Hello y’all, how’s everyone? Hope things are well in your household. We’ve seen Cameron and Ewan return to Subway this week…they’ve said it’s very quiet, closing early and they’re not loving wearing masks, but apart from that they’re fine. Also, Erin got her National Insurance number in the post (😱). That’s the biggest change for us over the past however many months!
And so. Onto this week’s resources. We’re looking at the rest of Acts chapter 6, all of chapter 7 and the first verse of chapter 8 🙂 It’s a long passage and basically covers the story of Stephen and his death and the start of the church’s persecution.
Things you’ll need this week
- The Stephen’s Story Rhombicuboctahedron PDF printed off
- Wordsearch/maze printed out
- Colouring pens/pencils/crayons
True or False: Have a few rounds of this. Stephen was falsely accused of blasphemous teaching. See if your child/ren know what’s true from these statements or come up with your own 😃
- Jesus is the son of God. True or false?
- Jesus said that everyone loved Him and so anyone who follows Him will also be loved by everyone. True or false?
- Jesus said it would be easy to follow Him. True or false?
- Jesus taught us to love everyone, except our enemies/those who don’t like us. True or false?
Here’s the text from the International Children’s Bible:
Stephen Is Arrested
8 Stephen was richly blessed by God. God gave him the power to do great miracles and signs among the people. 9 But some Jews were against him. They belonged to a synagogue of Free Men (as it was called). (This synagogue was also for Jews from Cyrene and from Alexandria.) Jews from Cilicia and Asia were also with them. They all came and argued with Stephen.
10 But the Spirit was helping him to speak with wisdom. His words were so strong that they could not argue with him. 11 So they paid some men to say, “We heard him say things against Moses and against God!”
12 This upset the people, the Jewish elders, and the teachers of the law. They came to Stephen, grabbed him and brought him to a meeting of the Jewish leaders. 13 They brought in some men to tell lies about Stephen. They said, “This man is always saying things against this holy place and the law of Moses. 14 We heard him say that Jesus from Nazareth will destroy this place. He also said that Jesus will change the things that Moses told us to do.” 15 All the people in the meeting were watching Stephen closely. His face looked like the face of an angel.
7 The high priest said to Stephen, “Are these things true?”
2 Stephen answered, “Brothers and fathers, listen to me. Our glorious God appeared to Abraham, our ancestor. Abraham was in Mesopotamia before he lived in Haran. 3 God said to Abraham, ‘Leave your country and your relatives. Go to the land I will show you.’ 4 So Abraham left the country of Chaldea and went to live in Haran. After Abraham’s father died, God sent him to this place where you now live. 5 God did not give Abraham any of this land, not even a foot of it. But God promised that he would give him and his descendants this land. (This was before Abraham had any descendants.) 6 This is what God said to him: ‘Your descendants will be strangers in a land they don’t own. The people there will make them slaves. And they will do cruel things to them for 400 years. 7 But I will punish the nation where they are slaves. Then your descendants will leave that land. Then they will worship me in this place.’ 8 God made an agreement with Abraham; the sign for this agreement was circumcision. And so when Abraham had his son Isaac, Abraham circumcised him when he was eight days old. Isaac also circumcised his son Jacob. And Jacob did the same for his sons, the 12 ancestors of our people.
9 “These sons became jealous of Joseph. They sold him to be a slave in Egypt. But God was with him. 10 Joseph had many troubles there, but God saved him from all those troubles. The king of Egypt liked Joseph and respected him because of the wisdom that God gave him. The king made him governor of Egypt. He put Joseph in charge of all the people in his palace.
11 “Then all the land of Egypt and of Canaan became so dry that nothing would grow there. This made the people suffer very much. The sons could not find anything to eat. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent his sons, our ancestors, there. This was their first trip to Egypt. 13 Then they went there a second time. This time, Joseph told his brothers who he was. And the king learned about Joseph’s family. 14 Then Joseph sent some men to invite Jacob, his father, to come to Egypt. He also invited all his relatives (75 persons altogether). 15 So Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and his sons died. 16 Later their bodies were moved to Shechem and put in a grave there. (It was the same grave that Abraham had bought in Shechem from the sons of Hamor for a sum of money.)
17 “The number of people in Egypt grew large. There were more and more of our people there. (The promise that God made to Abraham was soon to come true.) 18 Then a new king began to rule Egypt. He did not know who Joseph was. 19 This king tricked our people and was cruel to our ancestors. He forced them to put their babies outside to die. 20 This was the time when Moses was born. He was a fine child. For three months Moses was cared for in his father’s house. 21 When they put Moses outside, the king’s daughter took him. She raised him as if he were her own son. 22 The Egyptians taught Moses all the things they knew. He was a powerful man in the things he said and did.
23 “When Moses was about 40 years old, he thought it would be good to visit his brothers, the people of Israel. 24 Moses saw an Egyptian doing wrong to a Jew. So he defended the Jew and punished the Egyptian for hurting him. Moses killed the Egyptian. 25 Moses thought that his fellow Jews would understand that God was using him to save them. But they did not understand. 26 The next day, Moses saw two Jewish men fighting. He tried to make peace between them. He said, ‘Men, you are brothers! Why are you hurting each other?’ 27 The man who was hurting the other man pushed Moses away. He said, ‘Who made you our ruler and judge? 28 Are you going to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 When Moses heard him say this, he left Egypt. He went to live in the land of Midian where he was a stranger. While Moses lived in Midian, he had two sons.
30 “After 40 years Moses was in the desert near Mount Sinai. An angel appeared to him in the flames of a burning bush. 31 When Moses saw this, he was amazed. He went near to look closer at it. Moses heard the Lord’s voice. 32 The Lord said, ‘I am the God of your ancestors. I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ Moses began to shake with fear and was afraid to look. 33 The Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals. You are standing on holy ground. 34 I have seen the troubles my people have suffered in Egypt. I have heard their cries. I have come down to save them. And now, Moses, I am sending you back to Egypt.’
35 “This Moses was the same man the Jews said they did not want. They had said to him, ‘Who made you our ruler and judge?’ Moses is the same man God sent to be a ruler and savior, with the help of an angel. This was the angel Moses saw in the burning bush. 36 So Moses led the people out of Egypt. He worked miracles and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and then in the desert for 40 years. 37 This is the same Moses that said to the Jewish people: ‘God will give you a prophet like me. He will be one of your own people.’ 38 This is the same Moses who was with the gathering of the Jews in the desert. He was with the angel that spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and he was with our ancestors. He received commands from God that give life, and he gave those commands to us.
39 “But our fathers did not want to obey Moses. They rejected him. They wanted to go back to Egypt again. 40 They said to Aaron, ‘Moses led us out of Egypt. But we don’t know what has happened to him. So make us gods who will lead us.’ 41 So the people made an idol that looked like a calf. Then they brought sacrifices to it. The people were proud of what they had made with their own hands! 42 But God turned against them. He did not try to stop them from worshiping the sun, moon and stars. This is what is written in the book of the prophets: God says,
‘People of Israel, you did not bring me sacrifices and offerings
while you traveled in the desert for 40 years.
43 But now you will have to carry with you
the tent to worship the false god Molech
and the idols of the star god Rephan that you made to worship.
This is because I will send you away beyond Babylon.’ Amos 5:25-27
44 “The Holy Tent where God spoke to our fathers was with the Jews in the desert. God told Moses how to make this Tent. He made it like the plan God showed him. 45 Later, Joshua led our fathers to capture the lands of the other nations. Our people went in, and God drove the other people out. When our people went into this new land, they took with them this same Tent. They received this Tent from their fathers and kept it until the time of David. 46 God was very pleased with David. He asked God to let him build a house for him, the God of Jacob. 47 But Solomon was the one who built the Temple.
48 “But the Most High does not live in houses that men build with their hands. This is what the prophet says:
49 ‘Heaven is my throne.
The earth is my footstool.
So do you think you can build a house for me? says the Lord.
There is no place where I need to rest.
50 Remember, I made all these things!’” Isaiah 66:1-2
51 Stephen continued speaking: “You stubborn Jewish leaders! You have not given your hearts to God! You won’t listen to him! You are always against what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell you. Your ancestors were like this, and you are just like them! 52 Your fathers tried to hurt every prophet who ever lived. Those prophets said long ago that the Righteous One would come. But your fathers killed them. And now you have turned against the Righteous One and killed him. 53 You received the law of Moses, which God gave you through his angels. But you don’t obey it!”
Stephen Is Killed
54 When the leaders heard Stephen saying all these things, they became very angry. They were so mad that they were grinding their teeth at Stephen. 55 But Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit. He looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God. He saw Jesus standing at God’s right side. 56 He said, “Look! I see heaven open. And I see the Son of Man standing at God’s right side!”
57 Then they all shouted loudly. They covered their ears with their hands and all ran at Stephen. 58 They took him out of the city and threw stones at him until he was dead. The men who told lies against Stephen left their coats with a young man named Saul. 59 While they were throwing stones, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 He fell on his knees and cried in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” After Stephen said this, he died.
8 Saul agreed that the killing of Stephen was a good thing.
This one is from Crossroads Kids and uses the rhombicuboctahedron craft!
This one is from Sharefaith Kids. It’s quite detailed.
This is a daft one for those that like something a bit silly.
This is a looooong passage, so it would probably be best to read it yourself and retell it to younger children. Older children will be able to read it themselves, but you might want to do it together.
For 3-7s: Because it’s such a long passage with some difficult themes,for younger children, it might be better to give them overviews we can take from the story that are easier for them to understand and apply to their young lives, rather than the persecution side of it.
The main aim for younger children is for them to be able to hear the story of Stephen as a man who lived his life devoted to God and doing His work.
Remind them that before this point he’d not long become a deacon and was one of the 7 chosen last week to oversee the fair distribution of food for all widows regardless of their background. He also preached a lot and then, when he was dragged in front of the officials who accused him of a pack of lies, he showed his devotion again, laying it all on the line to put them straight. This cost him his life and even at that point, he asked God to forgive them (like Jesus during his death).
Also point out to them that after Stephen died, other Christians were so worried for their safety that they moved away to other places, but that this actually helped the Good News of Jesus spread even more, because they told others about Him wherever they lived.
Here’s a paraphrased account you could use:
Stephen was a Christian man in the city of Jerusalem who loved God and Jesus very much. He understood the power of the Holy Spirit in his life. He was a Deacon (servant) of the church in Jerusalem and helped make sure that the poor widows received their fair share of food. He taught many people about Jesus and even performed many miracles in Jesus’ name.
Stephen wanted everyone to know the good news about Jesus. He knew that there were many Jews who followed God but did not yet believe in Jesus, so he went to a synagogue to preach. A synagogue is where Jewish people gathered. The leaders of the synagogue became very angry. They did not believe what Stephen was saying about Jesus. In fact, they became so angry that they began telling lies about Stephen to make everyone else hate him. They said Stephen was saying bad things about the Jews and about God. They said he wanted to destroy their temple and stop them from worshipping God.
Because they were so angry at Stephen they took him to the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was a group of Jewish religious leaders who could make decisions like in a courtroom. Even when the Jewish leaders of the synagogue were saying all of these lies in the courtroom Stephen, continued to trust in God. He had so much faith in God that his face was peaceful. The people said, “His face is like the face of an angel”.
When the High Priest (who was the judge) asked Stephen if these things were true Stephen had a very good answer. He answered by telling everyone the story of God and how God had sent his Son, Jesus, to save his people. He talked about many people in the bible like:
- Abraham, who was the very first Jew and the father of a great nation. He also talked about Abraham’s descendants, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.
- Moses, who helped save God’s people from Egyptian slavery and then recorded the Ten Commandments and the rest of the law.
- David and Solomon and how Solomon built the temple.
- Jesus who was killed by the non-believing Jews
Stephen talked about how God sent His Son, Jesus, and how the Jews had rejected Jesus. Stephen spoke the truth, but it made the people in the Sanhedrin very angry and they took him out of the city to throw stones at him until he died. Juts before he died, he called out to God to forgive those who were killing him. There, watching it all was a man called Saul. He agreed that killing Stephen was a good idea and we’ll hear more about Saul later.
After explaining it in the best way you think for your child/ren, ask:
- What was the name of the man in the story today?
- What was the name of the man who thought killing Stephen was a good idea?
- How can you stand up for God? (Help them think of ways and situations where doing the right thing is standing up for God too, eg, telling the truth, including those left-out etc.)
You might want your child/ren to read the passage themselves or retell it to them, or, you could use the paraphrased account above 😊
Things to highlight:
- His accusers said that Stephen taught against the Jews but Stephen talked about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and pointed out that the Jews were God’s nation.
- His accusers said that he was blaspheming Moses but Stephen outlined how the law was handed down through Moses and that God told Moses that a prophet (Jesus) would be sent from among the Jews. Instead of accepting this God’s people had rejected both Moses and God.
- His accusers said that Stephen taught against the temple but he reminded them that before Solomon built the temple there was the tabernacle. God could never be contained in a house made with human hands.
- These things are similar to what Jesus himself was accused of falsely before His death too.
- Another similarity is that, like Jesus, Stephen prayed to God to forgive those who were responsible for his death. Highlight how amazing that is.
- What are you first thoughts after hearing the story? Does anything strike you or stand out?
- It’s difficult for us to imagine what it must have been like for Stephen before he died in such a horrible way. Nor can we know how it must feel to live in a country where being a Christian is forbidden and there’s no such thing as ‘going to church’ as we know it, because of the threat to life. Have you missed anything about not being able to go to church for the past few months? How does it feel knowing that this might not change really soon?
- When Stephen was talking back to those who were accusing him of preaching against the law and God’s temple, he made sure to tell them that way before the temple, God met with people in other places. He was telling them that God isn’t stuck in some building, he meets with people anywhere and everywhere. We don’t need to go to a church building to meet with God or ‘be’ church.
- While we don’t have the option to ‘go to church’, what can you do to ‘meet with God’?
- While we are not able to go to church as we used to, it’s a little bit like we’re getting a tiny, tiny taster of what it could be like for those people living in places where they can’t be followers of Jesus openly. Only a tiny, tiny bit as we aren’t in fear for our lives, but we don’t have the luxury of meeting together in one big happy group. Maybe we feel a bit frustrated and that our faith is being constrained because of the rules. When Stephen was dragged in front of the officials, it says his face was like an angel! Stephen was so close to God before this, he lived his life serving and worshipping God and that could be seen by those around him. And it kept him strong and firm in his faith even when being killed. That’s a huge challenge for us. Do we feel close to God? Can others see that we spend time praying, reading our bibles and ‘meeting’ God?
- Is there one thing you want to do this week to get closer to God?
- Is there anything you can think to do to ‘stand up for God’? Remember every time we tell the truth, include those being left out, share what we have, help others out, behave for our parents/carers or teachers, etc, we are doing what is right and standing up for God.
There is an opportunity here to look deeper into the persecution of thousands of Christians all over the world today. Here’s a link to the Open Doors Children’s resource page if you wanted to have a look into it with your child/ren.
- Stephen rhombicuboctahedron (yep…that’s the name of an object that has eight triangular and eighteen square faces!) Print it off, colour it in, cut it out and follow the instructions on assembling it with a it of fold and glue. Younger children will need help!
- Have a go at the wordsearch/maze puzzles. There’s one for those up to age 7 and one for those older.
- Have you got any ideas of your own to help you tell or remember the story?
- Consider getting a few smooth stones and writing ‘Forgive’ on them in paint or marker. Think about anyone you might need to forgive and pray about it.
Here’s the song from Ian this week 😊