You are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God's holy nation, His very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9, nlt
Do you remember when young Stephan was killed? What a no compromise bright and shining light! What a chosen and effective witness for Christ he was. Man, he seemed to make every day count for the Lord ..while he could. Who really knows (saint or sinner) when their gunna be done with it all early?
I bet it really shook the people up of that day when he was stoned in his youth; especially religious Saul the onlooker.
While the rocks where flying at Stephen, and the blood splattered upwards, he wasn't showing badness and vindictive anger towards his attackers trapped in darkness. No, he was showing them the goodness and love of God 'til the very end. He wanted them all forgiven so much it hurt. Hadn't his Lord do the very same thing? He had a good Example to follow like we do.
You remember the story and how he called out, "'Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!' Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' 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" (Acts 7:56-60).
The Scriptures don't say that he "died" 'cause we all know exactly where Stephen went—his soul and spirit went straight to be with his loving heavenly Father. God says "he fell asleep" for he knew that one day Stephen's physical body in the grave would explode outta there with resurrection life. Will yours? Who really needs to experience the second death--not Stephen?
Stephen is in Heaven today, he's going to live forever and we can one day meet and join him by getting right with the Lord today ..on His terms!
You know it doesn't always play out like it did with Stephen. People reach room temperature in a myriad of different ways ..unexpectedly. We're certainly not sure where some people end up (and they themselves are often not sure where they will go before they enter eternity, even though they could be if they wanted to.. beforehand. See 1 Jn. 5:13). But what an honor! Stephen took a stand for Jesus ..with his life and words and all, and then Jesus took a stand for Stephen. Will you do the same?
High profile people, low profile people, and many other people in the middle with equal value physically died this week—even today on the streets of Iran and here in the States. SAD! You know, I was standing only ten feet away from the same location today where I encountered Michael Jackson and his mom ..who was dressed all in white. It was back in the '80s. Michael was wearing a black fedora hat, sunglasses and no glove that warm sunny day. Yeah, but here's what's kinda weird, I was standing only eight feet away today from that spot when I heard that this same king of pop died ..the same age as I am now ..in a Los Angeles hospital.
I ever remember later that day giving him a hand written non-pushy, non-condemning Gospel tract that I wrote for him with key verses I felt were just for him.
Of course we didn't become buds or have some long conversation about spiritual matters. He was pretty much to himself, but a nice guy just the same. It didn't appear to "take" with him though (ya know, my tract), because he later joined up with some JW cult members here in Dallas to go out witnessing with them and with their false religious message. SAD!
Hey, this nobody (me), doesn't know about all the details of his controversial life and I'm not his Judge. Don't really care to know that much. Only God sees the inner heart of man, but I pray for his heart-broken family today. They must really be hurting like never before.
Way too many precious people died this week and they all seemed way too young to me. Man, when that happens, it just makes me want to shine the light of the Lord all the brighter. It makes me want to walk close with Jesus in holy fear, rather than with some kinda cheap grace mentality doin' my own thang in His Name. Too many people out doin't that!
Another man.. a homeless classmate of mine from Dana Hills High named Neil who sleeps under the stars.. and under a bench some 1500 miles west of me now is about to die. He and I were real party-animals through the '70s but now all that has sadly caught up with Neil. Neil thinks he's fine believing he's one heaven-bound Christian now, but he still likes to get drunk daily (See 1 Cor. 6:9-10 to see why I feel concerned). Sad; so much to do.. to say.. and so little time. I ain't no Messiah, but I need Him and want him to work through this ordinary run-of-the-mill Joe like me. Who will listen? Probably no one if I don't get down on my knees early!
I SO want Neil to go to heaven! My parents have even talked with him this week and really tried to help him, but he just turns em down. SAD!
That's the really hard part! We can show drunks and other needy folk the goodness of God repeatedly and lovingly share the Gospel with them, but it does them no good at all if they aren't open for this. Do you have a readiness about you. Are you sick and tired of bein' sick and tired? Some never seem to hit a bottom til they hit the bottom of that dug out hole, but then it's too late. There's no salvation beyond sucking air ..alive while here.. but if you live 100% for Jesus now, your impact and ministry influence can go beyond your short time spent here.
The Bible says, "By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain did… and by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead" (Heb. 11:4, niv). Abel's life, although cut short, was not wasted at all. It was because of his faith in the one and only living God, as was expressed through his daily verbal and non-verbal witness. Yup, that made the difference!
Perhaps there have been times when you felt afraid of rejection and couldn't open your mouth to tell someone the truth. You could have, but you felt paralized in a way. Maybe you've felt under-prepared before to witness for Christ out loud? Perhaps you've wondered at times what people might think of you if you "wax bold" and get right to the point about God's benevolent grace. Ever wonder what your legacy will be like, or what they'll say about you when you're gone? I don't mean to be macabre or anything heavy like that here, but have you ever considered what you want others to truthfully inscribe on your tombstone? I've got one friend who wants his to read: Jesus never fails (just like it reads on his Christian mom's ..and grandmother's tombstones)!
Ever prayed about, or thought about what your grandchildren would know about you? Liney and I so look forward to the time when we can meet our granddaughter, Abrianna, for the first time and we pray that we can be good consistent on-fire witnesses for her and our boys too.
Wouldn't it be amazing if, like Abel or Stephen in the book of Acts, you would be remembered throughout all the generations to follow as one who was a close friend of God.. one who lived by faith in Christ no matter the cost ..one who not only believed and spoke about Christ affectiontely and what the Bible says, but actually lived it? You and I aren't promised old age or a death bed. Many people aren't afforded such, but in a sin-cursed world ..that we made that way through disobedience.. even that kinda pain of illness and death.. doesn't make the Lord any less Good. Are you seriously hurting today or confused? He alone can bring good outta all the bad.
Abel probably didn't get it all in his day, but he passed the baton of truth that leads people to salvation ..on to the next generation.. which was represented by his younger brother, Seth. And it would appear that Stephen's obedience was also a factor in lost Saul later getting saved.
No matter your situation or weaknesses, you too can be instrumental in winning lost sinners to Christ and relaying the baton of faith firmly into their hands. Get close to Christ now! We all have our part to do as we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (See Matt. 6:33)! Wisely relay it to your own children if you have some, and if not ..just rejoice (and I don't mean to say that in some cavalier way)! Many feel acute pain because they've wanted children for so long.
You and I can simply relay it to someone else's children as well as to all those around us. Choose to be inclusive rather than exclusive. What a joy! That's how caring Jesus was (even though He never accepted their sins that hurt them). The possibilities are limitless ..though our time down here for this type of rescue-activity is not. People of all shapes and sizes depart from us without notice. Let's show em while we can!