Friday, January 27, 2012

On the Road to Damascus

On the Road to Damascus

It seems God has been very quiet in my time with Him lately. Have you had those tmes? I just went through a season where it seemed that every time I picked up the Bible to study words just leapt off the page and into my heart. But for the last month, it has been quiet. I have had to be still and listen for that still small voice. When it comes though, it starts like that driving rain and heavy winds…I see the tornado forming.

If you are a writer, you understand that. Moments, words, pictures are the things that start running through your head like a tornado trying to pull out all the “stuff” and find the point. It can be maddening sometimes watching all that “stuff” fly around in my mind waiting on the “point” to settle. If you ever wonder why I do not always blog at the same time, same channel…this is it. I am waiting on direction from God and that takes a minute or two with a tornado passing through. So finally, I saw the one thing that God wanted me to share and it is about Stephen.

There is much to be said from other more knowledgeable scholars and teachers than  but this one statement stopped me as I was reading this chapter. When Stephen was being stoned for his bravery, courage and anointing by the Holy Spirit to speak truth to the Jews, as he was standing there knowing that God was welcoming him home….Saul (later Paul) was standing right in the midst of the people proud of his honor in killing Stephen, giving his approval. In fact, that moment incited Saul to go to greater depths of ugliness to persecute the Jews. That moment, looking purely into the Holy Spirit as it is displayed on Stephen’s face infuriated Him. Saul was ready to fight against that beautiful Spirit of God. We all know the rest of the story and the transformation of Saul’s ministry from there and how he really changed the life of the church we know today. God used him mightily. But that was not what leapt out of the page for me.

The neon sign that was blinking in front of me was this…God designed it so that Paul would be there to witness Stephen’s death. From that moment on, Paul would have no question when he was in the presence of the Almighty God. Paul saw firsthand what it looked like to know God fully. He had a living, breathing example of God’s love in front of him in Stephen.

If you read through the old testament to the new testament you know that it had been hundreds of years since God had spoken through the prophets. The culture of the Jewish people had strayed so far from God. They had integrated so many idols into their beliefs by this time. The Pharisee’s had become the “God” of God so to speak. They controlled everything the people believed and knew about God.  So the healings that Jesus did, when Jesus rose from the grave, when He ascended back to Heaven, when the Holy Spirit came down like fire to the disciples were moments where only the believers could understand what God was doing.

The Pharisee’s stood back in astonishment at the futility of accepting these miracles as truth. Why? God had never spoken to His nation like this, through His Son. He had never started with the common people. He spoke to the prophets (which by this time were very, very few because God had stopped talking to his people) in the old days but that had really been hundreds of years prior. They could not believe that God would speak out to those less trained in the scripture, less knowledgeable about the scrolls and scribes, those who had not studied and knew the law as they did.

Hearing God’s voice would have been hard for Paul under those circumstances. He was the elite of the Pharisees. However, the day that incited him became the day he actually started listening past the scrolls to the Holy of Holies and the One True God.

Paul doesn’t talk about that day much. I imagine when God gave him a new heart it was hard to even think about that day. But to me, Stephen’s death changed one man’s life that would change so many. It is not obvious that is what happened but the Bible makes it clear that Paul was there giving his approval. That day become even more defiant to kill those that teach the message of Jesus.
Nice story Barb but how does that translate to us? When you look through your mirror of your life there are moments that your head lowers just a bit. There are moments where you know the decision you made hurt the heart of God. Please don’t be ashamed because we all have those memories. If we didn’t we would not know the grace and love of a wonderful heavenly Father. Those days that we never want to go back to are where we were in the wrong place in our lives and the guilt overwhelms us.

 In those moments, to me the mirror seems so clear. I see a Father,a loving God standing right in the middle of that moment expressing His unimaginable love to reach us. To help us see that love and bring us back to him. That Stephen’s death, though horrific and sad was an opportunity to change lives even today. Those moments in your life, changes lives too. It changed yours forever. Yes, we always talk about the day we met Jesus on the road to Damascus (like Paul) but really there were moments before then that you saw God and desired His love. Otherwise, you would never have seen Him on that road…you would have passed Him by.

Stephen talking unto his death:

Act 7:52  Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you have now been the betrayers and murderers;

Act 7:53  who received the Law through disposition of angels, and did not keep it.

Act 7:54  And hearing these things, they were cut to their hearts. And they gnashed on him with their teeth.

Act 7:55  But being full of the Holy Spirit, looking up intently into Heaven, he saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

Act 7:56  And he said, Behold, I see Heaven opened and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God.

Act 7:57  And crying out with a loud voice, they stopped their ears and ran on him with one accord.

Act 7:58  And throwing him outside the city, they stoned him. And the witnesses laid their clothes down at the feet of a young man named Saul.

Act 7:59  And they stoned Stephen, who was calling on God and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

Act 7:60  And kneeling down, he cried with a loud voice, Lord, do not lay this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Saul’s response:

Act 8:1  And Saul was consenting to his death. And in that day there was a great persecution on the church at Jerusalem, and all were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

Act 8:2  And devout men buried Stephen and made a great mourning over him.

Act 8:3  But Saul ravaged the church, entering into every house. And dragging men and women, he delivered them up to prison.

Friday, January 13, 2012

My word for 2012, A deeper Love

The song goes “if a picture paints a thousand words, then why can’t I paint you?” We naturally know the answer to the question the artist is posing but I love the part that it takes a thousand words to describe a painting. Because that is exactly what words, do! Words create, they incite, they challenge, and they can wrap themselves around our hearts to move us. If I say the word “Beautiful,” you immediately create a picture in your mind of what that word represents to you. My picture will be different from yours because our experiences are different but that one word stirs feelings and emotions. The beauty of words is the effect they have on us. How they collect our thoughts together to create this picture in our mind. Writers are constantly challenged, whether a songwriter or a novelist, to write those words that help you “see” what they are talking about and not just hear. 

The beauty of seeing words is that in using those senses we are able to make changes in our lives when necessary. The wonderment of the Bible is that those words come alive each time we pick it up.  The bible is full of words and the words spring to life from the page. The scriptures can become life changing if we allow it.
With that thought in mind, I took the challenge from a friend at the end of the year to see what “word” God might be giving me for the year 2012. I am ready for a challenge. I have lived in constant change for so long that the time we have been at home has truly been an unfolding adventure for me. However, it has also been quiet at times. It is a bit hard to go from constant crisis to routine. I never thought I would say that. I craved the routine and mundane but I have learned it is harder to live in the ordinary than it is in the extraordinary.

 My friend’s word was “surrender.” What a great word. Surrendering all your decisions, your worries and hopes with your dreams to the Lord. Challenging yes, but the treasures are infinite. I know my friend Julie is doing her best to experience surrendering in her life. She is blogging her journey and you might want to check out her blog at, she writes so beautifully about her experiences.

When I prayed and really sought the Lord, I was definitely curious to see the answer. I was not sure how I would know what “that” word would be but when it came to me it was obvious. It made so much sense to where I was in life. That “aha” moment happened and I knew He wanted me to have the full experience of that word in my life. Are you curious? I am so excited about it for this year.  The word I hear for myself seems to be deepening my love for the Lord. That I might see life through His eyes just a little deeper. That I would take a moment and listen to the Holy Spirit just a bit closer. Relying on that love to help me keep my eyes on Him.
Deeper can be intimidating, even scary at times. It might require more of me than I think I can give. However, it fits right in the core of my life right now. Yes, I have walked down so many paths in my life that you would think I had this part down pat. The lessons I have learned, those moments, those mountaintops, and valleys have helped me see life in a different way. I learned those lessons in my journey in life and now is the time to apply them.

So this year I feel that my word is “Deeper”. A deeper walk with the Lord, a deeper love for Him and others and most of all a deeper understanding of who God really is in my life.
 In my life, I am starting to see that life can be intrinsic. Our families, our jobs, our bills, and of course our “stuff” we need to live that life surround us. At times, they even engulf us. I think for me this year, God is asking me to look outside of my box.

My comfort zone is to stay in my house and deal with the life that is living inside it. For the first time in years though, I have the opportunity to get to know other people that are not trapped in a critical crisis. But let me just say, so many are out there caught in crisis without having to be in a hospital room. I have been in prayer and pain in my heart for some of the people I have gotten to know over the past few months that are in a crisis. When I heard going deeper in my love for God those faces were the ones that were “painted” for me in my mind. He wanted me to take that moment and see past the words and phrases in their lives and see them theway He would see them.
That sounds so pretty but really, it is hard. We have our own expectations. We have our own lives we are living. Looking beyond those walls we have built around our life takes energy. Stopping and asking the Holy Spirit what I should do in a circumstance will require more of me. When I listen though, I will hear the heartbeat of God and it will naturally take me deeper. I will be walking in a new place that has new vision for my life. New hope springs up. My eyes see a kaleidoscope of colors and not just black and white. Because when you start seeing past your life and seeing others in God’s eyes, your view changes.

We laugh and enjoy “How the Grinch stole Christmas.” The wonderment of the story is that one little girl changed the heart of the Grinch. That is just a story with a moral. But in reality a father sent His only son to show us love. That love not only changed one life but the lives of so many we can’t even begin to count them. When I see that love not only working in my life but the lives of others, well you can’t help but want to change and go deeper. So, this year I am diving in….I know it is going to be an adventure! I can’t wait to see what happens.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Walking with the Holy Spirit


It’s the New Year. Time to get the schedule back on schedule right! I am rushing through my day to get all those things in order to start the New Year off right. But as I rush to the door with your keys in hand, coffee in the other, an d I go through that mental list of what needs to be done I hear that still small voice say WAIT. Start that list again I think I missed something. Yes, I hear it again, that soft whisper to go over the list one more time. I have to run but that small whisper is telling me to stop, just a minute. Think it through one more time, what did I miss?

Have you ever heard that soft whisper in your ear? I whirled around to see what I missed. It could have been that $20 bill that I desperately needed, an old friend I had not seen in a while came to mind, a passage of scripture I missed this morning floated to the top of my mind or even one minute to say that extra prayer for a friend. Whatever that moment, I stopped to take a second look and I was blessed by listening. I saw, heard, or felt where to go next. The circumstances vary but that still small voice was the guidance I needed for that moment.

So many times, we do not recognize one of the greatest gifts God has bestowed on us, the Holy Spirit. He has been given the task of taking care of us. He encourages us. Helps us learn, guides us and most of comforts us. His job is monumental because He never intrudes on us.

That same Holy Spirit also knits our hearts together. Have you ever wondered why when you met a new friend they felt as if you had known them all your life. Maybe that was the Holy Spirit knitting your hearts together so that you both can become stronger. Have you ever just “known” someone was hurting but no one else seemed to notice? Again, the Holy Spirit working in our life. Have you ever received a gift that you knew was directly from God, once again, the Holy Spirit working.

This New Year for me is going to be about going deeper in the Word so I can hear the Holy Spirit even more. I have found that He tells us more than we realize. He helps us to love more than we can ever understand and helps us forgive and give forgiveness beyond our own abilities.  More than that He teaches us how to live our lives with an open hand. To give more than we have, receive more than we can understand and live more freely than we have ever done in our lives. These things draw people to the God that lives in us and ultimately to the gospel of Faith that they need so desperately.

So next time when you feel that extra “nudge” to do something, say something, act on something or just go talk to someone you might think about actually trusting God and doing it.