Monday, June 4, 2012

Stepping Back Into The Battle, Paul Redirected #1

  

 There are many real life battles that oppose each other as we live out our life in this world. There are many battles of disagreement in our information saturated world. One side may believe that abortion is ok and the other side opposes abortion. One side may believe it is not a problem for men and women to live together before marriage, and the other side disagrees with men and women living together outside of marriage. One side may believe that pornography does not harm our society, and the opposing side believes pornography does not harm our society. The list of disagreements and the opposing battles in life go on and on. We read about disageements in our newspapers, on our social networks and on talk shows. We hear about the battle of disagreements in movies, on the radio, in videos and as we walk along in life. There are times in life that we may change our opinion and move from one side to the other.

     There was a time in my life when I felt abortion was not wrong. There was a time in my life, when I thought it was great that men and women lived together before marriage. There was a time in my life that I believed that pornography did not harm society. And THEN!!!! THEN, God stepped in and changed my life. The battle of life changed. I became a Christ follower and believed in Jesus Christ. Long ago as a sales consultant a customer inived me to church. The church I was invited to was a church plant. (A side note; To those who do not know what a church plant is it is when a group of people come together and start a chrisitan church.)

     Finally one day, I walked into the church with no intentions of staying, but week after week, Sunday arrived and I returned. I am not sure how many weeks went by, before the change happened. One morning I was standing in a row and we were singing. People were going to the front as they were singing. No one was speaking, we were only singing. As I stood in front with others who were singing, I began to pray asking Jesus Christ to forgive me for my sin and to come into my heart. Before I attended this church I listened on TV, read about receiving Jesus Christ in books and visited other churches, but I was not willing to pray the prayer that would change my life. On this day at the age of 32 years old, I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ.

     In the same way as we read in Romans 10:8-13 in the Bible I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ; But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming; That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile--the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.

     Today, I continue to be a follower of Jesus Christ. After praying this prayer, what I believed prior to this began to change.
  • I changed from someone who thought abortion was fine, to someone who totally disagreed with abortion.
  • I began to understand God's plan for why living together is against God's plan for our lives.
  • I changed from thinking that pornography is not harmful to families and to society, to strongly believing that it tears and rips families apart at its very core.
  • I now look in the mirror and see someone who thinks totally different than prior to receiving Jesus Christ.
     I became a new creation; 2 Corinthians 5:17, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new had come! When we step into this new life, we now enter a new battle. The battle we are now in is a spiritual battle. On your own read Ephesians 6:10-17 in the New Testament of the bible on the spiritual battle we enter into as a Christian.
In Acts 9 we read about Saul who was a man who zeolously murdered Christians. His goal in life was to find Christians and make sure that their life was taken away from them. In Acts 9 we read that one day Saul was on a journey. What was Saul's intent on this journey? His intent was to find Christians and kill them. BUT as he was going along, something extraordinary happened.

     On your own read Acts 9:1-19 for the details. Paul was on the road and was brought to his knees and was blinded by the Lord. He could not see, so he could not proceed on his journey to kill christians. On this day Paul turned from his life as a murderer to the new life as a Christian. He moved from one battle of life to another. Now Paul began to love the people who he previoulsy desired to kill. He desired to share the love of Jesus Christ with those who did not know him. What a change! Only a change that the Holy Spirit can carry out in a life.

     Do you ever wonder what Paul would see if he looked in the mirror and could see the change of his inward being? Would he be able to see the change of his heart? If he could see inwardly I'm sure his heart would show a love for his previous enemies. What a contrast! The man who once spoke hate for those who had not heard the gospel, loves the gospel and the Jesus we read about in the gospels.

     He was no longer called Saul. He now had the new name of the Apostle Paul.
Today God continues to call those to himself who reject his son Jesus Christ. He continues to call those to himself, who are living their life in opposition to God. There are those who make fun of Christians, in fact at one time I was one of the people who made fun of christians, prior to becoming one! Today, at this very moment God is looking for those who are reading this who are not a child of God to pray Romans 10:8-13 found in the New Testament in the bible and at the beginning of this article. Make this your prayer today! Once you pray, you are now, not later, but now a child of God! You are part of the family of God!

     Now as we move forward we will look at the 3 aspects of the life of Paul, in his battle as a Christian.He has already traveled on one journey to share the gospel. On the first journey Paul came across a man that was unable to walk since birth. He simply spoke to the man and said, "Get up!" He was immediately healed. This caused a problem and it angered a group of people and behind the scenes they riled up the crowd to attack Paul. They stoned him and threw him out of the city. Yet, he got up and went back to the city! This is a man that did not give up in the battle, even when he was physically battered and bruisedf! He did not give up!

     Acts 14:19-20; Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and WENT BACK INTO THE CITY! (Emphasis mine) The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. He immediately stepped back into the battle of the call on his life, again and again and again. Now lets move on to one are of Paul's second part of his journey.

     We find that once again Paul willingly stepped onto the road of travel, as he was lead by the Spirit. In fact we read in Acts 16:1-6, Timothy stepped into the battle with Paul for the first time. This was Timothy's first time to travel with Paul. In the book of Ruth we read that Ruth went with her mother-inlaw to live in a land that she was not familiar with. Ruth traveled willingly with her mother-inlaw to a land where she would be a foreigner. My Great Grandparents were immigrants who came to the United States. When my Great Grandparents made the decision to come to the United States, they did not make a trip before moving to check out the land. No they stepped out in faith, saved their money and came by ship to an unfamiliar land. We see that Timothy was obedient and Ruth was obedient. It is good for us to examine our own lives; and ask ourselves as Christians, "Am I willing to step on the road of travel, if God called me to do so? Am I willing to be obedient, even if God sends me to a place that I have not visited before? Will I obediently go? Or will I stay where I am not to be and be disobedient to God?
 
      As Paul prepares to go on his second journey he finds that God is changing his directions. In Acts 16:6-10 we read that Paul was willing to change his travel itineary. Paul willngly changed his directions, as He was lead by the Spirit. The night before Paul and his group was to leave on the planned journey, Paul had a vision. In this vision was a man who was begging Paul to come to Macedonia. (Acts 16:8-10) The next day Paul and his group left for Macedonia. Acts 16:10 makes it very clear that Paul got ready AT ONCE (immediately in the Greek) to leave for Macedonia, Paul is going into the unknown, into new territory to share the gospel.
  
     A few years ago I traveled to Africa. My flight was late and when I arrived at the airport tucked away in my bag, was a satelite map of the area. One road on my map went North and the other road traveled east. As I sat by the street near the airport, trying to decide how to get in touch with my hosts, (my cell phone would not work) suddenly I was surrounded by taxi drivers. I was trying to explain to one driver who spoke English were I needed to go. He pointed in the direction of the city that was North on my map and I kept telling him no, no, no. Finally I retrieved my satelite map from my bag. I was able to point and continue to tell him no. Because of this map, I realized that if I went with this taxi driver, I would not get to my destination.

     In my frustration I noticed that the taxi driver had a cell phone and asked if I could use it. I found my hosts phone number in my bag and called them. In a few minutes they showed up. Although I had a map and someone's cell phone to use, Apostle Paul did not have a satelite map or a cell phone. The only thing he had was a vision, and a man telling him to come to Macedonia and help us. Without modern assistance, Paul obeyed and willingly changed directions, as he was lead by the Spirit.

      Paul now willingly went, as he was lead by the Spirit. Paul obeyed and went to Macedonia. (Refer to Acts 16:11- _____ ) Did you ever notice when we read this account of the change of direction, that Paul did not have what we refer to today as a bad attitude. If he did, it is not mentioned in Acts 16. It is simply stated that he went! As I studied this passage, reading a few chapters before 16 and a few chapters following 16 I was reminded of a passage in Ezekiel, chapter 3:12-23.

     We read in Ezekiel 3:14-25; The Spirit then lifted me up adn took me away, and I went in bitterness and in anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the LORD upon me, I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Abib near the Kebar River. And there, where they were living I sat among them for seven days--overwhelmed. Now go to Ezekiel 3:22-23; The hand of the LORD was upon me there, and he said to me, "Get up and go out to the plain, and there I will speak to you." So I got up and went out to the plain. And the glory of the LORd was standing there, like the glory I had seen by the Kebar River, and I fell facedown.

     Notice in verses 14-25 Ezekiel went, but he went in bitterness and in anger of spirit. He sat among the exiles for seven days overwhelmed. Now notice in verse 22-23 once again the hand of the LORD was upon Ezekiel and once again he went.Notice that it does not say that this time he went in bitterness and anger of his spirit. He got up and he went. And what did he see, the glory of the Lord, but this time he also fell face down! As we read about Paul's journey and the immedaite change, we do not read about any bitterness or anger, instead we see a man who willingly went, as he was lead by the Spirit. No fighting no arguing he went.
  1. Paul willingly stepped into travel, as he was lead by the spriit.
  2. Paul willingly changed directions, as he was lead by the spirit.
  3. Paul willingly went, as he was led by the spirit.

     What about us? Are we willing to submit to the direction of the Holy Spirit? Are we wiling to change direction if we are heading West and the Spirit shows us to go East? For some people God may be calling them to a directional change, yet for others he may be leading them to stay where they are. It may be a difficult place to be, a job, an organization, or a neighborhood.

     When we see a person changing direction and crediting this to the Holy Spirit, it does not mean that each one of our directions will look exactly the same. It does not mean that we will necessarily have a vision and God tells us to immediately leave an area. It may mean instead that they will be leaving,, but it will be step by step. Whatever the direction, it is important that each one of us, learn to hear the still small voice that is waiting for us to listen for direction for each one of our lives.

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