Devotional Thought for the Day:
57 Then they shouted loudly and covered their ears and all ran at Stephen. 58 They took him out of the city and began to throw stones at him to kill him. And those 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. Acts 7:57-69 NCV
This is the perpetual characteristic of the true church: it not only experiences suffering and is dishonored and held in contempt, but it also prays for those who afflict it and is gravely concerned about their perils.[i]
It is a necessity that we are reminded that Spiritual Warfare is not battling against flesh and blood, rather, the flesh and blood is what we are called to do battle on behalf of, to help free them from what would keep them away from the gospel.
Yet so much of our literature, so much of our training, so much of our attitude is about defeating the person, bringing them to submission, We have so bought into a competitive lifestyle, that it impacts and drives our ministry.
If we are that competitive if we see our spiritual warfare as against those we differ with, how we will nourish the faith and desire we need to pray as Stephen did?
How will we learn to plead for those who do evil as Moses, Abraham, and Paul would? How can we begin to imitate Christ, who asked the Father to forgive those who mocked, stripped, bet and tortured Him, even as He died to secure their freedom from sin?
We need to develop this characteristic that is found in Christ Jesus. We need to develop it not just as a measure of our holiness, but for their sake. As Luther said, we need to be concerned about the perils that the people who oppose us will face, especially the peril that would come if they never find out about God’s love.
This may sound imprudent, or impossible, It may seem that it is only for saints and the holiest of us, but holiness is not an inbred characteristic. Nor is the patience and compassion that this kind of ministry requires. Which should give us the key to the ministry. It isn’t about us being holy enough, it is about realizing the compassion and love of God show to us! It about trusting in God’s promises more than we fear them, or are shamed by the contempt and dishonor they would throw at us,
It’s the result of walking with God, of sharing in His glory, of realizing the love we treasure would free them.
It would bring about reconciliation.
And when it happens, it is amazing to see, it is wonderful and incredible to see
And so needed. It is our ministry, to walk with Jesus as He seeks and saves the lost.
Lord Jesus, help us love them as you love them. Help us desire that they would know you mercy, that they would experience your compassion and love, that they would find themselves sharing in your glory, as you claim them as your own. Lord, have mercy on us all. AMEN!
[i] Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works, Vol. 2: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 6-14. Ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 2. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.
Today’s Devotional/discussion thought:
Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last— salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth— the one who accuses them before our God day and night. 11 And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Revelation 12:10-11 (NLT)
I will grant that you behave properly… But, allow me to speak sincerely. You must admit that you are doing things in such a leisurely way that, apart from not being entirely happy, you remain very far from holiness. That is why I ask: Do you really behave properly? Could it be that you have a mistaken idea of what is proper? (1)
This morning, my sermon is about being a disciple, about being united not just in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, but to be united to His desire that drove him to the cross.
That’s something I think we overlook a little – being united to the cross includes being united to His heart, His soul, His will. Therefore to the Father’s will as well.
To know and to desire that no one should perish, but that all would come to eternal life. To desire this so much, that we are willing to give up our lives to see it occur. Whether that means martyrdom, as is becoming a daily event again in Egypt, and has been the case in so many other places, or whether it means putting to death our normal desires and wants – to see His accomplished. Will we give up an afternoon of rest to be there for a friend, will we drive a few hours to hold the hand of someone who needs it? Will we forsake our treasures, our bank accounts, even our families, when God chooses and anoints us to be the one who reveals God’s love to others? We are called to love others, as Christ loved us…
You see – martyrdom isn’t just physically dying for our faith. The word means to testify, a testimony of one’s life – what we are willing to die rather than recant. It means putting others needs first – sacrificing our lives for theirs.
It’s not about our death – it’s about that to which we testify, that to which we witness with our very lives..
I think we, in our comfort, in our lack of external physical threat – forget that we too are called to be martyrs.. to give our life, as the One we are united to, gave His…for us.
A heavy call indeed… yet one we need to respond to…and only can…as we know the love of Christ.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 848-852). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- Why I don’t hate “religion”, because it is His One, holy, catholic/christian and apostolic church (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Would you like a better life? (justifiedandsinner.com)
“The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you. 27 “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid. John 14:26-27 (TEV)
“Don’t look for consolations apart from God. See what that priest wrote: There should be no unburdening of your heart to any other friend when there is no need to do so.”(1)
There is a cartoon of a priest, sitting in the confessional. In the booth next to him, a youth is saying, “Father forgive me, for I have sinned.” The priest, with a laptop open to Facebook nods his head and says, “Yes, I see you have!” While meant to be funny, there is a great deal of truth there – most of us would never say in person what we type into our computers, tablets, and phones. We would never purge our soul for all to see. (I note – I have a dozen or so friends with multiple accounts, so that they can tweet or post things that those they are posting about can’t see their gripes and complaints.
The problem is of course, that such posting rarely leads to reconciliation, indeed it often prohibits it. it may feel like such purging is beneficial, but what does it say of your faith? What testimony does it give. If everyone agrees with you and has your “cyber-six” does it increase your peace, or lead to more anxiety? Will blasting your lack of trust in your boss, your parents, your president really help the situation?
Jesus has blessed us, by giving us the Helper, the Advocate, the Paraclete (the one called alongside to support and guide) rhw Holy Spirit. It is my thought that when Luther indicated that the commandment about no misusing God’s name also inferred that we must us His Name correctly, Luther had such in mind. Do we turn to God with our burdens,with that which causes us anxiety or pain? Do we let Him deal with us first, do we see Him reconciling the situation and causing it to work our for good, as He promised?
There are times where God will call someone alongside, someone through whom the Spirit will bring comfort, encouragement, I am not talking about that as much as our mass distribution of our gripes, complains, anxieties. Will we bring them to God before bringing them to the world? WIll we take it to the Lord of All, who can change the situation, or change us within it? (nor am I talking about asking people for prayer btw)
Or will we turn away… and let the entire world see how little we trust in God?
My friends- cry to God for mercy first – and watch how different things take on a different view…..
He always has answered, He always will…He will now….
So go ahead, He is listening..
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1645-1646). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.