Time to Meet Stephen – 2-17-22

Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.” Acts 6:7 NKJV

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

BIBLE READING:

Dear Heavenly Father – Please give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of who you are, who Jesus is, and who the Holy Spirit is. Open the eyes of our understanding, please, so we may know the hope of our calling and the vast sovereignty and power of the grace of the cross. 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 our sound mind. 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 the Book of Acts chapter 6 (embedded below for your convenience in the NKJV). 

Seven Chosen to Serve

Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists,[a] because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.

Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.

Stephen Accused of Blasphemy

And Stephen, full of [b]faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. 11 Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council. 13 They also set up false witnesses who said, “This man does not cease to speak [c]blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.” 15 And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.

Footnotes

a Acts 6:1 Greek-speaking Jews
b Acts 6:8 NU grace
c Acts 6:13 NU omits blasphemous

MEMORY VERSE CHALLENGE:

Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

STUDY/DEVOTIONAL

Today’s reading begins with some growing pains. The disciples are trying to do it all: preach, teach, manage the books, feed everyone, manage each sub ministry in the church, be all things to all people, etc.  And suddenly widows are being neglected! That is NOT good.
Correction – we do not know if the widows were actually neglected, we do know accusations were made.  We know that investigations and finger pointing were NOT important to them. That immediately went for a solution. They needed to delegate work as they grow. It is not easy to delegate work, but it is very necessary.  

So they came up with a few requirements for these people who will head church ministries: Good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom (see verse 3).
Full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom are great requirements – but let us look at that word “Reputation”. You see that word is based on other people’s perspectives and opinions. Ask someone who knew me 30 years ago, but doesn’t know me today, what I was reputed for (known for) and you will get a very different answer than if you ask someone who knows me now. And there are those who wish to contain me by that old reputation, oppress me and hold me down. I had to give my reputation to the Lord to manage, or else my testimony would destroy me instead of bringing glory to God!
But I wanted to discuss people’s opinion for another more modern reason. Cancel Culture. You see in today’s world, if someone wants to accuse you of anything – if it is true or not, you can find yourself cancelled very quickly. You may be a man or woman of God who is living upright and pure and one false accusation can destroy your reputation and end everything. How can anyone qualify for the position having a good reputation when there is so much darkness, so many unfounded accusations, and so much criticism in the body of believers? Oh yes, cancel culture is alive and well in the church! To some it is not more important to listen to God than man – some are enslaved by their board of Deacons, with corrupt men intentionally stopping the move of God.
The point is that there is more and more of an assault on people’s reputations. Make sure you are not tempted into attacking a brother or sister! There is only one accuser and you do not want to partner with Him (the word satan mean accuser, if you didn’t know). And we should give God our reputations to protect and care for, for His glory.
When you first give it to God, be prepared, satan will then attack to see if God will really protect it. And YOU must shut your mouth and humble yourself and wait on God to redeem you. You can’t try to fix it in the flesh. It is not your battle, you are just caught in the cross fires. But God is faithful and just and will protect your reputation so that you are a testimony for Him – as long as you are. If you are a testimony of the works of the flesh, I am sure justice (what is right) will fall in your favor.

Our goal should be to be like Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit” according to verse 5. The next 5 men had no description other than a name – and we can assume they meet the standards of the three requirements listed above. (Nicolas gets a description because he is not born a Jew but was converted to Judaism.) Our goal should be to be like Stephen – not only with a good reputation, and Holy Ghost filled and wise – but also full of faith and we repeat that he is filled with the Holy Spirit.

And the Apostles prayed for these men and laid hands on them. In a world of social distancing, we do not do that enough I feel.  I was watching a church meeting the other day and the pastor said I want everyone to line up side by side around the outskirt of the room and he went person to person laying hands on them and praying for them. I thought, wow, we all need so much prayer during this time in history, what an awesome thing.  Pray for each other, prayer for the power and boldness to minister and witness and “God ye therefore…” Some people are following God’s voice and starting ministries without really knowing that is what God is doing – and who is laying hands on them and launching it?! No one, because we don’t do that anymore. Altar calls aren’t even that common and if they are held the call to action is so vague no one knows if it applies to them or not. Make it easy – call everyone up and pray for them. It won’t hurt! 
When I am a greeter at my church (and even when I am not) as I shake each person’s hand I pray for them – that they will understand what God is saying to them that day and receive it.  It’s quick, easy, and effective! Be effective in the Kingdom!

Now it’s time to discuss Stephen, more. In verse 8 he has additional description: full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.” Stephen really was something special. I do not know what he went through to get this level of boldness and courage and power and to be used so freely by God, but he must have put the time in on his knees.
A bunch of those, bad guys, from the Synagogue, start an argument with Stephen – but he was wise and the Spirit of the Lord told him what to say so they could not win an argument. So they secretly whispered and stirred the pot saying he was speaking blasphemy! Oh look, they had their own version of cancel culture. They were not cancelling people back then, usually they just destroyed reputations. Spoiler alert: warning I am about to give away part of tomorrow’s reading so don’t read this if you want to be surprised. But in this case with Stephen they did a deadly version of cancel culture and took his life!

“And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.” Verse 15 I love it. I love that when you spend time in the secret place (Psalm 91) you begin to look like you belong to the heavenly world instead of this one. Stephen is all sorts of spiritual goals for the rest of us. But are we ready for all that comes with it?  If we give our all to God, are we even willing to die for Him if need be. Take that question seriously – some of you wouldn’t even stand up against a vaccine that you had a check in your spirit and knew not to take. If you could not stand for him when only your job was a stake, how will you stand when your life is on the line?

You can repent and ask God to cleanse you from the poisons in that vaccine – but will you be able to repent when it was your life? I do not know the answer to that. We are not supposed to sin saying, well, immediately after I will just repent. That isn’t how grace is supposed to work. That is an added sin to repent of! Do not be so proud you think you and find a loop hole in God’s perfect grace – like An and Saffy, you cannot pull one over on God! 

So seriously – ask yourself and Jesus to help you search yourself: Jesus died for you – are you willing to die for Him, if need be? Can you make the ultimate sacrifice?  If not, you know you need to work on your relationship with God, give Him everything and stop holding back. That is the only way into His perfect will.  

***

Thank you for reading in 2022 – a Year of Wisdom and Salvation
May the God of peace keep you and bless you. May you stay focused on Christ and covered in grace.
Maranatha ~ Come Lord Jesus!

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