News Letter 5855-047
The 3rd Year of the 4th Sabbatical Cycle
The 24th year of the 120th Jubilee Cycle
The 6th day of the 12th month 5855 years after the creation of Adam
The 12th Month in the Third year of the Fourth Sabbatical Cycle
The 4th Sabbatical Cycle after the 119th Jubilee Cycle
The Third Year Tithe for the Widows and Orphans and Levites
The Sabbatical Cycle of Sword, Famines, and Pestilence
February 1, 2020
Shabbat Shalom to the Royal Family of Yehovah,
New Moon of the 12th Month
Sunday evening we had many reports from Israel of those sighting the new Crescent moon to begin the 12th month. Here in Ontario I was not able to see the moon due to the cloud cover.
We fully expect to have a 13th month this year added to the calendar. The 12th month is called Adar and the 13th is called Adar bet. The dates for Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread and the fall Holy Days are not listed in our Feast Section.
I Will Bring You Back Home
Last Sabbath I was answering a number of emails from many of you. Thank you for writing. I must have struck a nerve with my updates last Shabbat. Again thank you all for stepping up to the plate to pray for and to talk with me last Shabbat.
I know I am feeling the stress as I watch the events on the nightly news unfold. I see time going by so fast. As much as I try to be brave, I admit I am terrified like many of you. And I, like many of you who are isolated and alone, feel alone in this walk. My family is just walking along as if they have forever to do anything they want. It is frustrating and so disappointing to be in this position. And I greatly fear for them and the things that are coming on those who do not repent.
(Side note; Both my single son and my Daughter-in-law both began to ask me questions about the Coronavirus and what the Bible says about it. So Yehovah is sending this curse and the world is to take notice and repent when these things come but they do not so the next curse comes. For both of my family members, it gave me the opportunity to teach them about the Jubilee cycles and the curses for not keeping Torah. Yeah I may have gone over the top in my explanation, but they heard the sermon. There is not enough time to slowly walk them up to the door any longer. And they both listened to the whole sermon as well. I pray Yehovah continues to work on them and help them to see why they need to repent.)
Again, I want to thank those of you who stopped what you were doing to pray for me and my family and for James and Pauline and Jan and our team. I want to ask you all to continue to do this. You do not know what has happened. I met with James last week and He is back from the deep dark place he was in for a very long time. We had a great talk about all that is happening. Please do include Telesphore and Aike in your prayers. My Daughter-in-law continues to ask questions and for me to make it simple for her to understand and then she can explain it to her family. This is a huge blessing for me. Last week as well things began to develop in Africa and I ask you to pray for Yehovah to bless the work being done there that for now must remain hiden. Yehovah is hearing your prayers and He is making things happen. Thank you all for this.)
As I mentioned before I have been talking with Pauline about various things we can do to further this message. Many times we are frustrated in these efforts. We do have the talent or we do not know how to do many things and we do not have the money to do most things. One of the things we have spoken about is setting up a farm in the Philippines or multiple farms all keeping the Torah and the Sabbatical years. Demonstrating how to grow food and let the land rest and storing food for the Sabbatical year. We currently have many farmlands we could choose from if we had the money to put towards this. These farms are what I am calling Kibbutz Yehovah, Kibutz Ophir, Kibbutz Sheba, Kibbutz Joktan, Kibbutz Tarshish, Kibbutz Israel, and Kibbutz Heber. Everyone in the Kibbutz would have shares. Those who put in financially would have shares and those who worked the various businesses from the Kibbutz would contribute by the hours they put in to gain shares. We could do the very same thing in Burundi but again we have no funding. To get this going and to be subject to sponsoring from the Governments we would need to become a registered foundation. And again to do this we would need to have $20,000 just to form it. It is difficult to raise this money when we are paying for ad campaigns and sponsoring missions to various churches to teach them the Torah. I am not begrudging doing this, I am just saying we do not have enough to do the basic things we need to do let alone the things we would like to do.
In my prayers, more often than not, I find myself asking Yehovah for financing to get these projects started and to keep the current ones going. I ask so that we can help Aike and others we are connecting with to teach the Filipino people the Torah and to train them to become Priests of Yehovah. I am also asking Yehovah for funding for the Kibbutzim so that we can feed ourselves while we get out of the way of what is about to come. Kibbutzim where Aquaponics, hydroponic farming, Back to Eden type of agriculture as well as many other types of horticulture practices are being used and taught and having it benefit the Philippine people. To be a blessing to the Philippines and anywhere else we are able to set this up.
So many of you have no means of supporting yourselves for the next ten years. And if our home governments are destroyed then the pension checks you now live on will be gone. And yes about 75% of our readers are 55 and older. 50% are 65 and older and most of them are on fixed income and cannot help more than what they already are.
This past month has seen many scary end-time events go across the nightly news. Every week was something new and stunning. These things are telling me to get my ducks in order quickly. And like many of you I feel stuck in the mud not able to move. In fact, this is one of the teachings this week about the Sheep and the predator. So I pray for a miracle. I pray for those who have no support and no means to flee. I pray for His intervention and I pray for something I know not what.
Then one lady sent this next video and I have included the lyrics below. And I have to admit I must be stressing out. As I listened to it I began to cry and then to bawl. I have been trying to calm you all down with the teaching about the shepherd last week and again this week to let you all know who was in charge. I have not bawled like this since I was in Manila and about to speak and in my prayers realizing just how real all this was and how my race was about to be wiped out and at the same time blessing the Philippines. I was seeing Yehovah open a door in the Philippines and it was as plain as day to me then as it is now.
So as I listened to this song I cried as I realized that in all of the crap that is going on, Yehovah is bringing us home. To do that He has to clear the way and while He is clearing the way He has to put us in a fold to be safe while He takes care of the threats.
In last week’s News Letter and this weeks, as I try to calm you, Yehovah is trying to calm me. And this song was the key to me getting it. I was watching Yehovah bring Judah home after they had gone through the Holocaust. Now He is going to bring us home and there is a holocaust that we are going to have to endure and get through before we can go home.
O daughters of Zion
O Abraham’s sons
Hear the words of your Father
Hear His promise of love
I will make you a blessing
Count the stars if you can
You will be a great nation
I will give you this land
I will bring you back home
Bring you back home, oh my children
You will no longer roam
Lost and alone in the night
There is nothing on earth that could take you away
Once I gather you under my wings
I will bring you all back home again
Though you’ve wandered like strangers
To the ends of the earth
I will send you a savior
I will finish my work
You have no other shepherd
You have no other lord
Green pastures are waiting in Zion once more
I will bring you back home
Bring you back home, oh my children
You will no longer roam
Lost and alone in the night
There is nothing on earth that could take you away
Once I gather you under my wings
I will bring you all back home
So we pray for the peace
But look to the East
For the Sun rises sudden and fierce
Every prophet and priest and king in the City
Will look on the One they have pierced
We will mourn for the One we have pierced
But don’t fear, o my daughters
Or sons of Abraham
I will wash you with water
I will offer the Lamb
Though your sins were like scarlet
They’ll be whiter than snow
I have always been with you
I will never let go
I will bring you back home
Bring you back home, oh my children
You will no longer roam
Lost and alone in the night
There is nothing on earth that could take you away
Once I gather you under my wings
I will bring you all back home
O I will bring you all back home again
Two Deaths Only One Mourned
On Tuesday January 21, the following story was shared with me.
A pastor who made headlines earlier this month for praising God in a ransom video has been executed by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria.
International human rights activists have condemned the killing of Rev. Lawan Andimi, the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria’s chapter in the Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State.
Andimi was declared missing on Jan. 3 following a raid by the Islamic extremist group in Michika. Video posted online appears to show Andimi being forced into a vehicle by his captors.
Days later, Andimi was seen in a video released by his captors calling on fellow Christian leaders and state government officials to secure his release.
Despite the situation, Andimi said in the video that he was not discouraged because “all conditions that one finds himself is in the hand of God.”
“By the grace of God, I will be together with my wife and my children and all my colleagues,” he said. “If the opportunity has not been granted, maybe it is the will of God.”
On Monday, local sources disclosed to ministry partners in the United States that Andimi was murdered.
It is just another senseless murder of a Christian by an Islamic group. Many Nigerians have been slaughtered this past year by Boko Haram and the world does not care. Just another Black man.
Last Shabbat my son told me that he and his brother were both crying when they heard the news that Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash that Saturday. I had not heard the news but it was the talk of the News shows that night when I tuned in. Kobe is said to have been worth $500 Million in net worth and for those who do not know he was a very gifted NBA Basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers.
How many of you cried over Kobe and how many of you cried over Rev. Lawan Andimi?
I Gave You Watchmen But No One Listened
As we come to the close of this month of January, there has been a lot taking place this month and we may need to catch our breath. But no time. January 31 is BREXIT and the European Parliament has agreed to the terms of the English leaving. Here is Nigal Farage’s final epic speech at the European Parliament. Listen to this man. He knows who the Great Whore is that is trying to steal vast amounts of money from sovereign countries and at the same time bully them and not respect the vote of the people in those countries. His words are cutting and to the point. We even mentioned the Lisbon Treaty in The Prophecies of Abraham.
Now notice that the Israelite nations joined the EU Common Market in January 1973 which was still part of the Biblical year of 1972.
The four countries resubmitted their applications on 11 May 1967 and with Georges Pompidou succeeding Charles de Gaulle as French president in 1969, the veto was lifted. Negotiations began in 1970 under the pro-European UK government of Edward Heath, who had to deal with disagreements relating to the Common Agricultural Policy and the UK’s relationship with the Commonwealth of Nations. Nevertheless, two years later the accession treaties were signed so that Denmark, Ireland and the UK joined the Community effective 1 January 1973. The Norwegian people had finally rejected membership in a referendum on 25 September 1972.
At Aviv this year in 2020 will begin the 49th year.
Dan 9:27 And he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week.
That is one 49 year period of time.
Dan 9:27…And in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the offering to cease, and on a corner of the altar desolating abominations, even until the end. And that which was decreed shall be poured on the desolator.
In the Middle of the Jubilee Cycle, that is after Aviv 2020, this pain begins where the Saints will be destroyed over the next 2300 Days starting at Shavuot. And you are watching these very events take place. Not just take place but take place exactly on time and on schedule. Yehovah is so stunningly unbelievably accurate.
Rev 18:4 And I heard another voice from Heaven, saying, Come out of her, My people, that you may not be partakers of her sins, and that you may not receive of her plagues.
Rev 18:5 For her sins joined together, even up to Heaven, and God has remembered her unjust deeds.
Rev 18:6 Reward her as she has rewarded you, and double to her double, according to her works. In the cup which she mixed, mix double to her.
Rev 18:7 As much as she has glorified herself and has lived in luxury, so much torment and sorrow give her. For she says in her heart, I sit as a queen, and I am not a widow; and I do not see mourning at all.
Rev 18:8 Therefore her plagues will come in one day, death and mourning and famine. And she will be consumed with fire, for the Lord God who judges her is strong.
Rev 18:9 And the kings of the earth who have committed fornication and lived in luxury with her will weep for her, and will wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning;
Rev 18:10 standing afar off for fear of her torment, saying, Woe! Woe to the great city, Babylon, that strong city! For in one hour your judgment came.
January 28 was the Trump Peace deal for Israel and the Palestinians. Both President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu need this distraction as both are embroiled in impeachment and bribery dealings. January 29 saw a massive 7.7 earthquake between Jamaica and Cuba. I wonder if that is related to the peace deal. It was felt all the way to Florida.
Lev 26:21 And if you walk contrary to Me, and will not listen to Me, I will bring seven times more plagues on you according to your sins.
Lev 26:22 I will also send wild beasts among you, who shall bereave you. And I will destroy your cattle, and make you few. And your highways shall be deserted.
Eze 14:19 Or if I send a plague into that land, and pour out My fury on it in blood, to cut off man and beast from it;
Eze 14:20 though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, says the Lord Jehovah, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter. They shall only deliver their own souls by their righteousness.
Eze 14:21 For so says the Lord Jehovah: How much more when I send My four evil judgments on Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the destroying beast, and the plague, to cut off man and beast from it.
Eze 14:22 Yet, behold, there shall be left a remnant in it that shall be brought out, sons and daughters. Behold, they shall come out to you, and you shall see their way and their doings. And you shall be comforted concerning the evil that I brought on Jerusalem, for all that I have brought on it.
Since 2005 we have been warning you of what was coming. Many laughed at us then and they mocked us now for doing so. Our book The 2300 Days of Hell has another fearful warning that is almost here. Are you telling others to get it? Our other book Remembering the Sabatical Year of 2016 explained the 5 curses that are now here and still coming. Are you telling people to read these books? We are the only ones, the only Ministry telling you that these things would come due to the nations not keeping the Sabbatical Years. Due to the people not keeping the Sabbatical years. Due to the brethren not keeping the Sabbatical years. No other ministry has been doing that. Not one. And yet all of these other non-Sabbatical teaching ministries that guess about prophecy get your financial support to promote anything but the teaching of the Sabbatical Years.
If you’re not going to give us your full support now, then when? Stop sharing your conspiracy teachings that promote lies. Stop sharing your dog and cat pictures. Start to share our message and be part of those who know what to watch for and when it is coming. The true watchmen on the wall who see the real danger and why it is coming and when it will be here.
The Call of Wisdom
Pro 1:20 Wisdom cries outside; she utters her voice in the streets;
Pro 1:21 she cries in the chief place of gathering, in the openings of the gates; in the city she utters her words, saying,
Pro 1:22 How long will you love simplicity, simple ones? And will scorners delight in their scorning? And will fools hate knowledge?
Pro 1:23 Turn at my warning; behold, I will pour out my Spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.
Pro 1:24 Because I called, and you refused; I stretched out my hand, and no one paid attention;
Pro 1:25 but you have despised all my advice, and would have none of my warning.
Pro 1:26 I also will laugh at your trouble; I will mock when your fear comes;
Pro 1:27 when your fear comes as a wasting away, and your ruin comes like a tempest when trouble and pain come upon you.
Pro 1:28 Then they shall call upon me, and I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me;
Pro 1:29 instead they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of Jehovah.
Pro 1:30 They would have none of my counsel; they despised all my correction,
Pro 1:31 and they shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own desires.
Pro 1:32 For the turning away of the simple kills them, and the ease of fools destroys them.
Pro 1:33 But whoever listens to me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.
Jer 6:16 So says Jehovah, Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths where the good way is, and walk in it, and you shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk in it.
Jer 6:17 Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Listen to the sound of the ram’s horn. But they said, We will not listen.
Jer 6:18 Therefore hear, nations, and know, O congregation, what is among them.
Jer 6:19 Hear, O earth; behold, I will bring evil on this people, the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not listened to My Words, nor to My Law, but have rejected it.
Eze 3:17 Son of man, I have made you a watchman to the house of Israel. Therefore hear the Word of My mouth, and give them warning from Me.
Eze 3:18 When I say to the wicked, You shall surely die; and you do not give him warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked one shall die in his iniquity; but I will require his blood at your hand.
Eze 3:19 Yet if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.
Eze 3:20 And when the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and when I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand.
Eze 3:21 But if you warn the righteous so that the righteous does not sin, and if he does not sin, he shall surely live because he is warned; also you have delivered your soul.
Isa 62:6 I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem, who will not always be silent all the day nor all the night; you who remember Jehovah, do not be silent.
Isa 62:7 And give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.
The first conclusive study of the new “novel Coronavirus” outbreak in China has been performed and the general public . . .”Should get right with God.”
The terrifying details of this study show, out of 100 people EXPOSED to the virus, 83% will contract it and get sick. Of those 83 people, 12 WILL DIE. The outbreak is presently “unstoppable.”
WORSE: The disease can spread from person-to-person via breathing. And not just “close proximity” either. If a person is in a store, supermarket, or bathroom, and either coughs or sneezes, the virus lingers in the air for several minutes. It can be blown several aisles over by interior heating or air conditioning systems. Anyone walking through it can become infected by either breathing it, or having virus particles (microscopic) land in their EYES, then travel through the tear ducts into the body.
TERRIFYING: This virus becomes contagious from one person to another BEFORE THE INFECTED PERSON HAS ANY SYMPTOMS! So people who have no idea at all they’re infected, and are spreading this virus as they’re out going about their routine affairs: Work, Shopping, etc.
Note the more detailed list of symptoms::
Sputum production: 28%
Also note it took eight days to develop dyspnoea, (difficulty breathing.)
Also notice that 12% suffered “acute cardiac injury” which means permanent damage to the heart.
The study goes on to admit there are “. . .major gaps in our knowledge . . .” so as bad as this analysis proves to be, things may get very much worse.
But the most disturbing aspect of this study is this:
Overall, 98% of the symptoms were fever, 76% coughing, 44% muscle pain or feeling tired.
With 98% showing fever, this means that one out of 50 people infected will show no fever and therefore easily bypass current screening methods that are practiced by health officials.
If one in 50 infected people is able to get through screening that’s primarily looking for fever and respiratory symptoms, it means this outbreak is highly unlikely to be contained.
Put simply, if you, your spouse, your children, are out and about, doing what you usually do, any or all of you MAY be “exposed” to this virus from other people who were in the area minutes earlier. None of you have any way of knowing you’ve been exposed.
Of People who ARE exposed, 83% of them WILL CATCH IT. Out of those, 15% WILL DIE.
As of today, January 27, the Virus is ALREADY HERE, in America! There are FIVE confirmed cases. Seattle, Los Angeles, Orange County, CA, Chicago and Maricopa County, Arizona. The trouble is already here and it will spread.
Please go to the link above to see how to prepare for this coming plague.
To see the most up to date count of the fatalities go to this link. Currently, as of Thursday January 30, there are 171 deaths and 8235 infected. But these numbers are constantly changing. I have had to update this a couple times already while I prepare this News Letter.
Did We Mention the Locust
Billions-strong locust swarms bring new starvation threat to east Africa
The worst invasion of desert locusts for decades is wreaking havoc on farmland in east Africa and threatening an already ravaged region with hunger.
Multiple swarms, including one estimated to be billions-strong and big enough to cover Greater London, have crossed into Kenya from Ethiopia and Somalia. A small swarm of several million insects can consume enough food for 35,000 people in a single day, the UN has warned.
The conditions in which the locusts are thriving have also produced huge swarms of biting flies in Kenya. Since the start of the year, 60 donkeys have died after being bitten by bloodsucking flies leaving gaping wounds that became infected. Owners have resorted to dressing their animals in their own clothes to protect them.
Billions of locusts swarm over East Africa
A locust invasion in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia has left crops devastated. It is the biggest swarm in decades, with billions of the ravenous insects nibbling their way through the already climate-ravaged region.
Thick clouds of locusts are blackening the skies of East Africa from Ethiopia and Somalia into Kenya due to extreme weather changes.
Experts warned Friday that the insect infestation could have disastrous effects on a region still recovering from recent drought and aggressive flooding.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that one locust invasion in Kenya covered around 2,400 square kilometers (930 square miles) and contained up to 200 billion locusts which descend to feed off plants and vegetation.
People in Kenya have been seen shooting in the air, waving sticks, banging cans and running around trying to chase the locusts away, according to the Associated Press news agency.
Read more: South Africa’s winegrowers struggle against droughts and low prices
Biggest in decades
For Ethiopia and Somalia, the infestation is the biggest in 25 years, and for Kenya it is the greatest swarm in 70 years, according to the FAO.
A locust consumes their own weight in food every day. Farmers face frustration as vegetation for their livestock is consumed by the ravenous locusts. Many were just slowly recovering from three years of drought, a process which usually takes up to five years.
The FAO warned that the insects could “reproduce rapidly and, if left unchecked, their current numbers could grow 500 times by June,” spreading to Uganda and South Uganda.
A Plague Of “Billions” Of Locusts Threatens To Create Horrific End-Times Famine Across Africa
by Tyler Durden
Wed, 01/29/2020 – 02:00
Billions of locusts are eating everything in sight in east Africa right now, and every single day many more farms are being completely wiped out. Unfortunately, authorities are telling us that what we have seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, if extreme measures are not implemented immediately, authorities are claiming that this locust plague could literally get “500 times” worse in a few months. But it is difficult to imagine conditions getting any worse than they are at this moment. Ravenous locust swarms that are “the size of cities” are consuming crops at a staggering pace, and this could potentially cause famine on the African continent that is unlike anything we have ever seen before.
It can be difficult to imagine a plague of “billions” of locusts. After all, there are only about 7 billion people living on the entire planet.
But this is actually happening. Right now “billions of locusts” are absolutely devastating east Africa, and each one can eat “its own weight in food every day”…
Billions of locusts swarming through East Africa could prove disastrous for a region still reeling from drought and deadly floods, experts have warned, amid increasing calls for international help.
Dense clouds of the ravenous insects, each of which consumes its own weight in food every day, have spread from Ethiopia and Somalia into Kenya, in the region’s worse infestation in decades.
It would be hard to overstate what this is going to mean for the region. According to the FAO, this plague is an “unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods in the Horn of Africa”…
The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization has described the situation as “extremely alarming,” representing an “unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods in the Horn of Africa.”
We have seen starvation in Africa before. In fact, there was a time when our airwaves were filled with images of starving African children.
But if this plague continues to get even worse, the stage is being set for a famine that is far greater than anything that any of us have ever witnessed.
The density of some of these locust swarms is absolutely crazy. According to officials, a single locust swarm can have “up to 150 million locusts per square kilometer”…
“A typical desert locust swarm can contain up to 150 million locusts per square kilometer,” the East African regional body, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, has said. “Swarms migrate with the wind and can cover 62 to 93 miles in a day. An average swarm can destroy as much food crops in a day as is sufficient to feed 2,500 people.”
And it is important to note that some of these swarms are many times that size.
In fact, one of the largest swarms in northeastern Kenya was measured to be “60 kilometers long by 40 kilometers wide”.
In other words, that swarm was far larger than any major city on the entire planet.
Spraying these locusts only has limited effectiveness, but it is one of the only things that can be done at this point.
Unfortunately, Kenya only has four planes currently flying, and the same goes for Ethiopia.
The UN is going to step in with 10 million dollars of additional funding, but that won’t really go too far…
The UN on Wednesday allocated $10 million for aerial spraying, with humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock saying families across the region “now face the prospect of watching as their crops are destroyed before their eyes.”
The truly frightening part of this story is that we are being told that the worst is yet to come.
If you can believe it, and I know that this sounds absolutely nuts, but UN officials are actually warning that this plague of locusts could get “500 times” larger when warmer weather arrives…
When rains arrive in March and bring new vegetation across much of the region, the numbers of the fast-breeding locusts could grow 500 times before drier weather in June curbs their spread, the United Nations says.
If what the UN is telling us is accurate, and I have no reason to believe that it isn’t, then Africa is facing a nightmare of almost unbelievable proportions. Yes, I keep warning that “the perfect storm” is here, but the scale of the plague that Africa is potentially facing is very hard to imagine.
With hundreds of billions of locusts potentially eating crops all across Africa, what will be left for people to eat?
Needless to say, many relief organizations are fearing the worst…
Save the Children’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, Ian Vale, said in a statement that their staff in Kenya are battling swarms so thick they can barely see through them.
“The impact on crops and pastureland will be severe. We are very concerned that this will place vulnerable children even closer to the brink of starvation,” he said.
Even before 2020 began, millions upon millions of Africans were dealing with “acute hunger”, and the outlook for the coming year was grim.
But now nobody has any idea how there will possibly be enough food for everyone.
1.2 billion people live in Africa. That is a lot of mouths to feed, and right now the locusts are stripping farm after farm completely bare.
I know that I have been writing about the coronavirus outbreak a lot in recent days, but this crisis could potentially kill far more people. We have reached a time when global events have really started to accelerate, and the months ahead promise to be quite challenging for all of us.
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Victoria Falls was completely dried up by December. Then in January they got flooding rains which destroyed the remaining crops.
Heavy rainfall in recent days has led to riverine and flash floods in Zambia, mainly in the Southern Province, with Gwembe and Siavonga Districts hardest-hit. The flooding has destroyed crops, including maize, especially in Munyumbwe area in Gwembe District, according to the Government’s Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU). Some bridges have been submerged in the same area, hampering access. Gwembe District was already facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) levels of food insecurity due to the worst drought the country has seen since 1981. Last year, the district recorded a 98 per cent reduction in maize production, compared to 2018 and the five-year average.
Earlier this month, heavy rains left the Chipata Level One Hospital in the capital, Lusaka, completely flooded, leading to the evacuation of some patients. In Mambwe District, Eastern Province, nearly 300 families were displaced by floods in the first week of January, according to DMMU media reports, with Malambo constituency especially affected. In neighbouring Lumezi District, around 60 families had to leave their houses.
The torrential rainfall and flooding could aggravate the already fragile food insecurity situation in Zambia. Before the floods, more than 2.3 million people were expected to be severely food insecure during the lean season (October 2019 – March 2020), with at least 430,000 of them in Emergency (IPC 4).
The situation could deteriorate in the days ahead, with Zambia expected to experience heavy rains, according to the country’s Meteorological Department, with the potential for flash floods in Mufumbwe, Kasempa, Kabwe, Lusaka, Siavonga, Gwembe and Chipata districts.
An Eye For An Eye
Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People, commonly known as the Trump peace plan, is a proposal by the Trump administration bearing the stated intention of resolving the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Donald Trump formally unveiled the plan in a White House press conference alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on 28 January 2020; Palestinian representatives were not invited.
The plan was authored by a team led by Trump’s son-in-law, Senior Advisor to the President of the United States Jared Kushner. Both the West Bank settlers’ Yesha Council and the Palestinian leadership rejected the plan: the former because it envisaged a Palestinian state, the latter arguing it is too biased in favor of Israel. The plan is divided into two parts, an economic portion and a political portion. On 22 June 2019, the Trump administration released the economic portion of the plan, titled “Peace to Prosperity”. The political portion was released in late January 2020.
During the press conference announcing the plan, Netanyahu announced that the Israeli government would immediately annex the Jordan Valley and West Bank settlements while freezing settlement activity for at least four years in areas allotted by the plan to the Palestinians, and US Ambassador to Israel David M. Friedman confirmed that the Trump administration had given permission for an immediate annexation, stating that “Israel does not have to wait at all” and “we will recognize it.” Opponents of the Trump Peace Plan – including all the leading Democratic presidential candidates – have denounced it as a “smokescreen” for this annexation.
In the Map above you can see the land in blue that will be given to the Palestinians. In the Map below you can see Hwy 10 or the left-hand side which runs along the Egyptian border with Israel. About half way down the map is the village of Be’er Milkah. Milkah was the Sister-in-Law to Abraham in Genesis you can read about her. When Nahor died she came with Abraham and lived here with her Grandaughter Rebekah the wife of Isaac.
Genesis 11:26 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
Genesis 11:29 And Abram and Nahor took wives for themselves. Abram’s wife was named Sarai, and Nahor’s wife was named Milcah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milcah and Iscah.
Gen 22:20 And it happened after these things that it was told Abraham, saying, Behold Milcah! She also has borne children to your brother Nahor:
Gen 22:21 Huz his first-born, and Buz his brother, and Kemuel the father of Aram,
Gen 22:22 and Chesed, and Hazo, and Pildash, and Jidlaph, and Bethuel.
Gen 22:23 And Bethuel fathered Rebekah. These eight Milcah bore to Nahor, Abraham’s brother.
Genesis 24:15 Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah, the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor.
Genesis 24:10,24 And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed; for all the goods of his master were in his hand: and he arose, and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor…
It is in the village of Milkah that we began our vineyard project back in 2012. We have invested quite a lot of money in this project to build a bridge to the land of Israel and us. We continue to talk with Boaz and Rinah who live here even though we are not in agreement about the terms of the vineyard right now.
Putting that aside President Trump just gave our investment away to the Palestinians and never asked us if we would agree to this nor has he offered to compensate us for what will become a serious loss for us. I have sent off a barrage of tweets to @realPresidentTrump and await a response.
Starting in 2005 a series of remarkable events took place. Every time the USA brokered a deal with Israel and the Palestinians a disaster hit the USA. Bill Koenig has recorded all of these calamaties and their happening at the very same time other event took place in Israel. This link will take you to the highlights of each event. Click on each highlight to see how Yehovah is the one who owns the land and He does not give it to anyone but Israel and when they give it away just how angry He gets. https://www.watch.org/eyetoeye
Yehovah is about to shake the USA unlike they have seen before. They are not listening to Him. After the new plan was announced at the press conference Israel immediately announced they were going to annex the Jordan valley right away and The President has supported this move.
Watch the Palestinians do what they always do and shoot rockets and attack Israelis all over the West Bank. Watch it get severe in magnitude and percolate enough to justify the EU coming in and settling all the unrest at the same time as they attack Iran and destroy Iran.
Dan 11:40 And at the end-time, the king of the south shall butt at him. And the king of the north shall come against him like a tempest, with chariots and with horsemen and with many ships.
Dan 11:41 And he shall enter into the countries and shall overflow and pass over. He shall also enter into the glorious land, and many shall be stumbled. But these shall escape out of his hand: Edom and Moab, and the chief of the sons of Ammon.
Dan 11:42 And he shall stretch out his hand on the lands. And the land of Egypt shall not escape.
Dan 11:43 But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt. And the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps.
Europe is about to fix the Middle East problem and the North Africa Problem and the Palestinian and Israeli problem all at the same time and they are going to justify it by the provocation given them when Iran attacks the Europeans. The American want out of the Middle East and this vacuum will be filled by Europe.
When you look on you Jubilee cycles you will see that Israel capitulated to the Assyrians in the year 723 BC. The 6th year of the Sabbatical Cycle. The captivities began in approximately 740 BC but in 723 B., seventeen years after the initial deportations, the ruling city of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Samaria, was finally taken by Sargon II after a three-year siege started by Shalmaneser V.
2Ki 17:3 Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against him. And Hoshea became his servant and gave him taxes.
2Ki 17:4 And the king of Assyria found treachery in Hoshea, for he had sent messengers to So, king of Egypt, and had brought no taxes to the king of Assyria, as before, year by year. And the king of Assyria shut him up and bound him in prison.
2Ki 17:5 And the king of Assyria went up into all the land. And he went up to Samaria and besieged it three years.
The Fall of Israel
2Ki 17:6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria. And he placed them in Halah, and in Habor by the river Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
2Ki 18:9 And it happened in the fourth year of King Hezekiah, the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria and besieged it.
2Ki 18:10 And at the end of three years they took it, in the sixth year of Hezekiah, it was the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was taken.
2Ki 18:11 And the king of Assyria carried away Israel to Assyria, and put them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes,
2Ki 18:12 because they did not obey the voice of Jehovah their God, but transgressed His covenant, and all that Moses the servant of Jehovah commanded, and would not listen to them, nor do them.
Assyria fought with and laid siege against Israel for 3 years before they fell in 723, the 6th year of the 4th Sabbatical Cycle. When we compare that to our time, the 6th year is 2022 C.E. Counting back three years from this brings you to 2020. The Assyrians of the Bible today are called Germany who lead and drive the European Union.
If everything I have been showing you is correct then President Trump has just started the process that will lead to the end of the USA. Shavuot 2020 is the start of the 2300 Days when the Saints will be trampled underfoot and slaughtered until the Two Witnesses rise up and stop it. Make your plans to get out of the way while you can.
Review & Preview
Last week we shared with you the first 6 chapters of the Good Shepherd. The reason I wanted to do this was because of the things going on in the world right now. The cataclysmic signs that we are in and the time winding down to the middle of this 70th Jubilee Cycle. Like many of you, I too am getting anxious. And it was in re-reading this book that I was reminded of who is in charge and what He is doing and why He is doing these things. These chapters also reminded me of who I am.
I also wanted them here for our readers in other countries who may not have access to this book. So we are going to try and get the remaining chapters in here. There are still more lessons to learn and for all of us to remember.
- The Sheep Fold #1
- The Shepherd’s Entry #2
- The Shepherd’s Voice #3
- He Leads Me Out, And Goes Before Me, To New Green Pastures #4
- The Sheep Know His Voice! #5
- A Stranger Do Not Follow! #6We are now about to learn the following headings.
- The Doorway for the sheep! #7
- Entering into a New Life #8
- The Abundant Life! #9
- The Hireling #10
- He KNOWS us, we KNOW Him! #11
- One flock – One shepherd #12
- He lay down His Life! #13
- Believing Christ is Belonging to Christ #14
- Christ gives eternal Life! #15
- The Shepherd is God! #16
The Doorway for the sheep! #7
ME IN CHRIST
“Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieved and robbers but the sheep did not hear them” (John 10:7-8).
IN THE FIRST parable of this discourse, our Lord made clear what He meant when He spoke of entering into the fold of one’s life. Now, in the second parable, He proceeds to elaborate in great detail on what it means for a man or woman to enter into His life. By that is implied the way whereby we come into His care, enjoy His management, and revel in the abundance of His life shared with us in gracious generosity.
Again, it must be emphasized that His audience did not really understand Him. When He completed His teaching, they charged Him with being insane … possessed of an evil spirit, and unworthy of a hearing. And since that time millions of others have been bewildered by His teaching.
But the man born blind and the young woman taken in adultery, as well as a few others whose lives He had touched and transformed, understood Him. They knew it was God who had entered their lives. Also, they had been introduced into a new life in Christ which was a dimension of living unknown to them before. These few grasped what it was He said.
Perhaps as we proceed to study His statements, we, too, can enter into a fuller comprehension of the spiritual truths He shared with His audience. To do so is to have the horizons of our spiritual understanding widened by His words.
“I am the door of the sheep.” Put into our modern idiom we would say: “I am the doorway, the entrance, for the sheep.” Too often people have the wrong idea that our Lord referred to Himself only as the actual door or gate used to close a passageway into a sheepfold. This is not the picture. The whole process of sheep management, of folding sheep, is combined with the control of doorways and gateways. It is by means of opening and shutting these passageways that the flock is moved methodically in and out, from place to place. They pass in through it to the protection of the fold within.
A flock has both an interior life within the shelter of the sheepfold and an exterior life outside. It is by means of the doorway, through the opening of the gate, that they enjoy both ingress and egress to a fully rounded and beneficial mode of life.
In the experience of every Christian whose life Christ has entered by His gracious Spirit, there are really two distinct areas of living. There is that inner life which the Quakers sometimes refer to as “the interior life.” It is a personal, private, precious communion which a person enjoys within the inner sanctum of his own soul and spirit.
Then there is that outer life in which one is in contact with fellow Christians. It does not just end there, however, for it reaches out to touch all the world around us. This we refer to as our “exterior life,” where thousands of contacts are made in a lifetime of interaction with our contemporaries.
The person under Christ’s control will sense and know the hand of the Good Shepherd directing him in both areas. He will be acutely aware that it is through Him he passes in and out peacefully wherever He leads us.
Whether it is within the stillness of our own spirits or without in the noisy world around us, He is there. This acute awareness of His presence opening or closing the way before me is a magnificent reassurance to my soul that all is well.
The doorway was of tremendous import in Hebrew tradition and thought; much more so than in our culture. It was against the background of the Hebrew respect for “the door” that Christ made this assertion repeatedly – “I am the door.” We do well to examine this briefly in order to fully comprehend what He meant.
Early in her history as a nation, Israel had been enslaved by the Egyptians. For nearly two hundred years her people had been driven by their taskmasters to toil in the dreadful slime pits. There under the broiling sun they made mud bricks with which to build the great, elaborate cities of their enemies.
Though this subservient people lived in their own little peasant hovels by the Nile, they were still prisoners of their Egyptian lords. In desperation they cried out for deliverance. God responded to their cry and sent Moses to wrest them from the land of their bondage.
The final great act of their emancipation had to do with the door of each man’s home. A spotless Passover Lamb was to be slaughtered for each household. Its blood was to be liberally sprinkled on the lintel over the door, and on both doorposts. Any person passing through this door to the shelter of the house within was assured of perfect protection and absolute safety from the awesome judgment of the great destroying angel who swept through Egypt in the darkness.
But also, by the same door anyone going out entered into the magnificent exodus which was able to deliver the enslaved from their bondage. A person went out through that door to liberty, freedom, and a new dimension of life under God’s direction (Exod. 1-15).
It was the blood of the innocent Passover lamb, applied to the owner’s doorway, that guaranteed him peace within and protection without. He had come directly under God’s care and control within a new life of freedom.
And so, it is in the experience of any man or woman who complies with the provisions of Christ. As we come to rely implicitly upon the efficacy of His laid-down life and spilled blood on our behalf, He, God’s own Passover Lamb, in very fact becomes the doorway for us. It is through Him that we enjoy a magnificent inner security and through Him that we go out to engage in an adventurous life of new-found freedom under His direction.
Later in the history of the nation Israel, clear and specific instructions were given regarding the doorway to a man’s home. The great laws and commandments of God to His people were to be inscribed on long, thin strips of parchment. These were to be carefully wrapped around each of the doorposts through which a person passed in and out of his home. Thus, the resident was continually reminded, as were any strangers or visitors who came to call on him, that he and his family lived and moved under the command and control of God. Their going out and their coming in from that time forth were under the guidance of God’s Word (Deut. 11:18-21).
Again, this was a beautiful concept clearly portraying to God’s own people the fact that they were under His care. It was under His hand and under His gracious guidance that in truth they could live securely. As they passed their days going in and out of their humble homes it was to find sweet serenity within and strong safety without. Jehovah God was with them to guide. The Shepherd of their souls was their salvation in every situation. We see this same remarkable theme and emphasis reiterated throughout the teachings of our Lord. He stated emphatically in His great Sermon on the Mount that the gateway or doorway through which anyone entered into an abundant life of new-found freedom was in truth a restricted one. One could not think that he could pursue any course he chose and still come out right. If he did this he would end up in disaster – a wayward, willful, lost sheep.
No, the way to safety within and security without was only through the gateway of the Good Shepherd’s care. Not many would either find or follow that route. Most preferred to go their own proud, perverse path to perdition.
Jesus the Christ was even more specific about this matter when, just before His crucifixion, He stated simply: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
Putting this into plain language He is saying: “I am the way in and through which anyone can enter into a splendid new life with God. It is through Me that a man or woman comes to discover truth, reality, purpose, and meaning. It is through Me that one comes into the intimacy of the family of God our Father.”
This is the main thrust of the entire New Testament. It is remarkable to see stated over and over the assertion that it is in and;
- Through Christ we live.
- Through Jesus Christ I have peace with God.
- Through Jesus Christ I am justified.
- Through Jesus Christ I am forgiven my failures and sins.
- Through Jesus Christ I am accepted into God’s family.
- Through Jesus Christ I am set free from slavery to sin and self.
- Through Jesus Christ I am resurrected.
- Through Jesus Christ I have immediate access to God in prayer.
And so, the list could go on as a paean of praise to Him who has loved us and redeemed us and reconciled us to Himself by His own generous laid-down life.
In a word, it may be said that He, and only He, is the doorway into abundant living.
As in the previous parable, here again the Lord reiterates that anyone who ever preceded Him in our experience was a thief or robber. He was a thief in that if he induced us to do our own thing and go our own way, he robbed us of our rightful inheritance.
The reason for this escapes most people. We are conditioned by the culture of our society to believe that we are in the world merely to gratify our own selfish desires and drives. We are taught that to a great degree everything is relative. If my impulse is to push my way to the top of the totem pole, I should do so, even if it means trampling on others along the way. It’s just too bad if others are injured. After all, it’s a tough world we live in; and life is really a struggle to survive.
So, little by little as time goes on, many of us do not believe that the standards established by God are relative to our age. We discard His directions for living. We ignore His instructions for our conduct. We turn each to his own way only to find that our difficulties deepen. We see ourselves caught up in a worldly way of existence. Life becomes a meaningless mockery. God’s absolute values of integrity, loyalty, justice, honor, love, and fine nobility are cast aside. And in their place, we find ourselves an impoverished people left only with discouragement and despair. We are robbed blind and left destitute with broken lives, broken hearts, broken minds, broken homes, broken bodies, and a broken society.
Jesus was speaking a truth we should pay attention to when He said that it was possible for us to be pillaged and plundered by the false philosophies and crass materialism of our times. Unhappily most people simply won’t believe Him. They know better, or so they think. But they end up broken and beaten.
There is a second, and even more subtle way in which we ignore Him as the “way” and put others “before Him.” It has to do with our basic priorities in life.
Again, it is helpful to go back into the early Hebrew teachings and traditions. The first of the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses in Exodus 20 states explicitly, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me!” God knew that to do so would spell certain disaster. No one, nothing, no human ideology could begin to compare with God Himself in wisdom, might, love, or integrity. In Him resided all that was selfless, noble, and glorious. For us to give ourselves or our allegiance to any other is to impoverish and demean ourselves: it is never to know the best. Yet, in our blindness, ignorance, and folly all through the long and tragic tale of human history, men have sold themselves short to all sorts of strange and stupid gods. We have bartered away our birthright for a meager mess of unsatisfying substitutes. God made us for Himself. In love and concern He intended us to be the children of His family, the sheep of His flock, the bride for His bridegroom.
Instead of seeing, longing, and devoting ourselves to Him, we have turned away and have put all sorts of other gods before Him. Other interests, ideas, people, and pursuits have been given prior place in our lives and affections. They have all “come before” Him.
Whatever it is to which I give most of my attention, time, thought, strength, and interest, becomes my God. It may be my home, my health, my family, career, hobby, entertainment, money, or person.
But our Lord says that if they come before Him, we are robbed. We have been stolen blind. We are poorer than we think. Our plight is pathetic, and we have settled for second best. Our Lord points out in our text that those who are truly His people, the sheep of His pasture, will not allow themselves to be subverted by false gods. In the history of the people of Israel this had always been one of their greatest difficulties. Often, they had been warned not to follow after the pagan gods of the races around them. Whenever they gave an ear to their subtle
attractions they were drawn into dreadful practices that led them to utter ruin.
It did not matter whether they did this collectively as a nation or privately as individual citizens. The end result always was retrogression and remorse. But in spite of the repeated warnings there always seemed to be those who were oblivious to the dangers of thieves and robbers. In stubborn, sometimes blind folly they would fall prey to the predators among them or around them. And the same is still true today.
It reminds me of the behavior of a band of sheep under attack from dogs, cougars, bears, or even wolves. Often in blind fear or stupid unawareness they will stand rooted to the spot watching their companions being cut to shreds. The predator will pounce upon one then another of the flock raking and tearing them with tooth and claw. Meanwhile, the other sheep may act as if they did not even hear or recognize the carnage going on around them. It is as though they were totally oblivious to the obvious peril of their own precarious position.
We see this principle at work even among Christians. We as God’s people are continually coming under attack, either from without or within. Yet many are unable to detect danger among our number. It is as though we cannot hear or see or sense our peril. Often the predation is so crafty and cunning that fellow Christians are cut down before our eyes by the enemy of our souls.
Sometimes those who do the most damage are already among us. They insinuate themselves into our little folds. They may be in our family, among our friends, in our neighborhood, in some small Bible class, in the community, or even in the church itself. They come bringing discord, divisions, and dissension. They rob us of the enrichment we might have from our Master by redirecting our attention to lesser issues. We get caught up in conflict and confusion that can lead to chaos. Instead of our focus being centered in Christ they get us embroiled with false and destructive ideas that may eventually lead to our downfall.
Almost invariably those who come as thieves and robbers divert our attention from the loveliness and grandeur of our Good Shepherd. They manage to redirect our interests to peripheral issues of minor importance. They will get us to expend our time and energy and thought on trivia. And while we are so preoccupied with following their “will-o’-the-wisp” suggestions we fall prey to their deceptive and destructive tactics. We see this in such things as over-emphasis of questionable doctrines, humanistic philosophies, undue desire for feelings rather than faith in the Christian experience, disputes over biblical interpretations, excesses in legalism, worldly ways of living or doing God’s work, pandering to certain popular personalities or programs.
Throughout the teachings of our Lord, and later in the writings of the New Testament apostles (see 2 Tim.), we are warned “not to hear” such false teachers. We are urged to turn a deaf ear to them. We are told to flee from them. If we are to survive, we must disassociate ourselves from them. We do not respond to those who treacherously try to tickle our ears while cutting our throats.
This is not always easy to do, but if we are following Christ in an intimate communion, we will be aware of our danger. We will turn from those who would maim and mutilate us. We will be acutely sensitive only to the gentle voice of the Good Shepherd.
Entering into a New Life #8
I am the door, by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but to steal, and to kill, and to destroy (John 10:9-10).
OUR LORD MAKES it clear that He is the door, the way, the entrance into a new life. This life in which He controls both my interior and exterior life is totally different from any lifestyle I may have known before.
It implies a new two-way interpersonal relationship. He has come into the little fold of my life there to exercise His management of my affairs. He leads me out in due course to wider fields of contact and adventure with others in new dimensions of spiritual growth.
Yet, at the same time I find myself entering into an exciting and stimulating lifestyle within the enfolding control of His presence. He has become the paramount and preeminent person in my daily experience. He occupies a place of greater priority in my thoughts, emotions, and decisions than any earthly companion. This applies to my family, friends, or other intimate associates.
This process of gradually allowing God to govern my life, permitting Christ to control my conduct, coming gently under the absolute sovereignty of His gracious Spirit is to enter into the remarkable and restful salvation He provides for His people. It is a case where I am no longer enslaved to my own small, self-centered wishes. I am set free from the tyranny of my own destructive emotions. I am liberated from the bondage of my own bungling decisions. It is a case of being set free from the terrible tyranny of my own selfish self-centeredness. He, the Good Shepherd of my soul, takes over the welfare of my affairs. He delivers me from the dilemma of my own self-destructive drives. I am free at last to enter into the joyous delight of just doing His will.
Sad as it may seem, many Christians do not enter into the rest and repose of this life in Christ. They may have heard about it. They may have read about it. They may even have seen it in the experience of one or two of their contemporaries, but for themselves it is as elusive as a passing daydream.
Perhaps if a parallel is drawn from the relationships between a shepherd and his sheep we can understand how one enters into this wondrous life.
Any sheep, if treated with kindness and affection, soon attaches itself to its new owner. Sheep are remarkably responsive, for the most part, to the attention and care given to them by a good shepherd. This is especially true in small flocks where the owner has opportunity to bestow his personal affection on individual animals. They quickly become his friends. A select few are actually pets. They follow him as faithfully as his own shadow. Wherever he goes they are there. It is in his company, and because of his presence, that they are ever secure and at rest.
The same truth applies in our relationship to Christ. We can in truth enter into a new life with Him whereby we enjoy the safety, surety, and security of His presence. This is not some super-spiritual, once-for-all, ecstatic experience. Rather it is the quiet, gentle hour-to-hour awareness of “O Lord, you are here!” It is the keen knowledge, “O God, You, are guiding me!” It is the calm, serene assurance, “O gracious Spirit, in Your presence there is peace!”
There is nothing mystical or magical about this. It is the winsome, wondrous knowledge of realizing the person, presence, and power of Christ in every detail of my day. This is the meaning of salvation in its full-orbed splendor.
The entering into this life in Christ lifts me above the low level of trying to struggle with the down-drag of sin that leads so many into the deep ditch of despair. It frees me from the fret of fighting with the old selfish impulses that generally govern my life. It delivers me from the dominion of the enemy of my soul who wishes to ensnare me.
The focus of my attention has been shifted away from myself to my Shepherd. The movement of my soul has been brought to Him for direction rather than left in the dilemma of my own decision making. The responsibility for my activities has been placed squarely in His care and taken out of my hands. This means subjecting my will to His wishes, but therein lies my rest and relief from my own stressful way of life.
Such people, our Lord said, would go in and out freely and find pasture.
Many people assume that to become a Christian and follow Christ calls only for self-denial, privation, poverty, and hardships. It is a distorted picture, for in fact, though we may relinquish our old selfish lifestyle, we discover to our delight an entrance into a much greater and broader dimension of living. Who is the person rich in friends, loved ones, and affection? The one willing to give himself away to others. Who is the individual who finds life full, rewarding, and deeply satisfying? The person who loses himself in a cause much greater than himself, who gives
himself away for the greater good of all.
And it is to this caliber of life that Christ invites us. He calls us to enter into great commitments and noble causes. He leads us into a broken world there to expend ourselves on behalf of suffering, struggling, lost humanity.
Life is too magnificent, our capacities too noble, our days too few and precious to be squandered on just our own selfish little selves. God has made us in His own great image for great purposes. Only in coming into harmony with His will and wishes can we ever begin to realize or attain the tremendous aspirations He has for us. It is in complete and implicit cooperation with His ongoing purposes for the planet that any of us ever attain even a fraction of our potential for eternal service and salvation.
Too many of us are too provincial, too petty in our outlook. We see only our own little problems. We are obsessed with only our own little objectives. We go through life cramped and constricted by our own small circle of contacts.
Christ the Good Shepherd calls us to go in and out and find wide, broad pastures of practical and abundant service; not only for our own sakes but also for the sake of others who are as lost as we once were.
He gave us this broad view in graphic terms Himself when He sent out His twelve disciples as missionaries to the lost sheep of Israel.
A careful and intelligent reading of Matthew 9:35-10:16 discloses a delightful scene of an eastern shepherd gathering up stray sheep. Jesus had been moving from village to village, town to town, teaching, preaching, healing, and ministering to men’s needs in every area of life. Seeing the innumerable multitudes of struggling souls He was moved with enormous concern and compassion for them. They were as sheep without a shepherd. They were weary, apprehensive, distraught, and scattered afield in every direction. Turning to His twelve companions He made the comment, so, (often misunderstood and misinterpreted by missionaries). “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.” He was not speaking of a harvest of wheat or corn or other grain, but rather a crop of lambs, a crop of lost sheep scattered by the millions, milling aimlessly across the surface of the earth.
Who and where were the workers, the laborers who could gather, in the lost? There were so few able to do this difficult and delicate task.
How do does He bring home the wanderers and stragglers?
He does not use dogs the way western sheepmen do. He does not resort to horses or donkeys to herd them home or round them up. Nor does he employ helicopters or Hondas as some western ranchers do.
No, the eastern shepherd uses his own pet lambs and bellwethers to gather in lost sheep. Because these pets are so fond of being near him and with him, he has to literally go out into the hills and rough country himself taking them along, scattering them abroad. There they graze and feed alongside the wild and wayward sheep.
As evening approaches the shepherd gently winds his way home. His favorite pet lambs and bellwethers quietly follow him. As they move along in his footsteps, they bring with them the lost and scattered sheep. It is a winsome picture full of pathos. In-Matthew 10 Christ actually took His twelve men and scattered them out among the lost sheep of Israel (v.6). He warned them that He was sending them out as sheep in the midst of predators who might try to prevent them from bringing home the lost (v. 16). But they were to go anyway, because the presence of His Spirit would be with them to preserve them in every danger. This is a precise picture drawn for us in bold colors of what our Good Shepherd requires of us. He does not demand that we embark on some grandiose schemes of our own design to do His work in the world. He does not suggest that we become embroiled in some complex organization of human ingenuity to achieve His goal of gathering in lost souls.
He simply asks me to be one who will be so attached to Him, so fond of Him, so true to Him, that in truth I shall be like His pet lamb or bellwether. No matter where He takes me; no matter where He places me; no matter whom I am alongside of in my daily living, that person will be induced to eventually follow the Shepherd because I follow Him.
Put in another way it may be said that any Christian’s effectiveness in winning others is directly proportional to his own devotion to the Master. Show me a person to whom Christ, is absolutely paramount and I will show you one who gently but surely is gathering in others from the pastures of the world.
This is the individual who has entered into an exciting, adventuresome, fresh mode of life in God. Day after day, under the guidance of the Good Shepherd, he goes in and out to find fresh pastures of new experience. His life touches other lives, and all the time here and there he sees others gently gathered in, because he was willing to be sent forth wherever the Shepherd best saw fit to place him.
It all sounds fairly simple. It is, if we faithfully follow Christ. It is He who assures us of effective success in helping to save the lost and scattered sheep in a shattered world. We are His co-workers, co-laborers in His great ongoing plans for rescuing the lost.
Nor is such labor without its rewards. Our God is the God of all consolation and compensation. He is no man’s debtor. Those who honor Him, He will honor. If we put Him and His interests first, there will ever be ample provision for all of our needs. This is not theory. This is the truth testified to by uncounted millions of men and women who, having entered into this new life with God, have found Him to be ever faithful to them.
Any life He enters is always enriched, never impoverished.
Any of our days He touches are transformed with the light and joy of His presence. To sense and know Him is to have tasted life at its sublime best.
Yet amid such living our Lord warns us that there can still be thieves and robbers present. There are always predators prowling around the periphery of our lives, waiting and watching for opportunity to plunder and impoverish us.
In previous chapters these have been dealt with in some detail. Emphasis has been placed especially upon those aspects of our Christian lives where we can be seriously endangered by false teaching, philosophies, or ideologies.
Here, very briefly, I would like to mention just two of the more practical aspects of our times which literally come into our lives and impoverish us. Not only are we poorer because of them, but God’s work is hindered from being carried out as well as it might be.
The first is idleness.
We live in a culture given to greater leisure. The shorter work week means more leisure time. Indolence is an outgrowth of this. The discipline of diligent duty is disappearing.
Consequently, the character of our people becomes increasingly casual, careless, and irresponsible.
For young people especially, excess ease is debilitating. The sense of challenge and achievement is lacking. They are impoverished because there is so little attained to satisfy them with a sense of worthwhile accomplishment. Too often the young toss away their days while the older loaf away their lives. As God’s people we should give ourselves completely, gladly, and wholeheartedly to His enterprises upon the earth. There is much to achieve!
Then there is affluence and luxury.
The world is so much with us. We have been conditioned by our culture to believe that an individual’s worth is measured by his material assets. Yet Christ declared;
“A man’s life does not consist of the abundance of things he owns” (Luke 12:15).
Still, there is a tendency for us to allow our attention to be centered on the acquisition of material wealth, or even academic attainments, or personal power and prestige in one form or another.
This is not to say that as Christians we are not entitled to pursue excellence in any of the fields into which God may guide us. We should strive to excel for His sake, not our personal pride. But at no time should these become a prior claim upon our thought or time or strength. If we allow this to happen, we will soon discover that in truth we are being robbed of the best. We are being deprived of His presence, power, and peace in our lives. We will have settled for second best. We will be poorer than we know. This will constrict our effectiveness for Christ and will cramp our personal relationship to Him.
The Spirit of God speaking to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:16-20 put it this way:
“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to, buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:16-20)
What the Good Shepherd desires above all else is that He might have the wondrous delight of entering fully into my life, there to share it with me. And I in turn can enter wholeheartedly into His great life, there to experience the remarkable fulfillment which He intended for me as His person. All of this is the purpose of His love for me.
The Abundant Life! #9
I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep (John 10:10b-11).
ANY SHEPHERD WHO is a good manager always bears in mind one great objective. It is that his flock may flourish. The continuous well-being of his sheep is his constant preoccupation.
All of his time, thought, skill, strength, and resources are directed to this end.
Nothing delights the good shepherd more than to know his livestock are in excellent condition. He will stand in his pastures amongst his sheep casting a knowing eye over them, rejoicing in their contentment and fitness. A good stock man actually revels in the joy of seeing his animals flourishing. There are several reasons for this.
First, and perhaps foremost, is the simple fact that sheep that are in good health are free from all the trying and annoying ailments of parasitism and disease that so frequently decimate sheep. He does not have to worry about sick or crippled animals. They are thriving under his care.
Second, it means that most of his time and attention can be devoted to the development and care of the entire ranch. This will assure his stock of an ideal environment in which they can prosper. He can supply abundant pasturage, clean water supplies, proper shelter, protection from predators, ample range, and ideal management in every area of the ranch operation. This is the best guarantee that the flock in his ownership will derive maximum benefit from his expertise.
Third, his own reputation and name as an esteemed sheep-man is reflected in the performance of his flock. All of his expertise and affection for the sheep is shown by how they prosper under his watchful eye. When they are thriving, he also benefits. Not only does he prosper but he feels richly rewarded in soul for all his strength and life actually poured into them. Put another way it may be said that the outpouring of his own being is to be seen in the excellence of his stock. It is very much a demonstration of the eternal principle that what a man gets out of life is what he puts into it.
Reflecting back over my own years as a sheep-man I recall clearly those happy, contented times when I literally reveled in the well being of my sheep. Visitors would often remark how contented and flourishing my flock appeared. But only I knew how much work, effort, tireless attention, and never-ending diligence had been expended on my part for this to be possible.
My sheep had literally been the recipients of my life. It had been shared with them abundantly and unstintingly. Nothing was ever held back. All that I possessed was in truth poured out unremittingly in order that together we should prosper. The strength of my young body, the keen enthusiasm of my spirit, the energy of my mind, the alertness of my emotions, the thrust and drive of my disposition were all directed to the well-being of my flock. And it showed in abundant measure.
This is the graphic picture our Lord had in His mind when He stated simply, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”
If we pause to reflect here a moment, we must see that any person is “good” in whatever he undertakes to the degree in which he devotes and dedicates himself to it. A “good violinist” becomes a good violinist only by putting his time, talents, and attention into his art and instrument. Likewise, a “good runner” becomes a top athlete only to the extent that he will invest his strength and energy and interest in his sport. And the degree to which anyone becomes “good” is the length to which he will go in giving himself unhesitatingly to his chosen vocation.
Thus, in speaking of our Good Shepherd we are compelled to consider the enormous generosity with which He gives Himself to us without stint. The very nature and character of God, exemplified in Christ, convinces us beyond any doubt that He literally pours Himself out on our behalf. All of the eternal, ongoing activities and energetic enterprises of God have been designed that we might share His abundant life.
We are not, as the people of His pasture, merely the recipients of good gifts which He dispenses to us in random fashion from afar. To think this way is to be terribly impoverished in our lives.
For much of my early Christian life I labored under this delusion. To me God was a distant deity. If perchance I needed extra strength or wisdom or patience to face some perplexing problem, He who resided off in the immensity of space somewhere could be appealed to for help and support in my dilemma. If my conduct was commendable, He would probably, hopefully, cooperate. He would condescend to comply with my requests. If all went well, He might just drop down a bit of wisdom or strength or patience to meet my need for the moment.
To imagine or assume that this is abundant life, or abundant living, is a caricature of the true Christian life. Yet multitudes of God’s people struggle along this way. Their lives are impotent and impoverished because of it.
The simple truth is that the abundant, dynamic life of God can be ours continuously. It is not something handed out in neat little packages as we pray for it sporadically.
A man or woman has the life of God to the extent that he or she has God. We have the peace of God to the extent that we experience the presence of Christ. We enjoy the joy of the Lord to the degree we are indwelt by the very Spirit of God. We express the love of God to the measure we allow ourselves to be indwelt by God Himself.
God is not “way out there somewhere.” He is here! He not only resides within anyone who will receive Him, but equally important is the fact that He completely enfolds and surrounds us with His presence. He is the essence of both our inner life and outer life.
“O God, You are here! O Christ, You have come that I might have abundant life. O gracious Spirit, You are as invisible as the wind yet as real as the air that surrounds me, which I inhale to energize my body! You are within and without. “It is in You, 0 my God, that I live and move and have my being. You are the environment from which my total life is derived. You are the energy and dynamic of my whole being. Every good and every perfect bestowal is derived from You. The vitality of my spirit, the energy of my emotions, the drive of my disposition, the powerful potential of my mind, the vigor of my body; in fact, every facet of my total, abundant life is a reflection of Your life, O Lord, being lived out in me and through me.”
To become aware of this is to become charged mightily with the abundant life of God, in Christ, by His Spirit. This is to experience being “in Christ,” and “Christ in me.” This is to know God. This is to enjoy eternal life, the life of the eternal One being expressed through my person. This is, as Paul put it, “knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection.”
This life of God, given so freely to us in an undiminished supply from an inexhaustible source, is not intended to end in us. We are not an end in ourselves. The abundant outpouring of God’s life to His people is intended to be an overflowing, out-giving, ongoing disposal of His benefits to others around us. More than this, it is designed to bring pleasure, delight, and blessing back to our Lord Himself. It is not just a case of His blessings being bestowed on us, but also our abundant lives in return being a blessing to Him.
“Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Ps.103:1-2).
The full and complete awareness of this concept of abundant Christian living can come to us only as we grasp the nature and character of God, our Father. The Scriptures reveal Him to be love. By that is meant not a selfish, self-indulgent, sentimental love, but its opposite.
The love of God spoken of so extensively is total selflessness. It is God, in Christ, sharing Himself with us unhesitatingly. It is He giving Himself in glad, wholehearted abandonment to us. It is God pouring Himself out for His people. It is God losing Himself in our little lives that we might know the abundance of His life. It is God giving Himself to us without measure in overflowing abundance so that in turn His life spills out from ours to go running over our weary old world in streams of refreshing.
The life of God comes to us in many ways. So majestic and marvelous are they that this little book cannot begin to list or catalog them all. The life of God given to men is the same life that energizes the entire cosmos. It sustains the universe. It is the essence of being.
The best a mere mortal can do is to go quietly to some place, still, alone, there to meditate before the splendor of our God.
I sense something of His glory in the wonders of the world He made: the flaming sunrises and sunsets that still the soul; the awesome grandeur of mighty mountain ranges and sweeping plains; the restless roar of ocean waves and winds and tides; the fragrance of forests or the green glory of rich grasslands; the austere stillness and rugged solitude of gaunt deserts; the delicate beauty of flowers, trees, and shrubs; the incredible diversity of insects, birds, and mammals; the beauty of sun and cloud, snow and rain.
All of these contribute something to the total environment which supports and sustains me. Each in its own way contributes to the well-being of my person. They energize and feed my body. They stimulate and quicken my soul. They enrich my spirit. They make me what I am … a man sensitive, receptive, and alive to the world around me – my Father’s world – His provision for my well-being, joy, and abundant life. He has come. He has made it all possible. He has put it at my disposal for full and enriched living.
All that is sublime, beautiful, dignified, noble, and grand has this as its source. The finest in our literature, music, arts, science, and social intercourse has its base in the generous giving of our Lord. All that contributes to our physical health, energy, and acumen as individuals is grounded in the good gifts and undiminished life of God poured out to us upon the planet.
And yet in His magnanimous and magnificent generosity He does not just leave it at that. God has deliberately chosen to articulate Himself in terms I can comprehend. He has spoken. His Word has been received, recorded, and reproduced in human writing. He has not withheld His will or wishes from us earthlings in mystical obscurity. It is possible to know precisely what He is like. He has articulated Himself in meticulous terms understandable to man. He has given us clear and concise self-revelations as to His gracious character, impeccable conduct, and friendly conversation. We know who it is with whom we have to do. He does not deal with us according to our foibles and failings, but in amazing mercy and gracious kindness, as our Father.
As though all of this is not enough, He has gone even further in coming to us as God in man. He, the living God in Christ, has come among us, wholly identified with us in our human condition and human dilemma. He has not spared Himself. He was born among us, lived among us, worked among us, served among us, taught among us, died among us, rose among us, and ascended among us to reclaim and repossess His place of prominence.
All of this He did willingly and gladly to deliver us from the plight of our own peril upon the planet. He came to set us free from the folly and foibles of our own perverseness and pride. He gave His life to redeem us from our slavery to sin and selfish self-interests and Satan. He gave Himself to seek and to save us who were lost. He came to call us to Himself. He came to gather us into His family to enfold us in His flock. He gave Himself to make us His own, the recipients of His own abundant, abounding life.
To those few, and they are relatively few, who have responded to His overtures, He still comes, even today, and gives Himself to us by His gracious Spirit. He is with us. He is our counselor. He is our companion. He is our “alongside one.” He is our comforter. He is our closest friend. He is here in rich and wondrous intimacy.
“I am come that you might have life, My life, and that you might have it in overflowing abundance.”
These are still His words to us today.
The Hireling #10
“But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep” (John 10:12-13).
OUR LORD USED contrast for dynamic effect. It was one of the secrets of His remarkable, arresting teaching. He used contrast to display in bold, bright strokes the great truths we human beings have such difficulty in comprehending.
He told about the rich man and the poor beggar Lazarus who lay at his doorstep. He recounted the incident of the haughty, proud Pharisee praying while the contrite publican struck his breast begging for mercy. He contrasted the prodigal with his very “proper” elder brother. And now, in this parable, Christ brings before us the behavior of a hireling as it is contrasted with the Good Shepherd in caring for sheep.
Our Lord previously pointed out how the people of God’s pasture could, under His control, enjoy an abundant, rich life with Him.
He made clear how God’s life, poured out in rich measure on my behalf, enables me to enjoy abundant living in every area: physical, mental, moral, emotional, and spiritual. He told how life in Him contributes to a wholesomeness and holiness of unique quality; that it is entirely possible for a man or woman to be so intimately associated with God as to reflect His character to a skeptical society.
Yet, in bold contrast to all of the foregoing, Jesus made it clear that not all sheep were under a good shepherd. Some suffered because of the bad behavior of hireling shepherds.
During the time of our Lord’s sojourn in Palestine, servants were of two sorts. They were either bond or free. They were either slaves owned outright by their masters or free people who worked temporarily for meager wages. In fact, because of slavery, the worth and dignity of a human being was much less esteemed than it was in a free society. After all, if people could be bought and sold at random in a slave market, they were really not of much more value than cattle or furniture.
It will be recalled that when Judas bartered with the high priests for the betrayal of his Master, the price of thirty pieces of silver was agreed upon. This was the going price, then, of a slave in the slave market.
If a slave served his owner well and the two became attached to each other, the master often offered to set him free. The slave could then choose either to go free or become a bond slave or bond servant. Of his own free will he could choose to remain, for the rest of his life, as a servant who, because of his love for the master, chose to remain in his family.
To confirm this the owner would take his slave to the doorpost of his home. Placing the slave’s ear against it, he would pierce the lobe with an awl, pinning it momentarily to the post. This drew blood. This indicated that a bond was sealed for life, and that this slave had in fact become a love servant for the remainder of his days. He would never leave that family. He would be ever faithful to his owner. He was a part of that household. Their life was his. His life was theirs.
There was none of this devotion about a hireling. A hireling had no permanence. He was a casual laborer who came and went at will in a rather haphazard way. He would be here today and gone tomorrow. He was essentially a transient worker. He took no special interest in his job. As soon as a few shekels jingled in the deep folds of his loin cloth he was gone. He would seldom settle down or take any responsibility seriously. His average wage in Jesus’ day was a penny a day. The less work he could do to earn this the better it suited him. Like a dandelion seed drifting on the wind he floated about the country looking for the softest spot to land. And if the place did not please him, he would soon take off for another.
Sometimes, but not often, one of these drifters would be employed to tend sheep in the owner’s absence. It was seldom a satisfactory arrangement. For that reason, our Lord used the hireling to represent those who were entrusted with the sheep, but had no real love or concern for them. The secret to successful livestock husbandry is an essential love for the animals under one’s care. And this the hireling lacked. He had no stake in the flock. They were not his. He could care less what became of them. They were but the means whereby he could make his “fast buck,” and then get out.
As a young man of twenty-five I was entrusted with the management and development of a large livestock ranching operation in central British Columbia. There were thirty-six men on the various crews hired to run the ranch. We were in a rather remote, though choice, area, where the glamor and glitter of cities seemed far away.
Among us there was a common joke that we really had three crews: one was coming; the second was working temporarily; and the third was leaving. These were all hired men, passing through, who stayed in this remote and lonely location only until they had gathered up enough to move on to a more desirable job.
In bold contrast I recall vividly the love, loyalty, and undivided devotion of the Masai in East Africa to their animals. For the years we lived among them I never ceased to marvel at the incredible fortitude of these people in providing the best care they could for their livestock. No price was too high to pay to protect their stock from predators. Why? Because they owned them. They had a stake in them. They loved them. They were not hirelings.
Just a few days after we moved into the Masai country, a small, slim boy about ten years old was carried up to our house. He had, single-handed, tackled a young lioness that tried to kill one of his flock. In total self-abandonment and utter bravery he had managed to spear the lion. The mauling he took almost cost him his life. We rushed him to the nearest hospital twenty-seven miles away where his young life was spared, as by a thread. But why did he do this? Because the sheep were his. His love and honor and loyalty were at stake. He would not spare himself. He was not a hireling.
God has, all through history, entrusted the care of His sheep to so-called under shepherds. And not all of them have proven to be as loyal as the Masai lad, nor as brave as young David, later Israel’s great king, who slew the lion and the bear that came to raid his father’s flock.
Inevitably in the nature of human affairs there appear those who pretend to be genuine but are not. The ancient prophets of Israel cried out again and again against those who posed as shepherds to God’s people, but who instead only plundered them for their own selfish ends.
“And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the Shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost;
But with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: Yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them” (Ezek.34:1-6).
The same situation prevailed in Jesus’ time. Those who posed as the protectors and leaders of the people, the priests, Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees, were but rank opportunists who plundered and abused the people. The rake-off in the temple trade alone in Jerusalem exceeded $35,000,000 a year. Most of it went to line the pockets and oil the palms of the oppressors. Little wonder Christ went storming through the temple to clear it of its counterfeit activities shouting, “You will not make my Father’s house, a place of plunder … a den of thieves!”
His confrontation was always with the ecclesiastical hierarchy of His times. They were not true shepherds. They did not love their charges. They did not care deeply for those in their care. They never wept over the plight of their people who were sheep gone astray. They were hirelings. They were there to grab what they could get for themselves.
Is it any wonder our Lord thundered out His great imprecations against them? Here, He the great Good Shepherd, saw His people abused and betrayed by those who had no interest in them whatever.
And the same applies to all church history since His day. God’s people have always been parasitized by imposters. Men have worked with the flock only for what they could get out of it, not for what they could contribute to the well-being of their people. It was this sort of thing that nearly ruined me as a young man. There was within my spirit a strange, powerful, deep desire to know God. I literally thirsted and hungered for spiritual sustenance. I longed to be fed truth that would satisfy my innermost craving.
Sunday after Sunday my wife and I would attend whatever churches we could. Some of them were small and struggling. Others were large and pretentious. Some of the preachers were proper and orthodox but seldom shepherds. Again, and again I came hoping to be fed, but there was nothing.
Frustrated and angry I would storm home, and vow never to enter a church again. “I’m like a sheep going to the feed trough hoping to find hay or grain, and there is only dust and chaff!” I would storm to my gentle wife. In her wisdom, kindness, and patience she would prevail on me to keep going, for sooner or later she was sure a few straws would be found here and there. Why was this? Because many of the men who were supposed to be shepherding God’s people were only hirelings. They were in the job for what they could get out of it. It was obvious they spent no time communing with Christ. It was clear the Scriptures were not a living Word to them. They had no great love either for God or for His people. What happened to their charges really did not seem to matter.
Eventually some of these men came to know me personally, but even after they had entered into our lives, their casual indifference and lack of genuine concern astonished me.
In one community I attended services diligently for nearly four years. At the end of that time I had been taught virtually nothing. I was a stranger in a far country, away from my home land, but no shepherd seemed to care for my soul. At that period in my life I was under tremendous attack from the enemy of my soul. Almost daily I was exposed to onslaughts against the great truths of God’s revelation in His Word. Subtle suggestions and crafty cynicism were working havoc in my convictions. The wolves were at work on me but there was no shepherd around who really seemed to be concerned about this wandering sheep. Alone and unattended I fled for safety. I knew not really where to run. Like a sheep blinded with fear and seized with panic I simply turned to run in my own stupid way. And the result was that I went far astray. I ended up far from my Good Shepherd. The hirelings had literally let me fend for myself.
The net result can be expressed in the words of the grand old prophet Ezekiel:
“For thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day” (Ezek.34:11-12).
Only the tender compassion of Christ, only the understanding of the true Shepherd of my soul, only the gentle overtures of the gracious Spirit of God could ever retrieve this wild and wayward one from the cloudy and dark days of his despair. Because in His patience and perseverance He pursued me along my wayward path, because He gathered me up again and drew me back once more in selfless love, was I saved. And for this I shall be eternally grateful to my God.
But what desperate despair I could have been spared if only someone had cared for my soul at that stage of my life. Those to whom I looked for help were only hirelings. They would not stand up to the enemy. They would not engage the wolves that were raiding my life and the lives of others. They would not risk a confrontation. They simply turned tail and left us to be torn and scattered.
The same is still true. There are ministers, teachers, scholars, writers, and leaders who pose as champions of Christianity. But when the enemy comes in, they are shown in their true colors. They back away rather than risk a confrontation. They settle for withdrawal rather than beard the lion or bear, or assail the wolf. They turn and flee in the face of violent attack. Others remain silent while their people are deceived, harried, and driven to despair. Only the Good Shepherd cares enough for His own to lay down His life for them.
It must be He who, living His life through and in His true under-shepherds, enables them also to lay down their lives for the sheep. They must be prepared and willing to be expendable for the sake of others. They are not hirelings; they are His slaves of love. Paul calls himself “a bondservant of Jesus Christ.”
Men or women who enter God’s service should regard this as an enormous responsibility not only before God but also to those whom they serve. It is something which is not undertaken lightly or casually for personal gain, but with an eye to eternal consequences.
In any enterprise where we are coworkers with Christ there is incumbent upon us the obligation to realize that this is not a hit-or-miss affair. His view of His work in the world is a sincere and serious one. And He expects that those who enter His enterprises will take a similar attitude.
When we give ourselves to serve the Lord, the primary motivation should not be one of personal gain or advantage. Rather, the predominant desire ought to be one of serving the Master out of love and gratitude for His goodness to us. We are freely, willingly choosing to be a benefit to others, not just for their sakes or our own self-gratification, but for His sake.
It is only the under-shepherd, whose first and foremost devotion and consecration is to Christ, who can stand up to the strains and stresses of shepherding. If one’s devotion is only to people, deep, disappointing disillusionment’s are bound to come.
But for the one whose service is centered in Christ there comes the strength and serenity to meet all the storms.
We love Him because He first loved us. We love others because He first loved us. We love at all because He first loved us. This is what it means to be a love slave and not a hireling.
He KNOWS us, we KNOW Him! #11
“I am the good shepherd, and I know my sheep, and am known of mine” (John 10:14)
IN ALL OF Scripture this must surely be one of the most reassuring statements made by our Lord to His people. Oh, the wonder and joy of being known by God! The strength and consolation of being in the care of Christ who fully and completely understands us!
Such awareness and such knowing stills our spirits, soothes our souls, and fills us with quiet awe. “O God, You do know me through and through.”
The ultimate measure of a good shepherd is how well he knows his sheep. Just as we might say that the measure of a good artist or a good gardener or a good mechanic is the extent to which he “knows” the materials with which he works.
This “knowing” implies much more than just mere acquaintance or contact with sheep. It means the shepherd is so familiar with his sheep, has handled them so much, that he knows their every trait, habit, and characteristic. He can predict their behavior under any given set of circumstances. He understands all their peculiarities. He is never surprised or taken aback by their unusual idiosyncrasies. He is at ease with them, comfortable in their company, delighting in their management.
The full impact of this unique relationship between livestock and their owners came home to me with enormous impact during the years my family and I lived among the Masai people of East Africa. These nomadic livestock owners believed implicitly that to them, and only them, had God given the original responsibility for husbanding livestock.
The Masai were tremendously proud of their supposed management skills with sheep and cattle. They entertained a haughty superiority toward anyone else who tended stock. And much of their claim to fame in this field was based on their knowing individual animals intimately.
In part their pride was justified. The animals under their care were their very life. They gave themselves to them with unstinted devotion. No demand was too tough nor any risk too hazardous to insure their well-being. They would go to any lengths, day or night, to protect them and care for them. But over and beyond all this lay the incredible intimacy and personal awareness each owner had for his own charges. Many of the lambs, kids, and calves had been hand-reared within the affection of the family circle. They were fondled, hugged, caressed, and called by cute pet names. Bonds of enduring affection were forged from birth that the ensuing years could never break.
Again, and again I would watch, awe-struck, as one of the Masai would go up to one of his favorite beasts in the field and spend time caressing it. He would speak to it in endearing terms. He would examine and scrutinize it carefully, checking to see that all was well. This was not something done only on rare occasions. It was a normal part of the appealing relationship between shepherd and sheep.
Some of the fondest memories that came back to me from those years on Africa’s sun-drenched plains are wrapped up in small boys shepherding sheep. I can still see them holding lambs gently in their arms. I can see them calling to their pets who came running at the sound of their voices. I can see the obvious pleasure and delight with which the sheep reveled in this attention. They sensed and knew all was well when they were in their owner’s embrace. Here was safety and assurance. They were known.
When we turn our attention to our own lives in the care of the Good Shepherd, we discover some powerful parallels. If we can grasp them, they may well revolutionize our whole relationship to God. It is essential for us to face the fact that God has known us from our earliest beginnings. By that I do not mean just collectively as a race of people upon the planet, but in a much more private and personal way as an individual human being from the hour of my conception in my mother’s womb.
Such knowledge alone startles some of us. In fact, some find it alarming.
Amid a society where, especially in large urban centers, it is possible to live almost anonymously, this is shattering. We in the western world have become extremely skilled at living behind a false facade. We wear masks. Seldom do we disclose our true identity. We try to present a brave front to the world, even though within we may be shattered, broken people. We proceed on the assumption that most people really don’t know us and don’t care. We often run a bluff on others, based on the premise that they will not or cannot be bothered to really find us out. The net result is that for many, life becomes a sham. It is almost playacting. It is played by people playing little games with each other. Much of it is really make-believe. It lacks depth, honesty, or sincerity. People become phonies, they are riddled with skepticism and cynicism. They really don’t know where they are at.
Against this background of confused and bewildered life God steps onto the stage and states dramatically, surely, and without apology, “I know you; I understand you; I have known all about you all the time!”
Just the thought of such “knowing,” of such insights terrifies most people. In their phony pretense they want to run, to flee, to escape, to hide behind their masks.
But for others of us, this knowing comes at long last as a great relief, a great release from our restless roaming. “O Lord,” our spirit cries out, “at last I have been found. Now I am found out. I am known, I can step out of the shadows of my own stumbling steps into the full splendor of Your knowledge. Take me. Search me. Examine me carefully. Put me right. Let me be Yours. And please, You, be mine!”
It is only when a person sees himself as known before God that he will get serious with Him. Until this happens, we go on playing our pathetic little games with Him. We behave as though we were indeed doing Him a great favor to allow Him to draw near. What colossal conceit! What incredible stupidity. How long will we delude ourselves?
In contrast David, himself a shepherd, cried out exultingly in Psalm 139:
“O LORD, thou hast searched me and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, Lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: The darkness and the light are both alike to thee. For thou hast possessed my reins: Thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (vv. 1-14).
Before such affirmations we are stilled. In wonder and joy we are awed. “O Great, Good Shepherd of my soul, how wondrous to know that You know me!”
For the Christian this awareness can become a potent power in his walk with God. An enormous desire to be open and honest with his Master will descend upon him. The mask will be removed from him by the Spirit of God as He works in his life. A sense of earnestness and simple sincerity will replace the superficiality of his former lifestyle.
He will take God seriously. He will begin to obey His Word. He will be sensitive to the voice of His gracious Spirit. He will allow no petty pride or other obstacle of self-will to obstruct the movement of God’s Spirit in his life. He will allow himself to come under Christ’s control.
In contrast to the world’s way of working, God, by His Spirit, begins to do His work at the center of our beings. The world’s view is that if an ideal environment of better housing, hygiene, health, and nutrition is supplied, along with improved education, man will become better and better. History has repeatedly demonstrated the fallacy of this idea.
God’s approach is the opposite. His gracious Spirit touches and enlivens man’s spirit. If allowed to, He will illuminate the whole inner life. He will permeate the total personality transforming the disposition, emotions, and mind. The net result will be that the remade man will alter his whole environment.
A good environment does not guarantee good men. But noble men do generate an improved environment.
So, God’s Spirit begins His re-creative work within us by touching our spirits. He makes us alive to what is right and what is wrong. He impresses upon us what we “ought to do” and what we “ought not do.” We become acutely God-conscious. We are aware of what He wants. We know His wishes. We are alerted to His aims and ambitions for us.
This is what it means to have a Christian conscience. We wish to cooperate with Christ. He knows us. We know Him. We have common interests.
Likewise, in the area of our communion with Him, we begin to discover that there can be an ongoing discourse between us. He speaks to me. I speak to Him. This intercourse finds full expression in prayer, praise, petitions, and personal awareness that He is ever present.
It takes time to do this. It is profound. It cannot be hurried or rushed. The man who would know God must be prepared to give time to Him.
It is tremendously helpful to speak privately but audibly to the Lord. Let Him know you love Him, that you are fond of Him, that you are deeply grateful for all His kindness.
Not long ago I visited an elderly lady who claimed she had known Christ for more than thirty years. I asked her if she enjoyed conversing with Him quietly in the privacy of her own elegant home. I inquired if she ever told Him how much she loved Him.
Her response was an outburst of embarrassed laughter. “Oh,” she blurted out blushingly, “only you would ever suggest such a thing, Phillip.” But I left her home wondering just how well she really knew the Good Shepherd.
In his first epistle the apostle Peter put it this way:
“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious” (I Peter 2:7).
Why? Because I am His and He knows me through and through. And even though He knows the worst, He still loves me with an everlasting love.
This knowing is the great central theme that runs like a chord of gold all through John’s first epistle. To know the love of God. To know that we have His life. To know that He hears us. To know that we belong to Him, etc.
Such knowledge is strength. It is stability. It is serenity. It is the solid assurance upon which my relationship to the Good Shepherd stands secure.
There is nothing ambiguous or vague about it. There are no ifs, maybes, perhaps, supposes, or assuming it may be so. I know! As the Spirit of Christ expands His influence within my life, He will begin to penetrate my personality. If allowed to do so He can pervade my mind, emotions, and disposition.
No doubt the ultimate, acid test of Christianity is the dramatic and beneficial changes wrought in the personality and character of people. Weak become strong. Deceivers become honest. Vile become noble. Vicious become gentle. Selfish become selfless.
Perhaps the area in which there is the most coverup is that of our minds. Most people live very private thought lives. Even within the intimate family circle it is possible to retire and withdraw into the inner sanctum of our minds and imaginations. Were some of the scenes there enacted, to be exposed, it would shock and startle our family and friends to find what sort of world we moved in mentally.
It is sobering to realize, “O God, you know all my thoughts.” It is equally solemnizing to remind ourselves always, “And, O God, I know You know!”
This is a purifying discipline. In the presence of His impeccable person it humbles, cleanses, and converts me, turning me from the wickedness of my ways to walk softly in His sight.
As He is allowed to move into my emotions the same process is at work. The same eternal promise holds true. There can be no pretext, no pretense, no playing around, pretending to be so pleasant or pious while within we seethe and boil with pent-up perverseness. “O Lord, You, know me!”
With other human being’s ill will, hatred, bitterness, envy, old grudges, jealousy, and numerous other heinous attitudes may be masked with a casual shrug of the shoulder or forced half smile. But we simply cannot pull the wool over God’s all-seeing eyes. We may kid ourselves that we are getting away with the coverup, but we don’t kid God.
Over and over, when our Lord moved among us as a man, He emphasized the importance in His estimation of our inner attitudes. They were the ultimate criteria to a man’s character. He simply could not tolerate false pretenders, who, though appearing to shine like mausoleums in the sun, were filled with dead men’s bones.
“O God, You know my anger, resentment, impatience, hostility, and many other evil emotions; I know You know.”
What is the solution? Somehow my soul must be cleansed. The debris and dung of a thousand terrible thoughts and imaginations must be swept from my life. It is my sins and iniquities which have come between me and my God. Where is the solution? I am ever reminded of Hercules who was given the impossible task of cleansing the gigantic Aegaen stables. Thousands of horses had deposited their dung within its walls until a literal mountain of manure engulfed the place. Hercules knew full well, even in his own great strength, that he could never remove the accumulated filth. Instead, he went high into the hills and there found a rushing mountain stream. He diverted it from its course and directed its clear flowing waters through the huge stables. In a short time, the surging stream had flushed away all the dung. The stables stood clean because of the sparkling water from the high country.
It is a sublime picture of the wondrous work God’s gracious Spirit can affect in a Christian’s life. Only as He is allowed to surge freely through the rooms and galleries of my inner life can they ever be cleansed from the dark thoughts, the evil imaginations, the angry emotions, and evil decisions of my disposition.
If in open honesty and genuine earnestness I come to Christ and open my person to Him, He will come in. He will penetrate every part of me. He will purify. He will fill with His presence. His peace will permeate me. His power will be mine in inner strength.
This power will enable me to make proper decisions. His presence at work within me will empower me to both will and do His good pleasure. I shall find harmony and unity between Him and myself. There will be common purposes, common aims, common joys we share. Why? Because He knows me and I know Him.
These titanic changes which can be affected within my spirit and soul by God, can likewise be accomplished in my body. It is He who designed and fashioned men and women in all of their complexities. He knows and fully understands all the instincts, desires, and appetites of our physical makeup.
As we allow ourselves to come gently and increasingly under His control, we will find it affects how we handle our bodies. They will be nurtured and treated with respect. They will not be abused or misused. We will find it possible to so discipline ourselves and direct our activities that even in our bodies there will be a blessing, and that not only a benefit to us but also a benediction to others.
It is possible for God’s people to live in moderation, wisdom, and exuberant joy. We can so conduct ourselves amid a corrupt society and sick culture that we are a credit to our Master.
We can practice moderation in our daily habits. It is as much God’s good will for me to eat wholesome food, drink pure drinks, enjoy regular rest, revel in regular exercise, and relish the beauty of His creation as it is to go to church. All is sacred and sublime when touched by the delight of His presence with me.
I do not know Him only within the confines of a cathedral. I do not meet Him only within the pages of a Bible or in the still moments of meditation. I can encounter and commune with Christ my Shepherd anywhere along the long winding trails of life that we walk together.
My walk with God need not in any sense be a spectacular dis-play of special dedication. It need not have any carnival atmosphere about it to be convincing. I don’t have to indulge in theatrics to impress either Him or other human beings.
What He desires most is that I walk with Him humbly, quietly, and obediently. The communion between shepherd and sheep is sweet and secure because He knows me and I know Him!
Ah, Phillip Keller has a way with words that gets to the heart strings; the core of the basic and foundational truth of what it means to walk humbly with thy God. This is the first step to REAL CONVERSION and the attitude of REAL REPENTANCE. It is knowing you are a sinner, and knowing God knows you through and through. We cannot hide from Him in any way. We can hide from people in different ways, as Keller points out, but ….. all we are is bare and open before out Lord and Savior. We know He knows us, yet He LOVES us still. Indeed, we must THANK Him for His bountiful love towards us. As long as we realize we are people who sin, fall short of His holiness, miss the mark many times in doing His righteousness (see Ps.119:172 for a Bible definition of righteousness); as long as we are willing to confess we are sinners to Him; as long as we have this humble attitude of mind, He will forgive us our sins. The wonderful 1st and 2nd chapters of 1 John give us hope and assurance.
Maybe you are at a point in your life where you need to read this whole chapter of Keller’s book again. Perhaps reading it again will touch your heart in a way your heart was never touched before. The relationship you need to have with the Lord is like the shepherd with his sheep. There is nothing finer in life than having a relationship with God as amplified by Keller on the relatively few words “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.”
One flock – One shepherd #12
As the Father knoweth me, even so I know the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one-fold (flock), and one shepherd (John 10:15-16).
THIS IS AN appropriate point at which to pause for a moment in studying this parable. Always it is important to keep in mind a clear picture of the setting in which our Lord made His statements.
A young man was born blind. His eyesight was restored by Christ and then he discovered who his benefactor was. In his incredible gratitude the healed man rejoiced not only in new-found physical sight, but also in new-found spiritual sight. He actually saw Jesus as his great deliverer, his Savior, his Redeemer.
Though he had been excommunicated and cut off from any further association with the religious leaders, this was only a small loss – for he had found the Christ. He had come to know Him who could give great meaning and direction to his previously derelict life. In humble awe he believed. And with touching appreciation he worshiped Jesus, bowing down before Him in glad submission.
This act of obeisance scandalized and horrified the Jews. They were infuriated even further when the Master made it clear that it was in fact, they, who thought they saw and knew and understood spiritual realities, who were blind. The accusation enraged them. Like a pack of bloodhounds closing in on their prey, they encircled Him, bent on His destruction. Their blood boiled. Their eyes blazed with hate.
This next statement Jesus makes – “As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father” – was outrageous enough that they charged Him with being utterly insane, if not possessed of a demon.
Of course, it was proof positive of their own self-delusion. They stood confronted by the One who was the light of the world but whose presence only accentuated their own dreadful darkness.
They were encountering heaven’s royalty in disguise. Yet they rejected God’s anointed Prince of Peace with impassioned pride. He who stood encircled by them came from God, knew God, was very God, but they were totally blind to His being. In just a few more moments they would pick up rocks from the ground ready to break His bones and dash out His brains. If they could not still Him with spiritual arguments, they could slay Him with stones. Men forever try to silence God, but He does not go away that easily. He always has the last word.
It was not within man’s power, nor will it ever be, to do away with God. If His life was to be put on the line, it would be at the time of His own choosing and in the manner of His own choice. No man would deprive Him of this honor or privilege. Jesus later made this clear to His would-be assassins.
What so enraged them was His claim to divinity. “I know the Father. The Father knows me.” There was nothing vague or tenuous about this intimate relationship. It was not a knowing of hearsay or second-hand acquaintance. It was in truth a knowing of the most profound, personal sort. It implied the interaction of coequals, the unequivocal unity of total oneness. Jesus, in His final statement to His foes on this important occasion, said, “I and my Father are one!”
This straightforward claim to deity completely undid His audience. And it has been the stone over which uncounted millions have stumbled since.
Unless we grasp the profound and enormous implications of this claim of Christ to being known and knowing God, all the other remarks made later will have no relevance. I say this in sincerity to remind the reader that our Lord was not just a good man; He was also the great God in human guise. His claims to a special knowledge and relationship with His Father were recognized by the Jews as outright insistence on His personal deity.
Not only were they unwilling to accept Him as such, but the same has been true for most men during the past twenty centuries. If we are to “see,” if we are to “understand,” we must face the formidable fact that this One was none other than God. He was the God of the Godhead who knew from before the creation of planet earth what plans were made to preserve and restore human beings to a proper relationship with Himself.
He was the God who would have to identify Himself with men in their darkness and dilemma of despair and deception. He would have to interpose His own pure and impeccable life on their behalf, as a substitute for their grievous sins that incurred the judgment of a righteous God. He who knew no sin, of necessity had to be made sin with our wrongdoings, in order that we might be made right with His amazing righteousness.
Only as He Himself, in His own person, exhausted and absorbed the penalty for our wrongs in His death, could we be acquitted and set free. This freedom to be His, to follow Him, to become the people He intended, must of necessity be bought for us at an appalling price.
The price paid was His own life. It was His righteous, sublime life poured out as a supreme propitiation for our pride, perverseness, and pollution. This satisfied the awful abhorrence of a selfless God for our selfish sins, but also delivered us from death, alienation, and the despair of our dreadful dilemma.
Like the young man born blind, only a tiny handful of human beings have ever seen or grasped this truth.
In his simplicity and sincerity, he had allowed the great Shepherd of his soul to enter the fold of his young life. He had allowed Him to take control. He had allowed the Good Shepherd to claim him as His own.
The cost to him, too, had been great to come into the care of Christ. His contemporaries had cut him off from the synagogue. They had ostracized him from their company. They had heaped scorn and abuse upon him. He had done no wrong. His only misconduct was to come into Christ’s care, to become one of His flock.
The flock of God has never been very large!
Our Lord made it clear few would come into His care. Most of us are sheep who turn to our own way and go astray. Yet scattered across the world are those who are His.
Down the long avenues of human history, the Good Shepherd has been out among us, gathering up those who would come. With enormous compassion and great tenderness, He looked at the young man whose sight had just been restored. “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold.” All over the earth there are other lives, individual sheepfolds, scattered like so many sheep astray, whose intimate folds He is eager to enter. This young man’s life was but one tiny fold out of uncounted thousands which in their sum total would make up His final flock.
It is important to recognize the difference between a flock and a fold. The shepherd is said to have only one flock. This flock is the sum total of all the sheep which belong to him. But almost always his flock is distributed widely, especially if he is a wealthy owner, among many folds across the country. Put another way, we can say that one sheep man’s flock is made up of many different folds. The modern rendering of John 10:16 is much more accurate than the King James version which confuses the reader by stating “There shall be one-fold,” rather than, “There shall be one flock,” which is correct and clear.
When we lived among the Masai people of East Africa it impressed me how one livestock owner would have his animals scattered in small groups all across the countryside. One very wealthy man whom I came to know quite well actually owned more than 10,000 head of stock. But these were not all cared for in one place. They were distributed in little clusters here and there, scattered widely among many kraals. Yet, the sum total of them all comprised his one unit, one herd, one flock under one owner.
It will help the reader to understand this concept if we look at modern farming practices on the prairies. During pioneer days it was common for each individual family to own and operate its own homestead. These small holdings of land comprised either a quarter (160 acres) or half (320 acres) section of land, a full section being one square mile or 640 acres.
With the advent of power equipment and expensive machinery most farmers found they needed more land to justify the investment made in expensive tractors, plows, drills, and combines. The upshot was that the more prosperous and efficient farmers began to buy up random quarter or half sections their neighbors might sell them.
The final result has been that today one man’s farm may well include numerous pieces of land scattered all across the country at random. Yet he refers to them in total as “my farm.”
I knew of one wealthy grain grower who owned seventeen different quarter sections. Separately, each was a unit of its own. Collectively they comprised his one farm. The same is true with sheepmen. All their folds together become their one flock under one owner.
Looking now at Christ’s flock, we see clearly that it is composed of many different lives (little folds) scattered at random all across the earth. He is ever active and at work bringing men and women into His care and under His control. He gathers them up from the far-flung corners of the world. He has been energetically engaged in this enterprise since the beginning of human history.
A magnificent and splendid overview of Christ’s achievements through the centuries is painted for us by John in the Book of Revelation. Under the unction and inspiration of God’s own gracious Spirit he writes glowingly this great song.
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth” (5:9-10, NIV).
And so, the eyes of our spiritual understanding are opened to see our Good Shepherd, relentlessly, tirelessly, eagerly calling to Himself those chosen ones who will respond to His voice and come to His call. He brings them in from every tribe, every language, every race, every nation. His majestic voice has rung out over all the earth. In unmistakable sounds He calls out to any who will come. With enormous compassion He cries out to men “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
None other has ever extended to wayward wanderers such a winsome, warm invitation. But most men spurn it. They turn instead each to their own perverse path that leads into peril and ultimately to perdition.
Yet from out of earth’s milling masses a small flock is being faithfully formed. We find members of that flock scattered here and there. By no means are they confined to any one church, denomination, or sect. Rather, they are distributed widely, and spread rather thinly through a multitude of groups and gatherings of diverse doctrines.
It has been my great privilege through the years of my long life to have rich fellowship with other Christians all over the world. My travels have taken me to some forty different countries. The places where I met other people who knew Christ as their Good Shepherd would take a whole book to describe fully. I have stood solemnized in some of the most impressive cathedrals ever erected by man and there sensed and known that others of His flock were with me in the care of Christ. By the same measure I have sat in tiny mud huts in Africa and grass thatch houses in southeast Asia where the Good Shepherd had also gathered up some of His sheep.
You see, the ultimate criteria is not the church, the creed, the form of communion, or even the cherished and contested claims to special spiritual insight which determine a person’s position. It is simply this: “Do they or do they not hear Christ’s voice?” He Himself said emphatically, “Other sheep I have. Them also I must bring. They shall hear My voice.”
To hear Christ’s voice, as was pointed out in a previous chapter, means three essential things.
1) I recognize it is God who calls me to Himself. He graciously invites me to come under His care, to benefit from His management of my life, to accept His provision for me.
2) I respond to His overtures by taking Him seriously. I alert myself to act. I open my life to Him so He may in truth and reality enter to share it with me.
3) I then run to do whatever He wishes. I cooperate with His desires. I regularly do His will. Thus, I enter fully into the greatness of His life, grateful for His care.
This is to “hear” Christ’s call and to respond.
Any man or woman who does this belongs to Him, is a member of His flock, a sheep of His pasture. Our Lord has them here and there in ten thousand times ten thousand tiny folds, each flourishing under His infinite love.
Jesus said of His flock that they were the SALT of the earth, sprinkled here and there; also, that they would be a city upon a hill top, a light in a dark room, to give light. He said His flock would do the good works of God that people would see them and glorify God in heaven. Christ also said that His flock were the VERY LITTLE flock (as it is in the Greek). But to this flock, it was the good pleasure of God to give them the Kingdom.
Jesus also said MANY were and are being CALLED, but FEW chosen. Many hear the Gospel. Many read from and study from this Website, my host server of this Website gives me the number of people going to this Website each and every day. Being called to read the teachings of God is one thing, being CHOSEN to accept the truths of God and have a working and walking relationship with the Father and with Christ Jesus, is another thing, is another ball-game entirely.
I pray that YOU, whoever you are, where-ever you are on this earth, will move forward to be one of the CHOSEN, that the word and truths of the Lord will touch the strings of you heart, and that you will be a VERY SON OR DAUGHTER of the Most-High.
For further edification on the subject of being called and chosen I have written a study which is called “Called and Chosen – When?” If you have not studied it, please do. The Father is working still today, to bring many into His family. You need to know the basics of HOW He is doing so.
He lay down His Life! #13
“Therefore, doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:17-18).
OVER AND OVER in this book the point has been made that the hallmark of the Good Shepherd is His willingness to lay down His life for His sheep. It cannot be otherwise. The essential nature of Christ demands it. Because He is love, selfless love, this must be so.
This love of God is the most potent force extant in the universe. It is the primal energy that powers the entire cosmos. It is the basic driving initiative that lies behind every good and noble action. Without it all men of all time would languish in despair. They would grope in darkness. Ultimately, they would know only separation from the goodness of God which is death.
But – and it is a remarkable “but” – Christ was willing to leave His glory; to come among us expressing that love, giving tangible form to it in a sacrificial life. I have written of this love at great length in “Rabboni” Here I quote from its pages without apology:
“With our finite minds we cannot probe but a short distance into the vastness of Christ’s pre-earth existence. But with the enlightenment that comes to our spirits by His Spirit we sense and feel the magnitude of His enterprises in arranging and governing the universe….
We earth men can barely conceive of a relationship so sublime that it contains no trace of self-assertion, no ulterior motives for self-gratification. But that is the secret to the strength of God. Here was demonstrated the irresistible force of utter self-lessness. In the total giving of each to the other in profound ‘caring’ for each other lay the love of all eternity. This was love at its loftiest level. This was love at its highest source.
This was love, the primal source of all energy….And the essence of this energy was love.
In that outer world love was the moving force behind every action. Love was the energizing influence at work in every enterprise. It was the very fabric woven into every aspect of Christ’s life. It was in fact the basic raw material used ultimately to fashion and form all subsequent matter. To the reader this may seem a bit obscure, a bit beyond belief. But if we pause to find parallels upon our planet, earth, we may soon see the picture in practical terms. What is the most irresistible force upon the earth? Love? What pulverizes strong prejudice and builds enduring allegiance? Love? What binds men together in indestructible devotion? Love? What underlies all generous and magnanimous actions? Love? What is the source of strength for men and women who gladly serve and die for one another? Love? What energizes the loftiest and most noble enterprise of human hearts and minds? Love? If this be true of selfish mortal men, then how much more is it the very life of God
– And this is the life of Christ. It was in the setting of a realm permeated by love that the generous thought of sharing it with others came into being. Of course, it could scarcely be otherwise. For if heaven was such a happy home it would scarcely have been consistent for God to want to keep it to Himself. Love insists on sharing. So, the concept was born of love that other sons and daughters should be brought into being who could participate in the delights of paradise. That such a remarkably generous endeavor was even considered is in keeping with the character of God. He chose to do this in love and out of love simply because of who He is.
‘Praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for giving us through Christ every possible spiritual benefit as citizens of heaven. For consider what he has done-before the foundation of the world he chose us to become, in Christ, his holy and blameless children living within His constant care. He planned, in his purpose of love, that we should be adopted as his own children through Jesus Christ-that we might learn to praise that glorious generosity of his which has made us welcome in the everlasting love he bears toward his Beloved[‘ (Eph.1:3-6, Phillips).
Like all other divine enterprises, it undoubtably first found expression in the mind of God The Father. Yet it was agreed to completely by God The Son ….”
All of this Christ did deliberately, freely, gladly out of His own generous good will toward us. It was not that we deserved or merited such magnificent mercy, but it was because of His own inherent character. He really could not do otherwise. There was nothing in us to earn His gracious attention. The only compulsion upon Him was the compulsion of His own wondrous love. Are we surprised then that it is for this reason He stated He was loved so dearly by God the Father? This love was not and never can be anything soft or sentimental or insipid. Rather, it is strong as steel, tough as tungsten, yet glittering with the incandescent brilliance of a diamond.
It had to be for Him to endure the abuse and calumny of His earth days at the hands of wicked, selfish men. His entire interlude upon the planet represented the utmost in ignominy. Born into a peasant home, surrounded by the appalling filth of an eastern sheepfold, His birth could not have been more debasing. The long years of His youth and early manhood were spent in the most wicked town in Palestine. Nazareth was notorious for its wicked ways. Yet there He toiled, sweated, and hewed out a meager living working in wood to support his widowed mother and siblings.
He lived in abject poverty without a home to call His own. He literally laid Himself out for others. His strength and stamina flowed out to those who followed Him. His great vitality restored the sick, raised the dead, fed the masses, ministered to those in sorrow, and propelled Him from one end of the country to the other with incredible energy. Everywhere He went, men and women sensed the touch of His strength, the impact of God’s love upon them.
Inherent in Christ in perfect poise were the divine life of undiminished deity and the delightful life of untarnished humanity. Though He was the suffering servant, He was also the magnificent Lord of glory – God, very God.
At His death this became supremely evident. In that terrible agony of the garden, in the ignoble lynching by the mob under cover of darkness, in the atrocious trials and beastly behavior of men determined to destroy Him, in the crucible of His cruel crucifixion, He emerges ever as the One in control. He chose to die this way. He chose deliberately to lay down His life in this manner. It was all His doing and His dying for dreadful men. No matter what the scoffers and skeptics may say, He stands at the central crossroads of human history as its supreme character. No other individual, with so little ostentation, so shaped the eternal destiny of men.
But His death was not His end. It was but the conclusion of a magnificent chapter in the story of God’s plan for man. Death could not hold Him. Decay and decomposition could not deteriorate Him. The spices and wrappings and grave clothes that enfolded Him were for naught. They were powerless to prevent His resurrection. With majesty and growing grandeur, He took His place of power. His position of omnipotence was reinstated. His coronation as King of Kings and Lord of Lords was celebrated in the throne room of eternity.
All of this Jesus foreknew and declared fearlessly to the young man born blind. He stated these facts with calm assurance to any who would listen – the Pharisees, Scribes, and others who now encircled Him.
They knew full well what it was that He implied. He was in truth telling them that He was none other than God. He was declaring unashamedly that He, their Messiah, the anointed One of God, their Promised One, was now among them. He had chosen to come to His people. It would be but a brief sojourn, and then He would return to the splendors from whence He came.
But why had He come? Why suffer? Why lay down His life? Why endure such agony for sinners?
Because men were lost. And His commission from His Father was that He should come to seek and to save those who were lost. He knew this to be His unique responsibility in the redemptive enterprises of God. He recognized it was His responsibility to carry out and execute in precise detail this executive order of the Godhead.
His audience then, and most men ever since, refused to believe they were lost. In truth it is exceedingly difficult to convince human beings that they are in peril. Like the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day, we are prone to pride ourselves upon our religiosity, our cultural achievements, our educational attainments, our material possessions, or any other attributes which we naively suppose are indicators of our success in living. We who are in the family of God, who have been found by the Good Shepherd, often seem to forget just how “lost” we really were. As we look out upon a confused society and bewildered world, we allow its trappings and trumpeting’s to blind us to the lostness of our families, friends, or acquaintances. We are dazzled by the glittering exteriors and flashing facades put on by people in desperate peril away from God. Fine language, impressive homes, beautiful cars, elaborate furnishings, glamorous holidays, affluent incomes, sharp clothes, and clever minds are no criteria for having either succeeded or found the reason for our being. We can have all these and still be far from God.
This explains why God, in Christ, by His Spirit, continues to pursue men. His approach to them polarizes people. He is willing to lay down His life for them in order that He might also take it up again in them. Some are delighted to discover He has drawn near, ready to pick them up in His own strong arms. Others turn away, go their own way, and refuse adamantly to have anything to do with Him. To those who respond He gives Himself in wondrous ways.
“Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: Behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isa. 40:10-11).
What a remarkable portrait this is of our Lord, laying down His life for His sheep. He feeds them; He leads them gently; He gathers them up in His strong arms; He carries them close to His heart.
It is in this way that He also takes up His life again in us. Caught up into His care, encircled by His strong arms, enfolded within His love, we find ourselves in Him. This is part of the great secret to sharing in His life.
Much more than this, however, is the fact that it is to Him an endless source of satisfaction. He looks upon the outpouring of His life, the travail of His soul, the generous giving of Himself repaid and returned in sons and daughters brought to glory. Men and women, retrieved from their utter lostness and dereliction, are restored to the grandeur of wholesome godliness and new life in Him.
Often as I let my mind wander back to the great storms and blizzards that we went through on my ranches I recall scenes full of pathos and power. Again, and again I would come home to our humble cottage with two or three tiny forlorn, cold lambs bundled up against my chest. They would be wrapped up within the generous folds of my big, rough wool jacket. Outside hail, sleet, snow, and chilling rain would be lashing my face and body. But within my arms the lambs were safe and sure of survival.
Part of the great compensation for enduring the blizzards, fighting the elements, and braving the storms was to pick up lost lambs. And as I picked them up, I realized in truth I was taking up my own life again in them; my life that had been expended freely, gladly on their behalf.
It is as I am found in Him that He, too, revels and rejoices in my being found. No wonder there is such rejoicing in heaven over one lost soul who is brought home.
Sad to say, many of Jesus’ hearers did not and could not understand. In fact, they went so far as to say He was insane.
Believing Christ is Belonging to Christ #14
Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believe not: that works that I do in mt Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (John 10:25-27).
THIS IS AN appropriate point at which to reflect on the polarization produced by Christ. This aspect of His life has ever proven to be an enigma to human beings. The unchangeable, irrefutable truth manifest in this One inevitably polarizes people. There is no middle ground. There can be no straddling the fence of neutrality. Either we believe in Him or we don’t. Perhaps polarization should be explained briefly. Whenever truth, that is to say absolutes, or eternal verities are presented to a person they produce one of two reactions. The first reaction is that the soul and spirit in search of God responds positively and promptly. There is an immediate move toward the truth. The spirit lays hold of, and takes to itself, the verities presented. They become a veritable part of one’s life. They are the vitalizing, energizing, invigorating life of God moving into human character, human conduct, human conversation. They change, color, and condition a person until he is conformed to Christ.
The alternative is the opposite; it is a negative reaction. The end result is a rejection of truth, which of course implies ultimately the rejection of Christ.
This was eminently true in His days upon earth, and it is the same today. And on this occasion his attackers went so far as to declare Him either a raving maniac or one possessed of a devil. Eventually their animosity and reaction to Him became so violent they schemed to destroy Him. Several times He slipped through their clutching fingers, but eventually, like bloodhounds, they brought Him to bay. Nor were they satisfied that He was stilled until they saw Him suspended on a cruel Roman gibbet. There, hanging midway between earth and sky, writhing in agony, they were sure His disquieting and disturbing declarations would terminate in His death.
But truth simply does not die that way. Truth does not disappear in the face of evil. Truth is indestructible just as God is indestructible. Truth endures forever. Truth remains eternal.
So down the long avenues of time men have turned angrily amid the darkness and despair of their dreadful deeds to attack truth. They have derided it, despised it, and tried to demolish it. Or better, we should say that in their blindness and ignorance they have so desired. Why?
The clearest and most concise answer to that enormous, unending question is given by Christ Himself:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (John 3: 16-21).
On this particular occasion our Lord’s adversaries ranted and raged at Him. “How long are You going to keep us in doubt?” “If you really are the Christ tell us plainly!”
The pathetic aspect of the whole scene really was their own positive refusal to accept what He had said as truth.
Repeatedly He had declared His identity. They knew from their familiarity with the Old Testament Scriptures that this One who now stood before them was none other than the promised Messiah. He was God’s Anointed. He was the Great, Good Shepherd foretold by the prophets and seers of their people. David, Isaiah, Ezekiel and others had predicted that the true Shepherd would come to gather up and restore the lost sheep of Israel. Over and over Christ had asserted that He was in fact that One. He was here. The Good Shepherd was among them. He was calling to His own. He was gathering them up … those who would come. But they adamantly refused to believe Him. They simply would not accept Him.
They rejected and repudiated all He said.
Yet, over and beyond all of this He endeavored to convince them of His credentials by repeated demonstrations of His deity. He performed all sorts of remarkable miracles that were positive proof and incontestable confirmation of His divinity. They had heard Him preach good tidings to the meek and poor. They had watched Him bind up the broken-hearted. They had seen Him liberate those who were captive to evil spirits, disease, or their own deranged minds and emotions. They had been there when He spoke comfort to those who mourned. They had seen sorrow turned to gladness.
They had been witnesses to the full and total fulfillment of all that Isaiah predicted in 61:1-3
“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)
And still they would not believe. Still they would not receive Him. Accordingly, it is absolutely essential for us, as it was for them, to grasp fully what it really means “to believe,” “to receive,” for by Christ’s own simple statement He insisted that only those who do believe belong to Him.
“To believe” implies much more than merely giving my mental assent to truth. It is much more than merely agreeing to what God has to say.
There are literally hundreds of thousands of people who profess to be believers who do this much. They agree in a formal manner to the truth as it is revealed in the Scriptures. They subscribe in a rather ambiguous way to the teachings of Christ. They believe that in some rather obscure way He was a historical character who came to earth to reveal truth to us. He was really no more than another of the great prophets or teachers who claimed divine attributes and abilities.
But this simply is not enough!
Even the evil spirits believe this much and tremble.
Without a doubt the greatest single weakness in Christendom the world around is so called “believism.” It is an anachronism that millions who claim to believe are in reality a repudiation of the living Christ. Their characters, conduct, and conversation are a living travesty of the truth they claim to exemplify. This is why Christianity and the church is eternally being charged with hypocrisy. It is why so many who are outside claim that those inside the church are charlatans. It is why to be a true believer is difficult, simply because so often the behavior of our so-called brethren betrays them and us. We are all lumped together and labeled as imposters. And our dilemma only deepens when all around us, amid the confusion and criticism, men and women insist they are all believers, when in truth their behavior may well be a reproach to Christ.
In our Lord’s discourses He equated believing with drinking.
To believe truth, to believe Him, was in fact to imbibe truth, to imbibe Him.
“… He that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
“If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly (innermost being) shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).
To believe in Christ is not just to give endorsement in an objective manner to what He has done and said on my behalf.
To believe in Christ is to fully accept both Him and His truth so that I actually take Him into my life in deliberate, volitional action, that goes on continuously.
Put another way it means this: He, the living Christ, is actually allowed to so enter the whole of my life that He shares it with me, lives it with me, becomes an integral, vitalizing part of it. In other words, He is in me and I am in Him.
The closest parallel to this is marriage.
It is possible to read about marriage, talk about it, discuss it, and debate it. But until you find another whom you implicitly trust and love enough to invite into your life to share it with you, you know virtually nothing about the truth of all that marriage implies. It must be experienced to be known. It must be tried to be understood. It must be undertaken to be enjoyed. It must be engaged in to be believed.
It is the same with Christ. He is referred to in Scripture as the Bridegroom and we His bride.
The second closest parallel to this is the intimate interrelationship between a shepherd and his sheep.
We can discuss shepherding, read about it, study it, observe it, and even enjoy watching it. Yet until we actually participate, we really know nothing about it except in a very remote, detached, and impersonal way.
And this is precisely the point Jesus made when He said: “You don’t believe, simply because you don’t actually belong to Me. You aren’t My sheep.”
All through this book and also in “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23,” I have endeavored to point out in unmistakable language what it really means to “belong” to Christ. I have tried to show what is involved in “coming under Christ’s control.” I have indicated the great joys and benefits and advantages of allowing our lives to actually be managed by Him who made us, who bought us, and who is legitimately entitled to own us.
Yet, the point must be made again here that the decision as to whether or not this will happen rests with us. Christ comes to us. He calls to us. He invites us to turn to Him. He offers to take us under His care. He longs to lead us in His ways. He desires to share life with us. He wants us to enter fully into the joys of His ownership. He delights to give us all the advantages and benefits of His life.
In short, He wants to be in our lives and for us to be in His. Are we or are we not prepared to have this happen? It is an intimate association from which most of us shy away. We really are afraid of this involvement. To speak of “believing” in this way makes most of us uneasy. We are not at all sure we wish to be so completely committed. There is so much at stake! Yes! all of this life; all of eternity; all of myself is at stake. It is only the person prepared to become open and available to God, who positively responds to truth as it is revealed in Christ, the Great, Good Shepherd, who will “hear” His voice.
To hear Him is to “recognize” that this One is in truth none other than God, very God.
This being so, what He says and what He does will be taken seriously. We will respond to Him in powerful ways of acceptance and total personal commitment.
Evidence of this will be apparent in a deliberate and eager willingness to do whatever He requires. This “running” to do His bidding demonstrates faith and confidence in Christ of a potent sort. This is to believe in Christ-to know God!
It is this intimate interchange and private interrelationship between Christ and me that becomes such a unique relationship. It is in truth the “knowing,” of which Christ as the Good Shepherd speaks with such affection. He is in my life; I am in His. He knows me; I know Him. He is mine; I am His.
This is a precious relationship. The acute awareness that He knows me and I know God in Christ is the most profound and potent influence I am privileged to know as a man. In its awareness lies great rest.
There is about this knowing an element of elevation that induces me to attain lofty living and noble conduct far beyond anything I might otherwise have thought possible. This knowing is the powerful, potent presence of the very person of Christ made real in my everyday experience by His gracious Spirit.
Finally, there is the inescapable reality that this knowing has a profound purifying effect upon my life in all its activities. I live and move and have my being in company with Him who is altogether noble. He is royalty. He is my Lord, my Owner, my Master, and in His close company I scorn that which is corrupt.
Only those who know Him in this manner, who believe on Him to this extent, who receive Him without reservation in this way find it appropriate to follow Him.
I have used the word appropriate deliberately here. It implies that to follow Christ, as following Him has been explained previously in this book, is not something absurd or unrealistic or unreasonable. Rather, to follow Him becomes the proper, reasonable, and appropriate thing to do.
To follow Christ means I become intimately identified with His plans and purposes for the planet and for me as a person. His wishes become my wishes. His work becomes my work. His words become my words. His standards, values, and priorities become mine. His interests become my interests. His life becomes my life.
In a word: He is in me; I am in Him. There is the place of peace. Here lies serenity, strength, and stability amid earth’s troublous times.
Christ gives eternal Life! #15
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28).
AT THE HEAD of this chapter, John 10:27,28 have been deliberately set down together. They cannot be separated. These verses constitute one continuous concept.
The incredibly beautiful relationship between the Shepherd and His sheep can be and only is possible provided the sheep hear His voice, are known of Him in intimate oneness, and so follow Him in quiet, implicit confidence.
The eternal life inherent in Him, whereby they shall never perish, within which they can enjoy endless security under His hand, are benefits made possible only in constant communion with Him.
If for a moment we turn our attention to a human shepherd and his sheep we will see this to be self-evident.
Those sheep which remain in the shepherd’s personal care are the ones which derive and draw their very life from his provision and possession of them. They have at their disposal all the resources of his ranch. They thrive under the expertise of his skilled management. They enjoy the eternal vigilance and loving protection of his care. Under his hand they flourish because they are “handled” with affection by one who is tremendously fond of them. In fact, they are his very life. In turn he becomes to them their very life.
Looking back in gentle reminiscence across the distant years of my own life as a sheep-man this remains its most memorable aspect. There was a profound and deeply moving sense in which all my life, all my strength, all my energy, all my vitality was poured into my flock. It simply had to be so if they were to enjoy an optimum life under my management.
The “life” which they had in such rich measure and overflowing abundance was but an expression of my own life continuously given to them day after day. The lush green pastures, the lovely wooded parkland where they could shelter from summer sun and winter winds, the clear cool water to slake their thirst, the freedom from predators or rustlers, the protection against disease and parasites of all sorts, the loving attention and intimate care of one who delighted in their on-going well-being all reflected my own life lived out through them.
They came to be known and recognized uniquely as being “Keller’s sheep.” They had upon them the indelible, unmistakable mark of belonging to me. Their health, quality, and excellence were a declaration of whose they were.
Yet, it must be emphasized that this life, this special care, this exquisite sense of security and well-being was theirs only as long as they remained on my ranch and under my hand.
In my book on Psalm 23 I told in detail of certain sheep which were never really satisfied to stay in my care. They were always looking for a chance to slip out through a hole in the fence. Or they would creep around the end of the enclosure that ran down to the seashore at extreme low tide. Once they had gotten out, they were exposed to enormous perils. Some wandered far off to become lost up the road or into the woods. And there they fell prey to all sorts of disasters.
With all of this in mind our Lord made it clear that our own relationship to Him is the same. The remarkable eternal life which He gives to us is His own life transmitted to us continuously as we remain in close contact with Him. His vitality, His vigor, His view of things are mine as long as the communion between us is constant.
It is a mistake to imagine that eternal life, the very life of the risen Christ, is some gift package dropped into the pocket of my life at some specific point in time; that once it has been bestowed, I automatically have it forever.
Life, any kind of life, physical, moral, or spiritual, simply is not of that sort.
Life is correspondence between an organism and its environment. Life goes on only so long as the organism is deriving its sustenance from its surroundings. The instant it no longer draws its support from its environment, life ceases. At that point the organism is declared to be dead.
This principle applies in the realm of my body – physical. It holds true in the region of my soul – moral. It is so in my spirit – spiritual.
All of life originates with God irrespective of whether it be physical, moral, or spiritual. To assume that He bestows only spiritual life to human beings is a distortion of truth. The whole of the biota, the total physical, chemical, and biological environment which supports my physical body comes from Him. He designed it. He programmed it. He set it in motion. He sustains it. He maintains its meticulous functions. He enables me thus to derive my physical life and well-being from His wondrous world around me. The moment I can no longer do this I am said to be physically dead.
Precisely the same principle operates in my soul. My mind, emotions, and will are stimulated and sustained by correspondence with the moral environment that surrounds me. This is the realm of human relationships and ideologies. It is the world of ideas, concepts, and culture expressed in literature, science, the arts, music, and accumulated experience of the human race.
A person can be acutely, vividly alive to all of this. Or he can be likewise virtually dead to it. For some it is well-nigh life itself. Yet even here every capacity anyone has to correspond or communicate with this total soulish environment comes from God. It is He who has arranged, ordered, and programmed all that is excellent, beautiful, and noble in the arts, sciences, and humanities. Man has only just gradually uncovered all that formerly lay hidden from his restricted vision.
So, in truth, all moral, all soul life is derived from our Lord, for without the capacities of mind, emotion, and will bestowed upon us by Him, we would have no way of enjoying even this life.
Again, it may be legitimately stated that the moment I can no longer derive moral stimulation and uplift from this realm I am said to be dead to it. What is more, it is perfectly possible to be physically alive yet morally dead to one or more or all of God’s life in this region. I am said to be morally alive only so long as I draw life from those generous and godly gifts bestowed upon me by a benevolent and loving Master. He so designed me as to live on this noble lofty plane as His person.
What has been said of physical and moral life also applies in the region of my spirit. There, deep within my inner life, lies my conscience, my intuition, and my capacity to commune with God by His Spirit.
I am said to have spiritual life only so long as there is being derived directly from God a measure of His life. It is He who in the realm of my conscience alerts me to absolute verities, ultimate truth. It is in this way I know what I ought to do, what I ought not to do. I am alive to what is appropriate and proper behavior before Him and what is not.
It is in the realm of my intuition that I enjoy that ultimate dimension of living, in knowing God. It is in the unique awareness of being alive to Him that I enjoy life at its loftiest level. There steals over my stilled spirit the sure knowledge that it is in Christ I live and move and have my being. This is to know also that I am known of Him, intimately, personally, and with profound affection.
So, there flows between His gracious Spirit and my spirit an interchange of life – His life. I am in Him; He is in me. There is an ongoing, continuing interrelationship whereby He imparts His life to me and takes up my little life into His.
To know, experience, and enjoy this communion with Christ is to have eternal life. This is what Christ meant when He said unashamedly, “I give unto them eternal life.”
He went on to add emphatically, “They shall never perish.” As long as my communion with Him continues, His life is imparted as a clear flowing stream from the fountain source of His own magnificent, inexhaustible self. He comes to me continuously in never ending life to energize and invigorate me. I am His, to be the recipient of an ever-renewed life. He is mine to be the bestower of every good and perfect gift needed to sustain me through all eternity.
He has no other intention than that this relationship should be one of eternal endurance.
My part is to remain ever open, responsive, and receptive to the inflow of His life to mine. It is His life that surrounds and enfolds me on every side. In any situation, at any time, in any place I can breathe quietly, “O Christ, You are here. You are the ever-present one – the great ‘I Am.’ Live Your life in me, through me, in this moment, for I, too, am in Your presence ready to receive You in all Your splendor.”
The person who so lives in Christ’s presence shall never perish. He it is out of who’s innermost being cascades clear streams of life-giving refreshment to those around him. This is the individual who is an inspiration and blessing to his generation, and to his God.
Those who live this joyous and serene communion with Christ are the men and women who know they are in God’s hand. Nor will they ever make a move or entertain a thought that would take them out of His hand.
To know that God’s hand is upon me for good is perhaps the most precious awareness a human being can savor in his earthly sojourn. To be acutely aware – “O my Shepherd, You are enfolding me in Your great strong hand!” – is to sense a sweet serenity that nothing can disturb. To realize the intimacy of the Master’s touch upon every minutiae of my affairs, to experience His hand guiding, leading, directing in every detail of each day, is to enter a delight words cannot describe.
My part is to be sensitive to His gentle Spirit. My part is to obey instantly His smallest wish. My part is to wait quietly for the unfolding of His best purposes and plans. In harmony, unity, and mutual pleasure we commune together along the trails of life. He becomes my fondest friend and most intimate companion. More than that, He becomes my life.
This is the life of serene security. This is the relationship of quiet relaxation. This is the life of rest and repose; for the person willing to be led of the Lord there is endless enjoyment in His company.
The ancient prophet Isaiah portrays this for us in an exquisite word picture of the Great Shepherd of our souls.
“O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; Lift it up, be not afraid; Say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isa.40:9-11).
It has always been our Lord’s intention to hold His people in His own strong hand. It is the most profound longing of His Spirit to lead us gently in the paths of right living. He is eager and happy to gather us up into His powerful arms where no harm can molest us.
The intentions of God toward His own are always good. He ever has their own best interests at heart. His desires are only for their well-being. He is a Shepherd of enormous good will and deep compassion for the people of His pasture.
It is ever He who holds us in His hand, if we will allow ourselves to be so owned and loved. We do not have to “hold on to Him” as so many wrongly imagine. How much better to rest in the quiet assurance of knowing His hand is upon me rather than doubting my feeble efforts to hold onto Him.
This is one of the great secrets to a serene life in Christ. It does not come instantly, overnight so to speak. It is the gradual outgrowth of a life lived quietly in gentle communion with Him.
Imperceptibly there steals over my spirit the assurance that with Him, all is well. He makes no mistakes. He is ever here. And so long as I remain acutely aware of His presence, nothing can separate me from His love and care.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, for thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom.8:35-39).
The Shepherd is God! #16
My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one (John 10:29-30).
THERE ARE OCCASIONS on which it is imperative that an author share his own inner struggle in search of spiritual truth. For all of us there are sections of the Scriptures where we have found difficulty in arriving at veracity. All of us are pilgrims on the path, and no matter how sincerely we endeavor to follow our Good Shepherd, there are times when we stumble.
For me the two verses above, taken together, “seemed” to pose an insurmountable problem. In verse 29 our Lord states that His Father “is greater than all.” In almost the next breath He asserts He and His Father are one.
The false cults who eternally deny the deity of Christ have capitalized on this “apparent” contradiction. In fact, it is a passage they exploit to the maximum in order to undermine the faith of those who have placed their simple confidence in Christ as God, very God.
It was not until I undertook a deep study on this section that at last the clear light of its meaning began to break through. What previously was puzzling has now become exceedingly precious. And it is with distinct joy and a sense of triumph that the closing chapter of this book can be written.
Once more light has replaced darkness, love has taken the place of despair. The result is that I am much richer for it, and I trust you the reader will be as well.
In Dr.Weymouth’s remarkable translation this reads:
“What my Father has given me is greater than all, and no one is able to wrest anything from my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
In the translation by Knox the meaning is made even more clear.
“This trust which my Father has committed to me is more precious than all else; no one can tear them away from the hand of my Father. My father and I are one.”
What is this trust of such supreme importance? What is this enormous responsibility? What is greater than all else in God’s estimation?
Wonder of wonders, and marvel of marvels, it is His own keeping of His own sheep!
This disclosure humbles my spirit and draws me to Him with bonds of love stronger than steel, tougher than tungsten. To realize that from God’s standpoint the most precious thing is the preservation of His people, those who have come to put their confidence in Him, who have come under His control, overwhelms our hearts. In response to such compassion and caring for me there springs up within my soul an overflowing stream of gratitude. “O my God, how great You are! O my Shepherd, how wondrous are Your ways!”
I really know of no other declaration by our Lord that so stills my spirit in quiet adoration and gentle awe. To know that though I am weak and wayward and often downright difficult to handle, to Him who loves me I am very precious. This pulverizes my pride and draws me to Him.
There is something tremendously touching in this truth. It strips away all the misgivings I may have about belonging to the Shepherd of my soul. It overwhelms me with confidence and joyous assurance. “O Christ, to You I am precious!” “O great Shepherd, to You I am special! O Father, to You I am the supreme object of Your care and affection! I have been accepted, beloved, and wanted above all else.”
Is it any wonder that He will do everything possible within His power to preserve and keep me in His hand? Am I surprised to see that the supreme price paid for my reconciliation to Him, was paid gladly and freely with His own life? It was His precious blood shed so willingly for us that now makes us so valuable. It is His touch upon my life and its transforming power to take a sinner and change him into a joyous son that makes me so precious to Him.
It is not who I am that makes me special to God. Rather, now, it is WHOSE I am that makes me precious.
There is no intrinsic merit in my makeup that He should esteem me as someone significant. In fact, the opposite is the case, for by His revelation He declares me to be undone before Him.
But bless His dear name, it is the impact of His life upon mine that makes all the difference. It is the immense emancipation of His salvation that sets me free to follow Him. It is the joyous sharing of Himself with me by His Spirit that empowers me to do His will. It is the strong touch of His mighty hand upon my life that changes my character, alters my conduct, and conforms my lifestyle to His.
This is to become His person. This is to become the sheep of His pasture. This is to become a member of His family. This is to enjoy an exquisite, intimate relationship in which I am His and He is mine. No wonder then that to Him I am exceedingly precious. Of course, to our contemporaries we may not seem to be very special. In fact, some may even look upon us with a jaundiced eye, calling us “odd,” “religious fanatics,” or even “square.” But let us never forget that they do not see us as God does. They can, at best, observe only our outward appearance and behavior, whereas our Shepherd knows us through and through. And though knowing even the worst about us still loves us with an enduring love because we are His.
This truth came home to me with tremendous impact as a young man when I started to build up my first sheep ranch. Because all my life previously I had worked with cattle, sheep seemed strange and unfamiliar. So I sought expert advice and help from anyone who would give it to me. I was determined that I would keep only the finest stock and breed the best animals it was possible to produce. There would be no half-way measures. My sheep were special and would become increasingly precious.
I went to see an elderly, white-haired, highly esteemed sheep breeder who lived about thirty miles away. He was a Scot, who, like so many livestock men from Scotland, stand tall among the world’s finest breeders of quality animals. Gently and graciously he led me out to his fields where his flock was grazing. In a small pasture about a dozen superb, big, strong rams were resting in the shade. An endearing look of commingled love, affection, pride, and delight filled his soft brown eyes as he leaned on the fence rail letting his gaze run over his rams. “Well,” he said softly, “pick out whichever ram you wish, son.” He smiled at me warmly, “You are just a young man starting out with sheep. I want you to have the best!”
I replied that only he knew which was the finest ram. It was he who had poured the long years of his life and skill and expertise into these sheep. It was he, who, with infinite care, patience, and perseverance had selected those which ultimately would become the finest stock on the whole continent. Only he knew which was the most valuable ram in his possession. Only he knew how great and precious it was to him.
Not hesitating a moment, he swung open the gate with his big gnarled hands and strode in among the rams. Quickly he caught hold of a fine, handsome ram with a bold, magnificent head and strong conformation.
“This is Arrowsmith II,” he said, running his hands gently over the ram. “He is the supreme Grand Champion Suffolk Ram and has won all the top awards across the country!” He rubbed the ram’s ears softly in an affectionate caress. “No one else has ever handled him but me. He’s my top prize ram … tremendously valuable … more than that …. very precious to me in a very personal way!”
I could understand exactly what he meant. I was not surprised to see a misty look steal across his eyes. And I considered it one of the greatest honors of my life that he would permit me to take the ram home to become the top sire for my flock.
That day it came home to me with great clarity that what made the difference between one sheep and another was the owner. In whose hand had they been? Who was responsible for breeding, raising, and shepherding them? Was it a grand flock-master? Was it a superb sheep-man?
And so, it is with us. Are we in God’s hands? Who is handling us, shaping us? Whose are we? Whose life is molding mine?
Jesus said, “I and the Father are One!” It matters not whether we speak of being in the hands of God our Father, or under the control of Christ our Good Shepherd, or guided gently by the gracious Holy Spirit; we are inevitably in the hands of God.
“To us today this is fairly understandable. We accept this concept without question. To us who believe He is precious” (I Peter 2:7).
But in speaking to the Pharisees, His straightforward declaration that He was one with His Father immediately alienated His audience. His simple, honest, legitimate claim to deity antagonized His hearers. He was declaring Himself to be God, very God, and they determined to destroy Him for it.
On that dark day when the mob grabbed up rocks from the ground to stone Him, they recognized that He had answered their query: “If Thou be Christ – tell us plainly!”
He had, and they rejected His claim.
He said He was One with God the Father, and they were furious. He had come to them as the Good Shepherd, prepared to lay down His life for His sheep, but they would not have Him. Only two young people from among this angry, hostile crowd had responded to His invitation: the young woman taken in adultery and the young man born blind. Both had felt the touch of His hand on their lives. Both had turned to Him for restoration. Both went on from there exulting in a new dimension of life. They were remade in the Shepherd’s care.
The same choice still confronts mankind. The majority still spurn the Good Shepherd.
Yet to those who hear His voice, respond to His call, come under His care, follow Him, His commitments come true. They find life, overflowing life, fulfilling life, and they find it in rich measure. It is life in Christ and Christ in them.
Yes, when God, the Godhead, the TWO eternal beings (one we call “Father” today and the other “Christ”) decided to make man in the image of God, decided on a plan to make it possible for human, sinful mankind, to become eternal, be saved from sin and death; that Godhead was setting about to create the GREATEST CREATION of everything they had created. The Godhead was wanting this human physical kind to inherit eternal life, not as some kind of angel beings, but as very BEINGS OF THE VERY GODHEAD!! Christians are forever saying they are the children of God. But few of them ever STOP to REALLY MEDITATE on what that “children of God” phrase actually means. Most do not even search the Scriptures to find out that it really means to be called a “child of God.” Oh, yes they can understand what it means for parents (a man and woman) to have literal children born of their very own flesh and blood, but they often do not acquaint the physical to what God is doing to have literal children born to Him.
The New Testament is loaded with verses on the truth of this matter; the truth of what God is doing in saving human persons from death and giving them eternal life as His very children. The depth of LOVE and SHARING that the Godhead wants to GIVE to you and to me, is truly mind-blowing. Yet it is true, and it is explained over and over again by the inspired words of the New Testament.
If you are relatively new to Christianity and/or reading the Bible. Now that you have read the two books by Phillip Keller (“A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” and “A Shepherd looks at the GOOD SHEPHERD”); then if you have not yet done so, you need to now go and study my studies called “Saved by Grace” and “A Christians Destiny” – learn HOW to be saved to eternal life, and WHAT kind eternal life the Godhead wants to give and share with you. It is more than wonderful; it is truth that cannot be described in the words of man’s making. The human mind can only grasp a tiny fraction of the deep meaning in being a “child of God” – nevertheless, that tiny fraction, The Godhead wants you to know, and by knowing, feeling it in the depths of your mind and heart, you will be HUMBLED! You will then want to LOVE the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and life. You will want to respect and honor and serve and obey, the Father and His Son Christ Jesus.
It is my prayer that YOU, yes you personally who are reading these words, will accept Jesus as your personal Savior, and desire to live by every word of God, as Jesus said an individual should so do (Matthew 4:4).
It is my prayer that you will be indeed a very child of God.