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
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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
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Then The Sky Fell In

My peace I leave with you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27)

On 19 October I fell while working on my land. “Oh no!” I thought as I went down, too late to put out my hands. I heard my nose ‘crack’ as it hit the ground.

I sat up, hands to face to make sure I still had a nose. Yes – but there was blood running down the right side. Off to the house, where I stanched more blood with cold water, tissues and vitamin C, and lay down.

Later I found out my sight was affected – double vision when looking to the sides and down.  Considerably double, too – not just a ‘shadow’, but a full-blown double image, well offset.  It looked like the ‘jigsaw puzzle’ of my vision had blown apart at the sides.

At first I hoped it was swelling, and took arnica. After 2 weeks I gave in and drove with one eye shut to our local clinic.  It was my first drive out since the accident – my neighbor had kindly taken me shopping in the interim – and it was scary.

I was ambulanced down to the Emergency Department at Base Hospital (77 miles). There were blood samples, an ECG, 4 heart x-rays, umpteen lights shone in my eyes, nose and ears, many ‘touchy-feely’ tests to make sure I hadn’t had a stroke, and a CT head scan.

Up to the eye clinic next morning for more shining lights.  An MRI head scan was ordered, since the CT scan showed nothing. My right eye was clearly not tracking properly.  This is a bad experience for anyone, but especially so for a visual artist.

I went back down the line for the MRI scan on the 9th, and again this last week for the results. That was the scary part.

On the way down in the shuttle bus, as I prayed I got the message, “I am with you, no harm will befall you.” And so it has been. The MRI scan showed nothing. The eye specialist thinks there is a small speck of blood somewhere that will resolve itself, given time. They don’t want to see me for 3 months – Whew!

Thank you, Lord for your goodness and mercy! Thank you for giving me a specialist who is prepared to let You do Your work. Bless your Holy name!

Digital artwork, from acrylic paintings.

Patricia

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