Sunday, October 12, 2008

"Be, Go, Stop"

Last week, we were privileged to hear Tony Chaney preach. As always, he brought a powerful and thought provoking message (a message you can now listen to on the church website). He talked about the encounter that Saul (later known as Paul) had with Jesus on the road to Damascus. He described how the power of God just brings you to your knees. He even shared stories of how he's experienced it in his own life; those times where you just feel the weight of God's presence in your chest and you can't help but bow down (or fall down!). He says it's that feeling of your heart being humbled and brought low in God's presence; it's a place of grace that lifts you up.

In all his explanations of what that's like, I could think of several examples where I experienced it as well. It's indescribable!! When the presence of God hits, you can just feel it in the depths of your soul and with every fiber of your being. For me, it causes me to get weak and tremble. I most definitely have to sit down and just take it all in!

Tony talked about how that powerful presence just melts away the hardness in our hearts - much like it did for Saul. He was the toughest, meanest, persecutor of Christians that there was! Yet, ONE ENCOUNTER with God melted all of it away!! Saul's whole world stopped in that instant and for three days, he was blind as he waited on the Lord.

Tony said he wonders about what went through Saul's head during that time. God's Word tells us that he was blind for three days, and that he fasted and prayed. Can you imagine what it must have been like for Saul to be in utter darkness? Spiritually, he already had been, but now, it was combined with the physical reality of what it was like to live in the dark and not in the light. He had to be dependent on everyone. He was led by the hand and had to rely on others to guide him. I think that was the grander vision that God wanted him to understand; that on his own, he was nothing. His life had to be all about Jesus and being led by HIM!

The other thing Tony mentioned, that I had always marveled at as well, was the part when Ananias laid his hands on Saul and called him "brother." Ananias might have been one of the people on Saul's list to kill only a few days before, and yet, he was sent to heal him!! That takes an amazing faith, courage, and obedience that is way beyond what anyone could do in their flesh!! Ananias surely had to be empowered and strengthened by the Holy Spirit in order to do that!! And, to call Saul "brother" when only a few days ago he was a persecutor and enemy - WOW!!

Tony said that when we are flooded with the love of Jesus, he changes our heart and our perspective. That was how Ananias was able to do what he did. He very well could have been like, "Saul is blinded? You want ME to go lay hands on him and heal him? NO WAY!! That guy is a murderer!! He killed my fellow brothers and sisters! How do I know that he doesn't still want to kill me? I say let him stay that way! Serves him right!!" He would have had every right to feel that way too. Saul did terrible things; and probably to people close to Ananias. However, Ananias chose to obey the Spirit of God rather than his flesh and his feelings. He trusted that God took care of things and therefore, he was able to do what God asked.

In Tony's last words, he described what it means to follow God in faith. He said to listen, acknowledge, and ask. We have to be open to hearing and listening to God. Then, we have to acknowledge and affirm what we have heard and then ask what our part in it must be.

Tony also said the words "be, go, stop." That may sound confusing, but it's easy to understand if you think about the meaning/action behind the words. Many times we just need to "stop" and "be" so that we can "be" and "go." Does that make sense? Or, if you want to take things literally and sequentially, "be" in God's presence, "go" when he asks you to move, and "stop" when your part in it is done. All of it needs to be within God's direction. We need to patiently wait on Him and "be" and then be obedient to "go" and wise to "stop". We mustn't try to force things beyond where God wants to take it. I see that perfect example in Ananias because in order for Him to hear God, he had to have been listening (and listening is easier when you take time to be still and quiet). In the stillness and in his "be"ing, Ananias heard the Lord. Then, he was obedient to the Lord's call to "go" and then "stopped" when his task was done. He didn't try to go beyond what God asked by trying to teach/preach to Saul or who knows what else he might have wanted to say/do in his flesh. He did what God called him to do, and then let God continue the work according to His own plan. Sometimes, that is hard to follow through on when we have too much of our own agenda in mind. I know that for me, personally, there have been times where I have wanted to do what "I" thought was better, but God wanted me to just "stop" and step aside so he could handle a situation (or in some situations, a person) better than I could. It can be really hard to let go of your own will; especially when you or others involved don't understand. All that counts, however, is what is between you and God - no one else's judgments or lack of understanding matters. And God is God…..He can and will help others understand in due time; if it's His will to reveal it to them. Like He so often reminds me, "Sometimes, you have to be ok with not knowing things, Melissa." (That's another hard one for me considering how much I like to have answers!! LOL).

Focus on faith, and on those "action words" this week!! Experience the presence of God and don't be afraid to let Him humble you so that He can lift you up!! Grace and peace to all of you!!!

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