Monday, August 1, 2016

In Damascus

This morning I am reading Acts 9 and thinking about Saul and Ananias.

Ananias was a believer who lived in Damascus and Saul was on his way to the city to persecute believers. If this were a story, it is a historical account and not a story, but if it were Saul would be the bad guy and Ananias would be the good guy. Saul is the hunter and Ananias is the hunted person. But the Bible describes two men.

"But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he 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 rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.' " - Acts 9:1-6 ESV

God converts Paul and dazzles him to the point where he is blind and send him into the city were he was going to hunt people down.

"Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, 'Ananias.' And he said, 'Here I am, Lord.' And the Lord said to him, 'Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, 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 evil he has done 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 carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.' " - Acts 9:10-16 ESV

The first 'suffering' is going to be that the people he came to hunt are going to be the people that God uses to heal the blindness.

I like how Ananias is not dazzled like Paul was dazzled. God had to say Saul's name twice but with Ananias it is an easy conversation. There is quick recognition. Ananias had to lose his life to obey. Ananias was not aware of the extent of Saul's conversion. He could have been walking into a trap.

"So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.' And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, 'He is the Son of God.' " - Acts 9:17-20 ESV

Brother Saul?? What a faith statement that was!

In this account Damascus represents the 'place where Christians are' and Jesus sent Saul right into this place to get a witness of grace and healing. Saul hated these people and I don't think that mindset was instantly dazzled out of him. Damascus was a place where Ananias could find Saul and where Saul could be fed and baptized. Saul met a sent one who didn't go because of hate. Ananias risked his life because of God's love to give a grace gift.

Damascus is the Church, the bible study, the outreach group or the youth camp. A young child may go there feeling like an outcast but then they are dazzled, healed and fed.

Damascus is a place where interaction happens. Prayers are answered there. Provision is found there by interesting avenues.

I love that all of this sharpens Saul and turns him into Paul. Paul has a clear message. Paul focuses on the deity of Christ and the grace of God.

Let's meet in Damascus.

Perhaps we pray and stay home but the answer for our issue isn't going to be found there. The answer is in the fellowship. Paul was the hunter but Ananias found Paul in a place where he could be found.


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