Daily Devotion for August 14, 2010
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Prayer for the Morning
Oh God the King eternal, who divides the day from the darkness, and has turned the shadow of death into the light of morning; I pray that this day you will incline my heart to keep your commandments, driving temptation from my mind.
Guide my feet into the way of peace; that having done your will with cheerfulness while it was day, I may, when the night comes, rejoice in giving you thanks for a day lived in your presence; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
For our restful sleep at night,
For the rain and sunshine bright,
For the love that Thou dost send,
For our homes and for each friend,
For the day and all its pleasures,
Grateful thanks we render now.
May our lives pass on the blessings,
None can give to us, but Thou.
Finally, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, let me think about these things. What I have learned and received, let me do; and the God of peace be with us all.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
Semonkong Waterfall in Lesotho (Africa)
Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced.
Christianity in its Infancy
Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called "Christians."
At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Notes on the Scripture
The Acts of the Apostles contains the initial history of the church; how Christ's disciples managed to spread the Word after his death. It is full of adventures, triumphs, and personal sacrifice.
The passage today sets itself in the reign of Claudius, who was (unwillingly) proclaimed the Emperor of Rome after the murder of the mad Caligula. Claudius would reign for 14 years and, although he was no friend of Christians — in fact, he ordered all followers of Christ to be expelled from Rome — the flamboyant Roman persecution and mass murder of Christians did not begin until after his death, when Nero became Emperor.
The great danger to early Christians came from Jerusalem rather than Rome; the Jewish ruling body, the Sanhedrin, would execute them for heresy after a trial. But Rome was not concerned with religious practices outside Rome itself and would generally allow conquered nations to continue to practice their religion, as long as it did not threaten civil threats to Roman political power. (This is why Pontius Pilate refused to prosecute Christ and washed his hands of Christ's blood; Christ was turned over to the Hebrew authorities, who convicted and executed Him under Hebraic law.)
Thus, much of the early church's growth took place in Turkey, particularly the large Asian land mass, known as "Anatolia", that forms the bulk of Turkey. This area was at peace for several hundred years after Christ's death and was accustomed to a hodgepodge of religious beliefs. It consisted primarily of Roman colonies which were Greek in culture, but had large numbers of lesser tribal people (including Jews) passing through or inhabiting it.
These early Christians were allowed to worship, preach, and convert others in comparative freedom. The great city of Anatolia -- and perhaps the second greatest city in the Roman Empire of the time -- was Antioch, the former capital of the Seleucid Empire, located right in the northeast corner of the Mediterranean Sea, at the crossroads of Asia Minor and Greece. Predictably, this became the site of the first "Christian" church.
Antioch's church was to remain enormously important over the coming centuries. It was one of the four original patriarchates of the Church, which were something like today's archbishops. Today, both the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches continue to have patriarchages in Antioch.