West End Assembly of God
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Daily Devotional Guide
July 21-26, 2014
WEAG Devotions – “Taking THE STORY to the World”
MONDAY – July 21
Acts 11:19-21 – Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
The first group of scattered disciples took the message of Jesus to Antioch, 300 miles north of Jerusalem, but their audience was specifically Jewish (vs. 19). Then God used a second group (vs. 20), a Greek corps of believers who ventured into the Greek sector of Antioch where spiritually hungry throngs eagerly received their message. What made their witness effective? Whereas the first group was ineffective because they did not have an adequate methodology to reach the Greek Gentiles, this second group from Cyprus and Cyrene were able to convey the gospel in thought forms understandable by the Greek people of Antioch. They knew how to speak of Him. The message of the gospel may be rejected because our method is inadequate! Where is your Antioch? Know the culture, the nuances, the effective (and ineffective) terminologies, and the best ways to present Jesus to that people group so that they will understand and embrace Him. The message does not change, but the method does. Learn the language of the people you want to reach.
TUESDAY – July 22
Acts 11:19-29 (Focus verse 23-24) When he (Barnabas) arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
Although the Jerusalem church had not initiated the spread of the gospel to new areas or to Gentiles, it nevertheless wanted to observe the nature of developments in Christian communities elsewhere. Peter and John were sent to Samaria (8:14). Barnabas was sent to Antioch (11:22). Their job was to provide an interrelationship among believers in various parts so that there would exist a unity of faith and love among the churches. The Jerusalem church used great wisdom in appointing Barnabas to visit the Antioch church. He was from Cyprus (the witness at Antioch had been generated initially by those from Cyprus). He was a “son of encouragement” and would not be legalistic and narrow in his assessment of the revival there. The wrong person could have trampled down the tender shoots of Gentile faith. Barnabas had a ministry of exhortation or encouragement. He had a big heart and cared about the Kingdom of God and its growth and development. Churches grow best when the pews are filled with people who, like Barnabas, are constrained by a love for the lost and what will best reach them. We are blessed at WEAG to have so many people like Barnabas.
WEDNESDAY – July 23
Acts 11:25-26 – Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people.
The new believers at Antioch needed to be grounded in God’s Word. That called for a good leadership team that would provide for them a clear path of discipleship and help them grow into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. The teaching team needed to be comprised of people who understood the Gentile mind as well as the Jewish faith. That is why Barnabas went after Saul. He had been living in Tarsus for the past nine years or so, probably preaching among his own people. Barnabas needed Paul because of his double background, a Jew brought up in the Jewish tradition but one who could meet the Gentiles on equal terms. This ministry would need a man of courage, because “Antioch was no easy place to be a Christian leader. He would need to be skilled in argument in order to meet the double attack of Jews and Gentiles.”* An estimated 250 million Gentiles lived in the world at that time in comparison to 4 million Jews. The Gentiles would need an approach designed to reach them without compromising the truth of the gospel (I. Cor. 9:20). Paul answered the call; and a dynamic duo emerged that led the Antioch church into maturity. The Holy Spirit is Lord of the harvest field. He knows where you are needed most. Are you listening for his call? Are you available?
THURSDAY – July 24
Acts 11:27-30 – During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.)
The prophets were not evangelists. They were persons whose primary ministry was to the Body of Christ. There appears to be a distinction between those who held the “office” of prophet (such as Agabus) and those who prophesied on occasion (every believer - I Cor. 12). Men such as Agabus appear to have been in full-time ministry. Prophets were forth-tellers and fore-tellers. They provided encouragement for believers and insight into God’s Word and ways. When a prophet did make a prediction regarding the future, the prediction had to come to pass or he would be disregarded from that time forth as a prophet (Deut. 18:22). The Antioch church believed the prophecy of Agabus and in response collected an offering for the church in Judea. This action manifested the genuine mark of believers: love (John 13:34-35). They sent their offering through Barnabas and Saul, who would convey their deep concerns. The incident was significant for it shows the unity of the church. When there was famine in Palestine, the first instinct of the Antioch believers was to help. And so it goes today. God calls believers across the world to link arms in care for one another and in outreach to the world. God lovers will demonstrate their love not only through compassion ministries, but also through open wallets. How are you doing with that?
FRIDAY – July 25
Acts 12:2 – He (Herod) had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.
With the exception of the listing of the 11 disciples in Acts 1:13, we have no other mention of James’ ministry. “We are told nothing of his good works and brave deeds and powerful sermons he devoted to his Master’s cause. We are simply told of the death by which he glorified God.”** Yet, it is apparent that he was a significant public figure or Herod would not of have arrested him. We are not told the reason why the Lord permitted the death of James, while his brother, John lived out his life and Peter was delivered from prison. All “drank the cup” given to them (Matthew 20:20-23; John 21:20-24). Yet, the Lord miraculously delivered Peter from the prison, why not deliver James as well? These are questions we cannot answer this side of heaven. When put into a modern context—Why did so-and-so receive healing, but so-and-so died? We find our faith challenged. Some respond with discouragement and walk away from faith. But Christ asks us to trust him, even when our prayers seem to go unanswered. In the words of Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-92): God is too good to be unkind. He is too wise to be confused. If I cannot trace His hand, I can always trust His heart.
SATURDAY – July 26
Acts 12:5 – So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
After James’ death, Herod arrested Peter and intended to put him on trial and give him a public execution after the seven-day period of unleavened bread. No wonder the church prayed. Peter had been in prison two times before (4:1-4 and 5:17-21); so this time he left the problems to the Lord and went to sleep! The Lord could release him through the decision of men (4:21), or through the intervention of an angel (5:19), or through death (12:2). Like his Lord, Peter had learned to rest, even sleep, during a storm (Mark 4:38). He put into practice the Lord’s teaching on anxiety (Matt 6:25-34; Mark 10:19); but his rest reflected the trust of an active faith that comes through absolute obedience to the Lord’s will. While he rested, the church prayed. While they prayed, an angel of the Lord appeared, and awoke Peter, and led him out of the prison. When Herod discovered that Peter was gone, he killed the guards (vs. 19), then he went to Caesarea where “an angel of the Lord struck him down…and he died” (vs. 23). But the word of God continued to spread and flourish (vs. 24). Imagine the surprise and joy when Peter showed up at Mary’s house where the believers were still praying. The Lord delivered the answer to their prayers to their front door! God was not done with Peter; and as long as we have breath in our bodies, He is able to use us as well. Keep praying.