Daily Devotion for October 21, 2014
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 for Forgiveness
Lord, I have betrayed you by following my own way; I have denied you by fearing to follow yours; and I have mocked you by not taking your death seriously. I sometimes feel like I am lost. Let your forgiveness find me. Hold me in your strong arms and give me your new life. Live in me and with me this day, that I may by your power find forgiveness and be made ever anew, reborn from above, living fully in your Spirit every minute. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray,
Thanks for Everything
O Lord my God, it seems sometimes like you want to give me gifts more than I want to receive them, because my life is filled with so many wonderful things that I take for granted. I don't remember to ask for them and hardly remember to thank you for all of them. Most of the parts of my wonderful body function as they should, or at least pretty well; and it is only when something goes awry that I realize it is there!
Who could possibly remember to thank you for everything? The way my eyes move and focus, all the parts of my heart that keep lifeblood circulating, every minute of every day, without me even thinking about it. All those weird little parts of my brain. The chlorophyll in plant leaves that make my life possible. Nobody could come close to thanking you for all the wonders of life.
So I pray that you will accept my thanks for all the little things that make my life possible, and pleasant. The necessary things, and the beautiful things, and the things that smell good, and the things that make me laugh; everything that I will never remember to thank you for specifically, great Lord, I thank you for now.
[Lord, I am lost without you.]
Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, I pray that you direct my way unto you, and make me and all of us to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you; to the end that we may establish our hearts unblameable in holiness before you, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
Paul of Tarsus
“Paul's key actions effectively split Christianity from Judaism, and as a result, set it up as a new religious tradition. Thus, Paul is often seen as the originator of the Christian faith, and is the most significant figure within Christian history, aside from Jesus Christ himself. ”
~ Mark Robinson, The Significance of Paul of Tarsus.
Acts 9:1-6, 17-20 (ESV)
The Conversion of Paul
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.” . . . And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, . . . “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 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. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”
Notes on the Scripture
As we prepare to read Paul's Epistles, we must understand his background and authority. He was originally an educated Pharisee from the tribe of Benjamin, with the Hebrew name “Saul”; he was named after the great first King of Israel, who was also a Benjamite. He was active and ambitious; when we first see him, he is a junior official in the Sanhedrin, and by the time of Acts, he has become a notable persecutor of Christians, whom the Sanhedrin considered heretics.
Later on, without explanation, he begins to be called Paul, a Latin name meaning something like “little man”. He was a Roman citizen by birth.
In today's Scripture, we see the initial account of his conversion, from a top enemy of Christianity to its foremost champion and theologian — one extreme to the other. The critical point to notice is that his conversion is effected, in person, by the resurrected Jesus. Paul was never a disciple during Christ's life, but he was an apostle: he was ordained, or consecrated, by the actual person of Christ. In authority, he stands equal to any of the twelve; and in fact, his greatness as the founder of the Christian church is rivaled only by Peter.
After his conversion, and a long period of contemplation, Paul became a phenomenal missionary; he traveled throughout the provinces of Anatolia (Turkey), Macedonia (northern Greece) and Achaia (southern Greece), building churches. He was frequently imprisoned and beaten, and on one occasion was stoned and left for dead. He was eventually arrested by the Sanhedrin on a trip to Jerusalem, imprisoned, and after several years was sent to Rome in chains for trial; and there, we lose track of him. Conflicting legends have him executed in Rome, or being freed and traveling to Spain to found churches there.
Paul's greatest contribution to Christianity, though, was not his founding so many churches, but an accidental byproduct of it. When he would leave a church to go back to his travels, doctrinal and personal disputes would almost inevitably arise. The only practical way to resolve these was by letter; and the letters were so filled with brilliant theological doctrine that they were considered inspired, the very Word of God. Again, although Paul was in one sense a latecomer, and never knew Jesus as a man, he is considered an apostle consecrated by Christ.
The Greek word for letter is epistole, and the term stuck when the Bible was translated into Latin and, later, English. We take an overall look at Paul's Epistles tomorrow, and then dive into what was probably the first one he wrote, to the Church of Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians) in Macedonia.