Posts Tagged With: Stephen

The Man Who Bore the Stigmata

YOU are poetry personified.

A living, breathing, warm-blooded, lyrically beautiful poem.

Want proof? Here’s proof:

His name is Saul of Tarsus.

To us, he will forever be memorialized as the celebrated Apostle Paul. Though, as you will hear in this PODCAST, he would reject out of hand that lofty adjective “celebrated.”

We celebrate Paul because we owe to him more than we could ever hope to repay. For starters, thirteen epistles preserved as New Testament Scripture. Which, when taken together, form 23% of NT.

It is true that our old friend Luke was actually the more prolific of the two—Luke wrote slightly more of the New Testament in terms of word count, 27%. (And BTW, in case you are interested, the Apostle John gets the bronze medal—John’s Gospel, 3 epistles, Revelation combine for 20% of the New Testament.)

It is to Luke we owe a huge debt of gratitude for his compelling biography of Jesus and his gripping history of the ancestors in our faith, in whose glow we bask each week as we study this great book of Acts.

But it is really Paul who more than any other biblical writer lays for us theological foundation for our faith.

So while we do indeed, and for good reason, celebrate the vaunted apostle, he would describe himself as the least—λχιστος (a superlative, “less than the least”)—of all the apostles (1 Cor. 15:9). And Eph 3:8, “less than the least of all God’s people.”

This was not false modesty on Paul’s part. Not at all. This was a guy who was abundantly self-aware. He knew the roots from which he sprang. He knew that his very first mention in the New Testament places him at scene of, and makes him complicit in, the stoning of Stephen. Not Paul’s finest hour by any stretch.

Paul understood that all that he was was do solely and singularly to God’s amazing grace. The chorus of which he sung regularly and repeatedly.

So much for us to learn and know and appreciate and to emulate in this marvelous man. Let’s meet him now.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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The Most Glorious Gift You Can Imagine (Courtesy of Stephen)

Philippians 1:3 (in the NLT) reads,

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.”

As you will hear in this PODCAST, Philippians is a “Thank You” note from Paul’s sizable soul to the not-so-sizable ékklesia—or small faith family—meeting in Philippi.

Paul wrote this precious little letter upon receiving a financial gift that the believers there sacrificially sent to him to help sustain him during some very dark and difficult days during which he was imprisoned in Rome.

As I reflected upon the fact that this week we will celebrate five glorious years together as our own Safe Haven ékklesia, it did not take me long to realize that (as it is translated in the NIV),

“I thank my God every time I remember you.”

BTW, please keep listening until the end, where I give to you a little anniversary gift of my own, courtesy of Stephen—the first martyr of our precious Christian faith.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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A Sermon for the Ages (Not mine, but Stephen’s!)

It was a sermon for the ages.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, it was originally preached by a layman. He had no formal training in advanced biblical studies. There is no mention of any degrees. No diploma hung on his office wall, if he had an office. We have no indication that he had studied under a leading rabbi, such as Saul studied under Gamaliel.

His only claim to fame? Stephen was (Acts 6:3) “full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom”; (6:8) “a man full of God’s grace and power.” And that was certainly enough!

Stephen was a humble, unassuming man, selected by Hellenistic, Greek-speaking Jewish believers in Jesus to be one of “The Seven,” chosen to care for their neglected widows.

Through circumstances not of his choosing, Stephen was suddenly thrust into the spotlight, hauled violently before the Sanhedrin, and forced to testify on his behalf.

But instead, Stephen chose to testify on Jesus’ behalf.

And oh what a testimony it was. You talk about power.

Stephen embodied God’s power as he took the High Court on an exciting excursion through Old Testament history.

And in so doing, provided for us a most-significant warning. One that you and I desperately need to hear.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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Pivot-Point

I LOVE meeting new friends.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, we have the privilege of meeting yet-another. A standout individual. A stellar human being. Though given his humility, I am sure that he would not be comfortable with my characterization.

His name is Stephanos. Significantly, a Greek name. (As we learned last week, a not-so-trivial factoid.)

A man affectionately known to us as Stephen.

A name that means “crown.” In Stephen’s case, a well-deserved crown that he is no doubt wearing in Heaven as we speak.

A man who stood as—and at—pivot-point of history.

There haven’t been many of those throughout human history. But the event about which you will hear certainly rises to that level of an event after which our world, let alone our lives, would never be the same again.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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Dramatic Words of a Dying Man (Part 3)

darknesscross-e1458908003261Caiaphas, the high priest that year, must have been fit to be tied.

Well, somewhat so.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, it was Passover. The Holy City, Jerusalem, was teaming with pilgrims. The all-important 3 PM Passover sacrifice at the Temple was fast-approaching.

It was arguably single most financially-flourishing day of the year (second only, perhaps, to the Day of Atonement) as far as the corrupt Temple Industrial Complex over which Caiaphas presided was concerned. There was money to be made this day. Lots and lots of money.

But the heavens seemed to conspire against Caiaphas.

Of all the luck (bad luck indeed), a most-rare, hauntingly-eerie atmospheric anomaly threatened to diminish severely Caiaphas’ shady haul of ill-gotten shekels.

At 12 PM, high noon, a mere three hours before the afternoon sacrifice, the sky turned ominously dark. If it stayed that way, there would be no 3 PM Passover Lamb sacrificed that day.

Well, according to Matthew 27 — Read ’em and weep, Caiaphas. 

“At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until 3 o’clock.”

A darkness that drove everyone away from the cross as they scrambled for shelter from the encroaching gloom of that midday backness.

Coincidence? No way!

Now there would be no Passover Lamb sacrificed at 3 PM on this day.

Or would there?

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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