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     1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

     5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

     “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

…………………

     10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” 

      “Yes, Lord,” he answered.

      11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

     13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

     15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Acts 9:1-6, 10-16 (NIV)

Saul (his Hebrew name) was zealous for God. He had kept the Jewish laws as well as any of the Pharisees and was determined to do everything in his power to keep the Christians from spreading their “heresies.” He had obtained permission from the high priest to capture Christians and put them in prison. Earlier (see chapter 7) he had been present when Steven was stoned to death and gave his approval.

Jesus, with a sudden flash of light and the sound of his voice, brought Saul to the ground and caused temporary blindness to get his attention and to turn him around. Saul’s first instructions were to go ahead to Damascus where he would be told what to do next. Suddenly the tables were turned. Instead of going to Damascus to persecute the Christians, he would now have to put himself at their mercy. Saul’s conversion experience wasn’t a piece of cake with promises of a good easy life ahead.

Ananias was facing a similar dilemma. God had told him to go to Saul, the same Saul who was feared by Christians everywhere, and restore his sight. But the Lord told him again to go, and reassured him that God had chosen Saul (Paul as is his name in Greek) to preach salvation to the Gentiles and the people of Israel.

Has God spoken to your heart to go somewhere or do something that makes you uncomfortable? There is nothing in the message of salvation that promises that Christians will serve him in comfort and luxury. Every Christian has been given a task to fulfill on earth. Your calling may be to serve overseas as a missionary, or it may be to be salt and light for him as you try to minister to difficult family members, co-workers, or neighbors.

Whatever your calling, it will bring about difficult choices. If you aren’t facing any such choices, the reason may be that you aren’t listening for his voice. “No, Lord” can not be an acceptable answer. Either Jesus is Lord or he is not. Jesus promised that our yoke would be easy, but the nature of any yoke is that it will work only if we are willing to stay in step with the one we are yoked with. Living for Jesus isn’t about pleasing ourselves, it is about serving him.

Lord, open my ears that I may clearly hear your voice. Help me to stay so close to you that I will never have to wonder if your voice is truly coming from you. Help me to feel your joy even if the circumstances become difficult.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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     19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why the Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen– 23 that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”  Acts 26:19-23 (NIV)

     Prior to these verses, the Apostle Paul had held been in prison under trumped up charges. He was now pleading his case with King Herod Agrippa and had just finished telling about his experience on the road to Damascus where he was converted to Christianity and was called by God to take the Christian message to the Gentiles (non-Jewish people). 

     Paul declared to King Agrippa that his first message was to preach to all people that they should repent and turn to God. Paul didn’t choose to gloss over this key message of the Christian faith. All people needed to repent of all their sins, and in addition, all those who did repent should prove the sincerity of their repentance by how they lived their lives. It was this message that enraged the Jews who had put Paul in prison.

     Paul further defended his confidence in his message by declaring that everything that had happened to Jesus was prophesied many years earlier by Moses and the prophets, as he re-stated the facts “that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.” (verse 23)

     Each of the scripture passages this week have echoed the same theme, the need for all people to repent. Let us pray with the Psalmist, “Create in me a pure heat, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 (NIV)

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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