Paul (original name Saul), born in 5 AD in Tarsus of Cilicia – a port city of great wealth - was an Israelite and a Roman citizen.Paul was educated at the School of Gamaliel in Jerusalem.Gamaliel, President of the Sanhedrim, was one of the most revered teachers of his day.
As a devout Pharisee, Saul (Paul) was intent on destroying the followers of Jesus because he saw them as a threat to the teachings of the Jews.He went from house to house, dragging off men and women and putting them in prison.As a direct result of his "enthusiasm" many were put to death.
We all know the story of his fateful trip to Damascus when the Lord appeared to him and said, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"If you follow this story through the book of Acts, you'll find that Paul was immediately changed by his encounter with the Lord and became one of the greatest of all the Apostles.
However, Paul was not without problems.Scripture tells us that Paul had, as he himself describes it, a "thorn in the flesh."He asked the Lord three times for the thorn to depart, but the Lord replied,"My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness."(2nd Corinthians 12:9)Many today view this "thorn" as a disease of some kind; and, because God chose not to take it away from Paul, they try to infer that healing is not God's will for His children.Let's consider that theory for a moment.
"And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure."(2nd Corinthians 12:7)
If we carefully translate his original Greek words into today's English, his statement would look something like this:
"So that I would not become overly proud because of the amount of knowledge I received from the Lord, I was given a "thorn", an angel or messenger of Satan to continually strike and mistreat me."
Notice two things in this statement.Paul was "given" this thorn - He did not say he caught it or that it was an accident of fate or chance.Second, the word he used for "messenger" isaggelos, translated 179 times in the KJV as angel and 7 times as messenger.Paul said what he meant - the thorn was an "angel of Satan," sent (or given) with a message.The question remains, who sent the messenger and what was the message?
Who gave Paul this "angel"?Jesus said in Matthew 12:26 that"…if SatancastoutSatan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand."Since everywhere Jesus went on earth He healed all manner of diseases, does it make since that He would also give diseases?Using Jesus' words, if God both gives and heals diseases, is He not divided against Himself?Therefore, if Paul's "angel" was not of God, it must have been of Satan himself.
So, if the "thorn" was an angel of Satan and not a disease, just what was it that God wanted Paul to retain the keep him humble? We might see a clue in God's reply to Paul concerning grace.
Grace: In the Greek: cariv or charis (Pronounced khar'-ece) meaning the merciful kindness by which God, exerting His holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.
In what area did Paul need strengthening or his faith increased?
A few days ago, while praying, this very question was on my mind.As God always does when we go to Him with questions, He answered.Paul, like so many of us, had been totally forgiven for his life before meeting Christ on the road to Damascus.However, he could not get the memory of those beatings, stonings, imprisonments and killings out of his mind.The memory of his days walking outside the will of God was painful.Satan was using those memories (that message) to try to break Paul's spirit.I can imagine Satan's angel taunting him saying things like,"How can you save souls?You're a murderer!You don't deserve God's grace."Paul knew it was true; but, He also knew it's not about what we deserve, but God's amazing grace and love.Yes, Paul remembered; and those memories kept him humble.
If Jesus Christ can so thoroughly change a man like Saul in a single encounter, He can change you and me.Like Paul, our memories may stay with us; but, Christ's love will overcome and fill us with His joy and peace if we put our faith in Him.
"…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"(2nd Corinthians 5:17)Let start today to become new creations in Christ.
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus."
- Philippians 2:5
Tuesday: October 25, 2005
"Stuck in a Muddy Rut"
It sounded like a good idea at the time, spending Sunday afternoon putting my Geo Tracker in 4 wheel drive and sending it where no one dared to tread.I should have noticed that the trails were wet and empty, except for a few off-road motorcycles and a handful of pedestrians.Predictably, the last two hours were spent in a muddy rut the size of the Grand Canyon, waiting for a kind soul to pull us out.Philosophically, I told my son afterward, "It could have been worse!"He was not amused.
I recall my pastor saying the only thing different about a grave and a rut are the dimensions.Life has its ruts, and finding them is the easy part.Learning how to dodge them, straddle them or avoid them altogether is the difficult task.But the real danger is getting stuck in them and finding ourselves unable to get out on our own.
The Christian life may be difficult or challenging but it should never become boring.That's what I love about studying the life and teachings of Jesus.His message was always the same but his life was unpredictable.And it drove the Pharisees crazy!Christians, we need to walk in the Truth that never changes but our lifestyle should exude spontaneity.Let's get out of those ruts and live in a way that will compel the non-Christian to want what we have.
GospeLines Prayer:"Lord Jesus, when I am near a rut, guide me; when I am in a rut, nudge me out.If I find myself in situations where there are lots of ruts to fall into, steer me to higher ground. I pray in your Holy name, amen and amen."
Pikes Peak Highway is a nineteen mile journey from Cascade, Colorado to the summit. The sign at the entrance says "Elevation: 7,400 ft." In 1974, driving a small four door Nissan, with 4-on-the-floor, it looked a lot higher to this Texas flat-lander. But I was young and daring so off we went toward the 14,110 ft. summit.
I have been told that the drive is beautiful. But I was too busy trying to stay away from the edge to enjoy the breathtaking view, straight down, with nothing to keep me from going over the side but my sweaty palms on the steering wheel. I don't have to tell you that I was scared.
That's my life. You and I often find ourselves on the Pikes Peak Highway of life with that scared feeling in the pit of our stomachs. Sometimes it gets so frightening that we forget to enjoy the view.
Just before Jesus left this earth, he told His disciples that He would not leave them alone, but that the Comforter would be with them. It was His way of saying, "Don't be too concerned about the risks, just enjoy the ride. I will be with you."
Driving those 19 miles up Pikes Peak, you have to learn to live with the edge. It's not going to go away. In life, we face the edge every day, just the same way. But Jesus is there with us, steering us, keeping us safe. Be assured that the view is worth seeing and enjoying....take a chance, let Jesus be your protection and bask in the beauty of His creation. He is in charge of it. GospeLines Prayer: Father, forbid that I would go through life without enjoying the beauty of it all because I fear the dangers it brings. When I am brought close to the edge, remind me that You are there to keep me safe and to steer me onto the correct course. Amen and amen.
Psalm 56:3 – What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. (KJV)
For several days the weather channel had been predicting snow for our area of the state. Since snow is something we seldom see, the grandchildren were very excited.
At last the day arrived! That long awaited snowfall was to be here. Day became night and the radar revealed snow all around us. The grandchildren were visiting at our house, and every few minutes one of them would open the door and peek out to see if the white stuff was falling.
Finally, I knew from their excited voices they could see snow!
Everyone went running out in the yard so they could actually feel it. Then suddenly the door flew open and three year-old Brooke came running back in the house. She snuggled up to me and said, "Grandma, I am afraid!"
Thinking it was all the noise and hoopla the other three grandchildren were making, I gathered her close and explained it was just the beautiful snow they were exclaiming over.
Brooke proceeded to tell me, "Grandma, I know all about that snow, it is the dark that makes me afraid!"
I cuddled her even closer and thanked God she felt safe from the dark in the arms of her grandmother. Next, I asked God to help us teach her that the arms of Jesus are even more secure than the ones that physically held her that night.
Prayer: God, it is so good to know that when we are afraid we can put our trust in you. Whether it be a dark, snowy, wintry night, or the fears that sometimes appear in the bright sunshine of the day, our faith and hope is in you.
How often have you asked God for a blessing and included the phrase, "If it be Your Will"?When Jesus told us how to pray, He included the words "…Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10)
Notice that He didn't say "if it's Your will", but simply, "Your will be done."That's because Jesus knew God's will on earth.
When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, He said, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."(Matthew 26:42)
Again, there was no question of "if" or "what" was God's will.Jesus was praying that God might change His will.Jesus knew full well what was and was not the will of the Father.What about us?
Jesus said that, "Whoever does God's will is my brother…"(Mark 3:35) and"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven"(Matthew 7:21).How can we know the will of God?
Jesus Himself gave us some insight into His will when the leper said to Him,"Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus responded,"I am willing.Be clean!"(Luke 5:12-13)
Paul prayed that Philemon, Apphia, Archippus, and the church that met in their home would be active in sharing their faith so that they would…"have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ."(Philemon 1-6)
If we do not conform to the thinking of the world, but allow the Spirit to transform us - to renew our minds - then we will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)
So, when you pray, don't short-circuit your prayer by telling God, "I have no idea what You want for me; so, I'll just say 'If it be Your will.'"You're in effect telling God that you don't have the time or the interest to find out what He wants for us; you'd rather just ask and see what happens.
Instead, study His word; seek understanding of His will; and then, when you pray, approach Him with confidence.Know that if you ask according to His will, He will hear you and you will have what you ask of Him. (1st John 5:14)
If we can give good gifts to our children when they ask according to what we believe to be in their best interest, how much more will our Father in heaven give good gifts us when we ask according to His will.
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus."