Psalm 26:7--That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Face Like an Angel

Acts 6:15--And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.

This verse uses an interesting simile to describe Stephen's face in the midst of his trial. It says that he had "the face of an angel." This is even more surprising considering Stephen's circumstances at the time. He was on trial for spreading the Gospel. Jews in the synagogue had gathered false witnesses against him and accused him of being a blasphemer because he preached that Jesus is the Messiah and the Way to Heaven. But did he react angrily? Did he get upset and mad at his accusers or God? No. Stephen reacted in a very Christ-like way, and this is captured perfectly in the simile describing his countenance.

Even in the midst of false accusation, Stephen did not lash back; he responded calmly and peacefully. He did not sling back insults or accusations against his enemies, but kept his testimony by acting the way Christ did when He was falsely accused. Why? For one, Stephen knew what he stood for was the truth. He had confidence in the Gospel, and was not willing to compromise. Secondly, as already mentioned, Stephen wanted to keep his testimony. If he had blown up in anger it would have brought reproach to the name of Christ and would have actually given his accusers evidence against him, pushing them further from the truth. Thirdly, Stephen was focused on the eternal state of his accusers. He wanted them to be saved, and he knew responding in anger would make it harder for that to happen. Fourthly, he had the example of Christ to look to. Jesus went through the same thing Stephen did, and Stephen followed Jesus' example. Stephen knew that Jesus had suffered for him, and he counted it an honor to suffer for Jesus, Savior of the world and King of kings. Fifthly, Stephen knew God was in control. He knew that no matter what those people said or did, his life was in God's hands, so he had no reason to worry. Everything is in God's plan, and He works all things together for good to those who love Him, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Nothing touches you unless God first lets it through.

Be sure of this: If you take a stand for Christ in this world, people will falsely accuse you in order to try and stop you or ruin your testimony. They will call you hater, bigot, Bible-thumper, Jesus freak, and many other things. They will make things up to try and get you in trouble. How will you respond? Will you act angrily, in the flesh? Or will you let God's grace and Spirit reign in your heart so you can respond in a Christ-like way?

Stephen didn't do this on his own, though. Only by God's grace and the power of the Holy Spirit could he respond in such a way. Earlier in the chapter, Stephen is described as "a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost." Stephen had made the choice to follow Jesus, but it was only by God's grace that he could do the things he did. So it is with us. We may make the choice to follow Christ and surrender our lives to Him, but it is only by God's all-sufficient, enabling grace that we can do anything as we put forth effort to serve God. Every moment, we must walk in the Spirit so we don't fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). We are hopeless and helpless on our own. We have to surrender to the Spirit's leading every moment of our lives. Only then can we live in a Christ-like way and keep our testimony under pressure, just as Stephen did.

I thank God for Stephen's example. He truly was a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and he was able to keep his testimony and glorify God until the end of his life, when he was brutally stoned to death by his false accusers. Even then, looking unto God, Stephen "cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" (Acts 7:60). He loved his accusers and attackers, just as Jesus did. I pray God would give me grace to live a Christ-like life and glorify Him no matter what my circumstances, and I pray the same for you. I pray He would enable us, no matter what we face, to look unto Him and the world around us with the face of an angel.

However, if you've never been saved, you can't claim God's grace and the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. It hasn't been given to you yet. You don't know the peace of God because you're still at variance with Him. There's only one Way to make things right with God, one Way to save your soul from Hell, one Way to have God's gift of grace and the Holy Spirit, and it's the Way Stephen preached: Jesus. Do you know Him as Lord and Savior? Do you have a personal relationship with Him today? Click the Salvation tab above for more details.

God bless as you seek to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. All glory be to God!

Monday, November 19, 2012

My Eagle's Wings

Isaiah 40:31--But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

This week's post is more of a praise testimony than a devotion, but I hope it will still be encouraging. I decided to do this because Thanksgiving is this week. Also, this verse has been sitting at the top of my list of devotion verses for a while, and it has been so true in my life recently.

As you probably know, I am in my freshman year of college, and it has been a challenge, praise the Lord. Here I have been stretched more physically, emotionally, and spiritually than ever before. It has been hard, but by God's grace, everything has pushed and funneled me closer to Him. I can see God working in my life, setting up circumstances either to let me fail or depend on Him, either go crazy or find indescribable peace with Him, either seek satisfaction and be let down or find my ultimate pleasure in Him and let Him fill me overflowing with joy.

Isaiah 40:31 is one of many verses I have clung to during these times. It's one of the most famous verses in the Bible, and rightly so. The way it describes God's refreshment is so accurate: "they shall mount up with wings as eagles." What a beautiful thought. Ultimately, we know that the final fulfillment of this verse will be when we get to Heaven (Oh, what a day!), but I am living proof that God will fulfill this promise for you on earth, too.

Several times during this semester, I have been pushed to my limits, which pushes me to my knees. Then, as I kneel before God's great throne of grace and pour my heart out to Him, what happens is truly beyond words. His Spirit overwhelms me, His grace blankets me, His joy floods me, and I cannot help but laugh, sing, cry, praise, and worship--all in loving, reverent awe of my almighty Maker and Father. It truly is as if He gives me eagle's wings and I soar nigh to Heaven, and I have learned it is often during these times that I am closest to God. How sweet a reassurance to know God is the lifter up of my head and a very present help in trouble. If you've experienced this, you know what I'm talking about. If not, as I've said, I cannot rightly describe it; but I pray you would know it as well.

Leaning on God is the only way to make it through life, and He has been teaching me that so clearly. Daily I am learning how needy I am of His grace for every moment of even the smallest things in life, and I praise the Father for giving it to me. Without Him, I am nothing and can do nothing; but with Him and His strength, I can do all things.

So what troubles are you facing right now? Are you weary? Sick at heart? Ready to give up? Go to God. Let Him refresh you and give you joy and strength like you've never had before. Take hold of God's offer and mount up on the eagle's wings He has promised. I can testify this is true, but His Word is enough to assure us.

Blessed be the name of the Lord, to Whom thanks, glory, and honor belong forever and ever. Amen.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Grace Divine

Grace Divine

Oh blessed Father! Lord above!
Let me show Your perfect love!
Even when the night betide,
let me in Your presence hide.

Joy awaiting to be found,
peace that’s set on solid ground,
grace sufficient for each claim:
all are found within Your name!

When this doubly smitten heart
seeks to break my life apart,
speak unto my withered soul,
“Peace, my child, I’ve made you whole.”

Speak, dear Lord, with gentle voice;
at its sound may I rejoice!
Though still vexed with weary days,
I will trust in You always.

Even when the tempest blasts,
looking to forever last,
praise from me to You will ring.
Praise to my eternal King!

God, my Savior, all in all,
on Your name I freely call;
though not by some work of mine,
but Your matchless grace divine.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Coming King

The Coming King

Come, Lord Jesus! Reign on high!
Let Your glory fill the sky!
Part the cloudy curtains wide;
let Your splendor no more hide.

Rock the earth with gentle feet;
shake it as the weakest wheat.
Make the mountains bow down low;
make the seas in chorus flow.

Let each earthly, human heart
break with truth known from the start.
Let their tainted tongues confess
Jesus in His holiness.

Let the saints around You praise,
praise You in Your perfect ways.
Let them sing with tongues anew
glory which is due to You.

Oh I cannot wait to see—
Oh I cannot wait to be
in the coronation ring,
crown my Savior King of kings!