August 1, 2021
WHAT HAS CHANGED YOUR LIFE?
Starting a couple of weeks ago we saw a man by the name of Saul emerge as one of those who is seeking to destroy the early church. Saul gave his approval for the stoning of Stephen. Saul then turned his attention to the church that remained in Jerusalem, even going door to door rounding up both men and women to throw them in jail or even worse. We read this morning that Saul is determined to follow these Christians wherever they go with the intention of arresting them and throwing them in jail, just like in Jerusalem. Saul asked the high priest for papers that would allow him to go to Damascus with the plan to terrorize the men and women who were followers of Jesus Christ there. Clearly, Saul got what he wanted, so off to Damascus he went, but something happened to Saul while he was still a little bit from getting to Damascus. Saul had an encounter with Jesus the risen Savior. There was a light that flashed that I believe was so bright it blinded him and then he heard a voice calling out to him. As we saw from what we read this morning, it was Jesus talking directly to Saul. Jesus point blank asked Saul, “Why are you persecuting me?” Saul did not want to believe it could have anything to do with what he was doing to the church so he asked the very simple question. “Who are you, Lord?” You have to believe he really was not ready for the answer. “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” Then Jesus gave him instructions on what he was supposed to do. “Go on in to Damascus and you will be told what to do."
We read others were traveling with Saul and while they heard noises, they were not allowed to understand what was going on or where the sound came from. Saul told his travelling companions to lead him to Damascus and that is what they did. In the meantime, Jesus spoke to one of his followers, Ananias, who lived in Damascus. Ananias was told exactly where to go and that he would find Saul of Tarsus there. Saul was well known among the believers by now and Ananias asked Jesus, “Do you really want me to go there? He is out to arrest all of us believers.” Jesus assured Ananias that it would be alright and that he had a plan for Saul. Ananias faithfully did as Jesus asked, went to the house Saul was staying, placed his hands on Saul’s eyes, prayed for his healing and Jesus honored Ananias’ faithfulness by healing Saul right then and there. Immediately Saul was filled with the Holy Spirit, got up, and was baptized and in more ways than one Saul could see lots of things more clearly.
Saul then moved about with some of Jesus’ other followers in Damascus preaching about Jesus in of all places, the synagogues. While many in the church in Damascus were skeptical of Saul more and more, they could see the commitment and power Saul displayed and they began to accept him. In fact, in a very short space of time Saul went from being the most feared man the church had to deal with, to the man the Jewish leadership most hated and wanted to get rid of. The Jews in fact plotted to kill Saul because he was beginning to persuade Jews about who Jesus was. All of a sudden Saul became public enemy number 1 to the priests and Jewish leadership. Closing out what we read this morning, we see at this time the church experienced a degree of peace from persecution and their numbers continued to increase.
Saul had a truly life-changing encounter with the risen Savior on the road to Damascus. This morning the question I would like each of us to answer is what was that moment like that changed your life and mine? Many of us may have grown up going to church from an early age. Others though may not have started attending a church until later in life. I believe the fact remains that at some point we each went from attending church to truly accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. You cannot speak for me and I cannot speak for you. This is a very personal decision and moment that may be different for each one of us. Is it possible some of us here today or some of you watching on Facebook have never officially taken that leap of faith and accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior? I would have to say yes that could be possible. You and you alone, as well as the Lord, are the only ones who really know. I am not claiming to know with absolute certainty where anyone of you stand in relation to the Lord, just as you do not know for absolute certain about me. Some of us may have had just about as dramatic an encounter with the risen Savior as Saul did. For others of us, maybe not quite as dramatic.
The thing that is exciting to me is that God is still transforming lives. Bringing hope to the hopeless, joy to those who at times struggle to find joy and bringing healing to those who need God’s special touch. Saul’s story is like many others who have come after him. In Saul’s case, he did not really know he was headed down the wrong path, but Jesus came and helped to change him at just the right time. What that shows us is God knows what we need at times long before we realize it. I hope God has used Saul’s example this morning to get us to look at what it is, and what it was, that brought us to the point of realizing we needed a Savior. Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is still meeting all who will welcome him in to that place where we are changed forever.
Thank you, Father God, for loving us enough to still change lives and to help us be the best husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, moms, dads, children, we possibly can be. To God be all praise, honor and glory. Amen.
Bible Study 9:30 Tuesday
We are looking for help with the regular adult Sunday School class. If you are willing to take a turn teaching, please sign the sheet on the east bulletin board.
August 11 7:00 p.m. Executive Committee
August 14 4:30 Oakley Brick Church Pork Chop Supper
October 2 All church wiener roast sponsored by Women’s Fellowship—stay tuned for details.
Offering plates are in the back of the sanctuary. Thanks to everyone for your faithful giving!
Thanks to those who are keeping our church lawn mowed!
Donation Box: AC Bills
First Sundays: food donations for food banks
Pastor Larry Traxler- (217) 454-2362
To keep up on Church of the Brethren news:
Denomination: www.brethren.org/news Sign up for Newsline by clicking link on left side of page.
District: iwdcob.org (click on newsletter link) and on facebook
Our pages: cerrogordocob.com (printed sermon, announcements, & calendar) and on facebook
Keep in Your Prayers
Sarah Rudelick; Sydney (Nancy Gorrell’s niece); David Roe; Tera Runyan; Tim and Betty Sue Laird; Carl and Wilma Cable; Mike Gentry; Larry Albro; Mike McCleery; Sherry Wright; Mike and Carol Seidenstricker; Sonna Hall; Brittany Wright; Evelyn Eads; Anna Gentry Thompson; Clyde and Nancy Fansler; Adiline Young; Kim Lehmann; Dylan Junior; Doug Fansler; Liza Yore; Candy Dobson; Anna Rose Larrick; Gary Jesse; Norm & Marge Starr; Shawn Cain; Robert Cripe; Mayo & Darlene Hanaver; Zola Copeland; Patty Cripe; Lauren Gross; Stacie Warren; Nancy Gorrell; many unspoken requests; Coronavirus crisis; healthcare workers and first responders; the families of the 600,000+ people who have died from COVID-19; those who are ill from the virus; the unemployed; school teachers, staff, and students; victims of disasters; victims of shootings; nursing home residents; the Nigerian church; victims of the volcano in Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda
Military and Other Services and their families
Brethren Volunteer Service workers; Disaster project workers
Church of the Brethren vision statement:
Together, as the Church of the Brethren, we will passionately live and share the radical transformation and holistic peace of Jesus Christ through relationship-based neighborhood engagement. To move us forward, we will develop a culture of calling and equipping disciples who are innovative, adaptable, and fearless.
Our Mission Statement:
Love God, grow with others, serve faithfully, reach the lost, find peace