Today's Lectionary Text
Acts 9:23-31After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night, they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall. When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So, Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
Reflect: Are you more of a Saul/Paul or a Barnabas?
If a Barnabas, where do you need to meditate and encourage Christians who fear (or are alienated from) these one another? If Saul/Paul, how are you using your influence and tenacity to spread the fire?
In verse 31 there is another reference to the Church increasing and numbers. How do you, account for this? What is the reason for or cause of the growth? What is preventing a similar phenomenon in our churches today?
Encouragement: Unbelievable Discipleship
The claim that Saul/Paul was a disciple was met with no shortage of scoffers an grumblers. People react with wonder, disbelief comma and even fear. How could He become a follower of Christ? What qualifies him? With so many people to choose from, why would God pick the worst of us to be a proclaimer of good news and a bearer of God's light to the world?
I have had the honor of knowing a disciple in the streets of Sanger. Troy Rogers lived his entire life in Sanger and was well known in the community; but when he died, even his mother was surprised to know that he was in regular attendance at our church. Troy struggled with alcoholism and he lived at the park. Troy had long since stopped attempting to fit into the expectations of the good people of Sanger, but that did not mean that he stopped wanting to love and be loved. Troy was known for his random acts of love - sharing what he had with others, offering himself in labor with no expectations, being a compassionate presence. Yet more often than not, Troy was feared in polite circles. Why is he here? What is that smell? Is that alcohol? Does he want money? Is he just here for the food?
What I found in Troy, like in Saul/Paul, was unbelievable discipleship. Remembering Troy's constant presence and his unwillingness to enter past the chairs in the back of the sanctuary, I am reminded of the Pharisees and the Publican. Some of us are aware of our shortcomings that we don't feel comfortable with the liturgical life that we usually see in church. Maybe we can't lift our hands in God in a church. Maybe we can't sing all the hymns from memory. Maybe we can't even come to the altar and pray on our knees. Yet still we come to the temple and pound are chest, quietly; almost silently we whisper, “Lord, have mercy on me.” Troy's unbelievable discipleship inspired me and many others. He shows us that God's love reaches beyond our poor behavior, God's love moves us beyond our circumstances, and God allows us to live eternally and abundantly in each other in every moment. Most importantly, unbelievable discipleship is about God's greatest instead of our qualifications.
Deep down inside I know that if you knew me as I do, you would think that my discipleship is unbelievable, too. The good news is that God can use unbelievable discipleship to bring peace and growth to the church.
Thanks be to God.
By George Bennett
Prayer for Reflection
Pray for the unity in growth of the church in her believers. Pray for the wild spread of God's reign.
“Excerpted from the book “Catch Fire in 50 Days: Joining the Movement of God’s Mission in the World” by Blake Busick and Christie Latona.”
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