Then Paul said: "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished."
Thoughts for Today:A few years ago one of my best friends and I traveled to eastern San Diego County to play golf with some other guys. Leaving just after dawn for an 8:00am tee time, we theoretically had ample time to arrive at our destination... if it wasn't for the jack-knifed semi-trailer blocking the southbound lanes of the Interstate. My friend had the great idea that we should get off and detour on side streets around the traffic jam. In his younger days, he had done a lot of work in this area so he had some familiarity with alternative routes. The problem was that we were still winding our way through these side streets at eight o'clock, which meant we missed our tee time by two hours!
I remember saying to my friend as we went deeper into rural areas that maybe we should re-think our approach. But my friend was fully committed to "saving us time." Years later I still kid him about that trip every time we get in the car, "No shortcuts this time, okay?"
In our passage today, Paul explained how he had been aggressively persecuting Christians, convinced just like my friend that he too was going in the right direction and doing the right thing. I wonder if any of his friends mentioned that he might want to pause before he got too far afield; perhaps reconsider his approach; maybe even consult the Lord and His Word (the map). We know from Acts 5 that Paul's teacher and mentor Gamaliel advised the Sanhedrin (Paul was even present at the time) in verses 38-39, "Leave these men alone! Let them go! [speaking specifically of Peter and John, and Christians in general] For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God." Somehow Gamaliel's words fell on the deaf ears of Paul, and he continued on, fully committed to the wrong course.
Questions to Ponder:Have you ever been there before? Fully committed to the wrong course? How does that happen? I think Gamaliel answers this question: If from man it fails; if from God it can't be stopped. In other words, who is the author of our direction? In my own experience, whenever I've found myself off course I almost always find that I am authoring the plan, not giving control to the Lord. What about you? Right now: Are you working God's plan or your own? Are you fully committed to the wrong course? How can you get back on plan?