“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’” Acts 22:6-7
“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8
With a transition into a new year there are all sorts of things one can potentially consider and focus upon. As I watched, somewhat disinterestedly, the Pasadena Rose Parade, there was a float designed by a particular Christian organization. The float depicted Jesus on the Sea of Galilee with some of His disciples. He stood at the tiller guiding that boat with sails unfurled and the disciples huddled near the front. It was interesting to see along the side of the great flowered vessel a live service dog riding on the float. It symbolized an aspect of this Christian organization’s ministry of compassion. What was fascinating to me was that the announcer, while faced with an imposingly large and compassionate image of Jesus on the float, talked about the dog. It seemed to reflect something of humanity’s tendency, when faced with the presence of Jesus breaking into this world with good news, to find anything other than Jesus to talk about. It seems less awkward to talk about other subjects than to talk about Jesus.
As I read the later chapters of the New Testament book of Acts, I am challenged by Apostle Paul’s willingness to keep Jesus always the focus of the conversation, whether it be in the Jewish synagogue, the city marketplace or someone’s home. He seemed to always be directing attention to the largest presence in the room. In that spirit, Paul spoke of His own experience with Jesus on a road going to the city of Damascus. Paul had described himself as one who took delight in persecuting those who confessed faith in Jesus Christ. He was not a fan, to say the least, and saw it as his personal mission to eliminate the perceived scourge of Christianity from the face of the earth.
Yet, on the road going toward Damascus, with the intent of continuing his efforts of eradicating the influence of Jesus of Nazareth, Paul encountered something unexpected. In a flash of light, brighter than the noon-day sun Paul was blinded and brought to his knees. In this very humbling and vulnerable place, Paul was addressed by Jesus. It was an experience that forever would alter the course of Paul’s life. The course and destination of Paul’s journey was to be forever altered by Jesus, the one risen from the dead.
This experience was not one Paul seemed to be expecting. It obviously was not an experience he was looking for or wanted. But, in spite of Paul being antagonistic and opposed to the message of the good news about Jesus, the Lord still found him on the road, interrupted his journey and spoke a transformative word to him. Jesus is like that. He finds the ones far removed and draws them in close to His heart, there to be renewed and reshaped by His love and grace.
I find sometimes it’s far easier to talk about everything else except Jesus because it feels too uncomfortable, too vulnerable or too challenging to my life. It’s like those announcers at the Rose Parade confronted with the larger than life portrayal of Jesus yet choosing to focus on a dog riding the float. For Paul it seemed easier to persecute and destroy Christians than it was to consider communion with Christ. But Jesus took Paul by surprise and introduced a transforming pause into his life.
In this new year I want to suggest that there will be occasions when it seems easier to avoid communion with Christ than to actually pause and experience the fullness of His love. In those moments don’t be too surprised if God interrupts your journey and introduces a transforming pause into your life. When your well planned agenda is compromised, or shifting currents in the circumstances of life cause a change in course, or the unforeseen and unexpected events of life seem to dismantle your expected outcomes, you have an opportunity to pause and consider Jesus and the work and plan He intends to accomplish in your life.
There is, for each of us, the opportunity this new-year to pause and experience the transformation Jesus intends for us. At times it drives us to our knees and leaves us blind, vulnerable and helpless, but it also has the possibility of further nurturing in us a humble surrender and dependence upon the One who has loved us, redeemed us and knows our greatest potential.
Might I suggest that you begin to receive the interruptions to your journey as a further opportunity to pause and encounter Jesus in that place, to hear His words to you and experience His life-changing plan? May 2018 be punctuated with pause to encounter and experience the love and grace of God and receive from Him the fullness of purpose and restoration He has for you. Blessings this new year from Press Pause Ministries.
Here is a song to further encourage your pause to experience the Lord.