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Devotionals from Fall 2015 print issue (Week 3)

SERIES: ACTS 11, LESSONS FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT

Monday “Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, ‘You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.’” Acts 11:1-3

The Bottom Line

This summer there was uproar among Indianapolis Colts fans whenever their longtime star receiver Reggie Wayne was picked up by their arch nemesis, the New England Patriots. Many Colts fans seemed to shun Wayne simply for agreeing to play in Foxborough, Mass., though it was the Colts organization that originally cut Wayne, just as it had cut Peyton Manning years before. All Wayne most likely wanted, however, was to play, wherever that was. All other labels were meaningless in his mind. He just wanted to get on the field.

In Acts 11:1-3, we witness a group of people—the circumcision sect of Christianity—getting too worked up over meaningless labels, becoming frustrated with Peter for fellowshipping with the uncircumcised. What they did not realize is that God’s Kingdom, the Kingdom Christ came to establish, there are no labels. Christ came for all. May this passage be a reminder for us today in our society not to get hung up on things that do not matter. All are flawed. All are loved. May we encourage one another to awaken more and more to this magnificent, incomprehensible grace.

By Stephen Copeland, Sports Spectrum


 

Tuesday “But Peter began and explained it to them in order…When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.’” Acts 11:1-3

Humble Acceptance

Growing up I always had the misconception that spending most of my practice time on the driving range would help me improve the most as a golfer. I later learned, however, that what would help me improve the most would be spending most of my time on the putting green and chipping green, practicing my short game. I had to humbly accept that pounding balls for hours at the driving range was inefficient, and I sought to change my ways.

In Acts 11, the Jews first criticized Peter for how he dealt with the Gentiles in the context of his Jewish background. They thought they had their spirituality completely figured out, but once Peter explained to them why he acted the way he did with the Gentiles, sharing with them how the gospel of Jesus Christ had no divisions, they humbly accepted Peter’s words and sought to change the way they approached their spirituality.

Do you venture through life believing that you have life itself figured out? Do you approach spirituality believing that there is nothing else for you to learn?

May we humbly accept the idea that we have not yet arrived—God can sanctify us, shape us, and refine our approach to spirituality, until we step into the other side of eternity.

By Stephen Copeland, Sports Spectrum


 

Wednesday “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…And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.” Acts 11:19-21

Learning through Discouragement

In the 400-meter race of the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, Great Britain’s Derek Redmond snapped his hamstring and dropped to the floor. What transpired next is one of the most moving moments in Olympic history. Redmond arose and began hobbling toward the finish line. Seconds later, he was joined by his father, who had relentlessly fought his way from the stands, past security, and down to the track. They finished the race together, arm and arm, father and son. He did not win a medal, but his perseverance inspired millions.

In Acts 11:19-21, we read about the intense persecution the early Christians were experiencing. Instead of falling down and quitting out of discouragement, they persevered and pressed forward. The result was one of the greatest movements in the history of the world—the rise of Christianity. This was because of their belief in a cause and their relentless approach. What can we learn from their staunch beliefs and their perseverance amidst persecution?

By Stephen Copeland, Sports Spectrum


 

Thursday “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.” Acts 11:22-24

Grace In Others

When professional golfer Bubba Watson won his first Masters Tournament in 2014, his wife was unable to be there because she was at home with their newly adopted son, Caleb. Watson, however, was comforted by the presence of his friends—and fellow competitors on Tour—there on the 18th green at Augusta. Though his friends had been competing against him all week, they were truly happy to see him experience one of the most iconic moments in golf—the receiving of the green jacket.

In Acts 11:22-24, we are told that Barnabas, who was sent to strengthen the church in Antioch, was comforted and inspired in seeing the grace of God in others at Antioch. Seeing God’s grace working in the lives of others, and experiencing God’s grace in relationship with others, is one of the most inspiring things we can experience on this earth. In our increasingly self-centered society, may we seek to see God’s grace working in others’ lives and enjoy His grace in new and different ways through His beloved sons and daughters.

By Stephen Copeland, Sports Spectrum


 

Friday “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 11:25-26

Unity through Consistency

How would your favorite professional sports team perform if the players never met together as a team and practiced? How would their chemistry be? How would their unity be?

In Acts 11:25-26, we are told that the Christians at Antioch, one, met frequently among one another, and, two, grew in their knowledge for the gospel. This creates a profound unity among the body of Christ, which results in a more fulfilling life for its members because they are in touch with the truest things about them. This consistency and fellowship among like-minded people of faith is crucial to the Christian life because we are brought back to truth time and time again.

By Stephen Copeland, Sports Spectrum


 

Weekender “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12 (KJV)

Going Long

When someone wrongs you or seems to be fighting against you, be reminded that we aren’t fighting “flesh and blood” but we’re fighting principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places.”