After a long day yesterday, page 190 began with the writing of page 189 and then it was time to get cleaned up and head to church for the Sunday worship gathering. While I enjoy and appreciate the opportunities I have through the prayer ministry to preach on some Sundays, it is also good to be home for a church service. This morning, David continued a series he is preaching from the book of Acts with a look at the account of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to Paul the Apostle. While some may say that Saul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus left him no choice but to have a change of heart; as David pointed out in the sermon, many people written about in the Bible and many people today have had encounters with God that did not lead to a change of heart like Saul’s encounter did.
In Paul’s account of his encounter with Jesus on that road, he says that Jesus confronted him about “kicking against the goads.” While this encounter was dramatic, there evidently had been other encounters designed to “prod” Saul toward a relationship with Jesus, yet he had to this point been resistant to responding positively to the encounters of God. Sometimes God tries to “prod” us toward a relationship with Him or tries to encourage us to deepen the relationship we have with Him, but we miss the prodding because we were expecting it to look and sound differently than it did. This morning David talked about three ways that God continues to draw us into an encounter with Him to lead us to a change of heart.
- We encounter God through His Word. While Saul encountered words from Jesus while on His journey to Damascus, it was not his first exposure to the Word of God. Yet, while none of his previous encounters with the Word of God had brought about a change of heart, they were useful in prodding him along in a journey toward God. When we spend time in God’s Word, we encounter more than just words — we encounter the One who consistently draws us to Himself in love. Yes, sometimes the journey is difficult, especially when we resist the change of heart God wants us to have, but His presence through His Word gives us guidance, comfort, and hope in the midst of unknown times.
- We encounter God through Circumstances. Not only did Saul encounter God through His Word as he spent a lifetime of study, preparation, and practice as a Pharisee, he also encountered Him in the everyday circumstances of life. While many can quote the Scripture that says, “God works everything together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes”; when the circumstances of life become confusing, many of us begin to doubt that promise is for us and applies to everything we go through. Especially when we are headed in the wrong direction, God will often use what we may initially consider random circumstances to reveal Himself to us and draw us into greater alignment with the change of heart we need.
- We encounter God through the Witness of Others. Even after encountering Jesus on the road to Damascus, God used the witness of Ananias to further reveal Himself to Saul. Prior to that, God has used the witness of multiple people, including Gamaliel and Stephen, to speak truth and plant seeds that would later grow into the change of heart that God desired. Yes, we must always be careful to compare both our experiences and the words of other to the Word of God, but God has designed His Truth to be shared by His children. Our testimony of God working in our life is not only important to us, but can be used by God to reveal Himself to others. Likewise, God can use the testimony of others to help us see the change of heart we need to have.
After the church service, we changed up our routine and got pizza for lunch. It was a place Susan was familiar with, and she got pop, so she seemed okay with this change. After lunch we all relaxed for a little while before heading down to a niece’s house for an afternoon BBQ and birthday party for two of her children. I’ve been around groups of people a lot recently and another afternoon with people wasn’t high on my list of ways to spend a Sunday afternoon, but yesterday’s race to remember and honor Bre was a reminder not to take family gathering times for granted. It was a day for memories to be made and shared, so I took my camera and tried to capture some of those memories. One of them is the photo on today’s page, as my mom was holding one of her great-grandchildren — the daughter of my brother’s daughter. 🙂 After the family gathering, we made our way home and I began the writing of today’s page so that it is finished before I call it a day and head to bed.
As I reflect on the day, here are some thoughts/lessons that stand out to me:
- I love the opportunities that God gives me to preach, but if I can’t be out preaching it is good to be home.
- If you’re waiting for an encounter with God before you have a change of heart toward Him, you may want to take a closer look at how He has been present all the time.
- When we allow our mind to define what an encounter with God should look like, we often miss noticing His presence which surrounds us.
- A good place to start if you want to recognize the encounters with God that He has already arranged for you, is to spend time in His Word.
- When circumstances cause you to change plans, or just seem confusing, spend time in prayer listening to God as you ask Him to help you see how He would have you live with a changed heart.
- It is always a good idea to pay attention to how God uses others to live and speak truth into our lives.
- Memories are easier to remember if you actually experience them to begin with.
- Today, or this moment, is an opportunity to make a memory that may not be possible to experience at any other time — is what you’re doing really that important?
- It does my heart good to see my mom holding one of her great-grandchildren. Being present to take a photo captures a memory that is filled with joy.