Sunday, May 23, 2010

Stoned for Christ

Read Acts 6-7

Stephen was a man filled with the Holy Spirit. That is pretty much all that is said about his qualifications. The apostles chose him as one of the seven lay leaders for this reason alone. He wasn’t an honor grad from some bible college and had not spent a single day in seminary. Stephen was a spirit filled man who loved God with his whole heart.
God isn’t impressed with our earthly accomplishments. We don’t earn extra points for an expensive education or extensive financial backing. God wants our hearts. He demands that we seek after him. This is a requirement that Stephen had in spades.
Acts 6:8 tells us that Stephen was full of God’s grace and power. Many miracles and wondrous signs were performed through him. Elders in the church of the day grew jealous and tried to accuse Stephen of heresy, but no one could match the wisdom that God had given him. Stephen could not be out witted.
In the end, the only thing the enemy could use against him, were blatant lies. Even these he defeated easily with God given wisdom. This only angered his enemies more. They were filled with so much jealousy and raged that they decided to kill him anyway. The masses were ready to stone him to death.

Acts 7:54 – 60

When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 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. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 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.
And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.

Stephen did not try to run. He did not try to fight, or make excuses for his faith. Stephen was filled with the peace that only Christ can give. He simply told the truth. He shared the message of Christ and prayed for those who were lost. He followed the example set by Christ, even to his own death. If only we all shared his faith and commitment.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

When life is the pits...

Read Daniel 6

Daniel’s career was on the rise. He was one of only three administrators who managed one hundred and twenty satraps. There was only one position higher in Babylonian government and Daniel was slated for this as well. He would be second only to the king. People grew jealous and things went downhill from there.
We often find ourselves facing this same lot in life. Character bashing isn’t only for politicians. The enemy is eager to use those around us to drag down a believer. It is as simple as this. People will test you. Sometimes it is a temptation. Other times it is a requirement imposed for the sole purpose of causing you grief. The person doing it knows very well that what has been demanded is contrary to your beliefs or even out right impossible to deliver.
When these things happen, we should follow Daniel’s example. He prayed. It was the very thing that he had been told not to do. God always comes first and Daniel knew this. He also knew that God is in control of all things and can turn anything to good if we let him.
Look at things from this perspective. The other satraps and administrators were testing Daniel, but they weren’t the only ones watching. The king realized that he had been tricked and was powerless to stop events from unfolding. Read what he said to Daniel.

Daniel 6:16
So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lion‘s den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

King Darius did not know God. He had no relationship with the Lord. He knew Daniel. He knew the things that God had done for Daniel in the past. He also knew that Daniel had faith in God that he was willing to die for. This meant that Daniel’s actions during this time were crucial to his testimony to the power and faithfulness of the Lord. The opportunity was not wasted. The king saw the power of faith first hand. He saw what was possible when serving the one true and living God.

Daniel 6:26-27

“I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For he is a living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed and his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”

Just as Daniel’s enemies tried to trip him up, our enemy attacks us daily. Some attacks are more obvious than others. Sometimes he fails so miserably that we don’t even notice. Other times we fall victim and find ourselves on the brink of despair. We find ourselves thrown to the lions. In these times we need to lean on our faith. We need to take hold of it and trust God. He can use anything for good. It worked out pretty well for Daniel.