January 6th, 2007
Boni was a funny guy. He was in his twenties, great to get along with, gentle, kind, generous, and a passionate follower of Jesus. But he hadn’t always been that way. As a young man he had fallen in with the wrong crowd and had become a professional thief. One day while he was trying to steal a car with his friends, one of his friends was shot dead. Shortly after that the grace of God had invaded Boni’s life and changed him from a car thief into a committed follower of Jesus. There are a surprising number of people like Boni in the world, who can tell dramatic stories about how they were once living a lifestyle diametrically opposed to the good news of Jesus, but somehow God completely changed their outlook on life.
The Acts of the Apostles — Chapter 9
9:1 Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. He went to the high priest, 9:2 and asked for letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, giving him authority, if he found any followers of the Way, whether men or women, to tie them up and bring them to Jerusalem. 9:3 As he travelled and was approaching Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly shone around him. 9:4 He fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
9:5 He said, “Who are you, Lord?” The Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 9:6 But get up, and go into the city, and you will be told what you need to do.” 9:7 The men who travelled with him stood speechless, hearing the sound, but seeing no one. 9:8 Saul got up from the ground, and when he opened his eyes could see no one. They led him by the hand into Damascus. 9:9 He was unable to see for three days, and did not eat or drink.
9:10 There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, “Ananias!” He said, “I’m here, Lord.” 9:11 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to Straight street, and ask at the house of Judah for someone named Saul, a man from Tarsus. He is praying, 9:12 and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in, and placing his hands on him, so that he can recover his sight.”
9:13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard a lot about how much evil this man did to your saints in Jerusalem. 9:14 Here he has authority from the senior priests to tie up everyone who calls on your name.” 9:15 But the Lord said to him, “Go anyway, because he is the person I have chosen to take my message to the nations and kings, as well as the people of Israel. 9:16 I will show him how much he will have to suffer for me.”
9:17 Ananias left, and went to the house. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord who appeared to you on the road as you were coming has sent me, so that you can see and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 9:18 At once something like scales fell from his eyes, and he was able to see. He got up and was baptized. 9:19 He took food and was strengthened. Saul stayed several days with the disciples in Damascus. 9:20 Immediately he began preaching in the synagogues that Christ is the Son of God. 9:21 All who heard him were amazed, and asked, “Isn’t this the man who devastated those who called on this name in Jerusalem? He came here intending to tie them up and take them to the senior priests!”
9:22 But Saul became stronger, and refuted the Jews who lived in Damascus, proving that Jesus is the Christ. 9:23 After a while the Jews plotted to kill him, 9:24 but Saul discovered their plot. They watched the gates both day and night to kill him, 9:25 but one night his students let him down through a hole in the wall, lowering him in a basket. 9:26 When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he had become a disciple. 9:27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, telling them how he had encountered the Lord on the road, and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 9:28 So Paul stayed with them in Jerusalem, 9:29 preaching boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus. He had an argument with some Greek-speaking Jews, and they wanted to kill him. 9:30 When the brothers found out, they took him to Caesarea, and sent him off to Tarsus. 9:31 So the church was at peace throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria. Living in the fear of the Lord and in the encouragement of the Holy Spirit it was built up and increased in numbers.
9:32 As Peter travelled throughout the area, he visited the saints who lived at Lydda. 9:33 There he encountered a man called Aeneas, who had been confined to bed for eight years because he was paralyzed. 9:34 Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat!” At once he got up. 9:35 Everyone living in Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.
9:36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha, which means Dorcas. She was always doing good works and acts of kindness. 9:37 But she fell sick, and died. They had washed her body, and placed her in an upper room. 9:38 Lydda was close to Joppa, and the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, begging him to come without delay. 9:39 Peter got up and went with them. When he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood near him weeping, showing the coats and clothes which Dorcas had made while she was with them. 9:40 Peter sent them all out, and knelt down to pray. Turning to the body, he said, “Tabitha, get up!” She opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. 9:41 He gave her his hand, and lifted her up. Calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 9:42 This became known throughout Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. 9:43 He stayed for quite a while in Joppa with a man called Simon, who was a tanner.