Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing.
This is the beginning of the story of Saul’s conversion into the Christian faith. It is one of the most dramatic conversion stories in the Bible. When he met Jesus, Saul became Paul, and did a 180 degree turn from his old life to a brand new life, heading in a very different direction.
Let this story remind you of your conversion experience. It most likely was not this dramatic – but maybe it was?
Can you share it with me?
What kind of feelings does this story stir up for you?peace and joyPastor Wendy
We continue to read in Acts 9
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.
Once God got Saul’s attention, he led him to a believer who would help with the next step in his discipleship. Ananias was a devout believer who knew that Saul once sought Christ followers to throw them and their entire families in prison. And yet, when God asked Ananias to meet with Saul, Ananias did so. Very seldom does someone come to faith and then walk in faith alone. We all need people to guide us. Who were the people along your journey in faith who have helped to guide you?
I would love to hear about those people.
If they are still alive, perhaps you can write them a note to thank them for being your companion.peace and joyPastor Wendy
Let’s read yesterday’s text again
Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at 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 instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened.
Have you ever had someone who first meant you harm, do an about face and come to you for help in their faith? That is what happened to Anaias. Saul was a truly nasty man – but God meant to use him for good. It did not seem so at the time, but this was an honor God was bestowing on Ananias.
God is giving that honor to you. The person God is asking you to walk beside may be the opposite of Saul – kind and caring, vulnerable, and eager. That makes your opportunity even more sweet.
Many years ago, a young couple found the church I was serving, and asked if I would marry them. They got involved in the life of the church and eventually started working with the youth group. We had fun working together in ministry. She eventually became the youth pastor at the church, bringing the youth group from six teens to almost 40. She was the youth pastor for my two teenage girls, which was a blessing for our family.
About 10 years ago I had the honor of standing with her at her ordination into ministry in the United Methodist Church. That was the day I learned she was not a believer before finding the church I was serving and getting involved in ministry.
It was that church family who walked with her into her calling. WOW! What a blessing!
How might God be asking you to walk along side a person seeking a relationship with God?peace and joyPastor Wendy
Continue reading in Acts 9
Saul Proclaims Jesus in Synagogues
For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
Saul Escapes from Damascus
When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.
When we think of Paul, we think of a guy whose faith is bold and fully developed, but that was not the case. He had to spend time with others to unlearn some untruths and relearn some old truths. He had to humble himself in mind, heart and spirit. This was really hard for Paul. He was a teacher of the law and a leader of the Jews. How would he allow himself to come under the wing of new teachers?
We are never too young to learn – and never too old to have an open heart, open mind, and open spirit to learn how God might want to use us or teach us in different ways. Today’s world is polarized because we have become a nation, and in too many ways, a church, that refuses to hear one another. Unfortunately, this is not new.
In your personal prayers today, ask God to humble your heart and open your eyes to what God wants you to see, who God might want you to walk with, and what God might have for you to learn.peace and joyPastor Wendy
Continuing in Acts 9
Saul in Jerusalem
And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.
When I think of Paul, I think of a strong, opinionated, independent leader in the early church – missionary to the world. But did you know that he also had and needed close companions? Barnabus came to Paul’s aid when he first went to Jerusalem to visit with the original disciples, who were quickly becoming the pillars of the early church. They did not trust Paul one little bit. But they knew and trusted Barnabus.
There have been plenty of times in my life when I was venturing into new, scary, or unknown territory, and needed a “Barnabus” to come with me. There were times I needed to be protected; times I needed companionship; times I needed help (even if I was not able to admit it); times I needed a teacher/mentor. Barnabus was all of these things for Paul.
If you have a “Barnabus” personality, please know that you are a gift.
And if you have a “Paul” personality, allow yourself to welcome a “Barnabus” on your journey.
Reflect on your life to identify people who have come at just the right time.
Give God thanks for them.peace and joyPastor Wendy
Today is Aldersgate Day - which recognizes how and when our founding father of the Methodist movement came closer to God when his "heart was strangely warmed".