"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace..." John 16:33
(The names in this true story have been changed.)
With deep remorse, Rob shared his story about deserting his former wife and daughter. I saw him as a devoted husband and father, and a faithful church member. However, twenty years before I knew him, and before he knew Jesus, drinking and youthful rage contributed to his story of abandonment. Now he wanted to apologize and seek forgiveness for his behavior. Rob asked me to find his daughter who was now a senior at a large university.
Within a few hours, I was talking with Angie at her dormitory and relayed her father's message of remorse. Her anger was no surprise, but I was disappointed that she was unwilling to speak with her dad. She alone held the key to forgiveness, but would not open the door for Rob to find peace in his heart for the wrongs he had committed.
During the final hours of Jesus' life, he told His disciples that they would desert Him and scatter back to their homes. His harsh words broke their unbelieving hearts and they denied it would ever happen. Simon became indignant and bragged that he would never leave his beloved Master.
Jesus was facing his darkest hour as He marched toward the crucifixion. But in this brief moment, He set His own needs and concerns aside and focused upon His disciples. Knowing that they would be unable stand up to the test... knowing that they would abandon Him, He said to them, "When you look back at this moment and realize what you have done, I want you to know that I am not alone. My Father is with me. Don't beat yourselves up because you deserted. I forgive you and I pray that you will find peace in me."
Beloved, if you hold the key to forgiveness over someone because of what they did to you, I urge you to let them find peace in you. If another person has carried a burden because of something they have done to you, go to them and allow them to find resolution. It has been long enough. Help them to find peace.
GospeLines Prayer: Father, unlike Peter, I cannot even brag that I will never desert You. Yet, there You stand with open arms, waiting to embrace me again and again. O, my Lord and my God... forgive me, and wipe away my tears of remorse. Place my feet on stable ground and grant that I will never again turn my back upon You. Amen and amen.
In Palestine the shepherd was totally responsible for the sheep. If tragedy struck the flock he had to produce some kind of proof that it was not his fault.
Amos speaks of rescuing two legs or a piece of an ear from the lion's mouth as a witness (Amos 3:12). It was the most natural thing for a shepherd to risk his life for his sheep, just as Jesus not only risked His life but gave it for those He loves.
What wondrous love!
Seldom are we called upon to stand in harm's way to guard the life of another. We rightly applaud firemen, policemen, soldiers and many others who daily stand between us and danger. In our eyes they are brave heroes who are never paid enough for their protective services. They are called upon to walk through the inferno of our hellish society because it is their job to do it. Whatever motivates one of these to willingly make such a sacrifice, I doubt that it is love for the individual they are protecting at that very moment. There is no time to think about the person they are saving. They react because of the vast amount of training and preparation they have done to meet the demands of that one dangerous moment, without any thought to their own personal safety. God bless them all!
When Jesus was stretched out on the cross, as the spikes were cruelly driven into his feet and hands, He had not trained for that moment. There were no mock drills which would have prepared Him for that. How was He able to give so much? How could His Father allow Him to suffer such painful indignities, and ultimately become our fallen Shepherd who died while protecting His sheep?
It was because He looked out across the span of eternity, saw each one of His chosen ones, and loved me…and you so much that He was unwilling to allow Himself to be rescued. It was the only way for Him to provide an escape for His sheep. Thieves had broken into the fold; murderers had planned an attack upon my soul and yours, so that there was no other way but that He willingly gave up His own life to save ours. That's what good shepherds do.
W. M. Thompson writes in The Land and the Book: "A poor faithful fellow last spring... instead of fleeing, actually fought three Bedouin robbers until he was hacked to pieces with their khanjars, and died among the sheep he was defending." The true shepherd not only risked his life, he never hesitated to lay down his life for his sheep.
"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
GospeLines Prayer: "Wonderful Shepherd! You loved me so much that you stood between me and certain death, allowing my penalty for sin to be slain by your self-sacrifice. May your courageous act not be wasted on me for a moment! I praise you day and night for your limitless love."
Why are there so many "Christian" denominations or beliefs? How can people read the same book and come up with so many different opinions and perceptions?
More than just different, some groups are so dogmatic in their beliefs that they will vehemently tell others that they are wrong. Some will go so far as to tell those who do not agree with their "interpretations" that they are not saved... That they're doomed to spend eternity in hell. That's pretty strong when we consider that we're all reading the same words.
Is there a way to read the bible and avoid all the disagreement and controversy? Can the average Christian know that their interpretation is correct; or, is that level of assurance reserved for the Bible scholars and the church "elite" only?
Perhaps there is no simply answer for that question. However, I'd like to offer a few thoughts that may help you know how Jesus wants you to study His Word.
How can we study what is not written? The Law (The Old Covenant) was written on stone and on parchment. The New Covenant is written in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:32-34 and Hebrews 8:9-11). "No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me..."
Who will teach us? "The father will send the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:25-27)
Where are Jesus' words written? "You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." (2nd Corinthians 3:3) The Old Covenant could be read and studied... The New Covenant must be lived...
What does all this tell us? God never intended His New Covenant to be difficult or hard to understand. Although He took us by the hand to lead us, we broke His Old Covenant even though He was a husband to us (Jeremiah 31:32); so, God initiated a Covenant of Grace - not law.
Under the Old Covenant, He was Holy, we were not; He was Master, we were servants; He led us by the hand in all things.
Under the New Covenant, we are forgiven by the Blood of Jesus, not by anything we can do; we are joined to Him as sons, not servants; He lives in us, not a physical temple.
So, how are we to study the Word? Pray! Listen to the Voice of the Holy Spirit who will remind you of Christ's words. Don't study the scripture to know the law; but, study the scripture to know your Father and to know and emulate the heart of Jesus.
One final thought: as you study to know Him better, He will reveal His mind and will to you. He speaks to us as His children; so, open wide your hearts. Don't study to prove the thoughts of men; but rather, let Him pour into you and reveal His perfect will.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 2:5