April 11, 2016
God is a great storyteller. The Gospels – four independent voices, writing biographies of Jesus – got the ball rolling in the New Testament with their accounts of our Founder. The Acts of the Apostles (“Acts”) pick up the story at Jesus’ ascension and give us Chapter One of the aftermath. The game wasn’t over, just because the Founder left. His successors – and their successors, continuing all the way to us – have kept the story going, with chapters being written on multiple fronts, in real-time.
The drama is picking-up steam in Acts 8: the faith is expanding its territory, on multiple fronts. Stephen has just been stoned; Philip, Peter and John are all having heroic experiences as they replicate powerful evidences of God’s supernatural involvement in their mission. Opposition like Saul the Pharisee and Simon the sorcerer are playing the villain, while God is proving the superiority of Jesus the Christ. It’s a wow moment…
Chapter 9 starts with that pivot: “Meanwhile, Saul…” Something significant is about to happen. We’ve given it a name: it’s Paul’s “Damascus Road Experience.” From Jerusalem to Damascus (capital of modern Syria) was likely 200 miles, at least two weeks on foot. Saul was on a mission: arrest the Christians there, and bring them back to Jerusalem to stand trial in front of the same justice system that had condemned Jesus. What Philip, Peter and John were out to advance, Saul was committed to eliminate.
Saul/Paul’s Damascus Road Experience: he had a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ.“As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say 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’” (Acts 9:3-6).
Talk about interesting: the “12-1” (the original Apostles, minus Judas) were already up-and-running on the Great Commission. Take that concept apart; deconstruct the word:
- mission: an important assignment; a strongly felt ambition or calling
com (prefix): with, together, jointly, altogether
Individual leaders have a mission; leaders, together, have a commission. The first 11 were given – together – an assignment; Judas’ removal left a seat vacant. God never leaves anything broken…
There’s little disagreement about what God did to fill the vacancy: on the road to Damascus, Paul was recruited to join the leadership team. The last hire became the historic hero. Author of half of the New Testament books – and a third of its word-count – Paul put more miles on his mission odometer than any of the other 11. “Many who are last will be first…” (Jesus).
Get this: Paul’s conversation with Jesus posed a question: “…why do you persecute me?” That put Paul on a hunt for the answer to his “what now?” question. He had to go somewhere (Damascus) and hear from someone (Ananias) to get his marching orders clarified.
What if he had chosen to just figure it out for himself? Jesus gave Paul clear directions; let me give you a two-minute tip to find the voice God may use for you the way he did Ananias for Paul.
Two weeks from Wednesday, the Leadership Summit – in Rancho Mirage, California – is your chance to get some answers to the “what now?” question. Paul – the tentmaker/apostle – needed to hear from Ananias. Who might God use to give you some next-steps for your mission? (speaker list).
It’s not to late to make your reservations for Damascus/Rancho Mirage, April 27-29…