Acts 11:19-26 Video Devotional

“Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” (Acts 11:19-26)

We are seeing that God is making clear His plan to reach the WHOLE world – regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or nationality. For those who want to skip ahead of the end of the book can see in Revelation 7:9 that people of every nation, all tribes and peoples and languages were standing before the throne in worship of Him. That means heaven will be colorful, vibrant, and incredible! God loves diversity!

As the gospel moves out from Jerusalem, we are introduced to churches in other cities – today’s passage focuses on the church in Antioch, which is an amazing example for us today of true multiculturalism in the family of God. With Peter’s dream establishing previously that all people are welcome to join God’s family, we meet some guys from Cyprus and Cyrene that together have the novel idea of talking to people that aren’t exactly like themselves. Huh? Can we invite people that aren’t like us to church? Absolutely!

The hand of the Lord was with them, and their conversation with the Greek influenced Jews (Hellenists) led to a fruitful harvest of souls. This multicultural acceptance of each other in Antioch also opened a door for Paul to begin his fruitful career in ministry. And now we have the term Christian – developed and first used in Antioch to describe the family of God without using culturally or nationally specific language. Every time we use that word – Christian – we should be reminded that its inception was because anyone can be a Christian – Asians, Africans, men, women, Jews, Greeks – the word has room for all people; the only requirement is that we trust in Jesus.

Blessings to you – and to our wonderful, beautiful, multicultural family!

Acts 8:1-8 Video Devotional

“And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.” (Acts 8:1-8)

Here is exile story number 3 – the great dispersion. In chapter 1, Jesus tells the disciples and those at the ascension that they WILL be His witnesses there and across the globe. It’s the same command in Genesis 9. Be fruitful and multiply. However, that isn’t how the disciples initially respond. Instead, they hide in the upper room unsure and afraid. Even after they receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the story is still centered around Jerusalem. That is, until Paul arrives on the scene (as Saul) and persecutes the believers.

Interestingly, it is Paul’s actions before his conversion that cause the great dispersion of which he would become the chief missionary. It seems, though, that the Christians in Jerusalem were kicked out of town by God through Paul’s persecution. Side point for those that are curious. Saul did not become Paul because of his conversion – Saul is simply the Jewish version of his name and Paul the Roman version.

Anyway – the dispersion is the third scriptural example of God sending out His chosen people because of a failure to get His blessings out there on their own. This command is a chief command of God and a huge part of His purposes for us – we are to be the blessing to the world by going out and sharing Jesus with others – down the street and across the oceans. If you as a believer choose not to do that, do not be surprised if your choice is taken away and you are sent out there anyway. God has a way of making sure His blessings are passed on. Pray that His will would be done in your life – willingly and joyfully.