Feed My Sheep

I mentioned in my last post, that I’ve been using the First 5 app to study the book of Ezekiel. Well, as I was reading Ezekiel 34, last week, I had the strangest intermingling of deja vu and conviction, and I realized it was because the chapter mirrored a statement I’d studied in the book of John, when I was going through Lysa TerKeurst’s study, Finding I Am.

Basically, and I encourage you to read it for yourself, God is telling the teachers of the law–whom He calls shepherds–that they’ve been selfishly neglecting their flock. They were feeding themselves (and getting fat), but not feeding their sheep; and they let the sheep wander off and didn’t call them back or search them out (Ezekiel 34:1-10).

The Lord goes on to say that He, Himself will seek them out, feed them, and heal them (Ezekiel 34:11-24). This was all fulfilled when Christ was sent into the world to seek and save the lost; hence, the reason He calls Himself the “Good Shepherd” (Luke 19:10; John 10:11-18). However, another verse that came to mind as I read Ezekiel 34, was the conversation between Jesus and Peter after the resurrection.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” ~ John 21:15-17, ESV 

And I thought, that for those of us who claim to love the Lord, are we feeding His lambs & sheep, and are we tending to His flock? Are we seeking out those who’ve wandered away? Or are we just getting fat as we consume His Word?

I’m going to be honest right now, this is a challenge for me, because 1) I’m often not consuming as much of the Word as I’d prefer, due to littles at home, and 2) reaching out to others can be challenging, for that same reason. But nothing is too difficult for God! Recently, a friend who’s pretty much walked away from the church, came to my mind, and I thought about calling her up, but never got around to it. And a few days later guess who I bumped into at Target?! Talk about God-ordained.

The Great Commission wasn’t a recommendation, it was a command (Matthew 28:19-20). If we claim that we love the Lord with all our heart, mind, and soul but aren’t loving our neighbor as ourselves, we’re not really being obedient (Luke 10:27-37). And the Word says that if we love the Lord we will be obedient (John 14:15, 14:21-24).

I know we’re all busy. I know we have children, families, jobs, and ministries to attend to, but let’s lot neglect the calling on our lives to live in obedience, share the gospel, and shower those around us in love and prayer. It may not look the same for all of us. It could just be inviting that friend over for dinner, bringing them a meal, or watching their child(ren) so they can have a date night, or some time alone. Or maybe, they just need someone to chat with who will speak truth, in love, into their lives; or to observe your family as you display Christ in your home. It doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. God will work in, and through anything and everything you offer Him.

At the end of the day, people can tell how sincere we are by our actions. Are we authentic? Are we growing in the Word? Are we sharing the Word? Are we seeking the lost? Are we praying over and maintaining relationships with those who’ve walked away? I pray that God open our eyes so that we may all see where we fall short, and ask that He reveal new opportunitie for us to share His love, goodness, and hope.

Spiritual Immaturity

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? ~ 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, ESV

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The Church is no stranger to jealousy and dissension, but as Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 3, it’s actually a sign of spiritual immaturity. He repeats his comment about following certain teachers, from chapter 1, but this time makes it a point to say that no matter who we follow, the foundation of what we believe must be Christ; and each teacher and pastor simply builds upon that foundation. It’s God who provides the growth. In other words, we each have a part to play within the body of Christ, but it’s God who really does the work. We are all equally important and equipped by Him to complete the tasks He’s assigned to us; no one’s role is bigger or better than another, just different, and all have the same goal: to preach Christ crucified.

Paul goes on to say, in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, that our works (faith in action) will one day be tested by fire. These verses make me think of the story of the three little pigs. You know how you have one pig that builds a house of straw; one, a house of sticks; and another, a house of bricks; and only the house of bricks is left standing? Why is that? I believe it was because two of the pigs refused to put in any real effort, or thought, into what they were building: a home that would stand the test of time. I think as believers we can fall into this same line of thinking. We may serve, but with the wrong mindset. Our purpose should be to build the Church–to add to the kingdom–but sometimes we feel the task we’ve been issued is too small or insignificant, or we just do it to check it off a list, instead of focusing on the big picture. According to this passage our salvation isn’t necessarily at stake, but apparently another heavenly reward will be denied. I can’t help but wonder what that might be. What might we miss out on, because our hearts and minds weren’t fully in line with God’s heart?

Again, our goal as believers is to worship the one true God with our lives; and if we truly believe in the message of the gospel, we can’t help but share it with the people around us. And that is God’s heart! That all would come to Him and be saved! When jealousy and strife enter the church, they do more to tear down the Church, than to build it up. So, let us allow the Holy Spirit to continue His work in us and ask that He help us see the bigger picture, and the greater goal we’re working towards. Finally, let us stop worrying about who has a bigger or better role in the plan of God, because what matters most is the attitude of our heart, as we shower the love of God on our neighbors and point them towards Christ.

Just Speak

I read 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 aloud, to my baby a few days ago. She refused to nap when I wanted to read the Word, but I’m kind of glad she did. Because once I read it aloud, I began to dissect it aloud, as well–lol, as though my 6-week-old would understand. Basically, Paul was saying that he didn’t come to the church at Corinth prepared with a fancy speech or message. He simply came with the Gospel Truth: Christ died for our sins.

And what was impressed upon me, was he was scared when he spoke; but he allowed God to speak through him, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul wasn’t worried about having all the right words, because he was trusting that the Holy Spirit, in His infinite wisdom, knew precisely what He was doing.

Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, to describe the wisdom of God, which we who believe in the Lord, have been given through the Holy Spirit. It’s only through the Spirit of God, that lives in us, that we can read the Word and understand the heart of the Father; because the Holy Spirit and the Father are One. An unbeliever cannot comprehend the things of God, because the Spirit of God doesn’t live within him and make things clear to him. In other words, things are hidden to the unbeliever, in the same the way the parables of Jesus–found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke–were hidden to the crowd. But remember, Jesus revealed the meanings of the parables to His closest disciples; as the Holy Spirit does with us. The Spirit gives us insight and discernment, not of this world; therefore, those of this natural world cannot judge us for acting in accordance with the Holy Spirit.

So, what have I gathered from these verses? That we should just open up our mouths and declare the gospel of Jesus Christ. We shouldn’t be worried about sounding foolish, or not having practiced our speech; because the Spirit is going to use us and reveal the Truth to those whose hearts are ready. And we shouldn’t be discouraged by those who would judge or ridicule us for our beliefs, because they lack understanding of spiritual things.

Book Review – The Cross and the Switchblade

I read The Cross and the Switchblade, by David Wilkerson, a long time ago–which is why it can be found on my resources page–but I picked it up again recently to re-read. It’s a true story about the beginnings of the Teen Challenge ministry; a ministry originally dedicated to bringing inner-city youth into relationship with Christ.

There’s so much to learn from Wilkerson’s prayer life, and his obedience to the Holy Spirit is one to aspire to. I love to see his prayers answered in unexpected ways, over and over again; it’s an amazingly beautiful, and powerful testament to the power and authority of God.

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While this book is great for any believer to read, I feel if you have an interest in urban missions or with those struggling with addictions, this book is particularly for you. It’s an honest representation of the challenges and hard work you may encounter. Although, written in 1963, I don’t think much has changed, as far as gangs and drug use goes; if anything, it may have gotten worse over time. I know when I was working on my master’s just a few years ago, I learned a lot about at-risk youth, and the things which they face is heartbreaking. Not to mention, there’s also the ever-growing problem of human trafficking, in addition to drugs, violence, and poverty. So, if you haven’t checked out this book, be sure to find yourself a copy!

Learning to Appreciate the Silence

Silence is uncomfortable. Well, sometimes it can be. I believe it’s so, because silence gives us opportunity to think, to ask questions, to contemplate the world around us; and that makes us uncomfortable. Therefore, we tend to avoid it. Instead, we fill the air with the sounds of music, television sets, YouTube videos, or our own voices, and our mindseye with images from Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram (just to name a few). We’d rather listen to (or read, or view) insignificance than be forced to ponder anything of real importance. However, as believers, it’s often in these moments of silent contemplation that God reveals to us His greatest lessons.IMG_3503

Lately, I’ve been reading “Missional Motherhood,” by Gloria Furman. In one section of the book she talks about how God created us to be consumers of His Word. However, the devil, knowing that God designed us to be consumers, works at getting us to feast on things other than the Word: on stuff. Let’s face it, between social media and television, there’s no lack of exposure to “stuff.” Whether it’s material things, relationships, vacations, children, new recipes, organizational hacks, or makeup how-tos, there’s no shortage of “stuff” to preoccupy our time, energy, or thoughts. In fact, in our attempt to avoid silence and our own thoughts, we’ve become very good at silencing and drowning out the voice of God.

I know I’ve been guilty of this. Particularly as a new mom, it’s easier to sit in front of the television with a sleeping baby, or mindlessly scroll Facebook or Pinterest while nursing, than it has been to turn the pages of my Bible or talk with the Lord. But this needs to change. If we want our children to seek the Lord, then they need to see and hear their parents seeking the Lord. If we want them to have a heart for the lost, then they need to see our heart for the lost, His heart for the lost. If we want our children to live the Word, love the Word, and be consumers of the Word, then that’s what they need to see in us!

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. ~ James 1:22-25 (ESV)

Yet, let’s not stop there, the gospel message is something our children should both see evidence of and hear.

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~ Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (ESV)

In conclusion, let’s not be afraid of the moments of silence in our lives. Let us instead, appreciate them, make more opportunities for them and use them appropriately. This year–and every year, for that matter–let’s strengthen our relationship with the Lord, let’s listen intently for His voice, and let’s teach our children to do the same.

Book Review – Revolution in World Missions

As I waited four hours at Sears a few Saturdays ago, for mechanics to change the brakes on my car, I finally had the opportunity to finish reading K.P. Yohannan’s Revolution in World Missions. Yohannan isn’t really an author, he’s a missionary and founder of a ministry called “Gospel for Asia,” but he does a pretty good job of getting his points across in this book. Yesterday, as I was thinking about this book review I thought that the book’s title should have been Revolution in World Missions: Changing the Way You Think About Missions.b1-cover

The first point of the book may be difficult for United States believers to hear. Yohannan starts the book by discussing the abundance of gifts and freedoms we have in the U.S. that God has poured out on us and we often take for granted. For instance…

  • “In 1998, personal expenditures in the United States averaged $19,049 per person of which $1,276 (6.7 percent) went for food, leaving a comfortable $17,773 for other expenses. In India, the average person had only $276 to spend, of which $134 (48.4 percent) went for food, leaving a scant $142 for other needs for the entire year” (p. 44).
  • “The United States has about 5,000 Christian book and gift stores, carrying varieties of products beyond my ability to imagine—and many secular stores also carry religious books. All this while 4,845 of the world’s 6,912 languages are still without a single portion of the Bible published in their own language…” “Besides books, 8,000 Christian magazines and newspapers flourish. More than 1,600 Christian radio stations broadcast the Gospel full-time, while many countries don’t even have their first Christian radio station. A tiny 0.1 percent of all Christian radio and television programming is directed toward the unevangelized world” (p. 50).
  • “The United States, with its 600,000 congregations or groups, is blessed with 1.5 million full-time Christian workers, or one full-time religious leader for every 182 people in the nation. What a difference this is from the rest of the world, where more than 2 billion people are still unreached with the Gospel. The unreached or ‘hidden peoples’ have only one missionary working for every 78,000 people,’ and there are still 10,000 people groups in the world without a single church among them to preach the Gospel” (pp. 50-51).

Yohannan’s point? That the abundance God has blessed is with should be used to build His kingdom and reach the lost.

The second point of Yohannan’s book? To remind the reader that providing for people’s physical needs is not the same as providing for their spiritual needs. “Substituting a bowl of rice for the Holy Spirit and the Word of God will never save a soul and will rarely change the attitude of a man’s heart. We will not even begin to make a dent in the kingdom of darkness until we lift up Christ with all the authority, power, and revelation that is given to us in the Bible,” writes Yohannan. He goes on to provide examples of ministries and teams that have gone out with the intent of reaching the lost through education or humanitarian relief, but end up failing because they get sidetracked by these other things and forget to keep the Gospel of Christ the center and focus their mission. His point: we must remember to keep the main thing, the main thing; providing for other human needs is important, but even more important are their spiritual needs.

Yohannan’s final point is that the best way to reach these unreached people groups is by training national missionaries—people already living there—and providing them with the financial support they need to reach as many people in their hometowns, neighboring towns and countries. This makes a lot of sense. First, because it’s less costly to support national missionaries than it is to send missionaries from other countries and provide them with the financial support they find necessary. Second, because people are more likely to listen to those they are most similar to and feel connected with. A wealthy American family, for instance, will have difficulty understanding not only the language, but also the perspective and culture of the poor migrant farmer of India. Lastly, because those of other nations have difficulty trusting those from the U.S. due to various historical events (i.e. imperialism, colonialism, proselytizing) and because of what they’ve seen of our culture (based on television programs and news).

Yohannan’s point is not that U.S. missionaries give up on serving in foreign countries, but that they leave behind a group of nationals that can be self-sufficient and will continue to develop and grow the church. When I read this, I couldn’t help but think of Paul, since this is what he did. He shared the Gospel with the lost, mentored them, sent them letters, and encouraged them, but he never stayed in one location for too long (until he was imprisoned). He allowed the churches that were established in each city to grow and develop under local leadership. As I finished up this book, I thought of the two churches my local church has been supportive in establishing in Ghana and El Salvador, and recognized the significance of local, national, leadership in their formation.

I definitely recommend that you read this book with a spirit of humility. It may seem that the author is simply criticizing the U.S. church; however, I don’t believe that he writes these things to insult us, but to correct our course and to make our mission—to share the gospel to the ends of the earth—more effective. If you’re interested in missions–and I believe we all should be, to some extent–I recommend you read this book. Take care and God bless!

P.S. You can request a free copy of this book here.

For All to Hear

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7, NLT)

The words above were spoken to the prophet Samuel, after he took one look at Jesse’s son, Eliab, and immediately assumed he would be the next king of Israel. God gently chided Samuel by telling him not to judge a man by his outward appearance and reminded him that He (God) sees the parts that truly matter. This weekend, as I was praying during one of our church’s worship and prayer services, I heard the following words spoken to my spirit: How dare we pick and choose who we will share the message of the gospel of Christ with! His spilt blood and broken body are far too precious for us to keep to ourselves.

Now, for most of us this may seem common sense and we’re thinking to ourselves, “I don’t judge anybody by their outward appearance!” But honestly…how do we usually decide who we share the gospel with? Do we only share the truth with those we think will be most receptive to hear it? Do we only share the message with strangers and overlook our friends because we’re afraid of changing the status of our relationship? Or perhaps we only share the gospel with our friends and ignore strangers or people who seem different from us? I know I’ve been guilty of all of these at one point or another.Until the Whole World Hears

Whatever the case may be, the truth remains the same. Christ died for all. And our responsibility as believers is to share the good news with everybody; not just those we believe might accept it, or just with our friends and family, or only with strangers. I hear you asking, “But what if they don’t accept it?” Our job is simply to share it, not to force people to believe. And here’s where we need to be reminded that no one has been, or ever will be, won over by the gospel of Christ if we’re rude, pushy, judgmental, or hateful. We’re called to speak in love and truth, to live what we believe, and plant the seed, whether or not we ever see any fruit firsthand.

How many people will miss out on the saving knowledge of Christ because we’re afraid of being rejected, mocked, or persecuted? How many people will miss out on the single most important relationship they’ll ever need or want—with Christ—because we’re afraid to modify the status of our relationship with that person?

You know, when Jesus said in Luke 14:26 that if we wanted to be His disciples we must hate everybody else, He didn’t mean that we actually were to hate them; He meant it in comparison to Him. The whole point is that we are to love God so passionately that everything else we love pales in comparison. He should be our everything and the only One we should be worried about displeasing. Therefore, when we put relationships with others before Him, we’re actually being disobedient. Furthermore, don’t we want the people we come into contact with every day to have that opportunity to receive Christ as their personal Lord and Savior!? What’s more important, the relationship, or their eternal soul?

Lastly, since fear is the obstacle I face most often when it comes to sharing the gospel, I like to keep Hebrews 13:6 posted in my cubicle at work (and continually in the back of my mind) to constantly remind me that God is always with me, just as He’s always with you. Now…”go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” and remember He is with us always…”even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? (Hebrews 13:6, NLT)

So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me? (Hebrews 13:6, AMP)

Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote, “God is there, ready to help; I’m fearless no matter what. Who or what can get to me?” (Hebrews 13:6, The Message)