Joy’s Grandeur

Joy’s Grandeur

By Pat Knight

“My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to you—
I, whom you have delivered.
My tongue will tell of your righteous acts”  (Psalm 71:23).

On a second missionary journey, Paul and Silas traveled to Philippi, a leading Roman city where Roman customs were observed and idols worshipped. In Philippi the missionaries were confronted by a demon-possessed slave girl who made her owners wealthy by fortune-telling.

Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, ’In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’ At that moment the spirit left her” (Acts 16:18). Realizing their lucrative business had evaporated right before their eyes, the girl’s owners seized Paul and Silas, dragged them into the public square to the city magistrate, and claimed false charges against them. Mob involvement grew to a fever pitch. Soon the men were stripped, beaten, and thrown into the maximum security cell of the jail.

The men were flogged, a severe form of beating similar to what Christ endured prior to crucifixion. Against bare skin the Romans used a whip fashioned of several leather straps with lead and bone embedded at the ends. Flogging tore open wide gashes of skin. The Jews, by law, restricted the number of lashes to thirty-nine, but the Romans had no limitations. Victims of Roman flogging often didn’t survive the savage punishment.

Following their beating, the two men were led into an inner prison cell where their feet were placed in stocks, serving as added security and extra torture. Physically their bodies were beaten and bloody, but their jubilant hearts could not be broken. Their spirits soared. Paul and Silas knew that all power, joy, and victory reside in Christ alone. They were confident they were serving a faithful God who would intervene on their behalf.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open and everybody’s chains came loose” (Acts 16:25-26).

Because their lives were saturated with joy, the missionaries were able to sing spontaneous, resounding praises to God. How many of us, in similar circumstances, find songs of joy on our lips?

“My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to you—I, whom you have delivered. My tongue will tell of your righteous acts” (Psalm 71:23).The men sang while suffering, for they had vision and trust beyond their current situation. Their witness in song that night communicated far more to the other prisoners than any words they could have preached. If joy were dependent on circumstances, Paul and Silas would have cowered due to pain and injustice. But they were assured that God’s protection was sufficient.

In God’s Word, joy is a command, “rejoice always” (Philippians 4:4), and a gift (Galatians 5:22), demonstrating that when God assigns a task to His children, He lavishes them with help and strength necessary to finish His work. “The trouble with too many of us is that we think God called us to be manufacturers when He really called us to be distributors. He alone has the resources to meet human needs; all we can do is receive His riches and share them with others” (Warren Wiersbe). Let us distribute God’s joy wherever He sends us, to whomever crosses our path.

God’s characteristics fill our hearts to overflowing. Any receptacle that overflows quickly spreads its contents into surrounding areas, seeping into cracks, permanently staining, leaking into remote spots to be discovered at a later time. Jesus’ joy is incapable of containment. It must multiply in the lives of believers, who carry it throughout the world.

Overwhelmed with gladness, our hearts cannot be restrained by a dam of negativity. Joy rolls along like a somersaulting downhill snowball, picking up peace, trust, and hope, wrapping them into a spectacular bundle of unmitigated worship. Trudging through uphill trails of adversity, layers of zeal, strength, and courage naturally melt, seeping onto the pathways of life, leaving behind evidence of an intimate relationship with Jesus our Savior. The dispersing love ministers to others, harvested by those who are desperate to know eternal peace and comfort.

Jesus provides inside-out rejoicing by filling our hearts with a deluge of enthusiasm. In addition, He clothes us with joy. “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy that my heart may sing praises and not be silent. Lord, my God, I will praise you forever” (Psalm 30:11-12). Sackcloth, a symbol of mourning, is replaced by songs of exuberant praise. From the riches of heaven’s own wardrobe room, swishing, elegant robes of rejoicing define us externally as the light of Christ’s joy engulfs our hearts, offering supernatural encouragement. Jesus said, “If you obey my command, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remained in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:10-11).

Joy has the potential to leap boundaries. Those who know Jesus personally acknowledge the splendor of His majesty, initiating a reaction that can best be described as dynamic, triumphant joy forevermore. “My heart leaps for joy and with my song I praise him” (Psalm 28:7). When was the last time you spiritually leaped for joy, demonstrating the thrill of victory with eternal consequences?

When Paul and Silas rejoiced in prayer and song, they weren’t aware of the exceeding great plan God had devised: “The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family” (Acts 16:34). Joy is the consistent result of trusting in Jesus.

Joy divided is multiplied. “To get the full value of joy, you must have somebody to divide it with” (Mark Twain). Joy is contagious. Let us be carriers, proliferating its impact throughout the world.

Great Expectations

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for
and assurance about what we do not see.
—Hebrews 11:1

Great Expectations

By Pat Knight

As I gazed out the window at the bleak winter landscape, I detected a definite lack of color, a bland outlook with no life stirring. With barren expectancy, we prepare our hearts for desolation, reflected in our attitudes and conversation. Are we so mentally programmed with gloominess that even our anticipation of future events is dulled?

Comparing heart focus with environmental conditions is risky, thwarting inward hope and personal growth. It is easy to be affected by the lack of sunshine and warmth in winter. Let us not permit exterior influences to eclipse the radiance with which Jesus penetrates darkness by reflecting His light through our lives. Joy is quickly extinguished by despondency.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). After Jesus’ disciple, Thomas, conquered his disbelief at Christ’s post-resurrection appearance, Jesus taught the eleven disciples, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have  not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). In today’s vernacular we would explain Jesus’ teaching as “blind faith.” In spite of our circumstances, our beliefs don’t change; they are locked securely inside our hearts. Faith in God is the consequence of trust; trust the outgrowth of belief.

If we constantly focus on the negative, our hearts will languish with despair. We’ve all been exposed to a curmudgeon who  projects a pessimistic approach so hopeless that black clouds spontaneously open, dispensing chilly water on a new idea. Cynics have an intimidating influence on positive thoughts, much like the austere environment in winter.

With whom do we communicate to enliven a joyful spirit? God is the Author and Creator of all things good. “Jesus answered, ‘No one is good except God alone’” (Mark 10:18). The good God constantly imparts to us is a reflection of His own divine character of purity and holiness.

After gazing outside at the monotonous winter panorama once again, rather than a change of scenery, I discovered the need for an attitude adjustment. God has the ability to change our perspective with His gifts of joy and peace. Man is unable to conjure up sovereign gifts independently with the power of positive thinking, as some assert. We must depend upon our Lord to supply us with His limitless gifts, always available to those who seek Him. “Take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you” (Ephesians 4:24,The Msg).

We are commanded to fellowship with God, the glorious, victorious Creator of life and peace, joy and light, grace and love. In the new year, let us establish enlightened priorities, recognizing the capacity to alter our lives forever by placing them in God’s care. “Submit yourself, then, to God. Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:7a-8).

Winter, with its unique season of dormancy and hibernation for many living things, is also a period of refreshment, preparing for regrowth; for a magnificent burst of beauty and fragrance that identifies the imminent season of spring. Let us not bear winter grudgingly, but joyfully use the time to develop attitudes pleasing to God. There is beauty during winter unseen at other times of year. Shadows on snow peek around trees, marching like toy soldiers as the sun manipulates the imaginary forms. Sunsets of magnificent proportions and beauty light up late afternoon skies with unequivocal displays of prismatic colors. The deep green of softwood branches and the silhouettes of stark hardwoods in the foreground of high, pristine snowbanks create fantastic visual delights. A full moon illuminates light blue blankets of snow when the dark draperies of night are pulled down upon the world.

What do you envision in the winter season of your life? The bleakness of financial, health, or employment woes, or the unprecedented power, protection, and provisions offered by God Himself? The new year holds unimaginable possibilities and victories. Seek an attitude that reflects Jesus’ submission, humility, and obedience toward His Father. “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).

Jesus could release His deepest hope to His heavenly Father, assured that even at such a late hour God could perform the impossible by cancelling His Son‘s crucifixion. Yet, Jesus believed that His Father’s perfect plan would be accomplished. Christ was convinced that His hope wasn’t misplaced by cross-your-fingers wishful thinking, but as confident expectations resting on God’s promises, free of worry and nail-biting. Jesus trusted in God’s sovereign ability to answer his prayer custom designed for His Son alone. He does the same for us.

Hope is like an restraining anchor at the bottom of the sea. The Christian anchor rises up into the heavenly realms, guaranteeing our personal security. We are sheltered by our sovereign refuge.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).

It is essential for us to value God above all else in our lives. He freely extends joyful delight, anchoring hope and unconditional love. Ask God to transform your priorities. He will lavish you abundantly with the righteousness of Jesus. To live right before God (righteousness) is His ultimate goal for each believer. “The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (Psalm 147:11).

Hope is expressed when we turn toward God with confident expectation during times of trial.

“And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). With inner tranquility, believers relinquish their worries to God and dwell on them no more. Then the victory of God is theirs to enjoy. The full dimension of God’s love and provisions are beyond our comprehension, motivating us to trust Him explicitly.

During one final peek outside, I focused on the glory of God’s creation. Just as the outside world perpetually changes, believers also experience consistent growth and renewal deep within their hearts. We learn patience and perseverance, but most marvelous of all is the imperceptible growth in hope, trust, and faith our Lord accomplishes by His power at work within us, transforming our lives. Expect the unexpected from an exceptional, extraordinary God!

Magnificent Multi-Tasking

Magnificent Multi-Tasking

By Patricia Knight

Considering that most of us gravitate toward energy-saving activities or devices, consolidating tasks to create efficient use of our time is commendable and often successful.

Recently I placed a phone call while preparing dinner, an appropriate time-saver; or so I thought. Both  hands were free for other functions as I nestled the phone between my ear and shoulder. The device soon slipped from its precarious position and launched air-borne to clobber an open jar of maraschino cherries. The impact gyrated the jar, spewing cherry juice in puddles on the countertop, flowing in rivulets down the lower cabinet doors. Before I could predict its next route, sticky liquid accumulated inside my open sandals; my toes were glued together in a quagmire of cherry juice. The phone landed, keyboard down, in a pool of gooey juice. I was quite literally, stuck in one place, encircled with a smattering of red, syrupy liquid. Cleaning up the cherry debacle took more time than accomplishing each task separately. I didn’t bother to calculate the absurd amount of time required to clean the sticky liquid from between the keys of the phone.

Our contemporary lingo is deluged with computer terms, some of which we have adopted for personal use, as with multi-tasking, the concurrent performance of several tasks at once. People have been multi-tasking for centuries; only the name is new. If we were able to perform an activity at a consistent level of excellence, there would be no need for Olympic games, competitive sports, or grading systems in schools. The reality is that no one can repeatedly duplicate exceptional results, particularly when combining tasks.

Our Lord is a magnificent multi-tasker who embodies superior knowledge and wisdom, (omniscient); is  present everywhere at all times, (omnipresent); and is all-powerful (omnipotent). Man may labor to juggle a few minor tasks simultaneously, but our sovereign God accomplishes innumerable enterprises continuously and perfectly every time. He is unlimited in character, actions, and abilities. God never changes, nor is He limited to time or space. God is perfect, divine, and infinite. “I the Lord do not change” (Malachi 3:6).

God’s omnipotence is defined by His superior power and authority regarding His creation. He is the author of all life, desiring fellowship with mankind. He is capable of answering the prayers of billions of believers while surveilling the entire cosmos. God views every corner of our world to check on the whereabouts and activities of His children. “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely his” (2 Chronicles 16:9, NAS).

As a magnificent multi-tasker, our Lord knits together fractured bones while simultaneously painting a breathtaking sunset. His grace miraculously transforms the hearts of believers as He limits the proliferation of communicable diseases worldwide. God designed corn stalks crowned with silky festoons of tassel, yielding ears of perfectly aligned rows of corn inside an insulated husk. Across the globe, He assigns silk worms to weave elegant fabric. Our heavenly Father maintains planets in specific orbits, each rotating at a designated speed, as He suspends millions of twinkling stars in space. God presides over the earth He has populated, synchronizing balanced ecosystems for the land and its inhabitants, concurrently uniting people internationally via transportation and communication.

Our Lord monitors the exertional pull of the moon on tidal waters while maintaining exact gravitational forces on the earth’s surface. God welcomes one of His dear children into heaven for eternity as He simultaneously greets a newborn baby on earth. He raises His hand to prevent a vehicular collision while gently unveiling the fragile petals of a rose.

God’s harmonious, elaborate efforts impact people and matter everywhere. He is the sole architect and creator of our world, forming it with His commands, sculpting lofty mountain ranges, hollowing vast chasms of earth to flood as oceans, gouging gaping canyons, and leveling large expanses of desert and plains. He travels the labyrinth of galaxies, all the while meeting the complex needs of His children. “For the Lord sees clearly what a man does, examining every path he takes” (Proverbs 5:21, NLT).

All natural elements respond to the Lord’s instructions. In one geographic zone, an avalanche of snow plows down a mountainside. On another continent, a rainbow is observed, displaying its prismatic array of colors against a placid, blue sky, reminding us of God’s promise to Noah centuries before.

Jesus was sleeping in the stern of His disciples’ boat when a furious storm blew across the lake without warning. The high seas were breaking over the gunnels when the disciples awakened their Master, “shouting, ‘Lord save us! We’re going to drown.’ Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was great calm. The disciples were amazed. ‘Who is this man?’ they asked. ‘Even the winds and waves obey him’” (Matthew 8: 25-27, NLT). Jesus controlled the sea simply by speaking to it, for He possesses authority over all elements of nature.

Let us defer to God’s excellence. He invented magnificent multi-dimensional tasking and He excels in the art, a sovereign version that equips Him with infinite ability to know the end result at the beginning of each endeavor. There is no refuting God’s power and wisdom. He is knowledgeable of the innermost thoughts, attitudes, and intents of each person’s heart. “O, Lord, you have examined my heart and you know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me to understand” (Psalm 139: 1-6, NLT)

Although multi-tasking is computer jargon etched into our vocabulary, the number of tasks we are able to juggle at once is of trivial value. Of utmost importance is our relationship to the all-powerful ruler and sustainer of the universe, a personal God who desires to be ever-present in our lives, extending to us righteousness through His Son, Jesus Christ. God possesses superior knowledge and wisdom pertaining to our universe and to each person in it.

“Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He {God} brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing. Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding” (Isaiah 40:26; 28, NLT).

Follow or Retreat

Follow or Retreat

By Patricia Knight

Flanked by His disciples during His three-year ministry on earth, Jesus traveled incalculable miles by foot and by boat. Wherever they went, curious crowds followed. Some people were sincerely interested in the Messiah’s message, but others were enamored with His miracles and wanted to see more. News of Jesus’ next destination spread quickly; multitudes were often waiting at a future site to meet Him. Though admirers and detractors alike surrounded Jesus, there were two places where throngs did not follow Him. For one, they were disinterested in pursuing Jesus to a secluded spot to pray.

Christ had just fed five hundred listeners by miraculously multiplying one boy’s small lunch. As soon as the meal was finished, Jesus instructed His disciples to go on ahead of Him by boat to the other side of the lake while He dismissed the crowd (Matthew 14:22-23). Jesus then walked up a mountainside to pray alone throughout the evening. He gained refreshment and renewal of body and soul for the challenging days ahead by communicating with His heavenly Father. Though we are provided no direct insight into His dialogue, we know from His instructions to His disciples, the prominence Jesus assigned to prayer.

Perhaps the crowds instinctively left Jesus by Himself during His quiet time because for them personal prayer was a foreign concept. Priests in the temple interceded for the people, but few individuals engaged in private prayer. The Lord’s messages were delivered through prophets. God created and called the nation of Israel. Laws were designated for the entire nation and the population was punished collectively for disobedience. There was little personal communication between individuals and God. By His death and resurrection, Jesus opened the way for intimate contact between believers and God the Father, the same fellowship the Son of God enjoyed. 

Calvary was the other area of Jesus’ experience where people didn’t follow. Only the Son of God could die a redemptive death on the cross for our sins. Jesus suffered loneliness and agony mankind will never comprehend. It was even necessary for His heavenly Father to forsake His Son for a period as Christ hung on the cross. Only a few of Jesus’ close friends and His mother witnessed His crucifixion. All of His disciples but John abandoned their Master, fearing retribution by association.

Prior to His arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus agonized in prayer. “He began to be deeply distressed and troubled, saying, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:33b-34).Prayer to His Father was His only available source of peace and strength. The soldiers would soon arrive to arrest Him by force. It was not death Jesus feared, but the hour of crucifixion when the weight of the sins of the world—past, present, and future—would transfer to His soul. Jesus bore the unparalleled burden alone.

Crucifixion was a heinous, brutal, ruthless form of torture, reserved for slaves and the worst Roman criminals. Jesus, the Son of God, the only perfect man to walk this planet, was hanged as a common criminal. Though His enemies intended crucifixion as the ultimate means of persecution to silence Jesus forever, the cross of Calvary became a symbol of Jesus’ willing sacrifice, God’s ability to save mankind, and the believer’s commitment to follow only Christ, who willingly sacrificed His holy life for the forgiveness of our sins.

Jesus has redeemed us; believers now live for Him, infused with His characteristics and identified exclusively with Him. The cross of Calvary was the vehicle that created access to prayer. Jesus’ death and resurrection purchased eternity in heaven for every believer.

“The cross is a place where one dies to self,
enjoys no rights, and grovels in humility.
How odd for our Lord to invite us
to be crucified with Him;
but God knows the cross is a place of grace,
and the nearer one draws to Calvary,
the more abundant the peace and power” (Joni Eareckson Tada).

Imagine the colossal amount of sovereign power essential for the resurrection and ascension of our Savior. The same dynamic power is promised to believers. “I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:19-20, NLT).

Jesus’ pattern throughout his demanding ministry emphasized His discipline to focus on solitary time with His heavenly Father. Quality time spent with God provided Jesus with a boost of power and joy, reinforcing Jesus’ priorities and purposes on earth. God responded by empowering His Son with love, leadership, and strength. If Jesus required frequent refills of God’s gifts, how much more often we must request our hearts be filled to the brim with all the gifts God promises. If Christ, the perfect Son of God, could not operate independently on earth as a man without perpetual refills of God’s gifts, why do we arrogantly claim self-sufficiency apart from our heavenly Father? We are commanded to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Let us evaluate our position in prayer and our trek to the cross, where there is power in the victory our Savior attained for us. Jesus assures us of blessings aplenty, including life with Him eternally. If we occasionally withdraw from Jesus, as His disciples were so quick to do at the cross, let us then emulate their future commitment displayed at Pentecost: they prayed for courage to endure, power to carry on their Master’s work, and boldness to speak for their Lord.

I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central…Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not ‘mine,’ but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, The Msg.).

It is no longer necessary to be jostled by crowds to ensure an audience with Jesus. He is listening this moment, waiting patiently to hear from you. Follow His directions for silent, sincere, steadfast, submissive supplication (Matthew 6:5-8). Jesus encourages us to leave our sins at the cross for forgiveness and to cast our cares at Him in prayer.

Let us not retreat from the two important journeys Jesus traveled on earth, but boldly seek His presence in prayer and the power of salvation He victoriously secured for us on the cross of Calvary.

Radiance of Glory

Radiance of Glory

By Patricia Knight

Following sunrise, when the soft glow of early morning light filters through the labyrinth of tree branches, an ambience of autumn aroma and activity disseminates. Rustled by a gentle breeze, the crisp, dead leaves spontaneously flutter to earth, composing a barely audible tap of percussive rhythm. The Mighty One, God, the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets. Perfect in beauty, God shines forth (Psalm 50:1-2).

From a window, I view the close proximity of a border of trees. Brilliant red totally encompasses the maple tree, apparently placed in the front line of duty, embraced on all sides with multi-chromatic hardwood trees; a proliferation of conspicuously sublime rainbow colors. In the immediate foreground, a filigreed, green cedar tree is superimposed on the deeply layered, adorned forest, creating slices of autumn colors in profusion.

In the wide open spaces where hills meet the sky and valleys separate hills, there exists a seasonal panoramic view of the vivid color spectrum of autumn hues proclaimed across wide stretches of geography, affirming that our Creator specializes in magnanimous beauty. The illustrious saturation of colorful hues, like a distant patchwork quilt, is a grandiose proclamation of God’s power and glory. “The mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12), figurative language expressing that God’s creation joins in effervescent praise to celebrate the magnificent beauty with which our Lord surrounds His people in the physical world He designed and created.

Oh, how the Lord lavishes us with His adorning beauty! In the sunlight, God’s sovereign palette accentuates a wide range of flame-colored autumn leaves, which from a distant perspective, appear to mingle with puffy white clouds dancing across the blue sky. God introduces astounding color to our daylight hours, followed by twinkling galaxies of stars draped across a nighttime ebony background. “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth” (Psalm 57:5).

God’s visible glory is always described in terms of brightness. Because this world’s beauty authenticates our Creator’s unique signature, all of earth is infused with His glory.

“The land was radiant with his {God’s} glory” (Ezekiel 43:2b).

There is neither time nor place where our Lord’s presence is not manifest in His handiwork. Let us glorify His majestic splendor with our praise of thanksgiving during every season of our lives!

Complimented By Sheep

John10-14-15--AMP

Complimented By Sheep

By Patricia Knight

In the ancient Near East, Israeli people were known as nomadic herdsmen; the barren plains were dotted with sheep. Israel was dependent upon sheep for its livelihood: wool for warm coats, leather for tents, their milk and meat for sustenance, and live animals for temple sacrifices and offerings. Both Jacob and Job were wealthy patriarchs, their prosperity determined by the size of their livestock herds.  Jacob was “exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks of sheep and goats” (Genesis 30:43). Job “owned seven thousand sheep” (Job 1:3).

Sheep are mentioned more frequently than any other animal in the Bible. It seems natural, then, that so many narratives and parables in God’s Word use illustrations of shepherds and sheep. Kings in Old Testament times were often referred to as shepherd-leaders of their people. Jesus is our Great Shepherd.‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep’” (John 10:14-15). How miraculous that Jesus describes our shepherd-sheep relationship in terms He shares with His heavenly Father!

Jesus’ role extends beyond that of our shepherd; He is also our Shepherd-King, our salvation, security, and strength. We recognize His voice and respond with obedience. “Know that the Lord is God. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3).

The shepherd invests his life in the care of his flock. Such timid, docile animals are content to remain in the presence of their shepherd, as Christians thrive in the nearness of their Lord. The New Testament church was compared to a sheepfold and Jesus to the shepherd who protected the gate of the fold. The sheepfold is an enclosure where sheep gather in a flock at night. The shepherd sleeps at the entrance, the door or the gate of the fold, positioning his body between the defenseless sheep and nocturnal predators, scavengers, or thieves

Jesus is our door; nothing threatens us without it first alerting Him to danger. He is a living gate of the sheepfold, protecting us, His sheep. Jesus said, “‘I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture’” (John 10:9). In Jesus there is safety. We have the freedom to rest and have all of our needs supplied by the Great Shepherd, our Lord and Savior.

Israeli shepherds led their sheep rather than driving them. Their sheep responded to their own shepherd’s voice, and the shepherd knew each animal in his flock. “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. He goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But, they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice” (John 10:3b; 4b-5).

Sheep are dumb, but curious animals. If a sheep wanders from his sheepfold, it is unable to find its way back. The shepherd must keep a keen eye on each member of the flock. Frequently an animal that roams gets entangled in briers, helpless to move; it may get mired in a water hole, or it may stumble over a cliff, lying injured below. The shepherd leaves the flock to search for one lost lamb. When he locates it, he tenderly wraps the frightened lamb in his coat and carries it to safety on his shoulders. Our Shepherd rescues us in a similar manner. “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders” (Deuteronomy 33:12), the place of safety.

Sheep don’t seek isolation, but are social animals and prefer to live in a flock for safety and warmth. If one animal meanders from the fold, without his shepherd to follow, the lamb’s sense of direction is confused and it is quickly lost. As long as the shepherd is within hearing distance, sheep will bed down, comfortable and protected. Our Great Shepherd offers confidence, protection, and provision for us. “‘I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down,’ declares the Sovereign Lord. ‘I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will build up the injured and strengthen the weak. I will shepherd the flock with justice’” (Ezekiel 34:15-16).

Sheep refuse to drink stagnant water, and are frightened by rushing or turbulent rivers, preferring to drink from tranquil streams. If there is no accessible water nearby, the shepherd patiently transports water in a pail to hydrate his flock.

John4-14-StreamMtn--AMP

Jesus taught the Samaritan woman at the well about Living Water. “‘Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life’” (John 4:14). Jesus gives spiritual life by means of Living Water, as from a fresh water spring or a mountain stream, bubbling purity that refreshes and revives. Jesus, our Living Water, provides eternal life, producing rest and refreshment along life’s journey, the only antidote for quenching spiritual thirst.

We are created with free wills, but we frequently neglect to use our intelligence wisely, making bad choices, creating consequences like a wandering, lost lamb. Jesus, our Shepherd-King, promises to lead, to strengthen, and to rescue us from danger. He gave His own life as a sacrifice to redeem the sins of the spiritually lost. Those who know Jesus respond to His voice and to His leadership. “‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one’” (John 10:27-30, NLT).

Sheep symbolize the relationship with their shepherd that the Great Shepherd desires with us. Sheep are ideal models of submission; followers, not leaders, obedient to one shepherd, reacting to his call, comfortable in his presence. They depend upon their shepherd for food, for protection, and for treating their injuries. Jesus admonishes us to follow Him with similar dependency and trust.

Being compared to sheep may offend human pride, but Jesus himself designed the appropriate analogy. Like lambs, do we follow our Great Shepherd as if our lives depend upon His leadership? Let us humbly recall the numerous occasions on which our Shepherd-Lord rescued us from prickly brier patches of temptation and thorny thickets of sin. “For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd, the Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25). Perhaps being compared to sheep is a spiritual compliment after all!

Excuses, Excuses…

Excuses, Excuses…

By Patricia Knight

Ex4-13--AMP

The Lord said to him,
“Who gave human beings their mouths?
Who makes them deaf or mute?
Who gives them sight or makes them blind?
Is it not I, the Lord?
 
Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord.
Please send someone else.” 

—Exodus 4:11-13, NIV

God called Moses to lead His people to freedom, terminating four hundred years of slavery in Egypt. As God’s representative, Moses would establish non-negotiable terms of release with Pharaoh. Moses resisted God’s assignment with repeated, feeble excuses, pleading with God, “‘Please find someone else to do it’” (Exodus 4:13). God had already chosen an assistant and said to Moses, ”’What about your brother, Aaron, the Levite {priest}. He is already on his way to meet you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you and will teach you what to do’” (Exodus 14b-15). After declining a fifth and final time, Moses finally accepted God’s commission. To allay Moses’ fears, God demonstrated miracles Moses could perform when facing Pharaoh.

Moses’ stubborn resistance collapsed in submission to God’s authority and divine assistance. His stalwart determination, obedience, and allegiance to God and his people strengthened with each future adversity blocking his path, providing a pattern for all Christians to follow. Moses learned the roles of advocate and intercessor for the Israelites, pleading with God several times to save them when God was so angry with their disobedience, He was prepared to annihilate the entire population, calling them a stiff-necked people.

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Though initially manifesting anxiety that exposed a wobbly faith walk, Moses later became the great leader, lawgiver, and spokesman for Israel, achieving monumental triumphs in his career. He wasn’t a natural-born leader, but he was willing to follow God, learning leadership skills for a lifetime of service.

How do we respond when God presents us with an assignment that we hesitate to perform? Like Moses, are we primarily worried about our personal frailty and faults? Christians are adept at conjuring up clever excuses when God requires that we step outside our comfort zone. Lack of faith is usually responsible for blocking our path of obedience.

God focuses on our availabilities rather than our abilities.

He uses common people for uncommon jobs. And, He always walks before us, preparing our paths, leading us with His mighty power. “God has never sent any difficulties into the lives of His children without His accompanying offer of help in this life and reward in the life to come” (Billy Graham).

God hasn’t changed during the centuries since Moses lived, still promising strength and leadership with every mission He assigns. The Apostle Paul said, “‘I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me’” (Philippians 4:13, KJV). Paul recognized the limitless nature of his abilities when his plans conformed to God’s will. “All things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27). If we believe in God’s Word, we receive power to accomplish God’s work.

Imagine walking the paths of a flower garden, inhaling the sweet fragrance naturally emitted from mature blossoms? “Now he {God} uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God” (2 Corinthians 2:14b-15 NLT).When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, our lives are transformed by His grace. We appropriate the character traits of Jesus, radiating the fragrance of His life. Love for our Savior is portrayed by our humility, integrity, and compassion.

Our lives are letters written by the Holy Spirit for all to read. “You yourselves are our letter, written on your hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, 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 3:2-3). Is your life a letter that captivates readers’ interest, from which they will acquire great truth and knowledge of Jesus? Our lives are the only Bible some people will ever read. May your relationship with God be revealed by joy, dependency, and love.

Jesus said, “‘You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. If I make you a light-beacon, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bushel, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven’” (Matthew 5: 13-16, The Msg.).

A Christian’s primary function is to glorify God. Spiritual effectiveness is determined by our ability to flavor the world for Christ. God-centered lives honor our Father in heaven, witness to His goodness, and proclaim His salvation. Believers possess no inherent light, but Christ shines His light through us, penetrating a dark world.

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Jesus told his disciples, “‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20, NKJV). The risen Savior commanded His Word be preached to all people, in every nation. Though few of us will serve as missionaries in a foreign land, each believer is a disciple of Christ. The old adage, “Bloom where you are planted,” indicates the most effective place to communicate Jesus’ message of salvation is within our own circle of influence.

It is wise to ponder God’s instructions before we frivolously dismiss His leadership, avoiding Moses’ initial reaction of shrinking in fear when God requested that he embark on a new spiritual challenge. It is futile to argue with God; in doing so, we minimize our participation in miraculous victories He plans to accomplish through us. God has demonstrated His faithfulness and trustworthiness throughout the ages. Now we have the opportunity to serve Him enthusiastically and wholeheartedly, as He empowers us to do the work to which He assigns us.