Evening Devotion for March 23, 2019
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.
Our “Saturday Oldie” comes from the late 1930s. It is an early example of “jubilee style” gospel, a polished and professional multi-part style popular for stage presentations until about 30 years ago. It has gradually been replaced with more modern styles, such as today’s high-tech “worship style” music.
Prayer for the Evening
Oh God, who has created all things, seen and unseen, this day is your creation and I give thanks to have lived in it. I pray that I will not shut you out of my life in the evening you have made, blinded by the petty concerns of life, but that I may be always open to your presence.
I open my body to you, for it is your breath that fills and warms the lifeless clay.
I open my eyes and ears to you, thankful for the light of your Word, which has brought me out of the shadow of ignorance.
I open my heart to you, aglow with thanks for your love, filling me with compassion, understanding, and peace.
I open my soul to you, grateful for your Spirit, who fills me with wisdom when I take a moment to listen.
All that I am, I open to you and I return to you, giving thanks every moment of my life for the blessings that have filled this day, and praying that your Spirit be with me as the day winds down, and while I sleep. Through Christ I pray.
Have mercy on me, Oh Lord, for I am a humble and miserable sinner. [At this point, pause to remember specific sins you have committed during the day and speak or think them.] I renounce all of these sins, heavenly Father, and repent of them, and I promise to make every effort not to repeat them.
Have mercy on me, pardon me for these offences and any I might have omitted from forgetfulness or ignorance; in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, I pray for forgiveness. And I pray that your Holy Spirit may dwell with me in the coming day, to comfort me, to give me strength against temptation, and to guide me into the path of righteousness.
Prayer for God’s Help
Bow down your ear, O Lord, and hear me, for I am suffering. I am poor and needy. Preserve my life; I am holy, because you are my God. Save your servant who trusts in you.
Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I cry to you all day long. Bring joy to the soul of your servant, for I lift up my soul to you. You are good, and you are quick to forgive, abundant in mercy to all those who call upon you. Hear my prayer, O Lord. Listen to my cry for help.
God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, and Spirit of God amidst us, direct our way unto you. Make us to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you; to the end we may establish our hearts unblameable in holiness before you, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
Proverbs 10:18-19 (NKJV)
Whoever hides hatred has lying lips,
And whoever spreads slander is a fool.
In the multitude of words sin is not lacking,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.
Acts 7:53-60 (Good News)
The Stoning of Stephen
“You are the ones who received God’s law, that was handed down by angels—yet you have not obeyed it!”
As the members of the Council listened to Stephen, they became furious and ground their teeth at him in anger. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw God’s glory and Jesus standing at the right side of God. “Look!” he said. “I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!”
With a loud cry the Council members covered their ears with their hands. Then they all rushed at him at once, threw him out of the city, and stoned him. The witnesses left their cloaks in the care of a young man named Saul. They kept on stoning Stephen as he called out to the Lord, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!”
He knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord! Do not remember this sin against them!” He said this and died.
Notes on the Scripture
s we reach the end of the moving story of Stephen, the parallel to the life and crucifixion of Jesus becomes clear. In Acts 6, he was seized for heresy and dragged before the Sanhedrin. All of Chapter 7 recounts his lengthy defense. He has followed the Hebrews from Abraham to David, to show that their history was a preparation for the coming of a Messiah. He then accused the Sanhedrin, made up of the mightiest and highest-ranking religious authorities of Judea, of killing God, just as the wicked had killed prophets throughout their history.
Even worse, he strongly implied that the Temple itself was no longer a holy place, that God did not dwell in it. And he stated that the men in charge of it, those judging him, did not have God in their hearts.
Luke and Paul
Most scholars believe that Luke had a personal relationship with Paul, and perhaps even travelled with him. The Gospel of Luke is called, by some, “Paul’s Gospel” (just as Mark is sometimes termed “Peter’s Gospel”). If so, the capsule history of Judaism in Chapter 7 makes more sense. Paul’s mission was primarily to the Gentiles, and this chapter might have had the purpose of educating them in the Old Testament, about which most of them would have been ignorant.
After the long historical diatribe, Stephen cries out that he sees Christ and that He stands “at the right hand of God.” Remember, from the high priests' point-of-view, Christ is a criminal they have recently executed. Stephens’s statement makes such a terrible accusation that they cannot even listen to it. They lose control. They cover their ears and, as they did with Christ, execute Stephen immediately.
Stephen thus becomes the first great Christian martyr. In all Christendom, he is studied as the great model of Christian virtue, a model for many to come; in the Catholic and Orthodox churches, and the more liturgical Protestant communions, he is venerated as a saint.
Do not miss the reference to a young minion named Saul, who holds the high priests’ cloaks while they rush out to kill Stephen. We shall see a great deal more of him shortly!