Summer Smiles, Grad Gifts, and Great Giveaways
- May 31, 2023
Saul was furious. Accusatory and outright lies were being spread about his faith, his ancestors and his spiritual leaders. More importantly, the lies were taking root and a growing rabid mob was threatening to destroy everything he knew and cherished. As a young and ambitious man, he was determined to stamp it out. He waited
Saul was furious. Accusatory and outright lies were being spread about his faith, his ancestors and his spiritual leaders. More importantly, the lies were taking root and a growing rabid mob was threatening to destroy everything he knew and cherished. As a young and ambitious man, he was determined to stamp it out. He waited for the right moment to step up and lead the effort.
His moment came when a man named Stephen was taken into custody. Stephen stood accused of speaking blasphemy against the holy temple and against God’s covenant law. On top of those serious offenses, Stephen was teaching that Jesus of Nazareth (a dead man!) would destroy the temple and forever alter the Mosaic law. The insanity outraged Saul. Hearing the accusations against Stephen and his pompous response filled with outrageous slander, Saul made up his mind: Stephen must die.
And that’s exactly what happened. Stephen was stoned to death – and Saul was given the credit for his brutal and highly public execution.
Saul’s strategy worked perfectly. The execution emboldened the spiritual leaders who became obsessed with destroying the Jesus movement. Saul was given authority to imprison anyone, women included, who claimed that Jesus was alive. The persecution against the followers of Jesus became so fierce that they left their homes and scattered into other cities and countries to seek refuge.
And Saul followed them like a blood hound. Rumor had it that some of them had found refuge in Damascus. Saul immediately went to the authorities and sought permission to go there and flush them out.
As he was traveling to Damascus with his posse, Jesus of Nazareth knocked Saul to the ground. That’s right. Jesus. The dead man. Well, maybe not so dead after all.
Jesus rocked Saul’s world that day. Saul, who later became known as the Apostle Paul, ended up becoming the leading ambassador for the very movement he had tried to destroy. His letters now comprise one third of the New Testament. Saul was taken by surprise.
So was I. While my story is much different than Saul’s, risen grace rocked my world too. I grew up working in my father’s roofing and siding company. I enjoy manual labor and the instant gratification that comes with accomplishment. Also ambitious, I dreamed of building my father’s family business into one of the most successful roofing companies in the Lehigh Valley.
After graduating from high school, I began pursing my dream. I worked hard that summer, and with school behind me, I was ready to make my move. And that’s when Jesus showed up.
See, I left out an important part of my story. When I was 12 years old, Jesus called me to be a minister. It’s a story for another article, but suffice it to say, I was running from that calling. I didn’t have a lot of respect for ministers, and frankly, I had no desire to be one.
I remember the day Jesus poured risen grace on me like it was yesterday. We were putting a new roof on a factory that was five stories high. The only way to get materials onto the roof was to carry them up a fire escape with a ladder perched at the top to cover the last ten feet. And that’s what I did all day long – until Jesus took me by surprise.
I was carrying a roll of tar paper on my shoulder and was half-way up that steep ladder 60 feet in the air when suddenly I felt someone pulling me off the ladder. I froze – and then I began to shake uncontrollably. The noise of the ladder hitting against the aluminum spouting caught my brother’s attention and he immediately came to my aid. He asked me what was wrong and I yelled that someone was pulling me off the ladder. He told me to drop the roll of paper and hold on. I did, and I grabbed that ladder with both arms and held on tight. In that moment, Jesus said to me, “So, you want to be a roofer?”
Seriously. It was loud and unmistakable. And that’s all He said. A few moments later the sensation of being pulled off the ladder dissipated and that was that. We all went back to work and I finished out the day carrying materials up that fire escape and ladder.
But I was never the same again. Risen grace had taken me by surprise.
And I’m not alone. I have heard countless stories of people who have been taken by surprise. A dear friend of mine met Jesus while checking his marijuana plants he had hidden in the middle of a cornfield in Farragut. An atheist friend of mine was knocked to the floor in her kitchen when Jesus introduced Himself to her. Surprise!
When Jesus takes you by surprise, it literally alters your entire world. Nearly every believer I have talked with has shared that they too have experienced this form of risen grace. Every story is different. Some are rather shocking, and others are very subtle, but the grace is the same. You see, Jesus is alive and well, and He is still speaking to us today. He is risen! He is risen indeed!
In next week’s article, I am going to share with you the story of the day Jesus rocked the world of a man named William. The experience was so vivid that he started a movement that now touches every part of the globe. In fact, it is very possible that you have made donations to this organization. Yes, my friends, Jesus is still pouring out risen grace today. He’s alive. Surprise!
Who knows, maybe you’ll be the next one to be taken by surprise.
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