Monday, August 8, 2016

Goad the Distance

The following post is inspired by Pastor John's latest sermon about the life of Paul. The sermon launched us into a new series called, Live It Out: Responding to the Call of Christ.

Pictured is a goad. It is what was used to prod sheep or cattle into going a specific direction. A direction or place the herder wanted them to go.

The title is a - admittedly not a good one - reference to Field of Dreams. In that movie, Ray, a farmer, hears a whisper. Several whispers. One of them, the last one, says to him, "Go the distance." To me this means not only finish what you started and not giving up on your dreams, but also going to any and all lengths - whether physical, mental or spiritual - to do what God is asking of you.

Other titles I considered: Frog and Goad; It's a Long Goad Ahead; Rocky Goad; We're Gonna Need a Bigger Goad; The Goad to Damascus. Okay I'll stop there. I can literally hear your eyes rolling. Although I really like that last one.

The message began by looking at Paul's (formerly known as Saul) early life. The reason for starting here other than because it's the beginning of the series about his life, is because Paul's life is filled with moments that can be considered puzzle pieces. Small parts that when linked together are part of a bigger picture. A picture that only God sees from the beginning. Our lives are no different than Paul's in this sense. Every encounter, every engagement of our lives are in fact pieces of God's greater picture. His plan for us. We don't always see the bigger picture. The forest through the trees. While faith keeps us plugging away at what may be a 5000 piece puzzle, it is our relationship with Christ, our studying of His word and the fellowship with others that helps us to recognize it. It's through these three things where our growth in Him becomes stronger as well as obvious to others.

If I asked you to list five things, five pieces of your puzzle, you wouldn't have a difficult time. You may however, struggle to find the connection or the meaning. You may be at a time in your life where you are seeking what each smaller piece of the puzzle represents. I believe this where those aforementioned things help us on our spiritual walk.

Those who know me or have read enough of my blogs, know that losing my dad to brain cancer has impacted my life to a tremendous degree. I could have used that as an excuse to head of the beaten path. I chose instead to, maybe not consciously at the time, to look for the bigger picture. Part of that bigger picture is the bond I have with my three brothers. Maybe we'd still be close if he hadn't died, but who is to say? The point is, I feel, not his death, but his life is the backbone of our bond.

My trip to Africa back in 1994 is also a big small piece of His puzzle for me. Traveling to a third-world country changes you. It gives you a perspective on life that not everyone can understand. That trip changed the way I eat, spend money and perhaps most important of all, it taught me that having "little" doesn't stop the flow of joy and blessings in your life.


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Some of Paul's most crucial pieces occurred when he was Saul, an educated man with intense desire, but also with blind ambition. He was strong in his convictions. Unfortunately those beliefs were that the Christian church should be destroyed along with anyone who believed in it. He stood on the sidelines and supported the persecution, the stoning, of Stephen.

I don't think this was God's plan for Saul, but it was a piece that helped create the big picture. Our big picture isn't perfect. A painting hanging on the wall in a gallery or even a chalk painting on the sidewalk may appear to be perfect. What we don't see is the time and pain that goes into those creations. We are able to see the pain in our own big picture, but we must take that pain for what it is and harness the lessons and the strength that is within. This is achieved again by those aforementioned things: our relationship, our fellowship and our learning.

The road to Damascus sees Saul, a man with a pure hatred of Jesus, become blinded by a light from the very one whom he is persecuting. Most believe Saul's conversion to Paul, now a follower of Jesus, began there on that road while blinded, while hearing the voice of Jesus himself. His conversion may have started there, but I'm not convinced it was completed there.

Enter Ananias. Ananias knew of Saul. Everyone did. Saul had the authority to arrest anyone that believes in Christ so I imagine people didn't exactly walk up to the man and give him a fist-bump.  Ananias was asked by God to go to Saul and heal him of his blindness. This is kind of a huge deal. This isn't like our boss asking/telling us to give a presentation in front of all our colleagues at a moment's notice. This is GOD telling Ananias to HEAL someone that HATES Christians.

Ananias, after what probably was his biggest, "Are you kidding me?" of his life, entered the house of Saul and healed him from his blindness. My pastor brings up a good point here. Wouldn't it be at that very moment - that darkness to light moment - where his conversion would most likely begin? When all said and done, it doesn't matter. It's not the point of the story, but think of some darkness to light moments in your life. Wasn't it at that moment you began to change in some way? You perhaps changed, if nothing else, the direction of your life and now you're heeding the goad of God as he prods you in His direction. Stop kicking against His goad and take a moment to pray a deep prayer asking for wisdom so you can begin or continue your conversion. We always need to be converting. We need to shedding the sins of our lives and convert, and accept the grace and mercy of Christ.

Now the question is, to whom are you Ananias? Is there someone in your life right now that you are helping to remove the scales from their eyes so they may see? Another question would be, who is your Ananias? Who is the person or persons that have shoveled away the darkness to reveal the light?

For me, the former is answered with my three girls. I hope I am a good enough father to teach them that in the midst and even beyond their struggles is the unending love of our Lord. The latter I try to answer everyday by taking all of my struggles and reminding myself that whatever I face is a small piece of His larger picture. And I will see that big picture as long as I continue to build upon my personal relationship with Him.

Remember the whisper that Ray Kinsella heard? Go the distance. Let us be strong in our faith as we heed the prodding of the Lord. We may not know which direction He's taking us or to what great lengths as He uses His goad to guide us, but we do know it is all for the greater good. His good.

Thank you for reading. Watch the clip from Field of Dreams below. I'll never watch it the same again.






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