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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bass Harbor Lighthouse, Bass Harbor, Maine (photo by Howard J. Blichfeldt)
Bass Harbor Lighthouse
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(photo by Howard J. Blichfeldt)

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"Gnashing Teeth"

"They were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking" (Acts 6:10).  "Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him" (Acts 7:54).

We are reading a book about martyrs and courageous people who suffered for Christ titled "Christian Heroes". It's especially interesting since it includes martyrs from all ages including those who gave their lives for Christ in very recent years. So often in martyr stories there is an element of intense conflict between the forces of good and evil and a firm resolve on the part of the martyr to stay faithful.

I came across today's first text while studying for yesterday's message and the theme of having a "sound mind." Although I have certainly read this passage many times, yesterday this verse really jumped out at me.

It concerns Stephen who had just begun his ministry.  He was selected in the first group of seven deacons and destined for a powerful, yet short-lived preaching ministry.  He immediately drew opposition as have preachers of truth throughout all the ages.  The sacred text records that the opposition "were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking."

I've often wondered how old Stephen was and how long he had been a disciple of Christ, for even in his selection it was noted that he was a man "full of faith and of the Holy Spirit." Shortly afterward he began his servant's role he was observed as "full of grace and power."

But today's first text describes Stephen as speaking with "wisdom and the Spirit."  His only recorded sermon certainly demonstrates this spirit-anointed wisdom. It is one of my favorite Biblical sermons and a great model for all who follow Christ.  (See Acts 6 & 7.)

We expect and desire great preaching to have a receptive response. When I preach I like to see open Bibles, attentive eyes, affirming nods and even verbal amens. This last Sunday my pastor was dealing with moral purity and holiness, passionately expressing Biblical truth. At one point I found myself saying "Preach It", which usually isn't my style.  The most unconventional affirmation I can remember was from Paul Scholtz, a farm boy from Oklahoma, who attended the same small midwestern Bible College we attended. When especially moved by a point in a sermon in chapel he would declare from the balcony, "Sick 'em!"  (Paul is faithfully serving Christ as a chaplain to the rodeo and for many years was a rider himself.)

But for the most part that's not what Stephen got after his only recorded sermon. Instead we read, "Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him."  A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament by Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich defines gnashing as "a sign of violent rage."

Well, that violent rage was unleashed when Stephen was stoned to death, but he remained faithful to the very end of his earthly existence.  On my heart today, in sharing this story, is a call to first and foremost seek diligently to be a God-pleaser. I see a trend in the modern church to be liked by the world first and that's increasingly not going to be possible for the faithful in our time anymore than it was for Stephen.

In our words and actions let us seek the approval of God far more than the applause of men.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, may holiness and truth continually flow from our lives and the words we speak.  Help us to be obedient to Your commands and faithfully proclaim Your truths, making no concession to please the hearts of men rather than the heart of God.  Some will turn away while others may carefully listen to the gospel message we proclaim.  Above all may we be faithful to the Holy Scriptures and not be deterred by lack of receptivity.  For, we seek Your approval far above the approval of others.  Amen.

Paul and Linda ScholtzHere's a photo of Paul and Linda Schotlz and a page about their interesting ministry.  Paul was a friend in Bible College.  After Brooksyne and I first married in May 1976 he came out to the little country church we pastored outside of Fair Grove, Missouri and helped us with some carpentry work in the parsonage. In researching his name on Google I see Paul is battling cancer and is requesting prayer.

With Paul Schotz 1976 repairing parsonage
                                                 Paul Schotlz and me in 1976

Today I mentioned a book we are reading. Here's more info and a link to order if you desire.

The Complete Book of Christian Heroes
The Complete Book of Christian Heroes
By Dave & Neta Jackson / Tyndale House
Are there any true heroes? Discover the remarkable stories of those who have suffered for the cause of Christ throughout the course of history. This book will reveal what inspired the great heroes of faith and drove them to give their all. Featuring such gripping accounts of each hero's life, this book gives the historical and cultural information as well as quotations and Scripture passages that amplify what each hero stood for. You will learn about John Bunyan, Mary Dyer, Brother Andrew, Todd Beamer and over 200 more heroes of yesterday and today. This is an excellent resource for any home library. To order click here.

Today's Suggested Music  and Supplemental Resources

"Today I Choose"  Video  A tremendous song of commitment, faith and encouragement!

"He Giveth More Grace"  Video  Yesterday a friend called and said he had seven joys for us he wanted to bring over to share.  He dropped off seven Homecoming videos from his personal library. The songs brought great joy and thanksgiving into our home last night.  Here's a song by Larry Ford, a musician we both like, with a great message. We shared an interesting story about this hymn several years ago in an encouragement message.

"Hiding Place"  Audio

Bass Harbor Lighthouse, Bass Harbor, Maine (photo by Howard J. Blichfeldt)

Today's photo of the Bass Harbor lighthouse is by Howard J. Blichfeldt and is used with his permission. His website is here. Howard desires to honor the Lord through his photography.

Info about multi-media files used on daily encouragement.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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