Binding Broken Hearts

Introducing Jesus to Those Who Need Him Most

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The Power of the Word - Part 27

The dust settled and all became deathly quiet. The men in the circle put down the rocks they had been holding. There was no need to throw them. The man in the middle of the circle was finally dead. He watched as each man came toward him, picked up his respective cloak, and then turned and walked back into the city. When the last man was gone, he remained staring at the now lifeless body wondering how someone could die such a death with a peaceful expression that looked almost like a smile. For a moment, he wished he could have what the dead man had.

His thoughts were interrupted by a shriek of grief which startled him. He thought he was the only one there. He turned toward the sound and saw a small group of men racing toward the dead body. They were so focused on the dead man, that they barely noticed him, if they saw him at all.

Spellbound Saul watched as the men knelt by Stephen’s body. Sobs shook their shoulders, and their mouths moved in silent prayers. Slowly, tenderly, the men lifted Stephen and headed back into the city. As Saul watched, anger burned in his soul. How many more devout Jewish men would be deceived by the teachings of that dead Nazarene? How many more of God’s people would wander down the dark path of heresy? None, if he could help it.

Saul was not so naïve as to think that the death of Stephen would have that great of an impact on the followers of the Way. The Way! He spat on the ground in disgust. The way of the Lord was found in the sanctuary, not in the way of a Nazarene! His hands clenched into fists as he stared into the heavens. In that moment, he made a vow in the presence of the Almighty God that he would do whatever it took to save God’s people from the darkness he saw looming on the horizon.

With new determination, Saul marched into the city. When he reached his dwelling place, he sat in the growing darkness and created his strategy.

“As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.” (Acts 8:3)

Saul was pleased with the progress he was making in Jerusalem in ridding the Jewish nation of the heretics. But he was not satisfied. He set his sights farther afield.

“Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:1-2)

Several days later, the caravan was ready to go. Saul climbed onto the lead camel and held on as the camel lurched to its feet. The remaining camels in the caravan did the same. Saul gave the signal, and the caravan lumbered northward toward Damascus.

As they journeyed, Saul went over and over his strategies. He didn’t want anything to go wrong. When he wasn’t strategizing, Saul prayed for success. He asked the living God to be with him to give him victory over the blasphemers who claimed the Nazarene was God. He could barely even form this thought in his mind without getting sick.

They had been on the road for several days when the caravan leader maneuvered his camel next to Saul’s to tell him they would reach Damascus by night fall. Saul nodded and straightened in the saddle. The time for battle was at hand. He urged his camel on to move a little bit faster. He was eager to arrive in Damascus.

Without any warning, Saul was surrounded by the brightest light he had ever seen. In fact, he really couldn’t see anything. Everything around him disappeared into the whiteness. He became disoriented and lost his balance. He thudded to the ground, sand filling his mouth, nostrils, and eyes. Sputtering, he tried to get his bearings, but he couldn’t. He simply lay there.

“[He] heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’” (Acts 9:3-5)

Jesus? The Nazarene? He was alive? Saul’s disoriented world began to tilt further. He couldn’t wrap his brain around what was going on.

“So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’” (Acts 9:6)

And with that, the whiteness turned to black. Saul felt strong arms grab him and help him to his feet. He recognized the voices of his companions, but he couldn’t see a thing. Saul told his companions that they needed to continue on to Damascus and asked them to strap him into the camel saddle so he wouldn’t fall off. They complied. As they worked, they told him that they had heard a voice, but hadn’t seen anyone, especially not the bright light that Saul described.

The caravan that entered Damascus was decidedly different from the caravan that left Jerusalem. Saul instructed them to take him as planned to Judas’ house on Straight Street. They complied. There Saul stayed in darkness in his assigned room for three days without food or water. Saul needed to think, and he thought best when fasting.

Jesus was alive! How could this be? What had he missed? In his mind, he went over the Hebrew Scriptures. He saw prophecy after prophecy about the Messiah and came to the realization that every prophecy had been fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth. Why hadn’t he seen this before? If only he hadn’t been so blind (no pun intended), he could have been a herald of the Messiah and not the Messiah’s number one enemy. Was it too late? Had he gone too far? Could the Messiah forgive him? Would the Messiah forgive him?

Toward the end of the third day, he heard a knock on his chamber door. Judas told him that a man named Ananias had come to see him. Saul motioned him into the room. He could hear Ananias walk toward him and felt Ananias’ hands on his head.

Ananias spoke. “'Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.” (Acts 9:17-18)

After his baptism, he spent time with the followers of Jesus in Damascus. He saw the fear and uncertainty in their eyes, and he understood. He knew he had an uphill battle ahead of him to gain the confidence of those who believed in Jesus as the Messiah, but it was a battle he was willing to take on.

He stood in the street in front of the house where he was staying. His hands raised in petition as he stared into the heavens. In that moment, he made a vow in the presence of Jesus the Messiah that he would do whatever it took to save God’s people and the nations from the darkness he saw looming on the horizon.

“Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. Then all who heard were amazed, and said, ‘Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?’ But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.” (Acts 9:20-22)

In the story of Saul is recorded the most dramatic of conversion stories. Good took a man who breathed “threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1) and transformed him into a man who “preached Christ in the synagogues.” (Acts 9:20) Saul’s story gives us hope that the person we were in 2016 does not need to be the person we are in 2017. God is ready, willing, and able to do something new in each one of us in this new year. That’s the power of the Word.

“Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

This is why Binding Broken Hearts is passionate about getting God’s Word into prisons and into the hands of inmates who so desperately need to know that through the power of the Word, their lives can become completely new and that they can begin again in Christ. Because these are men and women who need Jesus most.

Perhaps you want to help spread the power of His Word to an inmate who desperately needs its power. If so, please consider becoming a financial partner with us. Click here to see how you can help.

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Terrific adaptation, as always. You should consider putting them all together, in a book.

God Bless!
Sharon Sullivan

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