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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Feast of Stephen

It is the day after Christmas.  The day after we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  My wife is already planning how to celebrate with the grandkids next time.  Life goes on, one of my sons and his wife left this morning to go skiing in Colorado.  My other kids will shortly go back to work.  Life goes on.  The bills for Christmas will show up in the next few weeks.
Feast of Stephen
Today though if you or your church follows the liturgical calendar is the feast of Stephen.  Stephen was the first martyr.  We read of his selection as one of the seven chosen to serve food to the widows of the Hellenistic Jews in Acts 6.  This chapter came up in my study with a Moroccan pastor last week.  His observation was astute.  He noted that the qualifications for being a server of food, in verse 3 were to have a good reputation, be full of the Spirit, and full of wisdom.  There is no mention by the twelve of any ethnic qualifications.  That is striking since this is presented as an ethnic issue.  Think about the implications of that for today.  I am moving on to chapter 7.

In chapter 7 we read about Stephen’s “defense”.  He was arrested because the people that were challenging him were not able to keep up.  Essentially, he was arrested because he frustrated them and they were jealous.  They lied about what he was doing to get him in trouble.  By the way that is one of the ways the enemy will try to take you out, he will lie about what you are doing or saying.

Reading through Stephen’s defense one begins to realize the astounding handle he has on the history of Israel.  He knew the story, he knew the Word.  He was able to draw at least two parallels from the history with the way the current leadership had dealt with Jesus.  They were not pleased.

So here is a man who is chosen from among the disciples to serve food to widows.  He is able to perform signs and wonders, refute those who challenge the gospel, and handle the Word well enough to render the leaders of the people speechless and furious.  So they did the only thing they could.  They killed him.

Many of our fellowships have elected deacons.  That word is derived from the Greek word serve in Acts 6, διακονία, diakonia, or as we use it, deacon.  How are your deacons chosen?  What is it that your church looks for in one who serves?  Are they the type of men who are of good reputation, full of the Spirit, full of wisdom, able to perform signs and wonders, able to confound those who attack the gospel, able to handle the Word so well that they infuriate those opposed to the gospel?  Or is there some other criteria?  Why would we settle?