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.

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