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Bless the Persecuted

By Anonymous
 
Monday, March 1, 2010

Scripture Verses
Acts 8:1-40

 1And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.

    On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.

 4Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ[a]there. 6When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7With shrieks, evil[b] spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. 8So there was great joy in that city.

 9Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, "This man is the divine power known as the Great Power." 11They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. 12But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.

 14When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into[c] the name of the Lord Jesus. 17Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

 18When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money 19and said, "Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit."

 20Peter answered: "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin."

 24Then Simon answered, "Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me."

 25When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.

 26Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." 27So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian[d]eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it."

 30Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked.

 31"How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

 32The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture:
   "He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
      and as a lamb before the shearer is silent,
      so he did not open his mouth.

 33In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
      Who can speak of his descendants?
      For his life was taken from the earth."[e]

 34The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" 35Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
 36As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?"[f] 38And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

Devotion
We are so blessed to live in a country where we can freely worship Jesus Christ. It is hard for me to imagine a time when Saul went from house to house to drag off men and women who were Christians--a time when Christians were misunderstood, hated and even killed. Obviously, we know that throughout history Christians have endured persecution. Even today in many countries this is the case, but not here in America, not here in Greenwood, Indiana.

If it was difficult for me to visibly be a Christian today, would I continue? My family often prays openly at restaurants. Tonight while at a basketball practice, I worked on my Bible study. What if I couldn’t openly do these things? What if my children didn’t have a physical place like Mt. Auburn to come and learn about the love of Jesus Christ? Would I still be a faithful Christian? Would I have the fervor that Philip had when he preached the word and went wherever God sent him? Would I? Would you?

Prayer
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for allowing us openly and with ease practice Christianity and love you with all our hearts. Help us to not take this for granted because so many aren’t allowed this same privilege. Grant in us the desire to worship you no matter where we are. Let us never be ashamed for you are an awesome God. Amen.