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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Daily Devotion for July 1, 2013

<i>Conversion of Saul (undergoing restoration)</i>, Michelangelo ca. 1545
Conversion of Saul (undergoing restoration), Michelangelo ca. 1545, fresco at the Vatican. The original is huge: over 20 feet high and wide.



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lessons and scripture

Lord's Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.


Prayer to Dedicate This Day to God

Holy God, as I face another day, I know I am going to face many challenges: to my faith, to my patience, to my love for others. I am going to have constant temptations to lapse into sin. Come to me now, Lord, and stay with me all day. Let your Spirit encompass my mind. Let me know your presence. Steer my hand, direct my words, guide my thoughts in everything I think and say and do. I resolve to live this day as a beacon of your glory, the best I can, with your help. I commit myself to give this day to you. In the name of Christ, be with me and help me.


To Treat Others with Love and Understanding

Heavenly Lord, you have commanded us to love one another, but sometimes even when I am pleasant to another person it is not sincere. Help me, I pray, to be sincere in choosing good over evil. Let my love and concern for others not be a sham. When I work for you, fill me with your Holy Spirit, that I might be committed and enthusiastic in your service. Let me live in your presence, and not get so wrapped up in my life that I forget about you.

And may I be patient when difficulties arise and not give way to frustration and anger, knowing always that the result belongs to you. Let me not take offense at others, let me not be thin-skinned, but shielded by the power of your Spirit, let me shrug off insults, whether real, or unintentional, or perceived. In Christ's name, I pray this.



I  pray that I may be blessed every step of my path this day by the great God of light. May your sun shine upon me; as the moon moves the tide, may your Spirit move my emotions with every grace and magic; may my heart sing with the voice of your angels and my hearth be warm; and may this and every blessed day You have given me be filled with joy.


(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.

<i>The Conversion of Saul (detail)</i>, Michelangelo ca. 1545.
The Conversion of Saul (detail), Michelangelo ca. 1545.

Proverbs 27:14 (The Message)

If you wake your friend in the early morning
by shouting “Rise and shine!”
It will sound to him
more like a curse than a blessing.

Blue Latin Cross

Acts 9:1-7 (ESV)

Paul’s Conversion (Part 1)

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, 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.

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.”

The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.

Notes on the Scripture

The man named Saul in this passage was a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin (the same small tribe which gave King Saul to the Jews 800 years earlier), who lived in south-central Turkey in the town of Tarsus. He was a Roman citizen. At the time of this passage, he was part of the violent arm of the Pharisees who actively sought out and persecuted followers of Christ.

He was, as the verse tells us, eager to kill them. He had official papers addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, in effect an open arrest warrant; so his mission was to go there, find out who was worshipping Christ, put them under arrest, and take them to Jerusalem in chains. There they would be tried and, presumably, executed if found guilty.

Religious violence has plagued the world for a long time, no doubt since times before it could be recorded by the written word. Without lessening the horror of the Nazi genocide against Jews under Hitler, it is ironic that the first reaction of the Jews to the new Christian sect was an attempt to exterminate them.

But Saul of Tarsus did not reach Damascus as he had expected, full of vinegar and ready to round up Christians. Instead, he arrived blind and shaken to his core, so traumatized that he could not eat or drink.

Many of us feel callings to serve Christ in our lives. We hear a soft voice, have a feeling, or simply feel led in a certain direction. But Paul needed, should we say, a firmer hand. If we get a tap on the shoulder, he got a divine left hook to the jaw.

Of all the people in the Bible whom God chose, despite their reluctance to serve, no other got the almost comical coercion that we see inflicted on Paul. Moses had to be talked into his role, and Jonah, tossed off a ship at sea and swallowed by a great fish. But Paul takes the cake. He is the enemy of Christ, and Christ shows him “who's the boss”.

Paul's later epistles never make direct reference to his dramatic conversion. He only says, for example, that God “was pleased to reveal his son to me” — a bit of an understatement. (Galatians 1:16). The only other mention he makes of it is 1 Corinthians 15:7-8. Here, he describes his place among those who witnessed the resurrected Christ: “Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

So, Paul is the red-headed stepchild (and in fact, he is often depicted with red hair); but nevertheless, he can give first-hand witness to Christ's resurrection even though, unlike James, he did not see Jesus in the flesh.

endless knot

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John 13:34: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

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