I hope this day finds you and your family well. I invite you to take a few moments with me to read and reflect upon today’s scripture selection — and to carry these thoughts with you into your day.
Today’s Scripture: Acts 26:12-18 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
12 “With this in mind, I was traveling to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, 13 when at midday along the road, your Excellency,(a) I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my companions. 14 When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew(b) language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’ 15 I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The Lord answered, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me(c) and to those in which I will appear to you. 17 I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’”
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
Acts 26:12-18 is one of the accounts of Paul’s dramatic conversion experience on the road to Damascus. He went from being a persecutor of the Church to a passionate missionary proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to anyone who would listen. Sometimes we assume that people can’t change, don’t we? We even have expressions for that belief, like “A leopard can’t change its spots.” (That comes from the Bible, by the way: Jeremiah 13:23)
Is that true? Thank goodness it is not! By God’s grace, change is possible. It happens all the time, and that change often comes about by some kind of encounter with God. It usually occurs when someone takes the message of Jesus seriously and begins to love and live as Jesus called us to do. It often happens when someone experiences the powerful, transforming message of grace at the heart of the gospel message.
One of the most remarkable stories I’ve ever heard about the kind of transformation I’m talking about comes from a Church in Mississippi. Many years ago, a group in an African American Methodist Congregation was collecting food and clothing to be sent to Africa to help in both Ethiopia and South Africa. They received a box one day that contained the following note:
Please accept the contents of this box for use in your work. Make clothes or bandages or anything else you need out of them. We’ve accepted Jesus as our savior and now know all people to be our brothers and sisters in Christ. We no longer have any use for these.
Four men signed the note. And inside the box were four Ku Klux Klan robes and hoods.
New life, new beginnings, transformation—all are possible.
The apostle himself put it this way: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Hymn: “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”
by Charles Wesley (1747)
Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heav’n, to earth come down,
fix in us thy humble dwelling,
all thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art.
Visit us with thy salvation;
enter ev’ry trembling heart.
Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit
into ev’ry troubled breast.
Let us all in thee inherit,
let us find the promised rest.
Take away the love of sinning;
Alpha and Omega be.
End of faith, as its beginning,
set our hearts at liberty.
Come, Almighty, to deliver,
let us all thy life receive.
Suddenly return, and never,
nevermore they temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray, and praise thee without ceasing,
glory in thy perfect love.
Finish, then, thy new creation;
true and spotless let us be.
Let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee.
Changed from glory into glory,
till in heav’n we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love and praise.
Thank you for sharing this moment of your day with me, with God, and with these reflections on a portion of scripture. I hope you will carry these with you throughout your day and night.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster