Message: Death and Growth
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Japhet De Oliveira
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Jessyka Albert
Live Purpose: Kyle Smith
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin today in prayer. Ask God for understanding through the Holy Spirit and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Acts 6:8–7:60 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: I know this is a rather long passage. I really did question whether to break it down into six sections to cover over the course of the whole week. I hope that having read it all, you will agree that it was worth reading in a single sitting, simply so that you can arrive at the final words with a deeper appreciation of the context: “And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:60).
By 8:30 a.m. (PST) today, nearly 900 people will be lifting their voices in song in San Diego, California, to begin the final One project gathering. They will be exploring the theme, “Oh, How I Love Jesus.” This raises an obvious question: Since when is loving Jesus a problem? The answer is found in our passage today—it has been a problem since the very beginning of the Church. Naturally, the follow-up question is: Why was that a problem then? What we know about Stephen was that he was filled with the Holy Spirit, and that he had faith and wisdom. When the powerful leaders of his time felt threatened by him, they decided to argue with him head to head. When that approach failed, they reverted to the same methods they used on Jesus. The same method that Satan used on Adam and Eve. They created a lie and started a smear campaign. Eventually, someone believed the lies and action was taken accordingly. Stephen was arrested. The perfect smear campaign cannot be laid on too thick. It has to contain enough truth—or the appearance of truth—to make it credible. In the Garden of Eden, Satan used wisdom from God, but adjusted it ever so slightly to imply that God was withholding information from Adam and Eve. In the case of Stephen, his opponents could not find fault with his theology, but they did not like his growing influence. Power and control were slipping away from them. They had become obsolete. So they accused him of not believing exactly what they believed. Questions often reveal more about the person asking them than the person compelled to answer. I recall a conversation in which someone asked Alex Bryan and I, “Is the One project going to move past the basic doctrine of Jesus. All.?” Our answer: If the belief Jesus. All. is so basic, why are you worried about it? If the idea that to love God and love humanity is what the whole law rests on seems too simple to you, might there be something else you are looking for? Perhaps Stephen was not shaken by their questions because he knew Jesus. All. When you know that everything is in, through, by, and for Jesus, that knowledge transforms your life in ways that are anything but basic (Col. 1:15-20).
Recalibrate: What question has Jesus been asking you?
Respond: Pray for the power of the Holy Spirit at the final One project gathering today.
Research: Read Colossians 1.
So much of what our babies learn is from what they see. Let them see you choose to do good and be kind—especially when things are not going as you would want them to. This is a good lesson for them and for you.
What does the word “all” mean? If you were running a race and someone advised you to “give your all,” what would that look like? Go ahead, take a minute to race from one end of the room (or backyard) to the other, giving it your all! If you were to give your all to Jesus, what would that look like?
In the story of Stephen we see that those in the temple said many false things about him. They even set up false witnesses! Have you ever had people say false things about you? How did that make you feel? Today, take a moment to pray for those who have spoken negatively about you. In so doing, you are answering the call of Jesus to, “Pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6).