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The Attempt: Day 9

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.

Meanwhile, not nearly as important yet equally true, I’m fighting off a flu, or cold or something.

Remember me saying at the start that before we were done with this 28 day devo I figured motorcycles would be involved? Well…IMG_2134

… my good friend and brother Robert Gauntt came for a two day visit and I did what I’d promised him I’d do if he would ever come see me: I took him for a bike ride. Old men on old motorcycles riding slow.

Lisa is still fighting the pain of shingles and a few other chronic ailments. When cancer is number 3 on your list of issues, 1 and 2 must be pretty miserable.

But she told me, you know, “go on Steve. Robert’s here. Have fun. Don’t worry about me…”

So with permission granted I rolled out two old bikes and off we went.

Problem was, I was already fighting a cold. It was 90 blazing degrees outside, heading for 100;  but I’m coming down with the “sneak up on you summer time flu”. How does that happen? Wonderful time with my friend, but we rode too early yesterday morning, coming back in time to put him on a plane, and right around here…me standing by bike at mt. hood

… right around here it’s sub arctic temps early in the morning and, anyway, today I feel a little under the weather. Can’t complain, since I live in a house that is usually an infirmary anyways, but I do feel pretty cruddy. So please bear with me if I don’t quite sound like myself lately.

But let’s get serious. The opening of chapter 9 bears repeating:

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.

Don’t let those words slip by too quickly. Breathing… murderous… threats…

I can get let myself get depressed if I don’t get ‘likes’ on face book. What level of anxiety must come from having someone with the weight of legal authority breathing out murderous threats against you?

He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.

This was specific soul targeting with precision accuracy.

8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man …”

Don’t do it Ananias!

“…and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

Don’t make the Lord tell you twice!

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! “

You did it. The Lord had to tell you twice.

“This man is my chosen instrument…

Chosen instrument; like I said: precision accuracy.

…to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving…

Proving.

“How many Bethlehem virgins can you name that had a baby? Anyone? Anyone? No? Well, I can!”

…that Jesus is the Messiah.

23 After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.

26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles.

Barnabas deserves his own musical. What a guy.

He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.

29 He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. 30 When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

He’s going to be there for a while; and we’ll see a disciple go and find and him and bring to Antioch. Anyone?

31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
32 As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the Lord’s people who lived in Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. 34 “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up. 35 All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.

36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38 Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”

As we read this chapter together and draw near to a close,  I must apologize for being more brief and perhaps less edifying than I might ordinarily be. I just got in from the clinic with A-zorithramiacin … the good old Z pack.

I have pneumonia.

So, I’m going to cook some fish and take my meds and call it a day.

But not before I remind us all:

1). Things can change quickly and suddenly. This chapter began with Saul breathing out murderous threats. With a flash of light and a mighty sound Jesus changed all of that in the twinkling of an eye… and with further instructions from Ananias. The chapter started with Saul dry, mad and lost and half-way through he’s wet, happy and saved.

2). Don’t expect people to be ready to hear the gospel when you’re ready to preach it to them. Saul immediately began preaching. When he got baptized he’d jumped in the deep end. He started preaching immediately. As if to say, “hey guys, you all know me. But, guess what? I was wrong. You are, too. Jesus is Lord. Can I get an amen?”

Uh, no.

Insight and revelation and epiphanies are such intoxicating things. We see so clearly and can’t understand why everybody else doesn’t see it as clearly as do we. Even if we didn’t see it yesterday.

No, yesterday we were on our way to arrest disciples. Today we’re blind and fasting and praying. Tomorrow we’ll still be blind and day after tomorrow we’re going to get baptized. And then we’re going to immediately set out to change the world! We’ve found the light! We saw the light! Literally!

Preach, by all means, but with patience, wisdom and … a good basket standing nearby just in case.

3). Don’t expect me to have three points all the time.

There’s so much more going on in this chapter. In my sickened state I feel I should remind all of you, our goal is to read these chapters together. The message is in the verses, not my rambling. If we can but make the attempt, I’m confident unbelievable things will happen, if we will read and absorb the word of God.

Any extra stuff you get from me I’m happy to supply. But today, I’m spent. Love you all. Now finish these next verses and then look who we  have praying for us at the end.

39 Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.

40 Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. 41 He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.

One of my new best friends is Matt Anjilivelil. I have mastered writing his surname; SIRI calls him Matt Angie Live a Little.matt anjilivelil

But I think Matt lives a lot.

He certainly does a lot that I appreciate. He serves as our administrator for the Upside Down Theatre Company and the Upside Down Ministry. But that’s not all; there’s not much going into this show that Matt hasn’t had his heart and head and hands all over. Thanks Matt for all you’re doing. I know it’s because you love the Lord and believe in our cause. But please know that I take it personally, too. Thanks so much.

I’ve asked Matt to lead us in our prayer. He wrote this and sent it to me earlier today:

Father, we are grateful to study out the Book of Acts. We are reminded of the many men and women who are briefly mentioned in the Book of Acts and the letters. They were able to turn this world upside down in the first century because of their lives and convictions. They sacrificed because they were Christians and ultimately paid the price with their lives. Like Simon the Tanner, they were ordinary people with extraordinary convictions. As these ordinary people come to life in our play, we ask that you would give us a glimpse of their hearts so we can share that on stage. Please let our lives reflect our first century brothers and sisters’ lives beyond Upside Down. We ask this in the name of your son, Jesus.

Steve has been a minister for almost 5 decades; and for more than 40 years married to the wife of his youth and partner, Lisa. Steve has spoken in Madison Square Garden. He's swam the Hudson River to raise money for his favorite charity. He’s the writer, producer and director of an award winning short film. He’s an author, speaker, and father whose messages are hilarious, soulful and life changing. When he's not trying to sell, ride or make friends on a motorcycle, you can find him in Portland, Oregon where he is happily serving with the http://portlandchurch.org

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