“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. . . . Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. (Acts 9:5-7)

speechlessThink for a moment, have you ever been left searching for words only to come up empty? It usually happens when actual events exceed anything we could have anticipated. Perhaps it was someone’s sacrificial act of kindness that locked up your lexicon for the moment. Maybe it was beauty beyond belief that completely abridged your inner Webster. On the other hand, it could have been an affront you didn’t see coming, or just plain fear.

It happened to the men in Saul’s entourage. On their way to arrest believers in Damascus, a brilliance surrounded them, and they heard the voice of One they could not see. They stood there, overwhelmed and at a loss for words. Scared speechless we might say.

I’m guessing sensory overload was not the only thing that dumbfounded the posse on their would-be roundup that day. For inside of Saul now burned a fire that overshadowed any light they beheld with their eyes, and it changed their leader in an instant. The One he had persecuted to this very moment, Saul now called “Lord.” From those he had intended to arrest, he now humbly sought guidance and help. In a flash, he was transformed from doubt to belief, from one seeking to imprison others to one declaring their spiritual freedom. Even his name was new: Saul had become Paul.

God transforms us in astounding ways—ways that leave us confounded and, yes, speechless. Today, take a quiet moment to reflect on His “body of work” in your life or in someone you know well. Marvel at his craftsmanship, how He shaped you through His word, a caring friend, or just the circumstances of life. Contemplate how you have come to trust Him, even as He draws you closer to Himself. And let your life praise Him in return, even when your tongue falls silent.

Father, I don’t have the words to describe the love you have shown me. Fill me with your Spirit that my life would declare your faithfulness. And use me to bring hope and promise to others as we journey this life together. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.

[Read the story of Saul’s conversion in Acts 9:1-17.]


The Kingdom without Boundaries

The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” (Acts 8:24-26).

stormThough retired from the insurance industry, I still hold my breath a bit during hurricane season. Atlantic storms go wherever they please and damage whatever they choose. They don’t stop at state borders, and they could care less about county lines. Man-made boundaries mean nothing to these and other forces of nature.

In a sense, the same can be said of the word of God: no person, no government, no border can constrain it. Like the wind, it rushes from the mouth of one into the heart of another, regardless of political ideology. Like a forest fire, it leaps from the page of Scripture and ignites the soul, no matter one’s nationality. From those with no degree to those with advanced degree, God’s word topples walls of resistance with seismic power. And wherever the word of God is received in faith, there the kingdom of God—His rule in the heart—is established.

In today’s Scripture, Philip encountered a government official—Ethiopian by nationality, Jewish by faith—and explained to him Isaiah’s foretelling of Jesus, the Messiah. As the man listened, the Spirit overwhelmed him like a flood filling every void in his soul. “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” God’s kingdom had expanded by a population of one.

We don’t know where God’s reign will be established next—whether in this heart or that one—but it will spread, unseen, reaching and giving new birth to people of every nation, every race, and every religious background. And in this confidence, we share God’s word, tell our stories of His transforming work in our lives, and serve people in the name of Christ , whose kingdom is established in all who receive Him.

[Read today’s Scripture in Acts 8:26-36.]


Together Teams in Tougher Times

On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all the chief priests and elders had said to them. (Acts 4:23)

teamOf course they went back to their own people! Don’t we all seek from each other the strength and support of the like-minded among us? How do management teams recharge and refocus together? They retreat together. What do football players do after five to seven seconds of organized chaos? They huddle up as one. Why do we join small groups? To find and to give unconditional acceptance, love and care. We crave solidarity with people who share singularity of purpose.

So after 24 hours of healing, preaching, incarceration, defense and release, Peter and John needed their own people—big-time!—and their own people needed them. But what if these two leaders began their report, only to be stymied by the group arguing over worship style (choir recital versus rock concert, or something in between)? What if the good folks appreciated John’s loving heart, but were contented only with Peter’s bold oratory? What if Peter and John sought harmony but encountered dissonance instead?

What the apostles needed from their fellow believers was maturity and unity, and fortunately for them, that’s exactly what they found. “When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. ‘Sovereign Lord,’ they said, ‘. . . consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness’” (Acts 4:24, 29).

As in earlier times, the church today is under persecution, and persecution is no time for pettiness. Tougher times call for together teams: we must have internal union if we are to stand amid external rejection. Simply put, each of us needs the oneness of all of us. Today, let each of us resolve to lay aside all that divides us and serve as one body—one people—in Christ.

Father, you desire unity among your people. Purify my heart, that others would find in me the encouragement, support and love they need. Give me the wisdom and compassion to set aside my self-interest for the good of the entire body of Christ. In His name I pray. Amen.

[Read the Scripture for the day in Acts 4:23-31.]