Chapter-a-Day Acts 9

Paul @ Bundoran
Paul @ Bundoran (Photo credit: bettlebrox)

Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink. Acts 9:8-9 (NLT)

I had a moment of synchronicity yesterday as I sat in the back of the church during worship. The music was playing just before the morning message and I thought to myself that I’d read the chapter for today just to let it speak to me and percolate before I had to write this post. I opened to Acts 9. At that moment, the preacher stood and told everyone to open their Bibles to Acts 9. I looked up at the stage, then back down to the page. I was already there. It was a bit surreal.

The preacher called the disorienting event in Saul’s life a “Depends Moment.” Life goes along as expected. We are oriented and calibrated. Life is chugging along nicely and we are in a groove of living, thinking, and believing. Then comes a disorienting event that makes us pee our pants (hand me the Depends). Like Paul on the road to Damascus we are left blind. Everything we’ve thought, known, and believed becomes dark.

After the disorienting event – over the days, weeks and years to come, Paul’s life was reoriented. From detractor to believer, instead of being a persecutor of Jesus’ followers, he became arguably their greatest convert and leader.

Orientation, disorientation, reorientation.

My “Depends Moment” came seven years ago next Sunday when the divorce decree was filed. Seemingly all that I’d become oriented to think, live and believe over 40 years came crashing down around me. Disorientation followed and reorientation began.

The preacher reminded us yesterday to thank God for “Depends Moments.” They are the vehicle God uses to break us down so that He can take us through the process of reorientation for the next stage of our journey. Today, I’m thinking back to 40 years of orientation, to a period of blinding disorientation, and to the past seven years of reorientation.

I don’t know exactly where it leads anymore than Paul knew what was happening as he sat blindly on Straight Street in Damascus. But, I’m excited to find out for what God has been reorienting me.

Chapter-a-Day Acts 8

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 02:  Kyle Korver #26 of th...
CHICAGO, IL – APRIL 02: Kyle Korver #26 of the Chicago Bulls passes the ball under pressure from Courtney Lee #5 of the Houston Rockets at the United Center on April 2, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Rockets defeated the Bulls 99-93. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria.  Acts 8:2 (NLT)

The other night I watched a snippet of an interview with Kyle Korver of the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls have struggled all season with their star player injured and on the bench. The other players rallied behind their ailing MVP all season and ended with the best record. In the first game of the playoffs, however, their now “healthy” MVP blew out his knee. Now the team has to face the playoffs without their most important player. No one is giving them much of a chance.

“We’ve got a great story here,” Korver said in response to the situation. He’s right. No one wants to read the story of a team who packs their bench with the biggest stars and then waltzes to a championship everyone expects them to win. The story of a rag-tag team of bench players who rally together and win against all odds – that’s a story people want to read, and watch, and be a part of.

A shake-up can be a healthy for all of us. Tragedy and persecution are thought of as bad things, but God’s Message says in many places that we are to be joyful when we encounter trials and tribulations. Difficult times force us to grow. Tragedies refine our character. Pain pushes us to persevere. Maturity is found at the end of a difficult stretch of the journey. And, they are all the stuff of great stories.

In today’s chapter, the followers of Jesus experience a huge wave of persecution. People are being hunted down, arrested, imprisoned, and stoned to death. It is no longer safe to be associated with Jesus and His followers. People scatter out of the city and the region to avoid the persecution. I’m sure some were fearful and anxious asking God why He would allow such a thing to happen. By the end of the chapter, we begin to see the fruit of the persecution. Jesus’ message is carried with the fleeing followers to every corner of the country and beyond. The movement spreads out to reach more and more people and the incredible stories of people believing, miracles happening, and lives being changed begin to pile up.

Having a difficult time? Feeling beat down and persecuted? Be joyful. What you’ve got is a great story in the making. God uses temporary tough times and tragic earthly circumstances to tell an amazing eternal story. We’ve just got to open our eyes to see it, trust God to see us through, and press on.

Go Bulls!

Birthday Celebration at the Lake

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Taylor and Clayton wanted to make a trip to the lake before they headed to Uganda for the summer, and the available dates just happened to coincide with my birthday. We headed down to the lake on Sunday morning to join Grandpa Dean and Grandma Jeanne who have been hanging out at the lake for the past few weeks. It rained almost the entire trip down, but we were pleased to find the sun breaking out just as we arrived at the lake.

The weather wasn’t spectacular for our two days, but morning showers gave way to beautiful afternoons and evenings. We enjoyed some fabulous meals and desserts (Grandma Jeanne’s cinnamon rolls + Wendy’s chocolate cupcakes = Ecstatic Taste Buds) and a lot of fun conversation. Clay and I spent an afternoon at the bar at Applebee’s watching Manchester United fall to their cross town rivals while the ladies went to a movie. Of course, we also enjoyed a boat ride and sitting out on the dock.

Of course, it felt like the time was too short, but even a few days at the lake is worth the trip! It was a great way to spend my birthday.

 

Chapter-a-Day Acts 7

Woodcut for "Die Bibel in Bildern", ...
Woodcut for “Die Bibel in Bildern”, 1860. The Stoning of Stephen Deutsch: Holzschnitt aus “Die Bibel in Bildern”, 1860. Français : Gravure en bois pour «Die Bibel in Bildern», 1860. Русский: Гравюра из цикла «Библия в картинах», 1860 год. Мученичество Стефана (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. Acts 7:57-58 (NLT)

My wife is great at guessing the outcome of a whodunnit movie or television show long before the end. She will often catch the little hints and clues that the writers and directors provide. As we sit on the couch watching a murder mystery she will reference a seemingly trivial object or line and muse, “That’s going to be important to the story later on!”

As I read through today’s chapter and got to these verses, I thought of Wendy as I realized that this seemingly trivial side note is going to be very important to a larger story. Weeks and weeks of tension between Jesus’ impassioned, vocal followers and the religious leaders have escalated. The arrests, the floggings, the imprisonment of the twelve and their growing throng of followers finally builds to a tragic climax as Stephen is singled out and stoned to death.

You’d think that this would be the beginning of the end for Jesus’ followers. The powerful religious machine that had put Jesus to death was now going to squash Jesus’ followers. When things look their darkest, however, God’s power is most powerfully revealed. God specializes in eucatastrophe. This tragic moment starts a potent chain of events that are part of a much larger story.

And it begins with the young man checking coats at the stoning of Stephen. As Wendy would say, “Pay attention. That’s going to be important to the story later on!”