Extreme Mercy & Forgiveness

Extreme Mercy & Forgiveness

And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.  (Ac 7:59-60)

Focus on the extreme mercy and forgiveness that Stephen displayed!  Here are people in the process of killing him, and he forgives them and asks the Lord to forgive them.  Then he dies. What mercy!  What forgiveness!  Stephen went to heaven as a martyr for the gospel.

According to Daniel 9:9, mercy and forgiveness belong to God.  The Bible says (see below) that mercy and unlimited forgiveness belong to God.

O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, because with the Lord there is mercy and with Him there is unlimited forgiveness.  (Ps 130:7 GW)

In the church of Jerusalem, Stephen was chosen along with six other men to serve as deacons.  As deacons, they would take charge of the gifts of the people, and give assistance to those who were in need, including widows.  The criteria for choosing these men was that they had to have the Spirit of God and to have wisdom. 

Stephen not only cared for the poor, but he began to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone—Jews and Gentiles both.  This conduct enraged some of Jews, who plotted against him.

Clearly, as Stephen shared the Good News, the Holy Spirit used Stephen as an instrument for the Kingdom of God.  History records that Stephen, as he ministered to the people, performed signs, wonders, and miracles among them.  Glory to God!

Stephen clearly loved and obeyed Jesus Christ, his Savior and example in all things.  Stephen emulated the Lord Jesus Christ in his life, work, and even in death. 

This is a good moment to reflect upon our own lives; and to determine whether we are allowing mercy and forgiveness to operate in our lives, our responses, and our actions.

The Inexorable Force

The Inexorable Force

Our God is the Inexorable Force of the universe.  What He says always, ALWAYS comes to pass.  When we become born again, He places His hand upon us in such a way that we must share His Truth and His Word.  These verses illustrate what I’m saying:

But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Ac 4:19-20 NIV, underlining added)

But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.  I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.  (Jer 20:9 NIV)

 “Well, I have come to you now,” Balaam replied. “But I can’t say whatever I please. I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.”  (Num 22:38 NIV)

In our hearts, we feel that force within us that compels us to testify that Jesus is the Redeemer of all mankind—the hope of all the world.  If we are not aware of an inner inducement to share the Good News with others, then it is time to renew our commitment to the Lord and to rededicate ourselves to His purposes.

In Acts 17:16-17, we read that Paul was provoked to share the gospel message with the people in Athens.  Jesus addressed His followers in Acts 1:8 to tell them that they would be His witnesses in this world.

We must confess, along with 2 Samuel 23:2:  “The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; His word is on my tongue.”  Let us lift our voices and testify to the loving goodness and kindness of our God and Savior.  The Holy Spirit (The Inexorable Force) within each one of us lovingly requires it of us all.

Seek the Well Being of Others

Seek the Well Being of Others

As children of God, our actions will naturally imitate the actions of our Heavenly Father.  God cares for each and every person.  He is pleased when—instead of being selfish—we look for opportunities to help and to bless other people.

Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.  (1 Cor 10:24)

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus  . . . (Phil 2:4-5)

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth . . . (1 Cor 13:4-6, underscoring added)

God is love (1 Joh 4:8) so the passage of Scripture above outlining the nature of love gives us a very good picture of the nature of the God whom we serve.  This reveals how the Lord deals with each person individually, and helps us to understand His love for mankind.

In these verses from the Bible, we can see that working on behalf of other people in order to bless their lives will also result in bringing glory to God.  This is what we who serve the Good Shepherd are called to do.  We’re called to imitate the Lord Jesus Christ; to bring glory to God; and to spread the Good News.  In so doing, the very works of God will be revealed in us.  (Joh 9:3) Have a blessed day!

Bearing Fruit

Bearing Fruit

The Scriptures remind us that, as believers, we need to bear fruit to the Lord.  Let’s see what the Bible says.

He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.  (Joh 15:5)

Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  (Mt 7:17-19)

But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  (Mt 13:23)

But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.  (Lk 8:15)

By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.  (Joh 15:8)

Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.  (Rom 7:4)

After reading these passages, it’s clear to see that as we abide in Christ, He causes us to bear fruit.  And the Christian life is intended by God to be a fruitful life.  Disciples of Christ bear fruit—that’s very clear. 

Good fruit is produced by the Holy Spirit.  Galatians 5:22 reveals the fruit of the spirit to us.  It is evidenced in a good character; by contributing to the world and the people in it; and by sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with others.  We can’t do any of this without abiding in Christ and staying closely connected to Him.  He gives us eternal life, and the fruit of the spirit is eternal fruit.  Glory to God!

Look Into the Law of Liberty

Look Into the Law of Liberty

But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he [she] does.  (Jas 1:25, word in parenthesis added)

This passage of Scripture is full of meaning, wisdom, and insight if we’ll take the time to think about it and to study it.

Why does this verse refer to the law of liberty?  I believe it’s because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news that sets people free.  Once we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are liberated from sin, bondage, and condemnation.  We experience a new birth in Christ and receive the promise of eternal life.

We find a law within the Good News of Jesus Christ, and it is a law of LIBERTY and not of slavery—life and not death!  In Romans 3:27 it is referred to as the law of faith.

James 1:25 is referring to a devoted student of the Scriptures as he/she, in all humility of heart and mind, intently studies the Bible.  This is done reverently and with a quality of examination, analysis, and recognition.  We would be on our knees in a spiritual sense.

We can each be this type of student of the Word.  How?  We read the Word expecting the Holy Spirit to illuminate a passage in such a way that it changes us—soul and body.  When it actually happens, our willingness to wait patiently on the Lord will give us even more insight as we glean how to apply it to our own lives and circumstances.

In this way, we have the privilege of fine tuning our lives to comply with and to obey the Bible in more detail and more holiness as we mature in our walk with Christ.  This is an ongoing process, and it’s an exciting progression as well as a sobering one.  It is a solemn and a holy process that occurs in our hearts and must be guarded constantly. 

If we let down our guard and forget what God has patiently revealed to us and taught us, we do damage to our own heart and to our relationship with God.  Our relationship with Jesus is the most important thing in our lives, having value for all eternity.  It, alone, is the promise of eternal life. 

It is the law of faith and the law of liberty.  Value it, brothers and sisters!

Are You Under Attack?

Are You Under Attack?

Are you aware that you’re under a spiritual attack of some sort?  It may not look like it’s a spiritual battleground at first glance—but make no mistake, it IS a spiritual battleground!

Is a neighbor causing trouble for someone in your family?  Are things happening at work that just aren’t right?  Have financial stresses come out of nowhere?  Have you received a sudden, serious medical diagnosis?  Or maybe it’s an unexpected hostility between two of your adult children . . .

If any of these things sound familiar to you, realize that the origin of most negative scenarios like these is the evil one.  (Joh 10:10)  The Good News is that Jesus, our Lord and Savior is our solution in each and every circumstance!

“For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” says the Lord who has compassion on you.  (Isa 54:10 NASB)

God says that His lovingkindness hasn’t been removed from you nor has His covenant of peace with you been shaken.  Hallelujah!

“If anyone fiercely assails you it will not be from Me.  Whoever assails you will fall because of you.”  (Isa 54:15 NASB)

This reassures us that evil attacks upon us, regardless of their nature, never come from God.  But He guarantees us that the attack and attacker will fall and be absolutely defeated.

If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him.  For the temple of God is holy, which temple YOU ARE.  (1 Cor 3:17, emphasis added)

In this verse from the Bible, God says plainly that He will destroy the one who attacks His temple; we are His temple.

Even the captives of the mighty man will be taken away, and the prey of the tyrant will be rescued; for I will contend with the one who contends with you, and I will save your sons.  (Isa 49:25 NASB, emphasis added)

Lastly, the Scripture above declares that God will oppose the one who dares to oppose YOU.  All glory to God!  Put your hope, faith, and trust in Jesus; and rest in His love and His mighty power.

Being a Witness Where You Are

Being a Witness Where You Are

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”  (Mk 16:15)

Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.  (Ps 96:3)

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.  (Mt 24:14)

The Bible tells us in 2 Peter 3:9 that the Lord is not willing that any should perish.  Jesus obediently fulfilled His assignment to the fullest, and has purchased our salvation.  We are instructed by the Scriptures to share our Good News with others! 

We don’t need to embark on a mission field in some far-flung country to do this.  We’re called to be witnesses of God’s goodness right where we are!  We may do that in a variety of ways:  by serving our neighbors through acts of kindness and mercy; by being helpful and considerate; by sending a card, making a meal, or visiting someone who is not feeling well.  God has made us to be creative, and every individual can think of creative ways to be a light in this world—thereby bringing glory to God.

Sharing the Good News isn’t about preaching at someone or beating them over the head with verses from the Bible.  It’s not about condemnation, but love.  It’s about lovingly reaching out to those we know, and interacting with them in ways that are meaningful to them.  And while we’re doing that, we take opportunities to share our own life experiences with them.  We may quote a succinct Scripture to support a comment, or share a brief testimony of answered prayer.

Being an effective witness for the Kingdom of God means connecting with our friends and neighbors during good and bad times. (Eccl 3:4)  As a witness, we should also strive to be a good citizen and neighbor—a good example.  (2 Cor 5:20)  We need to speak from our hearts, and show respect and sympathy towards others.

Witnessing means being genuine with our friends and neighbors, and even admitting when we may be struggling with something.  (2 Tim 1:8)  As we are open with others and allow them to see God resolve our circumstances for us, our life becomes a window into how the Kingdom of God operates.  This style of candid testimony affirms our authenticity.  Other people can sense how deeply we honor Christ and value our relationship with Him as they see us trust Him to work out the difficulties that we encounter in life.  (1 Pet 3:15)

As we live this way, the Lord will faithfully open the ears, minds, and hearts of those with whom we interact.  He will allow others to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, and His Spirit will then be able to move upon them to minister to them. 

All we need to understand is that the Lord will draw the unsaved to Himself through us—if we’ll cooperate with Him.  Praise God!