Friday, January 23, 2009

The Gate

A little background, Jesus heals a blind man on the Sabbath. The blind man was brought before the Pharisees (teachers of the law) for questioning about Jesus healing him on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is the Jewish day of rest where no work is to be done. The Pharisees threw the blind man out of the synagogue for telling the truth that Jesus did in fact heal him on the Sabbath and that he was indeed blind from birth. After being thrown out, some of the Pharisees' followed him out of the synagogue. Jesus then goes on to say, "For judgement I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind." John 9:39. The religious leaders responded, "What? Are we blind too? Jesus answered, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains."

He goes on to say in John 10. "I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a strangers voice." "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All whoever came before me were thieves and robbers ,but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd . The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wold attacks the flock and scatters it. 
Jesus' words in John 10:1-14

You see Jesus' audience was the religious leaders of his day and some of his followers. He was clearly stating who he was by claiming that he was the gate for the sheep. Jesus also states that he is the good shepherd. Jesus' sheep listen to his voice and follow him. They recognize false teaching, in fact they flee from it!

Now let me jump back to the Old Testament to the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel lived during the time of  the Jewish exile in Babylon. He was deported from Judah and taken captive to Babylon. All the Jews were living in captivity during the time of Ezekiel's prophecies.  Ezekiel was written around 571 BC. 500 years before the birth of Christ.

You see Ezekiel claimed that there would be a shepherd who would care for his flock unlike the religious leaders of his day and the days leading up to Christ. The Pharisees' would have known what Christ was claiming by stating that he was the shepherd of the sheep. They would have realized that He was claiming to be the Messiah. They would have studied this very prophecy we are about to read. They probably knew the prophecy by heart but they refused to accept the testimony. 

Ezekiel 34
The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds  of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not Shepherd's take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.
"Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I WILL RESCUE my FLOCK from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them. For I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. He goes on to say, I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. Ezekiel 34:1-11, 16

Are we still refusing to accept the testimony of who Jesus is and why he came? Ezekiel's prophecy was about the the coming Messiah the true shepherd who would come and take care of the people. Jesus tells us plainly in His word that he is the only way and that he is the great shepherd of the sheep referred to in Ezekiel.
He shows us his heart in these verses. His desire to care for us. His desire to look for us and heal us. His desire to hide us in the cleft of the rock to shelter us from the storm. We have a compassionate great shepherd who yearns to care for us. Jesus is still searching for his sheep. He is still tending his flock. He still comes after those who have wandered off. How are you going to respond to him today? In Hebrews Paul tells us, that "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts."

One Shepherd, One Flock, One King, All Nations!

"Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to LIFE, and only a few find it."
Jesus' words in Matthew 7: 13-14

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Why are You Running?

This is a prayer for our culture. This is a journal entry written in August 2006. This prayer was taken from Joel, Isaiah, Jeremiah and John. It was written from the heart during a time of personal distress over the spiritual condition of this country.

Return, Return, even now Return. Return to me and I will Return to you. Even Now! Do not be afraid! Do not run! Why are you running? Why are you trembling? Do you not know? Have you not heard? I am the LORD there is no other. Yes, I am mighty and powerful and holy but I love you. I sent my son to die for you. While you were dead in your sin. While you were fiercely set against me my Son died for you. It's not too late to turn back. Turn back now! I know all you have done or will do but I still love you! I have more to offer you than the world. I want to shower you with my love and favor. I will never leave you for another love. Please don't leave me for another. I love to shower you with my love and blessing. I accept you for who you are but you don't accept me.

Why? Why are you not returning? Don't you know that the pleasures of this world, the very pleasures you are seeking, will bring destruction? Don't you know that the freedoms the world promises always brings bondage?

Only I can give you the freedom that you desire. Slow down! Stop running. Sit with me. Give me a chance to win your heart. I am big enough to handle your doubts. I am strong enough to care for you. Open your heart to me. Pour out your pain.

For you I sent my Son to the cross to pay for your sin once and for all, yet you refuse to accept the sacrifice. I led my only Son like a lamb to the slaughter. He went willingly not opening his mouth and yet you still question my love for you. What will it take to get your attention?  Return, Return, Even now Return.......

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Our Dwelling Place

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, " He is my refuge and my fortress my God, in whom I trust." - Psalm 91:1-2

To dwell is to abide in, to find rest in, to depend upon. A dwelling is also a place. A place where we can find rest in a world that is not our own. It can be a place we retreat to when weary or afraid. After all, we are strangers and aliens in a foreign land. Have you felt like one lately? That this world just isn't what it's supposed to be? If you have felt like a stranger in a foreign land the Lord gives you this wonderful promise that if you dwell in Him; you will find rest. He will be your refuge and your strong hold. He will restore your strength. He will equip you for your divine calling.

Verse 9; If you make the most high your dwelling-even the LORD, who is my refuge-no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.

To dwell in the promises of God. To abide in and trust in His truths. To find rest in a place that is our temporary dwelling. To rest in moments of chaos and confusion. To trust is to know for certain that my Lord will not tarry forever and will come back to get me when the curtain closes this side of eternity. To trust completely in things not seen.

Jesus came the first time to dwell among us to reveal to us the truth. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. John:1:14. He came down from His heavenly throne to live in our world under the same limitations that you and I live in. He suffered death, so that by the grace of God, he might taste death for everyone. Paul tells us in Hebrews that it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of our salvation perfect through suffering. Hebrews 2:9,11.

Fitting for God to make US perfect through HIS suffering. Our salvation through His suffering. Our salvation when we trust in his provision and sacrifice. Lord, may I never take your suffering for granted. You died once and for all for the sins of all those who call on your name. Your name is a strong and mighty tower. Your name is a dwelling. Yeshua.

You will come again to ransom us from death. You are the First and the Last. The Alpha and Omega. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is, and is to come.