But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. (v. 27)
I once knew someone whose earlier days were full of embarrassing drunken displays and obscenities. Then one day I heard that this man had become a pastor. My response was disbelief. Yet, according to reliable reports, he is now serving the Lord and winning people for Christ.
The apostles in Jerusalem faced a similar reaction to Saul. After being in Damascus for a time, this former persecutor travelled to Jerusalem and attempted to join the disciples. It didn’t go well. They were afraid of him. Who can blame them? But then a man named Barnabas stepped forward and spoke up on Saul’s behalf. Where would Saul have been without Barnabas? Barnabas, whose name means “son of encouragement,” was indeed a great encouragement to Saul. His reputation with the disciples gave Saul a standing in the early church that he would need in order to fulfill his task as a missionary of the gospel.
Saul was receiving just what he needed. He now had two supporters: Barnabas, who took him to the disciples and spoke on his behalf, and Ananias, who extended a Christian welcome with the words “Brother Saul.” We all need people like that! We sometimes call them advocates. Thank God for them! —John Koedyker
As you pray, thank God for those people who supported and advocated for you.
But his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket. (v. 25)
Saul learned very quickly that his life and mission as a Christian would not be an easy road. Here he had barely started following Jesus and he narrowly escaped with his life—in a basket over a wall! And this was just the beginning.
Saul was embarking on a great adventure, but it would not be without difficulties. He seemed to realize this early on. After all, he had seen what happened to Stephen. And he knew the story of Jesus. Still, he didn’t seem to shrink from any of this. In 2 Corinthians 11, he listed his trials and named things like imprisonment, flogging, being pelted with stones, shipwreck, and a host of other perils. If he wanted to boast, he had plenty to boast about—although he is clear in that letter that he does not boast of these things.
Paul certainly had courage! Where did it come from? It came from within—where Christ lived in him. Sometime later he wrote: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Commentator William Barclay says, “Counterfeit Christianity is always safe; real Christianity is always in peril.” If we are to truly follow Jesus, we also will need courage. Trials will come. But Christ’s presence will see us through. —John Koedyker
For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” And all who heard him were amazed. (vv. 19-21)
I remember singing an old gospel hymn in my younger days that goes like this: “What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought, since Jesus came into my heart.” With these words and the words that follow, this song captures the truth of what happened to Saul and what happens to anyone who truly meets Jesus.
Saul was a changed man. And the change that took place in his life was a dramatic one. In our Scripture lesson today in Acts 9, we see him now proclaiming as “the Son of God” the one whose message he formerly sought to snuff out. This is something only God can do. I have seen people come to Christ in a variety of ways. Some have had dramatic changes, while in others the change is more gradual. But the main thing is that faith in Christ should grow and become the dominating feature of a person’s life.
Although Luke, the writer of Acts didn’t mention it here, Paul related in Galatians 1 that he went to Arabia for a time of prayer and preparation for the mission God had given him. When God calls us to do something for him, it is always good first to pause and pray for strength and guidance. —John Koedyker
As you pray, ask God for direction and strength to do what he wants you to do.
So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul . . . ” (v. 17)
One commentator calls Ananias “one of the forgotten heroes of the Christian church” (William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles). Indeed he is! The fact that he referred to Saul as “brother” gets to the very heart of the Christian faith. It shows what happens to people when they believe in Jesus: they start to live like him.
Obviously Ananias was being asked to do something quite intimidating. Meeting with Saul, the one who had gained a reputation as a persecutor of Christians, would have never have occurred Ananias on his own. He was risking his life in going to see this man. But once again the Lord intervened by telling Ananias that Saul was praying! Ananias’s going was of utmost importance because God would use Saul to be his “chosen instrument” to carry the gospel to Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.
So Ananias, not without fear and trepidation, went, and he greeted the former persecutor of the church with those beautiful words, “Brother Saul.” What a welcome that was! God had brought together as brothers two men who until that day had been enemies.
God is still in the business of reconciliation and forgiveness. And he wants you to be an Ananias in this day and age as well. —John Koedyker
As you pray, ask God to show you someone whom he wants you to embrace as a brother or sister.
For months now I have been hearing media stories of “Asian bias” and “Asian Violence.” The stories certainly had me disturbed. I was raised with the American ideal that people are to be treated equally. I was also raised with the Christian belief that we are to love one another. I was disturbed by such stories but I heard them in the abstract. I was disturbed on the surface, not at a deep level until I heard the story of “Inyoung.”
Inyoung is a therapist at the Hudson River Care and Counselling Center. She is also a devout Christian. Before the Corona crisis, she was one of the people who joined us in distributing lunches to the day-laborers in Bergenfield. She is good-hearted and a credit to our nation. I was told that she is frightened about the growing violence against Asians.
Although she lives in her New Jersey, Inyoung regularly goes to her mother’s house in Queens, NY to check on her. Her mother is quite elderly and is showing signs of confusion. A language barrier further complicates the Mother’s confusion. These visits, of course, are heart-breaking for Inyoung. I know from experience how difficult it is to watch a mother decline. Inyoung was saddened by these trips but lately she has been frightened.
Lately she is discovering hostility from people she sees on the streets of Queens, NY. They look at her, notice her Asian featured and often give her threatening looks. I am grateful that she has not been the victim of violence, but with the hostile looks it is a fear that she carries with her.
On one occasion she and her sister were walking outside in the evening and a group of girls were walking by she and her sister. The group was not wearing masks. The girls were laughing and simulating coughing as she walked. Perhaps this was a reference to Covid-19 having origins in China and these girls being unable to distinguish Chinese folks from Korean people. How Korean immigrants to our nation should be held responsible for a virus from China I will never know. It reflects badly on the intelligence, wisdom, and manners of some native-born people.
Now it is time for those of us who wish for justice and righteousness to step up. We, who wish for our neighbors to live in safety and security need to speak out and speak up on behalf of our Asian brothers and sisters.
If we are Christian, we are called to stand next to all oppressed people, especially brothers and sisters in Christ.
If you are not Christian, simply an American who believes in justice, you should be equally offended.
Violence and hostility is not acceptable. I call on all of us to stand with Asians and stand against those would be hostile and violent.
Lunes Reflexiones Ministeriales Por el Reverendo Mark William Ennis 2021 Blog Número 18 3 de mayo de 2021 Violence Contra los Asiáticos
Durante meses he escuchado historias en los medios de comunicación sobre el “sesgo asiático” y la “violencia asiática”. Las historias ciertamente me molestaban. Me criaron con el ideal americano de que la gente debe ser tratada por igual. También me criaron con la creencia cristiana de que debemos amarnos unos a otros. Me inquietaron esas historias, pero las oí en abstracto. Me perturbó la superficie, no a un nivel profundo hasta que escuché la historia de “Inyoung”.
Inyoung es terapeuta en el Centro de Cuidado y Asesoramiento del Río Hudson. También es una devota cristiana. Antes de la crisis de la Corona, ella era una de las personas que se unieron a nosotros para distribuir almuerzos a los jornaleros en Bergenfield. Ella es de buen corazón y un crédito a nuestra nación. Me dijeron que ella está asustada por la creciente violencia contra los asiáticos.
Aunque vive en su Nueva Jersey, Inyoung regularmente va a la casa de su madre en Queens, NY para comprobarla. Su madre es bastante anciana y está mostrando signos de confusión. Una barrera lingüística complica aún más la confusión de la Madre. Estas visitas, por supuesto, son desgarradoras para Inyoung. Sé por experiencia lo difícil que es ver a una madre declinar. Inyoung se entristeció por estos viajes, pero últimamente se ha asustado.
Últimamente está descubriendo la hostilidad de las personas que ve en las calles de Queens, NY. La miran, notan que su asiático aparece y a menudo le dan una mirada amenazadora. Estoy agradecido de que no haya sido víctima de violencia, pero con las miradas hostiles es un miedo que lleva consigo.
En una ocasión ella y su hermana caminaban afuera por la noche y un grupo de chicas caminaban junto a ella y su hermana. El grupo no llevaba máscaras. Las chicas se reían y simulaban la tos mientras caminaba. Tal vez esta era una referencia a Covid-19 teniendo orígenes en China y estas niñas siendo incapaces de distinguir a la gente China de la gente coreana. Nunca sabré cómo los inmigrantes coreanos a nuestra nación deben ser responsables de un virus de China. Se refleja mal en la inteligencia, la sabiduría y los modales de algunas personas nativas.
Ahora es tiempo de que aquellos de nosotros que deseamos justicia y justicia nos levantemos. Nosotros, que deseamos que nuestros vecinos vivan en condiciones de seguridad y seguridad, tenemos que hablar y hablar en nombre de nuestros hermanos y hermanas asiáticos.
Si somos cristianos, estamos llamados a estar al lado de todas las personas oprimidas, especialmente hermanos y hermanas en Cristo.
Si no eres cristiano, simplemente un americano que cree en la justicia, deberías estar igualmente ofendido.
La violencia y la hostilidad no son aceptables. Hago un llamamiento a todos para que estemos con los asiáticos y nos opongamos a ellos sería hostil y violento.
Our daily devotional is a re-post from Words Of Hope. We re-post this with permission of Words of Hope. God bless you!
The Damascus Road May 3, 2021
Read: Acts 9:1-9
And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (v. 5)
Saul was not content to imprison the Jewish followers of Jesus in Jerusalem. He “went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (vv. 1–2). Such hatred and murderous threats emanating from the chief persecutor of the church! To him as a Jew, this Way was a false sect that was misleading people. It had to be stopped.
Left on his own with powerful weapons of destruction, Saul would have no trouble in quashing the small group of followers. But Saul was not left on his own—God intervened. Saul was forced to his knees by a bright light from the heavens and a voice that said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Confused at first, Saul quickly realized that it was Jesus speaking to him.
William Barclay writes in his Daily Study Bible commentary: “In that moment the long battle was over and Saul surrendered to Christ.” He was a changed man: he had traveled to Damascus as an angry man breathing out murderous threats against followers of Jesus, but he entered Damascus blind and helpless. Saul had met Jesus. That meeting would be the key to the rest of his life. Meeting Jesus is also the key factor in the life of every Christian. —John Koedyker
As you pray, thank God that he continues to meet people and change lives.
But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. (v. 3)
I am a lifelong Christian, and I have lived a quiet, peaceful life. I haven’t experienced persecution, and I have experienced freedom and justice in my country, but this is not the experience for all of Jesus’ followers.
Just as Saul “ravaged the church” by forcefully entering homes and dragging off Christians into prison, similar things happen today. Tens of thousands of Christians are martyred for their faith every year. We live in a violent world. And the stark reality is that the main character of our devotions this month was initially a violent persecutor of Christians. These folks had done nothing wrong except believe in Jesus as the Messiah. Saul had progressed from a passive observer at Stephen’s death to active persecutor of Christians.
We may not be guilty of violent persecution like Saul, but all of us, before we met Christ, have lived in opposition to the gospel. Without the Savior, all of us are capable of doing terrible things. Saul needed Jesus. He needed the one he was persecuting. When he realized that, and Jesus took over, great change came in his life. In the case of Saul, God took the greatest persecutor of the church and made him its greatest missionary. —John Koedyker
As you pray, recognize your sins, but praise God for how he miraculously saves us.
And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. (v. 58)
We usually refer to him as Paul, but that was not his name originally. His given Hebrew name was Saul. He was Saul of Tarsus, a well-educated Judaic Pharisee. He was steeped in the teaching of the Old Testament Law and had as his aim to make sure others also followed every jot and tittle of it.
We are introduced to this man here in today’s passage that describes the stoning of Stephen. One of the original deacons of the early church in Jerusalem, Stephen quickly emerged as a leader who was unafraid to speak out publicly about his faith in Jesus. His direct approach raised the ire of the tradition-bound Jewish leaders and set him on a path that would lead to his execution as a martyr.
There we see Saul, not actually throwing any stones, but consenting to Stephen’s death. He let it happen. He didn’t try to stop the proceedings by waving his hands and calling for a fair trial. But his presence there betrayed his approval.
Perhaps you have had a similar experience. You didn’t actually participate in a wrongful act, but you didn’t try to stop it, either. Obviously Saul agreed with what was done to Stephen. He had not yet met Jesus. But when we truly meet Jesus, we find the courage to stand up for what we believe. —John Koedyker
As you pray, ask God for the courage to remain faithful to the end.
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (v. 14)
My lungs burned. My temples were pounding. My muscles ached. Everything within me wanted to quit. I had only two miles to go before I would finish my first 25K race. This was the moment when my resilience would be tested. When I would see if all that training paid off. Forgetting what was behind me, I strained forward— stretching, pushing, pressing on with everything I had. I could hear the faint cheers of the crowd around the bend. A surge came over me, my resolve strengthened. I would finish the race. A resilient faith forgets what lies behind and presses on toward “the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Forgetting what lies behind doesn’t mean we dismiss the past or disregard memory. It means we refuse to stay stuck in the past or be bound by it. Instead, we find the resilience to keep going even when its hard and to grow stronger through adversity. Ultimately, we are able to cross the finish line and grasp the prize because we have been grasped by the one who has made us his prize. We press on to make it our own because Jesus has made us his own. You are Christ’s own. He holds you even now. So keep running. Don’t quit. Run with everything you’ve got, and finish the race. —Brian Keepers As you pray, as God for his strength to press on, forgetting what lies behind, and finish the race set before you.