Daily Devotion for May 29, 2011
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Prayer for the Morning
Oh God the King eternal, who divides the day from the darkness, and has turned the shadow of death into the light of morning; I pray that this day you will incline my heart to keep your commandments, driving temptation from my mind. Guide my feet into the way of peace; that having done your will with cheerfulness while it was day, I may, when the night comes, rejoice in giving you thanks for a day lived in your presence; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Prayer for the Holy Spirit's Guidance
Gracious God, Send your Holy Spirit to deepen my worship life. Open my heart to the gifts and cultures which surround my church. Open my heart to the people who are different from me. In Jesus' name, I pray.
Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made me one with your saints in heaven and on earth. Grant that in my earthly pilgrimage I may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know myself to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy. I ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.
~ St. Augustine
Acts 7:44-52 (ESV)
Stephen's Speech to the Sanhedrin 
"Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen. Our fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our fathers.
So it was until the days of David, who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built a house for him.
Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says,
What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord,
or what is the place of my rest?
Did not my hand make all these things?'
You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.
Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it."
Notes on the Scripture
Stephen has been arrested by the Sanhedrin for preaching the gospel in Jerusalem, after the apostles (and others) have been previously arrested, warned, and flogged. He is making his defense before them. In the previous four days, we have read a long speech he has made, summarizing the history of the Hebrews. Now, his speech begins to show some teeth.
First, he proves that God does not dwell in a building. This is a slap in the face to the Jewish authorities. The Sanhedrin is packed with Sadducees, the Jewish political/religious party that emphasizes worship in the great Temple, the Ark of the Covenant, and making the sacrifices demanded in the earliest parts of the Old Testament. They are very oriented toward "God in a building". But Christ, like the Pharisees (to a degree), has taken God out of the Temple and put him into the hearts and lives of the people.
Then, he insults the Pharisees. The Jews, of course, circumcise male children as a symbol of their devotion to God. But it is only a symbol. By saying that they are not circumcises in their heart and ears, he is saying that they are hypocrites; they follow the outward ceremonies of worship, but do not have God in their hearts. Particularly, their "ears" are closed to the word of God.
He then recounts the history of other such men, who have slain the prophets. In particular, they have killed the prophets who predicted the coming of a Messiah. The prophets delivered God's message, but the Jewish authorities refused to listen.
This is quite a defense. Instead of offering a defense, in terms of seeking acquittal of the charges against him, he attacks the judges and the laws under which he has accused.