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Posts Tagged ‘Stephen’

Verses 56,59,60: “and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son Man standing at the right hand of God!” And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”

The mob.

I’ve seen actions taken by a mob that would not usually be taken by one lone individual. I have seen rational people on TV reports merge into one collective effort to spread chaos and violence, when ordinarily none would by themselves. I’ve seen groups of fans celebrate an athletic victory with good-natured cheering and yelling, but suddenly get out-of-control and raucous. I’ve seen groups of people oppose each other, when the conflict should’ve been peaceful demonstration and lawful enforcement, spiral into madness. Why? I don’t know…I wish I did.

The mob.

The Bible records that the Christian church will be persecuted in the last days; we see signs of persecution now. Only God knows what the future holds; He’s been in the past, He’s here in the present, and He’ll be there and already know the future.

What if you knew that you were about to deliver the last message you’d ever speak…what would you say? I pray that I would do as Stephen did, and have the courage and the faith to preach Jesus, to look forward to His glory, to prepare at death to see my Lord and my Savior in Heaven…and to ask God to forgive my perpetrators any wrongs against me, without malice or revenge in my heart.

To quote an old cliché: it’s always darkest before the dawn…but here comes the Son-rise!

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Verse 52: “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers,”

Some years back when DC Comics was re-introducing Plastic Man to their readers (Plas, being a hero from the Golden Age of Comics, was being updated to the modern age), they ran a 4-issue limited series to re-introduce people to the comic crime fighting capers of Plas and his sidekick, Woozy Winks. In issue #3, Plas pursued Woozy to California; Woozy had become brainwashed into joining the religious cult of a modern-day Atlantean prophet named Rama Lama (whenever his name was pronounced, a retainer would ring a bell on a staff and the sound would go, “Ding Dong”…yes, this was for comic effect.) In the midst of trying to save an old beggar-looking man who accused Rama Lama of being a fraud (which he was), Plas and Woozy rescued the man from Rama’s horde of followers. They began to wonder about this old man, who kept claiming over and over that HE was the real Atlantean wizard (whenever they asked him how he knew relevant facts about the case, he’d say, “because, I’m a wizard!”) The three tried to thwart Rama’s scheme; all the while, the beggar kept insisting HE was the real Atlantean wizard. You see, the music and dancing festival Rama was sponsoring was a ploy to get them all to kick-start an earthquake to destroy California. However, the festival was being held along the San Andreas fault, and kick-started a massive earthquake too soon! Plas used his stretching powers to try and keep the fault from opening, but of course lacked the strength. Suddenly the old beggar chanted a corny spell, temporarily endowing Plas with the superhuman strength to close the fault and save the day, which he did. When things calmed down, they asked him how he did that…to which the beggar replied, “because…I…am…a wizard!” They finally believed him, as he explained that he was the last remaining wizard of Atlantis, and that the state of California was the Atlantean continent that he “accidentally” shunted into North America years ago (“that’s why people out here are just a touch peculiar…it’s the residual magic in the land!”) The funniest running gag of this episode was that the “crazy guy” that everyone thought was nuts, turned out to be what he said he was….it’s just that no one would listen to him.

Stephen is turning the history lesson into a pointed accusation against the council; he demonstrated through historical fact that the forefathers of Israel always persecuted the prophets God sent, even the ones who proclaimed the coming Messiah. And then…point blank…he accused them of killing the Just One (Jesus) themselves, making them just like their forefathers, murderers and betrayers! A footnote in my Holman Bible states it thusly: historically, when sinners are confronted with the truth, it makes them mad…or it makes them repentant.

What if you knew that you were about to deliver the last message you’d ever speak…what would you say?

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Verses 35-37: “This Moses whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ is the one God sent to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the Angel who appeared to him in the bush. He brought them out, after he had shown wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness forty years. This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, ‘ The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear.’”

In December 2008, Auburn fans were waiting to see who the university would hire to replace the recently-resigned Tommy Tuberville as head football coach. I first got word at a Sunday School Christmas party as a friend of mine had been catching the latest news. A lot of alumni were expecting a “big-name” hire…and my friend told me that they hired…Gene Chizik. I must admit, it took me some minutes after saying, “Who?”; I was reminded that he had once been Tuberville’s defensive coordinator, but was recently at Iowa State. I wasn’t alone in my confusion; I heard from several fans I knew that they were perplexed that Chizik was going to be “the man” to coach my alma mater’s football team. In the day and age of universities trying to get the “big name”, some weren’t satisfied with the hiring of Chizik, who just finished that year at Iowa State with a 2-10 record. Yet, not 2 years later, he was the head coach of Auburn’s BCS national championship win over the University of Oregon. Everyone was riding high now that Chizik was indeed “the man”. For the record, he was fired after only 4 seasons.

The point I was trying to make was that, although a former successful assistant at Auburn, some folks didn’t like him at first as the choice for head coach. Stephen is reminding the Sanhedrin, in the history lesson he’s giving them, that Moses, God’s man to lead Israel, at first wasn’t accepted by Israel either! Moses even told them that a Prophet would come from the lineage of Israel, and that the people better listen! Now…who do you think he was referring to? Hint: the council didn’t like Stephen’s analogy! The answer, of course, is Jesus Christ.

What if you knew that you were about to deliver the last message you’d ever speak…what would you say?

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Verse 9: “And the patriarchs, becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with him”

A man once went through the throes of depression. Being a Christian, he turned to God for help. Even as dark thoughts crowded inside his mind, he prayed to God, quoted Scripture, and sang hymns to Him. Even though he didn’t feel His presence at the time, he knew that Jesus was there. And He helped him through that hard time. The only question being on his mind was, “why did I go through this, Lord? I don’t understand.” Years later, God placed that same man as a counseling friend to another from his church who was hospitalized and going through an even harder depression. He was able to relate to his friend, and comfort him in that dark time. As the young man left the hospital, he suddenly stopped and looked skyward. “God, is that why I went through what I did years earlier? Because you knew my friend needed an ear to bend, of someone who had been through it?” But, of course, the young man already knew God’s answer.

Stephen is reminding the council that the God the Christian church serve, the Christ that they follow…was also with Joseph and God’s people in the Old Testament. God is with us in the dark times and the good times.

What if you knew that you were about to deliver the last message you’d ever speak…what would you say?

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Verse 2: And he said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran,”

God has blessed our church with a pastor; it has been approximately 17 months since our previous pastor was called to a church near where he grew up. We miss him and his family, but we knew that God was in the call and in the move. These last months have felt like we were in a wilderness; all we could do was pray and wait on God’s perfect timing in between visiting and interim preachers. We knew our pastor search committee was doing just that: praying and waiting on God’s timing. Of course, we didn’t know at the time that our new pastor was being led by God through a series of destinations that would bring him right where He wanted him to be. Now, we are at the beginning of what I pray will be a long relationship between pastor and church; I wondered if that’s how it felt when our previous pastor was first called to this church years ago. There were people here who were there for that previous beginning as they were for this new beginning.

Stephen is pointing that out to the council. The God of their fathers was there when He called Abraham to a place he’d never been, out of a land he called home. Abraham followed God’s command, not being able to see what was ahead, but trusting in God. Stephen is reminding the council that God has been, is, and ever will be. There’s more to the story.

What if you knew that you were about to deliver the last message you’d ever speak…what would you say?

Something to think about.

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Verse 15: “And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.”

I had to “referee” an intense discussion between two parties recently. Party A was angry and was grilling Party B about his side of a story of a possible misunderstanding. Despite Party A’s very intense intimidation, Party B told the truth, to the satisfaction of all gathered. What struck me about Party B was his face: he stood stoically but respectfully, looking Party A in the eye, and told his side of the story, insisting to us all that it was the truth. It was the quiet confidence that struck me; Party B knew he didn’t have anything to fear as long as he told the truth.

I’ve often wondered when I read this phrase about Stephen standing before the council; they could be a lot more intimidating that Party A. Yet, Stephen, stood before them, quiet, confident, with his defense based on the truth of Jesus Christ. When you stop to think about it for a minute, I’ve never read a record of a “nervous angel”. It could be, because they know whom they serve.

Something to think about.

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Verse 5: “And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Phillip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch,”

One became the first Christian martyr. One embarked on several missions, especially one concerning an Ethiopian eunuch. Some are only mentioned in history as later having positions in the church. Others are never mentioned again. And one unfortunately became associated with hedonistic followers that Paul himself congratulated other early churches in opposing.

Names are interesting labels, and the names of the first deacons are intriguing. Like other Christians then and now, some stayed faithful to God, and some did not. Of those that were faithful, some had more known of them, and some did not. Regardless of how history records what you do in the service of the Lord, remember that in God’s eyes, it will never be forgotten.

Something to think about.

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