Editor’s Note: The AMI Quiet Times for January and February are provided by P. Ryun Chang, Teaching and Resource Pastor of AMI.
Devotional Thoughts for This Morning
Acts 11:19 (NIV): “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.”
Rom. 16:26 (NIV): “But now revealed and make known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him.”
Historically, the conservative churches in America have done poorly in the area of racial relations. For instance, the Pentecostals, who should’ve set an example, were segregated from the very outset. Even though the major Pentecostal denominations were begun by the whites who were anointed during the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles (1906-9) under the leadership of the African-American clergy William Seymour, the black and white Pentecostals didn’t officially reconcile until 1994!
Luke, being a Gentile, knew that the Jews didn’t want to share God’s blessing with people like him. In his later book, Acts, he recounted how the Jews sought to kill Paul (“Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!” 22:22) just because he declared, “The Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles” (22:21). Luke also noted that the Jews who were dispersed from the persecution in Jerusalem, shared the gospel only with other Jews—most of them simply didn’t care about the spiritual welfare of the Gentiles. Having been tossed around by the Grecian, Ptolemaic, Seleucid, and Roman Empire for four centuries, the Israelites were in no mood to share God’s blessings with them.
Evidently, Luke, writing his Gospel to Theophilus—likely a high Roman official—had a mission to declare to the Gentiles that the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son in the parables represented them, and a search would be made to find them. Unlike the older son who didn’t care whether his brother lived or died, another Son, “the firstborn of all creation” (Gal. 1:15) “came to seek and to save the lost” (Lk. 19:10). That is, the Gentiles are the other sheep that Jesus came to find: “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. . . . There shall be one flock and one shepherd” (Jn. 10:16).
To many, global evangelism may seem like a distant matter; but the next time you face a major trial, consider whether that was allowed in your life so that you may prioritize God’s mission. Apostle Paul, wrapping up his monumental book of Romans, ends with, “So that all nations might believe and obey him.”
God, I hold You in awe, knowing that You’re not a territorial deity, but a God of the whole universe who has created all things. How majestic is your transcendence (beyond this world) and immanence (in this world) at the same time. May my heart capture Yours so that I may love the nations as You do. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 14
Lunch Break Study
Read 2 Kings 5:2-3, 15 (ESV): “Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife.  She said to her mistress, ‘Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy’. . . .  [Naaman] stood before [Elisha] and said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.’”
Acts 8:1, 20 (ESV): “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. . . . 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.”
Question to Consider
- How would you describe the circumstances that led the Israelite girl to Syria and how the Jerusalem Christians were led to Antioch? How do you think they might’ve felt? How did they handle it?
- What is the significance of their respective accomplishment?
- How do you personally feel about missions? What adjustments do you need to make to take missions more seriously.
- Their lives were suddenly and forever changed by hostile outsiders who took them away from the comforts of their home. Even though this major trial must’ve made them feel sad, angry and fearful, evidently, they didn’t let go of their faith.
- They shared the blessing of God with non-Jews. Had the Jewish servant girl not told Naaman about Elisha, the leprous general would’ve never gone to Israel for a cure, which eventually led to his salvation. The Gentile church in Antioch, which eventually became a great missionary church (Paul and Barnabas), was initiated by the Jews who escaped from the persecution in Jerusalem.
- As a pastor, I never wanted to talk about missions for the longest time because I didn’t want to go. A serious of personal setbacks in the 1990s led me to hear God telling me to go missions; we did. Maybe for some, you need to take a vision trip to see what God is doing in other nations.
Do you work with people of other ethnic backgrounds, perhaps followers of Islam or other religions? Have you ever tried to befriend them? That’s always the first step toward expressing God’s love to them. Pray for them right now; reflect on what you can do to share God’s love with them.