Wolves at the Front Gate

Be very careful!
Be very careful!

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” 

 Matthew  7:15, NIV

I use my channel changer and I flip through the enormous darkness that exists in the world.  Jesus clearly warns His flock of the cold, hard realities of deception and deceitfulness that we will be dealing with.  Trickery abounds and things simply are not what they seem to be.  Darkness has a brutal grasp on so many.

There should be an alertness for the inevitable. Sometimes, sheep will not really be sheep.  This is astonishing.  Our senses are not always adequate or capable to identify counterfeit Christians.  We get confused by the outside (it looks like wool to me).  But it is a lie.  The wolf has deliberately taken on the dress of the believer.  He has a real, definite sinister agenda.  (Can you say, “lamp chops“?)

Jesus alerts us to what is really taking place.  He wants us to discern.  He wants us to become adroit observers.  Every believer needs a holy skepticism of outward displays of faith.  This is not cynicism or negativity.  But it is a cautious faith– one in which we can discern the realities of a world that regularly deceives.

“The first step on the way to victory is to recognize the enemy.” 

Corrie Ten Boom

Ferocious” in verse 15 is a sobering word.  When I read it, I think of Alaska, or maybe the grasslands of the ‘Serengiti.’   A dangerous carnivore that is hidden by an outward covering.  It is a ‘predator’ word, a word that intensifies. It patiently stalks and then ambushes its victims. There is only one focus, a single purpose, and that is to destroy. It is Satan’s ‘calling card.’

wolf-sheeps-clothingFor us who are accustomed to an ideal of love and peace in our walks, we are disturbed and perhaps almost pulled off balance by this disturbing revelation of evil in our midst.  Jesus tells us that we must possess a reality of deception, for that is the real world.  He gave us plenty of warning.

“Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.”

Luke 10:3, NLT

Do you know what wolves do to lambs? But yet He still sends them. That is interesting.

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Quarantined, for His Purposes

 

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Quarantines are a real possibility, even in this day. A quarantine is imposed when disease is contagious enough that it would harm a society: Measles, Smallpox, and the recent Ebola Virus  are just a few physical diseases where strict isolation must be imposed. It can be severe— an epidemic, with desperate consequences if not adhered to; in some rare cases, the use of deadly force have been authorized to maintain a quarantine until the disease is no longer communicable.

This may surprise you, but there are examples of ‘quarantines’ in the Bible. The term ‘unclean’ was used for ‘leprosy.’ Those afflicted must isolate themselves; they had to ‘announce’ their presence when in contact with society. Lepers lived in groups away from the general populace as a result of their disease.

In Paul’s epistle to the Corinthian he addresses another kind of ‘quarantine.’ The situation was dire; the church had advocated a Christian living with his father’s wife.

“I have already passed judgment on this man in the name of the Lord Jesus. You must call a meeting of the church. I will be present with you in spirit, and so will the power of our Lord Jesus. Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns.”

1 Corinthians 5:3-5, NLT

Understanding the Principal of Usefulness

20 “Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.”

2 Timothy 2:20, NASB

Found in God’s pantry are many things. Paul writes Timothy about the ‘large house’ which is the Church inclusive. Look around Timothy, there are gold ones, and there are silver ones. They have a noble purpose fitting for such a great house. These are the ones the guests will use; they befit the significance of the Lord himself. These vessels have great value for they are made of precious metals.

There are vessels of a different category. These are the ones made of wood, and of clay. These are part of the household, make no mistake about it. But their use is one of function, they’re used in common ways. (A clay ‘bed-pan’ perhaps?!)

21 “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.”

2 Timothy 2:21

Paul, the author of New Testament doctrine of grace emphasizes the place of personal holiness. We are to ‘cleanse’ ourselves to become a vessel of honor. There is good news here:

  • All are vessels in the Father’s house. Each of us belong to Him. He determines their use.
  • Things are not yet in their final state. Change in status can be experienced. Clay pots can become ‘golden.’ Silver can become ‘wood.’

Some sin is contagious. It effects other believers and the Church. Sometimes we are quarantined by the Holy Spirit until the contagion passes. I have experienced this several times in my own discipleship. These are not pleasant times. But there is no condemnation. I’m still His servant, His love for me stays outrageously constant. God waits for me.

Yes I am His servant, and I must wait out in the hall. I haven’t been faithful. So I sit in His waiting room, waiting for His call. This is for my good, and for the Church. And Father knows best.

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He Has Come For Us

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own 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 ESV

Jesus declares and reveals something substantial here.  He is the “good shepherd.”  If we split this statement apart, we get “good.”  We also get “shepherd.”  And we simply must insist on both.  Somehow, deep down, these two ‘particulars’ take on the most definite positions in our lives.  We are desperate for anything good; and we know our need for a shepherd.  We struggle so hard, and this understanding will carry us a very long way.

This verse tells us– He knows us!

He is fully aware of you in this present moment.  This is amazing, to be aware that He engages us on the level were we are now at.  Think about, its like He has our ‘x-ray’  in front of Him.  He knows and understands us completely and fully.

The remainder of this verse goes on to suggest that we (yes, we) know Him. Now I have a multitude of issues, but when I sift them out, there is a deep awareness of His presence.  I completely understand (as much as I’m able) of who He is, and I can’t shake Him.  Once touched we’ll never be satisfied with anything else (and Lord knows we will try.)

While visiting this planet, Jesus maintained His connection with the Father.  He would take this sense of intimacy with His Father down ‘into the stretch.’  And that pattern of love would take place in our hearts and minds.  And now we have finally found our place– with him, with the Father.

The very last part, v. 15, places itself right in the middle of our understanding.  He will definitely die for us.  He wants to, and is eager to lay down His life to make us His own.  It all seems foolish, I know.  But He very much wants to bring us into His deep presence.

The idea that we are sheep is factored in.  He dies for us.  The Shepherd will now face crucifixion in order to claim His sheep. He will go to a painful and ugly death to give us life that is eternal.

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Interruptions: A Litmus Test for Disciples

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.”

1 Thessalonians 3:12

“Our love to God is measured by our everyday fellowship with others and the love it displays.”

Andrew Murray

There is an awesome need for Christians who can be interrupted.  They have learned that their personal plans and agendas should be set aside for the acute need of the moment.  People like that are becoming receptive people–people who have learned to submit their wills to the Lordship of Christ.

There seems to be a lot of believers who have isolated themselves in order to avoid ‘complications’ of the Spirit.  Over the years they have cultivated a life without entanglements from others (at least, greatly reduced).  The basic root of this is not sin, but it quickly slides into an isolation that is not just threatening, but dangerous.

We are built for fellowship.  We need it— like my goldfish needs its water.  

Our brothers and sisters need us, and we most definitely need them.  In the Apostle’s Creed we read, ‘I believe in the Communion of the Saints’.  This takes a supernatural faith.  This dynamic of the Body calls us to fellowship with other believers, which is our desperate need of the moment.  Deep within, we crave human contact.  We need to touch someone else.

Being interruptible establishes several things. I think these questions are a simple starting point.

  • First, I have become approachable and tractable?
  • Second, is Jesus really Lord over my life?  (Or do I have my ‘own thing’ going?)
  • Third, do I really believe ‘something’ is going to happen when I begin to fellowship?
  • Fourth, is it really worth it?
  • Fifth, what is more important: People or my schedule?

Years ago I learned that every servant who really excelled had become a man or woman that could be interrupted.  And they respond in grace and kindness to every issue that came.  You’ll never hear them get frustrated or even irritable over being disturbed.  They simply have surrounded themselves in the will of God, and are His servants.

What is more important: a schedule or people?

There are ‘skills’ we need to learn for Christian community.  We have touched on some as we have matured.  We have practiced with this holy concept, and caught glimpses, many which translate into our present spiritual lives.

“Some Christians try to go to heaven alone, in solitude. But believers are not compared to bears or lions or other animals that wander alone. Those who belong to Christ are sheep in this respect, that they love to get together. Sheep go in flocks, and so do God’s people.”

Charles Spurgeon

God’s great quest is to make those who have been redeemed into a cohesive body.  He takes a special delight in the harmony of His Church.  He is very passionate about this.  His proclivity to unity must be noted.  We must adjust and do all that is necessary to make it happen.  This dear one, is His will.

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He Was at Home

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“A few days later, when Jesus came back to Capernaum, the news spread that he was at home.” 

Mark 2:1

You can’t hide the presence of Jesus.  There is a ‘built-in’ need for Him in the hearts of men and women.  You can’t keep it quiet, it is an open secret.  Believing people let it out in many ways.  You can see it in their faces, and hear it in their voices.  They become gentle and caring, where once was selfishness and anger.  Peace is present, and a wonderful new thing called joy.  They can’t help but share about their new guest, when they speak it spontaneously spills out.

Spring flowers can’t help their beautiful fragrance.  There is a fragrance that announces that He is present.  You might say that He takes over, just as a bright light takes over the darkness.  When Jesus is present, His brightness pushes through the cracks and shines out every window.  He cannot be contained or hidden.  Love itself is invisible.  But it has an effect on all who take it in.  The very presence of Jesus transforms us.

My heart is now His home.

People travel and gather great works of art.  They collect these things of beauty and culture.  They will go out of their way to search for paintings and statues of grace and elegance, and finding them they will spend a great deal of money to obtain them.  But no one or nothing can compare to having Christ as the honored guest. The poorest farmer can be the wealthiest man. No matter how quietly Jesus enters, His presence will soon make itself known.  Where Christ truly abides, nothing but good will be observed.

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”

Ephesians 3:17, NLT

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Do You Love Me?

 

“When they finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” 

   He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” 

   Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 

   Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” 

   He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” 

   Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 

John 21:15-16

This is a favorite passage for believers throughout the whole world.  I think the reason is that it’s a transferable concept; it is something that communicates well to a heart and life that is struggling very hard.  If you think about it everything in the story is coming to us from two places.  Either Peter’s failure, or Jesus’ grace.

Failure is a brutal teacher; but man, do you learn! Much of the teaching had already been done in Peter’s life. His denial and cowardice had already been worked out, and Peter then had to live with himself.  He was defeated and very lost before this meeting on the beach.

Jesus’ heart is to reconcile his errant disciple with Him, and with Peter himself.  Peter is stuck; in his own failure and denial, and he needs Jesus to touch him in His own impenetrable darkness.  People who have failed God will understand this.  We have been in the darkness, and only Jesus can rescue us from its empty pain.

We see what amounts to a ‘good’ interrogation.  Peter, the failure, is asked over and over by Jesus the “Question”.  “Do you love me?  This is a simple and basic inquiry.  “Do you love me?”

Peter in his pathetic state, is forced to generate a response to Jesus that destroys his own confusion and apathy.  It’s neat to see Jesus pulverizing the foundations of darkness in Peter’s life.  He does it with a skill and deftness that leaves us in awe of Jesus’ love. Peter had denied knowing the Lord three times. It is fitting that Jesus would ask His question three times as well.

For us, the questions keep coming.  We are repeatedly asked, over and over, “do you love me?”  We must process the penetration of the question.  Do you really, really love Jesus?  Is it a show? Do we really love Him, or is it just words, a misbegotten display of cultural appropriateness?

Jesus moves Peter into the light.  Never again will he live in confusion and despair.  His interview with Jesus has placed him there, into the light.  Jesus’ incredibly wise questions led Peter to the place of authenticity.  Peter, from this new place of completeness and recovery, is finally restored and healed.

But do we love Him?  Do we turn the ministry we do, whatever that might be, does it come from a place of love and confidence.  Our love for Him is the essential basis, the root foundation of all Christian activity.  It’s all about the “love”.  “Do you love me?”

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When Jesus Becomes Real to Me, by Vance Havner

Holy Spirit Power

“He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

John 16:14

We do not make Jesus real by conjuring up a mental picture of Him long ago in Galilee and trying to walk in imagination with Him there. We do not have to go back two thousand years or travel to Palestine to find Jesus. There is a fad for that sort of thing, but so might one inwardly visualize any character of history. Such mental association may, indeed, affect one’s life to some degree, but it is far from the way Christ is made real to the believer.

The Holy Spirit has come for that purpose.

All things spiritual are from God through Christ and are communicated to us by the Spirit. It was expedient that Jesus should go that the Spirit might come. He does not testify of Himself but of Christ, and He makes the Lord real to the heart. It is not a mere mental exercise but the work of the Spirit that enables us to say, “He is real to me.”

—Vance Havner

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