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All About GOD - Growing Relationships with Jesus and Others

Don't give up yet. Acts #31, Acts 9.1-9 
Are you feeling like giving up?
Oh, it could be for a myriad of reasons...
Right now I'm thinking of when you feel like giving up on those you love who are far from God and seemingly have no interest in him.
Don't give up on them yet.
This passage from Acts 9 gives us every reason why it is never impossible:
"Meanwhile, [as God had Philip busy sharing the Gospel with the Ethiopian] Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.
As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”
 “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.
And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting!  Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one!  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 9.1-9
Do you realize just how unlikely it was for this man to come to know Jesus?!
The details in these dramatic happenings are valuable and have much to say to us today.
Aye, the events reveal just how committed Saul was to preserving Judaism­­ and how convinced he was of the threat that the followers of "The Way" posed to his beloved Judaism. (it was still some time in the future that believers would be called Christians) Saul secured permission to go all the way to Damascus to apprehend these Jesus believers, and there was good reason;­­ 'turns out it is on the Damascus road that Saul has an encounter with Jesus Christ that he could not deny­­. So powerful, so convincing, it resulted in an unbelievably, radical conversion experience.
Why would God pursue him this way? Well, take a look at Saul's background which perfectly suited him to steer Christianity as it spread throughout the Mediterranean lands. God had big plans for Saul.
Second to Jesus, Saul who we will mostly call "Paul" (Greek version of the same name) is surely the most remarkable human being who ever lived. That is such a huge statement, I realize, but the more I learn of him, the more convinced I am of the truth of that statement. One hundred-old-year book I read called him 'the great captain of the new faith'; indeed he was a powerful champion for the Gospel.
Consider his early life­­ ~ born to a strict Pharisee father and trained as a "Hebrew of the Hebrews". . . born in Tarsus, a city that teemed with commerce and power, young Saul was accustomed to observing the ways of Roman soldiers, as well as business men who came and went through his city. Since all young Jewish men were expected to learn a trade, Saul learned the trade of tent­making, the principal trade of Tarsus. However, it became clear early on that Saul's keen mind and serious disposition suited him well for training as a rabbi.
The 'seminary' to train young men for the ministry was in Jerusalem, so about age 13, Saul began his studies under Rabbi Gamaliel. Saul was very well­ versed in Old Testament Scriptures, because of his rigorous study with Gamaliel, and was an articulate communicator, evidenced by his writing in 13 of the New Testament books.
So unusual, so undeniable this visit from Jesus. Saul is probably riding on a donkey, when a bright light surrounded him­­--okay, how bright would it have to be, since it is already midday?! Really bright! 'Knocked to the ground, he hears the question from Jesus, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?
He thinks to himself, 'Can this possibly be? His disciples say they saw him again after He was crucified, but I didn't believe them!' And then I hear, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.' 'Yeah, so what do you want from me?' Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.' As Saul stands up, he realizes he has literally been blinded­­, and not just by the bright light.
Think of it­: ­Saul's physical sight taken so he can be alone with himself and realize he had been in great error in his view of Jesus. His eyes have been opened spiritually, but in the process, he is blinded physically. Who could have possibly predicted that Saul would return to Jerusalem wholeheartedly devoted to the cause which he had sought to destroy? 'Go back into town, and you will then be given next steps...' Ah, the obedience thing again.
Blind Saul obeys, becomes dependent on his men to guide him­­--he, who has always been totally in control is in darkness for three days. But beyond that, we see that from then on, he will be totally dependent and joyfully submissive to the same Jesus he had so strongly reviled.
Has there ever been such a conversion?! And, if God could change the proud, hyper­religious, self-­righteous heart of Saul, He can change anyone. Do you believe that? Who have you given up on?
Don't stop praying for those you know whose hearts are far from God, my friends; in fact, you might be so bold as to ask God to step into their path, just as He did with Saul. After a personal encounter with Jesus, no one is ever the same! Take courage. Don't give up yet.
"Take Courage" ~ the song,
With love,

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