Believers are responsible for God’s reputation (Rom.2:24). Because of us unbelievers will want to know Jesus; won’t want to truly know; or won’t even know who He is. Before Paul witnessed Stephen stoned, he thought he knew. After the stoning Paul became more zealous against Jesus. Sometimes people don’t want to know more because of our righteous example – and then later will want to. I have no doubt that when Jesus miraculously appeared to Paul, and for a lifetime later, he could still hear Stephen say, “Lord Jesus receive my spirit….Lord do not charge them with this sin” (Acts 7:59-60). I doubt this scene would have as much meaning if Stephen started throwing stones back at Paul and the others. When Jesus appeared to Paul, he was ready. I believe believers like Stephen helped pave the way. It is meaningful that as Stephen relived the death of Jesus; Paul will relive and teach that all of us are living and dying the death of Jesus.
The sermon begins in chapter 7, but the set up begins in chapter 6. One point to emphasize is that the detractors could not “compete” with Stephen’s wisdom, and the Spirit by which he spoke (6.10). Looking at the text, we have combined together the wisdom of a good and godly man with the inspiration from a good God. Today we can imitate this by using good sense when we teach and preach, along with quoting God’s word.
In Stephen’s sermon we can see his wisdom:
- He begins by finding common ground. Most of what he says up front will be agreed to by his curious audience.
- He lays a foundation for Jesus without mentioning Jesus:
- Abraham came to a foreign land; Jesus left heaven.
- Abraham didn’t receive his inheritance while alive; Jesus didn’t either.
- Israel was enslaved by Egyptians; Jesus taught sin enslaves us.
- Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him; the Jewish leaders were of Jesus.
- Joseph was rescued and exalted; Jesus was rescued through resurrection and exalted.
- Joseph provided food during the famine; Jesus was the bread of life.
- Joseph was finally revealed to his brothers; Jesus is being revealed to His.
- Joseph invited his family to live with Him; Jesus invites His.
- Jacob was buried in a tomb; Jesus was too but was resurrected.
- A king arose who did not recognize Joseph; the Jewish leaders did not recognize Jesus.
- Israelites did not recognize deliverance through Moses; many Jews did not recognize deliverance through Jesus.
- Israelites mistreated Israelites; Jesus was a Jew mistreated by Jews.
- Israelites did not want Moses as their judge; Jewish leaders did not want Jesus.
- Moses taught a prophet like him would arise; but the Jewish teachers rejected the Prophet sent.
- There is shift in Joseph’s teaching from the comfortable to the uncomfortable as the Jewish listeners had to rehear their own stubborn history.
- Stephen in his sermon shows that Jesus and Jews of His time basically were reliving their entire history.
- Then Stephen turns from implication to insinuation. That leads to his death which also imitates the death of Jesus.
When I was a preacher in my 20’s, my best friend in the congregation was a man in his 70’s. Our unusual friendship was in the Lord. He was a retired electrician. One day he made an interesting comment: “I know how electricity works; I just don’t know why.” That same sentiment was in a book I read called, “The Physics and Philosophy of the Bible.” One point reiterated several times was that science knows how something works; they just don’t know why. Examples of such were: MRI’s, white blood cells, and gravity. Knowing why is a special knowledge.
When studying baptism we often study the WWWWH aspects. Who is baptized is not infants, but those accountable. What includes both being born of water and Spirit. When someone is baptized is after they believe, repent, and confess. Where is any place there is water (Acts 8:36). Why is for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), to be saved (Mk.16:16), and such. How is by immersion.
What I would like to focus on is a different why – why does baptism work? Those of us who believe in the necessity of baptism often hear baptism disparaged by calling it a work. The Bible does not call it a work. But in this lesson let us study why baptism works. Knowing why will give us the special knowledge that makes our baptism more meaningful.
Genesis 1-3: A Real Man is A Pardox—
- A Real Man Is a Paradigm that is Not Perfect (Genesis 1:26,27,31)
- A Real Man Is a Purposed Creation That Needs Guidance (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:7)
- A Real Man Is a Provider But Not Just A Paycheck (Genesis 2:15; 3:17-19)
- A Real Man Is a Proclaimer of Truth Still Learning From Others (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-3)
- A Real Man Is a Partner to His Wife, but Head of His Wife (Genesis 2:18)
- A Real Man Is a Prince But Not Domineering (Genesis 2:21-22)
- A Real Man Professes His Love Even When Silent (Genesis 2:23)
- A Real Man Is Prioritized But Not Excluding (Genesis 2:24a)
- A Real Man Is Possessive But Not Possessing (Genesis 2:24b)
- A Real Man Is Passionate But Guarded (Genesis 2:24c)
- A Real Man Is Pledged But Devoted To God First (Genesis 2:24c)
- A Real Man Is Pure Especially When Asking for Forgiveness (Genesis 2:25)
- A Real Man Is A Protector But Never A Bully (Genesis 3:6a)
- A Real Man Is Principled and Pleads Guilty But is Not Stubborn (Genesis 3:12)
Before a psalm is taken apart and analyzed, each needs to be experienced, even felt, as our emotions overflow and overtake our minds. We need to allow the Psalms to take apart our lives as it takes part in our lives. To experience Psalm 6 we have to experience the pain and the praise. To experience Psalm 6, re-experience a time in your life when you felt as David feels:
(1) LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger; do not discipline me in Your wrath. (2) Be gracious to me, LORD, for I am weak; heal me, LORD, for my bones are shaking; read more » »
My morning prayer: “Dear Lord, thank you for two layers of covers (it is winter), a bathroom close to my bed (I am getting old), and a hand to hold while I sleep” (I am still very much in love). You might be thinking this prayer’s contents are first mundane, then TMI, and finally sweet. The point is I was being honest with God, and with you. That describes the Psalms, honest; and Psalm 5 is a honest morning prayer.
This plea to the Divine reveals David’s morning emotions: “Listen to my words, LORD; consider my sighing. Pay attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for I pray to You. At daybreak, LORD, You hear my voice; at daybreak I plead my case to You….” (5.1-3). Maybe David tossed and turned all night. Maybe he woke up several times to pray. Whatever is going on, David wakes up praying. Have you been there? read more » »
We all care what others think of us. Some admit it. Some are controlled by it. Others react against it. We can pretend we don’t care; but other’s words and opinions often hurt. The cloaked emotional crisis is what others think can lead beyond thoughts and words; dangerous actions can result, sometimes by “me.”
Psalm 4 is a bedtime prayer remembering what God thinks and does is like God – above all. David prays, “Answer me when I call, God, who vindicates me” (4.1). Realizing God is the source of our well-being is right; but it doesn’t always keep what others think and do from infiltrating our minds. If it did, David wouldn’t be praying – and writing – about it.
“You freed me from affliction” (4.1). David is living the future, making it the present. The affliction is seen in his complaint: “How long, exalted men, will my honor be insulted? How long will you love what is worthless and pursue a lie?” (4.2). Have you been slandered? Has your honor been attacked? Have you been lied about? David’s situation is not unlike ours. His solution is to grab hold of future freedom as if it is the present. David is praying the future into the now. Think about the power that emotional relief brings. It is the power of freedom.
David continues: “Know that the LORD has set apart the faithful for Himself; the LORD will hear when I call to Him” (4.3). Despite what others might think, David is faithful, and when he says, “Answer me when I call,” he knows God will. What’s comforting about this is often when slanderers curse our name and lie about us, weak-minded people believe it. When they do, former friends fail to “answer the phone” when we call.
What happens when we weakly are controlled by the sins others commit against us? I am going to take vv.4-5 as advice David is giving, whether to himself or others. More pointedly, I am going to take it as advice taken by me: “Be angry and do not sin; on your bed, reflect in your heart and be still. Offer sacrifices in righteousness and trust in the LORD.” When we hurt, we get angry. Our anger is not wrong, but it can lead to wrong. Consider this; our anger is a warning to ourselves shouting “Be careful!” When we feel ourselves losing our emotional balance, we need to “reflect.” We need to pause to think. Then we need to worship. Part of our worship is remembering our self-worth comes from what God thinks of us, not others. This helps protect us from ourselves.
Psalm 4 closes by dismissing more thoughts of others (4.6); and praying again to God (4.6-8). David thanks God for giving him more joy in his heart than what others have over materialistic goods. Freedom brings joy. Finally, David can go to “sleep in peace” because God alone makes him “live in safety.” Free, maybe even from himself.
Prayer Challenge: Pray for freedom from caring from other’s thoughts; these can lead them and us to unfaithful actions. And then sleep well, living future’s freedom today.
The best French fries are at Ollie’s Trolley. I got to eat these growing up when my father would take me to his workplace. One Saturday he did not take me, so I gathered my friends, and we stormed his office. My father’s friends looked out the window. Seeing us on the march they warned my father who escaped. No one left dared stop us. I took over my father’s position in the firm. From now on I didn’t have to wait to see what my father might give me. From now on I could eat all the Ollie’s fries I wanted.
Part of the above story is not true. Hopefully you figured out I didn’t overthrow my father. Children don’t do things like that. And yet, haven’t we all heard stories where a grownup-child finagled a way to oust their parent-boss and take over the company? In a sense, that is what happened to King David. His son Absalom almost succeeded in his coup. So what did David do? He prayed. According to the historical heading, this prayer is recorded in the third Psalm.
“LORD, my foes have increased! There are many who attack me” (3.1). The one leading the charge is his son! The term had not yet been invented, but David and Absalom definitely have a dysfunctional relationship. Maybe you can relate. David’s enemies – led by his son – even claim, “There is no help for him in God” (3.2). Either they thought God had forsaken David; David had given up on God; or they were more powerful than God.
Praying, David calls Yahweh “a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head” (3.3). God is David’s help, his source of honor, and the one who gives him hope. Think about this. Although David is supported by his loyal army he knows his strength is ultimately God’s protection. Although David has lost all outward appearance of respect among his people, his inner nobility comes from above and not from the opinions of others. And although David is chased from his home, he trusts God will restore him. Is it because he is God’s anointed and remembers God’s promise (2 Sam.7.8-16)? Our position before God and His promises to us are powerful reminders. David has strength without the position of being king; honor without the nobility of sitting on the throne; and confidence he will again sit where God has placed him. That is David’s prayer. Because of David’s relationship with God, he can “lie down and sleep; (and) wake again because the LORD sustains me” (3:5).
There is part of the prayer we will deal with at another time (v.7): Does David wish harm on his “enemies?” For now focus on this: family, friends, job, church position – not even ourselves – can be the true source of our confidence, respect, and hope in life. That belongs to God; and no one can take it from us.
Prayer Challenge: Many can’t sleep, often because of family dysfunctions; so pray that we always look to God for our ultimate fulfillment.
Scratched into a wall in Germany during World War II by someone hiding from the Nazi’s are these faithful words:
I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.
I believe in love even when I am alone.
I believe in God even when He is silent.
Nothing may be more frightening than God answering our prayers; especially when we have called out God as unfair, unjust, unloving, and other unfavorable descriptions, as had Job. I am thankful I am not Job; but in a way we all are. Job has to live with God’s silence as he suffers; as do we. Even when Job finally gets an “answer,” it is not an answer to why. It is an answer of who: Who God is and who Job is not. read more » »