June 24

Acts 7:1-19

Stephen was the first Christian martyr that we have on record. Let’s remember the accusation was a threat to temple worship.

The high priest and the council listened to Stephen unfold the Scripture. Starting on common ground, Stephen went to their Hebrew roots, mentioning Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then he moved forward with the twelve sons of Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. This is where they could all agree. Then Stephen mentions the tabernacle and the temple, and he tries to explain that God does not dwell in manmade buildings, but He is everywhere. Stephen was not against temple worship or temple leaders, but he was passionate about the new birth through Christ and the Holy Spirit living in our hearts.

Even though these spiritual leaders heard about this new covenant in Christ’s blood, they still rejected Him. Stephen came against their religious control, calling them stiff-nicked and uncircumcised in their hearts and ears. That was a strong insult that angered the council members. These men were passionate about the Law and their religious systems and positions.

Then Stephen, being full of the Holy Spirit, saw into the spirit realm. He “gazed” into heaven. When the word “gaze” is used in Acts, it is referring to looking into the spirit realm or having a spiritual revelation/leading. He saw the glory of God. He saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. He was amazed, and shouted, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” The Bible says his face was shining.

They did not see the vision. Only Stephen saw the vision. From their perspective, Stephen was not only a threat; but he was acting superior to them. The men were infuriated. They covered their ears and ran at Stephen, violently taking him out of the city, throwing stones at his body until he died. Stephen, as he was stoned, called out to God, saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” As he was taking hits, he also said, “Lord, do not charge them with the sin.” Then he died.

Here we also see that young Saul was watching over the coats of the men stoning Stephen, watching and approving of the stoning. Saul is also Apostle Paul, who is one of the biggest transformations we see in the New Testament.

If God can turn Saul around to become one of the most impactful apostles of the early church, then we should have faith that God can change anyone.

If we try to hold someone to their past, we will find ourselves in opposition to the blood and cross of Christ. The price Jesus paid was as much for their salvation as it is for ours. If we don’t forgive others, then God cannot forgive us (Matthew 11:25-26). If we judge to condemn others, then we will live under judgment and condemnation.

Have you ever met a religiously condemning Christian? They may have started in the spirit, but they continued to put their trust in themselves and their self-sufficient, self-righteous performance, gravitating back to what we call “the flesh,” or mere human effort. Then they want to judge and condemn others who aren’t as self-controlled as they think they are. They neglect love, compassion, mercy, and grace to draw people to the Lord. Instead, they are hard, pushing people away from the Lord, pointing out faults, condemning their wrong doing. The kindness of God leads people to repentance. Being able to trust His love, they can open their hearts and surrender their lives to Him. Jesus is the One who can change the heart, making someone righteous before God. Jesus is also the One who patiently works with us in a process of restoring us, strengthening us, and correcting us to help us walk uprightly.

We need to receive God’s grace, then we need to extend His grace. Showing mercy to someone is not compromising holiness. Jesus showed people God’s ways, speaking truth in love. We are to do the same.

Job 1-3

Chronologically, Job is one of the first stories in the history of mankind. Scholars believe his life was lived somewhere between 2000 to 1800 BC. Many believe that Moses wrote the book, others consider Solomon, but the authorship is not certain. Job was a Gentile, a wealthy man, who lived a nomadic lifestyle. Some believe he was a descendant of Abraham’s brother, Nahor.

Why is it that Job is not in the Bible until after the judges, the kings, the captivity and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the second temple. The reason is because the Bible is assembled by category. Job is considered a poetic book, like Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. Job is considered to have been a real person because he is mentioned in Ezekiel 14:14 and James 5:11.

The first two chapters of Job are a prologue to the remainder of the story. We see Satan ask God if he could test Job, accusing Job of only having faith in God because of Job’s blessed life. Satan attacks Job’s wealth, family, and then his health. In chapter 3, Job reacts to the trauma and grief by crying out in despair, so obviously he is affected in his soul, his mind and his emotions.

I see this book as a book of testing Job’s reliance upon God. I see human nature looking for someone or something to blame for trouble, rather than seeking God for answers. I see a lot of talk that is void of understanding of who God is and His role of authority in our lives. This book encourages me to look to God as my ultimate authority, no matter what the world or Satan may try to throw at me. We are like planets that are held in gravity to the son; we are children of God that are in the grip of our Father. Whatever the environment we are in, no matter the fire of the testing, nothing can take us out of His hand. Our life is found in God and in God alone.

Let’s take a deeper look into the prologue.

Satan is in God’s presence. Satan, once known as Lucifer, challenged God’s authority, and God threw Lucifer out of heaven and to earth. The throw that was quick and violent, like a bolt of lightening (By the way, Jesus said He saw this event a long time before He became one of us).

God’s sons, His angels, were presenting themselves before Him. Satan came in with them. God addresses Satan, asking where he came from. He came from walking the earth. Does Satan regularly report in with God? Or is this an unusual occurrence? The Bible doesn’t really say.

People are God’s treasure. Satan is in opposition to God, an unredeemable, unchangeable spirit being. He hates God, so he goes after God’s treasure. God and Satan discuss a person. God asked Satan if he had considered his servant, Job. Job was known to fear God and shun evil (1:1). We see that Job regularly offered sacrifice to God (1:5). Satan, who is working to turn God’s sons and daughters against their Father, wants to see if Job would still be faithful to God if he didn’t have provision, health, or his family. God allowed Job to be tested for a time.

In 2:10 it says that “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” His wife came against him, questioning the reason for his integrity, encouraging him to curse God and die. Not too supportive, is she? In his suffering, his partner in family and in life challenges Job’s heart, but he stays true. He never lets go of his integrity. Even though Job questions and doesn’t understand, we know he believed God was good.

When Jesus went to the cross, His sacrifice paid the penalty of sin and its effects. The effects include poverty, sickness, and death. Then Jesus raised from the dead and gave us authority over Satan, sin, sickness, poverty, and much more! Hallelujah! As we read Job, let’s keep in mind that Job is a poetic book that happened before the cross. Satan has no right to test us with poverty, sickness, or death. We have to take our authority over him and receive the blessings that Jesus provided for us.

The Bible tells us that we will sometimes go through trials or suffering for Christ’s sake. The purpose of trials is to grow and strengthen, to purify and free us. Another purpose is to help us learn to surrender, or die to self, so we can know more of the glory of God.

Trials and suffering can be challenges with a fallen world. It could be dealing with other imperfect people in imperfect situations. It could be facing the world’s system and choosing God’s ways over the world’s ways. Also, some have been through persecution inside and outside of the church family for the sake of what God wants to do. God asks us to endure in faith, and He will help us.

The end from the beginning
We know at the end of this poetic book, God restores everything back to Job and more. There is a phrase from Job 1:21 that says, “He gives and takes away.” Thank God we know that God doesn’t put sickness, poverty, or death on us. Thank God we know Jesus redeemed us from those curses. God does not give healing and then take it away. God does not give provision and then take it away. God does not give life and then take it away. God asks us to surrender to Him in faith and obedience. As we live surrendered to Him, He is faithful to care for our needs. He is faithful!

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