As servants of God, we must learn to make room for Him-to give God “elbow room.” We plan and figure and predict that this or that will happen, but we forget to make room for God to come in as He chooses. Would we be surprised if God came into our meeting or into our preaching in a way we had never expected Him to come? Do not look for God to come in a particular way, but do look for Him. The way to make room for Him is to expect Him to come, but not in a certain way. No matter how well we may know God, the great lesson to learn is that He may break in at any minute. We tend to overlook this element of surprise, yet God never works in any other way. Suddenly—God meets our life “. . . when it pleased God . . . .”
Keep your life so constantly in touch with God that His surprising power can break through at any point. Live in a constant state of expectancy, and leave room for God to come in as He decides.
God Gives Us Direction
Acts 9:1-25 (Good News Translation)
God’s Word: Guiding Us to Follow Jesus
Acts 9:1-25: Today’s reading introduces us to Saul, who is transformed from persecutor to apostle. He is a faithful follower of the Law of Moses and is on his way to Damascus, intending to arrest followers of “the Way of the Lord.” But Jesus appears to him and chooses him to preach the Good News. The title for Jesus as “Son of God” appears here in the book of Acts for the first time.
Today’s Scripture: Acts 9:20
He went straight to the synagogues and began to preach that Jesus was the Son of God.
1 In the meantime Saul kept up his violent threats of murder against the followers of the Lord. He went to the High Priest 2 and asked for letters of introduction to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he should find there any followers of the Way of the Lord, he would be able to arrest them, both men and women, and bring them back to Jerusalem. 3 As Saul was coming near the city of Damascus, suddenly a light from the sky flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute me?” 5 “Who are you, Lord?” he asked. “I am Jesus, whom you persecute,” the voice said. 6 “But get up and go into the city, where you will be told what you must do.” 7 The men who were traveling with Saul had stopped, not saying a word; they heard the voice but could not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground and opened his eyes, but could not see a thing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. 9 For three days he was not able to see, and during that time he did not eat or drink anything.10 There was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. He had a vision, in which the Lord said to him, “Ananias!” “Here I am, Lord,” he answered. 11 The Lord said to him, “Get ready and go to Straight Street, and at the house of Judas ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying, 12 and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come in and place his hands on him so that he might see again. ” 13 Ananias answered, “Lord, many people have told me about this man and about all the terrible things he has done to your people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come to Damascus with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who worship you. ” 15 The Lord said to him, “Go, because I have chosen him to serve me, to make my name known to Gentiles and kings and to the people of Israel. 16 And I myself will show him all that he must suffer for my sake. ” 17 So Ananias went, entered the house where Saul was, and placed his hands on him. “Brother Saul,” he said, “the Lord has sent me—Jesus himself, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here. He sent me so that you might see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”18 At once something like fish scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he was able to see again. He stood up and was baptized; 19 and after he had eaten, his strength came back. Saul stayed for a few days with the believers in Damascus. 20 He went straight to the synagogues and began to preach that Jesus was the Son of God. 21 All who heard him were amazed and asked, “Isn’t he the one who in Jerusalem was killing those who worship that man Jesus? And didn’t he come here for the very purpose of arresting those people and taking them back to the chief priests?” 22 But Saul’s preaching became even more powerful, and his proofs that Jesus was the Messiah were so convincing that the Jews who lived in Damascus could not answer him. 23 After many days had gone by, the Jews met together and made plans to kill Saul,24 but he was told of their plan. Day and night they watched the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But one night Saul’s followers took him and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.
Why was Saul going to Damascus? What did Jesus say to him? What role did Ananias play in Saul’s conversion? Why was his life in danger once he began preaching that Jesus was the Messiah? In what ways have you experienced the presence of Christ in your life?
Lord Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God. Teach me to listen for and heed your voice. Help me to experience your presence anew, that I may bear witness to you and proclaim your message of love and salvation. Amen.
“Wherever you go, I will go; and . . . your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” Ruth 1:16
A friend once told me: “Joe, I’ve come to realize that my life is not made by the dreams that I dream but by the choices that I make.”
Count on it: You will have plenty of choices in life. And usually they boil down to a choice between “What do I want?” and “What’s best for others?”
After their husbands died, Ruth and Orpah were faced with a strategic choice (Ruth 1:11). Their mother-in-law Naomi told them they should go home. She didn’t want them to feel any obligation to her, in spite of the fact that her loss was far greater. She had lost her own husband and both of her sons.
Orpah and Ruth could either go home and start a new life, or stay with Naomi to help her in a time of great need. They knew very well that the latter choice would probably mean living in a foreign land as widows for the rest of their lives, since few Jewish men would want to marry a foreign woman.
Ruth chose to serve the needs of Naomi rather than to serve herself. Orpah chose to leave Naomi for what she thought would be a better life. Ruth went on to play a significant role in Jewish history and became an ancestor of Jesus (Matt. 1:5).
Make the best choice. Choose to serve others.
When we’re involved in serving
And meeting others’ needs,
We’re imitating Jesus
In thoughts and words and deeds. —Fitzhugh
When gods die
From: Our Daily Journey
How can you tell whether your trust is in God or someone or something else? What can you do right now to recommit yourself to the one true God?
France Nouvelle, the newspaper of the French Communist party, stated this after Stalin died: “The heart of Stalin . . . has ceased beating. But Stalinism lives on, and is immortal. . . . To Stalin we shall remain faithful for evermore. Communists everywhere will endeavor to deserve, by their untiring devotion to the sacred cause of the working class . . . the honorary title of Stalinists. Eternal glory to the great Stalin.”
This panegyric demonstrates that even communists must worship something. If they won’t serve God, they will make a god out of whatever lies at hand. But their god had died, so their predicament seemed hopeless. For people who proudly proclaimed their trust in science, they were slow to notice the evidence.
History is littered with people who were too easily impressed with their own success. The king of Tyre was so rich and wise that he declared, “I am a god! I sit on a divine throne in the heart of the sea” (Ezekiel 28:2). God replied that his throne would be the place of his demise. A foreign army would come and “bring you down to the pit, and you will die in the heart of the sea, pierced with many wounds. Will you then boast, ‘I am a god!’ to those who kill you?” (Ezekiel 28:8-9).
Likewise, when the king of Babylon boasted of his military might, God declared that his army would “be completely destroyed” (Jeremiah 51:3). God will topple every god until people realize that “idols are worthless” and that “the God of Israel is no idol! . . . The LORD of Heaven’s Armies is his name!” (Jeremiah 51:18-19).
You will worship someone. Don’t settle for yourself or any mortal. There is only One who is worthy of your worship, and you already know His name.