Re:Verse reading–Acts 6:8-10, 7:54-58, 8:1-5, 26-38 (day six)
Did Stephen really have to die? It is such a tragedy. Young man, filled with the wisdom and Spirit of God. Doing great work, working wonders, preaching the Kingdom of God, and then what? Stoned. Gone.
What we soon discover is that Stephen’s stoning was only the beginning, others would follow, and many would be thrown in jail, but to what end? Suppression? Annihilation? No, the end result was firmly in the hands of a sovereign God. Stephen’s death would result in the furthering of God’s glory through the scattering of many believers who faithfully declared the good news wherever they went.
What they intended for evil, God intended for good. Genesis 50:20.
Re:Verse reading–Acts 6:8-10, 7:54-58, 8:1-5, 26-38 (day five)
Acts 6:54 “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick,” God’s Word had done its task. It had accomplished its purpose. It had resonated deep with the human soul. Sounds like Hebrews 4:12. 12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Stephen has “rightly divided the Word of Truth”. What happens next, is the response. We read/hear the Bible and the Bible reads us. It reveals the condition of our hearts. Each and every time we listen and hear the scripture, we must “check our hearts”. Here are some responses mentioned in scripture:
James 1: Distracted and Insincere- “immediately forgotten what kind of person he was”
Acts 7: Anger and Rebellion “stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears”
Acts 8: Humility and Obedience “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?”
How do we respond to God’s Word? It will be a heart check!!
Re:Verse reading–Acts 6:8-10, 7:54-58, 8:1-5, 26-38 (day four)
When we face difficult situations, often our first response is to pray and ask God to deliver us from the hardship. When things are going really great, we often ask God to sustain the good times. Both of these responses are completely opposite to what we see here in Scripture. The early Church was facing very intense persecution which began to scatter the believers to the four winds. What appeared to be bad though, provided for the Gospel to spread across the whole known world. With the multitudes that were responding to Phillip’s preaching, most preachers would set up their tent and build their numbers and prestige. Phillip was set on obedience to God though. Instead of staying with the comfortable, he departed for the desert roads to find his divine appointment.
Whatever our situation…good or bad…we must make sure our response is according to God’s plan and Word. Phillip chose obedience regardless of his circumstances. Shouldn’t we?
Re:Verse reading–Acts 6:8-10, 7:54-58, 8:1-5, 26-38 (day three)
“Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power…” By grace we are saved. The mighty acts of power were necessary to push back the rot of a decaying universe through the healing of broken bodies, pointing to a day when all things will be new. But grace governed that power. That is why Stephen could use it to reveal God and resist the temptation of leveraging it to gain the upper hand. It was the grace brimming in his soul that enabled him to turn his eyes to heaven. It was the grace flooding his spirit that gave him the peace to fall asleep. And it was the grace radiating from his life that reached a young man named Saul, and began the preparatory work for his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus.
Re:Verse reading–Acts 6:8-10, 7:54-58, 8:1-5, 26-38 (day two)
Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet… 8:29-30a
Philip knew that he would not be on this journey were it not for the work of the Holy Spirit. It seems logical, then, to assume that Philip was very sensitive to the Spirit’s guidance. How did he respond? He ran. There is so much to unpack about the Re:Verse this week, but what has struck me first was Philip’s obedience. He was on a desert road to begin with, also at the Spirit’s behest, and now he has been called to speak to a foreigner. We don’t read of his hesitations, or his doubts. These might have existed, but they are not what drove Philip. He knew had had a reason to be on that journey. He was called, and therefore he felt compelled to share the truth.
We would do well to remember that we are on a journey instigated by the Holy Spirit. When we are called, will you run to or from?
Re:Verse reading–Acts 6:8-10, 7:54-58, 8:1-5, 26-38 (day one)
“Do you understand what you are reading? “–8:30
In 1975, Bill Hybels started Willow Creek Community Church in a west-side suburb of Chicago. A church designed to be “seeker sensitive”–aware of the questions and concerns of people who do not yet know the Lord, with church activities and services shaped around the mindset of “seekers” (Hybel’s word).
In AD 33, Deacon Philip gave us a different version of being sensitively aware of “people not yet reached”. Both seeker sensitive and Spirit sensitive, Philip got near enough to the Ethiopian Eunuch to hear him reading scripture (aloud, as was the ancient practice) and offered help in interpreting the meaning. Brilliant. Kind. Considerate. Philip’s offered friendship became, for this man, a door into light and life.
MANY are “white unto harvest” said Jesus in John 4, prepared by the drawing work of the Spirit. Are you being sensitive to them? Are you ready to speak when your opportunity comes?
Re:Verse reading–Acts 4:5-31 (day seven)
There is a story in Luke 16 that puzzles me. Two men die. One goes to heaven, the other goes to hell. The man in hell begs for a drop of water to touch his tongue which Abraham denies. Then he begs Abraham to send the other dead man to his house to warn his 5 brothers of the torment of hell, which Abraham also denies. The man in hells believes if they see a miracle they will surely repent, but Jesus knows better.
“If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.” Luke 16:31
In my heart, I want those 5 brothers to believe when God does something incredible, but some people are not going to change their minds no matter what they see or what you say. Peter is confronted with this fact in Acts 4. The rulers see an unmistakable miracle and instead of believing they try to suppress the Gospel. Did none of them wonder what God was doing?
No matter what you do or what you say you will not be able to convert all the naysayers. All we can do is be a faithful witness to the Gospel, and our God will shape people’s hearts. If they do not believe you have not failed, they have failed. They have failed to see God for who He really is.
Re:Verse reading–Acts 4:5-31 (day five)
“…whom you crucified,” Acts 4:10
Peter does not mince words with his interrogators, or the two previous times he said the exact same thing. At first glance, this words would not appear to be the best of strategies. Peter’s aim is far more than to cast accurate blame, but rather to put on full display the extravagant love of Jesus. He contrasts their utter rejection of Jesus (which led to his death) against Jesus offer of forgiveness made possible through his death and resurrection. He wants them to feel the weight of this great extravagant work of love. He wants them to know that while they were Jesus’ enemies, he died for them and rose from the grave so they could know forgiveness and restoration. He wanted them to know just how good this news was.
The gospel is good news. Do we feel the weight of that? Do you?
Re:Verse reading–Acts 4:5-31 (day five)
When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” It was a new circumstance and experience- the first persecution of Jesus’ followers. Peter and John found themselves questioned and comfronted by a who’s who of leaders and elders. Were they scared? Were they anxious? Were they intimidated? It would seem natural. But there was a supernatural response. They were calm and courageous. They were faithful. Jesus’ words must have been in their hearts and minds. “and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.” Mark 13.
When we face difficult situations and circumstances we must remember and trust the words and promises of the Lord. We must be faithful.
Re:Verse reading–Acts 4:5-31 (day four)
We see it so often today…leaders, or at least perceived leaders, promote their own agenda, regardless of the facts. Facts have no bearing on their pre-conceived plan of action. ‘Truth’ is what they decide is ‘truth’. The religious leaders in Acts 4 admitted to themselves that a noteworthy miracle had taken place. They wanted to suppress the truth though, in order to maintain their control and authority over the people. Here they were, religious leaders, and they proposed a solution that put them in direct opposition to God.
Have you ever found yourself in that position? In opposition to God and His Word…all the while claiming to be serving Him? The work of the Holy Spirit is to give us clear and precise understanding of God’s plan and will for our lives. When we lose sight of the truth, we have that wonderful thing called repentance. Repent and turn to the promptings of the Spirit and the Truth of God’s Word.