23 September, 2018

Taking Dominion

Are you as amazed as I that God gave mankind dominion over "the works of His hands?"  From Genesis 1:26 and Psalm 8, we see that God wanted us to be in control. Then there's Genesis 3.  The proving ground for the thinking of human hearts that we didn't just want what we had, we wanted it all.

God knew we couldn't exercise dominion over our own hearts yet, we wanted everything we saw even if it meant disobedience.

It took Jesus to bring us into an accurate view of these texts (1 Corinthians 15:21-28; Hebrews 2:7-9) Now we understand how the first and primary place we must take dominion is over our own soul as we discipline ourselves to follow Christ in all things, all the time, everywhere.

I do that with a series of affirmations that I prayerfully review every morning.  It's the way I remind my own soul of these truths and principles. Rehearsing my "manifesto" has strengthened my spirit and my soul.  As you read through them, ask God to help you prepare your own.

  1. Christ died in my place, therefore, I will live this day as a STEWARD seeking to honor the God who gave me this day. (Matthew 25:29
  2. God is a God of abundance, not scarcity, therefore, I will live in GRATITUDE. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
  3. Because God calls me to a peaceful life, I will create HARMONY around me today. (Romans 12:17-18)
  4. God inclines toward me (Psalm 116:2), therefore I will be attentive toward others and LISTEN well.
  5. Because the One who has solved all my problems is with me, today I will be a creative, HOPEFUL problem solver. (2 Chronicles 20:17)  
  6. My future is in the hands of a wise and loving God, therefore I will TRUST my future will be good. (John 10:10)
  7. I take responsibility for what is heard when I speak, not just about what is said. No ambiguity. WORDS MATTER (Proverbs 18:2)
  8. Work with the resistance, seeing tension as required to paint new POSSIBILITIES. (Philippians 4:13)
  9. I will face my fears with COURAGE knowing that I am stronger than I think (Ephesians 6:10).
  10. I EMBRACE THE BATTLE zones with the same enthusiasm as my comfort zones. (Philippians 1:21)
  11. When life presents a paradox, I will BELIEVE it is for my good and protection (Romans 8:28; John 13:7; Deuteronomy 29:29)

Every morning, I pray through these thoughts in their entirety then I pick one of the FOCUS words in bold and look for ways to intentionally exercise that focus in my life that day.  At the beginning of each morning, I assess how I did the day before then pick a different one for the current day.

Let me encourage you to get alone with God and prepare your own manifesto and rehearse it daily. Allow the Holy Spirit to coach you and lead you. This process has taught me much but the most important thing God has shown me is that He loves me more than I'll ever know.

Photo by Bruno Bergher on Unsplash

25 December, 2017

Joy Will Be

"Winter in Towneley Park" - Photo by Paul Green on Unsplash

Joy Will Be

Christmas cheer
So hard to muster
Stemmed from a year
of pain, hurt and fluster.

Life is wrought
With trouble and stress:
Few things go well,
Navigating the mess.

Resources tight,
Patience runs thin.
The end’s not in sight,
No way to win.

Heartache my view,
No way to bend,
Bitterness my brew.
When will it end?

Expectations unmet,
Sorrow to sow.
Full of regret,
Nowhere to go.

As if on cue,
I remember what was
Before life was so blue.

My mind was then clear,
Hope owned the day.
My purpose in view,
Nothing done halfway.

What happened?
Now I know.
My focus became narrow,
I became the show.

I made my life the deal:
My dreams, my will.
I became self-absorbed,
Unable to heal.

The problem with pain,
It distracts and distorts;
Looking for blame,
Keeping love out of sorts.

In the routine of days,
I’m ashamed to admit,
I found myself hopeless,
Wandering lost in the pit.

The love of my life
Knew change was a must.
The courage, those words
I knew I could trust.

So together we sought
Help from on High,
And agreed not to waste
More precious time.

That was last Christmas,
And so much has changed:
Direction, perspective
It’s all rearranged.

Within my own spirit,
I once again know;
never, not once,
Was I in control.

Fresh wind and fresh fire
Have all had a part;
Transforming this soul,
And healing this heart.

The love of a spouse,
family and friends.
A new purpose for days
Enabled amends.

The grace of the Savior,
Persistent and true!
When life falls apart,
His grace is the glue.

This Christmas is different,
In so many ways.
Remember, love is love best
When it’s given away.

So, let love show
For all to see;
Hope will follow,
Joy will be!

"I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." John 15:11

© 2017 Michael D. Clowers

25 August, 2015

Why Are We All So Lonely?

Why are we all so lonely?

Confronted by the above question, there’s this morbid relief that its “we all” and not just me - the old “misery loves company” kind of relief. But before I get the chance to fully meditate on my loneliness, there’s a distraction and I’m on to the next thing. That may just be the problem – all these distractions in our lives.

Though our world has never been more connected, we have never felt more isolated from each other. Combined with our keen ability to multi-task and a multitude of distractions, we walk through our lives with this haunting sense that we may have forgotten to do something very important.

Maybe our problem is that we're trying to meet phantom, 21st century expectations? Our smart phones constantly tempt us to be more efficient calling us to be multitasking Ninjas; our circadian rhythm is overruled so we can be available 24/7 to respond to whomever about whatever – like a toddler demanding attention by acting out and never napping.

We expect ourselves to work hard, and then we expect ourselves to play hard – and sometimes we’re not sure which is which. What's the solution?

I think my friend Jessica Bowen may be on to something. I was intrigued by her recent decision to “unplug” from social media as a possible solution to create more margin and meaning to her life. Here's what she had to say.

“I have deactivated my Facebook account and won't reactivate it until I have made some major shifts. Such as: make an Important events box with monthly tabbed dividers (like my grandma used to do) with cards for birthdays & anniversaries & "Just Because" cards ready to go with stamps; an address book for contacts instead of relying solely on my phone; Process my digital photos & create a scrapbook and a family photo album in chronological order; Meet my neighbors in our building and have them over for dinner or coffee to get to know them; Step out of my comfort zone and make new friends locally. I want to pick up the phone and call someone when I am thinking of them and actually make contact - not just stalk their (social media) to get "caught up" on their lives. I want to have friends over to have actual conversations instead of writing on their "wall". It's too easy to have this false sense of "community" and false sense that you "know someone" when in reality you don't really know THEM at all - only the facade or surface image they choose to share publicly. We as a society have lost the art of friendship, communication and being present. So, I am on a quest for real, genuine friendships… making actual contact with someone and trusting our friendship enough to say, "Life is tough right now and I need a friend to be present in my life. Can you be that friend?" That takes vulnerability and authenticity... and it's a lot scarier than having the false sense of community by putting it out on FB like you’ve confided in a friend when in reality you've not truly connected with anyone.”

Wow. You know Jessica’s thoughts drip with truth. Maybe you need a break too? What would it look like for you? Can you step away from the chaos of unrealistic expectations in your distracted, multi-tasked life? Do you realize that social media creates only the perception of friendship? It’s really just a fantasy.

The world can be a very ugly place. We’re surrounded by stories of injustice, violence, and abuse that make us want to retreat into our own “worlds”. But God put inside each one of us, the desire to connect… to relate… to be emotionally engaged and to draw meaning from it all inside a community of authentic friendships.

I’ve become convinced that Jesus died to create the church to be that community of authentic, Christ-seeking people. I’m also convinced that your spiritual growth is stunted if you're attempting to grow your relationship with Jesus without that community.

So maybe, this fall, it’s time to turn off the TV. Time to unplug from the internet and get face to face with real people who desire authentic friendship. Maybe it’s time for you to be part of a growing, authentic group of Christians to share life together. Or maybe, its time for you to lead out and start one?

01 September, 2014

If I Had Known Then What I Know Now

It was six years ago today that I began my journey as a pastor at Mosaic Church, a multi-ethnic, missional work in one of the toughest areas of Little Rock.

If I could go back in time and speak to the Mike Clowers who was venturing out into new ministry territory, there are few things I would tell him. I wouldn't attempt to persuade him to do otherwise, but I would level with him about the things he needs to have in order before he jumps.  

Here are the seven things I would tell him.

1) You need good strong boundaries to be a pastor.  The first four years of my pastorate almost took me out.  I fixated on getting processes developed and managed, getting people ordered and focused.  I threw myself into it and found myself working 60-70 hours a week.  There is a huge cost for that kind of capacity drain and the one that will pay the price is your wife and family.  Get those boundaries up and do it quick.

2) You need to make sure your identity is firmly entrenched in who you are in Christ.  You are driven by success and performance. You can't let that be your identity. Make sure you know who you are in Christ and let that lead your performance, not the other way around. 

3) The needs of people - physical, spiritual, emotional, relational - are inexhaustible.  Don't try to meet every need that presents itself to you. See item 1 above.  Your primary job is to love.

4) You need to admit that you are incompetent when it comes to issues of race, culture and diversity.  You will be called a racist even though you work for a multi-ethnic church.  And it will hurt.  Bad.  Realize that that racism and prejudice are inside of you, not necessarily by choice but by default.  They can be decoded and alleviated.  But not without some dredging of your heart.  Look at the people you call your friends. They all look like you. You're going to need deep, personal friendships with people not like you who will love you, lead you and teach you to be more competent. 

5) Many people who are with you at the beginning, will not cross the deep waters with you. There are people you trust who will leave you behind. Be prepared for that. It hurts when those you love most check out. 

6) Your best prayer life to date is terribly anemic.   'Some prayer is better than no prayer.  More prayer is better than less prayer." - Harry Li

7) The spiritual warfare you've experienced to date, has been child's play.  You will see things you've never seen before. You will bury friends and their children. You will experience manifestations of evil that will tempt you to be fearful. You will watch people make foolish decisions and you will have to walk with them through the consequences. See item 6.

That's what I would say to the Mike Clowers that started this journey six years ago today. These years have been vigorous and challenging, glorious and exhausting, victorious and strengthening.

I want to thank those who've walked with me, prayed with me and challenged me to faith and courage.  Thank you to Mark DeYmaz, Harry Li, Cesar Ortega and the Elders of Mosaic.  It's been a true adventure! I agree with you that Mosaic's best years are ahead.

May God be glorified in all we do. 

20 August, 2014

Michael Brown Died. So Should We.

Please forgive the sensationalist headline. It will stand to prove a point in a moment.

There are two significant things that have been confirmed by the recent events in the world.

One: We have an insatiable, unquenchable appetite for bad news. We have to remember that the economic engine of the news business is completely and comprehensively dependent on the number of people who view and read - the ratings. If the National Enquirer taught us anything, it's proven that sensationalism drives sales. So it is in the new business. Sensationalism drives readership and viewership.  Period.  Remember that as you expose your mind to the internet news, CNN, FoxNews and others. In fact, you probably made the decision to read this based on my dramatic title.  Score one for sensationalism.  Don't be manipulated.  Think.

Two:  We are impatient when it comes to learning the truth.  That impatience appears as we adopt slices of the truth or sections of the truth as it's dispensed by the media and believe it without any depth of understanding of context or comprehensiveness.  In time, the truth demands that it be worked to the surface.  Truth desires to be exposed.  But it is usually done on its own terms and in its own time. In that regard, be careful little mind what you believe.  Demand the truth but be reasonalby patient for it.

Remember that cynicism is emotional and spiritual cancer.  You can cure it if you catch it early.

17 June, 2012

Cultivating Honor in the Land

A long time ago, the classic Greek philosopher Plato said this-

“What is honored in the land will be cultivated there.”  

Our western culture has created this uncanny predicament.  It’s the situation where we reward people for thinking alike and as a result, consider those who take exception to the current consensus as a little weird.

You can call the phenomenon peer pressure... critical mass... whatever. The problem is that we, in our human-ness, forget things.  Things that we should remember.  And in just a few generations, we can end up forming consensus around the wrong things and forgetting the right things.  Just one degree of separation every year can change everything in a few decades....

I believe we’ve done that with the idea of honor.  

These days, it seems there are fewer and fewer things - noble things - that we honor.  Plato was probably right, maybe we’ve just lost sight of honor because somewhere along the way, we have just become neglectful of cultivating it.

What do we cultivate in our culture?  Academics?  Athletic Ability?  Beauty?  Wealth?

So, maybe a great place for us to begin today, Father’s Day - a day when we’re supposed to honor our dads -  is to unpack what honor means and learn how to cultivate it... God’s way!

One of the places in America where honor is cultivated.. the kind of honor we need to cultivate is Arlington Cemetery. There, amidst the graves lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This tomb is guarded by our military. A special breed of men who stand by a stellar creed:

The Sentinels Creed
My dedication to this sacred duty is total and wholehearted. 

In the responsibility bestowed on me never will I falter. 

And with dignity and perseverance my standard will remain perfection. 

Through the years of diligence and praise and the discomfort of the elements, 

I will walk my tour in humble reverence to the best of my ability. 

It is he who commands the respect I protect. 

His bravery that made us so proud. 

Surrounded by well meaning crowds by day. 
alone in the thoughtful peace of night, 

this soldier will in honored glory rest under my eternal vigilance.

Webster's defines the word honor as "to regard or treat as one with superior standing or respect. That is what we do at Arlington Cemetery. As Americans, we have made the commitment to honor those men who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.  Since 1921, we have honored these unidentified, fallen men who served in every major conflict our nation has experienced.  Since July 2, 1937, there has been a military guard posted at the site 24 hours a day.  In just two weeks, we can say that we have had non-stop guard at this tomb for the last 75 years.  Through hurricanes, storms, blizzards... they’ve been there for 75 years.

Did you ever think about WHY we do that?  President Warren G. Harding who laid the first soldier to rest there said it best, “ We know not whence he came, but only that his death marks him with the everlasting glory of an American dying for his country.”

But I think it goes even deeper than that.  My theory is that we do this also because the families of these special soldiers were never able to honor them personally.  

As we think about the three men who are buried in the tomb of the unknowns, we really don’t know anything about their character, their integrity or their skill.  We don’t really know if they were good soldiers or bad soldiers: good husbands or band husbands; good sons or bad sons.  What we honor is that fact they died for our country.   It’s the position they meritoriously hold. And for the last 75 years, our nation has placed an armed guard at their tomb because of their position.

If there was ever a place where we cultivate “honor”, it’s at Arlington National Cemetery.  

Long before Plato, God gave us an assignment that centered on the idea of honor.  He gave it to us in the initial instructions he gave Moses for His people - the 10 Commandments.

Spend a little time with the commandments in Exodus 20 and you’ll see a couple of patterns emerge.  Last month, when I wrote about Romans 7, we looked at “Big 10”!  Let’s do it again!

1) “You shall have no other God’s before Me.”
2) “You shall not make for yourself and idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven or on the earth beneath... You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God...”
3) You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain...”
4) Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy...  (remember to unplug & undo)
5) Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you...
6) You shall not murder...
7) You shall not commit adultery...
8) You shall not steal...
9) You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor...
10) You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

First grouping of commandments (1 - 4) is about our relationship with God; the second grouping is about our relationship with others.

The central verse between the two groups is the fifth commandment. It’s unique in that it separates these two sections.  Theologians tell us that’s significant because it communicates priority. It’s also unique because out of all these commandments, this commandment is the only one that holds for us a promise.  There is a spiritual connection between the length of your days on earth and how you honor your parents.  

Let me say here that none of this is original to me.  Over the years, I have sat under great pastors and leaders who have helped me see these things I’m sharing with you in a new light.  Most of all, Dennis Rainey showed me the power of honoring our parents. So as I continue with this message, I will openly acknowledge that Dennis is the source for most of these things I’m sharing today.  Dennis Rainey says that honoring our parents is most often a “spiritual barometer” of our relationship with God.  In his book, “The Best Gift You Can Ever Give Your Parents”, Rainey reminds us that it's the position of parents that requires we honor them. It has nothing to do with their performance.

So just like the unknowns in Arlington, in the same way, we should honor the office given to our parents by God.

Before I talk about what it means specifically to honor our parents, Rainey reminds us about what honoring is not.  
  • Honoring is not endorsing your parents irresponsibility
  • Honoring is not denying what they’ve done wrong
  • Honoring is not approval of their wrong actions or choices
  • Honoring is not placing yourself back under their submission (physically or emotionally)
  • Honoring is not denying the emotional or physical pain they may have caused you or your family.

He adds that here’s what honoring your parents means:
  • Honoring your parents is choosing to place great value on your relationship with them.
  • Honoring your parents means you will take the initiative to improve or pursue the relationship.
  • Honoring your parents means you will submit to their authority until you’ve been emancipated.
  • Honoring is acknowledging what they have done right in your life and passed on to you as their legacy.
  • Honoring means seeing them through the eyes of Christ - with compassion and understanding - seeing them for what they could be and not what they are!
  • Honoring means you forgive them as Christ has forgiven you.

If our time in the book of Romans has taught us anything so far, it’s that if we live our lives in the flesh this, in some cases, would be impossible.  But if we live in the Spirit, God marshalls forces you can’t even imagine to come alongside us to accomplish these things. Remember... this is HIS WILL FOR US to honor our parents!

As we Honor our parents, Rainey reminds us there are at least three different “GIFTS” we can give them.  So, if you haven’t picked up that gift for dad yet, listen to what you could give him by beginning or continuing your journey of honor for him.

1) The Gift of Understanding:
Proverbs 24: 3-4 says, “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”
If you have a difficult time relating to your dad or maybe he has hurt you, what you may need is a different perspective.  Maybe you need just to look at them through new eyes.  Our natural bent toward the negative helps us to focus on their mistakes.  So instead of judging or condemning let’s seek first to understand him.  It was Mark Twain that said, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around.  But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned.”

2) The Gift of Compassion:
Colossians 3:12-13 says,Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
Until you have raised kids of your own, you tend to forget how exhausting and difficult raising kids can be.  Realize that you don’t even know about 99% of the work your mom and dad went through to get you raised.  1 Peter 3:9 says, Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” Our natural reaction is retaliation!  But our supernatural reaction is Offer your dad the gift of compassion.  Pray for him.  Be available so that God can use you in his life!

3) The Gift of Forgiveness
Scripture is clear on this one.  If we fail to forgive and or seek forgiveness, the result is an angry heart, resentment and bitterness.  Left to fester, unforgiveness is like relationship cancer.  It destroys any chance for deep, satisfying, long-term relationships.

Sometimes though, it seems our mom and dad need to be punished.  And denying them a relationship can be an obvious response.  But it’s a sad loop.  When revenge is the only ace you have up your relational sleeve, you will lose the game.

Maybe you’re thinking:  “You have no idea what he did.  Or didn’t do.”    Remember this, the longer you carry a grudge, the heavier it gets. Don’t spend your energy on anger.  

If you want to break a cycle a bitterness and unresolved conflict with your dad today.  Forgive him.  Giving true honor demands that we forgive.  Claiming the name of Christ demands that we forgive.  When our Savior was brutally murdered, he looked at those men who were the very instruments of death for him and said, “Father, forgive them for they do know not what they are doing.”  - Luke 23:35

Here are four truths about forgiveness:
1) Forgiveness embraces the offenders.  Jesus offered forgiveness to the very people who hurt him the most.  And he offered it while they were still hurting him.

2) Forgiveness says you give up all your rights to punish.  Colossians 2:13-14 says, And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,14 by canceling the certificate of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” Jesus canceled your debt with Him.  He didn’t have to, but He did!  When you forgive, you cancel the debt.

3) Forgiveness is based on reality.  When the thief cried out to Jesus while they both hung on the cross, Jesus said to him “Truly I say to you today, you shall be with Me in paradise.”  
Jesus forgave the criminal of his sin but he did not take him off that cross.  He paid the price for his earthly sins, didn't’ he?  Forgiveness means you cancel the debt to you but it doesn’t mean you absolve from other responsibilities.  Restoration can be a challenging road and can take a very long time but the issue in YOUR heart is forgiveness... God cares most about YOUR response to the offender, not their response to you.  Romans 12:18 says “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”

4) Forgiveness initiates:  God desired your fellowship so much that He made forgiveness possible for you not waiting on you to turn to him.  While were still sinners, Christ died for us. When it comes to forgiveness, we too must initiate the transaction.

So, on this Father’s Day, let’s turn our thoughts to our Dads for a moment and consider how we would honor them this day.  The way I see it, there are five categories of dads;

1) The “IN YOUR LIFE: ON YOUR LIFE DAD” -  He’s the one that it’s really easy to honor.  You just can’t remember a time in your life when he wasn’t involved. Deeply.  He sacrificed to show you how much you were valued. But it wasn’t about providing... it was about time for him.  He was not only in your life... he was life-on-life with you.  Easy to honor that kind of dad!
2) The “IN YOUR LIFE: NOT ON YOUR LIFE DAD” - He’s the dad that was around but not involved.  Some would say he was an absent father.  He showed up when there was discipline to be administered.  He worked very hard at the provision side of things or used that to explain why he wasn’t around.  Or maybe he was more absorbed in hobbies or friends.  You just didn’t feel like you were one of the top priorities of his life.  He’s a little more difficult to honor but God will help you find things to be thankful for.

These next two types of fathers will require great faith in God to honor...

3) The “
NOT IN YOUR LIFE; NOT ON YOUR LIFE DAD”:  He’s the dad you never knew you had.  He was absent, uninvolved. Maybe he abandoned you.  Maybe the place to start today with him is to forgive him?

4) The “I WISH YOU WERE NEVER IN MY LIFE DAD”:  This is the dad that was abusive. The dad who was an addict or alcoholic. Or maybe he was just angry all the time and you never knew why. Good memories of him are non-existent.  You’ve done all you can to blot him from your memory. Sometimes, because the deficit or the offense is so atrocious, it can take years to reconcile these relationships. And, in reality, it may never add up.  It could leave a gap in your life that faith must bridge.  But you can honor him today but forgiving him.

5) The “I’M NO LONGER HERE DAD” -  This is the dad that has exited this earthly plain.  And he could have been one of any of the earlier types of dads I talked about... or not. Maybe he died through the natural course of life or maybe even at his own hand. You may wonder how you can reconcile things with him now that he’s gone.  Let me tell you that you can.  You can give him the gift of understanding, compassion and forgiveness. Remember, it’s what God does in YOUR heart that matters. And we must realize is that if we leave these things unfinished, even when it appears nothing can be done about it, it can have a powerful effect on your present day relationships.  Unless you are able to walk in the fullness of the Spirit 24/7/365, you have a propensity to act out these emotional wounds in your own behavior either directly or indirectly.  And hurt people tend to hurt people.

There’s actually another type of dad that I want to remind you about.  
  • He’s the perfect dad!  
  • He’s the One who chose you.
  • He is the One who craves time with you so much that anytime you want Him, He will be there. He is the One who says, “Don’t worry about tomorrow. I’ve thought of everything you need and even better, I have it for you.”  
  • He knows that life can get crazy and He knows just what to do to calm your soul.  
  • When the storms of life come, He is a refuge and a strong tower you can trust.  
  • He knows everything about you and has determined a customized purpose and plan for your life.  
  • He will never disappoint you.  
  • His promises will never be broken and there is nothing that’s too hard for Him.
  • He’s the One that says He will never leave you.
  • He will walk with you, support you and lead you through any situation where you need help.
  • And this father, has a divine purpose to be served you you lean into Him to Honor your earthly father no matter how good or how poorly he performed.
Happy Father’s Day!

12 July, 2011

Revolution in Damascus: The Transformation of Saul of Tarsus

I had the opportunity on Sunday, July 10th to present this message at Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas.  You can see the message here.

Here are my notes.

Main Point: When God speaks… listen, confirm, adjust and move.


  • Paul is a pivotal character of history. You can even say that no one, aside from Jesus Christ himself, has been so influential for the movement of Christianity.
  • Why was Paul first called Saul?  Saul was his Jewish name.  He was also a Roman citizen, having been born in Tarsus and his Roman name was Paul.
  • Saul was educated in Jerusalem in the ways of Judaism and became a strong, young zealot of the Jewish faith, his discipline even earning him the distinguished honor of being a designated a Pharisee.  
  • The Pharisees were the law keepers.  It has been said that that Pharisees were so careful to avoid breaking God's commandments that they built a fence around them. They added 248 commandments and 365 prohibitions to insure they never got close to breaking the original ten.
  • This was the culture of Judaism in which Saul was raised.
  • When Scripture first introduces Saul of Tarsus to us at the end of Acts chapter 7, the biblical record says he was as a witness to the death of Stephen, the church’s first martyr.  Acts 8:1 says that Saul “consented” to his death (Acts 7:58; 8:1). 
  • We’re not sure exactly when Saul began his bloody mission of savagery and persecution of the church – It could have been the stoning of Stephen, but one thing is for sure.  Saul was zealous, brutal and relentless. He was the wolf that stalked the fold of the Lamb.  
  • Later he would write “… you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.” (Gal 1:13)
  • SAUL’S MINDSET – Saul’s training and discipline had convinced him that he was doing God’s will  – He saw Christ and His followers as a massive distortion of the Jewish faith.   He needed to end that to keep his religion pure. 
  • Saul was a bad dude.   His mission?  Exterminate Christianity from the face of the earth.  
  • He was a MIGHTY foe of the church
  • Right up until he met the ALMIGHTY CHRIST! 


  • The book of Acts for has three accounts of Saul’s encounter. 

  • First, there is Luke’s initial historical narrative in Acts 9 and its primary function is to give us the basic details of Saul’s conversion to Christ.  Time  has proven out that the good Doctor Luke was quite good at giving us an accurate historical record.

  • Second, in Acts 22, we find Paul before his Hebrew kinsmen defending his life change from persecutor to promoter of Christianity.  His goal was to show that Judaism was the foundation for Christianity.
  • Third, in Act 26, Paul’s account of his transformation before Festus, a Roman procurator of Judea and King Aggripa. His goal was to show that Christianity didn’t compete against the Roman Empire.  Pauls’ defense of his transformation there was so effective that King Agrippa considered declaring Christ!



  • Here, the Lord Jesus revealed himself to Saul with an amazing display of His power and glory.   Why?  Because that’s what it took to rock Saul’s world enough to hear Him.   

  • God reveals Himself or speaks to us in many different ways:
  • In the days of old, God spoke directly with Moses, Abraham and others.  
  • In the New Testament, God spoke through Jesus to the disciples.  
  • Today God speaks through His Holy Spirit to us.  He also speaks to us through His Word, through prayer, through the church and through our circumstances.
  • For me, the first time I recall it was when I held my first child in my arms moments after Dana had brought Alison to me.   I’m looking at that face and God says, not an audible voice but to my Spirit, “You had very little to do with this.”
  • God’s Omniscience gives Him the ability to reveal the right amount of truth about Himself to get your attention.

  • For Saul, it took crisis… A crisis of belief.


  • CRISIS OF BELIEF – Imagine you are Saul here.   The resurrected Christ has revealed Himself, in person with unprecedented power.  
  • And in order to slow this highly focused, highly motivated, massively passionate man down long enough to think about what just happened, Jesus took his sight.  Now, that’s a crisis.  
  • The word “crisis” comes from a word that means “decision.”  And Saul was, as author/pastor Henry Blackaby would say facing a crisis of belief… a turning point where something must be decided.  Saul didn’t eat or drink for three days.  This spiritual man was seeking the Lord sincerely. 
  • I think this is where many of us get tripped up.  God reveals something to us and we blow by it.  Not taking the time to dwell on it.  
  • Dazed and confused, Saul needs to know what to do.


  • RESPONSE OF FAITH -  Can we talk for a moment about Ananias’ faith?  Come on!  This guy needs some kind of award!  Immediately he goes to Saul and tells him what God has told him He wants to do through Paul.    That’s courage and faith in my book!

  • Now, back to Paul… I think when he was struck blind, his old way of life ended in a moment.   And when these scales fell from his eyes, a revolution has taken place.  He is a completely new person, a new creation!   It was an INWARD REVOLUTION.

  • He would later write to the Corinthians, ““Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
  • Here’s our problem:  If we don’t BELIEVE that the Christian faith is an INWARD REVOLUTION, our tendency is to try to add Christianity to what we already are.  
  • It’s like signing up for a self-improvement course that helps us make better moral decisions. Having come to Christ for forgiveness, we fall short of an INWARD REVOLUTION, hanging on to this, hanging on to that.  
  • We clean up our act, make some new friends, add some new disciplines, all designed to help us become a better version of the person we once were.
  • But like Paul, once God has revealed Himself to us, and we respond with REVOLUTIONARY faith, we will never again be the person we once were. We were “into” our selves;  Our agenda; Our purposes; Our will.  
  • But when INWARD REVOLUTION happens, the foundation we’ve built is destroyed and a new one is built by a Heavenly Builder! 
  • We are now the residence of the Holy Spirit… we are children of God! Everywhere we go and everything we say and do, the way we influence the world, comes from a change that is rightly described as new birth. 
  • The challenge is to not believe anything less than that. However much we might feel as if we are still who we once were, we are not.   
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.


Five weeks ago today, June 5, 2011, at 4:25am, my 44 year-old sister Mary left a voice mail that said, "Mike... I'm tired, I'm through, I'm finished.  I need you to make arrangements to come get my stuff."   Never good.  My return calls to her were to no avail.   Good reason.  Mary had taken an intentional overdose.   She had lost all hope.  Her roommate found her lying in the kitchen floor... unconscious.   Later that day, Mary was in Intensive Care at Johnson City Medical Center in East Tennessee.  Doctors had no hope for a recovery.  Intubated, she showed no brain activity, abnormal heart rhythm and the likelihood she would not survive.  But God had a different plan for her.  A day later, Mary began to recover.  Miraculously, two days later, she was moved from ICU to a regular bed.  By Thursday, she was transferred to a psychological evaluation center where she was diagnosed with drug addiction, Bi-Polar Disorder and depression.  With no job and no insurance, things didn't look good.

When Mary was released, she literally had no place to go.  Her roommate's decision to evict her was what we believe the tipping point for her.  She doesn’t remember.  To further complicate the matter, my sisters and I were navigating family tension created by years of irresponsibility and Mary's poor decisions.  The options before us were limited.  There was a lack of unity as to where to place her.  We cried out to God to show us what to do.  And that's just what He did!

I recalled conversations I had enjoyed with Jennifer Harrison about a place of rehabilitation and restoration in New Orleans -  Bethel Colony Transformation Ministries.  She and Jon were partners with the organization and had seen God do amazing things through the people there.  Bethel Colony was established as a men's program but they had just launched a women's campus!  In desperation, I wrote to one of their staff pastors, Greg Cleek, and within a matter of hours, Mary had been accepted in to Bethel Colony's Women's program. God made a way where there seemed to be no way!

Mary‘s Crisis of Belief came when she realized what she had done.  Today, one month into the program at Bethel, she is full of hope and promise and a strong desire to change. She is on the road.  My prayer for her is that she would continue to allow God to break her... crumble her to dust... so that He can take that dust, add the moisture of Living Water and re-form her into the person He wants her to be.

Isn’t that what God did to Paul?  Knocked him off of his high horse, crumbled him to dust and added the Living Water of Christ to it.

Then God took this hugely flawed man and sends this message to all who will listen.

12 “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service.13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” – 1 Timothy 1:12-16

Don’t ever think your sin too heinous for God to forgive.  The only thing greater than God’s mercy is his love for you!  It’s as deep and wide as the sea, and it can cover up a great mountain of sins!


  • If there was anything that could have stopped Paul’s progress of faith it would be the wrong perspective of his past sins. 
  • There had to be times when he faced a father or mother or sister or brother of someone he had jailed or worse.   How could he move through those moments of shame and guilt with victory?  
  • I’m sure in the earliest days of his ministry there were those who thought he was a turncoat spy.  The Scriptures show that some of Paul’s greatest opposition came from within.   
  • How did he process it? (1 Timothy 1:12-16 & Philippians 3:13-14)
13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  - Philippians 3:13-14


  • Maybe you’re like Annanias – The Christ Revolution has occurred and Jesus is Lord of your life.  When He says move, you just do it and God uses you!
  • Maybe you’ve had the revelation of Christ but there’s been no revolution?  Christ is “resident” in your life but not “president” in your life.  Maybe you’ve let your past control your future.   I encourage you to forgive yourself, make Jesus Lord and press forward.   
  • Maybe you’re like my sister Mary.  You’re in the middle of a Crisis of Belief.  You can trust God.  He is fully trustworthy and loves you greatly!
  • Maybe you’re like King Agrippa – Almost convinced that Jesus is the Christ, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life and died in your place to restore you to God Himself.   When that happened, here’s how Paul responded “I pray to God that either in a short or a long time that not only you but all those listening to me today could become such as I...

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