Be Tenderhearted

Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous.
— 1 Peter 3:8

What is a tender heart? First, see what it is not. The opposite of a tender heart is a hard heart. Like a stone it is cold, unmoving, and unyielding. Pharaoh is a classic example of a man with a heart of stone. Even after personally witnessing the miraculous judgements of God he still refused to submit to God’s demands. “And when Pharaoh saw that the rain, the hail, and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet more; and he hardened his heart...neither would he let the children of Israel go.” (Exodus 9:34,35) There is no getting through to a person with a heart like this. No matter what you say or what Scripture you point to, it is to no avail. There is no way past the solid fortress that their heart has become. They do not hear what the Spirit says. While others are moved to tears upon hearing the Word of God, they remain untouched and unmoved, “...Having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart...” (Ephesians 4:18) A hard heart leads to a thick head. Ignorance of the things of God and a darkened understanding are its results. A tender heart is worth more than all the education in the world when it comes to knowing God.

So what is a tender heart? It is sensitive. It is compassionate. It hears the Word of God, receives it and is affected not just emotionally, but in the will. Not just moved to tears, the tender heart hears the Word of God and is moved to action. While the hard heart is often filled with pride the tender heart is both teachable and humble. In fact, the way to a tender heart begins with humility. So, humble yourself. Admit any hardness of heart and seek the One who is, “...Near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) Come before Him who promises: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

- Excerpt from Study #5174

God’s Abundant Mercy

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
— 1 Peter 1:3

What is God like? This is an important question. Unfortunately, people often think of God how they imagine Him to be instead of how He has revealed Himself to be. In the Old Testament we find God describing Himself to Moses as, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.” (Exodus 34:6) This is God's revelation of Himself and yet many portray God as vengeful and waiting to judge and condemn the moment we put a foot wrong. God clearly says that He is merciful. (Mercy is the withholding of deserved punishment). In fact He is more merciful than Man could ever imagine or understand. “The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 103:17) or literally “from the vanishing point to the vanishing point” – referring to that point, at which, our understanding stops as we try to imagine eternal things. Our brains are designed to comprehend that which has a beginning and an end. God’s everlasting mercy is beyond our comprehension because it goes further. It is unlimited; therefore it is greater than any of our transgressions.

Through simple faith in His Son, Jesus, believers are not only spared the Hell they deserve but also receive the Heaven they could never deserve! When we stand in glory with all the angels of God singing praises unto Him, will we not wonder what right we have to be there when we were the ones who rebelled against this same throne? How do we, who were once in the enemy’s camp, get Heaven when we deserved Hell? Such is the abundant mercy of God! We are born again “according to His abundant mercy.” Salvation is not something we deserve or can ever earn but it is an act of God’s mercy. How much mercy does God have? How much do you need? Do not believe Satan's lies or your own imagination but take God at His word when He says, “this is what I’m like, I’m merciful.”

- From Study #5173

Be a Soul Winner

Let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
— James 5:20

Only the sacrifice of Christ can atone for sin. Jesus is the Savior but we are the ones who carry His message of forgiveness and restoration to those lost in their sins. He has not committed this glorious work to angels. God has graciously given you and me the role of “soul winner.” We might not all be evangelists in the true sense of the word, but we all have been called to evangelism. Every one of us has a responsibility to share the good news of Jesus Christ with other people. In our different walks of life, we are given opportunity by the Lord to share the gospel with those who are lost. We are Christ’s ambassadors and as such we represent Him to a lost world.

Where do we begin? We begin with compassion: the deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it. Realize that without Christ there is no hope for the lost. Without someone winning their soul for Christ they will go to hell! The world is in crying need of Christians who are in tune with the heart of God, yet many of us are complacent about the fate of the lost and the need of pointing them to the Savior. “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back...” (James 5:19). For someone to get saved someone else must make that commitment to go and turn him or her back. We all know people who have wandered from the truth. If we are to take the Great Shepherd’s lead and follow His example then we have to go after them with the love and compassion in our heart that He has shown to us. As recipients of God’s grace we now need to be givers of grace. What a glorious experience to win a lost soul to Christ! What joy there is in knowing that a sinner, once at war with God, is now reconciled to Him and that the Holy Spirit has worked through you to bring it to pass! What a thrill to walk through the gates of Heaven with those at your side whom you have brought to the Savior! “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.” (Proverbs 11:30)

- From Study #5171

The Testing of our Faith

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
— James 1:2-3

All the time God is building character. Trials are not bad; they are simply the way God tests our faith to purify it. Gold is His goal. He wants our trust to grow deeper, fuller, and more consistent. He is working in us the kind of faith that simply trusts even when there is no evidence in our circumstances to say we should trust. We go through times when we feel nothing and all we have left to trust in is what God has said. One day you wake up and for no apparent reason you feel different. “Does God love me anymore?” “Lord, where have You gone?” “Have You deserted me?” Why don't I feel You around any more?" Our feelings may be gone, but God is not. He has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb 13:5) This is the time of testing – the time for faith and standing on the Word of God. There is a level of faith and trust that can come no other way. Those who rely upon experiences alone, fail when times of testing come. If your faith is based on His Word – on the never failing promises of God – and not on fluctuating feelings dependant upon circumstances, you will stand!

Trials increase our dependence upon God. In that way they help build our faith. They force us to face our weakness and inability and then they drive us to God. Can we rejoice? Can we, “count it all joy?” Can we be thankful for whatever has been the means of our seeking God more fully? Trials are more evidence that God is working in our lives. He is working His glory into you. Trust Him! Stand on His promises even when you do not feel His Presence. Are you convinced there is a God in Heaven who is full of mercy and compassion? He has a purpose. We follow Jesus because it is right. Our trials do not make it any less so. One of the signs of a maturing Christian is the way he approaches trials and tribulations. Be patient! Endure! Exercise faith! “Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:4)

- From Study #5170

Disciplined for our Good

Do not despise the chastening (education, training, disciplinary correction) of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him.
— Hebrews 12:5

Who can understand the distresses and perplexities of life? We experience grief, loss, pain and sorrow and wonder why. Surely life only becomes intelligible when we regard it as an education. The best explanation for all of our woes is that we are being schooled for something higher – something greater than this life alone. We struggle to find any rhyme or reason for much of what we go through when really there is no explanation outside of the concept that this is God’s school for us. Life is as an education.

We have been deceived in our society to believe that the chief aim of life is to be happy. The problem is, when pain and sorrow come our way this warped view of our existence causes us to question whether God really is loving or if He exists at all. But where does God say that His chief desire for us is to be happy? Or where has He promised that life will be without heartache? Yet people quit school, jobs, and even marriages all because, “Well, I am just not happy.” The truth is however, God’s chief purpose for us is not happiness but holiness. It is to this end that He is educating us – working in our lives to make us more like His Son, Jesus Christ. This education not only includes instruction, but correction and discipline are also part of the training. How do we respond when it comes? Do we rebel against it? Do we simply submit to it? Or do we actually embrace God’s chastening, knowing that “afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” To restrain and govern a child shows you care. In the same way, our heavenly Father will not allow us to “get away” with stuff that will lead to our ruin. So when you find yourself disciplined by God, rejoice! It is evidence that He loves you. “For whom the Lord loves He chastens.” We discipline our children that it may stand them in good stead through the rest of their lives here on earth, but God is disciplining us for a life of holiness that will last for all eternity!

- From Study #5169