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.

God Provides for Us

God Provides for Us

The Word of God reminds us that God cares for all of His creation, including the birds of the air.  And it states that we are far more valuable to the Lord than His birds!  So, of course, He provides for our needs daily.

Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  (Mt 6:26, see Lk 12:24)

By them the birds of the heavens have their home; they sing among the branches.  13 He waters the hills from His upper chambers; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works.  (Ps 104:12-13)

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  (Phil 4:19)

Knowing that God is Jehovah Jireh, our Provider, should fill us with confidence and reassurance in a very deep and meaningful way.  Hopefully, it liberates us to focus upon God and His goodness.  It will spur us to praise and worship the Lord daily, and to work diligently for the Kingdom of God.

Jesus is the Lord, our Righteousness!  (Jer 23:6; 33:16)  Along with Christ, the Father God has given us ALL things that pertain to life and godliness.  (2 Pet 1:3)  So rejoice in your many blessings and spread this gracious, Good News to others.  

Leaders, Shepherd the Flock

Leaders, Shepherd the Flock

Here are standards for those who are Pastors, elders, or leaders in a church.  If you would LIKE to become a Pastor, elder, or leader, study the Scriptures to discover what is required of such a person.  Then begin to live that out in your life; behave as if you already ARE a Pastor, elder, or leader.  It will not go unnoticed by God, and He will put you into the position that you desire.  (1 Tim. 3:1)

Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords (masters) over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.  (1 Pet 5:2, 3 NKJV)

  1. Shepherd the flock of God AMONG YOU! That means everyone that you come into contact with daily!  Make an impact for GOOD on those with whom you connect regularly—including your own family members.  (Mk 3:14; 16:15; Ac 5:42; 8:4; Heb 6:10, 11; 2 Tim 4:2)
  2. We’re to serve as overseers. An overseer is an administrator, manager, or someone who gets things done.  We were not elevated to our responsible position in order to prosper financially or to charge people fees.  We never saw Jesus give us such an example.  We’re to help people—help them receive all that they need by whatever means that the Lord directs us to use.  Whatever a person’s needs are, the salvation of Jesus Christ has already met that need!  We’re put here to help people to see this truth, and to help them to receive God’s blessings.  (Mt 6:10; 16:19; 18:19; Ac 20:28; Phil 4:19; Col 1:27; 1 Joh 5:14, 15)
  3. We are supposed to serve willingly and eagerly, with a good attitude and cheerful heart. We are called, each one of us, to BE a blessing!  (Col 3:23-24; 1 Pet 3:9)
  4. We are told not to “lord” it over people. Instead we are to sacrifice and humble ourselves even as our Savior, Jesus, sacrificed and humbled Himself to provide and secure our salvation.  (Mt 18:4; 23:12; Rom 12:1, 16; Eph 5:2; Phil 2:8; Heb 13:16; 1 Pet 2:5; 5:6; Jas 4:6, 10)
  5. The sheep have been entrusted to the care of their church leaders, and we are NEVER to harm the sheep. We are serving as an under-shepherd under the authority of Jesus, the Good Shepherd!  (Jer 50:6; Eze 34:10; Joh 10:11, 14; 1 Pet 5:4)
  6. The Word tells us that we should be examples to the flock. Jesus was our example, and we’re to follow in His footsteps.  (Joh 13:14-16; Phil 3:17; 1 Pet 2:21)

May God bless you and flood you with His love and grace, as you pursue your leadership role in the Kingdom of God.

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!

It’s Never Too Late for Peace, Part 2

It’s Never Too Late for Peace, Part 2

We continue our study on making peace.  We serve the God who is the Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6), so we must always cooperate with Him.

Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.  (Ps 34:14)

Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.  (Jas 3:18)

A very vital spiritual discipline is to pray for the other person involved in the broken relationship.  Never try to “get even,” because that motivation does not come from the Spirit of God but from the pit of hell.

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you . . . (Mt 5:44)

Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse.  (Rom 12:14)

Make sure that no one repays evil for evil. Always pursue what is good for one another and for all people.  (1 Thes 5:15)        

If you’re the offended person and you receive a text, email, or note in the mail similar to what was described in our previous article, pray deeply and sincerely about your response.  Weigh the pros and cons of what actually happened between you. Was it an uncommon occurrence on the other person’s part?  Was it out of the ordinary or some kind of misunderstanding? 

Ask the Lord to give you His supernatural grace to forgive; and understand that when you ask Him to do something according to His will (1 Jo 5:14-15), that He hears you and gives you exactly what you’ve requested. 

Remember that you are also forgiven by the Lord.  The Lord said:  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  (Mt 6:15) 

If you’re able to forgive the other person, it is a victory for the Kingdom of God!  And it will enrich your life and the lives of those who may be aware of the problem.  Forgiveness and reconciliation is a testimony to God’s goodness, mercy, and grace. 

If you honestly and sincerely feel that the circumstance(s) that caused a rift between you was a predictable event, and that it will certainly happen again, then you still need to forgive the person.  But you can choose NOT to resume a relationship with the person who hurt you.  However, you should respond to their overture and let them know that you do forgive them, and that you wish them the very best.  You can then indicate that due to the history between you, you feel it’s best for you that you don’t resume a relationship with them. 

In following these guidelines, you will have cooperated with the other person (and with God) in establishing peace between you.  (2 Cor 13:11) God bless you.

It’s Never Too Late for Peace, Part 1

It’s Never Too Late for Peace, Part 1

When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.  (Pro 16:7)

And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.  (Rom 5:11)

Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  (2 Cor 5:18, 19, emphases added)

The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.  (Pro 19:11)

Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.  (Rom 14:19)

It’s never too late to make peace with estranged friends, family members and loved ones.  Reconciliation is the very crux of Jesus’ work for the Kingdom of God.

Whenever something has happened to cause a breakdown in a relationship, it’s best to pray about it and literally bathe the event in prayer (after it has happened).  Ask God to give you supernatural wisdom, insight, and understanding in the matter. 

If you’re the offender, respectfully approach the person whom you’ve hurt, and indicate that you would like to make peace.  This might involve you sending a “thinking of you” card in the mail (or a text message or an email, etc.) saying that you’d like to make things right between you.  Share your sincere apology for the offense (briefly say what it was), and that you would like to resume a relationship.  Indicate how important the other person is to you.

Now, whatever the response is—you’ve done your part.  Your mind and conscience can be at peace, even if the offended person doesn’t reply.  Or they may say that they forgive you, but they don’t want to resume the relationship.  Again, that’s their prerogative, and you’ll know that you did the responsible and godly thing.  At least you have participated in establishing peace between you and the other person.  (Rom 12:18)

Our next article will cover Part 2 of this subject.

Living in the Moment

Living in the Moment

Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old.  (Isa 43:18)

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  (Mt 6:34, NIV)

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.  (Rom 13:11, emphasis added)

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.  (2 Cor 6:2b)

This is all about living in the NOW of our lives.  Our past is behind us, but remembered.  Our future is unknown but hoped for.  Only today—this moment in time—is of ultimate importance and necessity!  Why?

The present matters deeply.  We must live right now, in this moment, in the kingdom of God.  Recognize that the kingdom of God and His power are within you!  (Lk 17:21; Acts 1:8; 2:4)

We should nurture an attitude of heart that is always seeking and searching for God’s will and God’s best for ourselves and for others.  We need to put away distractions and selfishness, and focus on what God’s plan for us is. 

What ministry has God called you to?  What lives does He want you to touch?  What life experience has developed compassion in you for others, and how can you share that compassion?  How can you help others, and improve their lives?

Not only does God’s presence surround us, but people in need surround each of us as well!  Jesus wants us to reach out to the needy and the hurting, and to minister His love and mercy to them through each of us.   Jesus wants us to:   Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.  (Mt 10:8)  These are His instructions that He gives to each one of us. 

In Jesus, come ALIVE and live in the moment for the Kingdom and for God’s glory!