BSF Acts Study 2011-2012, BSF Acts Week 3

Acts: Week 3, Day 6

Acts 3–7.

17. The messages I got from this week’s lesson are to:

  1. Pursue with all my heart, soul, mind and resources to belong to God. I am not to chase after belonging to any other group or organization, even “the church” unless my first commitment is to God
  2. Recognize that because I can, doesn’t mean that I should, even in the work of the church
  3. Look to align myself with others who are filled with the holy spirit and with wisdom, without regard for any other skillset they may or may not have
  4. To speak boldly, wisely and without shame of the gospel.  Regardless of audience or potential repercussion.
  5. To turn my eyes to heaven more often, with the delight of knowing, whether I’m given the physical clarity of vision to see Him, that Jesus is there, at the right hand of God, my Father.
  6. Through all adversity, no matter how severe, the appropriate response to my enemies, especially when they are clearly God’s enemies, is to:
       – speak the truth to them
       – pray for them
Standard
BSF Acts Study 2011-2012, BSF Acts Week 3

Acts: Week 3, Day 5

Acts 7

Stephen at the Sanhedrin.  He sets them up, nodding along as he happily retells the old testament stories that they are so familiar with.  Then, he knocks them down.  You know, any sentence that starts with, “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?”  I think he missed the Dale Carnegie course, but then again they had already chosen their sides and Stephen chose the wiser of the friends to win with.

13. a. Acts 7:1–38: Stephen professes the old testament story, from God first appearing to Abraham up to Moses receiving the law of the 10 commandments at Mount Sinai.  Moses points to “the prophet”.

b. Acts 7:39–50 He discusses the disobedience of God’s chosen people, beginning with the golden calf at the foot of Mt. Sinai.  He then turns to the house of God from the tabernacle to the time of David and the building of the temple by Solomon.  Which, while blessed by God, He (God) also was clear to explain that He is not contained within the walls of the temple, but is much bigger.

c. Acts 7:51–53 – Let’s just call this: the smack down to end all smack downs.  Stephen just spent 49 verses lulling his audience, the high priest and court, into a their comfort zone, then, like Hansome Harley Race of the days gone by, he comes flying off the top rope with a pile driver right to some un-named ‘zoid muscle area.  Smack down central!

14. a They indicated he had spoken words of blashemy against Moses and against God.  Blasphemy means, by definition, to speak disrepectful (unpiously) of God.  Stephen demonstrates to the Sanhedrin that he clearly knows the facts of Moses and of God and He provides the greatest respect and piety to them.  However, he holds nothing back in pointing out his disrepect and disdain for the Church leaders, yo momma (ok, in this case, yo daddy) and all of the ways they have dishonored God, the law, Moses and the prophets. 

b. Stephen’s comments to the Sanhedrin are founded in scripture.  With an angelic voice, for 49 verses there is nothing they disagree with or would argue with.  Then, he pulls back the covers and shows how they are failing to live by what they claim to believe.  In contrast, the Sanhedrin doesn’t even quabble.  While Stephen patiently replied with a discussion that was analytical, collected and concise.  Their response is emotional, animalistic and banal.  He lays out in 49 verses the teaching of the old testament.  In contrast they:

  • Are furious
  • Gnash their teeth at him
  • Cover their ears
  • Yell at the top of they voices
  • Rush him
  • Drag him out of the city
  • Stone him.

So mature!

15. The heavens are opened to Stephen’s view and he observes Jesus standing at the right hand of God the Father

16. a. I think he felt it, but not in the way you and I would feel someone throwing stones at us.  In other words, I don’t think he was numb or unaware.  He was fully aware and prayed for those throwing the stones.  Did he feel pain?  I’m not sure he cared.

b. Saul

c. Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

Conclusion:

I have known and admired Stephen for being the first martyr of the faith.  But as I read the scriptures today I realized that, while that is important, it is minimized by the way this man lived.  Here is what we know.  He was filled by the spirit and with wisdom.  He served the body of believers jobfully.  He was, without question, not ashamed of the gospel.  He spoke with boldness, authority and knowledge. He did not pull any punches in calling evil by its name and in praising God my his name.  He stood, with 2 feet on this earth and looked up into the heavens and saw the face of Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  Give me a life lived like that and you are more than welcomed to throw stones at me. 

Post script.

I fortunately started my bible study early today, and had a chance to review what I wrote before posting.  Maybe I’m not at a faith level to pray for stoning, yet, and maybe I got a bit carried away.  But I hope you understand my sentiment.  Who among us wouldn’t die to have the faith and life that Stephen had? Can I, on even my best day, say that others look at me, my friends, not to mention my enemies, and see the face of an angel?

Standard
BSF Acts Study 2011-2012, BSF Acts Week 3

Acts: Week 3, Day 4

 Acts 6.

The Apostles are pulled into administrative matters but wisely realize that, while they can do every task, it doesn’t mean that they should.  Importantly, they do not try to see who they can sucker or guilt into these other jobs, but instead look for people who are “filled by the spirit and wisdom”.  These deacons were chosen by the gathered believers, blessed and hands were laid on them in ordination of their role.  We find that they not only served, but also spoke boldly and wisely, as anyone filled with the spirit will do.  But soon, one, Stephen, catches the attention of non-believers and he is brought to the ever more frustrated and escalating Sanhedrin where the truth is spoken in a condeming and condescending way.  With the final line: “All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” we have the foreboding sense that something bad is coming.

11. a. There was an administrative issue over the widows of Hebraic Jews being fed before the widows of Grecian Jews.

b. 6:2 – not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God and 6:4 – give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word

c. Had the assembled believers select 7 deacons who were filled with the spirit and wisdom.  These men were blessed and hands were laid on them for their ministry

d. Different people are called into different ministries in the church, but that does not mean some are below or subordinate to others, they are just different.  AND, the different ministries have the same prereqs – filled with the spirit and wisdom.  Also, regardless of “church job” we are all called to spread the gospel message.

12. Filled with the spirit and wisdom.  (Acts 6:3) Chosen by the group of believers (Acts 6:5) Ordained by the church (Acts 6:6)

Conclusion:

I was looking for the next questions in this chapter.  The fact that we are all called to be bold in teaching about Jesus who is the Christ, whether we are called to a job of prayer and ministry or one of waiting tables.  That with the spirit the count diminishes in importance (Stephen wasn’t one of the 12, but was clearly apostolic, a Greek word meaning: a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders.)  The line of Luke at the end of this chapter about how “All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.”  To some of us, in the face of an angel we see God’s goodness and love, something to be cherished.  But to unbelievers note that they do not see something else – they only see it with different eyes.  He still looks like an angel, but that vision does not invoke love and mercy as we will soon see (sorry, but with this kind of a cliff hanger – you can’t help but turn the page).  That last part gives me the chills every time I read it!

Standard
BSF Acts Study 2011-2012, BSF Acts Week 3

Acts: Week 3, Day 3

Acts 5

Acts 5 contains 2 distinct stories both that point to how powerless non-believers are to stop the will of God and the spreading of His Holy Name.  In the first we learn of Ananias and Sapphira, the first church vandals, who attempt to sully the early church from within.  Then we learn about the the high priest, his associates and all of the Sanhedrin.  In Chapter 4, they locked up 2 apostles over night and used threats to attempt to get them to be quiet.  In Chapter 5 they escalate to locking up everyone and flog them.  The chapter closes with an unintended endorsement of the church from a member of the sanhedrin.  He points out that all man made initiatives have come and gone and will come and go.  If this is man-made, let’s not worry about it.  The only way it could last is if it is from God.  The Apostles rejoice for being flogged and “never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.” (Don’t you hate it when you are right, Mr. Sanhedrinman?)

8. a. Acts 5:3 “that you have lied to the Holy Spirit”, Acts 5:9, “how could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord”

b. God’s heart is in His church.  The major sin, in my eyes, of Ananias and Sapphira wasn’t that they were stingy or deceitful, proud or even hypocrites, although they were clearly all of those.  To me, what satan filled their heart to do was to attempt to join the church without joining God.  They saw all of the neat things going on in this community of believers.  They saw the joy and fellowship and thought – ‘we want us some of that’.  Did they want to devote themselves fully to God?  Clearly not, they just wanted to be part of the movement, part of the church. 

Interesting how this tactic by satan comes up over and over again, and I think most of us can see it in our churches today.  The number of people who want to be considered a christian, but don’t really want to devote any part of their life to God.  Interesting as well the rebukes the churches receive in the Book of Revelation for this very thing.  To me this is a heart breaking story, because we can almost feel the pain and sadness this caused Christ, to see His church treated this way.  Once their sin was revealed, it was also heartbreaking to Ananias and Saphira.  God didn’t strike them dead, he simply opened their eyes and it broke their heart (literally).

9. a. Acts 5:19, The Angel of the Lord

b. Acts 5:32 – “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him”

10. a. Acts 5:41 They left rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name and 5:42, Day aft day they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is Christ.  They did this house to house and in the temple courts (doesn’t sound like they were hiding)

b. My experience has been minimal.  As I study more and get more involved in leadership within church and BSF, I definately see the whispers of satan trying to move tripping stones into the path.  If anything is going to go wrong with our family, it happens on Sunday morning (church) or Monday (BSF night).  But I’ve not been called to rejoice for a flogging as these great men did.

In a conversation with a BSF leader one time, she pointed out that one sure sign you are on the right path of following God’s will for your life and furthering the kingdom of God is when you face great adversity.  If you are on the wrong path, why would satan try to get in your way?

Conclusion:

There are 3 verses in this chapter that really touched my heart.  First, verses 13 and 14.  The Ananias and Sapphira story is not normally seen as an uplifting story, but it is in the way it shows God’s passion and direction for the work of His church.  I see it in this blog that I write.  While I started it for me, the stats show that now hundreds of people are reading it each day.  However, what really lights my heart is the comment from an individual who saw a deeper revelation of God by sharing this avenue of fellowship with me.  I don’t think God’s design for His church is simply for us to fill up the seats and build ever bigger churches of people who want to belong to something.  I think He wants the people who believe in Him. This shines out to me in Acts 5:13-14.  The healthy fear of God puts a damper on the “tag-alongs”, but more and more men and women believed in the Lord!

The other verse is 5:17.  In previous chapters there has been much talk about the Apostles and believers being filled with the Holy Spirit and all of the power and strength and joy that created in them.  In 5:17 it says “Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy.”  I think this really highlights that we are all filled with something.  My pastor once put it in a sermon, “all men are born with a God-Sized hole in their hearts”.  During our life we try to fill it up, either with the gift of the Holy Spirit that satisfies because it fits perfectly, or with other stuff (such as jealousy) which doesn’t really fit and leaves us unsatisfied and unhappy because the hole is still there.  Remember John 10:10b from yesterday?  Christ wants us to have fullness.

Standard