Category Archives: Persecution / Glorifying God

Support Those Who Proclaim The Gospel

Missionaries around the world and throughout time surely know well that sharing the gospel is not for the faint of heart. It is a glorious task we conduct for our Lord Jesus, who commanded us to share the gospel with all the nations, but it is at times quite challenging. Take time as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to appreciate, thank, support and pray for those around, or missionaries you know of that are far away, that are boldly sharing the truth of salvation through Jesus alone with others. The encouragement and sometimes direct supporting actions from fellow believers can be a great help to those sharing the gospel.

Acts 17:1-15

Paul at Thessalonica

      1Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” 4And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. 5But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. 6When they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have upset the world have come here also; 7and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 8They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. 9And when they had received a pledge from Jason and the others, they released them.

Paul at Berea

      10The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. 12Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. 13But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there as well, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14Then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea; and Silas and Timothy remained there. 15Now those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they left.

Those that share God’s word and those that support them are all part of the harvest of the lost for the kingdom of God. So, too, both face trials for their work. Evil people who reject Jesus Christ will go to great lengths to attack and persecute those who are boldly proclaiming truth of Jesus Christ. It is not enough for them to reject God, they must justify their position by stopping others from believing. We see these people still today, threatening Christians with anything from physical violence and death to lawsuits for standing up for Jesus Christ. We must never let this stop us from fulfilling the command of our Lord Jesus to proclaim the gospel to all the nations.

Take a few minutes and identify a few people that you see boldly proclaiming the gospel that you can commit to take time to pray for consistently. It can even be someone in the workplace. It does not have to be a formal pastor or missionary. Are there other ways you can help them through acts of service or support or even just consistent encouraging words? Has God brought missionaries across your path that may need funding to continue His work? Prayerfully consider how you can help. You do not have to go far away to help share the gospel far away. Sometimes you can simply help those who do.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

How Shall We Act When We Are Persecuted?

Jesus warns us that in order to follow Him, really live for Him and proclaim the gospel publically and boldly, we should expect to experience persecution along with great joy. We are certainly not better than our Lord Jesus and He faced much persecution… we should expect it as well, if people can actually tell that we are followers of Christ.

John 15:18-21

     18“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19“If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21“But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.

It can be very frustrating and even emotionally and physically painful to be persecuted for Christ. There are many variations of persecution we may receive ranging from mild anger and bitterness towards us all the way up to physical harm. How we are to react in order that we honor Christ may depend on the situation, but we can learn a lot from reviewing the Biblical example of the prophets, disciples of Jesus, and Paul.

Acts 16:16-40

      16It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” 18She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment.

      19But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities, 20and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, “These men are throwing our city into confusion, being Jews, 21and are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans.”

Paul and Silas Imprisoned

      22The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. 23When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; 24and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

      25But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; 26and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. 27When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” 29And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, 30and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

The Jailer Converted

      31They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. 33And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. 34And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.

      35Now when day came, the chief magistrates sent their policemen, saying, “Release those men.” 36And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The chief magistrates have sent to release you. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” 37But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us in public without trial, men who are Romans, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they sending us away secretly? No indeed! But let them come themselves and bring us out.” 38The policemen reported these words to the chief magistrates. They were afraid when they heard that they were Romans, 39and they came and appealed to them, and when they had brought them out, they kept begging them to leave the city. 40They went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia, and when they saw the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.

We will not always face such harsh persecution as Paul and Silas. However, take notice that they reached the jailer and his family for Christ precisely by acting boldly in a way that is different than those of the world. Instead of reacting with anger and letting the jailer kill himself, then run away… Paul and Silas showed kindness and grace by calling out in time to save his life, even though it appeared at the time that they would have to remain in prison. This behavior was so different from what the jailer expected, so selfless, that it opened the door for Paul and Silas to share the gospel of Jesus effectively and reach the jailer’s whole family.

At the same time, Paul and Silas knew their rights within the government for not be treating in this way and they stood up for their rights as Roman citizens when they had the chance to do so.  They in no way condoned the awful and unlawful behavior of those who persecuted them.

Prayerfully consider any areas in which you feel others are treating you badly because you live your life visibly different from the world, following Christ. How can you respond in a way that may open doors to sharing the gospel? (Hint: You seldom open doors to share the gospel with non believers when you act the way the world expects based on evil or selfish motivation.)

In my personal walk with Christ I have had to make personal choices to avoid responding with anger and bitterness when others verbally or in writing “attack” me for no good reason, other than my desire to live according to the commands of God in the Bible.  They do not come to discuss and learn or share perspectives. They “attack” because they don’t want to even consider that their view is wrong. My prayerful consideration in these non-violent situations is that by responding with patience and kindness rather than raw anger I may get their attention… by demonstrating behavior that is different from the world.  I know I will not always see the potential impact of this action in others, but I experience the righteous fruit of obedience to Christ in my own life when I choose to respond that way and I know there is at least the possibility that I may break down barriers that lead someone to experience the joy of Christ.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

If You Are To Serve God, Prepare For Adventure

For those who truly commit themselves to live for God and serve Him, prepare for adventure. There is no greater purpose than to answer Jesus’ commands and share the good news of the gospel with all the world. For every one who receives the truth, a soul is saved from eternal damnation and heaven rejoices. It changes lives in this world and after death for eternity. But when we set out on a journey to serve God, we will encounter a great many things along the way.

The contrast within Acts 16 is striking as Paul and Silas are on their missionary journey. They find Lydia who rejoices, her household is baptized, and she invites Paul to stay in her household. Shortly after that, they encounter an entirely different response from another.

Acts 16:14-21

  14A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. 15And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

      16It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” 18She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment.

      19But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities, 20and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, “These men are throwing our city into confusion, being Jews, 21and are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans.”

The level of greed demonstrated by the slave girl’s masters is astounding, though not uncommon. They care nothing for her, but get very angry at those who set her free… it costs them future profit. Never mind her life, in their mind. Paul demonstrates the power of God in setting the slave girl free, yet the men do not even pause to consider Paul’s message, but rather immediately erupt in anger and drag Paul and Silas away for prosecution.

The same message and messengers that brought Lydia to saving faith in Christ also evoked great anger in others because of their own personal greed.

If we are to offer up our lives to God as His servants, genuinely, then we will open ourselves up to face much hardship and yet also joy beyond measure. Ultimately joy in serving our glorious Lord Jesus Christ wins out! I encourage each of you to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others publically and without apology. Live out God’s commands so that others will see the Light through your life, even though they want to reject Jesus and slander you.

1 Peter 2:12  12Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Prayerfully consider who is already in your life that you feel God encouraging you to share your faith with. Take a step of faith and tell others the difference that Jesus has made in your life… you might make some angry, but others you will be saving from eternal suffering.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Trust Not In The Accomplishments of Man, But Rather In The Plans Of God

It is all too easy and natural for us to focus on the world from our own perspective… looking toward what plans we make and things we believe we can control. While this is important in order to live out our lives in service to God, how much more important is it to seek after the plans of God and to offer our lives to Him to be a part of it. Only the plans of God will matter in the end. No matter how successful the efforts of man, all will fade and be forgotten.

Ecclesiastes 1:14 I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind.

Ecclesiastes 2:16  For there is no lasting remembrance of the wise man as with the fool, inasmuch as in the coming days all will be forgotten. And how the wise man and the fool alike die!

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14   13The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. 14For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.

As an example, consider from even the Egyptian perspective the impact of Joseph as documented in Genesis.  Joseph helped save all of Egypt from starvation and destruction during a seven year famine. He was second only to Pharaoh in power and authority. He brought great wealth also to Pharaoh. One would think that his accomplishments would last for a long time with honor even amongst those who did not know God, but just observed his human accomplishments. Not so. A new Pharaoh arose who did not know Joseph and it was as if Joseph had never even existed. Joseph’s family and people were persecuted harshly without even having done anything wrong toward the new king to cause him concern. The persecution was brutal and relentless.

None the less, the plans of God to prepare His people for the future so they would be able to receive the promised land continued even under harsh persecution. God was blessing and preparing His people even when they could not possibly see it with their own eyes. God’s plans to fulfill His promises to His people could not be stopped by even a powerful and evil king with seeming absolute earthly power over God’s people.

Exodus 1

Israel Multiplies in Egypt

     1Now these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob; they came each one with his household: 2Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; 3Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; 4Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 5All the persons who came from the loins of Jacob were seventy in number, but Joseph was already in Egypt. 6Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. 7But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them.

      8Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9He said to his people, “Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we. 10“Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.” 11So they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they were in dread of the sons of Israel. 13The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously; 14and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them.

      15Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah; 16and he said, “When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” 17But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live. 18So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live?” 19The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them.” 20So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. 21Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them. 22Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born you are to cast into the Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive.”

I have seen examples in my own life where I went through difficult circumstances and felt there was no good reason for it at the time. I look back now and see how God was preparing me for what I was to face in the future. He allowed me to experience hardship and difficulty and I grew in wisdom and faith and increased my perspective away to be less focused on self and more focused on Him. His plans are not defeated when we encounter hardship. He can use that hardship to develop us and prepare us for what is to come… and we can not even imaging at times what that will be until we get there!

Romans 8:28   And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Jeremiah 29:11 ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

In what areas in your life can you look back now and see how God was developing and preparing you even as you endured suffering and hardship… even though you could not see Him at work in your life?

In what areas of your life are you experiencing hardship now? How can you use this as a time for personal growth in faith and in your personal walk to obey God’s commands and grow closer to God?

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

How Can I Proclaim Christ When People Come Against Me?

The more consistently and more widely I share the good news of Jesus Christ and the truth of scripture revealed in the Bible, the more I see a consistent set of responses from those who hear it.

  • Some will indeed hear the message and either be encouraged or be led to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Each person who finds this path is cause for celebration!
  • Some engage in genuine discussion of facts, evidence, and application of scripture. We can have a civil discussion regarding the facts and evidence of the gospel.
  • Sadly, there are also some who react with anger and hostility. They are not interested in listening but have already made up their minds. When you demonstrate the error of their logic, they do not admit that they are wrong and choose instead attack the messengers personally.

Paul encountered this same range of responses from people when he proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ thousands of years ago. There is no new “modern” response to the message of Jesus Christ. We can learn much from studying the Bible and all that God reveals in it regarding how those who went before us handled these situations.

Acts 14:19-23

     19But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. 20But while the disciples stood around him, he got up and entered the city. The next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe. 21After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” 23When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

Some Jews actually came perhaps 130 miles to hinder the work of Paul. It was not enough just that they rejected Jesus. They felt they had to stop the message of Christ so no one else would accept the message either. They did not win on facts and evidence, miracles were happening where Paul went with the message of Christ. Those who opposed Jesus went to the most brutal response they could get away with… in this case stoning Paul in an attempt to kill him.

What was Paul’s response to such hatred and persecution? Did he stop proclaiming Jesus? No! He got up, moved on and gave glory to God by accepting and teaching that those who proclaim the good news of Jesus will face much tribulation. He continued to do the work of Christ, appointing elders for every church and commending them to the Lord with prayer and fasting.

What a remarkable servant of Christ! I can only hope to follow in the example of Paul in whatever opportunity I have to overcome opposition to the sharing of the gospel. Paul demonstrating true faith in Christ. He was willing to die to share the gospel. He stopped at nothing, regardless of the level of resistance he faced.

What resistance are you facing in your life that discourages you from sharing the gospel? What can you learn from Paul’s response to persecution that you can apply in your life?

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Count It Blessing To Be Persecuted For Jesus

Observe the world around us. Take note of how people respond to the message of Jesus Christ when true believers share it boldly and without apology. Many believe and are saved, coming to true relationship with Jesus Christ. Many others, however, become embittered and stir up trouble to persecute the followers of Christ.

Acts 14:1-8

Acceptance and Opposition

      1In Iconium they entered the synagogue of the Jews together, and spoke in such a manner that a large number of people believed, both of Jews and of Greeks. 2But the Jews who disbelieved stirred up the minds of the Gentiles and embittered them against the brethren. 3Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands. 4But the people of the city were divided; and some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles. 5And when an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers, to mistreat and to stone them, 6they became aware of it and fled to the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, and the surrounding region; 7and there they continued to preach the gospel.

Why is it that so many that reject Christ become bitter toward those who submit to Him? They do not want to change their lives to submit to Christ. They desire to remain in sin, doing things their own way.

John 3:19-21

19“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20“For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21“But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

There is no good reason to hate Christians. Those that truly follow Christ actually are respectful and considerate to all… showing love to all. But the part that many can not take is that we, as followers of Christ, are also to rebuke and correct wrong behavior as wrong. We are not to accept it and condone it or make excuses for it. Following Christ and loving others drives us to point out the destructive behaviors to try to help not only ourselves but others as well. Knowing that non-believers are going to Hell for eternity drives us to want to save them from that fate… and only faith in Jesus Christ can do that. There is no other way. So we proclaim Jesus boldly.

John 14:6

 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

People often do not want to accept correction. Only the wise accept rebuke and grow wiser. Fools reject it and remain in their folly… and get angry with the one who tries to help them. As Christians we can become more effective sharing the gospel by paying attention to those we want to reach. Those willing and open to receive the message may be ready to accept Jesus. Sometimes they must first be spiritually broken and realize they are missing something… then we can tell them it is Jesus they are missing. Those who are scoffers and mockers, still unwilling to admit they are not sufficient by themselves, are not ready to receive Christ and will just hate you for it.

Proverbs 9:8-9

  8Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you,
Reprove a wise man and he will love you.

  9Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser,
Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.

However we are commanded by Jesus Christ and driven by genuine love for others to boldly proclaim the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ to those that do not know it. We must not allow ourselves to be discouraged that some will come against us when we share the gospel, but rather remember that others will be saved!  Be encouraged by the words of our Lord Jesus and count it blessing when you are persecuted for standing with Christ.

Matthew 5:10-12

 10“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Continue to share the truth of the good news of Jesus boldly. Look for those who are willing to hear and listen, but do not be discouraged that others will come against you. Always live in the example of Christ so that we can be a light to others, even when they do not want to see.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Can All Things Really Work Together For Good?

Many who follow Jesus genuinely and wholeheartedly throughout the ages have faced serious persecution up to and including giving their lives in service to our Lord. Sometimes it is government, a false religion, or even those who claim to be the spiritual leaders of God’s people such as large church organizations or Pharisees and Sadducees during Jesus’ earthly ministry. At times the persecution can be ruthless and relentless. These are times that we as believers must prepare for by establishing strong foundations in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Matthew 7:24-27

The Two Foundations

      24“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25“And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26“Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27“The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

We can, however, be encouraged that our Lord is in control . He is able to use all things to work together for the good of those who believe… even things that we would never expect Him to use for good.

Romans 8:28

      28And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

One such dramatic example is revealed in Acts 8. Saul is ruthlessly persecuting the followers of Christ such that they are scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. How could this possibly be a good thing? God used it to spread the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ! Those who were believers and proclaiming the gospel were now scattered to a wider geographic area from which to share the gospel with those who did not yet follow Christ Jesus.

Acts 8:1-8

Saul Persecutes the Church

      1Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death.
And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. 3But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.

Philip in Samaria

      4Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. 5Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. 6The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. 7For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. 8So there was much rejoicing in that city.

Of course, none of us asks for persecution or suffering… but we can be encouraged to remember that God is in control and can use even difficult circumstances to the glory of His kingdom when we love God and follow His commands no matter what our situation and surroundings.

Consider…  what difficult situations have you experienced or witnessed in the past in which you could see God at work? Maybe you did not recognize it at the time, but only afterwards looking back can see His guiding hand at work. Are there any situations you are encountering now that He may be able to use?  How can you serve God in these situations?

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

God Can’t Use Me. How Can He Even Forgive Me?

All of us have made mistakes and rebelled against God at one point or another… choosing our own way over His. Sometimes we can rationalize that it was only a “small” rebellion and can be forgiven. Other times, we have done such terrible things we feel we can not even be forgiven by God, let alone used for His glory.

Let us explore what the Bible has to say about Paul… easily one of the most influential Christians to ever follow and serve Jesus Christ. The Bible introduces us to Paul, while he is still going by the name of Saul. We can hardly recognize the Saul we meet early in the book of Acts as the Paul who writes so much of the New Testament and influenced so many in his time and for centuries after.

Acts 8:1-3

Saul Persecutes the Church

      1Saul was in hearty agreement with putting [Stephen] to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. 3But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.

We meet Saul as he helps to execute Stephen. Exploring further back in Acts 6, we see why Stephen was executed… simply because he was so filled with the grace and power of the Holy Spirit that those who rejected Jesus Christ could not handle it. They had to destroy Him because they were unwilling to change their hearts and their lives to follow Christ.

Acts 6:8-10

     8And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. 9But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. 10But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.

We can only sit back in awe and wonder that our God has made so much forgiveness available to us as His people that someone like Saul, persecuting the followers of Christ zealously, could be turned from that path and toward the path of lifelong servant to Christ.

The truth about forgiveness through Jesus Christ is that there is no sin too great for God to forgive, if we come to Him with repentant spirit. We must be sorry for what we have done and turn away from repeating that behavior and turn toward living the way God says.

It is also true that to continue willingly disregarding God’s commands in any area, no matter how “small” we think it may be, leads to separation between us and God. God can not have a close relationship with someone who consistently chooses rebellion and their own way over His way.

It is not the “size” of the sin… Jesus died for all our sins and He is sufficient to cover them no matter what they are… but rather the genuine repentance in our hearts as we come before God that leads to forgiveness and reconciliation with God. God can use each of us as He used Paul… who started persecuting Christians and ended up profoundly serving Christ by teaching others about Him. Praise to God for making a way for us to be forgiven!

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Everyone Who Does Evil Hates The Light

Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. For many, this wonderful evidence of God likely led them to accept Jesus as Lord, for others it truly helped them grow stronger in their faith, but for others who dwell in darkness… they hate the light and they will rise up to attack those who genuinely stand for God.

John 3:19  19“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20“For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21“But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

Wicked men, who love to do evil will always come against those who bring the light of Jesus Christ to the spiritually dark places throughout this world. It is not enough for them to choose to live in darkness, they feel driven to extinguish the light.

Acts 6:8-15  8And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. 9But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. 10But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.” 12And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came up to him and dragged him away and brought him before the Council. 13They put forward false witnesses who said, “This man incessantly speaks against this holy place and the Law; 14for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us.” 15And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel.

We must remember and prepare to face persecution when we stand boldly for God and proclaim the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Prepare by daily study of God’s word in the Bible and through daily prayer time with God. Learn to tap into the power of the Holy Spirit available to all of us as believers in Christ. Prepare for Spiritual battle, for it will come when we stand for Christ. Pray for God’s help that you stand strong when the persecution comes, as Stephen did. Do not apologize for or water down the true gospel of Jesus Christ to make it more acceptable to the wicked and worldly… for this would essentially be dimming the light ourselves to blend with darkness and shadow. A dim light is of little use to anyone.

We encourage you to review the following teachings as part of basic preparation.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

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Whom Shall We Believe? Whom Shall We Follow?

Many times even today people defer to the perceived “religious leaders” or authority figures for guidance on what is right and what is not of God. Often it is for lack of studying God’s word themselves and a habit to just trust whomever identifies themselves in a established religious bureaucracy or whomever has the biggest crowds or most Facebook likes. These are not reliable measures of who teaches the truth about God. Often this can lead on a path to Hell, lost and far away from God.

Consider the high priest, Pharisees, and Sadducees during Jesus’ earthly ministry. They not only killed Jesus but also persecuted His disciples  violently. For those who trusted only in the established religious bureaucratic organization, they were lost and missed out on the revelation of grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

Instead, the truth of Jesus Christ was being proclaimed by Jesus’ humble disciples, who were being arrested and whipped and threatened for speaking the truth of Jesus Christ.

Each of us should take care… God wants us to study His word ourselves and pray daily, wholeheartedly seeking after Him and changing our lives to reflect how He wants us to live… even if it means pain and suffering for us in our lives. Of course this is difficult, and that is why God sent a helper in the Holy Spirit to help us as believers and followers of Jesus.

Acts 5:27-42

     27When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, 28saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. 31“He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32“And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

Gamaliel’s Counsel

      33But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them. 34But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. 35And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. 36“For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37“After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. 38“So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; 39but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”

      40They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. 41So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

Notice the wicked and hard hearts of the chief priest and the other religious leaders of the time. Not once is there a mention that they prayed to God for guidance regarding Jesus. Always they reacted in the flesh, seeking after their own traditions and power. They never considered that the Messiah they all said they were waiting for would actually come. What else could they possibly expect as evidence beyond what Jesus provided!

Now they are so mad that they want to kill the disciples rather than pause and consider if Jesus really was God. Now it is twice as hard for them because they would have to admit they were wrong and killed the Messiah.

Gamaliel came closest to recognizing the power of God… his advice was wise in that there is no point going against God.  However, he too missed the fact that Jesus was Messiah. The others still insisted on flogging and threatening the disciples before letting them go.

By contrast to the attitude and behavior of the religious leaders, we see the Spirit filled disciples rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for Jesus’ name. Despite continued threats, they returned to publically teaching and proclaiming Jesus as the Christ! Surely true followers of Jesus should seek to be like these men.

When we seek to discern those who teach truth from folly we must first study God’s word in the Bible consistently and seek God humbly in prayer daily. They we will be better prepared to test the teachers we hear to ensure we follow the right ones… and none have the authority to re-write scripture and change God’s word… not even a jot or tittle.

Matthew 5:18 “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

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