Not to Us, O Lord! (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

After 70 long years in captivity, the people of God are allowed to return to Jerusalem. They were exiled many years before because of their dishonor of God; they had forsaken Him; they had worshipped other gods; they had defiled the Temple bringing other gods into it. Their hearts were rock-hard toward Yahweh–the consequence was many long years in a foreign land under pagan rule. But, after their divinely appointed “time-out” to think about what they had done, they are permitted to return to their own land.

However, it is indeed a different lot of people who find themselves freshly navigating the Promised Land. Many of those exiled have perished over the length of 70 years; it is a new generation, many of whom have never set eyes upon the city, which is in ruins. The many stories they have heard of the grandeur of Zion are amended as they witness the broken walls, the devastated infrastructure, and saddest of all, the iconic Temple which lies in ruins. Yes, it is a different lot.

Continue reading “Not to Us, O Lord! (Shepherd’s Echo)”

A Manner Worthy (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

In Matthew 16, Christ made the prophetic declaration, “Upon this rock I will be my church.” Upon what rock? Upon the statement just uttered by Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” It is upon this truth, this foundation that the Church would be constructed. In times of grace, and through difficult times, Christ has faithfully continued to fulfill that promise.

“I will build my church.” Christ was building it for a reason. Obviously, the Church had a mission; even today the Church still has a mission. So, what is that purpose?

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All Blogged Out

No, this is not a blog about my desire to wrap things up here at TheShepherdsPen. Nor is it intended to be a rant about the follies of social media, though that itself is a long overdue article; anyone with computer access could justify its dissolution in some measure. This is simply a caution about values and time – using a most precious resource to our spiritual benefit.

In antiquity it’s my understanding that the oral tradition served mankind well for centuries in the transmission of information. Pictures in the dirt and sand paved the way to greater clarity. Along the way, I gather that sticks and maybe even stones were used to facilitate the narrative of instruction. Over time, various figures were carved into rocks and drawn upon hillsides in order to further the great cache of information to future generations. Eventually, mankind employed drawings upon elements which became the precursors of the paper world. Mediums were fabricated; “paper” out of papyrus, and vellum, or “leather paper.” Though new mediums of storage had been created, I would imagine that only the most valuable information would have been committed to these precious pages of real estate.

The manufacture of paper and ink was the natural outflow in order to transmit this data, it’s perceived valuable data to future generations. Though available and abundant, it was the elite of mankind who could read and write and so, were solely privy to the depths of information which had been gleaned over the years. 

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The Myth of Pastoral Authority (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

Buried deep within the pages of the letter to the Hebrews is a verse which is all too often overlooked in its significance…Yet, in its brevity, it describes the pastoral relationship between the shepherd and the sheep, the pastor and the congregants. At one extreme, it touches on pastoral authority, at the other, it affirms the sobering shepherding responsibility of the pastor.

The verse is Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”

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Letters of Christ (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

Few if any will ever surpass the metaphoric and poetic genius of Paul in his masterful ability to paint a picture in the mind of another. Through his epistles, he draws upon and captures profound imagery to clarify the portrait of who we are in Christ. The letters to the Corinthians alone are loaded with them. The Body (1 Corinthians 12). Agrarianism (1 Corinthians 3). Architecture (1 Corinthians 3). Temple (1 Corinthians 3). Leven (1 Corinthians 5). Soldiering (1 Corinthians 9). Marriage (2 Corinthians 11). The Aroma of Christ (2 Corinthians 2). Stewards of the mysteries of Christ (2 Corinthians 4). Jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4). Ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5). What beautiful illustrations of the intangible suspended upon the grid-work of our physical world.

Nowhere, is he more at the level of perfection than in the first verses of 2 Corinthians 3. The metaphor is the simple vision of quill and paper, upon which a letter is penned. Paul defines his mission as one of stewarding letters.

“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you? You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:1-3).

Some felt that Paul still owed them some measure of validation of his apostolic calling–proof that the hand of God was upon him. They desired tangible evidences of his ministry! Paul had led them to Christ, founded their church, and had continued to foster growth in their spiritual walks.

Paul communicates they had to look no further than their own lives for commendations of his ministry. To Paul, those in Corinth whose hearts had been written upon bear the witness of the Divine; they have become living epistles, living letters of truth as testimonies to the world, and thus, validating the ministry of Paul.

These “letters” were the fruit of Paul’s efforts to communicate the transformational presence of Christ in a person’s life. In that these letters were observed, or read by people, these “epistles” communicated the presence of God which they could enjoy as well.

In reality though, the credit of authorship is ascribed to Christ; Paul was simply the “mailman” so to speak who was caring for the delivery of such correspondence. Christ is, was, and always will be the author of such transformation in any person’s heart. Christ is the Author of such amazing grace who continues doing such a good work in those whom He has called.

The metaphor indelibly prints this picture upon our minds. It is not a mere quill and paper, but the tablet written upon is the heart of the person, the essence of being, the very soul of any given individual. Even better than that, the ink employed is the Spirit of the living God–Wow! Let that soak in! Christ works in conjunction with the Holy Spirit to scribe such great missives.

How had Christ written upon their hearts? Buy delivering them. Healing them of hurts. Rescuing them from their sinful ways. And giving them such a sure and certain hope for the future. These letters affirm God’s grace upon each one. Maturing Christians are the true credentials of a healthy ministry.

God is the supreme author of life and has allowed the powerful testimony of your life to be witnessed by all people. You are a letter to be read by the world for the glory of Christ.

Open up!

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

More Than Conquerors

In my mind, 2018 will go down as the year of the offended, the “year of the victim.” How many people I heard lament that they were offended by this, that or the other thing. By something. By everything. By Someone, by everyone. Everyone seemed to be crying “foul!” “I am a victim.”  “Ouch! I am hurt.” “Somebody was mean to me! I didn’t get what I wanted.”  “It was somebody else’s fault.”

On social media. In the news. In the coffeehouses. There was the lament that life had simply gotten the better of them. I wish I could say that it ended on December 31st, but it didn’t; that victim status lingers and has oozed right on into 2019.  To be honest, I for one, have heard enough. 

I wish I could say that Christians were exempt from this sort of talk, but we are not. I am becoming increasingly concerned the evangelical witness is absorbing the posture of the secular world; one of victimization, rather than conqueror

True, Jesus said that we would be persecuted (John 15:20). And though it’s not bad to understand that, when we let it steal our hope, when we stride with heads down, we miss what the good Lord has for us.

When presented with adversities, we can respond along a spectrum of ways.  On one end is what I would call the Constant Victim Status (CVS)…Simply stated this is the mindset of looking through the lenses that life is out to get you, has gotten you, and will continue to do so; sort of an Eeyore mentality. At the other extreme is knowing and believing that we are more than conquerors, that the “game,” the battle has already been won. God is the Victor, and we are on the winning side. 

In Romans 8:31-39, Paul asks a flurry of questions regarding the indisputable, truth which is still real even in the face of adversity, truth of our security in Christ. 

Rom. 8:31  “What then shall we say to these things? If Godisfor us, whoisagainst us? 32He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36        Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.”

37But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,39nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Though we live in a fallen world, though we are dying – being put to death, we are not victims, never will be, never victims. We are no longer separated from God, but are enveloped in the love of God in Christ. We have never been called to be victims of culture. We may be persecuted, but we are not victims of anyone; let us walk in that truth. Choosing to live in another posture is choosing to live below our privileges in Christ. 

Even in the midst of adversity, God has His hand on us, and He uses those “abrasions” as implements in the Potter’s hands – as articles to refinement. Earlier in Romans Paul confirms that God is always at work in the great process of our sanctification, and sometimes trials are a part of that course.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestinedto become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:28-30).

Sometimes discomfort. Sometimes pain. Undergoing the process of sanctification, but never victim.

Brothers and sisters, the war has been won; we are simply engaged in the peripheral battle. The supreme prize has already come our way, at least in part as we are the recipients of a restored relationship with God through the blood of Christ. And, nothing! Nothing will be able to chisel a division between Him and us.

I don’t mean to degrade the difficulties of life, any pain or loss, but when we have a choice to waddle in the mire or not, we should choose to identify as those who overwhelmingly conquer. What sets us apart, or what should set us apart is the assurance, the confidence of being in the camp of the redeemed.

Next time you feel a bout of the selfies coming on, roll around in these verses a bit; they are like catnip for the soul. They remind us of all that is already ours in the heavenly places. We are more than conquerors, we are sons and daughters of the King, the victorious King.

The victory is already yours. Seize it!

A Currency of Contrition (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

If there is one thing in which we as humans seem to excel, it is the ability to sabotage our relationships with God. The unimpeded intimacy mankind had in the Garden was brutally severed by sin. Through disobedience, Saul destroyed the relationship he had with God, and lost the anointing. David seemed to do this with regularity, and with efficiency. Israel got it down to a science; how to resist the grace of the Lord.  In fact, we have all tasted of the distance between us and God, all caused by a lack of our own faithfulness.

Back to David, the shepherd, who in Psalm 23, had enjoyed the anointing and nurturing of the Shepherd; I would guess few have savored that level of extended, fostered care from Yahweh. And yet, later, by the time of the 51st Psalm, it is a very different picture as David has just pronounced the words, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Indeed, he had.

Called to account by the prophet Nathan, David had no option but to recognize his own sin. But, it had taken him some time to get to that place.

From high atop his palace, he had eyed a beautiful woman. Desired her. Took her. Got her pregnant, and set in motion the elaborate plan of deception, betrayal, and murder. Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, returns from battle, refuses to go to his home preferring to be near his king. David seeks to send him home to his wife in order to cover the tracks of sin, but that was not to be; Uriah still remained at the palace. For his loyalty Uriah would receive a letter from the hand of the king, a death sentence, sending him to his death in the line of battle.

This man David had coveted another man’s wife, committed adultery, he had betrayed, placed Bathsheba, and indeed his own desires as a god before him. In all, he had in one fell swoop violated or broken a majority of the 10 Commandments, dishonoring God and man. So, how is it that David is considered a man after God’s own heart? How could these words be those which would describe one of the vilest offenders of grace in all of Scripture?

May I suggest the clearest answer is the way he sought restoration with God?

Psalm 51 indeed finds David in a very different place, as he confronts his sinful nature. He pleads forgiveness for his sin, and not only that, but for a total transformation of his heart.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

The word create is used only to speak of divine creation; only God is able to transform the darkened heart of man. But David also pleads for the continued desire to do that which is right in the eyes of God.

All this is good and necessary, yet I believe what really sets David apart is the gleaning of truth he reveals in verse 16-17 of this Psalm.

“For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

David had vast amounts of wealth to bring to the altar. He had livestock to spare. At his disposal could have been hundreds or thousands of animals which could have been sacrificially used to “absolve” him of his sin…but that wasn’t the way God wanted it. God was not looking for trite displays of remorse. You see, David could have provided countless sacrifices which cost him nothing. No investment. No sorrow. No contrition. And David understands that; he knows that God wants more than a superficial demonstration of contrition; what God wants is an individual whose heart is rent at the thought of failing to walk faithfully in the grace of the Lord.

For all that David gets wrong, he gets this right. What God desires brought to the altar is a spirit which is broken at the thought of violating God – a heart which is repentant.

So, how do you approach God when sin has set a chasm between the two of you? (You didn’t think I was going to let you off the hook, did you?). A rote prayer? A glib confession? A bill casually tossed in the offering plate? A donation to a charity? Gracing a church with your presence every so often? Flat-out denial of any wrongdoing? Yeah, I know, huh? Ouch!

God wants your heart. Let me suggest the next time you seek to restore communion with the holy Sovereign, you bring your heart, your contrite heart as the perfect submission to our holy God.

That currency of contrition is redeemable 24/7.

The Shortest Prayers (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

“God Bless America.” How many times throughout the day is this phrase uttered in the nation? A sacred entreaty to the Sovereign of the universe, the Giver of life, the eternal God. It is a prayer pleading for God’s help, for His direction, for His protection. We are asking for Him to make His presence known through an affirmative response. Yet, action after action seeks to reject God and remove Him from the fabric of the United States, a nation founded upon the God and fundamentals of the Bible. We have driven prayer out of the schools, and wonder why God doesn’t seem to be there, and why discipline is such an issue. We insist on the removal of the Ten Commandments from courthouses and are amazed at the level of rebellion in the land. We abort millions of lives annually and still have the nerve to ask God to bless our lives. Our nation, founded by God-fearing people is quickly becoming a nation of atheists.

There is an old saying; “There are no atheists in a foxhole.” This was no more apparent than in 2001 after the World Trade Center bombings. The Sunday following and for several months, churches were filled with concerned, fearful and grieving congregants. They were seeking to be comforted, consoled, healed. They were looking for answers, and God seemed the only Person from whom to seek answers. Gradually, as confidence came back, those large numbers of attendees diminished until numbers were back to pre-911 “normal” levels. The strategy seemed to be the same, we ask for God’s help, but only until we think we can “handle it.” After we have things under control, we want God to be scarce.

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Pharisee!

Have you ever met a Pharisee? Stop and think about it. Have you ever met, or maybe even engaged with a Pharisee? I am sure for some of us we would answer, “Well, of course not! They went extinct sometime after the time Jesus walked the earth…Didn’t they?” Or maybe, “I think I saw one once in a museum, next to the Dodo Bird, the Duck-billed Platypus, and the Saber Tooth Lion.”

Yet, I would contend, that if you have been in the church for any amount of time, you have indeed crossed paths with a genuine, walking talking, blood pumping, fire-breathing, real-life Pharisee. I know I have. 

We have had, and this side of glory we will continue to have those legalists, those who would impose burdens upon others that they themselves are not willing to carry. Those great impostors of the faith who will impose their graceless theology upon the weak, in order to honor their “lord.” They know Scripture passages pretty well. They have a response. They argue well. And they are bold as all get out. 

The reason that I contend you have met a Pharisee and that you didn’t know it is because they looked everything like a sheep – they looked like one of the flock. In Matthew 7:15, Christ says of them,“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

Hmm. So, are we doomed because we cannot even identify the enemy? Um, no. Not quite.

They arein camouflage, but, plenty is written in Scripture regarding these nemeses – allow me to point out just three identifying characteristics:

They Bear Bad Fruit
Theirs is a Barren Lot

“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thornbushesnor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.”

Christ says in Matthew 7:16-20 that Pharisees produce no good fruit–no godly fruit. He does not say that they fail to produce any fruit–just that their fruit is nothing good. Any fruit produced is unproductive in the Kingdom, and ineffective to further the cause of Christ. In fact, they have no ability to produce, or bear fruit of any redemptive nature. 

Just as is communicated in John 15, any branch which is not connected to the vine will not bear fruit.

They are Graceless
Theirs is a Powerless Gospel”

“…Therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they saythingsand do not dothem.They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much asa finger” (Matthew 23:3-4).

The passage in Matthew tells us that they hold to a double standard. They strain to hold others to a standard to which they themselves are unwilling to submit. We would call them hypocrites. They would impose a moral code which, in the end, would save no one. They forsake the grace of the Gospel. 

They Exalt Themselves
They seek maximum publicity of their Holiness”

Matthew 6:5 warns, “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the streetcornersso that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.”

“But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tasselsof their garments.They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues” (Matthew 23:5-6).

They broadcast their high level of understanding.
They promote their works of charity and righteousness.
They long to be seen doing religious things.
They are eager to drop names of their prominent “friends.”
They freely announce their exhaustive long hours of prayer before the throne of God. 

Matthew 23 presents a fuller profile of these thorns underfoot and their attending woes. Fruitless, graceless, sanctimonious showboats. In short, they are unhealthy, unaccountable, unteachable, and subversive. That is why Christ cautions to beware the false prophets, the ravenous wolves – Pharisees! They are out there. You rub shoulders with them. Sit near them. In fact, they are indeed all around us. They are anything but extinct.

One last thing I should point out about Pharisees…they are convinced that they are doing good, and in the camp of the redeemed…They are not! 

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heavenwill enter.Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

Yes, you have met them strewn throughout the Church. They vie for leadership in the Church. They are vessels of destruction. And they themselves do not recognize that they are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Beware!
“…for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance” (Mark 13:22-23).

And we are warned! Let’s be careful out there!

He Bought a Church (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

For those who may not yet have heard, we bought a church. By God’s grace Bishop Creek Community Church has finally been able to acquire a building to call “home.”  It is a beautiful building. Vintage church. Architecturally it is great; it was designed and made…well, to be a church. The cost of the church was…affordable. Well, affordable enough. And though many other parties were interested in this property, the Lord seemed to have it placed aside for continued ministry here in Bishop. So glad that this testament to the work of God remained in the community. Perhaps, the cherry on the top is that we have the blessing of St. Timothy’s Anglican Church, with whom we share the building.

To God be the glory!

Honestly, after having been nomadic for quite some time I was beginning to think a building was out of the question. The words, “We closed escrow today” were surreal. Yes, we were joyful. We announced that we had “bought a church.” And in those words, those very words, I was cautioned regarding ownership; I realized that the ownership had never really changed.

700 Hobson Street is still under the same ownership: God’s.

We stand in the footprint of those from St. Timothy’s who have pioneered before us. Who had the vision. Who bought the land. Who raised the funds. Who built the structure, and who have been stalwart stewards. And we are in gratitude for their efforts. It is a great building, but it is a Church building.

We realize that the church building is a place in which we meet; but, it was Christ who bought the Church.

Colossians 1:13-14 tells us how He did that: “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” He paid a price I could not pay.

I remember, as a kid, playing Monopoly. The money inside the game was fascinating, yet in all truth, it was just play money. It really could not buy anything at all.

Can you imagine coming before the Lord of all creation with play money attempting to purchase your freedom from the domain of darkness? Of course not. No other medium of exchange would do. Not Chickens, yen, pesos, poker chips, or fur pelts. And, you can’t wash dishes in Heaven.

Cults promote many paths to God, to enlightenment. Satan loves confusing the one-and-only acceptable currency. Yet, there was only one currency which could purchase our redemption­–the blood of Christ.

Hebrews 9:11-15 communicates the value of that medium of exchange: “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.”

Those words never get old! Christ paid for our redemption with the only acceptable currency: His blood.

He owns us, and has purchased our freedom to His glory. The ransom has been paid in full. We remember, we celebrate that action, and that currency so freely given.

We bought a Church building; Christ bought the Church!

Can I get an “Amen”?

GoodBye (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

Most of us speak it several times a day without ever thinking of the origin of the word. In an ever-so-casual demeanor we issue the greatest of divine blessing upon all those from whom we depart. We may issue it in a letter, or even in the course of terminating a conversation on the street. The word is the simple valediction of “Good-Bye”. Most of us may never even think about it, but the word is actually a contraction of the Middle English phrase God be with ye. It was originally shortened to Godbwye and subsequently evolved to the forms we know today as goodbye, or good-bye.

In any case we may never even have considered that we are casting upon that individual the greatest gift we could possibly proclaim for all of their lives, the presence of the living God. The entirety of Scripture communicates the greatest blessing in all of eternity is the enjoyment of God’s presence.  Bet you didn’t know you were invoking such a high blessing in that simple phrase, the intimate, personal, relational quality of the Living God.

Continue reading “GoodBye (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Saturated!

Okay, I am finally ready to admit that I am operating on the brink, in the red zone, well above the sustainable recommended RPM’s. More and more gets added to my plate, and though I have sufficient energy, I know that I can only merit a “B rating” on achievement. Much gets produced, while some falls to the side. Dozens of daily emails demand more than a token response or simple dismissal. I continue to receive weekly or daily email simply because I wanted to read an article years ago. Aahhh!

My life is saturated: I have to ask the questions, “Do you merit the real estate of my inbox?” Or, “The space on my desk?”

Add to that the demands of regular mail. Packages. People. Cars. Family. Projects. Work. And they all add up to being saturated

Saturate: “to treat, furnish, or charge with something to the point where no more can be absorbed, dissolved, or retained; to load to capacity; from the Latin saturmeaning well fed.” When I think of saturated, I think of a sponge held under a faucet, or immersed into a bucket of water until it can accommodate no more – water then just runs over it. 

As a more comedic illustration…let’s take Lucy and Ethyl working at the chocolate factory. At risk of losing their jobs if they do not succeed, their mandate is to wrap candies progressing on a conveyor belt before arriving at the packing room. The scene evolves with the chocolates coming ever faster. Try as they may the women cannot process all of the candies. They stuff them into their mouths, their dresses, and their hats in a futile effort keep the chocolates from entering the next room unwrapped. But they cannot, the task is more than humanly possible; they are over-saturated.

Saturated. Okay, so it’s not exactly a theological word, per se, but it does identify a theological malady. 

In Luke 8:7, “Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out.” And later, in Luke 8:14 “The seedwhich fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of thislife, and bring no fruit to maturity.”

As opposed to being consumed by the strangles of life, Paul encourages Timothy to “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12).

Near the end of his first letter to his protégé, Paul focuses on that which is most important – to take hold of eternal life. The exhortation is that Timothy would seize, or grab hold of the eternal life which is already his. The picture encouraged is one of embracing eternal life with both hands. Paul is calling Timothy back to his divine calling and reminder of his confession of faith – eternal life! 

In John 17:3, Jesus defines this life: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”—It seems clear the exhortation is to grasp fully onto to the life you have received in Christ!

Unlike a child, who attempts to hold something in one hand and pursue “something else” with the other, this exhortation is to grab on with both hands – Two-fisted – not taking it for granted. Paul uses the word Agonizomai, which means “Fight!”… not because it might slip away, or be stolen away, but in order to relentlessly pursue the true value of such a gift.

As Christians we were called (summoned by God), and have confessed Christ as Savior in our lives. And still, our lives are filled to the brim. Saturated! We are sponges, yet we absorb only so much. Hopefully, we don’t fall for the myth that things will slow down someday. In the midst of an ever-demanding world it is good to take inventory.

What is vying for your time, and for your soul? Emails? Life? Things? Knowledge? Chocolates? 

So, what will we do? With a sponge which is waterlogged? With a saturated Life? 

Here are three options I can see:

Option #1: We could leave it alone, thinking it’ll take care of itself… someday…Let me know how that one works out for ya!

Option #2: Get a bigger sponge. This one is a little more proactive, though just as ineffective in providing any long-term solution; even a bigger sponge will fill back up quickly under the constant flow of life.

Option #3: Wring it out. Squeezing out a few of the thorns seems the likely solution in order to guard what is important, to secure space for the priceless gift.

Life comes at you fast. It seems like Kindergarten was only yesterday, then college, and suddenly we’re looking at 60, 70, or 80. We are going to need to be intentional. 

Are we taking hold of our eternal life with both hands? Do we spend time pursuing Christ? Or, is it getting choked out in the Red Zone?

Don’t forget that which is most precious to you as it was to Timothy – Christ!

“He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him behonor and eternal dominion! Amen” (1 Timothy 6:16).

May we honor Him, and may He have eternal dominion over our lives from this day on, for evermore!

Savor eternal life now!

TheOreology (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

Oreos! One of life’s little indulgences. I mean, after all, there are worse things I could do right? Tell me if this sounds familiar. “Oooh, a bag of Oreos! I shouldn’t really but I will open it and have a few. Those were good, maybe just one more, or two, that couldn’t hurt anything, could it? Maybe three. Wow, I like those. Maybe I will have another four or five more, and just skip dinner. What is this stuff inside? Maybe I shoulda got the double-stuf. Where is the milk? These are good dunked. I will have another 5 or 6 and do a few extra sit-ups tonight before bed. Huh? There are only 7 more left in the bag; I guess I will finish those off. What’s the use of trying to save 7 cookies for later? That’s like saving one gulp of milk in the carton. Isn’t it?  Wow! I am full. Hey, who ate my bag of Oreos?”

Continue reading “TheOreology (Shepherd’s Echo)”

True North (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

Many people may say that science disproves the existence of God. Let me propose that science not only proves the existence of God, but if anything, science historically disproves itself. The ancient minds understood there to be only 1300 or so planets. Present knowledge has determined that there is somewhere around 21 billion trillion planets. Also, take for example the brilliant minds of the first fourteen centuries AD that insisted that the world was flat. It was not until the work of Columbus that scientist and the civilized world knew this was false. How about the scientific community that declared that the sun revolved around the earth? That wasn’t true either. It wasn’t until the work of Copernicus that the science reversed its position. And yet, how many other scientific assertions are being promoted as absolute truth?

Continue reading “True North (Shepherd’s Echo)”

The Corpse Flower (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

There is a most unusual product of God’s creation, which grows only in the regions of Sumatra. It is known as the Amorphophallus Titanium. It is a single “flower” that blooms only so seldom. The lower casing of the flower is green on the outside and a deep dark burgundy on the inside. The “stamen” on the inside resembles a large loaf of French bread. It can grow up to 20 feet in height. This oddity of nature is most peculiar in that the odor that it emits is reminiscent to that of decomposing mammal. Hence, it’s more commonly called the “Corpse Flower.”

Why would a flower like this exist? You may ask. Why would something so beautiful have diabolical undertones? Well, here is the “gruesome” truth. The fragrance of the flower draws or lures carcass-eating insects such as beetles and flesh-eating flies that are attracted to the smell of rotting meat. It is these insects that walk on the plant picking up pollen and then carrying this pollen to other plants assisting in the process of pollination. Amazingly enough, when pollination occurs the tip of the flower is at human body temperature thus furthering to deceive the unsuspecting carcass-eating insects.

Continue reading “The Corpse Flower (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Who Let the Dogma Out? (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

It’s rather interesting to me and yet, confusing at the same time how we seem to choose the “appropriate” church to attend. Maybe we go because the speaker is a great orator. Maybe we go because we particularly like the people there. Maybe it’s because the refreshments are the tastiest in town. Maybe it is a large church that allows you to be somewhat anonymous. Maybe it’s small enough to facilitate intimacy and accountability. Or perhaps it is because the building is so beautiful, or that church has an amazing children’s program.

Not to categorically discount those traits but I have to ask, “In selecting a church to attend, is it at all important to understand their particular beliefs?” These beliefs are their “teachings,” what have been historically referred to as dogma, dogmatics, or simply just doctrine. In essence, it is their understanding of truth.

Continue reading “Who Let the Dogma Out? (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Tumbleweeds (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

The curse of sin in the garden launched a lot of adversity into the world. We know that Satan would get thumped in the end for his role in the catastrophe. We know that woman would suffer greatly in all things “childbirth”, and with repercussions in regards to her husband. We also know the great opponent the earth would become to man.

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you…”
(Genesis 3:17b-18a)

The ground itself is cursed because of the disobedience of Adam; as a result, it will begin to produce “thorns and thistles” which are contrary to his labors of gardening.

Continue reading “Tumbleweeds (Shepherd’s Echo)”

The Divine Shepherd

Hey All,

Today I celebrate the beginning of my third year of The Shepherd’s Pen blog. The first year we offered 5 posts a week. Year 2 we offered The Shepherd’s Echo on Wednesday-a reposting of a previously published theshepherdspen, and a new post on Saturday. As the third year begins, we will still offer a Shepherd’s Echo on Wednesday, however, the new posts will come maybe a little less often.

I know that your time is valuable and that there is an endless supply of things to read out there–so,  I do appreciate your making TheShepherdsPen part of your digital fare.

Today’s post is a video (my first video blog) of a sermon on Psalm 23…Hopefully, you know how I feel about that text!

Hope you enjoy!

“The Divine Shepherd” on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIZjQvDvmC4

Just One Question (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

If you were invited to ask God one question; what would that question be?

Even before we are able to articulate complete sentences or phrases, we begin seeking answers to the questions which plague us; it is just in our DNA. So, what would you inquire of God?

Where are you? Who are you? Why do you allow pain? How big are you? Why did you take away my Mother? Father? Or, child? Why do you allow death? How could you send people to Hell if indeed you are a loving God? Do you love me? Can I know you?

Continue reading “Just One Question (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Somebody Blinked

I remember a “game” I used to play as a kid, and in fact still get drawn into it every once in a while with a child; it is the game of stare off. The premise is that two individuals lock gazes until one of them blinks, the implication being that the one who outlasts the other is in some capacity superior–they have won. Sometimes, hands are flung toward the eyes of the opponent in order to force them to prematurely blink, but usually the session ends in short order as one of the two blinks out of necessity or desire, none the worse for wear in the scheme of life, except the surrender of bragging rights. “Ha, ha, you blinked.”

Perhaps, this amusement was an extension of the gunfights at high noon on Main Street in the Old West. The one who blinked first triggered the event. 

Today, most would find little value in this game, at least beyond childhood. Can you imagine such a match at a corporate level? Or adults locking into an all-out engagement at a dinner party? Yet, it seems as though we as Christians have inadvertently been drawn into such a challenge, this time by our culture, yet it is one of a higher gravity-it is the premise that we are engaged in a truth staring contest, with much more on the line–the idea of truth and character. 

Since the beginning man has been embattled in this arena-Adam blinked. The Church has long been locked in this battle with the surrounding culture, and at times too, we have blinked. Christians promote the understanding of God’s Truth; and the culture their version of reality. Over the course of centuries, bouts have endured, with ceded victories on both sides. Often, sadly the people of God continue to blink. We are no less engaged in this great war today. 

Christians have embraced a load of truths and values, and promote them as life. Yet, the church is on display, and the culture is watching us to see if we will abide by that truth we proclaim. Our truth is either confirmed or denied by the life we live. We blink when we begin to surrender our position of Biblical truth. 

The list of casualties of those who have claimed to belong to Christ is massive. Their failures, and our failures, do a disservice to the cause of Christ. 

“But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4).

Our truth, the greatest sacred trust of the church is the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. When we forget, or when we neglect to care for and promote this divine treasure as our highest ideal, we have lost sight of our primary call to the world. 

True, just as Paul communicates to the Thessalonians, this may not always be a popular message to our culture, and it may be poorly received, however, our higher mandate is to serve the Lord, to please the Lord as one who knows our hearts. As I have said before, the truth we proclaim will either be confirmed or denied by the lives we live. And the world looks on. Will they hear the true Gospel? Will they hear that precious treasure which has been entrusted to us?

He was revealed in the flesh–God incarnate.
He was vindicated by the Spirit–His work on the cross was justified.
His was the work which reconciled man to God.
His was the blood which took away sin. 
His work was witnessed by the angels, only His work can save.
His Gospel is to be preached to the nations.
His Gospel brings life to the world. No other name will do so.
His Gospel must be embraced. 
And Christ has taken His seat at the right hand of the Father…in glory!

This is the single greatest sacred message which the Church has been given. That is God’s Truth; That is your truth church! Guard it. Don’t Blink. Don’t ever Blink! 

Culture wants to win, for us to accept its ideology. We want to “win” as well; not that we are looking for bragging rights, but we do want to see God’s truth reign supreme. After all, we are the pillar of such truth. 

Still, the question remains, “Who will blink?”

Jenga Theology (Shepherd’s Echo)

I would imagine most of us are aware of the pastime game of Jenga. The name comes from the Swahili word meaning “to build.” It is the game that begins with 54 wooden tiles that are neatly stacked in levels of three to establish a stable tower. The object of the game is for players to knock out tiles from one level and place them in ever taller and increasingly unstable levels as the game progresses. The game ceases when the actions of one of the players, through the movement of a tile, causes the tower to collapse.

Perhaps in the realm of table games, this is a winner, but it doesn’t work so well in the world of theology. All too often I see people trying to poke holes in sound theology to come up with a “modified” and weakened form of theological understanding, “something not so restrictive.” The resultant effect is a monstrosity of structure that is unstable and filled with holes.

Continue reading “Jenga Theology (Shepherd’s Echo)”

The Gold Star

I remember the days of Sunday School. I loved it! Bible stories and singing. Friends. Cookies and punch! Sometimes, I would score the ever-coveted gold star. Somehow intended to communicate exemplary behavior, it merely indicated that I was there, not that my heart had changed, or that I had moved in a direction of obedience or love, but that I was there. Maybe even, that I had learned a verse, but again not that a change had taken place in me. Still, I was happy to get the stellate recognition, though my motives may have been suspect.

As we get a little bit older, and hopefully a little bit wiser, we are able to assess the motives for our actions, and we can truly ask the question, “Why do I go to church?” Are we still searching for the “Gold Star” of sorts?

It’s Sunday morning and you make your way to church. Your usual parking space. The old familiar building, your old familiar seat. And the same people up front, doing what they seem to do every week.

“So, why am I here?”
Why do you come to church, and why do you come to this church?
Do you come to worship God?
Do you seek the full counsel of God?
Do you seek to follow Jesus?
Have you prepared to be here today?
Have you been speaking to God as to how He may soften your heart?
Do you come here for a blessing?
Do you come here to worship the King of Creation?
Do you truly desire to be conformed to the image of Christ?
Have you prepared to be here?
Have we even opened the Bible in the last week?
Public recognition? In quest of the Gold Star?

We may be a little fuzzy on why drives us in through the doors. Sometimes, I think we forget that we are seeking to enter just a little bit more into the glory of God. Everything we do, or should do is under the banner of giving glory to God.

Some do come to worship. Some come to fellowship. To serve. To learn. Others don’t know why they come.

It’s sort of a given: We come to worship the King of Glory.

So you may ask yourself…
How much church do I need? How much is the right amount? Well, that is a question each individual needs to ask themselves.
Is one hour enough?
Can 1 hour during the week affect the remaining 167 hours?
Is one hour of exalting the Divine Shepherd sufficient?
Is that all you need to be conformed to the image of Christ?

The greater question is am I worshipping God the entire week. Am I ready, willing and eager to worship Him with everything that I have?

God isn’t handing out gold stars for attendance and minimal engagement. He isn’t “grading” based on being on time, bringing our Bible, or the size of our offering in the basket. He isn’t grading on a curve. He is offering eternal intimate relationship with Him to those who have been covered in the blood of Christ, His Son.

Come to worship the Shepherd of your soul, the One who has redeemed you from the dead, the One who has declared you holy, the One who raises you to life eternal.

Gold stars are not always bad, but of all the reasons to make your way to any given church, may I suggest that you consider worship of your loving God as the highest good of your presence. Consider a heart yielded to Him the greatest gift you have to bring.

Psa. 146:1          Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
2       I will praise the LORD while I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
3       Do not trust in princes,
In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.
4       His spirit departs, he returns to the earth;
In that very day his thoughts perish.
5       How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
Whose hope is in the LORD his God,
6       Who made heaven and earth,
The sea and all that is in them,
Who keeps faith forever;
7       Who executes justice for the oppressed,
Who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free.

Psa. 146:8          The LORD opens the eyes ofthe blind;
The LORD raises up those who are bowed down;
The LORD loves the righteous,
9       The LORD protects the strangers;
He supports the fatherless and the widow,
But He thwarts the way of the wicked.
10     The LORD will reign forever,
Your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the LORD!

Sweet Liberty (Shepherd’s Echo)

This is a little something that I wrote and recorded in the ’80s.

Click on the sound bar at top to listen.

Sweet Liberty

Now, She stands tall for all to see, watching over the Land of the Free,
Crowning us with glory sea to sea, God blessed us with our Sweet Liberty.

She cries with silent lips, from sea-washed, sunset gates,
“God will shed His grace on thee.”
Her mild eyes command, the keys to shackles worn.
Oh, she lights the way to opportunity!

Well, She stands tall for all to see, watching over the Land of the Free,
Crowning us with glory sea to sea, God blessed us with our Sweet Liberty.

She holds the word of truth, closely to her heart,
Her freedom rings forever through this land,
May her flame burn bright, from shore to shore.
Let the torch rise high evermore!

She stands tall for all to see, watching over the Land of the Free,
Crowning us with glory sea to sea, God blessed us with our Sweet Liberty.

She stands tall for all to see, watching over the Land of the Free,
Crowning us with glory sea to sea, God blessed us with our Sweet Liberty.

My Shepherd

The Lord is my Shepherd.
The truth of such a statement is life.
The implications of such a truth are legion:
The sovereign Lord of all creation is watching over me.
He is my leader and my deliverer.
I have chosen to follow Him.
He feeds me.
He leads me.
I am a sheep of His pasture; He has called me into His flock.
He knows me.
He knows my name, and I know His.
Yahweh is my Shepherd.
He has taken care of all of my needs.
Never once has this sheep gone untended.
By His grace, He brought me into the Fold.
He walks with me.
He delivers me from evil.
He has pursued relationship with me.
His Spirit lives within me.
Life, abundant life and relationship are mine.
In all this He glorifies Himself.
I am secure. For all eternity, I am secure.
I will forever be His sheep.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).

Chocolate Colored Sprinkles (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

Recently my wife pointed out to me a rather pathetic, but amusing example of how minimal our culture has become. She had received as a gift what we understood to be those great tasting little chocolate sprinkles that you put on top of ice cream or cakes or whatever. Now sometimes, as we all know, those splendid little morsels are not always pure chocolate; sometimes those rascals put mere chocolate flavoring in those things. Well, that’s okay for the most part, in fact, sometimes you cannot even tell the difference between artificial and the real stuff. But these things were simply brown colored grease that made the roof of my mouth slimy.

Come to find out, these are not chocolate sprinkles, or even chocolate flavored sprinkles, but these are chocolate colored sprinkles. You read that right. They were not bursting with real chocolate flavor, or even synthetic chocolate flavor. In fact, they had no flavor whatsoever. All they had to offer was the color of chocolate. This little rip-off in the cake decoration section was only a bottle of brown lard sprinkles. Someone at the corporate level had determined to cut costs, or hassles or whatever, and be so intentionally minimalistic, they offered nothing even close to the real thing. Continue reading “Chocolate Colored Sprinkles (Shepherd’s Echo)”

The Creed

In 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul addresses the Church as “the pillar and support of the truth.” The pillar raises high, and the support upholds the certain treasure of truth; the question must be asked, “What is that truth which is resting on top?” May I suggest that it is the singular greatest “creed” that we could embrace regarding the work and person of Christ? Like a beautiful ring housing a pearl of great price, the Church is commended to be the assigned steward of this truth; Paul communicates this great creed in verse 16.

Paul returns to that body, that corpus of knowledge of truth which is resting upon the Church, and supported by the Church. He doesn’t just assert that the Church is a pillar with truth on top, but here, he affirms that truth as the magnitude of the person and the work of Jesus Christ. Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives us a beautiful Christology, a beautiful array of Christological affirmations. It is a confession. It is a statement of faith, and this one is inspired by the Holy Spirit of God to be in Scripture. It is a creedal statement that unites all true believers, it is that which binds us together, and it is a reminder of what is to remain on top of the pillar.

The Creed:
“By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness. He who was revealed in the flesh was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world and taken up in glory.”

Paul says, “By common confession.” This is what Christians believe, true Christians, but before the creed, he states, “Great is the mystery of godliness.” I wrestled with what that says, “the mystery of godliness.”

I think it is the unfathomability that God would love me. There is a mystery there, why an all-perfect, all holy God would reach down to broken mankind. There is a mystery. Why would God do that for me? I am low. He is high. What would cause an almighty God to do that? And that’s a mystery, but a mystery answered in Christ. If we could even fathom our total depravity and how offensive our sin is before God, we would be humbled by the fact that God loves us more than any sin we’ve ever performed.

He loved us so much that He sent His Son. What kind of a God does that? One who so loves His creation. He desires to restore this broken creation to the original blueprint–such is the mystery of godliness. The plan of redemption of God required that Jesus become like us. God accomplished that as He sent Christ. Paul, in verse 16, gives the shortest account of the Gospel and speaks to the entire redemptive work of Jesus Christ as Savior. You want to memorize a good verse this week? First, Timothy 3:16 is a good candidate–it’s the life of Christ; it’s the purpose of Christ. It affirms the Deity of Christ.

“He who was revealed in the flesh.” I hope you see the incarnation here. At some point–the fullness of time, Jesus Christ is introduced into His creation. John 1 confirms this: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Verse 14 says, “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us.” People looked upon Christ and saw God. It’s the idea of Christmas. Yes, it’s the idea of flesh and bone God. It is the hundred percent man, hundred percent God. It’s a demonstration of God’s love to His creation.

“He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit.” Such brief words that I believe speak to the sacrifice, the quality of Christ, the obedience of Christ, the innocence of Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It speaks to the affirmation of God upon His Christ, His anointed One, from the baptism, to the scourging, to being nailed upon the altar of the cross, to bleeding, to death, and the atonement as the blood of Christ is offered up in the Holy of Holies, and to His resurrection; He truly was justified in the Spirit.

We praise God. We thank God the work of Christ was acceptable. Christ was purposed to redeem the fallen elect, and there was one way to do that. Christ says, “Into your hands, I commit My Spirit” (Luke 23:46). His work was justification for my sin. For your sin. He who was revealed in the flesh was vindicated in the Spirit and seen by angels. Could be that he’s talking about this work of Christ being observed by angels? Amazing! The angels were clued into some wonders taking place.

Peter talks about these angels observing the whole plan of redemption was taking place. It had been announced.  It was put into place. It had been decided before the foundation of the world, but the idea, the understanding of what was to be given to man had been long-prophesied in the Garden in Genesis 3:15. The seed of the woman would bruise Satan. Peter speaks to this salvation, “The prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries.” The prophets are trying to figure out how this redemption is going to take place, how God is going to redeem the fallen.

Peter continues, “seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which have, which now have been announced to you through those who preached the Gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from Heaven­–things into which angels long to look” (1 Peter 1:10-12).

These angels we’re witnessing God’s plan of redemption unveiled. They seemed privy to the plan of redemption to some degree, but it says “things into which angels long to look.” The writing seems to describe their anticipation. “When’s redemption going to happen? Is it now? Is it happening now?!” The terminology paints the picture of angels leaning forward, overflowing with anticipation. They’re excited about how redemption is going to take place, and they’re watching this. They have a front row seat if you will, and they want to turn to the last page of the book. Paul simply says, Christ is seen by angels, but there was an audience in the spiritual realm that was observing–Angels. Privileged to see the plan of redemption unfold.

Paul says, “He’s proclaimed among the nations.” That is the simple gospel call going forth. It is the evangelistic efforts that are conducted through the Church to get people to hear the good news. Paul announces, “He is believed on in the world.” That’s the fruit of redemption.

That is what Christ came to bear–the fruit of reconciliation, redemption, restoration; “believed on in the world” is the response of the elect. Again, as the Spirit is convicting the world in regards to sin and righteousness and judgment, the soil of the heart is prepared. And the Gospel goes forth, and it finds purchase in the soil of the heart. It germinates, and there is regeneration or new life that takes place in the heart of that individual. Paul finishes this creed. He says that Christ is “taken up in glory.” Christ receives back the glory that was His before the world began (John 17:5). Such few words describe the coronation of Christ to His deserved place of glory at the right hand of the Father.

The truth of the Church is not necessarily a physical Bible, but it is the truth of Christ contained in the Bible regarding the person and the work of Jesus Christ. The truth is on top of us, it is on the pillar of the household of God. The light is the truth to be communicated to the world. It’s not academics. It’s not programs. It’s not a carnival. It’s not ice cream sundaes. The light on the hill is the truth of Christ. We are the pillar that shines the light of the way to redemption. God has placed us in a really privileged position, and in a strategically important place.

It is sad to see how many churches support something other than the truth of God, something other than this confession as the number one priority of the Church–Nothing should replace this good news. What we bring to the world stage is the opportunity to hear the Gospel of redemption through Jesus Christ.

He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory.

That is my Christ. That is your Christ.

These words are the dividing line of humanity. Every single person will land on one side of this confession or the other. No programs, no books, no news, or service will preempt the value of this creed, of this work of Jesus Christ.

It’s one of the most beautiful of Christological creeds, affirming who Christ is, and what He has done for our benefit. If you have placed your faith in Christ and in His finished work, if you embrace the truth of these words, He is your Christ.

From Here to There (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

It seems like we spend generous amounts of our time and effort getting from one place to another, figuratively or otherwise. From one freeway to another. From one job to “a better” one. From one dwelling to the next. Maybe even from one emotional state to one that is more satisfying. Yet, often what inhibits us from achieving that goal is some sort of barrier that shuts us down, so we give up. After all, if it’s “impossible” or just too hard we re-evaluate the benefits and lose motivation.

 I can’t help but think of another situation where people are trying to get “from here to there.” It takes place in the book of Exodus. After being in slavery for 400-plus years the Israelites have been reminded that they would be given a land of their own – the Promised Land, originally promised to Abraham. The only problem is that they had to break away from Egypt to get there. Continue reading “From Here to There (Shepherd’s Echo)”

The Beacon of Truth

The character of the Church is always on display!

In the midst of a letter of instruction and encouragement to his young protégé, Timothy, Paul issues a very beautiful reminder of what the Church is, how we find ourselves there, and our mission as a Body of believers.

“I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:14-15).

The Church itself is the household of God, where the elect, those who have been called, house the divine.

Who we are. How we were placed there. And our purpose…

In 1 Timothy 3:15, communicates our function asthe household of God. He references a pillar.  What’s a pillar? Well, a pillar is something upon which something rests. Paul is speaking in a metaphor here. What is the metaphor? What is the pillar of what he speaks? It’s the Church of Jesus Christ. It is the corporate church. It is the universal church. Paul says our mission, the mission of all the other Christian churches in town and across the world… our mission is to be a pillar and support of the truth. A support is something which sustains, that holds up. A pillar is something that exalts and holds high the truth. The household of God is commended to be the custodian of truth– the pillar and support of truth.

When we think of a pillar, we don’t think of a two-foot pillar; do we? We don’t think of a four-foot pillar. We think of a pillar that is tall, 20, 30, 60 feet tall, and whatever’s on top of that pillar can be seen from miles around.

If you looked at some of the pictures of pillars in antiquity, you see that they’re often made up of many stones. They’re stacked one upon each other and they’re tapered down. As they climb taller and taller, they become more and more slender. The craftsmanship of those pillars was extraordinary, and oftentimes you couldn’t stick a piece of paper between each stone because the joint was so smooth. It was honed because of the craftsmanship. Peter speaks of these kinds of stones–worked stones. We are the household of the living God. We are living stones in the household of God. Beautiful imagery of a pillar that is going high into the sky, and upon that pillar is truth.

Paul is writing to the Ephesians, people that live in Ephesus, and just outside of town, there is a temple; it is a temple that was dedicated to the goddess Diana. It was a massive temple, 1.6 times larger than a modern football field. Think about how big that is. There were 127 columns utilized to suspend that temple, but you know what was perched on top of those pillars?

Lies: a false way of understanding God.

These people had a clear visual of what Paul was communicating. Over time, all of those pillars in the temple of Diana came down, all except for one which still stands. Two of those 127 pillars were taken from that temple and used to construct another building that was called the Hagia Sophia–the sacred wisdom, sacred truth; it was used as a cathedral to God, and then subsequently taken over by Muslims and once again, held lies on top of those pillars. It’s now a museum with those two pillars still standing, offering little more than architectural wonder.

Yet, a pillar speaks of stability. A pillar speaks of visibility. It’s the idea of consistency, and reliability, and resiliency of steadfastness.

The Church of Jesus Christ is the column where truth is held. It has been conferred by God, and we have the privilege of communicating this to each other, and to the world around us. The Church then is the holder of truth. Other religions are lies. Do I dare say that in the kind of politically correct world we live in? All other religions are lies? Sounds a little bit exclusive, Kelly. Well, it is very exclusive. There’s only one way under Heaven, one name under Heaven by which men can be saved, and that is through the name of Jesus Christ, through the blood of Jesus Christ. Do you understand how important it is that as we are on display, and our character is on display, that we are abiding in Christ?

Other religions get some stuff right sometimes, but how often is something just a little bit wrong? They leave something essential out. Maybe it’s the deity of Christ. Maybe it’s the correct understanding the depravity of mankind. Maybe it’s the idea of an eternal Hell or consequence or punishment for sin, or the truth of one true God, and only one God, and the love that He has for the world. When you leave one piece of God’s truth out, somebody gets left behind. We should feel a little bit of a burden as we are the supporting agency, and we are responsible for transmitting truth to the world.

Yeah, our conduct is always on display. Our truth is always on display.

Our truth is held high for all to see. If our action is not in alignment with the truth that we profess, we should rightly be called to account by those around us. What is sad is how often something else is erroneously replacing truth upon the pillar of the Church, or what is perceived to be the Church by the surrounding community. How careless some have been over the years, over the centuries to place something else upon the pillar of the household of God. Something like science, something like money, something like prosperity, something like self, something like academics.

Or, maybe even the Social Gospel. How many churches have we seen just die because they placed the Social Gospel as something of greater importance than the gospel of Jesus Christ that saves people from their sin? If we offer someone a cup of cold water, or a meal without taking the opportunity to introduce them to their Creator and how they can be set right with Him, then we’re just giving them a cup of water. Is it bad? No, it’s not bad, but getting them that cup of water might be an opportunity that you would be granted an audience to listen to the love that God has for them. How often are good works paraded on top of the pillar? How often do we put accomplishments up there instead of the truth? How often do we put a cultural event or an aspiration? The truth that rests upon the pillar of the household of God is not a program. It’s not the newest most popular book. It’s the truth of salvation found only by faith in the finished work of Christ.

We are on display, Church…

Legacy (Shepherd’s Echo)

What comes to mind when you hear the word “legacy”? Perhaps it is somebody’s reputation. Maybe it brings to mind the name of quality paint, or a good brand of windows for your home. Still, yet again it may simply bring to mind the image of a quality automobile. How about if you were to hear the word in the context of Father’s Day? Now what does it bring to mind? If you were like most men I would imagine that it means how people will remember you after you have departed from this world (This article just got sober, huh?). Continue reading “Legacy (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Without Fanfare

“And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.’” (Matthew 26:27-28).

These are the words of Christ as He was announcing the only true measure of atonement which would be yielded for the lost of the world. He was describing the foundation for those to come to eternal life through the work, the blood of Jesus upon the Cross. The divine covenant would be the only basis upon which salvation would be granted.

He is the Christ, the Son of living God, and upon this rock, upon this fact He would build His Church, and He has faithfully continued to do so for nearly 2000 years.

Certainly, He has accomplished this through many privileged notables, unlikely vessels through which He would be glorified.

They would include:
His group of followers inspired by the Holy Spirit who would pen the words of God.

People, in the early centuries, with hard-to-pronounce names in faraway places which were hard-to-pronounce as well, studying, investing, pressing, yearning to parse the truth.

Men in long robes, and dusty places vetting proper theology in council settings.

Lives willingly surrendered at the stakes by edicts of unholy alliances.

The reformation years introduced some agents with a passion to return to the orthodoxy surrendered through some pretty dark ages.

Modern-day dynamos have helped to forge His Church through remarkable evangelistic efforts, missional efforts pioneering into hostile lands to share this great message.

Pastors in small hamlets across this blue ball would be building up through discipleship, so that more and more would be equipped to build up, more and more.

Yet, we would be remiss if we counted even this as the full corporate effort, or the full Body of Christ at work. More fruit would come through writing. Through art. Through music. Through prayer. Through encouragement. Through caring. Through meetings. Through cooking. Through revival. Through service. Through every open door of opportunity through which willing servants of Christ could be faithful communicators of the greatest truth for man. Not all work in the Kingdom takes place on Sunday.

How often did the redeemed serve in the dark alleys and byways, in seemingly forgotten lands, in disease infested shallows and narrows, at personal peril or loss of life? And how often did the faithful serve with little fanfare, absent the spotlight? What portion of grace is poured out through His Body 7 days a week!

The little Church in which I serve is one such extension of that grace. Service to the glory of God is taking place all through the week in order to serve the Body of Christ. People serving people. People teaching people. People feeding people. People loving people. People loving Christ. People behind the scenes being the Body of Christ to the glory of God…without fanfare.

Nearly a year ago Bishop Creek became stewards of a building, an outpost in Bishop so-to-speak from which to serve in our little corner of the world. It was a building constructed by people I never knew, and I can only dream of meeting in Heaven. A beautiful building cared for by many saints still living whom I know today. I applaud all those efforts. And it is now our privilege to act as custodians of this grand edifice. But buildings age, and this one was in need of greater “love” than many of us had to yield; it was over-whelming. We had need of grace.

And Christ was still building His Church.

A few months back I received an email. A blanket email from an unknown source, a youth pastor in Colorado asking if his youth group could serve in a summer missions’ trip in any capacity. Hmmm. Was this spam? I found out later that this email went out to 40-50 churches. He had prayed that the one church whom they were to serve would respond…and only one church responded…

Now, I am not saying that we were the most deserving. I am not saying that we were the only ones in need, or that we were even the one with the most need, but we did have need.

Long story short: this last week we were the recipients of a full outpouring of God’s grace through this sister church in Greely, Colorado as a caravan of vehicles made their way to sleepy Bishop, to serve a part of the Body of Christ whom they had never met. Junior high, and high-schoolers engaged in all sorts of things imaginable. Time and space would fail me to list the width and breadth of service, but over 2000 manhours were poured out in service of every kind to our little family. Tedious. Exhausting. Mundane. Hard. We were not forgotten. And it was all to the glory of Christ. All without fanfare. Just the Body of Christ serving the Body of Christ.

No special brick in the side walk. No plaque on any wall. No marching bands to announce their arrival or departure. No Reporters. No confetti. No public accolades from dignitaries. Yet, the Father of all Creation saw it all – That was the desire all along.

This little church from another state had desired to leave His mark wherever they went, that the community of Bishop might somehow see the light of Christ a little clearer than before.  They lived out the verse in Colossians which says:

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17).

And, they lived out the mandate to honor God with all the glory in the simplest of circumstances.

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

I preach grace – I just have trouble receiving grace. This week I had no choice. The imposition of grace was undeniable. Quite an example was issued by many young servants in the church. Servants which could have been doing anything else but spending their time in labor to others.

I am humbly reminded of the grace God extends to each one of us on a daily basis. I am blessed by the grace He lavished over me through His Son. I am reminded to do that for His glory as He continues to build His Church. I am reminded of my call to extend that grace to the world around me. And I am reminded to do that carefully, to do that…without fanfare.