Refection on Stiff-Necked People

You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. 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, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it. Acts 7:51-53 NKJV

Well, here we are again with the Israelites being called a stiff necked people. It is true, even to this day. But you know what else is true – it is human nature. Humans are stiff necked. I know I always warn not to take Israel’s things in the Bible for Gentile things and not to gentrify the Jews – but none of us hold the market on being stupid, slow to obey God and stiff-necked. We all have the same propensity to sin. How some of these men of God were known for their faith and Holy Spirit are beyond me – especially since I cave in on a fast day when offered ice cream.

Dear Heavenly Father – As always, please open eye to see and our ears to hear what you are saying! Lord – open our understanding that we may know you and give us wisdom. Please do not let us miss out on what you want and need from us today. Lord, I pray that your word prepares us and not scares us! We forbid the works and influences of fear over your word. And please keep us and bless us and shine your face upon us and pour out grace over us and give us peace! Thank you! – In Jesus name we pray, Amen

Today’s reading is from the book of Acts, chapters 7-8 (embedded below the image below for your convenience).  Yesterday we were introduced to Stephan – a man of God, a man of faith, a man full of the Holy Spirit, and an anointed man. Definitely something I suggested we aspire to – but not in pride…. Instead aspire to have faith, for the sake of your relationship and love for God. Aspire to be filled with the Holy Spirit because the Bible says to and you need Him in these days. Aspire to be anointed – which really just means doing God’s will – so aspire by getting to know God so well, that you do his will and He works through you.

Chapter seven seems like a fired up summary of the Old Testament. It hardly seems like a sermon, let alone one from an anointed man, and let alone one someone would want to literally kill you for. But Stephan preached it – and it made them so mad (Spoiler Alert) they stoned Stephan.  (Most notably, Stephan saw Heaven and Jesus, then fell asleep – see nothing will harm us. Death isn’t so scary when you are going to see the king! It is the pain and harm, we worry about – so be like Stephan and maybe you too will fall asleep and not feel a thing.)

Interestingly – this is where we are also introduced to Paul (here He written about in his Hebrew name Saul). 

Chapter 8 begins with Saul taking credit for this level of persecution. 
So let us pause for a moment – Saul, later Paul, wrote most of the Book of the New Testament. He was a great leader in the early church. And he started by killing Stephan?! And persecuting the church and throwing women in jail after breaking in their houses and just taking them?! So, you know those moments when you are run down and weak and let the condemnation sneak in a little and the enemy reminds you of your past – and you have to remind him you are forgiven and made new??? Can you imagine those moments for Paul? Paul killed Stephan. A Godly man and friend of Peters and the other disciples – then Paul has to work with these men. Wait, these men have to work with Paul after he not only killed Stephan but many others and imprisoned still more.

Let’s relate back to my struggle of giving into ice cream – Oh man – how can one who give in to ice cream ever stand against such things?! I know it is an extreme example. I know I am currently bless beyond measure. I write from the safety of my home without my name attached. Did you know the devil still knows it is me? Yep. He still sends attacks right to my front door.  I know ice cream is a silly example – but I am NOT telling the enemy what I am really weak in!!! He reads this too. He is my top subscriber! He wants to stop it from getting out there and spreading. He wants me to insert lies and to twist the scriptures just like he wants that for all who speak the word of God. He doesn’t care if a corrupted word goes forth. But he cares if it goes forth uncorrupted and with prayer.

So here in Acts the enemy used Saul – and killed Stephan. And from this the 12 boys and the followers scattered! They finally did the “Go, ye, therefore into all of the world”!!!

And everywhere they encountered the enemy watching – trying to stop this. But as we read yesterday – it is of God and nothing (no man or demon) can stop it!!!

“You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”
Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.”
Acts 8:21-24 nkjv

Well – today’s daily Bible reading is amazing! Starting with Stephan’s sermon though Simon’s inner thought being exposed – to many saved in Ethiopia! Glory to God for the early church.

But today I want you to remember the lesson of Simon here – do your own heart inspection before God reveals it to others and calls you out on it. Like I always say – repent and get humble daily – for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. What are our motives? Are we speaking life? Are we blessing and not cursing? Is God being glorified in our head, where no one sees or hears, except God alone.

Turn your thoughts and heart to God and He will keep you from being exposed as Simon was. Turn to God in humility and let Him fill you with love and deliverance. Get your eyes and heart fixed on looking, and seeking God through Jesus by the Holy Spirit. Develop a relationship with Him.

This applies to every one of us. Even me. We all get careless from time to time and think with wrong intent from pain or from bitterness or from our bondages to sins. No one knows. But no one’s mind is perfect – not while we are corruptible humans. No matter how big or small a matter it is in mans’ eyes – Today, God is calling for self-reflection, repentance and reconciliation with Him, or HE WILL EXPOSE IT. Not because I say so – it is simply written. Today is the day ordained to read it. So today God is saying to do it. Do not underestimate His ability to orchestrate it to be now – today – and here you and I are (eyes on these very words) left to evaluate our deep dark thoughts with God – who knows them better than we do.

RELATIONSHIP:
Do you already have a relationship with a powerful God who cares about your every need because He loves you? Did you know my God can communicate with you and protect you – He has a plan for you to prosper if you just submit to His will and let His plan play out in your life!!! God wants a relationship with you and has already made a plan for your life. He loves you so much He sent His son to this world, to die as a sacrifice for your sins and rise from death with victory over sin and the ability to have a personal relationship with you.
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV
Here is a prayer for you to pray:
Jesus, I believe you are the way, the truth, the life, and the only way to the Father. I believe you are the son of God, you came to Earth and lived. That you died on the cross as a sacrifice for my sins, and rose again so that I may be saved from my sins and be able to get to know you. I declare: Jesus, you are Lord!
Therefore, I confess that I am a sinner and I ask that you forgive me of my sins and come into my life. Help me to turn away from my sins and transform me into what you have lovingly created me to be. Help me through a real personal relationship grow and accept your will for my life – that I may live in your blessings. Please walk with me, and talk with me – I accept a relationship with you and with our Father God, through you. In the name of Jesus I pray ~ Amen

MEMORY WORK: This month we have another powerful verse to pick up and swing when you need a sword in your hand! Knowing the Word is our Sword and Jesus is the Word! Jesus accomplishes what He set out to do. Quoting this verse is therefore the very act of walking in the victory!  

Isaiah 55:11

NKJV – “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
NAS – “So will My word be which goes out of My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the purpose for which I sent it.”
ESV – “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
AMP – “So will My word be which goes out of My mouth; It will not return to Me void (useless, without result), Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”
NIV – “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

Thank you for reading.
May the God of peace keep you and bless you. May you stay focused on Christ and covered in grace.
Maranatha ~ Come Lord Jesus!

BIBLE READING: Acts 7-8 NKJV

Stephen’s Address: The Call of Abraham

Then the high priest said, “Are these things so?”

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, and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’ Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell. And God gave him no inheritance in it, not even enough to set his foot on. But even when Abraham had no child, He promised to give it to him for a possession, and to his descendants after him. But God spoke in this way: that his descendants would dwell in a foreign land, and that they would bring them into bondage and oppress them four hundred years. ‘And the nation to whom they will be in bondage I will judge,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and serve Me in this place.’ Then He gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham begot Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot the twelve patriarchs.

The Patriarchs in Egypt

“And the patriarchs, becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with him 10 and delivered him out of all his troubles, and gave him favor and wisdom in the presence of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house. 11 Now a famine and great [a]trouble came over all the land of Egypt and Canaan, and our fathers found no sustenance. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first. 13 And the second time Joseph was made known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to the Pharaoh. 14 Then Joseph sent and called his father Jacob and all his relatives to him, [b]seventy-five people. 15 So Jacob went down to Egypt; and he died, he and our fathers. 16 And they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham bought for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem.

God Delivers Israel by Moses

17 “But when the time of the promise drew near which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt 18 till another king arose who did not know Joseph. 19 This man dealt treacherously with our people, and oppressed our forefathers, making them expose their babies, so that they might not live. 20 At this time Moses was born, and was well pleasing to God; and he was brought up in his father’s house for three months. 21 But when he was set out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him away and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds.

23 “Now when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended and avenged him who was oppressed, and struck down the Egyptian. 25 For he supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand. 26 And the next day he appeared to two of them as they were fighting, and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brethren; why do you wrong one another?’ 27 But he who did his neighbor wrong pushed him away, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you did the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 Then, at this saying, Moses fled and became a dweller in the land of Midian, where he had two sons.

30 “And when forty years had passed, an Angel [c]of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire in a bush, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai. 31 When Moses saw it, he marveled at the sight; and as he drew near to observe, the voice of the Lord came to him, 32 saying, ‘I am the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and dared not look. 33 ‘Then the Lord said to him, “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. 34 I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt; I have heard their groaning and have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.” ’

35 “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. 36 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.

Israel Rebels Against God

37 “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[d] you shall hear.’

38 “This is he who was in the [e]congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles[f] to give to us, 39 whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected. And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make us gods to go before us; as for this Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 41 And they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. 42 Then God turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the Prophets:

‘Did you offer Me slaughtered animals and sacrifices during forty years in the wilderness,
O house of Israel?
43 You also took up the tabernacle of Moloch,
And the star of your god Remphan,
Images which you made to worship;
And I will carry you away beyond Babylon.’

God’s True Tabernacle

44 “Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He appointed, instructing Moses to make it according to the pattern that he had seen, 45 which our fathers, having received it in turn, also brought with Joshua into the land possessed by the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers until the days of David, 46 who found favor before God and asked to find a dwelling for the God of Jacob. 47 But Solomon built Him a house.

48 “However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says:

49 ‘Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
What house will you build for Me? says the Lord,
Or what is the place of My rest?
50 Has My hand not made all these things?’

Israel Resists the Holy Spirit

51 You stiff-necked[g] and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. 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, 53 who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.

Stephen the Martyr

54 When they heard these things they were [h]cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56 and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; 58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 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.

Saul Persecutes the Church

Now Saul was consenting to his death.

At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.

As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.

Christ Is Preached in Samaria

Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. Then Philip went down to [i]the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. And there was great joy in that city.

The Sorcerer’s Profession of Faith

But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced [j]sorcery in the city and astonished the [k]people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, 10 to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the great power of God.” 11 And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his [l]sorceries for a long time. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. 13 Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.

The Sorcerer’s Sin

14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

20 But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”

24 Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.”

25 So when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.

Christ Is Preached to an Ethiopian

26 Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is [m]desert. 27 So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.”

30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 The place in the Scripture which he read was this:

“He was led as a sheep to the slaughter;
And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
33 In His humiliation His justice was taken away,
And who will declare His generation?
For His life is taken from the earth.”

34 So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”

37 [n]Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”

And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip was found at [o]Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea.

Footnotes

  1. Acts 7:11 affliction
  2. Acts 7:14 Or seventy, Ex. 1:5
  3. Acts 7:30 NU omits of the Lord
  4. Acts 7:37 NU, M omit Him you shall hear
  5. Acts 7:38 Gr. ekklesia, assembly or church
  6. Acts 7:38 sayings
  7. Acts 7:51 stubborn
  8. Acts 7:54 furious
  9. Acts 8:5 Or a
  10. Acts 8:9 magic
  11. Acts 8:9 Or nation
  12. Acts 8:11 magic arts
  13. Acts 8:26 Or a deserted place
  14. Acts 8:37 NU, M omit v. 37. It is found in Western texts, including the Latin tradition.
  15. Acts 8:40 Same as Heb. Ashdod

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