Lessons from Acts Chapter 6

Back in my ‘pre-kids-working-full- time’ life, I was working for a company that specialised in Corporate Psychology. My boss was a highly trained Psychologist who spent most days helping large company managers and leaders analyse and develop their leadership potential. One of the things I learnt to do in my role…

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30 | 03 |2017

I am nearly in April and the switch to Autumn is finally happening. The early hours of the mornings are darker and the crisp air is finally make its presence felt as the sun rises. We have finally settled in our new home which brings with it a sense of peace as we make this our a home. It’s taken me a while to realise that the book of  Acts is going to take me a very long time to finish.  I am still in chapter 6 and 7 and I haven’t moved from here in over a week.  I have been sitting here simply not ready to move away from the God whispers about this part of the story. there is a set up in motion that Luke wants us to see and feel and I don’t want to miss it. Luke uses chapter 6 to create context for the next few chapters.  iT is in chapter 6 and chapter 7 that something dramatic takes place that shifts the church into a different era and it is all a part of God’s purpose for the earth.  Luke is able to see the hand of God but can we…when the dram of our lives are unfolding how often do we not see the context and protect for the purpose of God unfolding in our own lives. In chapter 6 we feel the unsettledness that comes with the onslaught of the enemy against God’s people.  There is something unsettling in this part of the story and yet something about the man Stephen (who we meet in chapter six and say goodbye to chapter 7) that helps me anchor myfaih where it needs to be and helps me hold my ground when I am tempted to cave.

When we look back at the church in Acts, we hear so much about how amazing and great the church was when it started and we often use it as the standard to compare what is going on in our own context but somehow we can miss the drama and angst and challenges that come with all the incredible stuff that was happening.  We don’t often see the humanity in the story…and when humanity and its sinful nature confronts the grace of God, this story proves that God’s grace abounds and his purpose prevails.

24 | 03 | 17

Acts 6:1 ‘During this time, as the disciples were increasing in numbers by leaps and bounds, hard feelings developed among the Greek-speaking believers—“Hellenists”—toward the Hebrew-speaking believers because their widows were being discriminated against in the daily food lines….

Back in my ‘pre-kids-working-full- time’ life, I was working for a company that specialised in Corporate Psychology.  My boss was a highly qualified Psychologist who spent most days helping  managers and leaders of large companies analyse and develop their leadership potential.  One of the things I learnt to do in my role was to make sure we used certain language when writing up thier reports and providing feedback.  One example was that we never spoke about a person’s weakness  but used a phrases like ‘development opportunity’ instead. Our company never saw weaknesses.  We were there to help identify areas that had the potential for change, growth or development. What was an area that could have sabotaged their leadership became an area that could grow their leadership. As I have walked out my own leadership journey, I have found this approach extremely helpful. My heart is to see life and challenges in a similar way. I want to recognise and use my strengths but not be blind to  ‘development opportunities’. They  often surface when it doesn’t make sense or fit my agenda.  It is human nature to avoid facing  problems and challenges when they have the potential to expose our weaknesses and vulnerable areas in our leadership yet these very things can be what we need to help us and those around us grow.  As a leader, my inability to confront problems and deal with challenges will inevitably have an effect on those I lead.  Even a mum….Seeing a fissure or challenge as an opportunity goes against the grain of our human nature yet it helps us push past our insecurities and pulls out of us, the leadership that is required from others. The  verses of Acts  chapter 6 throws up incredible insight about  leadership….

There is a distinct shift in Acts chapter 6. There are crowds gathering every day but we notice although there are some amazing things happening..there is something going on to unsettle and disturb the hearts of the leaders.  Most of the crowd is Jewish but a small fissure starts to appear that the apostles need to deal with.  We see a small division between Hispanic Jews and Hebraic Jews.  Hispanic Jews are the ones who speak Greek and the Hebraic Jews are the ones who speak the original Jewish language of Hebrew. Those who are Hispanic are being overlooked and being pushed to the back of the handout line.  There is some favouritism going on and whether or not it is intentional or simply a result of a lack or administration, the leaders need to step in and sort this out. This division highlights the need for more than a spiritual answer. This is not a need that requires a prayer vigil or Peter’s shadow to fix it. This requires administration and leadership and an understanding of how to resolve fissures and problems long before they become a major divisions. Dr Luke is making an observation of events unfolding as the  church is growing…an outpouring of the Holy Spirit brings with it needs that can only be met by good leadership and putting in place systems and processes that  will help sustain the growth.  This is so relevant to where we are at in our roles in our church but it can be the same in any dynamic where people gather. Fissures can be healed with godly and spiritual  leadership but if we wait until the fissures are massive cracks and rifts we can’t complain when the fissures won’t fix. Leadership requires dealing with stuff as soon as we sense the fissure.  How often do we sense something but ignore it or hope someone else will deal with it or treat those who sense problems with suspicion. Right here is the first few verses of Acts 6, there is an opportunity for the church to hit a wall or the church to multiply more effectively.  How the leaders deal with it has a massive effect on the outcome.  Embracing fissures and challenges as development opportunities will not only help me in my leadership growth but others to experience favour and growth. Today I am on the lookout for fissures  in our current reality .  An outpouring of the Holy Spirit does not irradicate problems but may well bring them.  I have no doubt that in our church at the moment there are fissure and cracks hat were simply a result of a growing churchht needed good leadership. With growth come opportunities for great leadership. These fissures are opportunities.  The leaders did not hear the Holy Spirit tell them there was a problem.  The problem arose because they were doing too much and complaints start to surface. A lot of my leadership decisions won’t come from discerning needs before they arise…they may well come when the people I lead are getting disgruntled and upset simply because we are ignorant of the problems that have come with growth or with needs arising.

25 |03 | 2017

Acts 6:The Word of God prospered…..

My prayer today…that the word of God will prosper!!!!

What does that mean…it multiplied, increased? spread? had an effect , produced something?…it took effect…it wasn’t just preaching but it had a prospering effect on the people…what does it mean? .whatever it means , I want that to be something that can be said about me and my life. that is something I want over my life…I want the word of God to prosper in my kids lives, in the lives of the people I lead, in Steve’s life, in my extended network of friends, in the church in Bendigo, in the network of believers across our community…….the word of God prospered……

I want the word of God to prosper in my life, in my marriage, in my leadership, ..there are so many things I want to prosper ….but this?

How  do we get the word of God to prosper?

Is there something we need to do to get the word of God to prosper or is it something God does?

Are there some things that could be said are prospering in my life and they are unrelated to the word of God?

is this a direct response to being filled wiht the holy soirit and a move of the Holy Spirit….

26 | 03 | 2017

The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased dramatically. Not least, a great many priests submitted themselves to the faith.

I wonder what it was like to see the local priest or the great number of local priests embracing the message of Jesus?

What was it like for them to understand the symbolism of all that did and realise that Jesus was the high priest…

imagine what it was like to go from practicing the law to meeting the one who fulfilled it.  it didn’t mean they stopped practicing their rituals and their daily routine but they would have made sense of it.  So many of them would have seen the temple veil torn in two and known that Jesus body was torn that day but raised three days later.  when the apostles are able to explain it and the spirit of God moved not heir hearts and that joined the way…wow….

What was it like  to be in Jerusalem when so many were becoming disciples on a daily basis?

What was it like for the priests who went through the rituals of Jewish celebrations but who submitted themselves to the faith?

Once again Luke takes note of the numbers…ever increasing…multiplying, increased dramatically, multitudes, many…how do they know…the crowds keep getting bigger..

He is creating a sense of momentum  and a sense of context for the story that is about to un fold..

Chapter 6 is full of extremes…on the one hand we see multitudes coming, the numbers increasing,  in leaps and bounds but we have fissures and power struggles in the midst of a move of God.

We want the multitudes but we don’t want the problems that come with it. The apostels don’t get phased by oppostiontion of digrunteld humanity…they simple resolve it with wisdom.

We want the numbers but need to be prepared for the challenges. The apostles didn’t plan for a leadership crisis anor did they ahve a group of leaders prepared and waiting. They simply responded to the growth and the needs with good leadership and chose in the moment 7 they felt would suit this role.

as a leader i can get frustrated wiht a lack of leaders who are ready or i can simply respond to the growth with spirtual led selection. I currently don’t know people well but i am trusting that this chapter is helping me respond to leadership needs wiht wisdom.

criteria: trusted by the people – what do others say about them, what is their reputation

common sense – can they make sense of a situation and sort through nonsense, do tehy use common sense in every day life or are they irrational and emoitonal

Full of the holy spirit…How did the apostels know?   maybe it was how they prayed, how they responded to human need, how they spoke about the chalegnes, how they treted people….maybe they were seeing signs and wonders for themselves, there should be fruit and a sense of the hand of God over their lives. They are not given to being lead by their feeling and their needs and their drama but by the soirit of God and the wisdom form heaven. They are not overwhlemed with circumstances but full of faith and heaven’s perspective.  They believe God’s word and are not manipluated by the needs of those coming to them……

When I am looking for leaders…I want to see a life of faith, her words that alig wiht the gospel and the message of grace and hope, I want to hear and see common sense, .I want to hear the sound of heaven ..not the sound of confusion and disinterest or  the sound of drama or self seeking agendas…..when i am looking for someone to help me …i often look for gifts but these guys looked for cahracter and reputation.

28 | 03 | 2017

Luke introduces us to the men chosen to help the apostles..but the only one we really know about is Stephen and this is intentional and easy to understand given the story th Luke unfolds for us.

STEPHEN – a Greek name (suggesting he was a Hellenistic Jew),  the name means wreath, crown, honour, reward. It is the Hellenistic Jews who had been missing out on the food and Steven is chosen to help sort out the problems. The hellenistic jews would feel that at least one of the men helping them was one of them.

Luke majors on some of the description u=he uses for Stephen in the following verses. He places weight on who this man is by reiterating emphatic, almost superlative, phrases: “full of faith and of the Holy Ghost,” ( Acts 6:5 )

“full of grace and power,” ibid. ( Acts 6:8 )

irresistible “spirit and wisdom,” ibid ( Acts 6:10 )

“full of the Holy Ghost.” ( Acts 7:55 ) He shot far ahead of his six companions, and far above his particular office.

First, he arrests attention by the “great wonders and miracles that he did.”

I love verse 8: Stephen, brimming with God’s grace and energy, was doing wonderful things among the people, unmistakable signs that God was among them. 

Here we have an everyday bloke…looking after the poor, full of faith, full of the Holy Spirit, full of energy, full of grace, and doing pracical things to help people…his minsitry was to help the poor..he was full of the holy spirit and helping the poor..he was giving out food to the poor and helping the needy..not standing on a stage preaching, …not sitting around praying, not sitting with others  singing songs…..he is doing things that are unmistakable signs that God is among them..signs and wonders…he

Luke is setting a scene..but also highlighting and majoring in what a deacon or someone who is able to help the poor should like…the hero i this story is not sn apostle but the bloke  helping distribute the food.  When we glorify the pulpit instead of the market place we forgot what the Holy Spirit is about.

Stephen  has wasn’t chosen because he would  able to deal with difficult people or and face harassment and deal with trouble makers. He was chosen to release the apostles to do their work…here we have an everyday man who was full of the Holy Spirit and faith coming up against some strong personalities in the crowd..they start harassing him and challenging his leadership and questions his authority. Instead of putting his head down…he stands his ground and let the Holy Spirit lead him and speaks with wisdom and authority.

In  amongst the crowd of followers and believers were people willing o be bribed, willing to lie and willing to have one of their leaders undermined and false accused.  What was it about Stephen that caused these men to want to argue with them? Why were others happy tomato false accusations about him.

When you  the grace of god is flowing and I am full f the Holy Spirit and faith and doing my job well, I can expect resistance to my leadership and if I prove to be wise and able to handle it..the enemy will use another layer of opposition.  HE I don’t gong to back down until I do.  I equate grace with ease but in fact being full of grace is a call to the en,eye to bring on a fight and stir up trouble.

It always astounds me that believers would turn on other beliefs and try to undermine them and sabotage their leadership and make false accusations ..I have no idea what their agenda even when they think they are doing the right thing.  I think it is the spirit of the antichrist when people rise up against godly leadership and attack from the inside.  t is aroma of persecution that is hard to navigate and if

I love that Stephen didn’t back away or back down.  He held his ground .  he didn’t know he would be martyred and betrayed. when fans accusations dn lies were spoken against hm..he held his head high, he was unapologetic and he did not back down.  we have walked through our own season of accusations and threats. we have walked through our own seasons where good christians have fed other christians with accusations that are blatant lies and I have watched my husband hold his ground and full of grace and full of the Holy Spirit let the accuser have their day.  We could have been anylated we may not have physically been killed but we could easily have let our calling fall to the ground.  Stephen could easily have walked away from his role as a leader and chosen to chat up a never speak about christ again.  how often do we let those who challenge us shut us down.  if even a small accusation comes against us we care so much about our reputation we let go of our calling and slip into the shadows but Stephen holds his ground and ‘they were no match for his wisdom and spirit when he spoke.’

you would have thought his challengers would have back down but they go underground …they find weak souls , easily bribed. I am always amazed how fickle some of Jesus followers are .  in the multitudes of those getting saved are people who want Stephen taken down and in the same crowd are people who are fickle enough o take a bribe and lie about the leadership in front of others. As the apostles teach and preach multitudes come to christ and get said but there are multitudes who don’t in the mix of the crowds that come ..there are plenty who don’t follow the way.

Stephen is not even one of the preachers but stand before the high court and preaches the most courageous and challenging message ..this audience is not receptive or encouraging…they are comopetely against him.  As a preacher i am always looking for a crowd who will love what I have to say but Stephen challnges me to preach wihtout the need to feel the accolades of mankind. He preaches in a context where Jesus was crucified and he could be too. He knows the mob and he not afraid of offending htem.  they are not a crowd who are goignt o fall down on their knees in repentacne but he preaches anyway. He knows they are men who are against him, wild and angry and offended…so much that they are willing to murdern..and they do.  Luke notes however that Stephen is so taken up with his vision of Christ he doesn’t even notice how mad they are and as they stone him to death he holds his ground and prayrs for them.  Who prays for their enemy whle they are being killed asking for fogivness…one who really gets the grace of God.

I only wish I had heo courage to stand my ground on the stuff that matters but also the fortitude to extend grace to those who hate me while they are hating me.

Right now I live in a country that doesn’t get offended when I mention Jesus but then anyone who mentions Jesus usually is not being offensive like Stephen was being. If I were to stand before the everyday Australian and speak to them like Stephen did that day I have a feeling they would want to stone me too. We are so scared of offending friends and family and even strangers that we keep Jesus hidden in the pocket of our life that is least offensive. Stephen was doing good and offending those around him. I wonder if we were to reach ou to the poor and the needy in Bendigo and do so full of the holy spirit and full of faith and full brimming with grace and sign hat God was real..how long before we would lose favour and cause trouble amongst the religious.  It is not the preachers who were offending these people..it was the ones working with the poor and needy and simply showing them the grace of God. Stephen wasn’t speaking up about a political agenda, he wasn’t accusibg them of sin or neding them to get in line….he was simply brimming with the grace of God and able to hold his own when they tried to argue with him. When they couldn’t outwit him they decided to shame him and the only way they could do that was use manipulation. When the enemy want to shame us and it doesn’t work he’l find weak and manipulatable people to wor on his behalf.

It doesn’t take miuch to convince humanity to question someones integirty.  Lies and bribary worked a treat. False accusations were made.  But Stevo doesn’t shut up and back down..he ries to the occasion.  This is not one of the apostles..he was one of the deacons trusted by the people.  He is so strong in his gospel message that the people listening don’t turn to God they turn to stone him.  Steve may well have seen jesus face trial in this same place or he may well have gotten saved when Peter stood up and rpeached on teh day of pentecost..we don’t know.  He knew if he wasn’t careful wiht his weord he could die but he doesn’t care.  He literally gets caught up wiht a vision of Christ while he is speaking. He  knew that if he stood before the high council the could face what Jesus faced.  Stephen was so convinced of who Jesus was to him and was so full of the Holy Spirit that he was able to eloquently explain his stand knowing they woudl get even madder at him.

In this one chapter we see multitudes turn to Christ but amongst the multiudes are troubles makers, liers and haters. In this same chapter we see the gospel bringing multitudes to faith and we see resistance beginning to rise.  In this chapter we see grace but we also see offence and division, and problems and finally a lead into the first brutal killing since Christ is crucified.

How offended do you ahve to be that you are wiling to stone someone?

Was everyone offended by Stephen or had those in authority such a huge influence that they insighted offence by thier offence and it was contagious?

How often do people see the offence in others and join in instead of standing up for what is right.

I am amazing how fickle huanity can be that they will listen to a lie and simply belive it rather than question it.  These men did a great job of breaking down the trust of the eople. Stephen had been chosen beasue the people trusted hm but in a day that trust turned to murderous hatred.

 

29 | 03 | 2017

A move of the Holy Spirit does not do away with needs in fact it probably increased them.

A move of the Holy Spirit  can also mean a multitude of needy people and a multitude of problems.

A move of the Holy Spirit will bring people to christ but will also bring out the cynics and the accuser and the fickle.

A move of the Holy Spirit does not release us from opposition or challenges but rather helps us deal with them with power and courage and intelligence.

Being filled with the spirit helps us stand our ground against false accusations.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit will offend people who genuinely love God but don’t necessarily like us.

Luke doesn’t;t draw attention to Stephen because he is more special than than others but because he is building a story to show us what is happening in the narative of the church and the onfolding of the spread of the gospel.  Stephen’s story leads into chapter 7-9 where a shift happens in the history of those who are following THE WAY.

Acts chapter 6 is full of grace AND opposition just the way God planned it…how true is this of my own life.  Grace doesn’t iradicate probelms but may well bring them to my door step.

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