Day 259: September 16, 2013

Today's Reading(s)

Acts 9:1-19
1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. He went to the high priest 2 and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he traveled and was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. 4 Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 “Who are You, Lord?” he said. “I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting,” He replied. 6 “But get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the sound but seeing no one. 8 Then Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. 9 He was unable to see for three days and did not eat or drink. 

10 There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. And the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Here I am, Lord!” he said. 11 “Get up and go to the street called Straight,” the Lord said to him, “to the house of Judas, and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, since he is praying there. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and placing his hands on him so he can regain his sight.” 13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has authority here from the chief priests to arrest all who call on Your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go! For this man is My chosen instrument to take My name to Gentiles, kings, and the Israelites. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for My name!” 17 So Ananias left and entered the house. Then he placed his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road you were traveling, has sent me so that you can regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 At once something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19 And after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.

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Today's Reflection

Key Verse(s)

And once something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized.
—Acts 9:18

Don't Give Up on Anyone
by Cliff Duren, Music & Worship Associate Minister, Brentwood Campus

Johnny’s father checked out while his children were still very young, so he was raised by a single mom. His mother worked two jobs so the family could survive. And even with two incomes, they could only afford to live in the projects of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Johnny dropped out of school because he refused to give a public book report. He then began managing a pool hall, which led to a destructive path of alcohol abuse. With a bad temper, a terrible vocabulary, and poor influences at every turn, he seemed destined for a hopeless, Godless life.

One day, a man in the community invited Johnny to visit his church. As you can imagine, it took several more invitations to convince him. But one Sunday night, Johnny and his wife, Janet, finally made a visit. He left that night filled with conviction, but still unwilling to make a decision to follow Christ. The next week seemed like an eternity.

The following Sunday night, Johnny and Janet returned to that same small church, with snow falling and only a handful of weather-braving attenders. A clear presentation of the gospel was given and Christ changed Johnny’s life—radically and forever.

Before coming on staff at Brentwood Baptist, I served at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Georgia for six and a half years. Dr. Johnny Hunt, the church’s pastor for the past 25 years, has a testimony that will forever be etched in my mind and heart as a reminder that God can do amazing things with the most unlikely people.

With more than 5,000 attenders each week, annual men’s conferences that reach thousands for Christ, annual pastor’s training schools all over the world that equip in all aspects of ministry, and countless other global opportunities to preach the gospel, only heaven will tell how many souls have been won for Christ as a result of Johnny Hunt’s ministry—a high school dropout, raised in the projects, without a father.

Saul’s conversion was every bit as unlikely. Verse one reveals that he was “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” This definitely isn’t a characteristic of the next “most likely to receive Christ” candidate. He wasn’t just uninterested in becoming a Christian. He hated and persecuted them.

Saul’s conversion was so radical that even the devout disciple, Ananias, couldn’t believe it was real. He couldn’t believe that the same love that saved him was strong enough to save a horrible and wicked person like Saul. That’s the amazing thing about grace—NO ONE is out of its reach.

Take these reminders with you today:

  1. The message of the gospel is a message for everyone.
  2. God desires a relationship with everyone—even those we find unlovable.
  3. Don’t give up on anyone who doesn’t yet know Christ: the co-worker who faithfully follows a false god; the neighbor who uses the Lord’s name in vain every time you talk to him; or the relative who bounces from one rehab to the next. Christ can save them!

Reflection Questions

  1. Is there a person you have (or are tempted to) given up on winning for Christ? Write down his/her name and commit to faithfully pray for that person.
  2. Is there a “Johnny” in your life whom you could reflect on today for inspiration? People will argue about religious differences forever, but you can’t argue with a changed life that can only be credited to the work of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Aren’t you grateful that Christ saved you? Take a moment and thank God for salvation that only comes through His Son, Jesus.

About the Author

Cliff Duren

Originally from Georgia, Cliff graduated from Shorter University with a music education degree and from Lee University with a masters degree in church music. Before he came to Brentwood Baptist in 2012, he served as the Staff Arranger at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Georgia for six years. During that time, he was nominated for five Dove Awards. In addition to leading worship to Brentwood Baptist on Sundays, he also arranges, orchestrates, and produces music resources for various publishers and produces multiple artist recordings. Cliff is married to April and they have three children: Mac, Sydney, and Emma Kate.