Feed My Sheep

I like the reminders by Dennis Tolar at Word of Promise Ministries’  blog

The Lord has had me repent of pride in correcting a brother or sister many years ago. He showed me:

Romans 14:1-4 “Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. 2For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. 3Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. 4Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.”

As I prayed about the meaning of it, the Lord reminded me of how He restored Peter after He had denied Jesus. Remember that Peter had boasted in pride about his own faith that he would never abandon Jesus or deny Him. Yet, he did deny Him three times within Jesus’ hearing just as Jesus told him he would do. When Jesus restored him and asked him if he loved Him, He told Peter what he could do as an act of love toward Him.

It was Jesus’ passion and purpose to die for all of mankind so that they wouldn’t have to spend eternity in hell. Jesus wanted Peter to “feed My sheep.” Many today think that they are to beat the sheep into subjection, but if we do that we are beating the very ones Jesus died for and instructed not just Peter, but all of us to do… feed His sheep.

We get so caught up in being “right” about an issue that even if we don’t beat them, many times we do not feed them. We all grow at different rates.  Also, we have not all had the same life experiences to learn from. So where one may be more mature in one area, the other may be more mature in another because God has already brought them through certain trials to teach them. Jesus would rebuke His disciples from time to time about having little faith, but that is fine, He is the Lord.

Romans COMMANDS US to bear with those who are weak in faith either in all areas or in just some areas of life. Jesus isn’t concerned about how RIGHT WE ARE in a debate, He wants us to lead and plead with not only the sinner but also the faithful who simply may not understand. HE IS NOT WILLING THAT ANY SHOULD PERISH. He rebuked the Pharisees for traveling land and sea to win one convert but then because of their harsh rigidness would make that convert more a “child of hell” than they themselves were.

Romans 14:9-11 “For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11For it is written:
“As I live, says the LORD,
Every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall confess to God.”

We see here that God will have His day and that one day everyone will know He is Lord. The question is, did we show everyone in our life the love and forgiveness that Christ did so that they could know Jesus died for them. Could they look at the way we treated them and know it was true that Jesus cried out from the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

John 3:17 “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Do we negate such a message of love by being harsh with our brethren? Romans 14 is saying that we are RIGHT in thinking we can now eat foods as long as is is received with thanksgiving, but if our eating of that food causes our brother to be offended then we have sinned against our brother.

Romans 14:12-18 “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.
14 I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.”

Yes, we are to “prove all things” but we must be cautious in the way in which we do it. We must prove things, not people’s hearts, that’s the work of the Holy Spirit, not ours. I see all too often mere men trying to do the work of the Holy Spirit and it is ruinous in the hearts of the hearers!

This is what the Holy Spirit was saying through Paul inRomans 14:22 “Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.” In other words, don’t go around all puffed up because you have faith in areas that others don’t.  Don’t be haughty because you understand and someone else doesn’t. We are ambassadors of Christ, we have been given a ministry of reconciliation, so that the world and even the apostate church, His bride for whom He died, would be reconciled unto Him.

Romans 14:19-22 “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. 20Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. 21It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. 22Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.”

When I get too critical of others, the Lord reminds me of this scripture.

James 5:9-11 “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! 10My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. 11Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”

My heart breaks for some of the bickering I’ve seen within the church and I kept silent asking for the Lord to intervene by His Spirit and I would not speak up until He instructed me to. Children of God, we must get back to feeding His sheep, His sheep, His sheep, they aren’t ours to do with what we will!! Behold, the Judge is at the door!!! And He has a message for His church! GET OUT OF MY SEAT!!!!!!

May God have mercy on us all. Please LORD, restore us unto Yourself!

 

[I broke some of it up into smaller paragraphs. Sorry, Dennis. I just like short paragraphs. Mind mind absorbs the truth better.]

People of prayer

by J.C. Ryle

I believe that spiritual as well as natural greatness depends in a high degree on the faithful use of means within everybody’s reach. Of course I do not say we have a right to expect a miraculous grant of intellectual gifts; but I do say, that when a person is once converted to God, his progress in holiness will be much in accordance with their own diligence in the use of God’s appointed means. And I assert confidently that the principle means by which most believers have become great in the church of Christ — is the habit of diligent private prayer.

Look through the lives of the brightest and best of God’s servants, whether in the Bible or not. See what is written of Moses and David and Daniel and Paul. Mark what is recorded of Luther and Bradford the Reformers. Observe what is related of the private devotions of Whitefield and Cecil and Venn and Bickersteth and McCheyne. Tell me of one of the goodly fellowship of saints and martyrs, who has not had this mark most prominently — they were men of prayer. Depend on it, prayer is power.   Prayer obtains fresh and continued outpourings of the Spirit. He alone begins the work of grace in a person’s heart. He alone can carry it forward and make it prosper. But the good Spirit loves to be entreated. And those who ask most — will have most of his influence.

A Call to Prayer

Blessed be Your name

One of the really good new hymns. This one is by Matt Redman, a writer of incredible talent.

 

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

[prechorus]
Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

[chorus]
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Christians have a remarkable capacity to live insular lives

by Mark Lauterbach:

I have found, over years, that Christians have a remarkable capacity to live insular lives (do does everyone, really). I have asked people in churches where I serve to name people outside of the church with whom they have had thoughtful conversations. I have asked them to list the people they know for the Gospel. I usually get a short or a very short list.

It is what you are rather than what you say

by William Lane Craig

When people see this—our love for one another and our unity through love—then they will in turn be drawn by this to Christ and will respond to the gospel’s offer of salvation. More often than not, it is what you are rather than what you say that will bring an unbeliever to Christ. This, then, is the ultimate apologetic. For the ultimate apologetic is: your life.

~  Reasonable Faith (1994), pp 301–302.

Pleading With God in Prayer

A few days ago I received an email from a reader of this site and I found that much of it has universal application. Each one of us struggles with these questions at times. For that reason, and with his permission, I will make my response public. Here is a part of what he sent me:

Personal situation with universal question: My wife and I are adopting 2 kiddos from Africa that have HIV. That’s all planned, no surprise, grace given to us to do so, praise be to God. Throughout this, I continuously pray for my kiddos over there. Yelling, crying, heart wrenching (I’m tearing up right now thinking about it) kind of prayers. They are very sick, and I want my babies home with me. They’re dying of starvation and little medication over there. I don’t feel like I keep praying the same prayers because I don’t believe God cares or can take care of it, I pray because it’s breaking my heart, I badly want by children home, and I want it to stay as a “top-shelf issue” in front of God. Am I wrong in my theology and practice by continuing to pray for the same thing? I sometimes feel that it’s blasphemous to re-pray something, as if I’m insinuating that God is not listening, doesn’t care, doesn’t remember, or needs to re-prioritize His to-do list.

And now my answer.

Over the past few weeks I have been reading a book by David McIntyre called The Hidden Life of Prayer and just yesterday I read a section that looks at petitioning God in prayer. McIntyre offers up some thoughts that are directly applicable to your situation. He says that the foundational reason we ought to ask God for the things that are important to us is that God commands us to. It is as simple as that. All through the Bible we are told things like “make your requests known to God” (Philippians 4:6). And so we pray to God in obedience to God.

But a question remains: why? Why would the Lord choose to do things in this way, to have us ask him and even repeatedly plead with him for his blessings. McIntyre offers four reasons and I think these reasons come into sharper focus the longer and the more fervently we pray.

  1. Dependence. “By prayer our continued and humble dependence on the grace of God is secured. If the bestowments of the covenant came to us without solicitation, as the gifts of nature do, we might be tempted to hold ourselves in independence of God, to say, ‘My power, and the might of mine hand, hath gotten me this wealth’ (Deut. 8:17).”
  2. Communion. “The Lord desires to have us much in communion with Himself. The reluctance of the carnal heart to dwell in God’s presence is terrible. We will rather speak of Him than to Him. How often He finds occasion to reprove us, saying, ‘The companions hearken to thy voice; cause Me to hear it.’ A father will prize an ill-spelled, blotted-scrawl from his little child, because it is a pledge and seal of love. And precious in the sight of the Lord are the prayers of His saints.”
  3. Preparation. “Much, very much, has often to be accomplished in us before we are fitted to employ worthily the gifts we covet. And God effects this preparation of heart largely by delaying to grant our request at once, and so holding us in the truth of His presence until we are brought into a spiritual understanding of the will of Christ for us in this respect. If a friend, out of his way (Luke 11:6), comes to us, hungry, and seeking from us the bread of life, and we have nothing to set before him, we must go to Him who has all store of blessing. And if He should seem to deny our prayer, and say, ‘Trouble Me not,’ it is only that we may understand the nature of the blessing we seek, and be fitted to dispense aright the bounty of God.”
  4. Cooperation. “Once more, we are called to be fellow-laborers together with God, in prayer, as in all other ministries. The exalted Saviour ever lives to make intercession; and to His redeemed people He says, ‘Tarry ye here, and watch with Me’ (Matt. 26:38). There is a great work to be done in the hearts of men, there is a fierce battle to be waged with spiritual wickedness in heavenly places. Demons are to be cast out, the power of hell to be restrained, the works of the devil to be destroyed. And in these things it is by prayer above all other means that we shall be able to co-operate with the Captain of the Lord’s host.”

Let me encourage you with McIntyre’s encouragement: Take heart and to see that the Lord is accomplishingsomething through your prayers, something greater than if he were to give you what you desire apart from fervent, tear-filled prayers. He is creating within you a greater dependence on him, he is establishing greater communion with you, he is preparing you for the final answer to that prayer, and he is giving you the privilege of cooperating with him in this world. That he is forcing you to wrestle with him in prayer flows out of his goodness, not out of ambivalence or miserliness.

So don’t lose heart. Don’t lose heart, and don’t feel guilty about praying again and again, even in the same way for the same thing. I’m sure you will find it a joy to read and meditate upon Jesus’ parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8). Luke says “he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” The very purpose of this parable is to encourage us in prayer, not only to pray, but to keep on praying and after that to keep on some more. It is an argument from the lesser to the greater. Jesus says, “If even an unjust human judge will eventually give in to continual pleadings, how much more will a good God answer your petitions?”

Finally, remember as you pray that God is your Father. This gives you the right and privilege of relating to him as a son. It may be helpful to consider how you would speak to your earthly father if he was the one who had the power and ability to release those children to you. How would you speak to him? What would you ask? Speak to God in that way. Be respectful, of course, acknowledging his position and authority, but plead with him as a son pleads with a father. Make your case, be clear with what you think you and those children need, and trust that God’s purposes are even better and even more loving than your own.

From Tozer’s Man: The Dwelling Place of God

by A.W. Tozer One would think he was seeing today’s seeker-sensitive, market-driven and emergent movements. He died many decades ago. His insight on many subjects still challenge us today.
Without biblical authority, or any other right under the sun, carnal religious leaders have introduced a host of attractions that serve no purpose except to provide entertainment for the retarded saints
It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction.  It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God.  One can only conclude that God’s professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments. …
Any objection to the carryings on of our present gold-calf Christianity is met with the triumphant reply, “But we are winning them!”  And winning them to what?  To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world?  To crucifixion of the flesh?  To holy living?  To nobility of character?  To a despising of the world’s treasures?  To hard self-discipline?  To love for God?  To total committal to Christ?  Of course the answer to all these questions is no.
Man: The Dwelling Place of God, p.136)

William Lane Craig on the Importance of Apologetics

 

 by Matt at Well-Spent Journey blog

 

My own interest in apologetics didn’t really begin until partway through college, when I experienced just how intellectually hostile academia could be toward Christians. Consider this large-scale 2006 study by the Barna Group, which found that a staggering 61% of Americans in their twenties “had been churched at one point during their teen years but [are] now spiritually disengaged.”

One of the most dangerous threats to young Christians is an honest question left unanswered (or worse yet, actively stifled). I’ve had multiple friends – former Christians – tell me that their beliefs began to crumble when they voiced sincere questions to a pastor or family member and were essentially told, “You just need to have more faith.”

Providing a non-answer to an answerable question (the problem of evil, for example) opens the door for doubt and confusion. Years later, when the “young Christian” has become a “former Christian”, their worldview is shaped by an entirely new set of biases; they often become unwilling or unable to accept the very answer that might have saved their faith, had it only come a little sooner.

Below is a quote from Dr. William Lane Craig – arguably this generation’s most well-known Christian apologist and philosopher:

William Lane Craig

“When I travel around the country speaking in various churches, I meet parents all the time who come up to me after the service and say something like this: “Oh, if only you had been here two or three years ago! Our son (or our daughter) had questions about the faith which no one could answer. And now he (or she) is far from the Lord.” It just breaks my heart to meet parents like this. The fact is that our Christian high school students and college students are intellectually assaulted in secular high school and university by overwhelming relativism conjoined with every manner of non-Christian philosophy. We dare not send these kids out to battle armed with rubber swords and plastic armor. We need to prepare our kids for war….Begin simple, get more profound as they grow. It’s not enough anymore to just read Bible stories to our kids. They need doctrine, and they need apologetics. I have to tell you the truth: I find it very difficult to understand how parents today can risk having children without having had some training in Christian apologetics. I think it’s that important!”

Doing Apologetics = Love

from The Valley Girl Apologist blog

Why do I, personally, do apologetics? My whole life I have felt this inescapable call to ministry. I never knew why or what it was going to be ultimately, but I knew that every time I would try to escape it, God would do whatever it took in my life to bring me back onto the right course. And let me tell you, there were times where that process of bringing me back to ministry was painful and not fun, but God had a plan, and so whatever He did was necessary. I don’t do apologetics because I enjoy studying (I really don’t) or getting attacked by Atheists or Muslims (which is scary sometimes). I also don’t do apologetics for the prestige or “smart person” status that may come with the title sometimes. I only recently figured out why God called me to and made me so attracted to this discipline: it is because of my penchant for caring too much.

It may not be always incredibly obvious that I have a big heart, since one of my weaknesses is allowing my external circumstances (which are often extremely hard to deal with – see my blog entitled “Unfortunately Sure” for more info) to determine how I treat people, and I am not always the best witness for Christ, but I really do have a huge heart. I genuinely love people and want the best for them. There are nights where I can’t sleep because I lay awake sobbing about all the babies whose lives have been taken through abortion (a topic that completely grieves me, being a mother), and after disasters such as 9/11, I literally sit there and dwell on the fact that people are suffering and I can’t do anything for them but pray.

Throughout my years of study, I have come to a confident belief that Christianity is indeed the truth and the answer to the fallen world in which we presently find ourselves in. It is a turning away from Christianity and an embracing of sin that has caused much of the turmoil that grieves me so much today. Evil and suffering are privations, or a lack, of good, and that good is Jesus Christ. This is why I do apologetics: because I realize that Christianity (a belief in Jesus as God and an obedience to the Holy Scriptures) is the only way these things will cease to be part of our culture. However, because our culture (Post-Darwin/Scopes Trial/Skepticism) is so far gone into materialism, postmodernism, and pluralism, the only way to successfully introduce the world to Jesus Christ and the Bible is through apologetics. You can’t start with the gospel most times nowadays, you must give the case forthe gospel before being able to give the actual gospel.

Another reason I believe so strongly in apologetics is because apologetics is literally a defense of the gospel, and Christianity isliterally under attack today. Don’t believe me? Go sit in a first-year college classroom at a secular university, and you will see what I mean. The fact that parents send their kids into those classrooms unequipped to deal with the attacks that are coming grieves me to no end. The idea that kids are walking away from Christianity in droves for the so-called “reason” the world offers is why I do apologetics. Christianity is the truth, and we need to teach our kids why. When you become a mother to one kid, you become mama-bear to the entire world of kids. When I realized that kids were walking away because their parents had failed to equip them properly, I transitioned from my ministry goal of training high-school students to training parents. That is why I still work so hard on ISWA, and trust me, ISWA is hard work. I constantly have to defend the reasons we exist. Yes, I do want to reach out to women specifically with apologetics, but my ultimate goal is to teach them how to equip their kids because I am no longer willing to sit on the sidelines while Christian parents let their kids get snatched away by a secular worldview. I care too much about those kids to let their parents remain apathetic Christians.

All this to say that, if I get a little passionate or I get a little in-your-face about apologetics, know that I am doing it because of the fact that I care and that I have a big heart for the things that matter in this world.  I don’t always do it in the most eloquent or polished manner (being a Valley Girl), and sometimes I am abrasive (being a redhead and a mother), but I do love you, your family, and your friends and neighbors, and want the best for everyone. And there is nothing better than the truth of Jesus Christ. There is nothing more loving that I can do for you than to equip you to train your kids to be life-long believers.

Love is our greatest apologetic, not only in the sense that people will see Christ in how we love and serve and care for one another*, but also in the sense that anything we do within the realm of the discipline of apologetics should completely and only motivated by love…

*Side note: I am going to quote my friend Scott Rachui here because I think he gave  really good statement on how practically loving and serving is an apologetic and I didn’t touch on that because I didn’t want to just restate what he said, but I agree wholeheartedly –

“Yes, we know how to craft an argument. Yes, we know how to make the case for why God exists, why Jesus rose from the dead, etc. But how much love do we have for those around us, both in the body and outside? How often do we stop debating and go out to help people who are hurting? Maybe someone needs help repairing their house, or needs their lawn mowed. Maybe they need a ride to the doctor, or maybe they just need someone to buy them lunch and genuinely listen to them.

I hope and pray that all of you are doing this regularly. But for me, I know that I wasn’t. Since recognizing this problem in my life, I have begun to pray earnestly for God to give me a love for others, and to show me the open doors where I can serve. Maybe it’s something as simple as buying a homeless man lunch and giving him a ride to the train station. Maybe it’s spending time with someone who is hurting. Maybe it’s taking a year off and going on a mission. The point is that if we focus on loving and serving others (which is certainly an act of gratitude toward God for the kindness He has shown us), then God will open those doors. And when our primary purpose is to love and serve others, everything else seems to fall into place.

Yes, we’ll have a chance to give the reasons for our faith. But when we do so, we’ll be sharing with people that already trust us because we’ve been serving and loving them…”

3 Connection Essentials

by Ryan Huguley on the blog by his name

There is no shortage of reasons people leave one church to attend another.

  • “My last church wasn’t Biblically faithful.”
  • “My last church didn’t offer the programs I wanted for my kids.”
  • “My last church had unqualified people in leadership.”
  • “My last church had cutting edge worship strait out of the 1500s.”
  • “My last church was amazing, but my job moved me away.”

Obviously, some of the reasons a person leaves one church to attend another are good while others are selfish, consumer-driven, and disobedient. Sometimes people leave churches because of their own sin and often times people leave because of the unrepentant sin dwelling within the leadership of the church itself.

Yet, of all the reasons I have heard over the last twelve years of ministry, one stands out as the most painful.

“I really loved the church, I just couldn’t get connected.”

Yet, in far too many cases this vital system has not been sufficiently thought through, or has been ignored altogether. If this is the case do not miss what is really at stake. What we sacrifice when we ignore a means by which to help new people get connected to the life of our churches is discipleship.

Big Idea | You can’t disciple those you don’t connect

Many pastors assume people will get connected if they want to. The problem is, assumption is the enemy of engagement. It is not the responsibility of a new person to provide the mechanism by which they get connected. This is the churches responsibility.

You cannot disciple those you do not connect, so how can we carefully provide clear next steps for new people and what are the essential elements that comprise an effective connection process?  I believe there are three – a destination, a vehicle, and a mechanic. The goal for this series is to address them one by one.

You can’t disciple those you don’t connect, so my prayer is that we would all give the proper attention to this foundational element of church leadership.