Lord, I Have Heard from Many about This Man

Saul had been persecuting Christians who were living out their faith. Because of his oppressive behavior, his reputation had birthed fear in the hearts of many individuals. However, Saul’s mode of behavior was soon to end as he had a head-on collision with Jesus Himself.

Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”  And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said,“I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.”  The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.  Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus.  And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.  Acts 9:1-9

During this particular period, God reached out through a vision to a man named Ananias. Immediately, in response to God’s call, Ananias answered, “Here I am, Lord.” However, when the summoning came from God to join Him in a particular work, Ananias was not too eager to obey.

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.”And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”  And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying,  and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight.”  But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem;  and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”  But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”  So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; and he took food and was strengthened.  Acts 9:10-19 

Because of Saul’s harassment of Christians, Ananias felt it necessary to issue a warning. “Lord, I have heard from many about this man” (Acts 9:13.) Yet, as Ananias attempted to advise the Lord of Saul’s past, the Lord immediately informed Ananias of Saul’s future. “But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine.”(Acts 9:15.)

Ananias was used by God to minister at a time most needed in Saul’s life. Yet he could have missed a divine assignment due to his perception about Saul.  May we always be willing to go to whomever God sends us regardless of the person’s reputation or past. May we be used to remind people of their future with God instead of dwelling on their past or current status.

About the Writer:
Shea is the mother of two and nana of five and enjoys both roles tremendously. She loves the opportunity to serve through various ministries at First Baptist Dallas as well as Entrusted Hope Ministry.  She also speaks to women’s groups, assists with biblical counseling when opportunities arise and is constantly working to develop women’s Bible studies. Shea received her bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry from Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Mississippi; her master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; and began her doctoral work at Southwestern this past fall.

Red Light, Green Light

Solomon’s life and reign are recorded as possibly one of the most prosperous in the Bible.  Solomon’s success is attributed to his dependence upon the Lord to guide his steps.  Solomon depended on God to tell him what to do and when to do it.  Solomon’s journey shows us that God is trustworthy, and, if we are patient and faithful to obey His commands, His promises will not return void.

In 1 Kings 8:17-19, Solomon recounted the fact that his father David had come up with the idea to build God’s temple, a permanent structure where God could dwell.  But God told David “no.”   Did God say “no” because it was wrong for David to want to do this? Not at all.  Verse 18 says that God commended David for what he wanted to do:

My father David had it in his heart to build a temple for the Name of the Lord, the God of Israel. But the Lord said to my father David, ‘You did well to have it in your heart to build a temple for my Name. Nevertheless, you are not the one to build the temple, but your son, your own flesh and blood—he is the one who will build the temple for my Name.’

God commended David because his motives were in the right place, but just because someone has the good motives for doing something doesn’t make it the right thing to do.   For example, in Texas we have the “right on red” law.  This means that a driver can make a right turn despite a red traffic light. However, just because the law says it’s ok and the reason you want to do it is to help out the drivers behind you who might be in a hurry, does that make it a good idea to go ahead and turn without checking for oncoming traffic first?  No.  You could have a wreck.  First, we have to check to see if there are cars, people, or any number of hazards before we pull out.  In the same way, first we need to check with our Heavenly Father, who knows all things and sees all things, to learn whether what we’re wanting to do is a good idea or not.

Solomon showed us that we should trust God and follow His directions in order to have peace in our lives.  That instruction seems simple enough, but I found myself asking the question: “How do I know that I’m hearing Him correctly?”  Well, how do you hear anyone? You listen to their words. The Bible is God’s Word.  Read your Bible.  Study your Bible.  Listen to God’s Words.  God’s voice gets louder and louder the more we spend time with Him, learning about His character and His attributes, just as when you start to spend more time with people, the easier it becomes to understand them.

God will have specific instructions for you and your journey and He will communicate that to you however He sees fit.

I also have found myself wondering, and still do sometimes, “Is this my own ambition, or is this from the Lord?”  Understand this: He will ALWAYS back up what He says to you personally with Scripture- His written, permanent Word. And His Word never changes.  Ever.  If what you’re hearing does not line up with His permanent Word, that’s not God speaking to you.

The grass withers, the flowers fall, but the Word of our God endures forever.  Isaiah 40:8 NIV

About the Writer:
Natalie is a stay at home mom to two young boys. Additionally, she occasionally works as an emergency room nurse and is studying to become a Nurse Practitioner. She and her husband have been called into the medical mission field and are excited to see what the Lord has in store for their lives.

Cups of Cold Water

I had been a mom for one whole month- long enough to be exhausted and to doubt that I was doing anything right.  That’s when the first note appeared in my mailbox.  About seven months earlier, my best friend, who lived out of state, gave birth to her firstborn.  Knowing that I was pregnant, she celebrated every month of her newborn daughter’s life by writing a letter of encouragement to me.  On my son’s one-month birthday, the first note showed up at just the right time saying, “I know you are exhausted, but you’ve made it a whole month! You’re doing awesome! Keep up the good work!”  And every month after that another note appeared until his first birthday.  Her thoughtfulness and encouraging words gave me confidence each month.  She didn’t have any profound wisdom to share; her notes just were a way of saying “I see you.  You can do this with God’s help.  I’m praying for you.”

Proverbs 25:25 Like cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a distant land.

Oh how her notes were like cups of cold water for my weary soul!

In the book of Acts, we find a man named Joseph who was renamed Barnabas by the apostles. Barnabas means “Son of Encouragement,” and so he was.  If it weren’t for Barnabas, Paul may not have become the greatest missionary of the early church.  Acts tells the story of how the apostles were afraid to meet with Paul, knowing his history of persecuting Christians.  Yet Barnabas literally “took hold of him,” brought him to the apostles and told Paul’s story for him.  What an encouragement that must have been to Paul!  To have another person speak on his behalf and believe that his story was worth telling.

Throughout Paul’s first two missionary journeys, Barnabas was his constant companion.  The Bible doesn’t record any of Barnabas’s words, although it does mention that he spoke boldly for the Lord.  Instead, Scripture records over and over again that Barnabas was with Paul, persecuted with him, traveling with him, and (based on his nickname) encouraging him. Barnabas played a large role in supporting Paul so that Paul could successfully share the gospel, even when times were tough (and they often were). “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” (Proverbs 18:21).  And Barnabas gave words of life to Paul.

Each of us can be a “Barnabas” for someone else.  We don’t need to have special wisdom or all of the right answers, although we can certainly pray for both.  We just need to walk with others and say “I see you. You can do this with God’s help.”

Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.  Proverbs 25:11

Your words have power.  How can you use your words today to bring life, give golden apples, and cups of cold water to someone in need of encouragement?  Be a “Barnabas” to someone today!

About the Writer:
Kelley has been married for 12 years and is a mom to two fun, energetic boys.  A former elementary teacher, she is passionate about studying God’s Word and teaching it to others.  In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, and taking photographs.

Questioning God???

I question God a lot. Some of my questions are silly, like:  “Why did you create mosquitoes?”  Others are much more serious such as:  “Why do you allow souls to come into this world and then take them away so quickly?”  I have cried along with so many friends and family members who have lost their children, some by miscarriage, some after multiple heart surgeries. Because I talk to God all day long, I also ask Him about things I don’t understand.  When I take the time to listen, He usually answers, sometimes through my thoughts, sometimes through the words of another, and always through His Word.  Occasionally I wonder whether I am bothering Him, whether my questions are appropriate, or even if it is okay to question my Creator.

At those times I am often reminded of Nicodemus.  Nicodemus had it all. He was a Pharisee, a ruler, and yet he felt the need to question Jesus. I can imagine he felt as hesitant as I sometimes do, and that’s why he went to Jesus at night. Much like me, Nicodemus couldn’t fully grasp what Jesus was telling him, and so he kept asking. What came from his questions was likely the most well known verse in the Bible:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

What I have learned from Nicodemus is to keep asking questions and to keep trying to understand, because I never know the lasting impact of the answer.

About the Writer:
Wendy is a wife and mother who works full time in Risk Management.  Here at First Dallas she serves in Sunday school, helps coordinate Angel tree, and teaches at Discipleship University.  Her greatest joy comes from discovering how following Jesus can greatly impact her daily life and the lives of those she cares about in innumerable, practical ways.