Stephen

Rising Joy by Vicki Matheny

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked intently toward heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look!” he said. “I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” Acts 7.55-56

Stephen was one of seven men who were chosen for the task of seeing to the daily distribution of food for the widows who were in need. He was well-attested, full of faith, of wisdom, and of the Holy Spirit. He was performing great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. The Jews had argued with Stephen, but were unable to resist the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke, Acts 7.10. They instigated some men to claim that they had heard Stephen blaspheming against God. He was brought before the council.

Stephen gave his defense to the council in Acts 7. It is a brief history lesson of God’s people from Abraham to Jesus. At the end of his sermon, he charges the Jews with murdering Jesus and not obeying his words. After looking to heaven, he stated that he could see Jesus standing at God’s right hand. Reacting in fury, they took him out of the city and stoned him. He prayed for forgiveness for the Jews as they stoned him which is similar to the prayer of Jesus on the cross, Luke 23.34.

Stephen was a man that was killed because of his preaching to which others were resistant. He did not let the fury of the crowd stop him from teaching. May we be ready to follow his example.

#risingjoy #Acts #Stephen

Be a Paul

Rising Joy by Vicki Matheny

After the disturbance had ended, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them and saying farewell, he left to go to Macedonia. After he had gone through those regions and spoken many words of encouragement to the believers there, he came to Greece, where he stayed for three months. Because the Jews had made a plot against him as he was intending to sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. Acts 20.1-3

Paul had been in Ephesus preaching and teaching. Demetrius, a silversmith by trade, had caused an uproar in the city due to greed. Paul was drawing people to the truth, away from the idol worship which was the way Demetrius made a living. The uproar was so great that the disciples would not allow Paul to enter the public assembly.

Afterwards, Paul decided to continue on his journeys, going to Macedonia. He went about encouraging the believers. He decided to stay in Greece for three months continuing to teach the truth. Having made plans to go to Syria, he had to go a different route, once again due to the Jews plotting against him.

No doubt, Paul had been influenced by Barnabas, who was instrumental in his being accepted by the disciples in Jerusalem after his conversion. The name, Barnabas, meant “son of encouragement”. Paul was also an encourager, strengthening the disciples where ever he went.

Today, more than ever, we need people who are encouragers. It is so easy to complain about everything. Be a Paul. Go about encouraging the disciples!

#risingjoy #Acts #Paul

Be a Barnabas

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

When he arrived in Jerusalem, he attempted to associate with the disciples, and they were all afraid of him, because they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took Saul, brought him to the apostles, and related to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, that the Lord had spoken to him and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. So he was staying with them, associating openly with them in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord. Acts 9.26-28

Can you imagine how the disciples in Jerusalem felt when Saul, otherwise known as Paul, returned to the city? The last thing that many had heard of him, he was on his way to Damascus to bring disciples back to Jerusalem to put them in prison. Is it any wonder that they were all afraid of him and just a little skeptic of his change of heart?

However, there was one who was willing to talk to him and listen to his story. Barnabas took Saul to the apostles and told them what he had learned. Afterwards, Saul associated openly with the disciples speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord.

It must have been difficult for Saul to return to Jerusalem knowing what awaited him there. He would be returning to a familiar place, but associating with people that were not in his old circle of friends. Most importantly, his message and his life had changed drastically!

Do not let fear stand in the way of service in the kingdom. Be a Barnabas and take the one, who is different from who you knew, under your wing. Help pave the way for their acceptance from the brethren. Help to dispel the fear. The gospel has the power to change lives drastically, for the better!

#risingjoy #Acts #Barnabas

Extraordinary kindness

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

The local inhabitants showed us extraordinary kindness, for they built a fire and welcomed us all because it had started to rain and was cold. Acts 28.2

Paul was on his way to Rome as a prisoner. His ship was wrecked off the island of Malta. Instead of being put to death by the soldiers, due to the centurion’s intervention, Paul and the other prisoners were allowed to either swim to shore or to get there by use of planks from the ship. All made it to shore safely.

Upon reaching the shore, Paul and company were met by the local inhabitants who showed kindness to those from the ship. They built a fire so that these could warm themselves since it had begun to rain and was cold.

Paul healed the father of the chief official of the island, who was sick with dysentery and fever. Afterwards, others who were sick came to Paul for healing.

The inhabitants of Malta gave Paul’s company all of the supplies that they needed when the time came for them to set sail once again. They showed kindness to them while they were on the island and at the time of their departure. It made a difficult situation easier to get through because of kindness.

#risingjoy #Acts #kindness

God opened doors of faith

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

So they were sent on their way by the church, and as they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, they were relating at length the conversion of the Gentiles and bringing great joy to all the brothers. Acts 15.3

Paul and Barnabas had returned to Antioch. The Holy Spirit had instructed the church in Antioch to send Paul and Barnabas on a mission to spread the gospel through preaching the word, Acts 13.2-3. After completing their mission, they had returned to Antioch, Acts 14.26, and shared with the church how God had opened doors of faith to the Gentiles.

Some time after, there were some men from Judea who arrived in Antioch. They were teaching that you had to follow the law of Moses to be saved.

Paul and Barnabas argued and debated with them about this. The church decided to send Paul, Barnabas, and some other men to meet with the apostles and elders of the church in Jerusalem. As they traveled, they related to Christians along the way of the conversion of the Gentiles. The reaction of the brothers was one of joy.

Before this, we always see Jews and Gentiles. The two were quite separate and were not compatible. However, through the death of Jesus on the cross, the wall of division was abolished. In Christ, we are all one. We have different gifts and abilities, but we make up only one body, Christ’s body, Galatians 3.28. Are you in that body?

#risingjoy #Acts #unity

Loud shrieks

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

For unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks were coming out of many who were possessed, and many paralyzed and lame people were healed. So there was great joy in that city. Acts 8.7-8

After the death of Stephen in Acts 7.54-60, a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem. All, except the apostles, were forced to leave Jerusalem and were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. Everywhere they went, they shared the good news of the word.

Philip had gone to the main city in Samaria. He was preaching about the Christ. The crowds were paying attention to him with one mind. They could see the miraculous things that he was doing and there was great joy in the city.

Simon, a magician, also believed in Philip’s message and was baptized. He was amazed at the miracles that were happening. When he realized that the power of the Holy Spirit was passed on by the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money to receive this power to pass on the Holy Spirit to others. He was sharply rebuked by Peter who told him to repent of his sin for his heart was not right with God.

The ability of Philip and others to heal the paralyzed and lame, as well as to be able to free a person of an unclean spirit brought great joy to those in the city. The miraculous gifts confirmed the words that Philip was preaching!

#risingjoy #Acts #miracles

Can anything more be said about the book of Acts?

While reviewing the FPress website and blog, I came across this post: The one Bible book churches study most. Within the brotherhood, multiple commentaries and study books have been written about this important Bible book. That’s not even counting works from outside the church of God.

No disparaging of the book is intended. Professor Horner’s system of Bible reading, for example, includes Acts, by itself, as one of 10 groups to read every day. He is certainly right to do so.

So here’s the question: Can anymore more be said about Acts? We of course can and must do much repeating of the book’s message. But has everything been said that can be said or written about the book? Are there any more insights to be gained?

What do you think?

#Acts

You asked a murderer be released, Acts 3.14

“But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a man who was a murderer be released to you.”

Acts 3.14

Peter’s second sermon to the Jews in Jerusalem pointed up how the rejection of God’s Chosen One led them to seek the release of a murderer.

The rejection of God’s plan will lead us to embrace great injustices and gross immoralities — even people who still claim to belong to the Lord.

#votd #Acts #rejection

Why are you persecuting me? Acts 9.4

“He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?'”

Acts 9.4

In a special vision, Saul, persecutor of the church, saw the Lord Jesus, who asked him why he persecuted the Lord. What is done to the church is done to the Lord.

The church is Christ’s body. In judgment he wills say, “… just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me” Mt 25.40.

#votd #Acts #church

Those who accepted the message, Acts 2.41

“So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added.”

Acts 2.41

When the first evangelistic sermon was preached and the church was established, accepting the message meant being immersed. Baptism was at the center of conversion.

Immersion brings forgiveness of sin, v. 38, and adds one to the church. What’s not to like? Let every person submit to being immersed for salvation and inclusion in Christ’s people.

#votd #Acts #baptism

Witnesses of all he did, Acts 10.39

“We are witnesses of all the things he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree,”

Acts 10.39

Mass hysteria (which some allege) could not have been sustained over a period of three or so years. People in general knew “what happened” vv. 37-38. A few observed up close.

Our faith is based on facts. Eyewitnesses saw what Jesus did and said. In every way the gospel is confirmed, by them and by miracles performed.

#votd #Acts #faith

Ordered not to speak, Acts 4.18

“And they called them in and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.”

Acts 4.18

Peter and John angered the authorities for preaching Christ. They were imprisoned, but many believed. The church now numbered 5,000 men. Now they are ordered to be silent.

Society would silence the saints. Christ has ordered us to announce the Good News. We must decide. Silence is deadly—for the lost and for ourselves.

#votd #Acts #persecution

Be attuned to the Spirit’s ways

One blogger criticizes following a program to be the church:

Everyone loves to idealize the early church. Those were “the good old days.” Entire movements of the church, known as Restoration Movements, have attempted to cast aside all of church history and tradition  beyond what we have recorded in Scripture, in the interest of getting back to the “early church,” when it was all working. If we can just do what they did, the rationale goes, we will see what they saw.

What’s his solution?

As we move forward in reading the story of The Movement, let’s take care not to read too prescriptively, in search of  principles and such. Let us instead seek to attune ourselves to the person of the Holy Spirit and his nature, character, and ways of engaging with the human community. To be clear, the acts of the Apostles mattered. That’s just not what this story is about.

Oh, too prescriptively. Can we read it a little prescriptively? But wait, isn’t he searching for principles and offering us merely another set of them when he starts ought, “Let us instead …”? Indeed, he is! His problem is not with prescriptions, norms, or principles, but he wants us all to adopt his.

There’s the catch, isn’t it? How to be attuned to the Spirit and to his “ways of engaging with the human community”? Is it not through Scripture? Or are we to wait for some whisper in our ear from above? Or do we go pawing through church history (yours, ours, or theirs?) for those principles?

The Bible is exactly that, prescriptive. Otherwise, chunk it. Go with your hunches. Stick with your unholy-spirit induced beliefs. Find the Holy Spirit’s ways in animal entrails or emotional outbursts. Whatever tickles your fancy.

The writer throws out the baby with the bath water. The book of Acts is normative. It show us how it’s done and how it ought to be done. And why it’s done. And who makes it happen. We need the power and the prescription.

#Acts #restoration #normative

A prophet like me: Acts 7.37

“This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers.’”

Acts 7.37

Stephen pointed the Jews to the very words of Moses, who spoke of Jesus. If they claimed to listen to the lawgiver, they should have welcomed the grace-bringer.

Prophecy ought to create and strengthen faith in God’s work. The Old Testament deserves much reading and study. Jesus is also present there. How is my Bible reading going?

#votd #Acts #prophecy

You will be told: Acts 9.6

“But stand up and enter the city and you will be told what you must do.”

Acts 9.6

Obedience is part of the gospel. Through the gospel God establishes a covenant. A covenant details God’s part and man’s part. Saul would have understood this instinctively.

After the establishment of the church, God, Jesus, nor the Holy Spirit never told anyone what to do to be saved. It was always left to those to whom the task had been given: the church.

#votd #Acts #obedience