Christian Devotions

Posts tagged ‘Damascus’

Almost Is Not Good Enough

23 And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, and principal men of the city, at Festus’ commandment Paul was brought forth.

24 And Festus said, King Agrippa, and all men which are here present with us, ye see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with me, both at Jerusalem, and also here, crying that he ought not to live any longer.

25 But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself hath appealed to Augustus, I have determined to send him.

26 Of whom I have no certain thing to write unto my lord. Wherefore I have brought him forth before you, and specially before thee, O king Agrippa, that, after examination had, I might have somewhat to write.

27 For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him.

26 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:

2 I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews:

3 Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.

4 My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews;

5 Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.

6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God, unto our fathers:

7 Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.

8 Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?

9 I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

10 Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.

11 And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.

12 Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,

13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.

14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.

16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;

17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,

18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:

20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

21 For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.

22 Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:

23 That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.

24 And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.

25 But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.

26 For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.

27 King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.

28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

29 And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.

~~  Acts 25:23-26:29  (KJV)

Paul tells his story time and again. In fact, from the testimony in his trials, we should be able to assume that this is the message he preaches when he talks to the people. Conversion after conversion follows Paul in all his travels.

But in Jerusalem, he is prosecuted as a trouble maker. He stands trial three time, before Felix, before Agrippa, and before Festus. Each time he tells the same story of his life as a Pharisee, his encounter on the road to Damascus, and his life after his encounter with Jesus.

In fact, Agrippa is so moved by his testimony that he says he is almost persuaded (KJV) to become as Paul is.

Paul’s reason for appealing to Rome for his trial is not told here, but it would seem reasonable that he was playing for time, more opportunities to speak his piece in front of gentiles. At least that is the effect it had.

But what has this to do with us? Today there are people with a nebulous sense of God. Many people pray in times of crisis. But whether we have had a dramatic encounter like Paul’s on the road to Damascus, or a simply a growing in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, some of us are not truly Christian.

We are almost persuaded by our intellect, but we have not made the commitment that Paul has made. We have not put telling the story of Jesus at the head of our to-do list each day. We are his witnesses in this world. Our need to defend our faith in Him should be the motivation for all we do and say.

We cannot be a sometimes Christian. We must not be a pseudo-Christian. We must be fully committed to Christ alone. Our fidelity to Him must be foremost in our lives.

Father, God,

Help us to put You first in our lives. Keep us from being distracted by this world. Grant that we may serve You completely, wholly committed to spreading the good news of Jesus and Your love for us.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

First published 12 December 2009

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Resurrection

Focus verses: I Corinthians 15:1-34

Paul taught about the resurrection of the dead. But he didn’t see Jesus til he was stricken blind on the road to Damascus – after His ascension into heaven. This resurrection sets Jesus apart from every other founder of a major religion. You can see the burial places of other founders of religion. There is only an empty tomb for Jesus.

No other prophet was raised from the dead. It is His resurrection that gives us the hope of life after death as well. Paul lays it out clearly. If there is no resurrection, then Christ cannot have been raised from the dead, either. And our hope is lost entirely. If Christ has not been raised from the dead, we are still dead in our sins.

The line from Handel’s Messiah Oratorio says: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” There is a tempo change here from grave at 60 beats per minute to allegro at 84 beats. From a dirge to a lively dance.

This is what Christ does for our lives both here and hereafter. We are dead in sin. It weighs us down and crushes our spirits. But our belief in Christ and His resurrection lifts that burden and lets us dance with joy.

That promise is as much for our lives today as it is for our life after death. Can we live today in Joy?

Father, God,

Help us to understand that time has no meaning for You, that what will be already is in Your kingdom. Teach us to live the resurrected life both before and after death.
In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Almost Is Not Good Enough

Focus verses: Acts 25:23-26:29

Paul tells his story time and again. In fact, from the testimony in his trials, we should be able to assume that this is the message he preaches when he talks to the people. Conversion after conversion follows Paul in all his travels.

But in Jerusalem, he is prosecuted as a trouble maker. He stands trial three times, before Felix, before Agrippa, and before Festus. Each time he tells the same story of his life as a Pharisee, his encounter on the road to Damascus, and his life after his encounter with Jesus.

In fact, Agrippa is so moved by his testimony that he says he is almost persuaded (KJV) to become as Paul is.

Paul’s reason for appealing to Rome for his trial is not told here, but it would seem reasonable that he was playing for time, more opportunities to speak his piece in front of gentiles. At least that is the effect it had.

But what has this to do with us? Today there are people with a nebulous sense of God. Many people pray in times of crisis. But whether we have had a dramatic encounter like Paul’s on the road to Damascus, or simply a growing in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, some of us are not truly Christian.

We are almost persuaded by our intellect, but we have not made the commitment that Paul has made. We have not put telling the story of Jesus at the head of our to-do list each day. We are his witnesses in this world. Our need to defend our faith in Him should be the motivation for all we do and say.

We cannot be a sometimes Christian. We must not be a pseudo-Christian. We must be fully committed to Christ alone. Our fidelity to Him must be foremost in our lives.

Father, God,

Help us to put You first in our lives. Keep us from being distracted by this world. Grant that we may serve You completely, wholly committed to spreading the good news of Jesus and Your love for us.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Almost Is Not Good Enough

Focus verses: Acts 25:23-26:29

Paul tells his story time and again. In fact, from the testimony in his trials, we should be able to assume that this is the message he preaches when he talks to the people. Conversion after conversion follows Paul in all his travels.

But in Jerusalem, he is prosecuted as a trouble maker. He stands trial three time, before Felix, before Agrippa, and before Festus. Each time he tells the same story of his life as a Pharisee, his encounter on the road to Damascus, and his life after his encounter with Jesus.

In fact, Agrippa is so moved by his testimony that he says he is almost persuaded (KJV) to become as Paul is.

Paul’s reason for appealing to Rome for his trial is not told here, but it would seem reasonable that he was playing for time, more opportunities to speak his piece in front of gentiles. At least that is the effect it had.

But what has this to do with us? Today there are people with a nebulous sense of God. Many people pray in times of crisis. But whether we have had a dramatic encounter like Paul’s on the road to Damascus, or a simply a growing in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, some of us are not truly Christian.

We are almost persuaded by our intellect, but we have not made the commitment that Paul has made. We have not put telling the story of Jesus at the head of our to-do list each day. We are his witnesses in this world. Our need to defend our faith in Him should be the motivation for all we do and say.

We cannot be a sometimes Christian. We must not be a pseudo-Christian. We must be fully committed to Christ alone. Our fidelity to Him must be foremost in our lives.

Father, God,

Help us to put You first in our lives. Keep us from being distracted by this world. Grant that we may serve You completely, wholly committed to spreading the good news of Jesus and Your love for us.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Paul Tells All

Focus verses: Acts 21:40-22:21

We have been told of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus when he became Paul the apostle. Here we have it in his own words.

First he speaks to the priests and rabbis as one who was trained as they were. He is a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee. He studied under one of their most respected teachers. He knew and kept the laws of Moses.

Then he simply tells the facts of how he met Jesus on the road to Damascus and where he went after that.

He doesn’t gloss over the fact that he was present as an instigator at the stoning of Stephen. He isn’t proud of it, either. It is a fact, and he relates it as such.

Then he tells them he was sent to the gentiles because the Israelites would not not accept his teaching.

While he is speaking, the mob is quiet. He is speaking to them in Aramaic, their own tongue.

We could emulate this example when speaking to others about our faith. There are several evangelistic principles contained herein.

First, speak to your hearers in language they understand. Keep it simple. You need not speak in polysyllabic philosophical terms or use esoteric Christian terminology. Tell it so a child of six could understand.

Second, tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Some people can wrap their silver tongues around a lie and entice you to believe it. But those lies will out at some point or another. Truth is the basis for a relationship with God. You can’t pull the wool over His eyes. He knows all about you, and He loves you in spite of it.

Third, you take them from what you believed at first to what you believe now, tracing your personal journey so that they can follow along. What convinced you may just convince them.

This journey is all we have to convince others of Jesus. We simply make the introduction and let Jesus take it from there. This is simple evangelism.

You are not responsible for the reactions of those to whom you speak. You cannot change anyone. What you can do is share the truth. Leave the rest to God. He will bring forth the fruit of your labors.

Father, God,

Keep us ready at all times to explain the hope that is within us. Give us open hearts and truthful tongues. Let us not get so caught up in our story that we lose the focus of Jesus’ story.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Resurrection

Focus verses: I Corinthians 15:1-34

Paul taught about the resurrection of the dead. But he didn’t see Jesus til he was stricken blind on the road to Damascus – after His ascension into heaven. This resurrection sets Jesus apart from every other founder of a major religion. You can see the burial places of other founders of religion. There is only an empty tomb for Jesus.

No other prophet was raised from the dead. It is His resurrection that gives us the hope of life after death as well. Paul lays it out clearly. If there is no resurrection, then Christ cannot have been raised from the dead, either. And our hope is lost entirely. If Christ has not been raised from the dead, we are still dead in our sins.

The line from Handel’s Messiah Oratorio says: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” There is a tempo change here from grave at 60 beats per minute to allegro at 84 beats. From a dirge to a lively dance.

This is what Christ does for our lives both here and hereafter. We are dead in sin. It weighs us down and crushes our spirits. But our belief in Christ and His resurrection lifts that burden and lets us dance with joy.

That promise is as much for our lives today as it is for our life after death. Can we live today in Joy?

Father, God,

Help us to understand that time has no meaning for You, that what will be already is in Your kingdom. Teach us to live the resurrected life both before and after death.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

About Face

Focus verses: Acts 9:1-22

When we last saw Saul, he was participating in the stoning of Stephen. Saul was a second generation Pharisee. He seems to have had a position in the Temple at Jerusalem. He was diametrically opposed to the followers of the new Way.

While on his way to Damascus searching for followers of Jesus to bring them back to Jerusalem for trial and punishment, he literally saw the Light. That Light blinded him for three days. He was led to Damascus and spent those three days in fasting and prayer.

Then the Lord sent Ananias to him for healing and baptism.

Ananias was not eager to go to Saul. He had heard Saul’s reputation and knew that Saul had authority to arrest all who called on the name of Jesus. He went because he was told that Saul was God’s chosen instrument to carry the word to the Gentiles.

When he went he did not rebuke Saul. He called him “brother.” He laid hands on Saul, restoring his sight. Then Paul spent some time with the disciples in Damascus, presumably talking and learning.

As a Pharisee, Saul would have been familiar with all the Old Testament. It would not have been a far leap for the disciples to speak of Jesus and Paul to have seen the fulfillment of prophesy in His life.

But the people in general were skeptical. They knew his reputation – and his deeds. They didn’t believe his conversion. He had to prove it to them.

How often do we do this to others? We know who people are – or at least what kind of people they have been. Then there is a change in their lives, but we keep them in the old pigeon hole where we had cataloged them. We don’t accept their change, and therefore we make the change difficult for them.

Look at the grace of Ananias. He called Saul his brother. He didn’t do this in his own strength. He extended the grace of God.

Father, God,

Grant us the wisdom to keep from pigeon holing people in predetermined molds. Help us to extend Your grace to all who would follow you regardless of their past.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.