|"Stephen saw Jesus before he died"|
Faber Castell, Pitt Markers
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.
I seem to have been lead to read Ephesians : ) Before I jump in, I thought it would be good to read up on the Apostle Paul. It's been awhile. Once I remember Paul, the letters he wrote to the Churches make more sense. His story is amazing. We can't forget about Stephen too.
Paul is one of God's miracles (and a favorite Apostle). His Jewish name was Saul; Roman name was Paul. He had dual citizenship. He was a Pharisee of the tribe of Benjamin. Evidently, his family had purchased land in Rome, where he was born, which made him a Roman citizen as well. In order to earn money, he became a tent maker literally. Lots of Christians in ministry today talk about their "tent making" jobs to help pay the bills allowing them to be ministers.
Saul left for Jerusalem earlier in his life to study under Gamaliel a premier teacher of the Law in the first century. It makes me wonder if Paul was born into a fairly wealthy family. Pretty cool how God chooses people from all walks of life. Peter was a fisherman, I'm sure he'd fall fast asleep in no time listening to Gamaliel hahaha. I would too or start doodling : )
After his teaching with Gamaliel was complete, Paul came back to Jerusalem to an uprising about the crucifixion of Jesus. He joined into the mix to physically destroy Christians, even traveling to different regions to persecute them.
Stephen was one of the first leaders of the early Church.
8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9 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.
It sounds to me like they knew Stephen was right but didn't want to admit it. Pretty sad human nature. It's like a mob mentality where everyone wants to get the approval of everyone else.
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 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.
(Acts 6:8-15 NKJV)
It's the Holy Spirit glow. He makes us beautiful at certain times. Way better than make-up. It comes from the inside, where His Holy Spirit dwells. I'd be a little cautious attacking a man who's glowing like an angel. Hmmm.
54 When they heard these things they were 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!”
I had to look up what "gnashed" meant. It's some type of grinding and growling these guys mastered to intimidate their victims. Real mature right?
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.
Stephen must've been an amazing man to be so sensitive to God's Spirit. We'll meet him in Heaven one day. I'm sure he'll be delighted to see how many Christians there are now : ) It's interesting that Stephen asked for his attacker's forgiveness as they were ready to kill him.
1 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. 2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.
(Acts 7:54-8:3 NKJV)
As I read this I am reminded how Saul/Paul never did things half-hearted. As a persecutor or Church leader, he always gave his all.
1 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
Paul was out looking for people to persecute. He travelled to gather these people. It must've been horrible for him to remember later on. Forgiving myself is one of my biggest weaknesses.
3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”
Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. 8 Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
(Acts 9:1-9 NKJV)
Dear Heavenly Father,
I lift up the little girls from Nigeria. I pray You will protect them and guide them to safety. Reveal the truth to the captors of what they have become. I also continue to lift up the Ukraine. Please bless and keep them from harm. Thank You so much for Lisa's last chemo. I pray You will pour out lots of blessings and confidence for the next few years. Bring peace and humbleness where it is needed in our White House.
In Jesus Name, Amen.