The Good Shepherd – John 10

What a blessing to hear an exposition of the Good Shepherd from John 10 today. Dr. Steve Lawson has been greatly used by the Lord Jesus to bring constant exposition of the Scriptures through the years. This message was delivered during the 2017 Shepherd’s Conference.

Positive or Negative?

Proverbs 27:5-6 Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 29:5 A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet.

As I peruse the internet, listen to people chat, watch interaction between people with each other, as well as interaction within the church, I’ve noticed a pattern emerging in this age that seems to lend itself to credibility even from Scripture.

I’m sure we have all seen this to some extent or other and maybe even agreed with it to a certain extent.

It is the “Get rid of all those negative relationships that don’t build you up” meme or quote.

It’s interesting how this generation views negativity. When I was younger, quite a bit more than I am now, there was nothing wrong with negativity, to a certain extent. If we look in the Bible at Exodus 20, we will find that God was negative towards His people and demanded complete perfection. Seven of these commandments say, “You shall not,” and one says, “You will have no…” The other two were about the Sabbath and obedience to parents.

I used to think, every time I saw one of these, “Yeah! I can see what they’re saying. You don’t want someone pulling you down to sin and do things wrong before the Lord. Those are negative people and, as such, you need them out of your life.”

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As I’ve studied people’s responses towards things they want to do, my eyes have been opened, through the years, into what was really being said. Years ago, we lived in England and I became friends with someone through the internet. She homeschooled her children, just as we homeschooled ours. One day, out of the blue, she contacted me to tell me her child was looking to become an actress and had the availability to act in one of the newer style family movies which in the early days was not of the quality they are today.

She told me how much they were doing and then began complaining about other people who had been friends and, “…were so negative towards me about this that I had to cut them off.” I was troubled by the fact that people would give her a rough time over it so I started sympathizing with her. After a few days, she began giving me a detailed schedule of what would be happening and, it was at this point I realized the people who were supposedly negative may not necessarily have been.

I struggled to know what to say to her while wondering if what I was going to say would make her think I was being negative, as well. As I had very few friends, anyway, I didn’t want to lose her friendship and kept quiet for a time. The more I thought about her ‘predicament’ (my understanding) the more I became concerned over the situation and how it would affect them spiritually.

I eventually shared with her to be careful that she guard her time with her daughter and their time with the Lord so they didn’t fall by the wayside spiritually. She said she was was stunned and accused me of being negative. At that point she cut me out of her life and refused to talk with me for many years. Eventually, she did speak with me again but only for a short time. The evidence of her new life was painfully apparent in her dress, her speech, and her lifestyle.

As I think of other similar times that this has happened, I’m saddened by what is considered positive influences and what isn’t. I’m also very concerned when people try to use the Word of God to make all this seem as if it were credible.

The truth of the matter is, if you only want yes individuals within your life to give you the nod over whatever it is you want to do then you are headed down a dangerous path. You see, we are sinful creatures and we sin. When we only allow people to advise us who refuse the truth how can we expect they will give us godly advice?

Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

We, as true believers and children of the Sovereign Lord, are expected to share the truth, in love, with each other. We cannot expect others to give us what we want to hear no matter how much we want it. The truth of the Scriptures is the only way we can know how to do what is right. If we choose the right way that means we have to keep our eyes on Scripture regularly and know what direction we must go. If we don’t follow the Lord, He will discipline us to bring forth the peaceable fruit of righteousness and to keep our feet on the right path. Heb 12:11.

If you find someone willing to share the truth with you, don’t cut them out of your life. Proverbs 9:8 makes it clear that if you rebuke a scorner, he will hate you but when you rebuke a wise man that person will love you. If every time someone seeks to give you godly advice and you cut them out of your life the question must be asked, “Are you a true believer?” If you are then why aren’t you listening to godly advice? If you aren’t then today is the day of salvation!

Brokenness of Heartache

In the post called If You Love Me…Part 2, I mentioned heartache and how there are times we sorrow over certain events. Let me remind you, dear reader, what a tender heart the Lord has for His beloved.

Isaiah 42:3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.

Matthew 12:20 A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.

1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon Him for He careth for you.

As we look around at life and the things that are happening, our hearts groan with the sorrow of it all. Everything seems to be falling apart, even within our own hearts. I wonder, sometimes, how people can go forward when it seems like even myself, as a believer fails so much. How can I expect anyone else to follow the Lord when I can’t seem make it at times?

Even in the darkest hours when we struggle to make it through another sorrow, or wake up another day wondering what will happen next and who will hurt us, when our hearts are torn apart because someone we care about refuses to have anything to do with us due to us following the Lord, a deep depression breaks over our soul and we can’t pinpoint just why, or pain (mental, spiritual or physical) keeps us awake through the night and we can’t sleep; just remember the Lord cares and hears.

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Yet, the whole of sorrow is something we must endure at some point or another. How can we get through those times? What kind of responses should we have? It’s so easy to fret and fume, to be restless and uneasy because of what we have to deal with in the midst of that trial or tribulation. Sorrow is something that is good for us and we must sorrow at times but not as those of this world. We can still have peace and rest in the midst of our sorrows.

God is still in control and our sorrows didn’t take Him by surprise so let us learn to be still. Let us remember that the Lord works all things out for His glory and our, those who love Him and are called according to His purposes, good. Let us learn to cast our cares on our Lord and leave them with Him no matter how difficult the path or long the road. He is there and has promised He will “never leave us nor forsake us.” He will pour out His grace upon us and give us strength for the next step.

So, dear friend, trust Him because He alone is trustworthy!

Costing Everything

We have used this video before about 3 years ago, but I feel compelled to share it again. Our family watched “God’s Not Dead 2” last night and found it to be a blessing. However, one aspect that stood out to me is the reality that persecution is coming, and it is coming sooner than we hope and think that it will come. To follow after Christ though requires that we are willing to understand that ultimately it will cost us everything.

Recalling Liberia

Long time readers will know that I have had a love for the people of Liberia for many years. In fact, I have been involved with Liberia longer than I have been writing for Defending Contending. The older I become, it seems the faster the years go.

Nine years ago, I was recovering from a debilitating illness while pastoring in England. I was contacted by a man who later proved to be a scammer. However, it was not until I had flown from England to the steaming jungles of West Africa that I realized that I was in a very dangerous situation. Still, the Lord showed His grace and love and protection. During that trip, I was brought to love these Africans who were, and still are, in need of a Savior.

Many of you also know that our family moved to Liberia in 2012 only to have to return six months later. It was supposed to be a permanent trip, but one of my daughters and I contracted a severe case of malaria. I actually contracted malaria and typhoid two different times in less than three months.

During the intervening years since our return, I often wonder what our lives would be like had we been able to remain. We could have been there during the outbreak of Ebola which claimed the lives of several thousand including some Christian brothers and sisters that we personally knew. We could have been there for the first baptisms that took place in the villages of Foloblai and Tamayta where we started two mission works. We could have been there when Cyrus Smith began his first work in the village of Dentaa. We could have been there when the first Biblical marriages took place. There are many things we could have seen and been involved with.

However, today the work that God graciously, and in His sovereignty, only allowed us to plant seeds for continues to flourish and grow without the white missionary. The Bible Institute of Church Ministries still continues to train jungle pastors to teach the people of their village churches. Baptisms continue to take place as testimony is shared of the saving grace of God. Lives are still being changed. Another church plant is getting ready to take place under the guidance of Cyrus Smith.

The short time in Liberia still makes a difference in our lives today. We are thankful for every experience — the dangers, the lack of food and provisions at times, the fellowship of fellow missionaries who had no idea what we had or didn’t have, the prayers of family and friends through the dark nights when death was so close at hand, the village chief (Cyrus Smith) who surrendered all and became my Timothy, but most of all, the privilege of having served the Lord in a country where so many still need the Lord.

My prayer is that you will enjoy these pictures. They are not the best quality, but they represent a work that grows despite all the opposition. They represent part of my heart, but more importantly, these pictures show a Church and Bible Institute growing to the glory of God.

Are You Really Living?

The sermon this morning was on Philippians 1:21: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” As I listened to the message, I wondered how many Christians truly think about that. So many go through life just existing, getting through life because they have to, so they miss the eternal purpose that God created them for. The fact is that God allowed everyone on earth to be born for a purpose. Sadly, few really fulfill that purpose.

Although it’s necessary to work to pay our bills, there is a reason God has you at your job. Your family may be hard to get along with but there is a purpose for you being a part of that family. Nothing happens by accident. Maybe the purpose is simply so that God can draw you closer to Himself. Maybe it is so that you can be a Light to people who need some hope. Whatever the reason, it is not a small thing.

If you’ve read my writings for any length of time, you know that I struggle … more than I should really. God has been so good to me and has made it very clear that He plans to use me, but it’s easy to lose sight of that. How it must grieve Him, though. It is such an honor to be called by the Almighty God, who can change a life or a situation with just a word and yet, often, He chooses to use an imperfect human and entrust us with tasks that He could better do Himself.

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Maybe you are struggling to figure out what your purpose is. Let me just encourage you that you have one. I can’t tell you why God hasn’t revealed it to you but I will tell you that, if you stay close to Him, willing to surrender everything that He asks of you, He will direct you if you listen. The second step to that is being willing to obey. Sometimes I think we are convinced God isn’t speaking when the truth is that we don’t like what He is saying and so we stop our ears and convince ourselves that the voice we’re hearing can’t be God. I agree that it’s important to know that you are hearing God’s voice before you step out to do the impossible but, if you aren’t willing to step out in faith when He asks you to, you will miss so much that God has for you.

I hope you will take some time today to examine your life and ask yourself: Are you living or just existing? Are you walking through life full of joy, knowing that your Father walks with you, or are you barely getting through each day, living for the weekend when you can unplug from your daily tasks?

Ask God to fill your heart with more of Him so that it is no longer you that lives but Christ who lives in you. As you open your heart to Him, you will begin to see through His eyes and will find that satisfaction that your heart longs for.