We talk about being Spirit filled today but we rarely mean it like this!

At that point they went wild, a rioting mob of catcalls and whistles and invective. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed—he only had eyes for God, whom he saw in all his glory with Jesus standing at his side. He said, “Oh! I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at God’s side!” Acts 7:54-55 (The Message)

Rather than standing in a church with his hands raised and a serene look on his face Stephen is standing infront of people baying for his blood. I wonder how confident of the grace and mercy of God we would be in a similar situation. We claim to be filled with the Holy Spirit in our churches but God wants us to be filled every part of every day. He wants our walk and our words to reflect the gospel of Christ. He wants us to be single minded and undistracted by words of opposition or threats of violence. While not courting the disdain of others, if the gospel brings persecution, then we should keep our focus on Jesus. Christianity isn’t simply for the soft and comfortable times but for the hard, harsh, and harrowing times of persecution too. We are to keep the same disposition of the Holy Spirit at the forefront in our lives on both occassions whether we enjoy comfort or endure opposition.

May the gift of the Holy Spirit be the most precious of gifts to us and may we face each difficulty or obstacle with the same dispostion of grace that we enjoy in times of comfort. Amen.

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What may have seemed like an attempt to save his life, from Stephen, takes a turn here.

“And you continue, so bullheaded! Calluses on your hearts, flaps on your ears! Deliberately ignoring the Holy Spirit, you’re just like your ancestors. Was there ever a prophet who didn’t get the same treatment? Your ancestors killed anyone who dared talk about the coming of the Just One. And you’ve kept up the family tradition—traitors and murderers, all of you. You had God’s Law handed to you by angels—gift-wrapped!—and you squandered it!” Acts 7:51-53 (The Message)

Not concerned with the history of their faith, too consumed by controlling worship through institution, finally an accusation of ignoring the work of the Holy Spirit and murdering people that talk about the ‘Just One’. Stephen wasn’t trying to make friends of the religious rulers of Jerusalem. He must have known that speaking the truth of their rejection of God’s plan in Jesus he would not curry favour. Stephen’s thoughts, however, were not on preserving his mortal life but on the path of salvation that God has given us in Jesus. What he wanted was to be faithful and truthful to the ‘good news’ of Jesus Christ and not be intimidated by the threat of death.

Honestly, I find myself thinking twice about talking about Jesus to others when I think they may dislike or even abuse me. I can not imagine being in the position where my life is in the balance and taking such a hard line with those who hold my life in their hands. I would like to think that faced with such bullheaded and powerful people I may be moved by God to follow the conviction of my faith. But isn’t God moving me to stand up for Jesus in every situation to speak the truth of our rejection of God and our need of Jesus to reconcile us to him? Maybe not in the same direct manner as Stephen or with the same consequence, probably in a more congenial social setting , but as uncompromising and challenging as he. Without exception, each person needs to have insight into Jesus given by those who follow him. The situations we are in and the way we do this is certainly more varied than Stephen’s but the moving of God for us to speak faithfully and truthfully so is no less definite.

So, may we accept the moving of the Holy Spirit in our lives today to speak of Jesus and God’s plan of reconciliation for the whole world through him. Amen.

Obsession with buildings is the curse of the church imho.

“Yet that doesn’t mean that Most High God lives in a building made by carpenters and masons. The prophet Isaiah put it well when he wrote,

   “Heaven is my throne room;
      I rest my feet on earth.
   So what kind of house
      will you build me?” says God.
   “Where I can get away and relax?
      It’s already built, and I built it.”

Acts 7:48-50 (The Message)

 If we make our spiritual life subject to bricks and mortar, or any geographical destination, we run the risk of missing the big picture. Stephen is clear about his priority. He is clear what he believes. Although Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem, the prophet Isaiah gets straight to the point. Who will build a house for him, he has a house, one that he has already made!

What does that mean? Well, it is clear from the New Testament that the Holy Spirit makes his home in the hearts of people. When we experience God in the intimacy of prayer, from a heart of faith, God lives in us and we live in him.

May we know the closeness of God’s presence through his Holy Spirit and may we be the ‘house’ of God as we walk each day with him. Amen

You may believe in Jesus and do the things expected of a Christian, church, prayer, nice manners, etc. but have you ever wondered how to get into God’s good books?

Having received the tabernacle, our fathers 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, who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built the house for him. Acts 7:45-47 (The Message)

Does it ever seem like God likes everyone else but seems to have missed out on you? Do the benefits others talk about, in the Christian life, seem to escape you because life is just hard and it provides little, if anything, to be happy about? If so, I want to suggest something to you. There is more to the picture than meets the eye!

What do I mean? Well, being happy is a good thing, enjoying material and emotional security is a good thing, but these are not the be all and end all. Realizing that, despite the harsh and hard circumtances of life, God is for you! This is a hard thing to grasp but in the Bible it is seen as true. David, who enjoyed the favour of God spent most of his life being sidelined by his family, ridiculed for his size, chased by the kings army, and tempted to murder for the love of a woman. He was, however, a man on whom God placed responsibilites and brought good.

As people who wish to follow Jesus the most important truth we can grasp is that to be satisfied with much or with little is the secret of happiness. That God places his favour on us isn’t seen by the quantity of our material possessions, or a lack of worry or trouble, it is seen in the quality of our spiritual walk with Jesus despite these.

May we know the joy of being satisfied whatever we have or do not have in life and may we embrace the path of spiritual life with Christ to sustain us through all worries or trouble. Amen.

The tabernacle of the Testimony is at the centre of the Jewish religion.  The pilgrim people of God travelled for forty years and took their place of worship with them. Have you ever wondered about the significance of this?

“Our forefathers had the tabernacle of the Testimony with them in the desert. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. Having received the tabernacle, our fathers 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,” Acts 7:44-45 (The Message)

Moses produced the tabernacle of the Testimony from what he experienced in his walk with God. It was the pattern given by God (Exodus 25:9). Our ‘place’ of worship is to be after the pattern that God has shown to us. As Christians, Jesus is our pattern of worship and we are to worship God in his pattern. We are a pilgrim people passing through this world and taking our ‘place’ or worship with us. Jesus said, ‘Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24 NIV). Our ‘place’ of worship  is to be following the pattern of Jesus, looking to become more like him in our heart and attitude toward God and other people. Living our lives in the pattern of Jesus is the worship of those who would follow him, it is the God given pattern.

May our worship of God be to seek to make our lives in the pattern of Jesus and may our lives reflect the pattern of Jesus to others today in our attitudes of heart. Amen.

 We have so much choice but choose to ignore what is best, was it ever so?

“God wasn’t at all pleased; but he let them do it their way, worship every new god that came down the pike—and live with the consequences, consequences described by the prophet Amos:

   Did you bring me offerings of animals and grains
      those forty wilderness years, O Israel?
   Hardly. You were too busy building shrines
      to war gods, to sex goddesses,
   Worshiping them with all your might.
      That’s why I put you in exile in Babylon.

Acts 7:42-43 (The Message)

In all honesty who could blame God? Well, it looks like a lot of people find some reason to blame him. God presents a soft target for every woe the besets us. Any small accident or major calamity and God comes in for a bashing. The question is, however, if we aren’t living God’s way, making him the object of our devotion, rejecting all vain images and temptation in order to be faithful to him, why should he be to blame? The living God will not divert from his purpose or change his course to please our human ficklenss. In his holiness he can’t accept our inability to stay the course and worship him alone. So, why should we, who find faithfulness so difficult and depend on grace to support our weaknesses, blame God for our lot. We choose who to follow and we show, through our lives, the who it is we are devoted to. If we put selfishness, materialism, or idols in the place of the living God, primary place in our lives, then we have no-one else to blame than our own decision for the consequence we face.

May we learn to look at the way ahead and seek to follow the way of Christ. May our lives reflect the devotion of our hearts as we put God first in our lives today. Amen.

 ‘Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t’ is the saying, but is it better than the challenge of ‘knowing’ the God you don’t ‘see’?

“They craved the old Egyptian ways, whining to Aaron, ‘Make us gods we can see and follow. This Moses who got us out here miles from nowhere—who knows what’s happened to him!’ That was the time when they made a calf-idol, brought sacrifices to it, and congratulated each other on the wonderful religious program they had put together. Acts 7:39-41 (The Message)

Moses faced many challenges in leading the children of Israel out of Egypt and into the promise of God. Not least was their desire to have ‘gods’ they could see and ‘religion’ that was ordered. Today we face similar temptations as the material world holds great appeal and the supernatural nature of God is mysterious and invisible. Sometimes we put our trust in bricks and mortar, wood and metal, religion and order, before we trust in the mysterious and invisible power of the living God.

Today may we trust in what we do not see and worship the living God who is beyond our comprehension. May we put aside the desire to make and control the object of our worship and, instead, live, move, and have our being in him. Amen.

When Moses thought that he would be the leader of Israel he met with disappointment but when God said he would it was a different matter.

“This is the same Moses whom they earlier rejected, saying, ‘Who put you in charge of us?’ This is the Moses that God, using the angel flaming in the burning bush, sent back as ruler and redeemer. He led them out of their slavery. He did wonderful things, setting up God-signs all through Egypt, down at the Red Sea, and out in the wilderness for forty years. This is the Moses who said to his congregation, ‘God will raise up a prophet just like me from your descendants.’ This is the Moses who stood between the angel speaking at Sinai and your fathers assembled in the wilderness and took the life-giving words given to him and handed them over to us, words our fathers would have nothing to do with. Acts 7:35-39 (The Message)

The Moses who fled from Egypt was a completely different person from the Moses who returned. Although he did not have confidence in his own ability and, as a result God assigned his brother Aaron as spokesman, through Moses God gave sign after sign to the people of Israel of his presence and purpose with them. It is hard to say but the same Israel that venerated the work of Moses and built their religion on his teaching rejected the one that Moses said would come after him. Stephen was refering to Jesus, of course, and his whole intention in speaking to the religious leaders so was to emphasize that their faith, and the basis of Jesus’ message, are one and the same.

I wonder if today we have the same desire to keep the integrity of our faith in the sight of others? Are we quick to distance ourselves from the hard parts of the journey for the Christian community as a whole and look for the immediate personal impact alone? Are we willing to say that, despite our commitment to a religious tradition or denomination, we will seek to give our all to follow Jesus and keep the integrity of Christian discipleship, shown here by Stephen, in the sight of those who agree with us and those that do not agree?

Peace and grace to you as you follow the faith of Jesus with integrity and place the importance of that integrity firmly front and centre in the journey. Amen.

In our building centred Christian sprituality we look for holy places with four walls. Moses found his in a wide, open, space.

“God said, ‘Kneel and pray. You are in a holy place, on holy ground. I’ve seen the agony of my people in Egypt. I’ve heard their groans. I’ve come to help them. So get yourself ready; I’m sending you back to Egypt.’ Acts 7:33-34 (The Message)

It is the presence of the Holy that creates a holy place. Because we put up a building and put a roof on it, consecrate it with words, worship in it on a Sunday, this does not create a holy place. When we encounter God, whether that is in a building, a field, on a mountain, or in the eyes of a loving friend, this is the place of holiness. What do I mean? Well, it is the presence of God without and within that creates the holy place. We encounter God when we turn our face toward him and we can do this any where. Churches have been places of worship with special significance to Christian communities for millenia. To focus our attention on the structures of men is limiting God, however, and God is not to be limited. So, I encounter God whereever and whenever I take the time to pray or otherwise pay attention to my walk with God. To this end the Christian should be aware that all the ground we walk on is holy when we follow Jesus and God calls us to walk carefully, without covering ourselves from the potential cuts and bruises that can afflict our very souls, as we walk on holy ground in the presence of the holy God.

May we walk with Jesus as if we are walking on holy ground, bare feet open to the snags and snares, conscious of the presence of God in every step. Amen.

We expect that others will see us as we see ourselves, but they rarely do.

The next day two of them were fighting and he tried to break it up, told them to shake hands and get along with each other: ‘Friends, you are brothers, why are you beating up on each other? The one who had started the fight said, ‘Who put you in charge of us? Are you going to kill me like you killed that Egyptian yesterday?’ When Moses heard that, realizing that the word was out, he ran for his life and lived in exile over in Midian. During the years of exile, two sons were born to him. Acts 7:26-28 (The Message)

Moses had reclaimed his identity as a Hebrew and had a zeal from God to bring about their deliverance. Unfortunately his fellow Hebrews saw him as a murderer, someone without the moral authority that he felt he now possess. Moses sought to speak to two of his fellow Hebrews who were fighting in order to get them to stop. Their response was to focus, not on Moses’ new found sense of calling from God, but on his actions in killing the Egyptian the day before.

I remember when I first became a follower of Jesus, I expected that everyone would see the transformation that was taking place in my heart. Instead, the remanent of the old life still remained as their predominant understanding of who they saw before them. My words of encouragement to faith and following Jesus often fell short because they remembered the vain, selfish, stupid, actions of my former years. In time, some of those people have come to see the transformation and others still remain more comfortable remembering  my past life. I, through the passage of time, have come to surrender my expectations of others and increase those of myself.

May our expectations of what others see in us today be measured by our expectations of ourselves to lead others in following Jesus by the example we set above the words we speak. Amen.

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