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Dear Partner,

One of the most difficult teachings given by our Lord Jesus is the following:

Luke 6:27-28  But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

Most of us will quickly shout a hearty "Amen" when we hear this message taught from the pulpit in church, but will also just as quickly admit that when we are faced with this situation in real life it is very, very difficult for us to do. Love our enemies? Love those who are literally against us? Those who are opposing us? Those who are actually doing us harm? I remember in the early days sometimes just throwing up my hands in frustration saying, "Lord, how can you expect this of us?"

One of the best illustrations of Jesus' teaching is the example of Stephen's prayer while he was being stoned to death. Stephen had done nothing wrong. The bible tells us that he was a man full of faith and that the Lord had even used Him to do great wonders and miracles among the people (Acts 6:5,8). He was an uncompromising preacher and delivered his messages with the anointing of truth upon them. This infuriated the religious leaders of the day to the point they had Stephen dragged out of the city for execution by stoning.

Acts 7:57-8:1a  Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul was consenting unto his death.

He had done absolutely nothing wrong at all, much less anything worthy of execution. This was murder plain and simple. If anyone ever had the "right" to call upon God for justice against his murderers, it was Stephen. He could have prayed, "Lord, I am innocent. Take vengeance upon my murderers." On the contrary Stephen prayed, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." By that prayer, Stephen "loosed" the men who stoned him by forgiving them. Even more important, not only did Stephen forgive them, he asked God to forgive them also.

By that prayer of forgiveness, Stephen "loosed" the Good Shepherd to go seeking after those men not for the purpose of vengeance but for the purpose of salvation. We read in Acts chapter nine how the Lord Jesus HIMSELF appeared to Saul in a vision and brought him into the Kingdom of God.

In a recent meeting at the Prayer Center, the Lord spoke through a young man who was present saying, "The most effective warfare is the warfare that looses the slave that your enemy intended to destroy you with." Before Saul of Tarsus was converted, he was the number one man Satan was using to destroy the church of God. Saul was the one authorized by the religious Pharisees and Sadducees to go and arrest Christians to bring them back to Jerusalem for trial. Paul thought he was doing God a service while doing so. At that time, he was an unwitting slave of Satan, the very man Satan was using to destroy the fledgling church!

Stephen's prayer was warfare. It was the most effective kind of warfare that "loosed" the slave (Saul) that the enemy was using to destroy the church. By obeying the teaching of Jesus and loving his enemies and praying for those who were despitefully using him, Stephen caused Satan's number one slave to be loosed for service in the Kingdom of God instead. Saul the oppressor became Paul the apostle. He became the most dangerous man on planet earth from Satan's point of view because everywhere Paul went revival would break out and churches would be planted in the Name of Jesus Christ.

Loving our enemies and praying for those who despitefully use us is one of the most difficult things for us to do. But it is also one of the surest marks of maturity in a believer. It means that we are truly beginning to have our thinking renewed to be more like God's. God always thinks with eternity in mind. God is always thinking about lost souls and how to bring them to Christ. God does not desire that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Let us all continue to mature to the point we continually think with eternity in mind. Is someone being especially hateful to you? Is someone actually doing you harm? From God's point of view, the most important thing is that very person's eternal soul. God help us to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, to bless those that curse us, and to pray for those who despitefully use us. God help us to loose the slaves the enemy intended to destroy us with.

Sue and I love you and appreciate you. We thank God for your generous and giving heart. God bless you!

Your friend and co-laborer,

Gary Carpenter


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