Monday, October 28, 2013

The Good Shepherd

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;
and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish;
and no one will snatch them out of My hand.
John 10:27-28

Apparently sheep are not overly smart animals.  

They are constantly hungry and because they are creatures of habit, they will mow down the same trail until the ground is nearly ruined.  They are skittish and frightened, and completely unable to defend themselves - no claws to fight with and though they have teeth, they are not agile enough to attack with them.  They tend to follow the crowd, so if one sheep goes in a wrong direction, the rest will follow.  They also don't lay down willingly - they are constantly scrounging for food and forget to rest.  They are susceptible to pests and disease and unless they get help, they easily get sick from infestations.  

Now, rather than get defensive that Jesus referred to His children as sheep, let's take a look at what a good shepherd looks like and then see what we think.  By the time Christ is born, we know that the shepherds were the outcasts of society - a job mostly held by those who couldn't get work anywhere else, because it wasn't glamorous or easy.  It was said that the lowest of the low were shepherds.  So when God sent the first birth announcement to shepherds, it was a statement that Jesus had come for even the worst of men.  

But just because shepherds were on the low rung of the social ladder at the time of Christ doesn't mean they were always like that - remember, David was a shepherd. And it doesn't mean that their job was unimportant - the job of a shepherd was vital, not only because the sheep provided sustenance and wool for the community, but also because the sheep were used to draw men closer to God through the sacrificial system.  Sheep were immensely valuable.  So don't discount the job of a shepherd - he was guarding something highly valuable.

So here's a quick description of Jesus as the Good Shepherd:
  • He makes the sheep to lie down (Ps. 23:2)
  • He leads them in green pastures and to quiet waters (Ps. 23:2,3)
  • He leads them in a way that they do not fear (Ps. 23:4)
  • He anoints their head with oil to keep the pests away (Ps. 23:5)
  • He protects His sheep (John 10:7-10)
  • He sacrificially lays down His life for His sheep (John 10:11)
  • He takes ownership of the sheep and knows them personally (John 10:14)
  • He is important to the sheep and they know the sound of His voice (John 10:27
  • He gives them life (John 10:27)
  • His sheep will never die (John 10:28)
  • His sheep are completely safe in His care (John 10:28)
Considering the high price paid for the sheep, we can assume that the sheep are valuable to the Lord.  We do not have a neglectful shepherd.  We have a Good Shepherd who loves us, leads us, knows us and protects us.  What do we have to fear as long as we are in His care?

Thoughts to ponder today...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Intolerance vs. Truth

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

And with that simple statement, Jesus became the most intolerant person who ever lived.  At least that's what the world wants you to believe.

Christianity is grounded in the truth that God exists, that sin broke our relationship with Him and the only way to restore it is to put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, who paid for our sins on the cross.  Now, if there were multiple gods with multiple demands, then I guess you could pick and choose which ones you wanted to spend eternity with and follow a multitude of ways to reach the various gods.

But there aren't multiple gods. There is One. And in His Word He says there is only one way to reach Him - through His Son.  

Today, believing this is not the problem, as long as you don't force your belief on anyone else.   If you choose to speak out against other religions or have the audacity to condemn other "ways," then you have a problem.  You are labelled intolerant, because if truth is relative you are forcing your truth on others...this is a big problem and it's a lie that Satan is using to keep the lost.

By the way, truth is not relative.

Okay, so let's rein this in a bit.  Here are some basic truths for you to understand:
  • Jesus IS the only way
  • If the world doesn't run after Jesus, they are going to hell - a real place of suffering
  • We have been given truth to steward and our call includes being a light in a dark world
  • As we shine the light, Jesus also warned us that we will be rejected, even persecuted
  • But hiding our light under a bushel is neglecting our call and is also a detriment to a dying world - would you keep the antidote from a victim dying from poison? 
  • And finally - you understand the gospel because God has given you the faith to not only understand it but to believe it - without this gift of faith, no matter how bright your light is, it is going to be misunderstood, ridiculed and rejected - and that's really okay
So, embrace the call to stick out like a green fish in a bowl of goldfish.  Be a light, give the truth, point to Jesus and live your life in a way that attracts the searching.  It is a loving thing to be a truth speaker and this truth stands above all:  Jesus is the ONLY way to the Father.  It's an intolerant message - intolerant of any other method or religion, but a necessary message nonetheless.

Monday, October 7, 2013


For God so loved the world,
that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him
shall not perish, but have eternal life.

John 3:16

Undoubtedly the most famous verse ever.

I almost feel ridiculous blogging on it because in 500 words what could I possibly expound that would do this truth justice?  But, since I am committed to marinating on our verse pack, I will faithfully continue on...

What do you think of the Monopoly Game card above? I googled "John 3:16" and this is one of the images that came up.  Let me start by saying I went to the website on the card and I don't think that address has anything to do with this card, so don't bother going there. This card is supposed to be kind of a tract of sorts - a way to catch someone's attention.  And yes, the claim is true but it doesn't come near to representing the truths in John 3:16.

Let me list a few of the deep truths in this verse:
  • It starts with God - If we had written it, we would most likely say something like this:  For when man was completely dead in his sin and helpless, God loved and gave.  We like to start with the focus on us, but this verse doesn't do that - the one to focus on is God
  • God loved - He not only loved but He "so" loved - He loved so much.  It is a deep, eternal bond that flowed from the Creator to the created.  We struggle to love in this way.  We tend to love conditionally - romantic love starts out very sacrificial (we're willing to give up our time, our hobbies, our phone minutes to be with the one we love), but quickly becomes difficult to give when our rights are overlooked or we feel neglected or our attentions get diverted to children or others.  When God loves, it's forever
  • God loved so He gave - His love caused an action. What actions come from your love?  Compare the action toward your husband and to your children, or your parents and your friends. Which relationships in your life cause sacrificial actions and which cause hoarding actions?  Does your love cause you to give of yourself or take?
  • God loved so much that He gave His Son - the closest, most intimate relationship He had - He willingly gave His Son because of His love for us.  For us parents, this is hard to wrap our minds around - I think we would give our lives for our children but to give our child for someone else?  It's mind blowing.  Of course, we know that Jesus, as Creator, willingly laid down His life for His children, so there are more aspects to this story, but in this verse, remember the focus is on the Father
  • Belief in Jesus removes eternal death and brings eternal life - the love of the Father in giving the Son causes the opportunity for saving belief.  Just read that line again because it is rich in theology
I think we often focus on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in salvation without taking the Father's role in account.  This week, as we review this verse (because most of us will already have it memorized), rest in the deep truths of the actions of the Father.  Turn your heart to Him in thanksgiving for the sacrifice He made on our behalf.  I get the fact that the Father and the Son are One, but this verse tells us that the Father loved so much that He gave His Son - Jesus did not suffer alone in our salvation story.  We see God as the source of wrath but let us not miss the fact that He suffered in giving His Son, as well.  It was a sacrificial love that sent His Son and there is always suffering in sacrifice.

Just think about it for a while - don't let this truth escape you and may it turn your heart to the Father in gratitude for such a great price that was given and paid for your salvation.