28 Weeks Acts Devotion Week 9
WEEK 9 - ACTS 9 - October 8, 2018
Written by Rev. Jeff Jaynes, executive director, Restore Hope Ministries, Tulsa; Jurisdictional Conference delegate.
It could be argued that this chapter is one of the most pivotal in the history of the church. Before this chapter, Saul was “breathing fire” against the church. After it he breathes deeply the Spirit of God and the spark ignited in him in this chapter started a chain reaction that exponentially expanded the church. Simply put, you and I may never have heard the Good News without the encounters in Acts 9. This is a big time chapter.
There are major church leaders in this chapter too: Peter and Paul feature prominently and there is even a post-Ascension appearance by Jesus. But there are others too. This is the only place we see mentions of two disciples: Ananias and Dorcas. Even the mention of Dorcas as a disciple is historically significant given the low status of women in that time. Her story perfectly concludes this chapter full of unexpected people doing unexpected things for the transformation of the world.
The characters in this chapter remind me of a story from another part of the world that transformed my perspective on forgiveness. Methodist Bishop Peter Storey and Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu led the people of Christ in response to the racist policies of Apartheid that oppressed South Africans for decades. They were not the government’s favorite people. In fact, on one trip into the bush lands, they were stopped and intimidated by a group of soldiers. Storey and Tutu left the desert battered but alive.
Years after the fall of Apartheid, Archbishop Tutu led the new government’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission with Bishop Storey’s help along the way. In the midst of those conversations, an older white man came up to Bishop Storey to shake his hand. The man explained that he was once a leader in the army. In fact, he had ordered his soldiers to kill Tutu and Storey in the bush lands that day. He was still unsure why those orders had not been carried out. After sharing this, the man asked Bishop Storey for forgiveness.
There are people I find it easy to forgive: my wife, my sons, my friends. But an enemy? Someone who once tried to kill me? I can’t imagine.
And yet, here is Saul - persecutor of Christians - encountering the risen Christ on the road to Damascus.
Here is Saul - breathing fire and coming after Jesus’ followers - being ministered to by an otherwise nondescript disciple named Ananias.
Here is Peter - a fisherman who publicly denied Christ three times - raising Dorcas from the dead.
Here is Dorcas - a leader in service to God’s people in need - a woman in a male-dominated society.
Unexpected people doing unexpected things - for the transformation of the world.
Pray for your eyes to be opened anew this week and for whatever scales that might blind you to the vision and mission of God to fall away. Do not just look in the expected places for expected answers. Look in Simon the Tanner’s house. Look down Straight Street. Stop on the side of the road for an encounter with the unexpected Word of God.
Sometimes God’s people look like “those people” - the other, the pushed aside, even an enemy. As you read this chapter, pray that you see “those people” as part of the Kingdom of God.
Suggested reading schedule
• Monday - Acts 9:1-2
• Tuesday - Acts 9:3-6
• Wednesday - Acts 9:7-9
• Thursday - Acts 9:10-19a
• Friday - Acts 9:19b-22
• Saturday - Acts 9:23-31
• Sunday - Acts 9:32-43
Reflection question: What does it mean that God loves even “those people” who are outside your group? How might that change how you interact with them?
Prayer focus: New People, New Places grant recipients and those currently being interviewed