Monday, July 05, 2010

What happened?

A car wreck can be a life-changing experience, and if you’ve ever been in a serious one, you know how small these words can be. There is almost no way to describe the spontaneity, the sudden impact, the sights and sounds, the pain that lasts for months or years or longer . . . Such an event or other disasters are very unforgiving.

They happen with no regard for who is involved, life experience, family, status, education or religion. There are occasions when good experiences happen that are so grand that they, too, can be equally “unforgiving” and leave an indelible mark just as plain as a disaster—especially when it comes without expectation. There is a colleague of mine who gushes this kind of grace. One cannot be in his presence without feeling uplifted, encouraged and blessed—even if it is relaying a mere, “good morning!”

Some people have good experiences that turn out to be a disaster for them while others experience horrendous tragedy that become for them an indescribable virtue. William “Bud” Post won $16.2 million in lottery money. Three months after receiving his first round of winning payments, he put himself $500,000 in debt. His good fortune also brought death threats and a hired hit-man from his brother. His landlady extorted one-third of his winnings from him and he was charged with assault for firing a shotgun at a bill collector. "I was much happier when I was broke," he moaned. “Bud” died of respiratory failure after living on $450.00 a month and food stamps. These were just the highlights of his tragedy. What happened?

Since 1967, Joni Eareckson Tada has been a quadriplegic in a wheel chair. That summer, the young teenager dove in a lake (not knowing how shallow it was) and broke her neck, causing paralysis from the neck down. Since 1969, she has written numerous books, recorded several musical albums, and is actively involved as an advocate for disabled people. Currently, she hosts a daily radio show, a television show, provides wheelchairs internationally for people in need, hosts family retreats, oversees The Christian Institute for Disability, and so much more. What happened?

There was a man who came from a very religious family who grew up to be highly educated, rich and very influential. Nursed from the cradle in the religion of his ancestors, he became so zealous that he became an authority and inspiration to many. He held dual citizenship and traveled extensively. Of course, many of his travels were fueled by religious zeal and intolerance to the point that he actually hunted and killed people with whom he disagreed—even those of his own ethnic and cultural context. Ever have one of those days when nothing goes right? Well, in one day, two events happened that could be said to be the train wreck that changed it all: he met someone and he was struck blind. Later in his life, he would reflect back on all this and say to the effect, “it’s all garbage. Before, my life was rubbish, refuse, dung—that stuff belongs with the dogs.” What happened?

Oswald Chambers in his short work, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, provides this marvelous insight: “It is useless to mistake careful consideration of circumstances for that which produces character. You cannot produce the life on the inside by watching the outside all the time.”

First, know that I am a firm believer in seat-belts. This did not come on a whim because I grew up in an era that never used them. I wear a seat belt because I watched through the broken windshield of my van the last few hours of a man who did not wear one.

The Apostle Paul is the third person described, above. What happened to him was he had what amounts a head-on collision with the very person he was persecuting, the Lord Jesus Christ. Sure we have enough crazies running around trying to influence the world after having their visions and so-called “heavenly visitations;” but, they prove themselves ingenuine because the Lord Jesus Christ was doing His own work through Paul in this case specifically. These other spirits are false because they run on man-power. [If you are paying attention you will know that “ingenuine” is not a word of acceptable usage, but is part of the culture and considered acceptable (the correct word should be “disingenuous”). See how easy it is to be fooled?]

Paul’s life did not change so drastically because he merely met and was commissioned by Jesus alone. He had to have something done with his sin problem. This is interesting because when it came to religion, even Paul admits he was top-notch when it came to religion—he was impeachable. But that was by man’s standard. Through the law, Paul understood how God saw his heart—he was a law-breaker, and lawlessness is sin. What the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished for him by His death, burial and resurrection had to transform him through repentance before He could carry the message. There was a period of 14 years or so between the time Jesus met him on the road and when he actually began his ministry.

When he began to move among Christians, they remembered him as one to be feared. What was he up to? What happened to Saul (his name before being changed to Paul)?

He was transformed through the tragedy of the cross.

And I was too.

What a blessing!

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