The Missional Message: Acts 7:54-60

This passage represents one of the saddest moments of the early church, the stoning of Stephen. We learn in the previous chapter (Acts 6:5) that Stephen was chosen as one of the seven Deacons to serve in the distribution of food to the poor.

In these few short verses, there are a few things I would like to point out. Stephen was “full of the Holy Spirit”. This is perhaps the truest mark of a believer and is signified by a desire to do the will of the father, not ourselves. This desire to do God’s will in spite of what “God’s representatives” thought cost Stephen his life.

We also see a unique relationship with the other two parts of the trinity. Stephen looked up and saw God. This is the goal and the mission: relationship with God the father. He also called upon Christ to receive his spirit. Christ is the way (John 14:6) in Christ’s high priestly prayer (John 17), He continually prayed that believers know His father, the focus not on Him. How many times do we think in this regard? Stephen also prayed that those who were winning receive the Lord. How often can we do this in the presence of those who hurt you?

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A vision by prayer, and a mission of care

VisionShortly after this time, I got in touch with Pioneer Bible Translators (PBT), a mission agency based in Dallas Texas. Ironically, I had meant to call another mission agency called Pioneers, but the Lord worked through it.

I got made contact with Nathan Davenport, the director of recruitment for PBT, and I began to share with him everything that had happened over a few phone calls. On one of these calls, we prayed, which was a common thing. After praying, he wanted to wait on the Lord, much like the very first meeting and post on this topic at Panera Bread. I must admit after a few minutes of waiting, I did not receive much of anything. Nathan, on the other hand, saw three images close to those seen above. The first image is the head of Jesus. The second, a weary person being held up by the arms of another. The third, a sickle with blood, indicating death. There was not an immediate interpretation, but a few meanings flooded my mind at first.

One scenario was that the weary person in the middle was me. I had been doing battle with Satan for years and was weary and tired. I could choose to continue fighting  or even give in to Satan’s schemes, or be held in the arms of Jesus. In another sense, this picture seems to explain those people the Lord has put on my heart. Many of the peoples the Lord has put on my heart, (Turks, Iranians, Chinese to name a few) have been oppressed on many fronts, with many being put to death as a result. Most of these cultures adhere to communism (of which the sickle is one of the symbols of fighting and destruction) as well as Islam (sometimes called the religion of the sword, and has a crescent moon shaped much like a sickle blade). China is also known as the “Red” nation. One thing seemed sure from this experience: Many people are oppressed by something. They also have a choice to fight alone or to rely on Christ. It is part of my job to come to this realization and to make it real to others, particularly from those countries where oppression makes it very difficult to hear the gospel message.

 

Robert Hill: February 8th

February 8, 1847

African-American Robert Hill had been appointed to accompany some white missionaries to Africa for the purpose of assisting them. On December 17, 1846, they had sailed for the coast of Africa, from Providence, Rhode Island. On this day, February 8, they arrived in Monrovia, Liberia.

February 7: Henry and Bessie McDowell

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In a service commemorating fifty years of Congregational missions in Angola, the Galangue mission choir, under the leadership of Bessie McDowell, introduced a new song. It is Bessie’s own Ovimbundu translation of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.” African-Americans called “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” — which had been composed in 1900 by the brothers James Weldon and J. Rosamond Johnson — the “Negro National Anthem.” On this date, February 7, Henry Curtis McDowell, Bessie’s husband, wrote to African-American supporters to say that “Galangue has made the first step, so far as I know, in making ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing’ the international anthem.” The McDowells had gone to Angola in 1917.

George Lisle (Sharp) February 6

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George Lisle (or Liele), sometimes called George Sharp, was born a slave in Burke County, Virginia in 1750 to parents Liele and Nancy.  He was sold to Slave master in Georgia, Henry Sharp, who was a British Loyalist that served as an officer during the American Revolution.  Sharp was also a deacon of Buckhead Creek Baptist Church.  It was there, in 1773 while listening to his pastor Matthew Moore preach, that George Lisle came into the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

After being baptized, George found compassion amongst other slaves and began to read hymns and encourage them.  Upon noticing George’s zeal for God’s Word and his ministerial gifts, Buckhead Creek Baptist Church licensed George to preach 1773, making Lisle the first Black licensed Baptist preacher in America.  Subsequently, in order to use his gift more freely, Henry Sharp granted George his freedom from slavery.  This propelled Lisle to also eventually become the first Baptist foreign missionary.

George Lisle spent two years preaching to slaves on plantations along the Savannah River in Georgia and South Carolina.  After Henry Sharp died during the Revolutionary war, it is said that Sharp’s heirs tried to re-enslave George Lisle and would have done so had it not been for British officer.  Also during that time, Lisle gathered a group of new black believers in Savannah, GA and formed what is believed to be the first black church in America as Lisle served as the first appointed elder and preacher.

At the close of the Revolutionary War, Lisle traveled to Jamaica as the indentured servant of English officer Col. Kirkland.  Accompanying him was his wife and four children.  Upon arrival, he began preaching in the street.  Eventually he organized a Baptist Church starting out with 4 other people.  Seven years later he’d baptized 500 converts and by 1791 the church purchased 3 acres of land in Kingsland.  In 1793, the first dissenting church in Jamaica was built, which brought persecution to him and his followers.

In spite of a law in Jamaica from 1805 to 1814 forbidding preaching to slaves, Lisle continued to preach.  It is said that by 1814, Lisle’s efforts produced about 8,000 converts in Jamaica, earning him the name “Negro slavery’s prophet of deliverance.”  Lisle died in Jamaica in 1828.  However, by 1887 the number of Jamaican churches had grown to a membership of 31,000.

From Jude 3 Project

 

February 5 Amanda Berry Smith

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February 5, 1884

Evangelist and missionary Amanda Berry Smith (1837-1915) was in Africa after having spent some time in India. In her journal entry for this particular day she wrote: “Second Gospel Temperance meeting. Surely the Spirit of the Lord is with us, and He is blessing us greatly. Not so much liberty in speaking, but God is with us, and we are expecting great things. Oh, Lord, for Jesus‘ sake, answer prayer, and send us the Holy Ghost to quicken and revive us.”

February 4- John Marrant

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February 4, 1786

John Marrant, a free black from New York City, preached at Green’s Harbour, Newfoundland, from 2 Corinthians 13:5 to “a great number of Indians and white people.” Marrant’s ministry was cross-cultural with most of it being to Native Americans (or First Nations as they are often called in Canada). He eventually carried the gospel to the Cherokee, Creek, Catawar, and Housaw tribes.

From Good News Florida Website