My sheep listen to my voice…

John 10:26-28

New Living Translation (NLT)

“26 But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me,” (emphasis mine)

Part of this verse rang loud in my mind one day a few months ago. Something happened that I have not been able to forget. I think of it often and I am ever so amazed at how God teaches me Truths every day. This particular teaching was more of a reminder, one that I desperately needed.

I started a new job a few months ago. I have been looking and applying for about a year.  Needless to say the new job was a blessing and a relief. This particular office is set up in such a way that once you walk through the front door you are standing in front a receptionist desk; I sit at a desk toward her left. Toward my right is an office that belongs to one of my boss’(let’s call him boss #1)  and directly across the hall is an office that belongs to another one of my boss’(let’s call him boss #2). Now if you can imagine the set up one day early in the work day and my first week on the job one of my boss’ called my name. I immediately rose from my desk and walk into boss #2’s office and asked, “Did you call me?” His reply was “No” and the other boss (boss #1) called out “I did.” I responded, “In time I will get to know the difference in your voices” and I have.

Later that day I thought about what took place earlier and how I sometimes, ok, MOST of the time struggle to discern the voice of God. How even now that I am working again I don’t seem to spend as much time with Him as I want to…as I NEED too! This is why many times I struggle hearing the voice of God. I hear a voice calling out to me (as my boss did) and I enter the wrong office. The problem with that is the person’s office I enter may not be as kind as boss #2 and say “It wasn’t me who called you.” I take this not as just a reminder but also a warning.

The more I spend time in this job that God gave me the more I recognize people’s voices, there character, and their personalities. It is part of spending time with people. It goes the same for spending time with God. I need for my soul’s sake to be able to discern the voice of my God because if I don’t recognize His voice that is when I can be led astray. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they FOLLOW me.” My favorite part of this is a threefold promise. If we know His voice and listen to His voice we have eternal life, will not perish and NOONE can snatch of from Him. NOONE! Praise God!

My question for you is a simple one…

Do you follow a voice that you do not recognize? You’re not sure? If we don’t spend time with God and learn to recognize His voice then most likely we won’t follow Him either. Beloved, spend time with God today, don’t delay. He will never lead you astray!

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Keep Digging…

Forgiveness. For me that is one of those words in the English language I would like to remove. For the Christian, I believe it is one of the most powerful tools God gave us. After all it was God who sent His one and only Son to die on our behalf for the FORGIVENESS of mine and your sin. Whether you accept that forgiveness is not the point. The point is He did it knowing many would reject his gift. That is exactly what it is a gift.

When we forgive someone the point is not whether or not they receive it. The point is that we forgive them for whatever they have done. It is a heart issue.  The Bible clearly states that we are to forgive “7 times 70”. I don’t know about you all but I know there is one person in my life that I am pretty sure is at number 399! I think we all have those people in our lives. I am far from perfect. I need forgiveness as well. I don’t always say the right thing or do the right thing and I have to ask for forgiveness.

I have written in my journal, out of the Message Bible from Romans 8, “the best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are thing to do and places to go.” I confess, I hold on to unforgiveness. I needed to take it and bury it once and for all. That is exactly what I did.

There are two people that I struggle with. One is a distant part of my life and one comes and goes but both I had to forgive. These two people have caused me a great deal of pain. I was holding on so tight. They have inflicted wounds in my children’s hearts that I see when they talk of the relationship. When I would see this in my kids I held on tighter! It was crucial for my relationship with Christ to grow and develop that I forgive these people. You may think I am a crazy person after I share with you what I did. I don’t care…really I don’t. It was a release and freedom I have never experienced in my life!

I took half a day and wrote them letters. It was letters that I knew I would never send. I poured every hurt, every arrow thrown, every dagger drawn, I let it pour out from heart. I didn’t sugar coat anything. I told it exactly how I saw it. I realize there are always two sides to every story. I, at this moment in time, was focused on my side of the story. My hurt. When I got all typed out that was done wrong to me. God spoke to my heart. He spoke to my heart and said, “Now write your part in it”. I stopped and thought about it. I thought about our whole relationship. (I want to quickly say that if you have been abused in anyway, sexually, physically, whatever you did not have a part in that evil act!) There was a lot of things I could’ve done different. There was a lot of times that I just reacted and used no self-control when it came to my own words. Then the biggest part that God revealed to me was my heart. My heart toward these people was cold, hard and just plain ugly. There was no love. I allowed my hurt to harden my heart. God showed me myself. In these relationships there was no reflection of His Son.

I printed the letters, deleted them from my computer, shredded them, placed them in a paper lunch bag and wrote on the outside of the bag ‘FORGIVEN’. I went outside and found my husband’s shovel and proceeded to go into the wooded area of our yard. I started to dig a hole. I dug and dug and dug and dug until I looked at my hole and was satisfied that it was deep enough for the purpose I had intended. God spoke to my heart again and said, “dig deeper”. I dug deeper. I asked, “Lord is this deep enough?” He said, “dig deeper.” I dug deeper. “Lord, is this deep enough?” He said, “yes.” I placed my brown lunch bag with my letters of forgiveness in the hole and I read these words, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For“whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:8-12.

I through the index card that the Scripture was written in the hole and I proceeded to fill in the hole. Packed the dirt down tight and placed some rocks on top of it as a reminder. The reminder was for me. All those things done, feelings, situations are dead. When I see that spot and I may have certain feelings come up in my heart I can say “I buried them, they are dead!” For me this was a physical expression of my forgiveness. Every step was significant and had meaning. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have prayed about this many times but when I physically took part in the forgiveness process it impacted my heart and my life like never before. I left that spot in my yard different. Changed. I felt freedom and it is a wonderful feeling! Forgiveness is freedom. Freedom is power.

Maybe the person reading this needs to forgive someone. Maybe you need to ask someone to forgive you. I pray whatever one you are that you do it and quickly. Remember “God’s Spirit beckons, there are things to do and places to go.”

 

 

Amazing Love

Amazing Love, do you know that song?

Amazing love,
How can it be That You, my King, should die for me?
Amazing love,
I know it’s true.
It’s my joy to honor You,
In all I do, I honor You.

Does it amaze you that Jesus would lay down his life for us? Not just those who believe in Him but for those who never will. That is amazing! Unfathomable! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!

Jesus gave it all for us. Some ordinary men gave their lives as well. Why? To make Jesus’ name known among all people. The more I learn about them the more their faith inspires me.

This week as I prayed and prepared my lesson for Wednesday I became overwhelmed by the sacrifice of so many before me. Do you know how we got the English translation of our Bible? If you don’t I urge you to do some research. Google® names like John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Miles Coverdale, John Purvey, William Whittingham. Many of these men died because they believed that it was important for ordinary people (people other than scholars, bishops, the Pope) to have a bible that they could read and understand. A bible that spoke to the people’s hearts.

The simplest way to explain how we got the original Bible (Scripture) is this:God gave us His word through 3 means. Revelation, Inspiration and Transmission.

Revelation is God’s communication to man (Romans 1:18-21).

Inspiration is divine influence (2 Timothy 3.16; 2 Peter 1.21)

Transmission is the process by which the biblical manuscripts have been copied and recopied. I just wanted to clarify between the original and the English version.

God knew all of these things. He foreknew and determined what books would make up what we call the Bible. If you do not believe this than you will be haunted by confusing and destructive doubts. He expressed perfectly and infallibly the truths which God wanted to convey to mankind. The Bible is Truth. The Bible is the final authority.

Going back to Wycliffe, Tyndale and the rest of the men who were martyrs for translating the bible to English. It seems crazy to think in this day and age that anyone would die for wanting people to have the bible in their own language, doesn’t it? I had to ask myself why did these men die? I have an English translation. Many versions as well. Many of us do. So the question could very well be stated, Why did they die for me?

The church felt threatened. Whenever this would happen the church would declare the person a heretic and have them killed. Problem solved. This was more common than people would think. You see, the church wanted the people to come INSIDE to teach them what they wanted them to know. Men like Wycliffe and Tyndale wanted to bring God’s Word OUTSIDE to the people. (Today the people would mean the housewife, the trucker, the police officer, the farmer, the preschool worker, the greeter at WalMart). They wanted the heart of Jesus to be brought to the people in a language that spoke to their heart. The church didn’t like it. They wanted to keep everything inside with them where they controlled it all. The refused to break with tradition. Did you hear that? They refused to break with tradition!

The Good News of Jesus Christ is not meant to be kept locked up tight in a building! Jesus commanded us to Go into all of the world making disciples. Go!

Does this strike a chord with some people? I suppose it will. You may see already where I am going with this. I myself had to repent. I am not a go-er. I find myself comfortable many times right where I am. God has other plans for me and for you. He commands us to go.

What have we done to the word of God that so many died for? I pray as William Tyndale did as he burned at the stack. “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.” I pray for the Lord to open the eyes of the church (this includes myself). We have made programs, events, and more programs to entice the people to come IN. We have replaced the message of the Good News and the presence of God for showmanship. Shame on us! Jesus and His disciples never gathered at a meeting with the elders in the synagogue to discuss how they can attract people to bring them in. Can you imagine that?

Jesus, “Now Peter what are some of your thoughts on how we can attract people to come to our church and grow our numbers?”

Peter, “Let’s build our synagogue bigger so that the people will notice and want to check it out! ”

Matthew, “I know, I know, we can have sound equipment and get the best of the best singers to sing for us and that will draw them in.”

Jesus, “Sounds good. I will present it to the people as a ‘strategically planned out plan’.”

Ridiculous! I think you get my point. I am not saying there is anything wrong with stragegy it is the way we put it out there that is the problem. We make strategies that don’t involve going and doing something. We must Go. Go into the communities as Jesus did. Lay down our lives for those who haven’t heard the Gospel or the name of Jesus. Help those in desperate need of a Savior. Reach out! Make relationships. Build trust. Share Jesus. Our hearts need to grow a burden for the lost. Jesus said it. I didn’t make it up. Go.

I am inspired by what I have learned about these men and how deeply God has touched my heart with the Truth of His word. It is not for man that I labor but it is for my Master, Jesus Christ. May You, Jesus, always be the One I keep my eyes on. Every day I am more and more desperate for Your presence. I crave Your attention. I seek Your will in all I do. May my words and deed be pleasing in Your sight and hearing. I pray that we all have a burden for those who have not heard the saving name of Jesus.

I pray that many leaders in the body of Christ get their eyes off of themselves and their own agendas and turn back toward You before it is too late. I pray that if community and outreach is not a burden on our hearts that You Lord grow that desire in us. If reaching the lost is not our priority and making Your name great than please Lord bring us down from our position of authority until we are able to submit to You. I thank You for your amazing love Lord, that You would lay down Your life for us. I thank You for the faithfulness of the many before us that gave their life so that Your name would be made known and we are able to have a relationship with Your amazing Son, Jesus. It is in His Holy name that I pray. Amen.