Monday, April 25, 2011

In the End, the Sheep Win!!!

2 Samuel 7:8
Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel:

David was faithful in the little things. . . In the lonely wilderness of the rock cobbled hillsides of Judea, David tended the sheep even at the risk of his own life. As a boy, he battled a lion and a bear for the protection of his father’s sheep. Apparently in two separate attacks, he delivered a lamb from the mouth of a lion and again from a bear.

God saw the essence of David’s heart, from his integrity in the solitary and humble task of keeping his father’s flocks. It is not recorded that any watchers witnessed David’s acts of courage. Alone in the wilderness, David selflessly placed his own life at risk for service to his sheep.

Faithfully tending the sheep is oh so important. . .Jesus told Peter:

John 21:15-17
So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. (16) He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. (17) He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

To say that sheep are important to God’s plan, would be an understatement. . .In the Old Testament sheep were of the most important sacrificial animals:

1 Kings 8:5
And king Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel, that were assembled unto him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen, that could not be told nor numbered for multitude.

2 Chronicles 7:5
And king Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty and two thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep: so the king and all the people dedicated the house of God.

Sheep and oxen without number were killed. . . in another occasion it is mentioned 120,000 sheep offered as sacrifice. . . innocent animals, without blemish. . . deserving no reason to die, but as payment of sin, a death must occur. These animals standing in stead. . .dying for the sins of the people. A metaphor for another sacrifice yet to come. . .

David refers to his people as sheep:

1 Chronicles 21:17
And David said unto God, Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, O LORD my God, be on me, and on my father's house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued.

Pleading with God to place the burden upon him and upon his house to spare the sheep in his charge. . . Looking upon his subjects, not as unimportant or insignificant, but as helpless innocents in his charge. . . His burden. . . in his charge. . . in his care. David loved his sheep. He gave of himself for their safety and well being. . .

Jesus both known as the Lamb and calling Himself the Good Shepherd:

John 10:11-14
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. (12) But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. (13) The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. (14) I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

Jesus knows His sheep. He laid His life down for His sheep. . .and His sheep know and love Him for He is one of the sheep’s very own. The perfect lamb:

John 1:29
The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

The ultimate for all time, sacrifice ending sacrifice. Jesus came for the sheep. . . gave his everything for the sheep. . .

Up until this point:

Romans 8:36
As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

For thy sake we are killed all the day long. . . we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. . . but. . . but. . . BUT!!!! In the end. . . the sheep no longer come in last place. . . the goats. . . the lions. . . the bears . . . the wolves in sheep's clothing . . . and all the other metaphorical critters of God’s creation, must stand by and watch on that final day, when He comes to judge the world. . .

Matthew 25:31-34
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: (32) And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: (33) And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. (34) Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

After all the trials and sacrifice visited upon them, the sheep will be gathered together and be given their reward. . .Blessed are those meek sheep. . .blessed are those mild mannered and without blemish innocent lambs . . .for they shall inherit the earth. . .

No longer persecuted and taking the punishment for sins which they did not commit. . . Now called out and marching to the head of the line. . . Now bestowed with riches beyond measure. . . They are shown to the world to be the unexpected and very much surprise victors for all eternity. Residing for ever more in lush green pastures. . . forever drinking the cool sweet waters prepared for them by the Good Shepherd. . . forever in His presence. . . never more to be bloodied and abused. . .forever to bask in His light.
The story isn’t over until it’s over. . . and on that final day. . . for the first time in the history of all creation the sheep win. . .

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Chance Encounter. . .

I had a chance encounter on an elevator at Elkhart General Hospital last Friday, which has been on my mind ever since. Ruby, our church secretary, had called me and said that Pastor was out of town and that someone needed to be visited at the hospital, so I ran over on my lunch hour to see them.

I was alone on the elevator. I was carrying my Bible bag, and wearing a jacket with a gold fish lapel pin, with the word ‘Jesus’ in the middle of the fish. At the last moment before the doors closed, a man maybe 10 years older than myself (mid sixties or so) approached and I stopped the elevator doors from closing and he entered. He also was carrying a Bible.

I had an uneasy feeling as I stood facing him across the elevator, as if he were sizing me up in some manner. He spoke finally saying, “I see by your Jesus lapel pin that you are a Christian.”. .

For some reason that struck me as an odd thing to say. . . for I surely do not think that wearing a lapel pin is what makes me a Christian. . .I meekly met his eyes as I replied only two words,”. . .I try. . .”. by my response I seemed to have given him the opening that he was in some way looking for. Maybe I read too much into his words, but I do think now. . .that I almost sensed glee at my answer. He started and said, very aggressively, words to some effect, I don’t know that I can quote them exactly. . .”I thought that if you abided in Christ and He in you that you were a Christian. . .” I did not want to get into a huge doctrinal discussion. . .I just wanted to visit the person in the hospital like Ruby asked me to. . .As we departed the elevator and I walked away, again I repeated. . .”I try. . .”

I don’t know where he went, but maybe 10 or 15 minutes later, he showed up at the same room, visiting the same person that I had gone to the hospital to visit. We acknowledged each other as he entered, but had no other words on our previous meeting.

All week, I’ve been thinking. . . puzzling on. . .meditating on. . .what makes one a Christian. I’m not interested in dictionary definitions. . .and please please PLEASE. . .I’m not wanting some huge angry shouting match on the topic.

The reason or reasons that I hesitate to easily and flippantly call myself a Christian are several:

#1 The word has been terribly abused. Truthfully I am greatly ashamed of our past. . .Terrible things have been committed by those calling themselves Christians and in the name of Christianity or in the name of Christ. When people hear the word Christian, oftentimes this past is what they think of. and I do not want any association with. . .I don’t want Jesus to be tainted by what has been done in His name.

#2 Nearly everyone in this nation, if asked would call themselves a Christian, but doing absolutely nothing to demonstrate that belief in their day to day lives.

#3 The closest thing I can come to my own personal definition of a Christian, is one who strives to be Christ-like. . .one who loves Jesus with everything within them. . . who loves Him with all their actions. . with all their thoughts. . .with their every breath they demonstrate their love of Jesus. . .and I fall so very far short of that so very often. I feel like an impostor claiming that name for myself. . .I can only say that. . .I try. . .

So in continuing to think about this, I reject the first label of Christian, the historic, as being tainted by the past. . .I reject the current label of Christian, as meaning nothing. To call yourself a Christian for most people today is meaningless and it is not meaningless to me. . .it has far too great and reverent a meaning such that I feel unworthy of it in its truest sense. . .

Thursday, April 7, 2011

To Be Washed By Jesus. . .

John 13:8
Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.

They were gathered together for one last intimate evening. . .one last sharing of a meal. The years of teaching and ministry with them had passed so very quickly. . .Jesus knew He must shock his close companions a bit, in order for them to understand, and to accept what was about to happen to Him. . .

Jesus disrobed. . .He humbled Himself. . .wrapped himself in a towel and began to clean the filth from the bottoms of the feet and toes of His disciples. . .ministering to them in an uncomfortable and in a most intimately embarrassing way. . . touching them and seeing them in their filth and dirt of the world. . . From a slave, this action would be accepted without second thought. . .maybe even without awareness, but impulsive Peter, realizing what was happening, resisted, not accepting the sacrificial ministrations of his Master.

Very sharply Jesus replied, if I cannot clean you, then you can have nothing to do with me. . .a stinging rejection for one of his inner circle, but illustrating the importance which Jesus placed on the cleansing that He was about to symbolically perform.

Jesus knew that they would not understand what He was doing:

John 13:7
Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.

This washing of the disciples feet, as humbling as they may have thought it, was nothing in comparison to His fast approaching crucifixion. They must accept His washing of their feet. . . this small token. . .this small precursor of what what to come, as they and we must accept the cleansing and washing by His blood shed upon the cross. . .

My cleansing came at a terrible price. . .a price that I did not have to pay. . . a price I could not in amy manner raise to pay upon my own efforts. It was paid for me by my Savior. He humbled Himself. . . He took the blows. . . He knew the open shame and humiliation that should have been mine. . .

I must accept His cleansing if I want to abide with Him and He with me. . .
To reject His cleansing is to reject His sacrifice. . .
To reject His cleansing is to reject His whole purpose in putting on flesh and coming to Earth. . .

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Cut and Paste Bible for the Doctrinally Challenged

For years I have enjoyed email messages from a pastor. Last week I received another writing of his, which contained the following statement:

New covenant doctrine must be founded on 
the teaching sections of the New Testament 
(the teachings of Jesus and the epistles) 
and not from the historical sections in the gospels and Acts. 
Otherwise, you will go into error.

On rereading it, I'm not sure exactly sure what he means. Is he writing off the entire book of Acts or only the historical parts??? How do you tell the difference? In any respect, I have heard other denominational preachers specifically say, that there is nothing on which to build doctrine in the book of Acts. . .In a most blasphemous statement, I heard one radio evangelist say (as closely as I can quote it) that the book of Acts was given to confuse Christians. . .

The book of Acts records the birth of the church. You can actually say that the New Testament. . the new covenant. . .the new agreement. . .doesn't begin until the book of Acts. The gospels record the life and ministry of Jesus, but the new contract did not come into effect until Jesus died on the cross. . .

Jesus last words before ascending into heaven were:

Acts 1:8
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

2 significant statements here. First you shall have power when the Holy Ghost is come and secondly you shall be witnesses to me unto the uttermost part of the earth. The uttermost parts of the earth were not ministered to. . .witnessed to by the Apostles or in the time of the Apostles. Jesus was speaking to those far beyond the time of the Apostles. . .He was speaking to us, who minister in all parts of the world today!!!

When did the promised Holy Ghost come?
In the next chapter of Acts. On the day of Pentecost

What happened when the Holy Ghost came?
The 120 were gathered in the upper room, praying in one accord when the Spirit of God fell upon them.

How did the people know that the Spirit of God had fallen. . .what evidence was given of that?

Acts 2:4
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Wasn't that unique. . .only for the time of the disciples?

Acts 2:16-17
But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; (17) And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:

Note it says that God would pour out His Spirit on ALL flesh. . .

and again Peter speaking:

Acts 2:38-39
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (39) For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

Note again: the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. . .

Peter says specifically that this is not limited by time (unto the next generation) or location (and to all that are afar off).

Mainline doctrine, often says that the Spirit of God automatically falls at the time of baptism, but in Acts 10 the household of Cornelius received the baptism of the Holy Ghost (as evidenced by their speaking in tongues) before being baptized and and in Acts 19 the believers were baptized weeks or months before being filled with God's Spirit. It is clear, from Biblical example that water baptism, and baptism of the Spirit often do not occur at the same moment.

Jesus said that they should have POWER when the Holy Ghost was come. . .What spirit is it that doesn't want the believers to have power???

For any doctrine which ignores the book of Acts, is a doctrine which robs the believers of power which they sorely need. . .A cut and paste doctrine. . .must also have a cut and paste savoir. . .

Friday, April 1, 2011

Studies in John 14-16: John 14:15-21

John 14:15-16
If ye love me, keep my commandments. (16) And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

If you love me, keep my commandments. . .
If you love me, keep my commandments. . .
If you love me, keep my commandments. . .
You cannot just pay lip service to the love of God. Your love for God must be connected with your obedience to Him. This verse is connected with an “AND”. . . I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

The two verses cannot be separated, the ‘AND’ welds them together.

Jesus telling His Disciples, that He, their comforter, is going away, but that He is going to ask God to send another Comforter that will never go away, that will live with them for ever.

Who is this other Comforter?

John 14:17-18
Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (18) I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

The Spirit of truth. . .the pneuma. . .the breath. . . the current of air. . .The Holy Spirit. . .The world cannot accept, for it is invisible and has no knowledge of this Spirit. . .BUT YOU KNOW HIM. . .for He has been living with you all this time and shall continue to be with you. Verse 18. . .Jesus is revealing it. He has been talking about the Comforter which will come. . .the Comforter which He will ask God to send. . . Jesus now clearly says, “I will not leave you comfortless. . .I myself will come to you.”

In the clearest possible terms, telling them that they will not see Him any longer in the flesh, but that He will send the Spirit of Truth. . .the Holy Spirit. . . to them, and that this Spirit is Jesus Himself.

John 14:19-21
Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. (20) At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. (21) He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

A third time in this passage, He reiterates it for them that He is going away, and will no longer be seen, but He is not dead. He will return and at that time it will be full revealed that Jesus is in God, they are living in Him, and He is living in them. To finish this passage, Jesus paraphrases and repeats what was said in verses 15 and 16. If you know His commandments and do them, then is your love for Him proved. Because of this obedience to the will of God, you will be loved by God and I (Jesus speaking) will show myself to him. . .

This is to take place in the future. He starts it out by saying. . .”Yet in a little while. . .” He’s not talking about right that moment, but in a time to come. . .”At that day. . .” He will manifest Himself to those who show their love for Him by keeping His commandments.

How was this predicted manifestation fulfilled? In Jesus final earthly appearance before being taken up to heaven:

Acts 1:4-9
And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. (5) For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. (6) When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? (7) And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. (8) But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (9) And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost. . .the same Greek word pneuma used in John 14:17, is now here translated Ghost rather than Spirit, but it is the exact same word. The Spirit of truth was promised by Jesus to come to them as another Comforter. Again Jesus says plainly that this Spirit is soon coming to them. . . in John 14:18 Jesus said: I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. . . He now says that the Holy Spirit of God will come to them in a little while. . .

Acts 2:1-4
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. (2) And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. (3) And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. (4) And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Now the fulfillment of all this predicted Spirit of God. . .the Comforter that Jesus promised. . . the returning of Jesus to comfort them, has occurred. Jesus said that He would manifest Himself to them, and now they are filled with His promised Spirit of truth. . . The Comforter is here. It was predicted even in the old testament:

Acts 2:12-18
And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? (13) Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. (14) But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: (15) For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. (16) But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; (17) And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: (18) And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:

Those outsiders standing watching had no clue as to what was going on. Peter explained to them and quoted from the prophet Joel, that God would pour out His Spirit on ALL FLESH!!! No longer would only the high priest be able to come into the presence of God, but all men would by obedience to God’s will, by repentence, by the washing away of sins by the water of baptism, now be able to have this intimate relationship with Him. . .