Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Change is Possible"

Acts 9:11 "So the Lord said to Ananias, "Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying."

Ananias knew about this man Saul...
heard all about the terrible things he 
had done to believers 
in Jerusalem.   A
nd the LORD knew that Ananias was going to 
have some reservations about Saul.  That's why He told him 
"Behold, he is praying."   The LORD wants Ananias to understand that Saul has changed...he's different for now he prays to Me."  Don't you love how the LORD points to the fact that Saul is now praying to Him as proof that he is a believer, proof that it is safe to go.  "Behold, he is
praying to me now. (NLT)"  

But Ananias has taken his eyes off the LORD and puts them on the man, Saul, and Ananias 
 gone from 
"Yes, LORD" to "But LORD" ~  
"but LORD, ...he is authorized by  
leading priests 
to arrest 
every believer 
in Damascus."   
Whenever we say "but" it means we are in opposition to what has just been said.  And we usually say it right before we give our explanation/excuse for why we can't do something.  "But LORD, I can't go there, I might be arrested!   God isn't only working in Saul's heart...He's working in Ananias 
heart too.

"But the LORD said, "Go and do what I say.  For Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel."  Acts 9:15

God is so gracious to Ananias...He didn't have to explain what he was doing...The LORD could have just stopped at "Go and do what I say."   But He doesn't stop there...God shares His plans for Saul, to help Ananias to see more him what he needs to enable him to get up and get going.  Since God did this for Ananias, he will do the same for us as well.   He will always give us what we need ~ to do what He has called us to do.

"So Ananias went and found Saul.  He laid his hands on him and said, "Brother Saul, the LORD Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you may get your sight back and be filled with the Holy Spirit."  Acts 9:17

Doesn't the LORD work in unexpected ways...getting Saul's attention, what a dramatic change.  Who would have thought that Saul would get saved...well, not Ananias...and I'm sure we wouldn't have thought so either.  But at the same time God is working on Saul, he's working on Ananias' heart (a devoted Christian).  

This is a great reminder that no one is beyond the reach of God and none of us have arrived...we all need the changing power of Jesus in our lives, but we need to permit Him to change us...transform us.  Had Saul been unwilling...he would have continued as he was, a non-believer fighting against God.  And Ananias...we would have never heard of him.

But for those who are willing to yield to His will, listen to His Word, and follow His way, He begins to change that believer and accomplish remarkable things in their life.  He also begins to do wonderful things through that life.


Monday, September 26, 2011

"Winter of their Discontent"

Acts 6:1  "But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent..."

These Greek-speaking Christians began to complain, but they didn't complain to those in authority, those responsible, they simply complained among themselves.  The Strong's Concordance tells us that the "rumblings of discontent, complaints, murmuring were done in secret."  It was "a secret debate, a secret displeasure not openly avowed."   Why?  Why were their complaints done in secret?  If there is legitimate problem...and we see that there was...why not go before the apostles and have it dealt with.  

I wonder if the believers "winter of their discontentment" began with a root of bitterness...someone begins to think that they aren't appreciated...and a spirit of complaining begins and what is actually an innocent turned into intentional neglect.  Regardless of the cause of their's always wrong.   

We too can have our "winters of discontentment", can't we.  When we begin to question the motives of others...we can know that winter is here...don't look around with this happens...the first place we need to look is within our own hearts and bring it to the LORD.  If left unchecked...a work of the spirit can be destroyed.   

How wise the Apostles were...when they heard of the problem they didn't ignore it and say, "nonsense!"  They didn't take it personal, "I dare you even suggest that we are showing favoritism."  They dealt with it:  Acts 6:3  " seven men who are well respected and are full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom."  Every problem that arises in the church gives us the opportunity to do three things. (1) Examine our hearts.  (2) Exercise faith in the Lord. (3) Express Love in the way that we work out the problem. 

All this causes me to wonder about God's providence.  
Genesis 50:20 comes to mind "But as for you, ye 
thought evil against me; [but] God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, 
as [it is] this day, to save 
much people 
Could it be, that the LORD allowed the widows to 
receive the hearts of His people could be tested and revealed so their sin could be dealt with.  Often, the problem we have in loving others is really a symptom of 
a deeper problem...not knowing who God is and trusting Him...our flesh, sin 
is the real issue.

The problem was handled with wisdom, with discernment, with love and grace.  Acts 6:5  "This idea pleased the whole group."  As a result of the godly leadership...true unity began and the Holy Spirit 
moved and did a greater work... 

Acts 6:7 "God's message was preached in ever-widening circles.  The number 
of believers 
greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many  of the Jewish priests were converted too."