Monday, June 16, 2014

A Day Late - Studying Stephen

Yesterday was my scheduled day to make a blog post. As regular readers know, on Sunday on this blog I discuss something with a Christian theme, typically what we studied in our Life Group (a.k.a. adult Sunday School class) that morning. Thursday I discuss some other topic of interest to me. It might be something related to my writing, or to the news of the day, or even life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But yesterday I was busy with a number of things, and didn't get my post written and published.

The things I did were good things. After church we went to eat with my mother-in-law at her independent living dining facility. It was a great lunch, as always. When we got home after lunch I went for a 5K walk. On the hills around our house, pushing it fairly hard, I completed the course in 51:17, my best time of the year by far. When I got home I cooled down a little, then went to The Dungeon and typed a handful of edits on The Gutter Chronicles. Lynda and I had read this aloud on Saturday (she enjoyed it, even not being an engineer). As in every published books it had typos, and a couple of places where the text could have been clearer. We marked those places, and yesterday I typed the edits. This morning I updated the corrected version to CreateSpace. The corrected version will go live tomorrow. Tonight I'll finish correcting the Kindle version and re-publish it, and tomorrow, hopefully, the Smashwords edition.

Then I went to Wal-Mart to pick up a prescription and get a few groceries. Then it was home, watch some World Cup soccer, fix a salad for supper, read various things, read Sherlock Holmes aloud, watch a couple of stock trading videos. It was then 11:00 p.m. I took some time to check out some of the trading procedures mentioned in the videos, and it was time for bed.

In our Life Group yesterday my co-teacher continued in our series on This Changes Everything, how the lives of the disciples were changed by the resurrection. Yesterday we looked at Stephen, the first martyr. He was one of seven chosen to provide improved administration of the daily food distribution in response to the first crisis in the church. If you know the book of Acts you know the story. As the church grew, they did not have an organizational structure. They were involved in compassionate ministries, particularly distributing food to widows. The Aramaic speaking widows were being served just fine, but the Greek speaking widows weren't. In response to the complaint the apostles met and told the congregation to appoint people who could do this. Stephen was one of those chosen.

The story is familiar. The church continued to grow in response to this better run ministry. Stephen was particularly effective, not only in the compassionate ministry, but also as an advocate for the new Christian faith. The Jews didn't like that, and some members of a certain synagogue brought him up on charges before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling body. The charges were that he was trying to subvert the Jewish religion and change age-old practices. The Sanhedrin asked him to defend himself.

He did so, giving the Cliff Notes version of Jewish history, but then saying that the Jews were stiff-necked, and had killed God's chosen one, Jesus Christ. At this the council and the crowd, to use a modern term, went ape. They took Stephen out and stoned him to death. Standing by, approving and participating by guarding the clothing of those who cast the stones, was Saul. Through his murder, Stephen's conduct was exemplary: keeping his wits, displaying his faith, praying for his attackers.

Clearly, this kind of behavior would not happen for a dead savior. If Jesus had died, and not been resurrected, I don't believe we would see Stephen going to his grave because he supported that dead man. But, if Christ is risen, that changes everything. Then there is a power in all that their rabbi taught them and commanded them to do, to go into all the world and preach the gospel, making disciples of all nations.

What a change in Stephen. We can be pretty sure from acts that he was a disciple before Jesus' crucifixion. Most likely he was one of those in the upper room at Pentecost, even could have been one of those "behind locked doors" on resurrection day. Remember, the scripture says the "disciples" were there, not the "apostles." We can't be sure of that, but it seems probable to me.

So yes, I believe the resurrection changes everything. We see it in the life of Stephen, as we saw it in the lives of Thomas and Peter. I hope the world sees it in my life as well.

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