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But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. Acts 9:15

I pity those who read the Bible with solemnity and fail to see the humor in many of the stories of our faith. Or, maybe it’s just that I have a sick sense of humor. At any rate, one of the stories I find most amusing is the story of poor Ananias.

We know little about this disciple of Jesus other than that he lived in Damascus and was visited by the Lord one day to embark on a most amazing journey. Unknown to him, in a room a few blocks away, a man huddled in darkness. The man, named Saul, was well-known to the early Christians. He was loud, brash and had no time for anyone following this man Jesus. He knew the Law. He knew what was right. And he would do anything to protect the religious traditions of his people…even to the point of death.

That’s why he was in Damascus…or so he thought. Saul left for Damascus to round up people like Ananias and drag them back to Jerusalem for a quick mock trial, a beating, and if Saul had his way, death by stoning. No one did more to try to destroy the early church than Saul.

But God had other plans and those plans were dramatically different for both Saul and Ananias. That’s often the way God is. He doesn’t follow the beat of our drums; he marches to his own music. The written Word doesn’t express the emotion that Ananias must have felt that day.

“Really God? Saul? You have to be kidding! Do you realize what you are asking me to do? He’s blind now? Good! Let him suffer for awhile. Look at what he’s done to your people.”

That’s probably a little more like the conversation I’d have had with God, and if you are honest, so would you.

The story of Ananias reminds me of at least two lessons that we all need to be reminded of. First, if we really sell out for Jesus, if we are really willing to ‘Go where you want me to go and do what you want me to do’ we can expect to be taken out of our comfort zone. The uttermost parts of the earth Jesus told us to take his gospel to may not always include squeaky clean churches and orderly programs. In fact, he rarely does his work there.

Secondly, the story of Ananias reminds me to never, ever look at any person and say “God will never be able to use him/her. He’s too bad, made to many mistakes, and has too sordid a past.” God uses people like Saul all the time. Those we overlook as not being a good choice for kingdom work may very likely be God’s first choice.

Oh and there’s one more thing the story of Ananias reminds me of. It reminds me to be thankful. You see, I have far more in common with Saul than I do Ananias. I’m thankful though that, like Saul, Jesus found me!

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, like Saul I confess that I fail you often. Sometimes from ignorance, other times from rebellion. Thank you for your grace. Empower me by your Spirit to be willing to step from my comfort zone when you call me to reach out to those I find to be ‘poor choices’ for the Kingdom. Amen.

 


But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” Matthew 14:27 (NLT)

It was dark. The storm was so deep that even the ambient light of the night was swallowed by the roaring wind. Only the occasional flash of lightning gave the men any indication of their situation and allowed them to see the fear in each other’s faces. While some rowed hopelessly, the others prayed. Where was Jesus? Why had he sent them out to die in this way?

Then, almost as if on cue from a distant director, they saw it. A faint glow on the horizon wafting over the waves and coming towards them. As if the fear of the wind wasn’t enough, now a ghost was coming near. Panic consumed even the hardiest of men who had weathered many a storm on this sea.

A voice in the dark. Loud enough to rise about the howling of the wind, but at the same time mysteriously gentle and quiet. “Take Courage. I am here!” The actual Greek rendition states, “Don’t worry, the I AM is here.”

How often do we miss that? Especially during the storms of life. We hear the treacherous howling of the wind. Our minds replay every mistake we’ve made. The voices tell us this is all God’s way of getting even. The doubts rise mysteriously and whisper in our ears, “He’s not real you know. If he was he’d never let you go through this.” We live in the false conviction that we deserve this for our sins or we blame others or question God.

Jesus seldom calms the storm until we look to him. He saw the disciples struggling but waited until they looked to him. Even then he didn’t calm the storm until Peter took a dip in the cold lake water.

How often, during the storms of life do we miss the glow, the faint shadow of God’s working? How many times have we forgotten to attribute to Jesus the calming of our fears? Sometimes the things we endure are consequences of our own selfish decisions. Sometimes our pain is the result of malicious and evil acts of those hell-bent on our destruction. Sometimes we are devastated by the seemingly strange quirks of nature. But always, we are under the watchful eye of a loving God and passionate savior who is willing to come to us in the darkest night of our suffering and in the midst of the storm remind us to be brave because he is there.

PRAYER: Jesus, right now I’m going through a storm of sorts in my life. It seems like everything is falling apart around me. I sense the fear and hopelessness of the disciples as I try to battle the waves that want to overtake me. Help me to see you in all this. Calm the storm, but if you don’t choose to do that, calm my spirit so that I can trust you. In your name I pray, Amen.


They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32

Have you ever sat and listened to someone share their passion? I’m not talking about the boring person who goes into a tirade about some issue. I’m talking about the person who is so passionate about something that their words bring life to their topic.

You sit and listen to them and are so enraptured by their words that you lose all track of time. Even if you aren’t personally interested whatever it is they are talking about, their verbal and non-verbal communication mesmerizes you to the point where your entire attitude changes.

I had that once in a small way. A professor I had was so passionate about his class that I left forever changed in my attitude about it. The class? Political Science, believe it or not! I took the class as an elective because it was at the time and day I could attend. I had no interest whatsoever in Political Science. I don’t remember the professor’s name. I don’t even remember what year I took the class. What I do remember is leaving the class with not only a new appreciation for the topic, but even considered running for local office!

Passionate people breed passion in others. It’s no wonder then, that when Jesus appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus he instilled passion in them for God. He talked about Moses. He talked about Elijah and Daniel. He smiled as he reflected on the life of David. And why not? He walked with those men. He watched them grow in faith. He felt the pain of their failure and rejoiced in their victories. When Jesus talked about these men, he wasn’t just talking about stories. He was talking about friends of his.

I imagine when Jesus talks about us he is just as passionate. Sure, we fail. Some of us fail miserably. We rebel almost daily. We worry when he says don’t worry. We get angry when he says trust. We get lonely when he says he is with us always. While we grumble and live in defeat he looks on us with pride and, yep, you guessed it, PASSION.

If you didn’t know me and Jesus was talking to you about me, once he was finished talking you’d be passionate about me. Why? Not because I’m something special in your eyes, but because I’m something special in Jesus’ eyes. When you’ve been with Jesus you can’t help but feel passionate about life.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank you for being passionate about me. I confess to you that I don’t feel like I’m much to be passionate about. But I’m thankful that you love me so much. I ask that you would empower me to be so passionate about you that my passion will breed passion for you in those I meet. In your name, Amen.

 


He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

A storm moves through in the middle of the night. The windows shake from the wind. The yard is as light as mid-day from frequent lightning. On one particular crash of thunder small feet are heard running down the hall. As if with one motion she snuggles in securely between her mom and dad. ‘Safe from the storm’ she soon falls back asleep completely oblivious to the raging storm outside.

What was it that drove the little one to the arms of her father and mother? Were they able to save her from the storm? Should a tornado have wiped out the neighborhood would she have been spared because she was in their arms? The storm certainly didn’t let up. It wasn’t any quieter in their room.

What drove her to the arms of her parents was the calm assurance in her mind that safety rested there. In the arms of her father the lightning became a nothing more than a light show. The sounds of the wind, rain and thunder became music to lull her to sleep. The storm could be weathered just fine when she was in the arms of her father.

When we rest in the arms of our Heavenly Father there is calmness in the storm. He is God. He is holy. The word ‘Holy’ is a word that means set a part. One notch above the rest of the world. Unaffected by circumstances.

Because he is a holy God, the things that frighten me have no effect on him. The things that pull me down won’t contain him or change his focus or actions.

When I fail it affects how I view myself. It affects how I react to other people. It changes my outlook on life. Small problems seem bigger. Mole hills become mountains. But when I fail it doesn’t affect how God views me. Not with Jesus by my side.

When I struggle with sin I feel hopeless and defeated. But with God there is no such thing as hopeless. Defeat isn’t in his vocabulary. When life takes different turns for me and I don’t understand how I got in the situation I’m in, I get confused and discouraged. God never gets discouraged, never gets sidetracked, never gets distracted by simple, mortal earthly things. He is on a higher plain which is unaffected by humans.

I can’t control everything that comes my way. I can’t change decisions that I’ve made in the past that haunt me now. I can’t see the future so that my choices today will guarantee my comfort or safety. I can’t control everything that comes my way…but my God can.

PRAYER: Holy Father. As the storms of life swirl around me today there will be times when fear grips me like an iron fist. Times when confusion clouds my ability to choose wisely. Times when I want to lash out rather than listen. Empower me by your Spirit during these times to be still. Even though life may be loud around me, help me to be still in your arms of safety and love. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.


Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

I signed the piece of paper and he left. I watched him winch the truck up onto the trailer with a couple other cars and drive away. There went my dream truck. I bought it during a very tumultuous time in my life. It was the truck I always wanted. I spend way more than I could afford for it and within a few months lost my job as well. I had no choice but to have it repossessed.

I still think about that truck and that whole situation. Not just because I’m a guy and we guys like our trucks. There’s a much deeper reason. I remember the day I picked it up from the dealer. I don’t know what the expression on Jonah’s face was as he boarded the ship, but I’m pretty sure mine was comparable. I knew I shouldn’t buy that truck. I asked a few people’s opinion and got mixed reviews.

As I drove away from the dealer there was no excitement, only worry about if I did the right thing. I pulled into a parking lot and bowed my head. I thanked God for my new truck and ‘dedicated its use to Him.’ Yep. I did. Sounds pretty stupid now. The first time I officially ‘involved’ God in the decision was long after it was done.

That’s my experience (or at least the one I’m sharing), what’s yours? Each of us has those times we can look back on in our lives and regret. Times when we made decisions that affect our lives and the lives of others. We do them knowing that they won’t please God, or thinking they won’t matter.

Of all the lessons I learned from that experience, the one that stands out is that even in those times when we endure the consequences of our bad choices God is there. God forgives us for the bad choices we make but allows consequences to take their course to help us grow stronger.

There are many times when I get angry or disappointed when God doesn’t do what I think He should. It angers me when people refuse to forgive each other; when churches fight among themselves about who has the better theology or worship style; about the inequities and injustices handed down by our judicial system and government; about parents who use and abuse their children for their own morbid reasons. I wonder why He doesn’t act.

I don’t get angry about my truck. I’m learning, the hard way, that when we don’t consult our Father about issues in our lives He loves us enough to let us fail, but never enough to leave us there.

When we seek His wisdom and His understanding in life we will still encounter bumps in the road, but we’ll feel the peace that comes from knowing we are secure in His will. Surround yourself with wise people, but always listen to the direction God gives.

PRAYER: Holy God. I praise you for the fact that you love me so much. There are so many things in my life right now that I confess are consequences of my behavior and not acts of revenge on your part. Forgive me for my stubborn habit of thinking I need to have things my way. Empower me with your Spirit to hear your voice when I need to make decisions in life. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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