Happy Independence Day! I hope you are able to spend the day with family, enjoying the many blessings and freedoms we have in this country. As I'm writing this, we are praying that the weather will cooperate for our fireworks viewing party on the roof Thursday night. It is a wonderful chance to get to know our neighbors!
As we continue our series on Acts, I am struck by one word that occurs in both Chapter 9 and Chapter 10: "Astonished." Acts 9 tells one of the most astonishing stories in the whole of scripture. The Lord takes a hate-filled, murderous man, then knocks him flat, and completely transforms his life. Would any of us in our humanness have seen Saul/Paul as a potential good investment for evangelism? Absolutely not! He was a threat to be eliminated, not an asset to be developed.
Imagine Ananias' astonishment when the Lord told him to go to Saul and pray for him. Ananias and the other disciples have been terrified of his coming, and now God wants him to pray for Saul of all people. Then, as Saul is transformed into the believing Paul, he astonishes the Jews too. They were excited to have him come and clean house of this dangerous Jesus sect in Damascus, but instead, he starts proving to them that Jesus was indeed the Messiah!
Acts 10 is another chapter of astonishment. The Lord leads Peter to the house of Cornelius, a gentile, and he and his whole household give their lives to Christ. The Holy Spirit fell with power, and the Jewish believers with Peter "were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles" (Acts 10:45). God had far bigger plans than they could have imagined.
We serve an astonishing God. Every time we think we have the Lord figured out, He does something surprising. That's one reason why I love the benediction from Ephesians 3 - He is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine! Proclaiming that is like saying, "Okay, God, astonish us!"
One of my favorite examples of God's astonishing power is our own Pastor Steve. As he has shared, his life was heading down a very destructive path. If you talk to his mentors, they will tell you they had very little hope for him when he first showed up. But look at all God has done in and through him since then!
Who are the hopeless cases in your life - the people or situations you have written off? Is there an individual or whole group you feel like are beyond God's redeeming? Is there a situation so messed up that there is not a chance it can be worked out? Let's pray for God's astonishment. May He continue to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine, according to the Holy Spirit's power that is already at work among us!