Sunday, May 31, 2015

My message today at NRN - The Significance of a nobody....


                          THE SIGNIFICANCE OF A NOBODY

                                             Acts 9:10-19

Intro: In the New Testament we find three men named Ananias. The first man, along with his wife tried to deceive God. We saw this portrayed in episode 4 of AD The Bible Continues. Needless to say, God was not fooled. Ananias’ lie was bad enough but his greater sin was his attempted theft of God’s glory. As believers we must never do what we do to bring attention to ourselves. Ananias’ judgment teaches us a valuable lesson about telling the truth.  There is another Ananias mentioned in the New Testament in Acts Chapter 23.  This Ananias is the High Priest in Jerusalem. He has an encounter with Paul much later - as Paul has grown in his faith.

The Ananias in the New Testament we will explore today was the polar opposite of the first and second Ananias’. Rather than putting himself in a position to be judged this Ananias put himself in a position to be used by God. Many believers today are asking why God is not using them. Maybe God is using them all He can but not all He could. 

If you watched last week’s episode of AD The Bible Continues you saw the portrayal of this passage of scripture.

Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." 

So the Lord said to him, "Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying.  And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight." 

Then Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in 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 vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake." 

And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 

Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.                       Acts 9:10-19

We learn three valuable lessons from this Ananias about living our life to make a difference. How was Ananias able to do what he did for the Lord? 


Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, "Ananias."  And he said, "Here I am, Lord."                                                                          Acts 9:10

It goes without saying that before we can do the will of God we first have to know the will of God. Generally speaking, we can know God’s will by studying His Word. However, when it comes to God’s particular will for our lives, like Ananias, believers must live close enough to the Lord to hear His voice.

Ananias was able to obey God because He knew what the Lord wanted him to do. The Lord is much more likely to speak to someone with whom He is in fellowship. Are you living close enough to God these days to hear His voice?


Then Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem.  And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name." Acts 9:13-14

How do we really know that Ananias feared or had respect for the Lord? Based on his conversation with the Lord it’s likely that Ananias certainly feared Saul of Tarsus. After all, Saul had developed quite a reputation. According to Ananias everyone was talking about how much harm he had done to the church of God before meeting Christ on the Damascus Road.

The point here is that we know Ananias had a greater respect for the Lord than he feared Saul because Ananias did what the Lord asked him to do. This was likely the last thing Ananias wanted to do. How much respect for God can we have if we only do those things for Him that have no degree of difficulty, only things we want to do? When was the last time you did something for God you really didn’t want to do?


But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake." And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit."                                                                              Acts 9:15-17   

The Lord told Ananias what He wanted him to do and he did it. The Lord told Ananias to go and Ananias went. If God tells you to do something, do it. If the Lord tells you to say something, say it. Just make sure that when you go and when you speak you’re doing God’s will and not your own. To say we’re going for God or speaking for Him when He is not actually involved is blasphemy.

Once He was sure of God’s leadership Ananias acted sooner rather than later. Putting off what we know God wants us to do makes it much more likely we will never be truly obedient to Him. What have you been putting off doing for God what you know He wants you to do? Ananias obeyed God by walking down the street to Judas’ house like God told him to. 

His reward for faithfulness was to see the scales fall off Saul’s eyes and hear Saul’s first proclamation of his new faith and his desire to be baptized. It is thought by tradition that it was Ananias that baptized Saul as the demonstration of his new found faith.

Testimony of Paul about Ananias:
“…There a man named Ananias, as godly a man as you could find for obeying the law and well thought of by all the Jews of  Damascus, came to me, and standing beside me said, ‘Brother Paul, receive your sight!’ And that very hour I could see him! “Then he told me, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Messiah and hear him speak. You are to take his message everywhere, telling what you have seen and heard.  And now, why delay? Go and be baptized and be cleansed from your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’                 Acts 22:11b-16 (LB)

Last week’s episode concluded with Paul going into the Synagogue to testify about Jesus Christ!

Is there someone insignificant in your life whom you could prayerfully mold into a Paul?  I challenge you today to prayerfully give that idea some real time, mull it over, and see if God doesn’t put someone on your heart. Someone who just might become a somebody for Christ because you helped them with your prayers. You offered forgiveness instead of judgement. You extended love to someone who was in need.

Consider living your life by these 3 simple principals:

1.  Walk with the Lord and listen for His voice.

2.  Know the Lord and live your life in respect to who He is…

3.  Be careful to do what God wants you to do! 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Preparing our hearts for worship tomorrow at North Raleigh Church of the Nazarene

The unofficial start of Summer has arrived in Raleigh with the temperatures rising into the low 90's today!  Today will be a significant day at North Raleigh Church of the Nazarene as we continue in the teaching series int he Book of Acts. I am really looking forward to preaching this Sunday as I step away from a long manuscript and preach from the simple outline in the worship folder in order to make sure you can complete all the blanks to be filled in. 

 A BIG surprise is planned during my message as celebrate the call of God upon a person's life. (You will not want to miss it!)  A called meeting is scheduled for after the worship as our church Treasurer presents a decision recently made by the church board.  No teaser intended - just a simple invitation to hear about this action with clarity.  My focus is not on the announcement today - it is on proclaiming the Word of the Lord! Get ready to worship!!

Let us draw our wholehearted attention toward the Lord!  As God to open your ears, your mind and your heart as you sing to the Lord and prepare to hear His word!

Here are the songs of worship we have prepared:

As we bring our offering to the Lord - let us be faithful as we proclaim our faith with a powerful song of worship to the Lord! 


The Significance    of a Nobody

Acts 9:10-19

If you knew that you could do anything for God, if money or responsibilities were not an issue, what would you do? What dream would you chase for God if you knew you couldn’t fail? Would you become a writer? A pastor? A missionary? A philanthropist who gave millions to the Gospel? An evangelist? What would you do, as insignificant as you are,      for Jesus Christ if you knew you could not fail? If He chose you to be His instrument? 

Is there someone insignificant in your life whom you could prayerfully mold into a Paul?

I challenge you today to prayerfully give that idea some real time, mull it over, and see if God doesn’t put someone on your heart. Someone who just might become a somebody for Christ because you helped them with your prayers.

Someone like Saul of Tarsus.                A significant nobody.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Becoming a Church That’s Known and Valued

Becoming a Church That’s Known and Valued
By Tony Morgan 

If your church closed tomorrow, would anyone in the community notice? Would they feel sad or disappointed? Becoming better known in your community isn’t rocket science. 

And it’s not all about billboard campaigns or massive donations either. People remember and are drawn toward things that make an impact on them.

Here are a just a few ideas for becoming a church that your community knows and appreciates:

Support your public schools.

If you’re struggling to define who your community is, a local public school is a great place to find out. Do you put energy behind building relationships with your schools? You could help fund a new playground in a rough neighborhood. Provide a thank-you lunch for teachers once a month. Connect with guidance counselors to find out how they could use volunteers to help students who are struggling. Or join forces with parents to support the local sports teams.

A quick but poignant story: A few years back, eighth-graders at a South Carolina middle school were extremely shaken when one of their classmates was murdered. NewSpring Church had been building a relationship with the school for years and regularly sent volunteers to eat lunch with students. When this crisis hit, the church’s volunteers were actually called on to be there for students who needed to talk, as the counselors had more students than they could take care of. It was an incredible example of the church caring for its community.

Participate in community revitalization efforts.

West Ridge Community Church used to participate in an event called Community Makeover with Engage Atlanta, a group of churches and nonprofits committed to working together to make a deep impact in the Metro Atlanta area. Churches across the city closed their doors on a Sunday morning to help complete service projects in areas of need.
Lots of cities have similar events. If yours doesn’t, consider starting something.

Show you care about the things your community cares about.

Every community has its own unique interests and niches. Yours may be outdoor life, technology innovation, the arts or education. It pays to recognize the things that make the people in your city tick. It doesn’t mean you adapt everything you’re doing. But you can at least be conscious of and engaged in the conversations that are happening, and when it fits, show your community you value the things it values. For instance, Cowboy Junction Church in Hobbs, N.M., started a Monday night service since many of the families in its community participate in rodeos on the weekends.

Stop pushing community inside the church at the expense of the community outside the church.

What would happen if we put less attention on organizing relationships and more attention on giving people something to organize around? For example, what if we helped church members connect with each other by creating opportunities for them to serve in the community? We just might do a better job of helping them build strong friendships without gobbling up so much of their time that they rarely take the light out into the world.

Don’t shun nonprofits that are making a difference.

Is there a mentor program in your city for at-risk youth, perhaps through Big Brothers, Big Sisters or the Boys and Girls Club? What about a nonprofit helping single mothers or repairing homes for the disabled? Too often churches won’t engage in their community at all unless they can own the program. The problem with that is we create redundant efforts and often fail to follow through. Or even worse, we never venture beyond what we already know to reach those with the greatest need.

Keep promotions focused on felt needs.

Focus your messaging on content, not just your church. Can you promote a conversation-rich message series or a community movement? The goofy displays on most church signs indicate how out-of-touch with the community churches can be: No one visits your church because you’re preaching on the apostle Paul’s first missionary journey this week. They just might come because you are going to talk about how to fix a marriage that feels beyond repair.

These efforts will fail if you view them as marketing tactics to make your church known in the community. This engagement needs to reflect the church’s primary mission and strategy. You need to begin with getting to know your community. Who are you trying to reach with the gospel? What are their pressing needs? How could you intentionally meet people where they’re living (spiritually, relationally, physically, emotionally, etc.) and offer them hope, purpose and forgiveness in Jesus Christ?

Many times that will mean we need to begin by addressing needs that aren’t necessarily spiritual in order to earn the opportunity to help someone take their next step toward Christ. Those needs will also look different from community to community. Poverty, as an example, isn’t every community’s issue, but every community has broken people who need help discovering their next steps. The woman at the well was looking for water but found Jesus. What is the “water” that people need in your community?

Tony Morgan is the founder and chief strategic officer of The Unstuck Group, which offers solutions to help churches get unstuck.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

9 Signs We Are Asleep in the Light

9 Signs We Are Asleep in the Light
-          By Brad Powell 

Q: It seems to me there’s a real problem with the church these days. There’s a ton of talk about reaching the world, but so little seems to be happening. Jesus said his church, his people, would be light in a world of darkness. Yet the darkness seems to be growing. From your view, what’s going on?

 A: It’s definitely not a problem with Jesus’ promise about his church. And it’s not a problem with how dark our world is. The early church brought light to a world far darker than ours. From my perspective, we have a problem with spiritual narcolepsy. It’s time for believers to wake up.

I believe the biggest obstacle to the church fulfilling its mission is on the inside. Too many believers are asleep in the light. And the real problem is they don’t know it.

It’s not the first time. The church at Sardis experienced the same problem.

 “I know your deeds,” Jesus tells them. “You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you” (Rev. 3:1-3).

Jesus makes it clear. Believers can look awake. They can be highly respected for their lives of faith. They can do and say all the right things. And yet they’re dead, asleep in the light.

Could this be the problem in your church, in your own life? I’ve been personally wrestling with that question for a while now. In order to get to the answer, I’ve worked through some ways to detect signs of spiritual narcolepsy in my life and the life of our church family. 

Nine Signs of Spiritual Narcolepsy

1. We talk about Jesus but aren’t genuinely experiencing him. He’s distant and unreal in our everyday life. He’s someone we talk about more than we talk with.

2. Our relationship with Jesus, our spiritual life, is more of a weekend thing than an every day of the week thing. Church defines our experience with Christ more than Christ defines our life experience.

3. Our spiritual life is more form than substance. It’s more an outside than inside reality. We may do and say all the right things, avoid all the wrong things, but it’s not real or alive in us. It’s something we do but not necessarily something we are.

4. We haven’t experienced much authentic change in our life in a long while, though we’ve been faithfully doing all the right things. Since it’s impossible to genuinely experience Jesus and remain unchanged, this is a clear sign we’re asleep in the light.

5. We are more concerned about the role God is playing in our plans than the role we should be playing in his plans.

6. We seldom really consider the eternal condition of people in our world. We are able to rub shoulders with them daily without ever addressing their spiritual condition.

7. We’re living spiritually unnoticed. The people around us don’t know we’re Christ-followers. They don’t notice anything different about us because there’s nothing to notice. They don’t pursue our advice when things aren’t going well in their lives.

8. We tend to live for the moment more than the eternal. Today defines our choices more than eternity.

9. We don’t feel like we have a problem with being “asleep in the light.” This is a big one for me. When I’m not consciously aware of the danger of becoming less passionate spiritually, it’s a clear sign I’m already there. 

Five Causes for Spiritual Narcolepsy

The first steps toward resolution are honest self-appraisal—Am I “asleep in the light?”—and addressing the causes. So where does spiritual narcolepsy come from? Here are five common causes I’ve observed.

1. We gradually allow our relationship with God to become more defined by habit and ritual than desire and intimacy.

2. We begin focusing more on doing than being. We get so busy working for God that we start failing to spend time with God.

3. We become satisfied with coasting through today based upon the movement we experienced yesterday. We run out of spiritual fuel long before our lives come to a complete stop.

4. We fail to recognize and remember our desperate need to abide in Christ every moment of our lives. When there’s no crisis, we often fail to abide, which ultimately leads us to the next crisis.

5. We get impatient. Rather than waiting on him, we go to work for him. It always leads to the same place, a spiritual nightmare. 

God has called us to wake the world to Jesus. It’s our mission. A mission that’s impossible if we’re asleep in the light. So it’s time for believers to wake up. It’s time for us to wake up.

“The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber,” Romans 13:11 says, “because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


As we prepare for our weekly prayer encounter this evening at 6:30pm I came aware of a recent article by Pastor Steven Furtick that I think is a good primer for our time together:

We don’t pray enough.

Most Christians would readily admit this.

But I don’t mean it in the way most Christians probably think about it.

Usually, we mean this in terms of the length of our prayers. I need to pray ten minutes instead of three. Twenty minutes instead of ten.
Or the frequency of our prayers. I need to pray more than once a day. More than three times a week. And so on.

I mean it in terms of the breadth of our prayers. Their scope. Their size.

Christians do need to pray longer and more frequently. But when we’re praying, most of us still aren’t praying enough because we’re content with asking for things that could just as likely happen due to natural explanations, increased effort, or a swing of good luck.

A good day. A bonus. Slightly increased attendance at church.
That’s not enough. It’s not enough when we’re getting to have face time with the Creator of the universe.

 It’s not enough when you consider Ephesians 3:20:
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

That’s an astonishing promise. It describes a big God. But most forget the context of the promise and don’t see that it coincides with a big prayer:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpassesknowledge (17b-19b).

That’s a logical impossibility. The Ephesians probably freaked out when they read it. Paul maybe even freaked out when he prayed it. You can’t know the unknowable. While eloquent, it seems like that prayer is a waste of time.

But that’s only if you’re dealing with a God whose abilities are measurable. Limited. Paul knew otherwise.

One of the most glaring discrepancies in the Christian faith today is between the size of our God and the size of our prayers

I think God wants us to pray in such a way that we have to immediately remind ourselves of God’s infinite greatness so that we don’t freak out. I think God wants us to push the limits of what we can ask or imagine.

The wildest dreams you can conceive don’t even compare to the endless power of God. Yes, pray longer. Yes, pray more frequently. But what does it matter if you pray for five minutes or ten. Once a day or twice a day.

If you’re settling for scraps of God’s power and provision.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


As I look at the attendance of the church I pastor I realize that I am a small church pastor. Here is an article that spoke to me about my approach to ministry:


1. Relationships are most important. 

Develop personal and strong relationships with the people. Be appropriately transparent and vulnerable. You want them to know and like you, not just “the pastor.” Be the real you, not a pastoral version of yourself. When they know you and like you, they will trust you, which is the currency of leadership.

2. The ministries of your church should reflect the gifting of your people. 

Don’t just create a list of ministries you think your church should have. As you get to know your people, allow the ministries of your church to grow out of their gifts, talents and abilities. When this happens, your ministries are effective because your people are both gifted and passionate. Making disciples is the mission of every church, but the methods we use to approach and accomplish it depend on the people we have in our church.

3. Speak the language of your community well. 

What does your local culture use to communicate: email, bulletins, websites, posters, brochures, texting, snail mail? Communicate well with high quality. The size of your church will not be as important as the quality of your church. Speak the language of your community, but speak it with excellence.

4. You must thrive as the leader. 

Stay connected with other leaders both online and in your local area. Your church is only as healthy as its leader. If you’re not growing and learning, your church can’t take that next step. Take care of yourself, and God will take care of your church.

Jeff Keady and Jonny Craig, of Dover Church in Orange City, Iowa, are pastors, leaders, bloggers, podcasters and encouragers of small churches. Find them at

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day 2015

Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces. 

The holiday, which is observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans — established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers.[3] By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service. It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.

Today we pause to remember:

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Undeniable - What even the skeptics believe The message preached today at NRN

Today is a special day for us at NRN!  Many of our regular attendees are away for the holiday weekend - but the presence of God is mighty here today! This is a message that I wish I could share with all our church!  

INTRODUCTION:  Gary Habermas was a young doctoral student at Michigan State in the 1970s struggling with his faith. Like so many young people who grow up in a Christian family and eventually leave home and their faith as well, he was definitely rethinking what he really believed. It came to the point of announcing to his mother that he was leaning toward Buddhism. To settle the issue rationally, Gary decided to do his doctoral dissertation on the resurrection of Jesus. He felt that anchoring his faith in the truth of the resurrection would give him the peace and confidence he sought. The chairman of his doctoral committee said the topic was fine, but added, “Don’t come back and tell us the resurrection happened because the Bible tells us so.”  Gary’s challenge was to demonstrate the reality of this event without exclusively using Scripture.

He called his approach the “Minimal Facts Method.” He presented twelve historical facts that validated the core events and people surrounding the most crucial event in the Christian faith: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The results of his research on the resurrection not only literally saved his Christian faith, but Gary Habermas is now considered one of the world’s leading experts on the topic and  is Distinguished Professor of Apologetics and Philosophy and chairman of the department of philosophy and theology at Liberty University.  Out of these accepted historical facts he put forth in his research, let me mention just five. Again, these are things that the majority of skeptical scholars believe to be true.

1) Jesus actually lived and was Jewish. This claim is only challenged by skeptics who have determined to disbelieve any facts that would point to the validity of the Christian faith. It’s important to remember, simply Googling something is not equivalent to actual historical research. In contrast, any serious student of history will concede that Jesus indeed really lived.

2) Jesus was executed by crucifixion by Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator. Josephus, the first-century historian, as well as Tacitus, a Roman historian of the early second century, are both key witnesses of this fact beyond the testimony of Scripture.

These historical references are why even skeptics believe He was crucified. We can establish this as a fact of history, not just a statement of faith in Scripture. Remember, though we as Christians accept the testimony of Scripture as God’s inspired Word, we are showing here that the basic facts of the Gospel are accessible to those who don’t share this belief. If they are open to honestly looking at history, they can clearly see that these critical events really happened.

3) Jesus’s tomb was found empty by a group of His female followers three days after His crucifixion. The sudden expansion of the Christian faith just days after His death on the cross could not have happened if the body of Jesus were still in the tomb. His enemies would have simply produced the corpse, and the growing movement would have been over. Instead, Christianity started in Jerusalem, the very place where it would have been easiest to disprove.

4) His disciples believed Jesus appeared to them after His death. The followers of Jesus indeed believed Jesus had appeared to them after His crucifixion. Skeptics suggest these were merely hallucinations or visions instead of real bodily appearances. As some have suggested, visions of people who have died are usually interpreted as seeing the spirit or the “ghost” of that person—evidence that they indeed died, not that they’re still living. It’s also never reported that a hallucination or ghost would cook breakfast for a group of friends as Jesus did.  Remember that the idea of a resurrection was just as shocking then as it would be now. Just like today, people at the time of Jesus believed that dead people tend to stay dead. Using accepted historical methods that look for the best explanation to determine what actually happened in the past, we’re able to make decisions about what’s historical fact and what’s historical fiction. The conclusion that Jesus was raised from the dead best explains the data.

Since the resurrection is the foundation of Christianity, our faith is not the product of blind acceptance but historical reality. However, one of the key minimal facts I’ve yet to mention here involves a biblical figure who is the primary focus of the recent A.D. episode: Saul of Tarsus.

5) Saul of Tarsus was transformed after claiming to see the risen Jesus. Historians of all types acknowledge that Saul (also known later as the apostle Paul) was indeed a real person—a highly educated and religiously influential leader.

Critics concede that Saul did undergo a dramatic transformation and became a follower of Christ. He would eventually write the major letters to young Christian churches, such as Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and Galatians, which are included in the New Testament.  With this firmly in mind, we want to focus our attention on this man Saul—someone who history tells us was very real and deeply important to the advancement of the Gospel.

As A.D. has dramatically shown, Saul was an enemy of the Christian community. In today’s context, he would’ve been seen as a radical terrorist who would stop at nothing to destroy this new religion. Because of his prominence in the New Testament, as well as in this TV series, we should examine the impact of Saul’s pivotal encounter with the risen Christ.

Saul stands out as history’s most famous convert to the Christian faith. His encounter with Christ and its subsequent impact on his life deserves a much closer look as we search for parallels that apply to us today. 

Scripture: Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 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.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.                              Acts 9:1-16

1. Saul’s encounter with Christ gave him a NEW   LIFE   MISSION

This event may be one of the most dramatic encounters with God in all of Scripture. It could be considered the New Testament parallel to Moses encountering God at the burning bush in the Old Testament. Moses encountered God as a consuming fire. Paul experienced Him as a blinding light. Saul’s encounter is also the source of the expression “seeing the light” and thus changing one’s ways.

The end result of both of these moments was these men being commissioned by God to accomplish His purposes. For Moses, the call was to lead people out of physical bondage and slavery. Paul’s mission was to proclaim Christ’s message of deliverance from spiritual bondage and oppression.

A common theme runs through the stories of those who encounter Christ in any way: They find themselves divinely “redirected.” Paul’s belief that Christ had been raised from the dead led him to spark a mass movement that caused multitudes to accept the Gospel, putting their trust in Christ.

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  Philippians 1: 21

 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.                                                     1 Timothy 1:13-15 

This church – North Raleigh Church of the Nazarene - is filled with people who found their God-given purpose and destiny when they came to Christ! 

2. Saul’s encounter with Christ changed his CHARACTER.

Meeting Christ on the road to Damascus not only changed the course of Saul’s life, but it changed his character.  Before Damascus, Saul was indeed religiously zealous, yet his heart was filled with anger, resentment, and even murder.

In our world today, we can see this trait in people who think they are doing God’s work by harassing and harming others in the name of God. However, after Saul’s encounter with Christ, he became the exact opposite -

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.                   2 Timothy 2:24-25

Instead of resorting to torture and persecution to get others to change their beliefs, Paul would instead pray, preach, and persuade them by the force of his arguments—even to the point of being tortured and persecuted himself.

There is no greater way to state this change of character than the statement Paul later wrote to the Corinthians:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  
  The old has gone, the new is here!”         2 Corinthians 5:17

3. Saul’s encounter with Christ made him willing to SUFFER for the sake of his faith.

From the very start of his new Christian life, Saul was told the price he would have to pay to follow Jesus. We will look into this more next week: The man sent to help him, Ananias, could have said something like “Saul, I’ve got good news and bad news for you. The good news is that Jesus told me to tell you that you are a chosen instrument of His; the bad news is that you are going to suffer a lot.” This message doesn’t sound like much of the popular preaching of our day that promises the blessings of following Jesus without mentioning the cost of being His disciple. In his book The Cost of Discipleship, considered to be one of the most authoritative sources on discipleship, the German evangelist Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

These words certainly mirror those of Jesus as He consistently told His disciples that they would have to pick up their own cross and follow Him

And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.                                                        Luke 14:27

It has been said many times, “Christianity is a cross, not a crutch.”

4. Saul’s encounter with Christ caused him to ground his faith in the TRUTH of SCRIPTURE , not just personal EXPERIENCE .

 I passed on to you right from the first what had been told to me, that Christ died for our sins just as the Scriptures said he would,   and that he was buried, and that three days afterwards he arose from the grave just as the prophets foretold.  He was seen by   Peter and later by the rest of “the Twelve.”  After that he was seen by more than five hundred Christian brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died by now.  Then James saw him, and later all the apostles.  Last of all I saw him too, long after the others, as though I had been born almost too late for this.                                                                   1 Corinthians 15:3-8

There is no other encounter like Saul’s recorded in the New Testament. The impact of his preaching and his works sparked the explosive growth of the Christian church.  Ultimately, because they witnessed and believed these certain undeniable events, the believers were willing to lay down their lives.

 History tells us that a majority of the original disciples were actually put to death rather than denying Jesus had been raised from the dead. Its one thing to give your life for something you believe to be true; it’s another to die for something you know is a lie. The original disciples would have known firsthand whether or not Jesus was really alive. To them, it was undeniable.

 We don’t need the same dramatic experience with Christ that Saul had to make a dramatic impact for Christ. As you embrace these key truths and allow God to ground your faith as He established Saul’s, you put yourself in the place to make a difference with your life.

INVITATION / CLOSING: The question is this: “If skeptics know these things are historically true, why don’t they believe?” Obviously, this inquiry reveals one of the most mysterious and misunderstood aspects of our existence—doubt.

In a court of law, the burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” not “possible doubt.” Skeptics say things like “Isn’t it possible that His disciples stole His body and then went out to preach He had been resurrected?” Yes, that’s possible, but it’s not reasonable. To make a rational, reasonable decision, we don’t really need 100 percent certainty about anything. In the same way, God has given us enough evidence to believe.

Because Gary Habermas struggled so much with doubt, he has deep compassion on those with similar struggles with doubt. He describes three kinds of doubt: factual doubt, emotional doubt, and volitional doubt.

If your issue is factual doubt (doubting that these truths are facts of history), then this message should go a long way to helping you believe. Yet, many can know the correct facts but still not believe. The issue could be due to emotional doubt, which points to an experience that has left a person in a place where they can’t overcome the emotional hurdles of a bad religious experience, a failed relationship with someone who claimed to be a Christian, or simply a fear of not being able to follow Christ and keep His commandments. Finally, it could come down to volitional doubt, which in essence is an act of your will. Every person has a choice; God gave the human race the privilege He gave no other creature—the power to make real choices

Moses spoke to the people of Israel and declared God’s challenge: “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

As Saul, who would later be known as the apostle Paul, said, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

This very day, you have the awesome opportunity to take a step of faith—not a blind step, but rather one with spiritual sight, given the evidence that the tomb of Jesus is empty and that He indeed has been raised from the dead. Because Christ has been raised, you and I can be raised up into a new life and, just like Saul, possess a faith that is undeniable.

Let’s pray.