Oh to have a heart like Stephen!

Reading Acts 6 & 7 just blesses me so much! I love Stephen’s passion for Christ and his desire to share the gospel despite the circumstances! A man of love and faith, fully passionate about our beautiful Jesus! His love was even evident on his face!  All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel. (Acts 6:15) Stephen was filled with the Spirit of God and sold out and radical for His Savior. There was no other Way for him to live. His allegiance was to Jesus!

There is so much we can glean from Stephen’s final day. When the elders and teachers of the law had him falsely accused of blasphemy against the law he didn’t fight back in the flesh but he used a more powerful weapon, he preached the Word of God to them! He didn’t try and justify his actions. He didn’t cry out to God for deliverance, He preached the Word, starting with the Old Testament and leading up to the ONE to whom he loved and followed, Jesus and what a sermon he preached! He knew the Word and he used it. He didn’t rely on his earthly wisdom, but rather the Word.

In chapter 7 we see him preach how God moved through the generations from Abraham up to the coming of His Son and how the “learned leaders” often refused and rejected God’s message and persecuted those who brought it, even to the point of betraying and murdering the Righteous One.

The Spirit of God moved mightily through Stephen as he preached with boldness! He didn’t back down or relent knowing full well that it may result in his death. Stephen’s focus was on sharing the gospel of Christ and Christ alone!

54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:54-60)

I can’t help but notice two things, Stephen did not want the Lord to hold their sin against them and his persecution was witnessed by Saul, whom later had his name changed to Paul and who happened to become one of the greatest preachers of the gospel ever!  Stephen’s death was NOT in vain!  We are living in times where are brothers and sisters around the world are often called to share the gospel amid hostile persecution! The way things are going in North America, it soon may be upon us too.

Lord give us a heart to share the Word of God boldly and in the power of Your Holy Spirit. Let us not be cowardly, or cling to things that really don’t matter. Give us a holy boldness to speak the truth when called up to do so! There is no ONE more worthy of our allegiance, than you Jesus!  Let Your Spirit move upon each of us that call you Savior and Lord to be bold and obedient, regardless of the circumstances we may face!

In the beautiful name of Jesus, Amen.

Don’t Leave Yourself Open to Confusion and Deception!

What a whirlwind two weeks the last few have been. With Easter, I was busy preparing and taking part in our church’s Easter play. Visiting family and finishing up a college course have kept me so busy that I have missed one of my favorite things to do and that is why I decided today I needed to get back to my blog.

Life is short and we only have so much time to share the Word of God! The way things are going, prophetically, it may be even shorter!  Today I wanted to just remind myself and others of the importance of sharing the true, whole gospel based on the Word of God. We are held to a high standard when sharing our faith and sharing the message of the gospel with others. We cannot create a new more ear tickling or politically correct version, regardless of what type of pressure we may feel from the world to do so.  That’s why it is so critical that we actually get familiar with the whole gospel.

A lack of the Word of God in our lives leaves us ignorant and vulnerable. We cannot please God being either of these. We are called to study the Word and allow it to take root in our hearts. Picking and choosing certain verses only to try and promote an incomplete gospel is not acceptable in God’s sight. We all must do our best to ask for the Holy Spirit to guide us as we study to show ourselves approved unto God, a workman or woman rightly dividing the Word of truth! 2 Timothy 2:15

Without knowing the Word, how can we truly live it? How can we share it? I would encourage you to spend time every day praying and asking God to reveal the truth of His Word to you as you delve into your Bible. It is vital food for every Christian. It is also vital that we feed on it daily! As you grow in the Word of God your thoughts will soon begin to change, your faith will increase and you will begin to be able to live out  a victorious life as a true follower of Christ!

Without knowing God’s Word, we leave ourselves incredibly vulnerable to deception in any area of our life. We can’t live the truth if we don’t know it. We can’t share the truth if we don’t know it. We leave ourselves open to thoughts, attitudes and actions that can draw us away from the lover of our soul, Jesus Christ. There are many people living a life of bondage to lies and deceptions of the enemy. God has warned us in the book of Galatians 1:1-10 of the absolute seriousness of knowing the true gospel and sharing the true gospel!

Paul, an apostle sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised from the dead 2  and all the brothers and sisters with me, To the churches in Galatia:Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you,let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Paul wasn’t mincing words here! We are to know, live and share the true gospel of Jesus Christ! This can only be achieved by familiarizing ourselves with His Words and the Words of His Father, who through the anointing of the Holy Spirit used men to pen them.God wants us to take studying the Word seriously. We will never live out our potential as followers of Christ if we don’t. Why let another day pass without spending time in the Word? Let each of us feed ourselves on the spiritual milk and meat God has provided for us.

As His return draws near, let us grow more like Him so that on the day that we meet Him face to face we will hear Him say, “Well done though good and faithful servant!”

He has equipped us for every situation!

As I have mentioned in previous posts in the past, I like to read my Bible front to back. Other than when I am studying a particular topic, I like to read from Genesis to Revelation in order it has been placed.  I am once again back in one of my favorite books of the Bible, the book of Acts. When I go through this book I like to take it slow and savor every word and chapter. If you haven’t done so recently, I highly recommend that you reread the complete book of Acts!

Yesterday I was reading Acts 4 and was so encouraged. The Apostles and all those present in the Upper Room had been filled with the Holy Spirit. No more would Peter be afraid to admit to being a follower of Christ as he had previous to receiving the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit provided all they needed to be able to complete the work that Christ had called them to do. With the experience at Pentecost, God had  equipped His children to continue to share the good news with the rest of the world, Jews and Gentiles! He also equipped them to cast out demons and heal the sick in the name of Christ.

Just prior to chapter 4, the Apostles, now filled with the Spirit,  had just healed a man in the name of Jesus, who was about fourty years of age. This man had been lame right from birth. Because of the miracle, many became followers of Christ! Because of the miracle there was also a new threat of persecution. The Jewish rulers, elders and teachers were not happy to have Peter and John healing the sick and teaching about Jesus, whom they had crucified. They wanted them jailed and silenced.  I couldn’t help but think of all my brothers and sisters in Christ, worldwide, who are now going through the same thing. They are being threatened with prison or death if they continue to follow Christ and share the gospel with others.

When I read the following verses I was so encouraged and blessed! When faced with the threat of persecution or death, the Holy Spirit will provide the boldness and faith any true follower of Christ will need!

Acts 4:8-31 NIV Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected,which has become the cornerstone.’

12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together.16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it.17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”

18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 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.”

21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old. 23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord  and against his anointed one.’

27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

I have often wondered, Lord, how exactly should we be praying when faced with opposition for our faith or for those who are enduring persecution. At times I have prayed for deliverance  from the situation, I have prayed for the Lord to provide courage to endure,  I have prayed for safety  and I have prayed for God to intervene and stop the persecutors. However, after reading this chapter this time around I feel encouraged to now  pray as Peter and John prayed.  “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness! Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus!”  Every follower of Christ is blessed with the gifting of the Holy Spirit! We too can call on the Lord for great boldness and signs and wonders through Christ!

God does not want us to walk in fear and trepidation when faced with opposition or persecution but wants us to call on Him in every situation and to use every situation to further His Kingdom!  I am believing, just as Peter and John did, that God will hear me and give me great boldness when I cry out to Him when i am faced with opposition for my faith.  I am also believing that when I intercede on behalf of my brothers and sisters suffering for the faith  that God will give them great boldness! It is the same Spirit in us that raised Christ from the dead! He will provide the power His church needs to stand and be bold. The Holy Spirit is as important in the life of the church today as He was on the day of Pentecost!

Lord, You have not left us without providing all we need. You have given us the Holy Spirit to equip us for every good work that You want us to fulfill! You have given us the Holy Spirit for signs and wonders! You have given us the Holy Spirit to comfort us! Thank You for His presence in our lives! Remind us to allow Holy Spirit to move through us and teach us all things! Give us a hunger for Your Word and keep us close to You as we fulfill all that You have called each of us to do.

In the beautiful name of Jesus, Amen.

Find yourself waiting?

Sometimes while we are waiting on a change in circumstances or increase in an area of our life we grow restless. We begin to fret and complain. We become discontent. Perhaps we are waiting on a job promotion and begin to envy those who have been promoted. Perhaps we have a financial need and grow impatient waiting on the ability to take care of it. Perhaps we have a health issue we are waiting to see resolved. Perhaps we are wanting an opportunity to use our giftings in the church and find ourselves having to wait on an opening to do so.

When we find ourselves in this place, a place of waiting, the Word of God tells us how we are to wait. Seldom is it how we find ourselves waiting. God knows are natural, fleshly tendencies and therefore the Word is full of reminders of just how we are to wait. So if you currently find yourself in a place of waiting, regardless of what you are waiting on or for, take a look at but a few verses from the Word of God to remind you of the importance of waiting and how we are to wait…

But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.~Isaiah 40:31

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.~Psalm  37:7

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope.~Psalm 130:5

Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long.~Psalm 25:5 

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.~Psalm 27:13,14

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!~Isaiah 30:18

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.~Matthew 6:34

I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven.
 As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till He shows us his mercy.~Psalm 123:1,2

And finally one of my favorites.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.~Matthew 6:33

For when we seek His Kingdom and His righteousness first, everything else will eventually fall into place! He will  meet our needs, He will work out those challenges that are beyond are capability, He will move in the hearts of Kings, rulers and others in our lives. He will take care of us!  Rushing ahead of God and trying to orchestrate things in the flesh never works out for our good or the good of others. Wait on the Lord! He is trustworthy! He is faithful! He will come through for all those who wait on Him!

Blessings!

Feed and Tend, the Call for All

We serve a Master with the heart of a servant. I love that about Jesus. He, the Son of God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords washed the disciples feet. He cared for them as He cares for us.  He fed the multitudes, He healed the sick, He delivered the bound and set the captives free!  Praise God He is still doing this today!

His heart has always been tender toward those who seek Him. He longs for fellowship and intimacy with those who call on His name. When I read John chapter 21 last night I couldn’t help but think of just how much He loves His church. Just as a loving parent, in the latter days of their life, wants to do what they can to ensure their children and grandchildren will be prepared and looked after after they depart, Jesus did the same.

After His resurrection from the dead, He appeared three times to His disciples. Though His throne awaited Him, though His reunion with the Father awaited Him, He wanted to ensure His church would be taken care of!

John 21 After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”

They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?”

They answered Him, “No.”

And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some. So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”

11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.

14 This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”

16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.

18 Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” 19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”

20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21 Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, whatabout this man?”

22 Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”

23 Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?”

24 This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true.

25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.

 Jesus wanted to ensure that Peter, one of the founding members of the body of Christ, the Church, would continue His work. He wanted to ensure that the lambs (new believers) would be fed (nurtured) with  the message of the gospel so that they could grow into sheep.
He wanted to ensure that His followers (sheep)  would be tended to or taken care of just as Christ took care of them when He walked with them.  And lastly He wanted to ensure that His followers (sheep) would be fed. That they would continue to be fed the Word of God and the sharing of the gospel in order that the good news would be spread throughout all the world. Well fed sheep are less likely to wander off into other pastures!
 Jesus, just like a loving parent, wanted to ensure that His disciples would continue to fulfill the purposes of God by spiritually feeding and tending to His lambs and sheep. He didn’t leave until He had done so.  Until He had fed His disciples and reminded them yet one more time to take care of the lambs and sheep. He knew their natural propensity to forget what was important and wanted to tend to them and remind them one more time!
That is the heart of the One we serve! That blesses me and makes me sad all at the same time! To be loved by One that loves us that much is truly awesome!
 Our Shepherd loves His herd and we like Peter, have a responsibility to feed His lambs, tend His sheep and feed His sheep. We too are His disciples. Every one of us that call Him Savior and Lord share this responsibility.
It is a blessing and a privilege to serve Our Shepherd! Let’s remember His words to Peter as we start each day!
Blessings!

Where’s your focus?

For those of us who call Jesus Lord and King, we have so much to be thankful for. For those who don’t yet know Him as Lord and King they have so much to gain by calling on His name. With Him in our life we are able to walk through any situation that life may throw at us. He doesn’t allow His kids to go through more temptation than they are able to bare if they abide in Him through the journey. He may allow a storm in our lives but He will never  bail on us during the thick of it. Never!

 

Too often we slip into a pattern of worry or fear with regards to the future. We forget that the lover of our soul never turns a blind eye to His church. Instead, He waits to hear from us. He longs for our fellowship. He is as close as the mention of His very name!

When we find ourselves feeling far from Him it is usually the result of setting our eyes on the natural. We forget that our relationship is a relationship of faith, not based on what we see but instead on the truth of the Word of God and the revelation of who Christ is through the Holy Spirit.  It is so important that we get ourselves back to the truth of the Word of God and the knowledge of who Christ is and will always be! He is Emmanuel, GOD with us! Don’t forget it! Instead let the truth of that sink into your heart! God loved us enough that He sent His own Son for our redemption. He wanted to restore a relationship with us so much that He allowed His Son to suffer and die on the cross for you and me!  That’s an awesome love right there!

When you find yourself reducing Christ and enlarging your problems, it’s time to get back to this basic truth. It’s time to heed Apostle Paul’s words taken from Colossians 3:1-3 NIV Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

You will only grow in your intimacy and love for Christ when you set your mind on things above. It is there in the realm of faith that He will begin to move the mountains in your life as your lean into Him and trust Him to do so! Keeping your eyes on your problems will keep you bound by them! Keeping your eyes on Christ will allow Him to move mightily!  James 1:8 KJV tells us A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.  We can’t keep our eyes focused on our problems and trust God for the answers at the same time. We must exercise our faith and turn them over to Him and trust Him to work everything  out for our good! He promised to do just that!  Romans 8:28 NIV 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

If you are struggling through a situation right now, take your eyes of your current situation and remember you have been raised with Christ through your redemption. Set your heart and mind  on things above. Remember that Christ is seated at the right hand of God and is ever making intercession for you, His church! There is nothing too big or difficult for Him to handle. Release the fear and stress of your situation into the hands of the ONE who loved and loves you more than His life itself!  Trust Him, He is worthy!