Encounters on the Road: Heart Transitions
How has Jesus revealed himself to you and changed your heart and the direction of your life?
In this week’s study, Jesus models what to do when someone else is hurting and looking for answers and meaning during a difficult time. Jesus not only spoke truth to the disciples, but He brought hope to them as well. In the same way, God can use the Military community to transition hearts towards Him. Transition to truth starts when we come alongside one another to share accurately the Word of God.
About This Journey
Much can happen during transition, and in the journey between change and acceptance, we can get stuck in the struggle to want everything settled—now! Taking the time to see God in the midst of the transition is important. Recognizing He is setting the pace, even when you cannot see Him, is the best reassurance.
This Week's Readings
The Road to Emmaus – a Heart Transition
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad.-Luke 24:13-17
My husband recounts an embarrassing experience as a brand-new military chaplain. He visited a training site to talk with recruits going through initial entry training. As he came to the wooded area the only men present were the sergeants-in-charge. He asked one, “Where are the troops?” The sergeant motioned towards the trees and replied, “Right there.” My husband looked around and saw no one. Puzzled, he asked again. At the order of, “On your feet,” 150 well-camouflaged troops rose from the underbrush, some only steps away from my husband. The troops were right in front of him, but he could not see them.
The disciples on the Emmaus road experienced a similar event with Jesus. They were walking home from Jerusalem, sad and confused, trying to make sense of the past few days. They had watched the one whom they thought was going to be the redeemer of Israel executed on a cross and sealed in a tomb. Now three days later, some of the women said they had seen him, and the body of Jesus was gone. What was going on?
Jesus caught up with the two as they walked and asked them what they were discussing. They had probably seen him many times, but the pair did not recognize Jesus. Scripture says “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” If I had been Jesus on this occasion, I would have grabbed the two around the neck and said, “Hey guys, cheer up. It’s me!” Instead, he joined their journey and added words of hope to their conversation.
Something mystically beautiful strikes me when I think of Jesus walking with them in their darkest hour. As questions filled their minds, as sorrow filled their hearts, as their purposes and plans had just died on a cross, Jesus walked with them. Jesus modeled for us what to do when someone is hurting and looking for answers and meaning during a difficult time in their life.
Jesus joined them where they were physically and began to take them where they needed to be spiritually. He gave them the pieces to the big picture about himself from the the Scriptures, but they did not yet see how the pieces fit together. Later they described feeling their hearts burn within as he talked with them along the road (verse 32)—the type of excitement that builds when you feel on the verge of discovery, but not quite there yet.
Transition to truth starts when someone comes alongside another sojourner and shares accurately the Word of God. The Scriptures reveal Jesus, the Lord, who is the way, the truth, and the life. He is willing to walk with us when we cannot see him, and invites us to walk with him to see the truth.
Has someone come alongside and helped you understand truth? Jesus not only spoke truth to these disciples, he brought hope. How has God’s Word brought you hope in times of transition?
Lord, thank you for the truth of your Word. Help me to live that truth out in my words and actions today. Amen.
A Light Turns On
So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together,-Luke 24:28-33
A holiday reception at the general’s quarters meant a guaranteed delicacy, the legendary-secret-family-recipe: hammy whammies. The gracious host and his wife always provided a lavish spread of sweets and treats, but what defined “holiday reception” at their house were the scrumptious, can’t eat just one (or two), warm, sweet—with a savory bite!—hammy whammies. These receptions make the list of memorable military meals, along with the unit dining-in/mess night, the military ball, and in my husband’s case, the MRE with a trooper far from the kitchen table. Food can mark important life moments, as here in Luke 24.
Prior to the meal, Jesus, walking incognito with the two disciples, explained the reason for his sacrificial death from Scripture. To fully transition to truth about Jesus, we start by discovering what the Scriptures say about him. The New Testament reveals the truth about Christ clearly, and Jesus showed these disciples the same truth in the prophecies recorded by Moses and the prophets many years before his birth. He built the foundation for transformation in the hearts of these men.
When the trio reached Emmaus, Jesus acted as if he had further to travel. Moved by their conversation, the disciples pleaded with him to stay for dinner. As they gathered around the table, Jesus, the invited guest, did something out of the ordinary. He assumed the role of the host by taking the bread, blessing it, breaking it, and giving it to them. His action flipped on a light in their minds. Suddenly, they recognized Jesus. From Scripture, Jesus had revealed to them the truth of the plan; now he revealed to them the truth of his resurrected self.
They responded the same way people still respond when we experience that life-changing transition—to know and accept the truth that Jesus is not only a historical figure who changed society, he is also the resurrected redeemer who can transform our life. Even though it was late and they were travel-weary, they journeyed back to Jerusalem to share their experience with Jesus with the other Christ-followers. Their personal encounter with the Lord became something shared by all the disciples.
The meal these two disciples shared with Jesus in Emmaus is one that Christ-followers continue to recount today. The spiritual whammy they experienced in that meal is no secret recipe, but it is, without question, legendary and life-changing.
How did Jesus show his care for the disciples? Read Luke 24 and compare how they felt before and after the meeting. What before and after transitions have you experienced with Jesus?
Lord, help me recognize your voice of truth in my life. Uncover anything that hides your presence from my view. Amen.
Saul – Ambushed on the Road to Damascus
Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”-Acts 9:3-6
A young military wife deplaned from the transatlantic flight and made her way through customs in Frankfurt Airport with her E4 chaplain-assistant husband and their two young children. Though tired from a restless overnight flight, they were eager to see their new home for the next three years. Her husband was to sign into the replacement center and then they would board the bus for the last leg of their long trip, to the German town of Wurzburg. She spotted him first—a man in uniform holding a sign with her husband’s name. As they came closer, she recognized the familiar chaplain’s cross insignia, but this was not the chaplain for whom her husband was to be working.
This chaplain had received approval to redirect the E4 and his family—if he could reach him at the airport before he signed in. After introducing himself, he announced that the young family would not be going to Wurzburg but to Wiesbaden. Wurzburg was east of Frankfurt. Wiesbaden was west of Frankfurt. Their welcome packet had prepared them for Wurzburg. Their household goods were going to Wurzburg. They knew nothing about Wiesbaden. Their journey to their new home had just taken a 180-degree turn in the opposite direction.
The military can surprise you with abrupt transitions, even in the midst of a change of station. The Lord used a similar tactic to redirect Saul, who would become known by his Greek name, Paul, in the middle of his journey from Jerusalem to Damascus. Saul thought he was doing the right thing in the eyes of God by tracking down and persecuting all the Jews who had become Christ-followers. I would love to have seen the look on his face as that bright light sent him to the ground. He heard the voice of Jesus redirecting his life with a 180-degree turn. In the dust on the road between cities, God began the transition in Saul’s life from persecuting anyone following the dead teacher Jesus, to preaching the good news of the risen Savior, Jesus the Lord.
God can begin a spiritual transition in us at a time and in a way that we may least expect. In the middle of a move, after we have pulled up roots, before we have settled, the Lord may ambush you to begin something new or different within you.
By the way, the E4 Specialist and his family left Germany three years later as E6 Staff Sergeant and family. For many years afterward, the couple said that the best thing that happened in their military life was a chaplain ambushing them at Frankfurt airport. No doubt, Saul would say the same of his ambush on the road to Damascus.
What circumstances or times of military transition such as deployment, PCS, temporary duty, or promotion have facilitated a heart transition in you?
Lord, with each new day give me a heart to know you and serve you more than I did the day before. Change my direction if I go the wrong way. Set my feet on the sure path of your will. Amen.
An Itinerary Change
Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.-Acts 9:8-9
My husband’s first deployment to Afghanistan included an unplanned three-day delay in Turkey. His unit took commercial flights to Germany then transferred people and equipment to several different military aircraft to fly to Afghanistan. His aircraft experienced engine trouble and landed in Turkey for repairs. Though he wanted to be with his unit, the three days at the U.S. airbase were an opportunity for my husband to to have his spirit refreshed by fellowship with Air Force chaplains there.
Saul experienced a three-day unplanned itinerary change in his mission’s journey. Unlike my husband’s refreshing timeout, this was a radical transition. His heart transition was not instant. The bright light he encountered when the Lord ambushed him caused temporary blindness and someone had to lead him by the hand to Damascus. The event affected him so much that he did not eat or drink during this period. As the hours passed, I imagine he wondered how long his blindness would last.
Transition of the heart can be painful, troubling, and can take time. The three days in darkness would have given Saul time to perhaps replay in his mind the encounter with Jesus on the road. He had thought he was honoring God by ridding his religion of any acknowledgement of the radical Jesus, but now he had experienced a divine encounter with this same Jesus. During his sightless days, God was working in him. The Lord gave Saul a vision of a man named Ananias who would come and lay his hands on him to restore his sight.
God could have given Saul this life-transitioning message while he was lying in the dust of the road. He could have immediately restored his sight, but Saul might not have completely processed what had happened if the transition message and restoration of sight had been immediate. He might have continued on his journey shaken, but unchanged.
God knows how to lead each of us through a heart transition, and he knows how long it will take. For Saul it took a blinding ambush while traveling, three days of blindness, a vision while blind, and the touch of another person—Ananias. Saul’s transition was so drastic that God used a supernatural occurrence, a physical incapacitation, a spiritual vision, and a human encounter. God orchestrated all these in such a way that Saul would never forget, or doubt, that God was redirecting his life.
Heart transition can be hard work. God knows where he wants us to be in our life journey with him. Sometimes he takes undeniable and unforgettable measures to get our attention and lead us through a meaningful transition.
Why do you think Saul’s conversion experience was so dramatic? What was your life like before you encountered Christ? How have you changed?
(Pray for someone today. Think of someone who, like Saul, is an improbable candidate.) Lord, today I pray for _____________, who needs to encounter you. Thank you that they are not beyond your reach. If you could transform someone like Saul, you can transform anyone! Amen.
A Hesitant Participant
Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened.
For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus.-Acts 9:10-19
When the military sent us to Germany, my language skills were little more than “guten Tag” (Good day). Cautious excitement rose in me when a neighbor offered to tutor me in German if would help her improve her English. The arrangement led to a delightful friendship that also helped me transition my American mind to better understand the language and culture. I might have learned similar lessons from a book, but the human touch was better.
God knows what will move us down life’s road to get us in step with his plan. In coordinating Saul’s heart transition, God used a person to open his eyes and point him in the right direction. God used supernatural power to ambush and blind Saul, but to complete his heart transition, God sent a person to touch him and speak the words from the Lord. All Ananias did was touch and talk, yet God used him as his agent of change.
Ananias was a hesitant participant at first. How humorous to think that after receiving divine instructions to go and pray for Saul, Ananias informed the Lord about Saul’s reputation! Do you think he was asking if Jesus also knew the reports? The Lord did not rebuke him, he just repeated the instructions with clarity.
Heart transition is a God-thing designed for humans. Sometimes we are the ones needing the transition and the Lord uses others to help us. Other times, we are the ones used as part of the transition plan for someone God brings across our path. We may doubt that we can play a significant role in another’s heart transition, or we may question a prompting from the Lord to reach out to someone. Sister, don’t downplay or overlook the human connection as a part of God’s heart transition plan. Whether a simple cultural transition, or a radical spiritual transformation, God can use other people to make it happen. God can use you!
What role did obedience play in this leg of Saul’s spiritual journey? How has God used others in your spiritual journey?
Lord, make me your hand extended to someone today. Speak through me, touch through me, encourage through me. Amen.
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