Our Shepherd

I hope you are blessed and receive encouragement in the faith from this teaching regarding the role of Good Shepherd that our Lord fills…

“Our Shepherd

Psalm 23 describes God as a caring shepherd. Yet the job of ‘shepherd’ is relatively unknown to the average person today. What exactly does a shepherd do? Why is God depicted as such? A cursory study of shepherds and sheep seems necessary to unpack the riches of the imagery in Psalm 23 as well as the psalm’s relevance to the New Testament’s depiction of Christ as the ‘good shepherd’. (John 10:1-18)

One of the primary responsibilities of a shepherd is guarding his flock. Thieves, wild animals and the wandering inclinations of the sheep themselves mean that a shepherd must actively work to keep his sheep safe from harm. (1st Samuel 17:34-35) Every night, a shepherd counts his sheep to ensure none have strayed or been stolen. (Jeremiah 33:13) If any of the sheep are missing, he goes out to look for them, discontent to lose any of those under his care. (Ezekiel 34:11) Not only does the shepherd tend to their wounds when they have been attacked, but he also ‘binds up the injured and strengthens the weak’ even when their injuries or weaknesses are of their own doing. (Ezekiel 34:16)

A shepherd also meets his flock’s basic needs for food and water by traveling far and wide to locate viable sources. What may appear to be a simple provision is, in actuality, a strenuous undertaking. Leading masses of sheep to food and water often involves trekking across difficult terrain and enduring harsh climates. (Genesis 31:40) Shepherding requires fortitude, endurance and skill.

God is depicted in Scripture as the kind of shepherd who does more than provide food, shelter and safety.; He even goes so far as to bless His flock. The entire thirty-fourth chapter of Ezekiel describes God as a good shepherd who will ‘send down showers in season…showers of blessing’. (Ezekiel 34:26) Truly the ‘cup overflows’ for those who are shepherded by God Himself.

Likewise, Jesus refers to Himself as the ‘good shepherd’ who ‘lays down His life for the sheep’. (John 10:11) He is the Messianic shepherd hoped for by God’s people, foreshadowed by the psalmist David and foretold by the prophets. Jesus is the Good Shepherd worth listening to and worth following (John 10:3-5), the Good Shepherd who knows the name of every sheep and who died to give them ‘life to the full’. (John 10:10-11)

Jesus, thank you for laying down your life for me. I lay my life down at your feet. I want to follow You every moment of every day. Amen.”

From the Jesus Bible Reading Plan, Day 284, on the Bible App available free from Youversion.

May our Lord bless and protect you all in these end times, in the Name of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Savior.

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Storm Warning

In the last couple of weeks we’ve seen Harvey hit Texas with massive flooding, an 8.1 earthquake in southern Mexico and now hurricane Irma is getting ready to rip Florida a new one. But in just the last two days I’ve heard everyone from a pampered movie star to people interviewed on the street to news anchors refer to this as the wrath of “Mother Nature”. To me that touches on one of the root causes of the problems we’re getting hit with, and that is a complete denial of God. These events are occuring because God is trying to get our attention and turn us away from our sins. (They are not, as some misguided people have claimed, happening because we elected Donald Trump as President.) Now I know all the meteorological explanations for storms like Harvey and Irma, but you have to remember that science can only describe the mechanics of how God does things. He is still sovereign and in control of events in the marvelous universe He created. He is using these storms to shake us out of our complacency, to get us to stop relying on ourselves and our technological cleverness and military might and start relying on Him. He is trying to get us to turn away from our humanism and our arrogance and our false belief systems and turn back to Him. He wants us to repent of all the wickedness that has become so prevalent and turn to Him through faith in His Messiah, the risen Jesus Christ. Time is running out, my friends. Events are happening exactly as prophesied and will continue to do so with increasing frequency. Don’t be one of the untold billions who will stubbornly refuse to heed His warnings. Jesus loves you, He died for you, and He stands before you with open arms wanting you to turn to Him and find eternal life. Don’t harden your hearts to Him.

May God comfort all those who have suffered in these disasters, and may He protect His children in Florida who stand in the path of this storm.

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Thoughts on the Alignment of September 23rd, 2017…

Revelation 12:1

“A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.”

There has been so much written lately about the planetary alignment occuring on this coming September 23rd; search that date in Youtube and you will pull up a long list of videos talking about that subject. Some state that this alignment is the fulfillment of the prophecy in Revelation 12:1. Some call it one of the great signs and wonders in the heavens prophesied by Jesus in Matthew 24. Some even use this to claim it as proof that the “Rapture” is going to occur on that date or shortly thereafter. And some also state that this alignment is no big deal. What is the truth of the matter? Let’s look at a couple of points to keep in mind when you prayerfully consider this subject.
The first thing to consider is the context of this one verse in the prophecies of the twelfth chapter of Revelation. John continues in verses 2-6 to describe the woman giving birth to a male son, “who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter” and who will be snatched up to God and His heavenly throne; this is clearly meant to represent the Savior, Jesus Christ. In verses 3-4, the apostle describes another sign appearing in heaven, that of the “red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads”; this image refers to Satan and the political and economic alliance that will provide the power base for the Antichrist. The entire first 6 verses of Revelation 12 are a metaphorical description of the advent of the Messiah and the power structure of the Beast. Nowhere does it state that this sign is the announcement of the end. In fact, the remainder of the chapter describes the war in the heavens between the followers of Satan and the armies of God led by Michael the archangel, and the chapter ends with the dragon going off in a rage and waging war against the elect of God in Jesus. Trying to interpret the Bible from one verse taken out of context is a bad idea and nearly always leads to a faulty interpretation and then spiritual deception. Read everything in the Scriptures, especially the prophecies, in the light of the context of the passage where they appear.
My second point addresses those who claim that this alignment announces the imminence of the “Rapture” despite the fact that Jesus clearly said on more than one occasion that no man would know the date or time of His coming. Read Matthew 24 again and pay close attention to verses 30 and 31 to learn when Jesus will gather His elect “from one end of the heavens to the other.” This alignment does not indicate the day of Christ’s return, and if you say that it does you are falling into the same trap of predicting His return that many have fallen into in the past; even Augustine predicted that Jesus would return in or around the year 1000 AD. Some relate this to the beginning of the Jewish Feast of Trumpets, and if that is how they want to see it they are entitled to that opinion, but as yet I have been shown nothing Biblical to pronounce that this is the sign that Christ is almost here. Be careful in your interpretations.
And third, this alignment has been touted by some as a great sign in the heavens. How does this qualify as such? Remember that in the middle of this alignment will be the sun, which means that this alignment would only be above us during the day. No one will be able to see it due to the light of the sun. Only astronomers with highly specialized equipment will be able to actually view this alignment; people who have software on their computers such as Stellarium will be able to see a representation of the alignment but not the alignment itself. There are other astronomical factors that come into play but the bottom line is that if it weren’t for astronomers and people with astronomical programs and a lot of time on their hands no one would know that this alignment was even taking place. I think that to be a true sign and wonder in the heavens such as Jesus spoke of it would need to be visible to a lot of people in the way that the recent eclipse was visible to millions without relying on technology to let us know that it had happened.
So be very careful, my brothers and sisters, before you read too much into an “event”. We will be seeing many signs and wonders as Jesus prophesied; we already have been. But there are still a number of conditions “on the ground” that need to be met before the return of our Lord in power and glory, such as the reign of the Beast, the implementation of the Mark of the Beast for financial transactions, and Satan’s war against the saints. Until these signs are met we must continue patiently enduring, watching and waiting and being alert and informed. Don’t go off in a panic and sell everything and put on white robes because you think the Lord is about to return. That glorious day is very close, closer than we may think, but it is not not here yet.

Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Josephus

 

Josephus was a Jewish historian of the 1st Century. He was born in Jerusalem in 37 AD and lived until about the year 100 AD. He was born into a well to do family; his father was a priest and his mother was descended from the royal Hasmonean Dynasty that ruled Judea until the Romans moved in in the middle of the first century before Christ. Josephus was highly educated and while in his 20s was part of a diplomatic mission to the Emperor Nero to secure the release of some Jewish priests being held by the Romans.

When the Jews launched their ill-fated rebellion against Roman occupation in the mid-60s AD, the ruling Sanhedrin in Jerusalem appointed Josephus military governor of Galilee, where he led a spirited and innovative campaign against both Jewish rivals and the invading Roman army of future emperor Vespasian until he surrendered himself after a six week city at the Galilean city of Jotapata in 67 AD. He then served as interpreter for Vespasian until word arrived that the emperor had died and Vespasian was elevated to the throne by his army. Josephus then served as interpreter to Vespasian’s son Titus during his campaign in Judea proper that culminated in the capture and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Josephus then went to Rome and was made a citizen, and began writing his histories.

Josephus’ primary writings that survive include:
The Jewish War, published around 75 AD and detailing the history of Judea leading up to the failed rebellion against the Romans and the sack of Jerusalem;
The Antiquities of the Jews, published around 94 AD and covering Jewish history from the Creation to the middle of the first century;
Against Apion, published late in Josephus’ life and which served as a defense of the history and antiquity of the Jewish people;
and My Life, which is his autobiography, of course.

Josephus was most likely a member of the party of the Pharisees, and it is through his writings that we possess most of our knowledge about the three major sects in Judea at the time, the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the monkish Essenes who left us the Dead Sea Scrolls. Josephus also provides us a great deal of historical information regarding Israel from the building of the second temple until 70 AD, including the long years ruled by the Macedonian heirs of Alexander the Great, the successful rebellion led by the Maccabees and the rule of the Hasmonean dynasty, and the ascension of the Idumean Herod the Great to the throne and the tumultuous rule of his dynasty. In his “Antiquities”, Josephus gives us non-Biblical references to John the Baptist, James the Just (brother of Jesus), and Jesus Himself, although in fairness I must point out that most modern scholars believe those references were added by later, Christian writers. (These, however, are the same scholars who dispute nearly everything about the Bible in an attempt to discredit it.) It is widely believed that Josephus became an Ebionite Christian late in his life, although Josephus himself does not state so in his writings. I’ve read translator William Whiston’s notes on that possibility and he builds a strong case based on what Josephus and others wrote in the early Christian period.

Josephus was an important writer for the Christian faith (even though he did not plan it that way and in fact wrote largely for the Romans) simply because he preserved for us a wealth of information concerning the history of the Jewish people that our Savior came out of that we otherwise would not have. He includes much information that was not included in our Old Testament but which corroborates it. He gives us most of our available information about the years between the building of the second temple in Jerusalem and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, an event which he saw as Divine punishment for many sins, especially the murder of James the Just. Whiston was convinced that Josephus drew from the library of sacred writings gathered in Jerusalem by Nehemiah at the time of the return from Babylon. Without Josephus we would know next to nothing of the Pharisees and the Sadducees other than what the Gospels state. His works provide a treasure trove of background information regarding the Judea and Jerusalem and Galilee that Jesus knew and loved. His writings may not qualify as light reading for anyone, but if you have an interest in the history of ancient Israel up to and through the time of Christ and the apostles, Josephus is well worth spending time with.

“And now, ‘O most wretched city, what misery so great as this didst thou suffer from the Romans, when they came to purify thee from thy intestine hatred! For thou couldst be no longer a place fit for God, nor couldst thou longer continue in being, after thou hadst been a sepulchre for the bodies of thine own people, and hadst made the holy house itself a burying place in this civil war of thine!'” Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book V, Chapter 1 Section 3.

Grace and peace to you all from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

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A Word from a Year Ago

Our civilization and our culture have wandered far from the will of God, not surprising since this world has been in rebellion against God for countless generations. A just judgement is coming upon this world for its sins which people revel in. But a judgement is also coming on the church, on the Body of Christ, for we have strayed too even though we are God’s chosen people. We have strayed into many sins, sexual immorality, acceptance of perversion, greed, vain ambition, dissension, hatred and more. We have largely fallen for the lie of humanism that teaches that humanity can solve our own problems if we just try enough and convert enough people into a progressive way of thinking. We cannot save our civilization no matter how hard we try. Humanity is doomed to fail and it will only be the direct intervention of God when Jesus Christ returns in power and glory that will prevent humanity from destroying itself. We all need to repent. All we can do is throw ourselves on the mercy of the Lord and humble ourselves in repentance and change. He knows we can’t become sinless and perfect in mortal bodies, but He also expects those of us who claim to be His children to resist sin at all times and never give up. We need to get back to conducting ourselves as Jesus and the apostles explained it in the Bible. We don’t want to end up like those who will cry “Lord, Lord” at the return of Christ only to be told to get away because He doesn’t know the evildoers. Be kind and gentle to everyone, hate no one, be humble, accept each other as Christians in love and end the dissensions between groups that has been occuring since the beginning of the Church. Repent of our sins and return to the ways of God. Trust in Jesus for our Salvation and worship Him in spirit and truth, not just with the words from our lips. Time is running out, and just as God punished ancient Israel for rebelling against Him so He will also punish us for straying from His ways. Remember, God will always discipline the ones He loves. Please repent and change while we still can, for the hour is very late and Tribulation is right around the corner.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Beware the Sinful Nation…

Jeremiah 51:49

“Babylon must fall because of Israel’s slain, just as the slain in all the earth have fallen because of Babylon.”

The raising up of a nation to serve God’s purpose and then later punishing that nation for its sins and wickedness is a principle established throughout the Old Testament but just as valid today; remember, God never changes, and what He did 3,000 years ago He will also do today. The Second Babylonian empire was raised up as a tool to punish many nations for their wickedness, but especially to punish Judah and Jerusalem, which it did in July of 586 BC. This had already been an established way of punishing nations for wickedness before this. The nation of Israel itself stayed in slavery in Egypt and wandered in the desert until the sins of the peoples living in Canaan were complete. Assyria became a great nation and was used by God to punish the northern Kingdom of Israel for idolatry; the Assyrian capital Nineveh repented and turned to God after Jonah was sent there, but ultimately they were punished when the Babylonians conquered them. And the Roman Empire, pagan and brutal as it was, was raised up both to punish other nations for their sins but also to provide the environment and infrastructure needed to facilitate the spread of the Gospel. I could go on but you get the idea. My point is this – no nation which has been raised up by God as a tool to work His will is exempt from His rod of punishment when they go astray and fall away from God. To rest upon one’s laurels and think, “I’m exempt from punishment because I did these good things” is a very dangerous way to live as a person or a nation. If even Israel, God’s chosen people and His inheritance among the nations, was not exempt from His punishment and correction when they went astray, then no nation is exempt. We must, as Jesus said, persevere to the end, and that is just as true for a nation as it is for a person. The nation called Babylon the Great in the Book of Revelation, which suffers terrible punishment for its wickedness, probably did great things serving the will of God, but it strayed into wickedness. No nation is free to exist in its own wickedness no matter how much good it has done in the past. We would be wise to remember that today.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Solar Eclipse Mania

Here in Oregon at least eclipse mania is running rampant regarding the total solar eclipse coming on Monday, August 21st. People are planning eclipse parties and organized “experiences” to celebrate the eclipse. Hundreds of thousands, if not a million or more visitors, are expected to flood into Oregon during the days just before and after the eclipse. The authorities are trying to avoid creating panic among residents, but at the same time they are warning that there will be immense traffic jams, shortages of necessities, and possible failure of such services as cell phones, the Internet, and possibly even electricity due to being overwhelmed by the huge influx of visitors. No one knows exactly what to expect, but all the projections for Lincoln County here on the coast (where I live) are that we will get hundreds of thousands of people coming here to watch the eclipse at “ground zero”, where it will first reach the coast of the US. But there is a bigger picture here that most people are missing. This eclipse will qualify as one of the “signs in the sun, moon and stars” prophesied by Jesus in Luke 21:25. There is a long history of solar eclipses coming shortly before disasters of one kind or another, far too many to list in this post, but just taking a cursory look at a list of total solar eclipses visible in at least parts of North America since 1901, several interesting dates stand out. The last total eclipse visible in the main United States was on June 8, 1918. “But World War 1 ended a few months later, how was that disastrous?” True, but in 1918 the terrible Spanish flu pandemic began, and before it petered out in 1920 it had killed an estimated 50-100 million people worldwide. Another interesting date is the eclipse on July 9th, 1945; one month later the atomic bombs forced Japan to surrender after the detruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I could go on but you get the idea. This eclipse will be no different, it will be serve as a warning from God that some disaster is about to fall, and since this one will be visible from coast to coast in America it is aimed at us. We have to realize that in spite of all the noble words being pronounced by political and religious leaders about peace and safety possible in our day, our world is headed to judgement for our own wickedness. It is coming and will be unavoidable. Our only response should be to repent and turn to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and then patiently wait for His return in power and glory to claim the earth as His own. It’s coming sooner rather than later. I plan on watching this eclipse, of course, but I do so in the knowledge that it is a wonder arranged by God for His purpose. Something to remember while we are swarming to witness this unique event.

May our LORD God have mercy on us in Jesus’ name.

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