Good Shepherd

www.bible.com/1713/jhn.10.11.csb

Where there is a shepherd, there are probably sheep. Sheep as you might have guessed are animals. Strangely they are some of God’s creatures which seem to have been made specifically for man. As early as Genesis 4 Abel is pictured as being a tender of sheep, so this is something that men have been doing essentially since the beginning. As such, sheep have been used as illustration to great extent throughout history. Even people who have not grown up around sheep probably know what a sheep is. “Mary had a little lamb” is something we pick up from early childhood. Christianity has been no small help to this idea, since Jesus Himself is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus is the “Good Shepherd” and we have been taught even as kids that “the Lord is my Shepherd.”

If Jesus is the good Shepherd, who or what does He shepherd? Is there some divine flock of sheep out there that Jesus keeps busy with? More than you know. Since Jesus is the Shepherd, there must be sheep. And we are it. If sheep have needed man from the beginning for their survival, then man has needed God and His Son Christ Jesus from the beginning too. Just as sheep cannot survive in the wild physical nature, so man will not survive the wild landscape of the spirit without Jesus. We need His leadership, direction and sometimes prompting to go where we need to go. The Bible does not err when Isaiah says that “we like sheep have gone astray.”

Lord Jesus, thank you for being my Shepherd. Thank you for leading me beside still waters and restoring my soul. I pray during this time that you would keep my heart in peace when there is turmoil and disruption around me. I need Your peace. I need Your absolute stability in my life, for it is the only thing that does not change from day to day. Thank you Jesus. Amen.

Needs and Riches

www.bible.com/1713/php.4.19.csb

Have you learned about hardship yet? One unintended consequence of this COVID ordeal is the economic consequences we experienced with job losses, businesses closing, and people having to stay home because there is really nothing to do. These events take their toll. And now many people don’t have a job at this time to get up for in the morning. And while it started as an inconvenience, as time wears on, it is becoming more of a challenge. I am certain that many of my readers live with a small margin. You might have a few dollars stored in savings for emergencies, but that’s about it. And how here in the states, we’re coming up on two weeks quarantine. That’s two weeks without work and if you have not already filed for unemployment, its two weeks without pay. That can and will put a lot of people into a crunch. There are many utilities and landlords who are foregoing payments at this time, but the real test is going to be April first, when rent comes due, house payments come due, and our ability to pay will be put to the test. Many people are not going to be able to cover it.

With financial hardship comes need. It is in the midst of need that we find out who we are.

I’ve been watching through an old TV series while on this journey through quarantine called Jericho. It aired on CBS in the 2000s. It depicts the life and events of a small rural town in Kansas called Jericho. Instead of suffering from the effects of disease, it is enduring the aftermath of a nuclear attack. Within the few episodes, a few weeks pass. They lose their power quickly and food becomes a scarce resource. As the citizens travel outside of town, they find that barbarism is the rule, with people being shot for their resources. What surprised me was how quickly people in the show became evil. While the people in the town remain somewhat “normal”, helping out their neighbors and working together, people outside the town become feral. It seemed the show was trying to tell us something about the nature of need and the human soul. When people’s needs aren’t being met, they lose their humanity. That is a disturbing thought.

As we continue through this quarantine, will we be like the people of Jericho, or the people outside its borders? Will we work together to meet needs, or will we hurt one another to get the resources we desire? I don’t think we are there yet, but we are closer now in this “unprecedented” time than we have ever been. Even snowstorms and hurricanes haven’t done this, not in the extent to which they affect the whole country. There have always been people who can come in to help. But in this, everyone’s town is affected.

As Christians, we have a chance here to show the quality of Christ. What does it mean to be a Christian in the midst of an extended quarantine like this? What does being a Christian mean to his neighbors? How can a Christian witness positively to the values Christ preaches and to the gospel?

I think first and foremost is that the Christian is hopeful. Despite our need, we know that God’s riches will far surpass anything we could want or ask for. We have hope. And hope is something we can share in abundance because it is our God who supplies. We have hope that He will supply our needs in this world, and because we have this hope, we ought to be willing to share this hope with others. It may be picking up groceries for your elderly neighbor. It may be just checking in on them. It may be praying with them (over the phone). But we can offer hope through the gospel of Jesus. Jesus is the only hope for this world. That has not changed.

Lord, help me be hopeful. Help me be mindful of the needs of others around me. As we continue through this unusual time, may You remind us that Your power and sovereignty has not changed. You have and have always had the power to heal, strengthen, and supply needs beyond our ability or capacity. May you continue to watch over my brothers and sisters right now, especially those affected by this virus, and continue to supply their needs from Your abundance. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Sons of God

www.bible.com/1713/mat.5.9.csb

Curious thing here if you notice. In the translation used for the illustration, the phrase “children of God” is preferred over the literal Greek, “sons of God.” I find that curious.

Of course in general usage, sons and children could be interchangable. However, Jesus uses the specific word used for “sons” in this passage, not the word general word for children. I think Jesus is actually making a point here.

“Sons of God” was a specific title used in the Old Testament to refer to the angels. Jesus doesn’t say that peacemakers will become sons of God, but that they will be called sons of God. Major difference, because their activity in bringing God’s peace into the world will make them recognized as being like the “Sons of God”, like angels from God. And what greater peace is there we can share than the gospel of Jesus Christ? And who better messengers for this gospel than God’s elect, the saved of God by grace through faith.

I say all of that to say this: Don’t be too quick to make a text conform to your need to be inclusive. You might miss something important.

God help us today to walk Your walk, and speak Your peace through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us not shy away from this duty, even if it must be from six feet away. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

King of the Earth

www.bible.com/1713/zec.14.9.csb

While many movie villains work very hard to take over the world, I don’t think any of them have any idea what they are doing, or what the job entails. From what I’ve seen, they all want to micro-manage, and that just takes too much effort. Of course, if they don’t, then they foment revolution and someone else just takes over. It’s hard enough to be the ruler of a single nation, like President of the United States, where people have a certain degree of autonomy. Imagine trying to micro-manage the lives of people all around the world.

A close second of course is the megalomaniacal supercomputer which actually has the power to monitor everyone’s activity, but it is also unfeeling and doesn’t really care if the people live or die. That too is a recipe for disaster as human beings tend to have a need for freedom. We will do all we can to make sure we continue to be free, even to rebel against such total authority. Even with the best of intentions, such systems are doomed to failure.

In truth, there is really nothing and no one on this earth capable of ruling the whole world. This is why some movies depict enormous space aliens or a horde of smaller ones to try to take over. And that may work for a while, but do you see the need to go outside our system to find a believable world ruler. We just know that a human being, even as great as Charlemagne or Alexander the Great just don’t have enough to make the grade. There are just too many moving parts.

So finally we turn to our text for today, announcing that God alone is sufficient for the position of King of the Earth, and rightly so, for He alone has made the world. He knows all of its moving parts, all of His subjects personally, and is able to move things in such a way as to satisfy His will. He alone has this authority.

I saw an interesting post on Facebook, to the effect through this viral fear, God has managed to remove all of the idols, sports idols, fame idols, money idols, even church and security idols. All of these things leave us but with one final direction to look, to our Creator. And He has managed to do this in a matter of days. You may say we have done these things ourselves and we can pat ourselves on the back, but it took cooperation among many different moving parts to make this happen. This week even more establishments are being told to close their business. I might be tempted to say at this point that the fear of Corona Virus 19 is king, but I know better.

Lord, help me find the balance today between fear and caution. The world is telling me today I have much to fear. And as much as that may be true, I know better. I know there is but one King, You. You are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. There is no higher authority than you, so to you, I make my appeal. Please protect my family and my co-workers from the fear of this virus. Please protect us from the dangers it presents, so that we may continue to serve and worship You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

He Knows

www.bible.com/1713/jer.17.10.csb

Since many of us have had some time to be home this week, Scripture forces us to rethink what we do with our private time. Just because no one else can see what you’re doing, doesn’t mean God can’t. God knows your secrets. He knows the whole you, inside and out, and yet, God doesn’t immediately judge us. Despite all that exists within us, either good or not, God continues to love us as His own children.

I offer this reminder this morning, that as you go about your day and carry out your tasks, God is never far from you. God sees what you are going through. He knows your struggle and your pain. He knows. And because He knows, both what you are experiencing now and and what you will later on, He has already prepared the way. If you will follow Him, he has already prepared the path for you to travel. He has already equipped the you with the skills you will need to manage through the crisis to come. What you are going through now, though it is hard, is preparing you to help someone else later on, or to help you manage through a time when you will need such skills to bear the trial in the future.

Something that I’ve noticed in my own life is that God placed both my wife and I in healthcare. I didn’t think too much of it at the time, and I even mourned the fact I was no longer pastoring, but now I see that even in this, God has enabled me, and us, to deal with the crisis to come. Who knew we would have such a crisis as this, and yet here we are, dealing with it. God knew it was coming. God was preparing us long before we had any idea that anything like this coronavirus outbreak was coming. And in our little world of influence, God has given us and equipped us with all we need. May I add my praise to God for His marvelous foresight and foreknowledge.

Whatever you are facing today, I want to encourage you to praise the Lord, even in the midst of the trial, because He can see farther than you can. May you continue to follow the Lord and give Him praise, because He cares for you. Let us continually cast our cares, yes, but also our praise upon Him for His marvelous gifts.

Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me those trials that I hated at the time. Thank you for preparing me from long ago for the crisis I face at the present. Help me Father to see my present trials in the same way, that I might be prepared to help others in the midst of theirs. Thank You Jesus, Amen.

Finding Life

www.bible.com/1713/pro.21.21.csb

In these days when staying home and social isolation are required, it’s a little harder to find life. If you have to stay by yourself, it can be very easy to get discouraged. But Jeremiah makes some interesting promises this morning.

If you pursue righteousness and unfailing love, or perfect, loyal love, then you will find life, more righteousness, and honor. The irony is that you don’t look for life to find it. You look for righteousness, those things that are righteous or holy, and you look for genuine love, love that does not fail or falter, love that does not give up. Looking for these two things in your life means you will find life.

Does this mean we are looking for people who can do that for us, or for this kind of love and righteousness in our own lives? It seems to me it needs to begin with you. You need to cultivate righteousness and love, these kinds of holy and genuine acts and feelings in yourself. Your thoughts and actions need to reflect a holy heart. Your love must be sincere and without hypocrisy. Only t when you are able to do these things will you begin to enjoy the benefits above. Sound like a difficult task? You bet it is. That’s why we have Jesus.

Jesus has already shown us what this love and righteousness look like. We need only look to His example, and follow H as His disciples. Then we will be able to cultivate these things in us.

So if you are looking for life, look for the One who showed us this life through His own sacrifice on the cross that is the righteousness and love that Jeremiah speaks of.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and prayers below. God bless you all today!

Seek and Find

www.bible.com/1713/jer.29.13.csb

One of the frequent activities I see visitors engaged with in the hospital are those simple seek and find word puzzles. You know, the ones with rows and columns of letters where you have to look through the list of words and then find the word somewhere in that matrix. They are ubiquitous in the hospital waiting rooms and gift shops. So when God calls us to seek Him find, of course my brain goes right to the puzzle.

Of course God is looking for more than puzzles here. But I think there is a truth in this. When you work such a puzzle, you know the answer is in there somewhere, even if you haven’t found it yet. We have this confidence that if we look hard enough, we will eventually find the word and mark it to show its location. I believe we can have that same confidence when looking for God in tough situations.

God calls us to seek Him. That means we can be confident that God can be found. Sometimes it is hard to see Him, but God not only calls us, but wants to be found. All it takes is time and patience.

So if you are looking for God today and it doesn’t seem easy to find, slow down, look more carefully. Be patient. He is there.

God help me to be patient today in my search. I know sometimes circumstances cloud my thinking and make it difficult to see You, but I know you are there. Help me find You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.