my nights have managed to get shorter throughout the last week, making me even more drowsy in the morning, it hasn‘t mattered how tired I am when I crack open that Beloved book, it happens every time; the excitement, the anticipation, the joy, the love, He is there, waiting for me between those pages! It‘s nothing short of awesome.
This morning, I noticed something new, something that I haven‘t felt before. At least not like this anyway. Love. But not just any love, it‘s an overwhelming sense of love. When my husband woke up and got around to go for his morning run, the moment his face appeared at the door and our eyes connected my heart was filled to overflowing with a love for him that was not my own. And honestly, I didn‘t think too terribly much about it because I passed it off as a little bit of sympathy for him in his current state of mourning for his grandmother. But then later it happened again! As I was sitting in that same rocking chair holding my daughter in her pajamas and crazy bed-head hair I wrapped my arms around her and again my heart was just overflowing with a love for her that wasn‘t my own, it was God‘s!
His word is doing something to me, something that I‘m pretty sure it will do for others too, it‘s filling me with love and compassion for the people around me that is not my own. Sure, I‘d love to pass it off as my love for them, except, it‘s not. It feels completely different! It‘s deeper, and wider, longer and higher than anything I have for these people. It‘s an all encompassing love for them that I simply can‘t explain or understand, and yet it‘s there all the same!
In ten days I have read twenty-five short chapters of one book of the Bible, that‘s it! And yet already the change in me is intense and obvious, at least to me anyway. You see, I spend the vast majority of my day telling God what I want, what I think He should do, what‘s going on in my little corner of His universe. But in that hour from five to six, when the birds are singing their praises and the sun isn‘t even up yet, that‘s His time to talk to me uninterrupted. That‘s His time to pour His living water into my pitcher and tell me, “OK, you‘re all filled up, now go fill them up.“ With “them“ being whoever He‘s chosen to interact with me today, mainly my family and friends. Yes, I have been amazed in one short week how God has used this challenge in my life… and if this is what the first week has looked like, well, it just makes you wonder what He will do with the rest of the year!
This weekend was my niece‘s birthday party, while we there my brother told the story of a guy who traded a red paperclip for a house! No, it wasn‘t right away, there were several trades in-between, but still! The guy started with one red paperclip and fourteen trades later had a house! In today‘s reading I was reminded of this story. I know, it seems like a bit of a stretch, but hear me out for a minute. In all of today‘s reading Paul is under arrest, he is in legal custody because back in chapter 21 he created such a riot with the local Jews that they‘ve all sworn to fast from food and drink until he is dead! Now, if you will remember this came as no shock to Paul as the Holy Spirit (in chapter 21, verse 11) had a prophet, Agabus, come and show Paul how he would be bound hand and foot and turned over to the Gentiles by the Jews. So because Paul was forewarned, I don‘t think he‘s too panicked about the death threat at the moment. I‘m sure he‘s taking it seriously, don‘t get me wrong, but at the same time, I‘m pretty sure that he‘s taking it all in stride. I say that simply because of the manner in which he handles each successive “trade-up“ in the courts.
He starts in Jerusalem with the Jews when he is arrested by them in the temple because they have “supposed“ that he brought a non-Jew into the temple and defiled it. The mob carried him out and were beating him when the “town sheriff“ (so-to-speak) came along with some of his deputies and arrested Paul simply because he couldn‘t understand the charges that the mob was holding against him.
As the soldiers were carrying him away, Paul mentions that he is a citizen of “no obscure city“, meaning I‘m someone important, and then he asked if he could speak to the people. He is granted permission and then turns around, holds his hand up and they all quiet down to listen to him. Then he starts sharing his testimony with them of how Jesus appeared to him and saved him; the very people who were just beating the pulp out of him!!! If that‘s not God‘s love pouring out of someone I don‘t know what is! I mean, talk about using every opportunity that God gives you to witness to someone right??? Wow! So then after that, for the next four chapters (and more, we‘re just not that far yet) Paul‘s situation escalates. The Jews plot his death; while Paul appears before higher and higher judges with larger and larger audiences until by the end of today‘s reading he was sent on to speak before Caesar himself! But this didn‘t come as a complete surprise either because in chapter 23 verse 11 Jesus (also known as the Word) comes to Paul and says “Take courage for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome“, again Paul is forewarned about what is to happen before it happens.
Paul might not have known that he would speak to Caesar himself, but he did know that he was headed to Rome in all this fiasco. Paul knew a few bits of information and he knew the end destination, and that was enough for him to take courage and continue on in his fight for not only his innocence, but his mission. And the beauty of it was that because he was in captivity, he was also heavily guarded from the enemy trying to take his life, all of his travel costs and room and board were paid for by the government. All his speaking engagements were booked for him with packed seats because of all the attention that he was gaining through all the turmoil and chaos. I‘ve heard it said before that “even bad press is still press“. It‘s still free advertising. And that‘s what Paul was getting, free advertising for him to go and preach to these unsaved Gentiles and tell them the good news that Jesus saves! And he did it all through his own personal testimony… his own story.
Funny how we seem to so often come back to that isn‘t it my friends? Did you know that the Enemy will do anything to keep you from sharing your own personal testimonies with the people around you? He will send people to beat and attack you, to tear you to shreds all to keep you silent. But if God is for us, then who can be against us? Satan may try to knock you down, but you have to allow God‘s soldiers to lift you back up so that you can turn around to the crowd that beat you and tell them who Jesus is. Don‘t let fear scare you away from the opportunities that God gives you to proclaim His love to His people. I‘ve lost count of how many opportunities I‘ve lost because I was scared. We can‘t let the fear of even death scare us out of preaching the good news, from doing what‘s right in a situation where everything is wrong. Sure, there may be some punches that hit their mark and some stones that get thrown, but you know what, we have to live like we‘re immortal… because we are.