Paul's Impact

IMG_6498.PNG

 

It is interesting because when I was growing up my dad was always quoting the Apostle Paul. I enjoyed much of the conversations but I guess it has taken me to this late date to unfold and discover what my Dad was so crazy about. I have been doing some heavy research on this Apostle in my work here at Bethel University and I am a major fan at this point. Not so much that I worship a human but I do worship the amazing God that used Paul in such a profound way. It never occurred to me that God – the great Author of the Word – used such foreshadowing in introducing this Apostle - not only to the original audience but to us today. It is in the story of the first Christian martyr that Paul enters the narrative (Acts 7:58). Basically Paul holds the coats of one of the murderers that take out Stephen. OK – he enters as a bad guy!

His powerful conversion follows as he was on the way to arrest and kill more early Christians (Acts 8). What?!! His redemptive story is out of this world. But what is most amazing is not Paul’s early zeal for Judaism but his love for Jesus and how it inspires the great call we all have on our lives. As we live so opposite at times from sacrificial love for Christ – Paul goes all out. He was imprisoned, shipwrecked, and beaten more times than you can count as you read through the early church stories. But this is the point Jesus brought me to in my studies. It has made me unglued. You see, if it weren’t for Paul’s letters especially to the early churches we wouldn’t understand some very dynamic things. Paul is the one who basically lays out God’s call to the church and His pursuit of the human heart. Paul exemplifies the measures we as Christians should go to draw people to Jesus, and he models it well. Risking everything was a daily desire of Paul’s. As an example his first missionary trip to Europe and one of the reasons my gentile ancestors heard of Jesus in Finland years ago was inspired by a VISION. Yes, he saw a vision, packed his bags and walked 600 miles to the Roman territory of Philippi. His entourage entered the scene in Europe and it has never been the same – straight fire! (Acts 16)

Paul is the person who explains in depth that Christ is in us! Without that knowledge where would we be as a church? God used Paul possibly more than any other person in that day, and even to this day. Paul’s zeal for Jesus screams from scripture and his call for us to be humble and united in prayer is so relevant today it keeps me up at night. But here is the thing – because God drew Luke’s hand to transcribe Paul’s story – there is not a person alive that wouldn’t want to receive his wisdom. It is like getting golf lessons from Tiger Woods. If we want to learn about Jesus heart for us, and our identity in Christ after the cross - Paul has earned our attention!  He so beautifully exemplifies a person who does first what he asks others to do! I am in love with this guy and I understand now why my dad told me he wanted to visit him after Jesus. Our family has joked a few times that we wonder if my Dad has allowed Paul a respite yet? I am now reading a book titled Paul: A Novel that my dad gave me the year he passed away. In this book the author Walter Wangerin  Jr. (2000) calls Paul “the hinge to history”.  Whoa! Blows my mind!

Paul’s life teaches us that we can’t minimize the powerful life Jesus has planned for us. Each of us has a divine purpose far beyond most of our daily thoughts. Who we are going to marry - where we should take our first job? Let's hold out for a vision or command from our KING. And then obey! Above all else - let's seek Jesus way before our own! In this American culture it is difficult to get past our common worship of the god named SELF and lay down and pursue the God in us! I am inspired today!

What if we saw the importance of foreshadowing in our lives. What is God showing others about us possibly before we even meet them? What is our story with God speaking out to others? Who are we on social media/ or in our daily lives when no one is watching? What if we realized that the impact we have in others lives might directly correlate with the intensity of our own walk with Jesus. Paul's life inspires me to be someone of substance for Jesus. Someone who at least tries to walk the talk I am giving! I am chewing on some deep stuff today!

Paul’s past was used to draw the Jews to Christ and his walk after the cross inspires us today. Both Jew and Gentile can learn from Paul’s life in life changing ways. Just a person, yes, but for now - one of my favorites.  He is on my short list now for a coffee date in Heaven – along with Joash, Gideon, Rahab, Luke, and Mary. Please tell me who is on your short list?

Jesus, I see you

image1.JPG

It is interesting because recently I spent some time in the prayer room here at Bethel and I was somewhat overcome by a desire to see Jesus. I was caught up and emotional about the fact I have never seen His face. How tall are you Jesus? It seems a simple piece to loving somebody, but it is one we all go without when it comes to Christ. There are many artist renditions of who Jesus is, but how close are they? When we get to Heaven will we see who Jesus was in human form, or possibly never know for certain how His eyes would look resting on someone He loves. What would it be like to hear his human laugh or sense His presence when He walks in a room. Have we missed the boat on actually knowing how He walked or the set of His face when He was chewing His supper. I long to see His expression when He kneeled in prayer with His Father. I would give anything to see or feel His human hands. Anyone else following me here? So I was emotional about this longing of mine. A few days later I realized that we are made in the image of God/Jesus. Jesus asked me, "can you see me" as I was looking at my son Bradley. I realized that I have seen His eyes in the eyes of many people. I know what it looks like to exchange a knowing glance with somebody - it would be the same with Jesus. I know what joy looks like and the amazing change a face makes when it bursts into laughter. I see you Jesus! We all know we are made in God's image but this was taking it to a new level for me. We are each a picture of Jesus as a human. Every act of kindness declares His likeness. God has been taking me through the Old testament and it declares His power in creation. I have begun to hear Him in the wind and be reminded that all of nature is crying out in worship back to it's Creator. As I have been processing this my picture of God on earth keeps getting bigger. Not only our image, personally, but in creation all around me. I recently heard a story of an atheist man who saw the Grand Canyon and became a believer. "I see you God!" As I have been processing this a gifted friend of mine Sarah Watne sent me a snapshot of a scene she was driving by a few weeks ago, and when I opened it I thought, "I see you Jesus." He is here, and creation breathes His majesty. This may seem without substance, but it is not. Reading the Psalms you see animals and all things created as representatives of pieces of God. He hides us under His wings, He is a lion, He is the storm. If you take each piece of creation and combine all it's attributes you have a better picture of who God is. I have not satisfied my desire, but it is only getting even bigger. I want this dialogue with God to continue. The more we learn the more we realize we do not know. This is why He is God - and we get to spend eternity learning new things about Him. 

Psalm 139 "I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to the Heaven's you are there; If I go down to the grave you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, If I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me." 

What is the Gospel?

In my classes at Bethel I have been reading and studying about the Gospel of Christ. We were asked basically, "What is the Gospel?". Hmmm, in a nutshell of course we know that the Cross is the climax of the Gospel, and Jesus died to forgive our sins and make us new again. This of course is powerful stuff. But the story between Good Friday and Easter are not the whole gospel. What I did not realize is that the cross redeemed much more. It also redeemed a dying universe and it promises to make it new again too (Revelations). God cares about creation! The good news is that the Gospel is actually loaded with power, and is a cosmic size message. The Gospel is God's extensive mission on earth unveiled. It's story starts in Genesis and finishes in Revelations and it is full of precise promises. The cross showed God's power over sin, death, disease, and decay. Now that's good news! I guess I had a tidy boundary around the word Gospel and now it is blown so large that I can't comprehend it. God's arms do not just wrap around a person, a church, a nation, or earth, but around the Universe. Of course in God's great fashion He cares about all that He creates. He is redeeming it all. So what does that tell me? Only - that it is the very best news that any person could ever grasp. It makes me realize how much God wants to redeem not only our lives, but also our brokenness, weaknesses, and fears to name a few things. God’s heart is to redeem, and to make new. Recently, I was praying for my daughter Brooke (pictured above) and God told me He is redeeming something in her. He does not stop being Brooke's Father, because she is saved, as if that was His only plan. He never stops being Our Father. He is attentive to our every need. His heart is to fully redeem everything Satan has stolen and make it new, by His kind hands. Every lie, every addiction, every fear, every anxiety, and more - He is going after them. He longs to heal each broken place. This now seems like a truth I always knew in spirit but could not put into words. God is a good Father, and His kindness and care for us is beyond anything we could imagine. The good news is not only for new believers but for all of us. The Gospel is not just something we take in on the day we are saved, but it is for every day. Every day we can wake up and be excited to know that Our Father might redeem something today - He just might decide to begin a new work, to heal an old wound, and to breathe a fresh word into our soul. Let's not miss out.