July 19th

"Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him.  Be 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.  Then they cast him out of the city, and stoned him.  And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.  And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."  And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord do not hold this sin against them."  And when he had said this, he fell asleep."  Acts 7: 54-60

In Acts 7 - We see Stephen one of the deacons of the church is standing before the religious rulers and is asked about the false charges that was brought up against him.  And Stephen preaches a message to them, concerning their need for Jesus.

They are enraged that he is preaching to them, and they are so angry that it tells us they are grinding their teeth at him. They will take him out of the city and they will stone him to death.  We see that Saul was a part of this and gave approval to the death of Stephen.

If you were Stephen, how would you respond to anger, hatred, and being stoned to death?

We see his response:

* Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit - even when his life is being taken from Him.  The Holy Spirit is needed in our every day lives, not just for a church service when we want to feel good.  But the Holy Spirit empowers us to get through the hard times of life.  The Holy Spirit is there to equip us with what we need to face the ups and downs of life.

* Stephen saw the Lord!  We see to look to the Lord in the difficult times of life.  We need a vision of Jesus when life is hard!  We need to keep focused on heaven, and not on the things of this earth.  We need to look up, because that is where our help comes from in life!  (Read, Psalm 121)

* Stephen prayed!  He called out to the Lord, as he is taking His last breaths here on earth.  Prayer is crying out to the Lord for His help, His grace, His strength, His presence in the difficult seasons of life!  "He is our refuge and strength a very present help in the time of need."

* Stephen had a heart of forgiveness!  He prayed that the Lord would not hold this sin against them.  He was praying for the very ones that were stoning him to death.  Only the Holy Spirit can give us a spirit of forgiveness to those who are attacking us and looking to kill us.  Who do we need to forgive in our lives?

Lord, help me to have this kind of relationship with You in the difficult times of life!  Fill me with the Holy Spirit in all the seasons of life!

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