March 10, Thursday

Editor’s Note:  The AMI QT Devotionals from March 7-13 are provided by Kate Moon.  Kate has been serving the Lord in E. Asia for nearly 15 years. 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Acts 7:51-54: 51 You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears!  You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!  52 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 –  53 you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.”  54 When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.

10Have you ever found yourself angered by someone’s words or actions only to realize later that they were right and you were wrong?  If so, consider yourself fortunate as it is better than being insensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit to the end.

Soon after Stephen comes to the climax of his speech with these words, he himself joins the too-long line of prophets who, throughout Israel’s history, have been persecuted by their own countrymen.  Before the Sanhedrin, Stephen speaks of Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers out of jealousy (v. 9), and Moses who was rejected by the Israelites, though he had performed miracles to prove he had been sent by God to deliver and govern them (vv. 35-36).  Through Holy Spirit-inspired wisdom, by reviewing these stories from their collective past, Stephen masterfully shows what is in the hearts of man and whose side, in the end, history ends up being on.  As they listened to Stephen speak, were the chief priests able to see the jealousy in their own hearts that had led them to crucify Jesus on the cross?  Could they see that in rejecting Jesus, who had been sent by God to be their Lord and Savior, they were rejecting the “prophet like [Moses]” (v. 37) whose office had been authenticated by miracles just as Moses’ was?

From their reaction, it is clear that they understood what Stephen was saying about them, but they were not able to receive it.  When earlier Peter preaches the same message, people are struck to the heart, and 3,000 people repent and turn to God (Acts 2:36-41).  When Stephen preaches, his audience continues to resist the conviction of the Holy Spirit and ends up persecuting, even unto death, yet another prophet sent to them by God.

Is there someone or a situation that is making you angry today?  Examine your heart carefully to see whether your anger is justified or whether the Holy Spirit is trying to speak to you about this situation.  If He is, listen.  If needed, repent.

Prayer

Holy Spirit, would You search my heart to see if there is any offensive way within me?  Especially if there is any anger and I am in the wrong, convict me.  I’ve seen in Your word today how scary a thing it is to have a hardened heart.  I don’t want to resist You; please help me not to resist.  In Jesus’ name.

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 19

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Lunch Break Study

Read Acts 7:54-58 & 1 Timothy 1:13-17:

When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 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. 56  ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’  57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Questions to Consider

  1. How are the Sanhedrin described here?
  2. How is Stephen described in contrast?
  3. Paul, who witnessed this scene as Saul in Acts 7:58, later writes 1 Timothy 1:13-17.  In light of his transformation, what hope is there for our anger-filled society today?  What should we keep doing, no matter what the circumstances?

Notes

  1. Gnashing teeth, yelling, throwing things – it is a picture of people turned almost inhuman as they are overcome by a violent anger – a picture, unfortunately, that we have seen one time too many, whether in tragic news reports or for some, in childhood memories growing up.
  2. In this moment when people are furious with him, Stephen is looking up to heaven, seeing God, and pointing others to Him, still wanting them to see Him, too.
  3. If he was the one who described the scene to Luke, his traveling companion and author of Acts, it means that even when Paul was not a sympathetic observer, Stephen’s witness had been burned in his memory, made an impact. We need to keep pointing people to Jesus.

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Evening Reflection

As God’s kingdom advances, there is resistance, both from without and within.  Was I able to stand firm in my witness in an unsympathetic world today?  Was I able to stay soft in my heart and yield to the Holy Spirit today?

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