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Daily Devotion for May 31, 2011
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 the Morning
Oh Lord, most heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought me to the beginning of this day; I give you thanks for my creation, preservation, and all the blessings of my life. Grant that this day I fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all my doings, being governed by your will, may be righteous in your sight. Through Christ our Lord, I pray.
Prayer for Grace and Strength
Lord God, I pray that you will fill my heart with the blessing of your Holy Spirit. Grant me this day the strength to be temperate in all things, diligent in my duties, and patient under my afflictions. Direct me in all my ways. Give me grace to be just and upright in all my dealings; quiet and peaceable; full of compassion; and ready to do good to all people, according to my abilities and opportunities. For the sake of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Community of Prayer
Heavenly Lord, I know I am not alone saying these prayers or reading your Word this morning, but many people unknown to me, from all stations of life, have joined together in this brief moment of devotion. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be among the community of all who pray in the name of Christ this morning, and remain among us always.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
And He heard me.
Acts 8:1-8 (ESV)
Saul Ravages the Church
And Saul approved of his execution.
And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did.
For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.
Notes on the Scripture
The first great figure in Acts has been Peter. We are now introduced to the second, Saul; yesterday, he was the man who held the high priests' cloaks, while they ran after Stephen and stoned him to death in a rage. So Saul was an underling; an apprentice to the priesthood of the Temple, a young man trying to make his way up the ladder.
And Saul shines in his ambition; he eagerly assumes the role of henchman. The high priests have previously been circumspect in their treatment of the Christian heretics, letting them off with warnings and beatings. But Stephen's outrageous speech during his trial was the last straw.
Thus, they begin a period of ruthless suppression of Jerusalem's Christian population; and it is Saul who roots out and imprisons the followers of Christ, with the zeal of his ambition.
Although his actions temporarily quiet the Jerusalem Christ movement, the long-term consequences will come back to haunt his bosses. He has spooked the disciples of Christ, and like cattle in a pen, they stampede. They scatter throughout Judea, taking with them the good news of Christ's resurrection.
There is some confusion about the identity of "Philip". He could be the apostle Philip, who will later travel throughout the regions directly north and west of Judea, converting Jew and Greek alike. More likely, however, he is the Greek man named Philip whom we have already encountered earlier in the Book of Acts . This Greek Philip was made one of the seven deacons of Jerusalem when the Greeks complained that the widows among them were not getting their share of food. This same man almost certain is the man later called "Philip the Evangelist", who will become a great disciple, traveling primarily south to spread the Word.
The matter is further complicated, because during this time, the term "apostle" begins to be used to describe prominent disciples of Christ other than the "12 Apostles", especially missionaries who travel to foreign lands. In Romans, for example, Paul will describe himself as an "apostle of Christ".