Stephen — Heart + Fire!

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Today, I ask that you play the video at the bottom and listen as you read the blog.

In Latin, focus means “heart” and “fire”.

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,” Hebrews 12:2 KJV

“But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God;and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”  Acts 7:55

Stephen gazed intently.  The author of Hebrews tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus”.  Paul says we are “to look not at the things which are seen.”  The Greek Dictionary of the New Testament defines “fixing” or “looking” as “looking with undivided attention to the Originator and Perfecter of faith.”  It is more about looking away from all that distracts us and looking to Jesus.

In Acts 6-7, we find the story of Stephen.  Stephen was chosen to serve tables.  There were widows who had come back to Jerusalem that were being neglected.  The apostles needed some help with the explosion of new Christians.  They needed to spend time in prayer and ministry of the word.  Seven men were chosen to minister to the people’s needs.  Stephen was one of the seven.  Stephen’s resume told of a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit.  He was “doing great wonders and signs among the people.”  Acts 7: 8 ESV  When confronted by opposition, he was a great preacher.  He must have be a hell-fire and brimstone preacher because the confrontation “cut them to the heart,” and it cost him his life.  The crowd did not respond to the sermon in repentance but in anger.  So much so that they ground their teeth at him.

In reading the story, I found that Stephen’s remarks about gazing into heaven and seeing the glory of God took place before they stoned him.  In my mind, it was similar to Jesus in the garden where he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come.”  But no, it was not a death- bed confession.  It was the reason they stoned him.

Why I ask?  What enraged them so much that they “gnashed their teeth”?  He had given them a history lesson of Israel.  Yes, he called them stiff necked, uncircumcised in heart and ears, and always resistant to the Holy Spirit.  Yes, he said they were just like their fathers before them that killed the prophets. But, it upset them that he had just accused them of betraying and killing the Righteous One.  They had their entire religion built on the coming of Messiah and now they are accused of murdering him.  The enraged the religious leaders.  But the next verse is why they stoned Stephen.

Acts 7:55-56 says, “But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  And he said, ‘Behold I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him.”

Why after all he had told them was this the last straw?

Earlier in Acts 6: 15, we are told, “the council looking steadily on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.”  Now they are ready to stone him for a vision of heaven? Why?

Let’s look at what Jesus said to Caiaphas at his trial.  Matthew 26: 57-68. In verse 61, “At last two false witnesses came and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’  And the high priest stood up and said, ‘Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?’ But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, ’I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’  Then the high priest tore his robes and said, ’He has uttered blasphemy. What further witness do we need?'”

Stephen had just announced that what Jesus had told the high priest on the day he was condemned to the cross had come to pass.  With his face like that of an angel, he had told them this vision of heaven of the glory of God with Jesus “standing at the right hand of power.”  The religious leaders would have recalled what Jesus had said; they would have understood that Stephen was affirming that indeed what Jesus had told Caiaphas had come true.  But with their stiff necked hearts they refused to come to the truth.

Stephen looked away from all the distraction and look to Jesus the author and perfecter of his faith.  He forgot the crowd and their anger and saw only Jesus standing -not seated- but standing with open arms ready to receive him into the glory of heaven.  The angry crowd could take no more so they rushed him and cast him out of the city and stoned him, laying their coats at Saul’s feet.  Saul would become Paul and the mantel is passed to another man full of the Holy Spirit and power.

What truths are there for us today?

What is it we fix our eyes upon?

What wisdom and knowledge have we received from spending so much time with the Lord and His Word?

How are we at looking away from the distractions of this world and looking beyond to see the glory of heaven?

Stephen went from serving tables to sitting at the heavenly table.  When we serve in love and devotion to our Savior and Lord, there are rewards waiting.  The blessing of service and the devotion to the Word will exalt believers to where only Jesus is seen.

In these last days, it is so important that we build up our most holy faith because the Word says the end will be a time of tribulation and persecution.   Prepare for the rapture but build your life so that you are ready to give your life for Jesus.

Focus ? = Heart ? +Fire ?

For a worship experience with this word today, you need to watch the video.

Through it all my eyes are on you! It well with my soul

It is well. Bethel Music

Through it all my eyes are on you!!

Freda

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