Tag: apostle Paul

Life Changing Questions

Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 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.” And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank (Acts 9:1-9).

The man we know as the apostle Paul (formerly known as Saul) was a persecutor of Christians before he met Christ on the Damascus road. Certainly, as a devout Jew and a Pharisee, he had prayed many times to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The first time he spoke to Jesus Christ, it is revealing that as he heard His voice, he knew that he must address Him as Lord.

When he discovered the God he was defending was the same God he was persecuting, Paul had only one option: to give everything he had to serve the Lord Jesus Christ . . . . Faced with the fact of the sacrifice of Jesus on his behalf was all it took for Paul to live the rest of his life in obedience to His will. His prayers were always reverent but bold, knowing that his faith was in a God who loves, forgives, and desires to communicate with His children. . . . (from The Prayer Driven Life, Stephanie B. Blake)

In his encounter with Jesus, he asked two questions that changed his life. Those two questions can and should change ours as well.

“Who are you, Lord?”

How you answer, “Who are You, Lord?” determines how you live your life. Who is Jesus Christ to you? Is He just the babe in the manger that is the reason for Christmas celebrations? Is He like a passing stranger who has rescued you from peril (eternal death), one who merits gratitude but who has no lasting claim on your life? Have you fully realized the implications of His Lordship in your life?

If you ask the question, as Paul did, “Who are You, Lord?” you must deal with His answer. You have to decide what to do with the claims He makes about Himself. Paul later wrote if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. . . . for “whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:9, 13 NAS).

He deserves to be your Lord because of who He is and what He did on your behalf. A lord is someone you follow, someone who rules. If you understand the love for you that drove Jesus to the cross, then you must love Him in return, we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19), and give Him the place He deserves in your life.

In an instant, Paul understood that he had been wrong about Jesus. He was indeed the promised Messiah. With that realization, he gave his heart to Him in faith trusting Him as His Savior and committing to serve Him as Lord. Jesus invites each of us to do the same. If you are not sure that you have trusted Jesus as Savior and Lord, settle that issue right now. The Bible says “you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13b).

God’s relationship with mankind is all about His loving grace. Even before Adam and Eve chose to sin in the Garden of Eden, God knew that He would provide a way back to Him through the sinless life, sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection of His only Son, Jesus Christ. Anyone who recognizes the reality of sin in his life; repents of that sin; and invites Jesus Christ to be his Savior and Lord becomes a child of God and will live with Him forever. Eternity is a reality for us all. Those who choose Jesus are adopted into God’s family and will go to Heaven when they die. Those who reject Him will spend eternity separated from God in a literal Hell.

Becoming a Christian is not just about going to heaven when you die, but how you live the rest of your life. Jesus wants to be and deserves to be the Lord of your life. So, just like Paul, our next logical question is:

“Lord, what do You want me to do?”

Read this question with the following emphases.

  • “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
  • “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
  • “Lord, what do You want me to do?”

Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15 NASB).

Scripture tells us that after his conversion, Paul was immediately obedient. He followed the Lord’s instruction without question.

If Saul had asked the question, but then walked away without hearing the answer, he would not have become the apostle Paul. When you pray, do you wait to hear what God has to say to you? Record a prayer asking God to enable you to hear Him through His word, His Spirit, His body, and any other means by which He desires to speak to you.

Paul told Agrippa, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19). Will you be able to tell Jesus when you meet Him in Heaven, “I was not disobedient to your call on my life?” Ask Him to help you know His will and do it.

Do you have a “big picture” of God’s will for you? That does not mean that you know in advance each step He wants you to take, for He gives you direction as you need it. It means that you realize that whatever plan He has for you, it is to bring glory to His name.

Paul was also able to say at the end of his life, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7). Even with his background, Paul knew the Lord had forgiven him. His life from his conversion on was to do God’s will. Will you be able to say the same thing about your own life? Have you started the good fight? Are you keeping the faith?

 

Stephanie B. Blake

© November 2014

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Beloved Benediction

The apostle Paul included many prayers in the letters that he wrote to churches and fellow disciples. Among those prayers were at least sixteen prayers that we might categorize as benedictory prayers.

Perhaps the most loved of all the benedictions is the one Paul prayed for the Ephesian church:

  • Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen (Ephesians 20-21).

This benediction is in the middle of Paul’s letter to that church, but it concludes his incredible prayer for them (Ephesians 3:14-19). The prayer and the benediction include some of the most majestic descriptions of the riches of God’s glory imparted to His children.

  • Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly above all that we ask or think …

No matter how big our prayers, God’s supply is bigger still.  – For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). – His thoughts are much, much higher. He is not only able to, but does do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.

God, our Heavenly Father who loves to dote on His children, gives us more than we can ever request. It is true on earth, and it will be true in Heaven.  – Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9). – Just as an earthly father watches with glee as his child opens a gift to discover that it was bigger and better than anything he had hoped for, God surprises us time and again with incredible blessings beyond our imaginations.

Psalm 105:1-2 tells us to … Make known His deeds among the peoples … Talk of all His wondrous works! Our conversations with others can be filled with examples of how good God is to us and how He has answered our prayers. Especially those in the church understand when we share our stories, as they can also cite instances of God’s abundant grace in their own lives.

  • according to the power that works in us

Many times our examples have to do with God getting us through what appears to be an impossible situation. In Christ, we have all the resources of the Godhead to accomplish anything He asks us to do. An old hymn reminds us to “trust and obey.” That is our part. God’s part is to do all the work! Isaiah 26:12 says, Lord, You have also done all our works in us.

  • … to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.

Many things in this world do not last. Flowers fade; grass withers; wood decays, etc. Anything done by God’s power in God’s church (His body) for His glory will last forever.

  • Amen.

So be it!

© Stephanie B. Blake

June 2014

This devotional is adapted from my book, The Prayer Driven Life

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The Man Called Paul

The man we know as Paul was born Saul of Tarsus. Saul is the name that is used of him up to and including a short time after his conversion. In Acts 13:9, in recording the confrontation that Paul had with Elymas the sorcerer, Luke said, Then Saul, who also is called Paul …. From that time on, Luke refers to the apostle as Paul instead of Saul. From then on, all biblical references to him are as Paul except in those times when Paul gives his own testimony, and he refers back to the times when the Lord and Ananias said, “Saul.” He starts each epistle with “Paul.”

The reason Luke chose this point in writing the book of Acts to stop referring to the apostle as Saul is not recorded, but Paul was the Roman form of his name. It is possible this name was given to him at birth for use in the Gentile world since his father was a Roman citizen. As Paul was called to give the gospel primarily to Gentiles, from now on I will go to the Gentiles (Acts 18:6) … from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you (Acts 26:17), using the Roman form of his name was probably more acceptable to those he was trying to reach. In what became Paul’s last letter, he told Timothy I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles (2 Timothy 1:11).

At the point in history when Saul of Tarsus was born, he had the best of both worlds. As a Roman citizen, he was accepted by the Romans and had all the rights due a citizen of Rome. As a Pharisee, born of the tribe of Benjamin, he was among the most respected of the Jews.

It might be said that he was “born with a silver spoon in his mouth,” as he had all the advantages of an influential family and came from the richest heritage of his race. Being blessed with a great mind, he was also given the best education available. His personality was such that he had the determination and energy to focus on those things he believed were important to his God, his faith, his country, his family, and himself, and to carry through on those beliefs. In short, he had everything going for him.

The Persecutor 

As an Israelite, Saul was so determined to stamp out any movement that threatened his religion he personally persecuted followers of the man called Jesus. He obtained permission to wipe them out. In many ways, Saul’s persecution of the Christians could be compared with Hitler’s persecution of the Jews. In his thinking, all Christians must be destroyed. However, one day on the road to Damascus, where he planned to continue his rampage against believers of Christ, the Lord Jesus Himself confronted him.

The first recorded prayer of Paul that we find is the conversation he had with the risen Lord on that road to Damascus. Having obtained permission from the government officials to persecute the believers of Christ, he was a man with a mission. It is possible to visualize his determination as he devoted his life to wiping out this new “sect.”

However, when Saul first heard the voice of the Lord, he was afraid. In response to the voice from heaven saying, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? (Acts 9:4), he asked, Who are You, Lord? When Jesus identified Himself, Saul trembling and astonished [responded], “Lord, what do You want me to do?”

A New Man 

In between Saul’s first and second questions, a change had come over him. When he discovered the God he was defending was the same God he was persecuting, Paul had only one option: to give everything he had to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. From that moment on, Saul’s heart, mind and life belonged to Jesus.

At that point, he became the apostle Paul. No longer did the voice of the Lord generate fear in his heart, but loyalty. That day started many years of communicating with the God he loved and served. His first prayer was, Who are You, Lord? but among his last prayers was I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief (1 Timothy 1:12-13).

Faced with the fact of the sacrifice of Jesus on his behalf was all it took for Paul to live the rest of his life in obedience to His will. His prayers were always reverent but bold, knowing that his faith was in a God who loves, forgives, and desires to communicate with His children.

In Saul’s conversion experience, he discovered an important truth for himself that he later communicated to his brothers in Christ. Only someone living outside of the will of God would perceive God’s voice as threatening.

© Stephanie B. Blake

October 2013

* This devotional is an excerpt from The Prayer Driven Life.

The Prayer Driven Life examines the prayers of the Apostle Paul. Although many people would admit that there is value in prayer, few can say that prayer is the driving force in their lives. Those who can make that statement have an intimate relationship with God. Often they leave a lasting legacy for others.

Paul is an excellent example of someone whose life was driven by prayer. Using his prayers as a backdrop,The Prayer Driven Life examines essential questions about prayer. What is it? Why should you pray? What difference does it make in your life?

The real value of Paul’s prayers is that they help you get to know God better. From the moment he met God’s Son on the road to Damascus, Paul’s life was driven by prayer. In prayer, he communicated with God and obtained guidance for his life.

So can we.

© Stephanie B. Blake

October 2013

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