“Begin Again”: A Weekly Devotional for a New Year, Week 52

“For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!”

Acts 28:30-31

Welcome to the end of 2022. When an end draws near, it is good to think about “the end of all our exploring” (T.S. Eliot) – what the end of our journey through this life can be. I would bet you’ve seen this too, but my observation is that, as they near the end of their lives, people become either more gracious or brittle. People either take on board the lesson that everyone we meet is fighting a battle we cannot see, and so we should be kind and err on the side of forgiveness; or people become more intolerant, unable to forgive, forever, impatiently demanding more. Paul’s journey shows us a man who started in that brittle state of being, but who finished well – grace became the primary note of his life.

The above are the two, final verses of the Book of Acts where we’ve spent the past year in this “Begin Again”, weekly devotional. In just these two verses, we can see everything that Paul has learned; we can see the man he has become. He spends down his own money. He welcomes all. He proclaims and teaches about Jesus, boldly – no holding back.

Paul is under house arrest. As a Roman citizen, he can exercise this right: To rent his own prison cell. The tradition tells us that after this arrest, Paul was released and perhaps travelled as far as Spain. Then, he was arrested, and was executed after this second imprisonment. But in all of this, Paul wrote many of the letters that make up the New Testament, including some of his most personal, encouraging, mentoring letters to Timothy and Titus.

Paul, at the end of his life, was determined to give – to offer all that he was to God, to his church, and to anyone who did not yet know God. Wherever you are, at the end of this year, spend some time in prayerful reflection on these questions: How will people describe me, at the end? At the end of this year? At the end of my life?

Prayer: Father, at the end of this year, I know I want to be filled with grace. I want to leave the brittle parts of my life behind. So pour out your Spirit on me, today, Lord, and give me a new heart – a heart determined to give, to welcome, and to speak about you, boldly. Amen.

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