I’m not sure if I’ve ever read the story of Stephen before. Deep in the recesses of my brain, I am aware of the moral story that even through persecution and stoning to death, Stephen still stood up for God. I just don’t think I’ve actually read this chapter about it.

His story starts in Chapter 6. I believe the apostles are appointing of what is now known as the deacons of the early church.

They (The Twelve) chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit…(and six other people who seem insignificant to the story.)

– Acts 6:5

What an awesome introduction. To have an reputation like that is enviable.

Delving slightly deeper into the story, I realize that Luke is writing this. (Luke was the companion of Saul/Paul). I don’t think Luke had first hand knowledge of this. I’m thinking Paul must’ve described Stephen like this to Luke. The story gets a little more twisted later on.

So Stephen is standing in front of the Sanhedrin after being falsely accused by false witnesses of speaking against their holy place and the law.

Stephen proceeds to tell the Reader’s Digest version of the Bible from Abraham to Joseph to Moses to Solomon to the temple. Each time he shows the rejection of God the Jews repeated do over the years.

Then, Stephen, knowing he’s in front of a angry mod, says…

You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.

– Acts 7:51-53

Tactful? No, probably not.

The story ends with Stephen getting stoned. Even while being stoned though, he cries out to God, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

Incredible.

What is the point of this story? Surely a man so holy and full of God would be better off alive than dead. Maybe it’s illustrating the tension between the early Christians and the Jews. Is it showing that a life with God is a persecuted life?

I’m not sure what to take from this.

In a bout of irony and though I’m not sure if it’s irony, Chapter 8 starts with this…

And Saul was there, giving approval to his death

– Acts 8:1

let me not be afraid
let me want to have more

Tags:

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

so… Wow.

I’m not going to talk about how scary this story is. Or how I now think the early Christians may have followed God purely out of fear. What this story made me think about is something I won’t call fate, but looks, smells, sounds like fate.

Were the lives of this couple made solely to become an example to others?

I think about a man a couple stories early by the name of Judas. When he was born, God already knew that this was the man that would some day betray Jesus. Are people made to fail? The notoriously bad in history; the Hitlers, Saddams, Mussolinis… Think about history without their existences. Think about the present without them.

I’m sure it’s argued that Judas wasn’t created to betray Jesus. If he hadn’t done it, someone else would have. But God knew it would be Judas.

————–

His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.

“… rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” That’s so powerful. It makes me realize how weak I am.

It’s like asking God, let me suffer for You.

It was a while ago and I can’t recall who did the sermon. It was either Joey or Elliot. He was talking about how as Christians, we’ve become tame animals. We’ve lost our wildness and our urge to want more. We’re fed gourmet foods leaving us unable to feed ourselves.

On paper, it’s a beautiful thing. To be wild for God.

But to suffer? To escape from my safety bubble? That’s terrifying.

….

Let me want to fear You. Want to be wild for You.

Tags:

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.

For so long, I’ve complained about my lack of a spiritual life. Blaming other things, I made excuses for it, but it’s time for me to stop making those excuses and look inside myself, find God in myself.

To have the amount of confidence that Peter has is incredible. How embarrassing it would’ve looked if the beggar could not walk, but Peter had no doubt. God says if I have faith, I can move mountains.

I hope to someday be confident enough to say…
Yes, God exists.
Yes, I am a Christian.
Yes, I’m Adventist.

Walk.

Tags: