Have Faith

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Romans 12:2

So that you may discern the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect, renew your mind through Christ by abiding in His Presence.  Sometimes we all have pain and sorrow, fear and negativity, anxious moments, and hopeless thoughts– Jesus rescues you from these.  In His living Presence He resets your mind to a faith view.

Jesus is the best thing to ever happen to you.  Rely on His compassion with your faith.  Your assurance that Christ is powerfully moving to align your mind in God’s best gives you spiritual maturity. Trust Christ.  Expect Him to transform your mind– it is His anointing, again and again, of the Holy Spirit.  Discern Jesus’ holiness.

Together

People who gathered around Jesus were ready to get on with right  living.  Roman government was violently overbearing and Yahweh had seemed far off and silent.  Yet with Jesus, the living presence of God personalized, near Him those yearning people found their hearts cleansed and their minds cleared.  In Jesus’ Presence, while listening to His teachings and seeing the miracles, life was right and good again.  Let us enjoy His living Presence in our midst, together, too.

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Jesus Gives You Holy Spirit

Whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him (Moses) from them and in their hearts turned back into Egypt, Saying to Aaron , Make us gods to go before us; for this Moses, who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him. And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their hands. Acts 7:39-42

Sitting before Stephen are a group of father and brothers on the council who disrespect Stephen. Stephen points to a group of our heritage fathers with Moses who stirred up some of the people when Moses was on Mt. Sinai with God –they were impatient, self-serving, and had determined to return to the Egypt slavery-oppression. Preparing for the journey back they made a golden calf to worship then make god figurines. God can get angry and He did. God turned from them in anger.

Sitting before Stephen are a group of father and brothers stirring up trouble for Stephen. They do not want him to succeed in leadership, refer to Christ Resurrected, nor do they want Stephen to refer to their faith failings. These are proud self-loving men who sit before Stephen. They are ‘suits’– what they show outwardly is not what they are inwardly. Jesus knows and cares. Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Heavenly Father except through our Savior Jesus Christ.

You have given yourself to Jesus and He gives you the same Holy Spirit which is within Stephen. Stephen’s witness in Acts 7 is awesome. Holy Spirit is not a spirit of cowardice but a Spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Stephen shows you how to use faith, speak with power, and to love even the toughest to love by relying the self-discipline of union with Holy Spirit. And sitting before Stephen are a group of withered hearted souls who anger God again.

We Are A Blessed Generation!

This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up a prophet for you from your own people as He raised me up.’ He is the one who was in the congregation (Church) in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living oracles to give to us. Our ancestors were unwilling to obey him… Acts 7:37-39

Stephen speaks now about the One within the history of the Israelites where Another has been woven into important heritage events. This One is our Messiah Jesus our Lord and Savior; Jesus is always where God is! Jesus Resurrected is in the Holy Spirit through Stephen as Stephen reveals Jesus Christ to these stiff necked listeners on the council. Stephen wants to convert them.

Stephen refers to the living oracles (v. 39) which are the Ten Commandments. Moses met God on the mountain top and later Moses met Jesus, with Elijah, on another mountain top at the Transfiguration. Where God spoke to one man Moses, now through belief in Christ we hear Him speak within our hearts. We are a blessed generation! Jesus Christ is the Word of God our mediator; our heartfelt desire to be used to convert others is lifted to Jesus who elaborates and purifies these for God to respond.

Jesus Word of God, can discern all secret intentions of your heart. ‘Indeed the Word of God is living and active …’ Hebrews 4:12. In other words, you have absolutely no secrets from Jesus Christ. This activity of Christ’s allows Him to love you completely and fully, and use you for His spiritual purposes done by the Holy Spirit (like invite a stiff necked listener to yield to Christ). The living oracles of the Spirit are within the living Word of God Jesus Christ. As with Stephen, your dear Holy Spirit enlivens your eyes, rejoices your heart, converts souls, and raises you from the dead.

Following And Listening To God

When he (Moses) was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his relatives, the Israelites. When he saw one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. Acts 7:23-24

Stephen points out that by an impulse from God, Moses visits his Jewish family and sees a task master is mistreating an Israelite man. Moses’ all encompassing love for his people is extremely strong fuel although he has been raised and has been working in Pharaoh’s household, groomed in how to act with authority. Yet out of intense anger Moses strikes the task master down and murders him to avenge the wrong done to the Jewish man. Because of this event Moses is demeaned, then flees yet to find himself working for an Israelite family with whom he finds loving companionship through the Heavenly Father and unity in the One True God.

Through Spirit inspired words, Stephen directs the council to grasp the understanding that faith is based on following and listening to God instead of self-driven actions and thoughts. By the Spirit, Stephen is fighting the good fight of faith right now– using his words. Throughout his dialogue Jesus Christ is anointing these words about God’s chosen people so that Stephen might present to them His Chosen One Messiah and Lord.

For Moses, it is another 40 years before the burning bush ignites his heart with great desire to serve the Heavenly Father. On Mount Sinai Moses receives the, ‘You shall not murder.’ (Exodus 20:13) Murder is on the minds of those in the council as they listen to Stephen defend himself against a half-truth. Stephen has the Holy Spirit– who gives us everything when tests of faith occur, when persecution comes at us, and where on our own we would fail. Faith is the Spirit powerfully moving in situations to shield your heart as your words speak volumes for our Lord and Savior.

You Are Beautiful Before God

At this time Moses was born, and he was beautiful before God. For three months he was brought up in his father’s house; and when he was abandoned, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. Acts 7:20-21

On trial before those he has called his fathers and brothers, Stephen launches into his sermon. His foremost desire is to draw them into the Holy Presence of Christ as he stands in heavenly anointing to preach. He is before them hoping to connect with their (and our) common history of faith. With his first words the Holy Spirit takes hold of his thoughts, guides his believer’s witness, and he senses with beautiful conviction that he is to lay out the Grand Plan of God in His Son Jesus Christ before these council folks.

First lifting up Abraham with his words, then weaving in Moses, he next says, “So Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his words and deeds.” v. 22. Stephen has already pointed out that Abraham was not raised in a holy household; his family worshipped idols and yet God gripped his heart for sacred purpose within the Grand Plan. They agree with this. Stephen points out that Moses too was raised in a foreign household yet Almighty God is solidly right there directing him in beautiful holiness.

You are beautiful before God too. As you were born into this world He supplied your strength to draw your first breath of holiness; God’s loving holiness. The family you were born into, the marriage and children you have now, the work life you participate in now are all influences. Yet, the greatest influence overriding all of these is God’s influence to draw you into His Grand Plan to receive the Holy Spirit and love Jesus Christ continually, all the days of your life. You are living in beautiful holiness, directed by the Spirit, and like Stephen God consumes you with beautiful conviction to use.

Holy Direction

The God of glory appeared to our ancestor Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harlan, and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you.’ Then he left the country of the Chaldeans and settled in Harlan. After his father died, God had him move from there to this country in which you are now living. He did not give him any of it as a heritage, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as his possession and to his descendants after him, even though he had no child.

And God spoke in these terms, that his descendants would be resident aliens in a country belonging to others, who would enslave them and mistreat them during four hundred years. ‘But I will judge the Nation that they serve,’ said God, ”and after that they shall come out and worship Me in this place.’ Then he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs. Acts 7:2-8

Stephen begins his sermon by showing great reverence for God and his respect for Moses. As the Israelites have shown faith and obedience to God, Stephen accentuates the places where God is worshiped. While Abraham’s father Terah was alive Abraham lived partly with him and partly in Canaan. While in Egypt, God did not give him land but he had to buy it. After the covenant was given to Abraham it was sealed with the circumcision of Isaac.

Abraham had to leave his father’s home because it had idol worship. Abraham waits in faith for God to give him land and children who will build a Nation of believers. Although many believed and some did not have faith, Abraham fully trusts God. Our Gospel of Matthew traces Jesus Christ’s genealogy back to Abraham and Luke’s Gospel traces His lineage back to Adam. Your heritage is Christ’s heritage because you are His. Jesus is the Messiah Savior to whom we are obedient as we place our faith, trust, and lives in Him.

Listen

Then the high priest asked him (Stephen), “Are these things so?” And Stephen replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me.” Acts 7:1-2

Stephen’s situation takes nerves of steel and eagle eyed faith. He is standing before those in authority and onlookers, who are watching and anticipating his downfall. It is his faith which is fully powered by the Holy Spirit by which he receive the Peace of God to speak righteousness and Christ’s Truth. It is a large group of people and they are against him.

He does not begin with ‘my friends’ because they are not. He does not begin with ‘honorable council and holy onlookers’ since he does not view them as such. He does not begin his sermon with ‘Thank you for asking me to speak here today’ since he stands before them as they demand and explanation to the half-truths he is being accused of and is persecuted for his faith.

He addresses them as ‘brothers and fathers’ though brothers in the Jewish faith and fathers of agedness. He first asks that they will unstop their ears. “Listen to me,” Stephen requests. Then as he speaks our Lord quells his nervousness with the fullness of His Peace. We remember at Jesus’ Transfiguration God said, “This is My Son whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” Matthew 17:5. Stephen has listened and is listening to our Lord Jesus Christ and his words are orchestrated by the Holy Spirit.

Christ Within Us Always Has The Victory

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenaica, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Then they secretly instigated some men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” Acts 6:8-11

Stephen, one of the seven men chosen the the community for leadership (Acts 6:5), has the same power and wisdom as the apostles in speech, signs/miracles of Christ bestowed through him. He has spiritual understanding by the Holy Spirit’s grace. The community of Christ’s believers chooses him first. Then as he is speaking in the synagogue with the Good News of Jesus Christ Resurrected the sadducees hatred is directed toward him as they organize false witnesses.

The false witnesses accuse him with a half-truth. Our Lord Jesus did say that he would destroy this temple and He would raise it up on the third day. Jesus was speaking about His Body of course, and in v. 13 the liars say, “we have heard him (Stephen) say that Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed down to us.” Then, all who are sitting on the council look at Stephen and they see that his face is like the face of an angel.

Stephen responds; preaches Truth. Note that the false accusers are similar to Jesus our Lord’s accusers and Stephen will be martyred. His accusers twist what he is saying about the customs of Moses, for salvation in Moses day was by grace just as it is today. Remember that when accusers speak half-truths and gain momentum in drawing others to their podium our Christ is still on the Throne. Christ’s love still overcomes hate. Evil is still powerless in Christ’s Holy Presence. Christ within us always has the victory.

The Word of God Spreads

The Word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. Acts 6:7

The Word of God, the Living Presence of Christ including the Holy Spirit, is spreading throughout Jerusalem. His Presence is both mighty and tremendously personal, touching each believer who loves Him and filling them with the holy desire to serve Him and live for Him. Jesus’ Church at roughly 25,000 believers is multiplying rapidly and the Church hears concerns lifted up by the Greek Hellenists to care for the widows.

In response, the Lord leads His Church to choose seven men for Holy administrative/social-service purposes. His Church activates a program for poverty. The group of seven includes Stephen who is described in Scripture as filled with grace and power, doing great wonders and signs (Jesus’ miracles continue in the Church, as today) among the people. (v. 8). Stephen and the other six deacons have serving faith which is witnessing faith. They are chosen for thinking and acting with spiritual Truth, which is Christ Jesus, and for honesty through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The seven men are most-Holy administrators for God’s Kingdom and when the Apostles lay hands on them it is the sign of covenant partnership and the Spirit’s alignment of their souls. In Scripture the soul is a person’s vitality– activated by the Holy Spirit. We may also see our souls as the ethereal part of us which after our death continues on to heaven with Jesus. Believers who previously walked and lived in the darkness of their souls take in and love the Great Light of God in Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Risen Redeemer and Living Word of God.

Christian Vitality Within You

“It is not right that we should neglect the Word of God in order to wait on tables. Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the Word.” Acts 6:2-4

As we begin to study together this sixth chapter of Acts, by overview we see that there is a deviation now from the original communal sharing (we saw how Ananias and Sapphira earlier misrepresented their gift to the Church and God’s punishment) to a selection of seven men deacons and after that the persecution of Stephen which shows us his glorious witness for Christ. The Apostles here in this text help us to note that they are not vice-president managers of the Church but their duties in obedience to Christ calls them to prayer and study of the Scriptural Word by the Holy Spirit’s demand on their hearts.

Leadership in our Church today is foundational on the same study of Holy Scripture and great amounts of prayer time spent in the Lord Jesus Christ’s living Presence. When the Hellenistic Greek speaking Jews in Jesus’ Church speak up about the neglect of the widows the Spirit brings new understanding to the leaders that administrative management is not to be their focus but prayer and study is priority for them. Scholars estimate this early Church size was 25,000 believers.

A minister who is leading her arm of Christ’s Church draws believers together to study with her and into invitational prayers together for burdens and concerns, for the lost, lonely, and least who have need of Christ’s Light of Love to guide and heal within them. Evil has been conquered by Christ on the Cross and His Resurrected Power within us activates Christian vitality within our world as we are obedient to Him. Together, our decisions and righteous living is given to us in both Scriptural study and anointed prayer.

Always With Jesus Christ

They were convinced by him [Gamaliel], and when they had called in the apostles, they had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the Name of Jesus, and let them go. As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the Name. And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. Acts 5:40-42

This flogging is thirty nine stripes, only one less than death. They ordered Jesus flogged too. Peter and John leave the council with heartfelt words of praise to Jesus Christ, for it is honor to suffer for the sake of Jesus. They go right back to teaching in the temple as God has assuredly directed them to witness.

At temple they tell others what Jesus does, what He says, of the miracles and His compassionate Love, how He shows us all of God through His perfect obedience to God. Each time they tell the truthful facts of Jesus then they tell of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and His appearances to them post-Resurrection. Christ’s Presence is alive.

People are hungry to hear about Him and to take Him as their Lord and Savior, desirous of Baptism. Folks are seeking Jesus Christ and immediately find Him and the joyous union of the fellowship of believers is contagious because now they are always with Jesus Christ’s alive Presence.

Christ is with you, within New Testament Scriptures. With Christ in your heart your eyes are opened to the activity of Christ in and around you by the power of the Holy Spirit. Speak boldly about Jesus Christ and be blessed. He will guard your life as you put your trust fully in Him. Yield yourself in long prayer time with Him and He will direct your paths in righteousness for His Name sake. Lean not on your own understanding but depend completely in Christ understanding.