Feed His Sheep

In John 10:14 Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep…” When He told Peter to feed the sheep, He was giving Peter the responsibility for the care and feeding of the flock.

The sheep belonged to Jesus. He had a personal relationship with each of them. He knew them by name and He loved them . But his earthly ministry was almost over and He was passing the shepherd’s staff to Peter.

He did not ask Peter if he wanted to be a shepherd. He simply gave Peter an assignment He knew was within Peter’s capability. Because Peter loved his savior he was expected to be obedient to the task.

God calls each of his children to help tend his sheep. He intends for each of us to help care for a flock and each of us to receive care from someone else. Such interdependence among Christians will result in the effective spreading of the gospel.

As we each give and receive care, God is glorified in our lives. If we choose not to perform our shepherd’s duties, others suffer. If we refuse to listen to the guidance of the Good Shepherd, we suffer.

Our motive for being a shepherd must be our love for him. We must love others because He loves us. We must serve others because He served us. We must give our time and energy to others because He gave his life for us.

It is dangerous for us to try to serve those He has put into our care if we do not love them. We are likely to become discouraged, resentful and angry. Such emotions disrupt our relationship with him.

It is dangerous for the flock because our attitude will lead them away from him and the blessings He has for them. They will sense our insincerity and rebel against his leadership.

We must always remember they are his sheep, not ours. We must love and feed them because we love him.

Deny Self

"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself..."   Matthew 16:24

To deny self means to deny
          self-importance
          self-competence
          self-direction
          self-motivation
          self-accomplishment
          self-glorification
          self-determination
          self-approval
          self-justification.

To deny self means to realize we are nothing apart from Jesus. Such a realization may come as a shock. It is not natural to surrender control of our lives to someone else. The very basis of our culture, our democratic way of life, lies in the belief that each person is in control of his own fate. Denial of our right to decide our own course goes against everything the world has taught us.

To live and function within this state of denial, we must constantly abide in Jesus. Only such abiding will enable us to accept his decisions and become all he wants us to be.

Thankful For What?

John 6 tells of a problem facing Jesus and the disciples. More than five thousand people needed to be fed. The only food the disciples could find was fives loaves of bread and two fish.

Jesus took that meager lunch and thanked God for it.

But what was there to be thankful for? Five loaves and two fish? To feed five thousand people? The problem was immense and the resources inadequate. Yet He took a few minutes to show appreciation to his Father. He had the attitude of “We don’t have much, but we are truly grateful for what you have provided and we’ll do the best we can with it!”

Then He had the disciples start giving the food to the people. Give them what? Five loaves and two fish divided 5,000 ways? No! They were to share all God had provided. 

God’s power was released by Jesus’ faith. The multitude got a meal and the disciples received a faith lesson. (In fact, that lesson may had been the primary motive for the entire episode.)

His followers could not visualize one small lunch becoming a seafood buffet for the crowd. To them a large problem and small resources equaled unmet needs. But their equation omitted God’s willingness and ability to help those in need. 

What about us? Do we find this lesson easy to understand in our minds, but difficult to incorporate into our lifestyle? Do we ignore God’s power when we consider how we can solve our big problems without limited resources?

We read Jesus’ words about moving mountains and we say “I’m going into the earth moving business!” Then we run head-on into problems like stubborn children, monthly bills, a distant spouse or an uncaring boss. And what do we do? We compare the size of the problem with the size of our resources and become discouraged.

God wants to help us every day with every problem. But his power will be limited in our lives if we do not demonstrate faith in his ability and desire to care for us.

Goodness vs Holiness

Goodness and holiness are not the same thing. In fact, in the life of a child of God, good may actually hinder holy.

Goodness refers to those acts of kindness we do in order to help others. Holiness means being set apart and used for God’s glory. Goodness does not always produce holiness.

In Mark 9:41, Jesus talked about giving a cup of cold water “in my name.” Goodness prompts the giving of the water, while holiness causes that water to be presented  in the name of our Lord and Savior. If we give a cup of water, provide free babysitting for the single mother who lives next door, visit a follow church member in a nursing home or help a stranded motorist change a flat tire – and don’t mention the name of Jesus or give God any praise – we are being good. But we are not necessarily holy.

Our good deeds may hinder increased holiness because such deeds cause us to feel gratified and pleased with ourselves. We may continue to look for ways to help others and overlook opportunities to glorify God

There are many good non-Christians in the world. Only the redeemed children of God are holy. We must allow the leadership of the Holy Spirit to show us how our good deeds (which bring recognition only to ourselves) can become holy deeds which bring glory to the Father.

The Holy Spirit creates a greater degree of holiness in our lives when we allow him to change the motive for our good deeds. Good deeds done in Jesus’ name and for the Father’s glory become holy deeds.

Are we willing to go beyond good to holy ?

Faith Is Obedience to the Unknown and Known

We put our faith into action when we take a step of obedience into the unknown, following His will even when we cannot foresee the results. We explain such faith by saying “We step out of the light into the darkness, not knowing what the darkness holds.”

Abraham exhibited such faith when he followed God’s orders to relocate his family and possessions without knowing his final destination. Such faith requires obedience, knowing God can make the results pleasant or unpleasant. Suffering may or may not follow.

Such faith-action is admirable. Surely it pleases God. But even greater faith is required when we are called to take a step of obedience knowing for sure the results will be unpleasant. This is when we step into the darkness, knowing the darkness holds suffering.

This faith assures us God will protect us during the suffering, rather than from the suffering. This is “fiery furnace” faith. (Daniel 3:17-18) It is the faith possessed by martyrs of our faith when they refused to forsake their beliefs, knowing that torture and death awaited them.

When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane He knew exactly what suffering awaited his obedience But his faith in the Father allowed him to say “not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).

God expects us to also have faith that permits us to eagerly obey even when there is guaranteed suffering ahead.

Effective Servant of God?

If Christians were asked "What do you need in order to be an effective servant of God?" most would answer with other questions. They would ask "What type of service is God calling me to" or "What are my relevant strengths and weaknesses?" or "What are the needs of the people I will be working with?"

These questions are based on the idea that a servant's needs depend largely on the specific task at hand. It is assumed that effective service is almost guaranteed if talents and training are correctly matched with the challenges and requirements.

Such thinking misses the most important aspect of serving Jehovah - the presence of a humble spirit. It is this spirit of humility that makes serving Him so glorious. If I deeply and sincerely want to serve Him I need a deep sense of my dependence on Him. Paul said "I can do all things through Christ" (Philippians 4:13) and "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God...(II Corinthians 3:5-6)

Whatever the tasks may be, no matter what our ability is, we can be an effective servant if we constantly rely on His power and wisdom. And without such a spirit we are almost certainly going to fail. Being an effective servant in specific situations requires that we first become a complete servant in attitude and spirit.

Do You Love Me?

When Peter said "I'm going fishing"(John 21:3), he was planning to return to his previous, before-Jesus way of life. He needed to be doing something while he sorted out the full meaning of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. He had earlier declared he would follow Jesus, but now there was no Jesus to follow.                  

Then Jesus appeared on the lake shore and asked "Peter, do you love me more than these?"(John 21:15.) Jesus already knew the answer, but He wanted Peter to do a self-examination concerning his love for the Master. 

"Do you love me more than these"...more than the life of a fisherman, more than family, more than boats and possessions? Was his love for Jesus greater than his love for the totality of all else? Jesus earlier taught a love that required "heart, soul and mind." (Matt. 2:37) Did Peter have it?

We are asked the same question each day. Each morning as we face sixteen active hours of our lives we have to decide if we love Him to that extent. If we answer "Yes", He then challenges us to prove it by being light and salt to the world.

Why should we be light? So others can see Jesus. Why do we want them to see Jesus? So together we can glorify God. 

Each day we plan our routine by saying something such as "I'm going to work" or "I have to run some errands." And it is good to have constructive ways to fill our time. God does not call most of us to make our earthly living through full-time "Feed my sheep" (John 21:15) activities.

But engaging in the necessary patterns of life must not mean "God, you wait here until I get my tasks done. Then I'll be back and we can talk some more." We must constantly be aware of his question "Do you love me more than these?"

An affirmative answer will produce a life that is holy,set apart for His glory. Before we can successfully feed His sheep we must become like the Good Shepherd.

The Ten Commandments in the Classroom

Recently a copy of the Ten Commandments was hung in each fifth grade classroom in the Middleville Elementary School.
     Marian, whose parents are Orthodox Jews, asked "Mrs. Johnson, do you go to church on the Sabbath or on Sunday?"
     "I go on Sunday," her teacher replied.
     "My daddy says the Sabbath is the right day to worship. The new poster on the wall says we should worship on the Sabbath. Who is wrong, you or my daddy?"   
     Jimmy's daddy pastors a Pentecostal Full Bible Independent Baptist Church. He asked "Mrs. Johnson, what is a 'graven image' anyway?
     "Well Jimmy, a graven image is a picture or statue of something that people think looks like God and they worship it instead of God."
     "Well, my daddy says the Catholics like Susie and Johnny worship the statue of Jesus that is in the front of their church. Do you think my daddy's right, Mrs. Johnson?"
    About that time, Robert raised his hand and asked "Mrs. Johnson, what does 'keep it holy' mean on number four?" 
     "It means we are not supposed to work on that day."
     "Well, golly, my daddy owns the Dairy Queen down on Locust Street. He says Sunday is his best day. Is my Daddy wrong for working on Sunday, Mrs. Johnson?"

     Just then Mrs Johnson noticed that Saboni, the little dark-skinned girl whose grandparents came to the U.S. from India, was about to cry. "What's wrong, Saboni?" she asked.
      "I don't know which god you are talking about. My mother and grandmother say there are many gods. You are taking about only one god. Are my mother and grandmother wrong, Mrs. Johnson?"

     Mulladi, whose father always wore a turban to P.T.A. meetings, spoke up next. "Mrs Johnson, why do you worship on Sunday instead of the Sabbath?"
     "Well, Christians moved the day of worship to Sunday from the Sabbath in order to celebrate when Jesus rose from the dead."
     "My daddy says that story is a lie. He says Jesus was a good man, but the story of him coming out of the grave is a story made up by his followers. Is my daddy wrong, Mrs Johnson?"

     Each of the families paid their school taxes. That tax money was being used to promote religious ideas that undermined what they were taught at home. Is this the way Christianity should promote "Honor thy father and mother?"
     

Faith and Obedience

Faith and obedience are as inseparable as the two sides of a coin.

God sometimes calls us to acts of obedience that have the possibility of undesirable consequences. We hesitate. We procrastinate. We rationalize. Then, finally, we call our weak faith into play and do the thing He has asked.

And because He is our Father He still supports and protects us. The possible unpleasant results do not happen. Our faith grows stronger. We are more willing to be obedient next time.

So each act of obedience results in increased faith. That increased faith, in turn, brings about a more instant, joyful and confident obedience the next time He calls. We become more mature Christians because of the upward spiraling interplay between these two spiritual aspects of our lives.

James was referring to this connection when he wrote “anyone can see that I have faith by the way I act”(James 2:18 LB) It was obedience that directed James’ actions. He was doing the things God selected for him to do, not the things he had chosen for himself.

If we are disobedient, we need to ask the Father for increased faith that will give us the courage to obey. If we lack strong faith we need to act in obedience anyway and our faith will be strengthened when we observe his protection and provision.

And our reward for increased faith and obedience? The greatest reward of all: “Well done” from our Father. (Matt 25:21 LB)

GOD’S WILL NOW OR LATER

God’s will is often time specific…that is some of the things He intends for us to do must be done within a specific time period.  He has a “do it NOW” will for each of us. If I want to know that will and if I search for it correctly and consistently, He will reveal it.

However, a delay in carrying out that will often becomes disobedience, because it can not be done at all if it is not done on  his time schedule.

As his servant my task is always to do exactly what He wants as soon as I understand what that is.  Often when I delay and miss his schedule I lose out on a chance to help someone else and I don’t hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Such disobedience can be harmful to me and others.

I can also be disobedient by doing something before He tells me to do it. He may be intending to further prepare me for the task He is planning for me to do later. Or other people involved in the assignment may not be ready. Certain circumstances may need to be further prepared. Only He has the knowledge to know exactly when the time is right.

When He says  “Now” I must act immediately. When He says “Later” I must patiently wait.

Numbers 14:40-45