Am I Paul or Saul

Few people in the Bible undergo such a powerful transformation as Saul of Tarsus. He goes from being a villain to a superhero of the faith. And just like all the other people of the Bible narrative, we are meant to learn from his story. We can use the life of Bible characters as a mirror into our own souls. So let’s do that. Let’s ask the question: am I Paul or a Saul?

As you most likely know, Saul’s identity changes from Saul to that of Paul. Initially, Saul is a man who can be characterized as zealous for the things of God. That is one trait that never changes. However, the way in which He is zealous does change. Most of what we know about Saul of Tarsus is that he was driven to destroy the following of Jesus, even if that meant murder. Of course, Saul would not have considered it murder, but murderers rarely do. He was a man who attempted to keep the letter of the law. But in doing so, it never penetrated to his heart. Saul, like many, was religious outwardly, yet cold inwardly. Saul’s motivation was for a code, a set of laws, with little to no regard for the meaning behind the laws. His so-called love for God didn’t translate to his love for others. A clear contradiction that should alarm anyone of the faith. He idealized the image that Jesus spoke against when addressing the Pharisees, Sadducees, and teachers of the law. They were white-washed tombs. Beautiful on the outside yet full of dead men’s bones. Saul was full of pride, angry, and vengeful. But all of that would change.

When Saul met Jesus on the road to Damascus (to imprison or even have followers of Jesus killed) his life was turned on its head (see Acts 9). This experience brought with it a crucial lesson, that Saul (now Paul) would never forget. The physical blindness that Paul experienced was a clear representation of his spiritual blindness. His complete powerlessness and dependency on others brought about a humility that would utterly reshape his life. As I mentioned before, Paul would remain zealous after his transformation. But instead of going a manhunt throughout the near east to have people arrested or to oversee their executions, he would go on a different sort of manhunt. Paul turned his passion for God into a deep desire to see salvation spread. Instead of condemning people, he sought to see people set free. Instead of judging harshly, he preached love and sacrifice for the needs of others. Instead of living a self-focused ‘religious’ life, he lived one absent of self, fully committed to making Jesus known. Instead of living as a hypocrite before the law, Paul would walk in the freedom Christ brings, demonstrating what a resurrected and born-again life can look like.

When I look closely at the life of Saul becoming Paul, I have to ask myself, which one am I more like? We all have areas of pride and hypocrisy. We all have moments of being judgmental and cold. We all have times we care a little too much about how others view us rather than nurturing our hearts. But…are those exceptions or more of the rule? It all begins with an honest and humble approach to the question. Since humility is the root of a sincere heart. In his address to the Romans, Paul mentioned being a living sacrifice. In his letter to the Galatians, he said that he no longers exists but only Christ who lives in him. When writing to the Colossians, Paul said that Christ is our very life and that everything we do and say should be done for Jesus. And the reality is, that Paul lived that out. Saul’s life was full of Saul. Paul’s life was full of Jesus. And the contrast couldn’t have been more obvious. If my life is more about myself than it is about Jesus, then the answer has already been provided. Lord, may the scales fall from our eyes just as they did for Saul. May humility increase as we diminish and Jesus takes the spotlight in our lives.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

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Learning from Horses

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One day, not long ago, I was driving down the long driveway of a ranch. Off to my left was a large corral with several obstacles set up throughout. A women and a child were propped up against one of the side rails looking on with excitement. As I came around the corner an amazing image came into view. I saw a little girl, no more than six, gliding ever so gently through the air on the back of a an animal that weighs more than 1000 pounds. Where she wanted to go, the horse would go. When she wanted to turn, the horse would turn. When it came time to leap over an obstacle, this majestic animal would carry it’s passenger over with care. When the girl prompted the horse to run, it didn’t hesitate. The command to slow and stop were obeyed with equal effort. I had to stop for a moment and take it in. It was a most beautiful site; almost magical.

It was obvious that power and grace could coexist in the same moment, in the same creature, and that the outcome was  magnificent. What I saw in this horse was nothing short of a gentleness and a care for it’s rider. The life of this child was at the mercies of this half ton Thoroughbred, who seemed to care for her like she was her own.  In that instant I was captivated by the power of humility.

Strength is not best displayed in dominance, but in selflessness.

 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:12-13 (ESV)

No one has had, or ever will have, more power than Jesus Christ. He is God in the flesh. He has the power over life and death. He has created this gorgeous planet and awe inspiring universe. Yet, in Jesus, the greatest power meets the greatest humility.  Don’t forget to be awestruck by the what Christ has done for all of us. It is, after all, the paramount act of love in all of history.

Peace to all of you in Christ Jesus, the lover of our souls.

 

Humility Where You Least Expect it

  
“The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.” Proverbs 22:4

Wrestling season just ended this last week so I like to take the time to reflect on how it went. This was perhaps the most challenging team that I’ve had the privilege to coach. Seems like every week there was some new drama between the kids that exposed every ounce of patience in me. Ironically, this was a very successful team regardless of the divisiveness at times. Amidst all the challenges and success, this year seemed very unique. 

I witnessed a few athletes who chose to set their image aside for their opponents. Sports teach kids many positive character traits but unfortunately humility is not one of them. That is something that can only be learned by example and I’m hoping that these young men will be just that for all those who saw what they did.

We had a boy on our team who was a first time wrestler and faced some physical disabilities as well. Wrestling is a physically demanding sport as it is, so this kid faced an uphill battle every match. Time after time he lost and he began to get discouraged. Two of his opponents would give him the encouragement he needed to keep going. 

Before I tell you what they did let me just mention that they were both the best wrestlers in his weight class. Needless to say both of these kids could have toyed with him and embarrassed him without breaking a sweat. Instead, they turned a possible humiliation into a display of humility. In both matches the opponent of our wrestler allowed him to take them down and get escapes and score several points on them. They didn’t make it super obvious either. They allowed our kid to keep the match close all the way to the end. When the matches were over, our kid walked off the mat with his head held high and a big grin on his face. You could tell he was so happy. Those two losses were his biggest victories of the season. Two weeks earlier I had read about a high school wrestler who was undefeated and ranked #1 in the state. He was wrestling a kid with Down syndrome and actually let the kid take him down and pin him. He gave up a undefeated season to make a mark in a kids life that he’d probably never forget.

These stories give me hope for the younger generations and for athletes who are bombarded with messages to pursue perfection and awards. 

Humility is a powerful force. It can change someone’s life forever. The best example of humility is Jesus Christ. The night before He would be crucified, He knelt down to wash the feet of His disciples, even the one who would betray Him. Jesus did this obviously knowing who would betray Him and when. Jesus even says that He came to give us the ultimate example of humility so that we too would lay down our lives for others and never elevate ourselves above others. If God in the flesh could pay the death penalty for my sin, then I should not hesitate to humble myself before those around me. 

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:3-8‬ ‭