Devotional 4/20/2020

If you know me well or have heard me preach often, you will probably have heard about my dog Izzy.  Izzy was and is an important part of my life and her love and companionship have molded me in many ways.  I even wrote my ordination Bible study on Izzy!  

This weekend though I started thinking about many of the dogs I have had in my life and the lessons they taught me.  So for a few devotions we are going to have a series of "Dog Tales: Life Lessons from Dogs."  I believe even if you are not a dog lover, you can glean some worth from these devotions- God does work in mysterious ways after all!  

Izzy was a dog who was in my life for a long time but there are dogs that have been in my life for much less time that have also made a mark on me.  When I was young, my family spent family vacations camping.  While we would eventually upgrade to a pop up camper, we started with just a regular tent.  The first camping trip I can remember I was about 5 or 6.  I believe it was the summer before I started kindergarten or perhaps the one right afterwards.  I do not remember alot from the trip other than it was at Leesville, OH, we camped in a tent and the campsite beside us had a dog.  I cannot tell you anything about the people who brought the dog but I can tell you much about him.  His name was King and he was a golden retriever.  King was sweet and apparently so were his owners since they let me play with King quite a bit.  My parents had a hard time keeping me in our tent or in our campsite if King was out.  To this day, when I think of camping one of my first thoughts is to King.  If it tells you anything, its been well over 30 years and I can still recall this dog's name instantly.  

As much as I remember about King or could talk about him, you would think that he was in my life longer than 5 days.  But that is it.  5 days and 30 years later I can still tell you about him.  

There are situations and people in our lives that we do not have to know long for them to make an impact in our lives.  In the grand scheme of things, I hope COVID-19 will not be a major part of our lives very long but I doubt any of us will forget it and it will likely impact our sense of normal for a long time.  But there are many other examples of this too.  There are the teachers who forever touched us, pastors in our churches for just a few years, friends for a season, or trips.  Even things like a book or a conversation can stick with us for years or even change our whole lives.  

In the grand scope of their lives, Paul knew Jesus Christ for a very short time.  Saul as he was then known was known for his severe persecution of early Christians.  However, he then has an encounter on the road to Damascus which led to his conversion.  From this point forward, it was not that Paul as he was now known just stopped persecuting Christians which would have been lovely enough.  But he becomes one of the most energetic, dedicated and passionate followers of Christ.  His writings still guide our faith today and the number of lives he changed is probably incalculable. 

I know most of us would probably love on big dramatic moment with Jesus like Saul/Paul got. However, there are two things we are overlooking in thinking then we would magically have it all right.  First is that Paul was open to Jesus changing his life.  As crazy as it is to think, Paul could have rejected all of this.  We have seen throughout history people reject miracles and signs of God.  And he could have not allowed a few moments of his life to change everything.  The second thing we need not overlook is that God is active in our lives.  Sure maybe not as dramatic as a blinding and then healing.  But Jesus is apparent in our lives but we have to be willing to see him and to be open to change based on our encounters with him. 

I spent 5 days with a dog which in some small way changed my life.  And likewise, every moment we spend in the presence of God should change our lives.  Even the briefest of signs can render us transformed but we have to allow it to do so!  As much as Paul was blinded by God, we can choose to be blind to God.  We choose to overlook our encounters, brush them off as chance, or admit they were God but not allow them to transform us!  

Today I invite you to read Acts 9:1-25 and read about the transformation in Paul.  Then read 1 Thessalonians.  Pay attention to how much Saul the persecutor of Christians has been transformed into Paul a loving disciple.  Note the guidelines Paul gives them on how to live and love each other and God.  And then consider some of the times you encounter God.  In direct ways, or through another person, through scripture or a writing, through nature, etc.  Consider how these encounters, no matter how brief, impacted your lives.  Consider if you have allowed them to impact you enough.  And then I invite you to pray for sight- that you may see God in your life and that you may allow that to sculpt you in a way that changes your whole life.  

With love,