The Goads

“I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’

And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’” (Acts 26:13-18 KJV)

So began the momentous conversion from Saul the persecutor to Paul the apostle.

Saul was blind for 3 days. His release from blindness, both physical and spiritual, was brought about by his conversion through Ananias, a believer in the Damascus church that he had intended to destroy.

This would not have been the first encounter between Saul and Jesus. It is highly likely that Saul’s zeal in persecuting Christians was his attempt to overcome the first seeds of doubt in his own faith sown over months as the Jewish leaders heard and challenged Jesus’ teachings in the temple courtyard and the marketplace.

The brilliant argument put up by Stephen which led to his death by stoning drove yet another wedge into Saul’s belief in his faith. And so he went on an all-out rampage to destroy Christ’s followers – even requesting a commission from the High Priest for this Damascus assignment to arrest Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem for trial.

Jesus knew right well what state of mind Saul was in. Saul was in turmoil: the foundations of his faith, as a disciple of the great Jewish teacher Gamaliel, were under threat. Hence Christ’s reference to ‘kicking against the goads’ (pricks of conscience). Saul’s behavior in attacking the church was going to cause him greater pain even though he didn’t realize it. He wasn’t fighting against people, he was fighting against God.

He was the author of his own discomfort.

We bring about our own troubles by wrong beliefs and wrong behavior – the whole Bible (especially the Old Testament) is evidence of that. But God knows how to use evil to bring about good outcomes. Paul’s story is one of the greatest examples.

As one of the most highly educated men of his age, with dual citizenship and at least 3 languages, Paul became the main initiator of God’s purpose to bring Christianity to the Gentiles, and in the process wrote letters to the Gentile churches in Asia Minor, Greece and Italy, that form approx 28% of the New Testament.

Patricia

2020 – Write The Vision

“I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what He will say to me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.

And the Lord answered me, and said, ‘Write the vision, and make it plain upon tablets, that he may run that reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and it will not lie: though it delay, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not fail.’” (Habakkuk 2:2-3)

Have you a vision for 2020? Have you a vision for yourself, your family, your city, your country, or for the world?

More importantly – have you asked the Father what vision He has for 2020? For “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it.” (Psalm 127:1)

I am sure all of us, looking back over our lives, see a litany of undertakings that failed, or failed to reach their full potential, because we stepped out without consulting the All-Knowing One. The writer of Proverbs said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

So this year, this great new decade that begins with 2020, there are 2 things that will be useful by way of ‘New Year’s Resolutions’: first, to write down our own visions for the future; to keep the record (“make it plain upon tablets”), look at it often, and be prepared to change it as necessary. Second, to seek the Lord to find out what His will is – not only in the longer term future and the big world picture, but also in the everyday happenings in our lives. Again, we must keep a record and not expect instantaneous answers or instantaneous results. The Lord does not work that way. He is committed to ‘process’, because process is what refines and develops us and our faith.

We need to ask the question, press in with it, and stay alert for the coming of His answer – “at the end it shall speak, and it will not lie: though it delay, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not fail.”

We constantly thwart His process because we ask and when we don’t get a fast answer we give up, stop listening, and go our own way. Don’t do that – keep pressing in and paying attention. Wait upon the Lord!

I can think of one occasion when I had a week to make a pretty important decision.  All week, I continued to ask the question, “Lord, what am I to decide about this issue?”.  Gradually my thoughts about the situation began to settle and clarify, and by the end of the week, I knew quite clearly what my answer had to be.  Looking back, I am glad I did not run with my first ‘take’ on the matter.

When His answer comes, then run with it. He gives us the answer with the intention “that he may run that reads it.”   If we know it is His will, we must step out in faith, That means taking the first steps, even if you do not know how things will turn out, or how the vision will be achieved – THAT is what living by faith is about.

“Behold, he whose soul is lifted up [proud] is not upright in Him: but the just shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)

One step at a time.

Digital – assembled in Macromedia Fireworks MX.   Inkwell from the Scriptorium of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Khirbet Qumran, before 68AD.

Patricia

 

Ask – Seek – Knock

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:7-12)

One of the reasons Jesus was a disappointment to the worldly folk among those He ministered to, was their expectation that the Messiah would bring worldly success and earthly treasures – conquest over their enemies and wealth as a nation and individually.

Most of Jesus’ messages and parables on the other hand – and indeed the whole purpose of His life – were aimed at giving His followers something far more important: security in the eternity to come.

The importance of pressing into the REAL directive of this quotation cannot be given too much emphasis.  The quote expresses the supreme importance of seeking after TRUTH, as the main purpose of this life.

It is not the offer of a heavenly vending machine that will spit out the goodies of life on demand, as some modern churches are trying to have us believe. The ‘Prosperity Gospel’ is one of those highly dangerous end-time deceptions referred to in Matthew 24, the Lord’s final words of warning before He went to His death.

Indeed, it is one of the most wicked deceptions ever perpetrated by the enemy, all the more so because it is being offered from within the church.

Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many  …  But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” (Matthew 24:11, 13)

Beloved, let us not be deceived.

Patricia

Death And Life

“Death and Life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” (Proverbs 18:21 KJV)

The power of sound is inestimable: we can realize this when we think that in Genesis God is recorded as having spoken light into darkness and order into chaos.

All the way through the process of creation recorded in Genesis 1, each creative act begins with the words, “And God said…”

Our words are puny by comparison; yet they still have enormous power to affect the things and people around us, and also ourselves – something many people do not realize, or even want to realize.

Blessing and cursing are two sides of the same coin of the currency of our speech, and in these days, these terms have become almost valueless in that people regard them as somehow wrapped up in religious protocol, and not part of ‘everyday life’.

Not so: when we speak good things, we bless, and when we speak bad things, we curse. The words we utter go out into the ethers and do their work – for good or for bad. Equally, they remain with us – an abiding influence on self and character that most people do not give a passing thought to.

Jesus, speaking to the Pharisees, put it this way:

“Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12: 34-37 NKJV)

Guard your mouth – it has immense power. Many a parent has cursed an offspring’s life by speaking negativity over them.

Speak in haste: repent at leisure.

Digital:  click on the image for more details and products.

Patricia

Be Not Afraid

This quotation comes from one of the most loved of the Bible stories about Jesus’ miracles – the healing of Jairus’ daughter.

As well as being a great story for children, it was an awesome demonstration of the Lord’s power.  Yet we don’t always read it carefully enough to get every ounce of meaning from it.

Be not afraid, only believe.’” He said. (Mark 5:36 KJV)  The events that led to this statement were very interesting.

Jairus, an official of the synagogue had come hurrying to Jesus to ask Him to save his 12 year old daughter, who was on the point of death.  Jairus was convinced that Jesus could save his daughter.

No doubt, Jesus could have performed a miracle of healing on this girl from a distance, as He did with the centurion’s servant in Matthew 8.  However, events were to occur that would bring about an even greater miracle.

They started off for Jairus’ house immediately, but a diversion cropped up along the way.  They passed by the house of a woman who had had severe bleeding for 12 years.  She too was convinced that Jesus could heal her and she struggled through the crowd with the thought that if she could only touch his cloak, she would be healed.

She did manage to touch His cloak, and she was healed immediately, but Jesus stopped, because He felt the power go out of Him.  He asked, “Who touched my clothes?”,  He knew that someone with strong faith had drawn upon His power. The response of His disciples to His question was almost comical:  “You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?” – an interesting commentary on their lack of understanding.

Fearfully, the woman came forward and knelt at His feet.  Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”

This diversion along the way brought about a situation set for an even greater miracle – somewhat similar to the raising of Lazarus.  As they continued towards Jairus’ house, people came to say that Jairus’ daughter had died. “Why trouble the Master any further?” they said.

“As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he said unto the ruler of the synagogue, ‘Be not afraid, only believe.’” (Mark 5:36 KJV)

Jesus moved immediately to correct the worldly, negative thinking – natural as it was under the circumstances. His words were short, and to the point.

We could all do with remembering these words when the trials of life seem to overwhelm us.  All too often, we go through living with an underlying, almost subconscious, nagging fear and apprehension that saps our peace and makes us vulnerable to the works of the enemy.

Remember the words of Isaiah 41:10 –

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

Digital, with hand-painted capital letter, assembled in Macromedia Fireworks MX

For more details, click on the images.

Patricia

Catching Men

“When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’

“For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.

“And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.’   So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him..”
Luke 5:8-11

The stunning miracle that Jesus performed in these verses caught the attention of all those present, and caused Simon Peter to recognize immediately who Jesus was.

This event can be interpreted as an illustration of the power of the Lord to bring prosperity to His followers. However, as Pastor John points out in a video on this scripture, the words hold a far more important message, and Jesus lost no time in delivering it.

As Pastor John says, “This story is not about how to get rich – it’s about how to get free from riches.”

It’s all about freedom – about getting free and about giving freedom to others.

How important that is! Here were four businessmen whose business had just been blessed with an enormous gift of business resources (perishable goods, incidentally, and ripe for selling at a profit). Yet such was the power of the Lord and of His presence, that having brought their boats to land, “they forsook all and followed Him.”

He had made it plain (as He would do many times during His ministry) that there are far more important priorities than riches, to be pursued in this life.

What a powerful story – and what a powerful lesson for us all.

That freedom is still available today, while most people are stressing and straining at this business of living – struggling with a changing and ever more difficult world.  While we focus our minds on the problems around us, we only magnify and increase them, and give them more power in our lives.

He holds the answer.

Digital – vector: Pierre Bézier tool in Macromedia Fireworks.

 

Patricia

He Who Comes

“All whom the Father gives me will come to me, and he who comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:37-39)

The day after Jesus had fed the crowd that followed Him, they followed Him again in boats across Lake Galilee, seeking to learn what God wanted them to do. This is the crowd that stirred His heart because they were like lost sheep without a shepherd (Matt 9:36) – a fair comment on the religious leaders of the day.

Speaking this time in the synagogue at Capernaum, He was critical: “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” (6:26)    I have a firm personal belief that the Lord has a great sense of humor. I think this comment was made in that vein, to get the attention of those listening and focus it on what He was about to say about motives.

He went on to explain the distinction between earthly and heavenly treasures: “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” (6:27)

He wound up His message by giving them the assurance quoted here.

But as always, there was dissension in the crowd and some of them objected to Him calling Himself the bread of heaven. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they said.

Always, those who waver, the skeptics, and those who disagree. The seed falls on all types of ground, and much of it may perish.

But the promise of this scripture remains true for all those who believe and follow Him.

So many people today are talking about, and suffering, rejection.  In our modern, technological age the modes of rejection have increased.  Especially among young people, rejection and abandonment bite deeply at a time when the enemy is deliberately breaking the all-important supportive bonds that should come from family.

Take heart – there is One who cares, and will always care.  He has promised – and His promises are “yes, and amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Remember, there is a great Old Testament passage, which affirms a mighty truth about Jehovah:  “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall he not make it good?”  (Numbers 23:19, KJV)

Digital – vector in Macromedia Fireworks MX.  For more information about the art, click on the image.

Patricia