Monday, January 30, 2012

Changed Lives

"Changed Lives"
By Zach Wood
Acts 9:3-6
As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice says to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"  "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked.  "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied.  "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."

If there was anyone that was radically changed from one extreme to the other, it was the Apostle Paul.  One of the most profound and powerful writers of the New Testament went from a life of killing Christians to becoming a bold man fired up for the Kingdom!  When I read the story of Paul's conversion, it is truly amazing.  Saul had one thing in mind and it was to stop Christians and do it by killing them.  People were terrified of him because of what he was doing and what all he kept planning to do.  However, God stopped him in his tracks on the way to Damascus and got a hold of him.  Saul had an encounter with the Living God that would change his life forever.

When I read this story, I think to myself, "God, why in the world would you choose someone who was killing Your people?"  The answer is clear to me.  God is in the business of changing lives.  The Apostle Paul is an amazing example of what God can do through someone to change their life.  I am amazed at the way God uses people to do extraordinary things, like He did through Paul.  I look at my own life and I am so amazed that He still uses me.  God wants to use you to change other’s lives.  You just have to be willing and He will do extraordinary things through you.

One thing I have always struggled with is looking at people who seem very evil and mean and think, "They will never change.  There is no hope for them."  Instead, I should lift them up in prayer and ask God to do a work in them to change their lives.  And, if I really want to take a risk, I could pray and ask that He in some way use me to minister to them.  Is that not what God wants to do through us?  He desires to use us to change other's lives.  We communicate the love of God and He does the rest.  He speaks to their heart and convicts them when the time is right.

I confess that I have looked at people before and think that they do not deserve God's change in their lives.  I sometimes think they have done so many horrible things that they do not deserve God's Love and His forgiveness.  When I think that way, I have gone way too far.  I have to remember that I never deserved what God did for me and I have to realize that God saved me from the sinful life I once lived.  He changed my life. 

I encourage you to read through Saul's conversion in Acts 9 and carefully study what happend to him and how people around him reacted.  The Disciples were a little scared to be around him.  He had a changed life, but it took time for people to really believe he had changed from the life he once lived.  Once people saw his changed life, he impacted so many people.

The next time you are tempted to judge someone and feel they do not deserve The Cross and His forgiveness, just remember the Grace, Mercy, Love and Forgivenss that was extended to you.  God is in the business of changing lives.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

His Ways Never Fail

"His Ways Never Fail"
By Zach Wood
Psalm 40:4
Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.

In all my years of ministry work, both full time vocational and volunteering, I know I have talked so much about how we are to trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding.  That phrase comes from the wonderful passage in Proverbs most of us have come to know so well.  We do know that we are supposed to trust in Him and not in our own knowledge.  However, it is easier said than done to trust in Him completely without any reservations rather than trust in our own logic and understanding.  You would not be human if you did not ever trust in your own strength and knowledge.  We all do this and learn great lessons because we come to realize every time that only God's strength and ways prevail. 

In all the years of my Christian life, I know I have put trust where trust should not be.  I have trusted in worldly things.  I have put my trust in others when I knew they would let me down.  Now, this is not to say we cannot trust people, but there are times when we just know there are certain people we should not trust.  I have put my trust in things that I hope would happen and bring me happiness, only to be let down hard and be heart-broken. 

Why do we always seem to have such a hard time trusting in God with all of our heart?  I have wondered this time and time again.  I say that I am a Christian and that I desire to walk closely with God every single day.  However, when I really think about it, I have to ask myself whether or not I totally put all trust in Him.  I doubt His guidance.  I doubt His strength.  I shouldn't, but I do.  I want to trust and I know I need to fully trust in Him.  I am learning and realizing that this is a daily battle I need to overcome and trust that God will provide my strength and direction even when I am scared to death of what might be ahead. 

I want to encourage you to put your trust completely in God's hands, no matter what you are experiencing.  It is good to trust in good friends and family, but they are not perfect and they will make mistakes.  God will never make a mistake in the way He guides you and leads you.  People often put their trust in worldly things and go that route only to discover pain and agony.  God's ways are always better and His strength is eternal.  His ways are never temporary.

I pray and hope you will find yourself trusting in God's strength and guidance more each day.