Thursday, April 16, 2015

Martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 7)

Happy Spring!
Windsor Newton, Grumbacher & Caron d'Ache Watercolor
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

Hi everyone!  I'm back.  I took a break so I could do a watercolor painting of daffodils : )  We are finally seeing sunlight in New Jersey.  However, I have a whole bunch of snow photos.  I wanted to capture a few things this year- snow shadows (by color) made by trees, and photos with light that make me want to squint when I see the photo.  Plus do more painting so my hubby knows I'm really working.  Having way too much fun these days : )  If anyone is looking for a place to buy art supplies at a reduced price, check out Art Supplies from Dick Blick (link).  I've been able to get great deals on everything I need : )

It was hard to hear David Cameron from England proclaim his nation is based on Christianity.  They believe in Jesus and have used the Bible to lead their people for centuries.  Our president believes America was in Europe doing the crusades...  Truthfully our country is also a Christian nation.  Our constitution is based on the Bible.  A large majority of people are still Christian.  People are free to leave if they find the Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence offensive.  This is a free country.

We left off at Acts 6:15 where Stephen was sitting looking like an angel.  Now it seems to me that if someone looks like an angel we should be nice to them.  But at this time period in Jerusalem everyone was trying to gain power over something at the same time.  Israel has always been in danger.  Someone has always tried to steal their land.  I need to remember this as I pray for the middle-east.  Chapter 7 describes how Israel left Egypt with Moses according to Stephen, a Jewish Christian (Jew for Jesus).  And Egypt has always been their ally even to today. 

15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
(Acts 6:15 NIV)

7:1-60 Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these charges true?”

Here's Stephen's answer:
2 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran. 3 ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you. ’
4 “So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Harran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. 5 He gave him no inheritance here, not even enough ground to set his foot on. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child. 6 God spoke to him in this way:‘For four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated. 7 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ God said, ‘and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place. ’ 8 Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth. Later Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs.

So Stephen is describing their journey into Israel from Egypt, Joseph was the one who stood up to Pharoah and helped Israel get to the land God had provided.  The Jews at this time became comfortable in Egypt but that wasn't God's plan for them.  The longer they stayed the worse their circumstances became.  I've honestly had jobs like this.  They start out all happy and then things go south.  Someone starts gossip and people become disrespectful.  Then the antagonism starts.  We really can't claim we're all that much better today.  We all have bad judgment and experiences at times.  The early Church was no exception.

The stories below describe how Moses obeyed God and set his people free.

 9 “Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him 10 and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt. So Pharaoh made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.
11 “Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our ancestors could not find food. 12 When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our forefathers on their first visit. 13 On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family. 14 After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy- five in all. 15 Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our ancestors died. 16 Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money.
17 “As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt had greatly increased. 18 Then ‘a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. ’ 19 He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our ancestors by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die.
20 “At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for by his family. 21 When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. 22 Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.
23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites. 24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. 26 The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other? ’
27 “But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28 Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday? ’ 29 When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.
30 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. 31 When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to get a closer look, he heard the Lord say: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. ’ Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look.
33 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.

These would be the last words I would want to hear if I was Moses... "I will send you back to Egypt."  I'd be all over the place, "maybe an island this time? someplace happy with a nice breeze?"  He obeyed God.
35 “This is the same Moses they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge? ’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 He led them out of Egypt and performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the wilderness.
37 “This is the Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people. ’ 38 He was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living words to pass on to us.
39 “But our ancestors refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him! ’ 41 That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and reveled in what their own hands had made. 42 But God turned away from them and gave them over to the worship of the sun, moon and stars. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets:
“‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings
forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel?
43 You have taken up the tabernacle of Molek
and the star of your god Rephan,
the idols you made to worship.
Therefore I will send you into exile’ beyond Babylon.

44 “Our ancestors had the tabernacle of the covenant law with them in the wilderness. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. 45 After receiving the tabernacle, our ancestors under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David,
46 who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.

47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him.
48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:
49 “‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me?
says the Lord.
Or where will my resting place be?

50 Has not my hand made all these things? ’

Here's where Stephen applies his words to his time period:
51 “You stiff- necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors:You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him —
53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.

So yes, we really should be honest when we have the opportunity.

55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
Saul is actually our beloved Apostle Paul.

59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
(Acts 6:13-7:60 NIV)

Dear Heavenly Father,
I am looking forward to Your return, for peace.  Like the disciples who saw Jesus crucified and thought there was no hope; we feel that way too at times.  Guess that's what faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1).  You are God nothing is impossible for You.  Please be with those who mourn.  The world is much bigger than me.  I pray You will comfort those in need.  Bless our leaders with wisdom, bless us all as we seek to elect the next President.  I pray for Your hand of peace to be in the middle-east.  Help the nations come together and join forces to stop the evil.

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
10 Set the world right;
Do what's best––
  as above, so below.
11 Keep us alive with three square meals.
12 Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
13 Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You're in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You're ablaze in beauty!
  Yes. Yes. Yes.
(Matthew 6:9-13 Message)

In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen   

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