Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Spider Man & Sheep

The BBC News had a good story. An autistic boy in Bangkok was on his first day at a special needs school. He started crying for some reason and crawled out a window. Trouble was, the class was on the third floor, so he ended up sitting outside on a ledge. As the firemen tried to get the boy to come back inside, one of them overheard the boy's mother saying he liked comic book superheroes. So the fireman got a brilliant idea. He dashed back to the station and donned a Spider-Man costume that he wore at schools to liven up fire drills. Then, when he beckoned, the little boy eagerly went to "Spider-Man."

The little autistic boy wouldn't listen to those strange firemen, but he knew who he could trust! Now think of yourself as that little boy, out on a ledge, in danger. There are people calling to you, but you don't know them. Then suddenly you see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice, and you know you'll be saved.

John chapter 10, Jesus gives the analogy of the "good shepherd." He describes the special relationship between Himself and his followers, pictured as sheep. "And the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers" (v. 4-5).

Sheep come to know their shepherd intimately, down to his manner and the sound of his voice. They trust him because of what he does for them; he has earned their trust. Jesus Christ, the good shepherd, has earned your trust because of who He is and what He has done: "The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep" (v. 11). Jesus did far more than pull us off a ledge or out of a pit. He took our blame, and accepted the punishment of a righteous God, all so that we wouldn't have to pay for our sins with our own lives.

During this season, as we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, recall the words in verse 3, "He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." When you hear Him call your name, follow Him. He will never steer you wrong.

The words of the old hymn come to mind, "Savior, like a shepherd lead us, much we need Thy tender care!"

Love God – Love People

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Watch out for Salad Bars!

Passed by a salad bar the other day....lots of stuff on it...looked inviting....and it made me think...

Whenever people reject the authentic, they're open to anything and everything. Today's spirituality is generic. I would call it a "salad bar" spirituality. The attitude is, "I'll have a small order of Christianity--I like that "judge not" part and the Golden Rule, but cut out all the rest--add a little Hinduism and some Buddhism, maybe some New-Age spices..." If you have that kind of mentality, a lot of people will arise to serve it up.

But does everyone who claims to speak for God actually speak for God? No! In Matthew 7:15, we're warned to beware of false prophets. When you decide to go through the narrow gate, you'll find some hanging out by the gate who want to widen it. They don't agree that there's only one way to get to the Kingdom, through that narrow gate. Who are they? They're fake sheep. They look like sheep, but inwardly, Jesus said, they're wolves.

Even under the umbrella of Christianity, the lines of truth are getting fuzzier. Some years ago, the World Council of Churches sponsored a symposium of 25 theologians who came up with a document that included this statement: "We find ourselves recognizing a need to move beyond a theology which confines salvation to the explicit personal commitment to Jesus Christ." That is helping pave the way for the compromise of truth.

You don't have to look for the wolves; they'll come to you. And they'll be beautifully disguised. They'll seem sincere and good, and they'll seem to love. But don't be swayed by someone's charm or education, or even by signs. Lift up the fleece and see the wolf underneath.

Here are some good tests for finding the wolves.

Their character: When the Holy Spirit comes into a person He starts changing that person, and it will be evident. Look for the fruit of the Spirit, found in Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, etc. These will be lacking in those who are false.

Their creed: That means what they say about God. The creed of false prophets is that there is no narrow gate, that there are many ways to God. They'll deny the essentials of the historic Christian church, and they'll attack the person and work of Christ. You should follow the example of the Bereans in Acts 17:11. The Bereans didn't accept even Paul's word, but they "searched the scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so." Doctrine matters!

Their converts: Watch the effect of the teaching that is being disseminated in the lives of those who are receiving it. It's not always readily apparent, but it will eventually erode their spiritual walk.

So stay in the Word, listen with discernment, don't be fooled by sheep costumes, and stay away from that spiritual salad bar!

Love God - Love People and encourage them to grow in their relationship with Jesus.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Run (Insert Your Name) Run

How hard will you try to avoid some undesirable job? Do you wait to clean the house until you can't see the furniture? Do you refuse to work on your taxes until your spouse threatens to leave you? Some people will do anything to get out of a hateful task.

That's pretty inflexible, but when it comes to stubborn, not too many people would rival the prophet Jonah. God tells Jonah to go preach to the city of Nineveh. Nineveh was about 500 miles northeast of where Jonah was in Galilee. So Jonah takes off west toward Tarshish, which was probably at the other end of the Mediterranean Sea. It's like if God told you to go to New York, and you got on a boat bound for Australia. Think about this. He's a prophet! He should know it's impossible to run from God. Psalm 139 says, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?"

So God sends a storm. And Jonah tells the crew to throw him out and God will stop the storm. Think of that: Jonah knows what's going on. He knows who is causing the storm. The heathen sailors on the ship softened their hearts, but Jonah hardened his. His reaction? "I'd rather die." Proverbs 15:10 says, "Harsh correction is for him who forsakes the way," and Jonah found this out.

So then God sends a fish to swallow him. And Jonah spends three days inside before he asks God to save him. This is one stubborn guy! Notice the two phrases "But Jonah..." and "But the Lord..." (1:3, 4; 4:1, 10). This whole story is a duel between God and Jonah. It's not a big surprise who's going to win!

In the end, stubborn Jonah says, "It is better for me to die than to live." And God chastises him for having more pity for a plant than for an entire city (chapter 4). Notice who gets the last word!

Here's the point. With some, God will simply speak and they comply. Others are more hard-headed, and need extreme measures. Samuel heard the voice of the Lord calling to him and said "Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears." On the other hand, Saul of Tarsus had to be knocked down and blinded before he would listen to God.

If the still, small voice won't work with you, you may just want to buy some storm insurance! How much easier just to listen to Him, and then obey Him! Don't be on the run. He'll always catch you.

Love God – Love People