Blessed to share the sermon about Saul to Paul – pancakes – and our 2 parts in life with Jesus – saving forgiveness and mission calling.
I love to start with Psalm 111 because it has so much encouragement in it – and I could imagine Paul, the focus of our story today – having read it and read it and read it….
Part of Psalm 111:
Praise the Lord.
I will extol the Lord with all my heart
in the council of the upright and in the assembly.
Great are the works of the Lord;
they are pondered by all who delight in them.
Glorious and majestic are his deeds,
and his righteousness endures forever.
He has caused his wonders to be remembered;
the Lord is gracious and compassionate.
He provides food for those who fear him;
he remembers his covenant forever….
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all who follow his precepts have good understanding.
To him belongs eternal praise.
So – I pray we call upon the Holy Spirit in our midst to move us – I pray for anyone who is itching at the ears and heart to understand Jesus more, to let God open them – and let themselves hunger even more… God is willing to lead us and we can hear Jesus DIRECTLY thru His Word.
Paul, whom we learned about in our children’s message and by the two-part scripture reading was a man who became VERY HUNGRY for the Lord – hungrier than for pancakes! … This later apostle of Jesus was first just a man who persecuted Jesus’s followers – and then He saw the LIGHT… Paul is said to be the great writer of the book of Hebrews stating: For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
This a story of a man who changed from a DIRECT encounter with Jesus – DIRECT.
I call this sermon “Not done yet” – because we are all not done yet – and we can learn from Paul – and we are always maturing like those pancakes on the skillet… so yes, let us take that trip to Damascus and then see where it leads us…
Let me tell you a story about a man to whom God turned up the heat… This man’s name was Saul, that was his Aramaic name – the same local language that Jesus spoke to the Jews he was with – and this man Saul was around in Jerusalem just within a few years, scholars say, when Jesus was crucified, risen, and went up to Heaven. Saul was not a good man, he himself said that he persecuted the Christians “Beyond Measure”. The rulers back then were afraid of this new “The Way” – thought it was blaspheming God, but they did not understand the scriptures foretold of Jesus coming… They read them but they didn’t understand. Jesus would say of many that they could not read the sign of the times…
Saul witnessed Jesus’s followers teach, but he didn’t absorb it to believe it – it actually made him MORE mad to see this sect of Judaism go against what he thought was honoring God. When Jesus-follower Stephen was the first martyr killed for speaking about Jesus, was stoned to death, the people laid their cloaks at the feet of the young Saul – he gained a hunger for killing Jews. Scripture says: they were furious – Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears … While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. (sounds like Jesus too) –
Saul saw this all – didn’t change him then – but he remembered and retold the story later… How surprised he must have been, after killing all those new Christians, surprised that Jesus singled him out and came directly to him, as I told the children – there were at least 2 BIG reasons (and lots more) – to CHANGE Saul AND to give him a new MISSION. This made Paul MORE hungry for Jesus’s maturing in himself – a message for us too – 1st reason: change – a NEW CREATION in Jesus – Jesus forgave Him when Saul asked for forgiveness. Jesus spoke to him. God “turned up the heat” on Saul (like those pancakes) and made him blind for a while and made him completely dependent upon others. AND Jesus not only gave him an opportunity to be better, the flip side of Paul’s life in Jesus was Jesus commanded him to go teach as a missionary. Reflecting upon his new life and mission, Saul went by his Roman name Paul – It was so that he would reach the new audiences (like in Greece and Rome) for Jesus by relating to the Gentiles… And with this 2nd “FLIP-SIDE” reason, Jesus made sure Saul/Paul had this change of heart, to get him teaching both Jews like himself AND non-Jews, who are called Gentiles (and we fall into that category) – teach them all about “the Way”- the Way of Jesus. The people of Jerusalem as you heard in the scripture reading were NOT happy when Paul said God told him to go teach the Gentiles.
And how did Paul teach? He traveled, he went to see people, he started churches, in one place he taught for hours each day while still working full-time as a tentmaker, he even got arrested and taught in prison, he taught the guards, They witnessed Paul saving people – even while being escorted to Rome – to be held in trial before the Emperor – and especially important for us, he wrote letters back to all those people whom he met – YES, God gave him a job, God turned his life upside down and put him back onto the earth – to do more work -and God even moved him around – God’s pancake lifter… If you have not yet read the book of Acts, I encourage you – the stories are AMAZING of his travels – Paul even heard from God directly again, telling him that he was going to go to Rome to witness to crucially important people. Because God moved Paul around AND reinforced connections, this is how THE Word of ‘The Way’ spread further… we too benefit – we learn about Jesus here in America because God brought us the Word thru His missionaries like Paul… God brought Jesus to us.
What about us? Are we feeling Gooey inside?
In the middle of writing this sermon I was remembering I am still really gooey in the middle like the undone pancakes… My own pancake is not done but indeed the Lord did flip me – He did – He turned my life upside down and I was reborn – and put me back here on the earth for a while longer still… Yes the Lord has been cooking me, gently, with Steam and Spirit. He gives corrections to my thoughts, convictions of my mess ups… I could give you a laundry list of my faults but I’m not going to, we have to be careful not to “take pride in our sins” – especially knowing that Jesus has already forgiven them. Not to gossip about ourselves, but yes we DO need to witness how the Lord has changed us – so we do need to show how God got us from there to here… … and that gooey stuff in the middle? well there are trusted friends within whom we can and should confide… And of course we need to be willing to tell Jesus Himself, to confess to God who already knows our deeds, we need to be completely open – to show Him all our gooey middles – to ask Him to hold us tight to Him – to help us move closer to Himself and away from us being sticky and icky…
The point I really want to make here is that we all experience gooey middles – we are human!!! … Don’t let your humanness prevent Jesus from maturing you. God turns up the heat on us but for Love’s sake. In one of Paul’s letters he says: No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
What can we do with our situations, those sins of omission (those you didn’t realize), sins of commission (those you did realize) and every oops in between? Give it to Jesus. Let us Let Jesus be the One who lifts us. Let Jesus cleanse us in forgiveness – in truth He never ever leaves our sides. None of this salvation is by our deeds – and we are never going to be worthy of it – but Jesus died for us because He said the whole situation was worth it –because God is worth it – all worth being with us, His children – THAT’S LOVE!
*Paul would write letter to the people in the church in Ephesians: As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. … But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. – … it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do….
*Paul wrote to his friends in the church he planted in Colossians about teaching the Way to Jews and Gentiles: “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
*Paul would write to the Hebrews about Jesus’s perfection: He always lives to intercede… Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. . . He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself – the Son, who has been made perfect forever.
We are placed into Jesus’s story – many of us have roads to Damascus. Many of us have felt that thunder of God, some are still afraid to have Jesus turn up that heat… and yet many have felt the gentle touch of Jesus – warm but not burning.
I have felt the gentle touch of Jesus. God brought Jesus to me. I am someone who was almost dead in their faith, to put it succinctly, gooey on Both sides of my pancake – even while working for the Lord, I didn’t get Jesus 100%, I knew of Him but I didn’t know Him IN me – and I ran away from that opportunity to know Him more. I didn’t understand, I didn’t… This is not unusual to other’s stories. It was not until God drew me closer to Jesus that I started to change – and Jesus GRACEFULLY acted as if I were Jairus’s daughter, simply saying: “She’s not dead, she’s only sleeping.” I won’t tell you the long version of my road to Damascus but in my “short stack story” using the pancake analogy for myself, for all of us, a reminder that Jesus doesn’t wait for us to be all “perfectly done” before He calls us – No. We can’t decorate ourselves with chocolate chips on our pancakes – we can’t pretend to hide under our puffed up pride. We can not achieve what God would have us achieve, in us, without God. He flips our world upside down and puts us back on earth… we are to bloom where we are planted, mature and teach, live, and simply BE STILL and KNOW He is God. Let us keep watching Him be God in our lives and in the lives of others – let us appreciate the heat at times… And remember, here on earth: this is a non-stick surface. This is not our home.
This is not our home.
Won’t you please pray with me – Lord, we are not done yet, but that does not make You love us less – You ARE LOVE – we are LOVED. You are still working on us, in our trials we are to look towards You and You gives us direction. Take the scales off of the eyes of our hearts – like you did for Paul. Let us hear you and obey. Let us be lifted and re-lifted by Your Spirit. Using Paul’s prayer as [workers] for the Lord, help us live a life worthy of the calling we have received. Let us be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Lord Jesus of lifting, we thank you. We Praise You always in your precious and powerful name. Amen.
Acts 22 NIV 1-21
“Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.” When they [those accusing Paul] heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet. Then Paul said: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.
“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’
“‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.
“ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.
“‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked.
“ ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.
“A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him. “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’
“When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking to me. ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about me.’
“‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’ “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ”
The Children’s Message as well was about pancakes Saul to Paul….