Posts Tagged ‘Saul’

Verse 2: “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.””

When I was a little boy, I used to love to go to my grandmother’s house. She and my mother were great cooks. When my grandmother would make her homemade cinnamon rolls, I used to love to watch how she made them. She’d roll and cut the dough, and they’d come out of the oven as these perfect circles. Sometimes though, she’d call me into the kitchen and ask me to eat one or two rolls that didn’t come out perfectly circular. Now, they didn’t taste any different, but my grandmother always set aside her best-looking cinnamon rolls as the ones to serve family and guests. She knew though that we grandkids would eat them, no matter what they looked like! We didn’t eat the ones that were set apart, until we got through “disposing” of the less-than-perfect rolls. As a matter of fact, I used to try and pull a fast one on her; I’d insist that some of the best rolls didn’t “look right, so I better eat those too.” She’d look at me, smile, and loving say, “Oh, get out of my kitchen.” :-)

The church was focused on worshipping God and fasting. The Holman Concordance on Acts, page 209, even states something more eye-catching: “Notice the climate in the congregation – worship and fasting. Not frantic activity with programs burning out everybody in the congregation. In an attitude of worship and fasting they understood the Spirit to select missionaries for God’s work.” God calls us to be holy. The definition of “holy” means “set apart”. The Holy Spirit had called Barnabas and Saul to be separated, set apart “for the work to which I have called them.”

We are called today to that same work: to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and make disciple-makers.

Something to think about.

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Verses 27-30: “And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.”

In Genesis 41, we are in the middle of Joseph’s incredible journey into Egypt, as God used him in a way no one could ever see coming. Pharaoh had a dream (a vision, you could say), sent by God, and no one could interpret it. God opened the door for Joseph to be the deliverer of the vision’s meaning; a period of great harvest in the land, followed by a period of great famine. After Joseph proposed a plan of action to Pharaoh, Pharaoh made Joseph the second-most powerful leader in Egypt to head up the program to save the populace from famine.

Flash forward to today’s verse: another vision, this one given to the prophet Agabus. Again, it’s a vision of a coming famine. The disciples (after prayer and discussion, I’m sure) determined to send relief; what we would call a “love offering” today. This gift would help the home church back in Jerusalem.

The story of Joseph came to mind when I read the above verses; here are some parallels from both stories that God revealed to me, that are true today:
1. God does give advance warning of future events, if we are listening. In both cases, God gave visions of the upcoming famines. To coin an old idiom, “forewarned is forearmed”. Like the recent tornado outbreaks we’ve had, the first thing we did was turn on the television, and get the information from the local weatherman as to where the storm may go…this allowed us to be ready. However, we had to listen and to pay attention to the signs (the forecast predictions). The messenger may be different, but God is in control.
2. God provides a way out of trouble. If anyone could echo this statement’s truth, it was Joseph! Seems our problem today is, we sometimes don’t want to use God’s “escape plan”, due to selfish reasons or stubborn pride. However, that doesn’t deny that the way out is there.
3. God uses His people to be part of the rescue. In Genesis, it was Joseph. In Acts here, it was a gift from Antioch to Jerusalem. Today, God uses those who are willing to be used by Him, to be part of the solution, not the problem.

Just as in the past, so it is in the present, and true even in the future. God is in control.

Something to think about.

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Verses 25-26: “Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”

“I know a guy.”

That’s what Dr. Hank Pym said when wondering how to retrieve his shrinking technology from Darren Cross in the movie Ant-Man. It’s also what the Falcon tells Captain America when they are trying to figure out who can help them with the captured Winter Soldier in the post-credits scene of the same movie (they weren’t sure about contacting Tony Stark, or even if they could contact him, at all).

“I know a guy.”

That’s what the Falcon said; he and Pym were both referring to Scott Lang, the Ant-Man. He was just the perfect person they needed for the situation.

“I know a guy.”

That’s not exactly what Barnabas said, but he was probably thinking along those lines. Having seen the young church at Antioch, Barnabas knew they needed instruction and teaching. And who better than his close friend and brother-in-Christ, Saul? (by the way, don’t let the last sentence of verse 26 slip by you….the first calling of the believers as “Christians”!) Barnabas travelled to Tarsus, got Saul, and they both travelled back to Antioch, thus spending a year teaching the congregation.

That same Jesus that Saul (later Paul) and Barnabas told the Antioch believers more about, is the same Jesus who died on the cross, was buried, and rose again the third day to ascend to Heaven, and is our only way to salvation, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Do I really need to repeat that first statement again? 🙂

Have a blessed day in the Lord!

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Verses 26-28: “And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out.”

O’Malley: “Duchess and kittens in trouble? Look, you go get Scat Cat and his gang of alley cats!”
Roquefort: “Alley cats??? But, I’m a mouse!”
O’Malley: “Look…I’m gonna need help.”
Roquefort: “You mean you want me to…”
O’Malley: “MOVE! Just tell them O’Malley sent you and you won’t have a bit of trouble!”

Unfortunately, when Roquefort found Scat Cat and his gang, they didn’t believe him; all they saw was an easy meal. What’s worse, Roquefort was so flustered, he couldn’t remember the name of the cat who had sent him. After three incorrect guesses (“strikes”), Scat Cat flicked a claw under Roquefort’s throat.

Scat Cat: “Mousey…you just struck out. Any last words?”
Scat Cat: “O’Malley???”
Scat Cat’s gang: “O’Malley? O’Malley!”
Scat Cat: “Hold it cats! This little guy’s on the level!”
Roquefort: “You’re darn tootin’ I’m on the level!”
Peppo: “We didn’t mean to, to ruffle you, Squeaky.”
Roquefort: “Don’t worry about me; O’Malley needs help! Duchess and kittens are in trouble!”  (as the cats’ expressions change to ones of determined courage)
Scat Cat: “Come on, cats! We gotta split!”

The preceding dialogue was from the 1970 Walt Disney movie The Aristocats. O’Malley, who was trying to save Duchess and her kittens from the butler who was trying to do away with them, had assured Roquefort that just mentioning his name would grant him credibility and safety when facing Scat Cat’s gang (as Scat Cat and O’Malley were old pals).

Saul was in a similar predicament. Here he was, a new Christian convert, on fire for Jesus…and the disciples in Jerusalem wanted nothing to do with him due to his past reputation. They probably suspected that it might be a trick. It took Barnabas, a well-respected disciple, to be Saul’s introduction to the apostles. His testimony on Saul’s behalf helped assuage their fears and reassure them to the genuineness of Saul’s story. Next thing you know, Saul is fellowshipping with the disciples in Jerusalem and preaching all the more.

Sometimes, all it takes is for someone to be an intermediary to bridge two sides. Is Jesus asking you to such a bridge today?

Something to think about today.

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Verses 21-23: “Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.” Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him.”

“And now we’d like to introduce the guest speaker in our service today…Adolf Hitler.” I do believe that type of announcement of one of history’s greatest villains speaking in a church service would get your attention. Imagine if he were giving the sermon in a church service. Or Saddam Hussein. Or Osama bin Laden. I daresay you wouldn’t believe it, even if you saw it.

Yet here was the man who was hunting down Christians, now a convert himself! He was preaching Jesus in the synagogues, confounding the Jews by giving proof through knowledge and discussion that Jesus was the Christ! People couldn’t believe it! Remember, Jesus can use anybody to spread the Word; even the most fanatical opponent. Josh McDowell started similarly; he was so convinced that he could prove the Bible was false that, during the journey, he had no choice after all his research, to conclude that the Bible was true! Nothing is too difficult for God!

Something to think about today.

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Verses 13-19: “Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.

When I was on a mission trip with the Carpenters for Christ to a town in Kansas, we were driving down the road one day and had to stop at a railroad crossing. A very long freight train was stopping and starting as it made its way through the railyard. What caught my attention was to hear the “rat-tat-tat-tat” rapid-fire halting of each car from right to left as the entire train stopped. Not sure what I had heard, I listened more closely; soon enough, the train started up again and the “rat-tat-tat-tat” sound was from each car jerking the car behind it into motion, again very quickly the sound travelling right to left. My father reminded me that this was how a train got all the cars going; it couldn’t pull all the cars at once to start moving; each car in succession would tug on the one behind it, as the engine moved forward, eventually getting all the cars to move together.

There was a footnote in my Holman Bible referring to how Saul didn’t receive all his “marching” instructions and duties at one time. First the Lord Jesus “got his attention” by appearing to him and blinding his sight. Then Jesus had Ananias come to him; laying his hands on him, he was used by God to restore his sight and bless him with the Holy Spirit. Now Paul was saved in Christ. Next he physically recovered through nourishment, strengthening, and fellowshipping with the Damascus disciples. Up next, he himself would begin preaching Jesus in the synagogues. Just like that long train, one thing had to move before the next thing was in motion. That Bible footnote made note of the fact that Saul would’ve been overwhelmed by what Jesus had in store for Him, had he heard it all at one time.

I was assigned to a very good business manager and mentor in my early years in the IT industry. Before he turned me loose to be on the rotation for the oncall contact list (which is how Operations would contact help support during the nighttime batch jobstream updates, in case there was a problem), he had me accompany him, in person, when it came to fixing issues. He would review with me how to diagnose the problem, what the solution was, and how to implement the fix. I made notes of all this in a “crash log” which would help me remember how to fix things. Finally, he told me, “you’re ready.” Even on my first solo oncall, he assured me I could call him to verify my diagnosis and solution if I was contacted by Operations. This gave me great confidence and assurance that I wasn’t being “thrown to the wolves”; that I was being prepared for my work.

Jesus was doing the same thing in preparing Saul.

Something to think about today.

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Verses 4-6: “Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” ”

I enjoyed the movie, The Polar Express; my family actually got to see it on the local IMAX movie screen in a theater before I saw it on DVD…but I was still entranced. One scene I vividly recall is when the kids are at the North Pole, and Santa is about to make his grand entrance into the thronging crowd. The main character, a boy who was doubting, still couldn’t see Santa, or even hear a sleigh bell that had popped off a reindeer harness and landed at his feet. It was only when he made up him mind to believe, to truly believe, that he heard the bell! And then…on top of that joyous moment…he looks in the reflection of the bell and sees Santa standing behind him looking into the bell too! Santa was right there behind him!

Saul’s moment didn’t see joyous to him in the above verses; no, it was probably rather terrifying, to say the least! I cannot begin to imagine what went through his fanatical mind when he was confronted by the blinding, holy presence of Jesus! What’s more, Jesus made reference to the fact that “I’ve got plans for you” when He told him to go into the city. It is probably very well that the Lord didn’t tell him everything at one time; Saul was already overwhelmed by the presence of the very Messiah whose followers he was trying to stamp out! Get ready for the story of the beginning of Christianity’s greatest missionary. Human beings couldn’t make up a script to match the incredible story of Saul…soon to be Paul!

Something to think about.

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Verse 1: “Now Saul was consenting to his death.”

2 comic book characters come to mind when you speak of hero turning villain (from the classic origins…I realize DC Comics has been revamping their universe of characters, so I speak from the classic origins here, not retconned ones).

Mighty Adam was the choice of the wizard Shazam during the dynasties of Egypt to wield the gifts of the wizard to fight injustice. However, he had a taste of what that power could do, and wielded it selfishly, killing the ruler and making himself king. Shazam banished him, though he would later return with his new name, Black Adam. He became a chief antagonist against Shazam’s modern champion, Captain Marvel.

Sinestro was made a Green Lantern of the planet Korugar and served the Guardians faithfully, using his emerald ring and lantern to defend and to protect his planet and space sector. Again, power went to his head, and he allowed himself to “enjoy” the powers he wielded for personal gain. Banished by the Guardians to an anti-mater universe of Qward (where good is evil and vice versa), Sinestro fashioned a yellow power ring (yellow being a weakness in the green lanterns’/rings’ makeup) to get revenge. He, too, became an antagonist…this time, for Hal Jordan, Green Lantern of Earth.

Both these men were heroes; both let power corrupt them; both became villains.

Here we have what will be the reverse: a zealous Jew named Saul, who saw the violence against Stephen…and endorsed it. He actually became emboldened by it, and turned himself into Public Enemy No. 1 for the Christian church. He became a hero in his own eyes (my wife’s pertinent observation here!)

But, God had other plans…

More to come!

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Proverbs 3:5-6

verses 5-6: “Trust in the LORD will all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”

Two things come to mind this morning when I read these familiar verses. I think of King Saul in the Bible. Saul was successful for a time, for He followed the Lord through the instructions of His prophet Samuel. But Saul didn’t acknowledge God’s commandments, was impatient, and did things he wasn’t supposed to do. And God withdrew His favor from Saul; Samuel himself delivered that message to Saul.

Sometimes we lean on our own understanding, when we should lean on God’s. We may not understand God’s plans at the time, but we should trust in His omniscience.

Years ago, I was scheduled to take the postal carrier’s exam. The only way to get hired by the Post Office was to pass this exam. In order to enter the room where the test was administered, you had to have the yellow copy of the application you filled out. On the day of the exam, that yellow copy that I had guarded in my backpack disappeared. They would not let me in the room without it. I went home and tore my bedroom apart trying to find it. I know I had not opened my backpack after I left the house that day, but the paper wasn’t there (the last time I saw it was before I left, and it was there). The only thing I could conclude ultimately was that God didn’t want me to take that exam that day; to this day I don’t know why. Maybe I’ll get to ask the Lord that question when I get to glory. 🙂 But for then and even now, I trust God’s will when I don’t understand.

Do you need to “lean on the everlasting arms” of Jesus today?

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