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The Good Shepherd and His Sheep

The Good Shepherd and His Sheep

10 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

19 The Jews who heard these words were again divided. 20 Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”

21 But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

Further Conflict Over Jesus’ Claims

22 Then came the Festival of Dedication[b] at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[c]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’[d]? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” 39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

40 Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. There he stayed, 41 and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a sign, all that John said about this man was true.” 42 And in that place many believed in Jesus.

Whom Shall I Fear.

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.
3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.
4 One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.
5 For in the day of trouble he will keep me safein his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.
6 Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD.
7Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me.
8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior.
10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence.
13 I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.

Read This When You Are Having A Bad Day.

1. No one promised life would be perfect.

“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.” -Leo Tolstoy

Don’t condition your happiness on meeting every expectation you set for yourself. It is good to be ambitious, but you’ll never be perfect. If you expect otherwise, your life will be rife with disappointments.

2. Success doesn’t happen overnight.

“Trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.” -Molière

Don’t kid yourself into thinking success will come quickly. It isn’t easy to be patient, but anything worth doing requires time (often, lots of it!). If you get frustrated, remind yourself why your goal is important.

3. There is a lesson in every struggle.

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
-Haruki Murakami

Don’t complain about how terrible your life is. It is tempting to do, but stressing out won’t make you feel any better. If you search for the lesson in your present struggle, you’ll be able to make positive changes that would prevent similar situations in the future.

4. Without hard times, you wouldn’t appreciate the good ones.

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” -Arnold Schwarzenegger

Don’t get sad if you lose. It is hard to find much to smile about when you fail, but how else would you improve yourself? If you look at failure as a part of your evolutionary process, you’ll stay positive and pursue your goals for as long as it takes.

5. It’s okay to cry sometimes.

“Do not apologize for crying. Without this emotion, we are only robots.” -Elizabeth Gilbert

Don’t be afraid of crying. It isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather an acceptable way to let go of your upset feelings. If you let those feelings build up without release, you’ll have a much harder time dealing with them later.

6. It’s not okay to worry forever.

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” -Corrie ten Boom

Don’t worry about everything. It is human nature to obsess with all the things that could go wrong, but this will result in a self-inflicted mental nightmare. If you forget about the things you can’t control, you’ll be empowered to to concentrate on the things you can.

7. No one’s life is as picturesque as it looks.

“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.” -Marcus Aurelius

Don’t compare your life to what another person reflects online. It is okay to interact with your friends online, but don’t believe everything you see. If you feel like your life pales in comparison, realize that you are comparing yourself to a highlight reel of their lives.

8. It takes courage to ask for help.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?” -Martin Luther King Jr.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help. It is tough to put yourself in a vulnerable position, but opening up to a friend will help you deal with your troubles. If you feel like a burden, remember that no one would have achieved much if they didn’t ask for support when they needed it.

9. You deserve love and happiness.

“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” -Abraham Lincoln

Think of something you are thankful for right now. It could be the cup of coffee you had this morning, the sweet puppy you’ll be going home to tonight, or the healthy set of eyes that allowed you to read this article. It’s so easy to lose sight of these little things when we’re upset. I challenge you to break that trend. The next time you get upset, think about something that makes you happy. Repeat this behavior until it becomes second nature. Your negative thoughts will have no power over you if you learn to stop lingering on them.

“What does the Bible say about war?”

Many people make the mistake of reading what the Bible says in Exodus 20:13, “You shall not kill,” and then seeking to apply this command to war. However, the Hebrew word literally means “the intentional, premeditated killing of another person with malice; murder.” God often ordered the Israelites to go to war with other nations (1 Samuel 15:3; Joshua 4:13). God ordered the death penalty for numerous crimes (Exodus 21:12, 15; 22:19; Leviticus 20:11). So, God is not against killing in all circumstances, but only murder. War is never a good thing, but sometimes it is a necessary thing. In a world filled with sinful people (Romans 3:10-18), war is inevitable. Sometimes the only way to keep sinful people from doing great harm to the innocent is by going to war.

In the Old Testament, God ordered the Israelites to “take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites” (Numbers 31:2). Deuteronomy 20:16-17 declares, “However, in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them…as the LORD your God has commanded you.” Also, 1 Samuel 15:18 says, “Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.” Obviously God is not against all war. Jesus is always in perfect agreement with the Father (John 10:30), so we cannot argue that war was only God’s will in the Old Testament. God does not change (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17).

Jesus’ second coming will be exceedingly violent. Revelation 19:11-21 describes the ultimate war with Christ, the conquering commander who judges and makes war “with justice” (v. 11). It’s going to be bloody (v. 13) and gory. The birds will eat the flesh of all those who oppose Him (v. 17-18). He has no compassion upon His enemies, whom He will conquer completely and consign to a “fiery lake of burning sulfur” (v. 20).

It is an error to say that God never supports a war. Jesus is not a pacifist. In a world filled with evil people, sometimes war is necessary to prevent even greater evil. If Hitler had not been defeated by World War II, how many more millions would have been killed? If the American Civil War had not been fought, how much longer would African-Americans have had to suffer as slaves?

War is a terrible thing. Some wars are more “just” than others, but war is always the result of sin (Romans 3:10-18). At the same time, Ecclesiastes 3:8 declares, “There is…a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” In a world filled with sin, hatred, and evil (Romans 3:10-18), war is inevitable. Christians should not desire war, but neither are Christians to oppose the government God has placed in authority over them (Romans 13:1-4; 1 Peter 2:17). The most important thing we can be doing in a time of war is to be praying for godly wisdom for our leaders, praying for the safety of our military, praying for quick resolution to conflicts, and praying for a minimum of casualties among civilians on both sides (Philippians 4:6-7).

 

When God seems distant, we must call to Him and trust in His unfailing love.

t those times when it seems as if God has turned His back, we must deliberately trust the fact that He loves us with an unfailing love, and that He will not forsake us, even though it may seem that way for a while. Let’s examine the three parts of the psalm:

1. The problem: God seems distant (13:1-2).

God’s distance in the face of the enemy’s prominence resulted in a lot of inner turmoil for David.

A. DAVID’S GOD SEEMED DISTANT (13:1).

It seemed as if God had forgotten David, had hidden Himself from him, and as if it would last forever. It always seems as if a time of intense trial lasts forever, doesn’t it? The hard thing about waiting is that you have to wait! Don’t you hate to wait? Waiting is especially hard if you don’t have much to do while you wait. If this psalm was written when David was being pursued by Saul, then David had a lot of time on his hands. He was holed up out in the desolate wilderness of Judah. About all he and his men had to do was to get their daily provisions and keep watch. The hours, days, weeks, and months dragged on as David waited for God to act.

Sometimes it seems as if God moves so slowly! We live in a day that says, “Hurry, hurry, hurry!” But so often God says, “Wait! Wait! Wait!” Most of us can relate to a comment by the New England preacher, Phillips Brooks. Normally, he was a calm man. But one day he was clearly agitated. He paced the floor like a caged lion. A friend asked him, “What’s the trouble?” Brooks replied, “The trouble is, I’m in a hurry, but God isn’t.”

Have you ever noticed the difference between God’s timetable and ours? We think in terms of minutes, hours, and days, but God works in terms of years. Do you remember the story of Joseph? God wanted him in a position of influence in Egypt. How did He get Joseph there? First, he had him sold into slavery by his brothers when he was a teenager. He was hauled off to a foreign land. Then, he had him falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife and thrown into prison. A long time went by. Don’t you suppose that Joseph was praying fervently, “God, get me out of here?” But God didn’t seem to hear.

Finally, an opportunity came to interpret the dreams of a couple of fellow inmates. To the one man, the king’s cupbearer, who would be released from prison and restored to his job, Joseph pled, “Remember me and get me out of here!” The cupbearer assured him that he would–but he forgot! The next verse (Gen. 41:1) casually reads, “Now it happened at the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream ….” Two years! Think back to two years ago in your life. For two more years Joseph languished in prison. Couldn’t God have given Pharaoh his dream sooner? Why the long wait? As it was, Joseph spent the better part of his twenties either as a slave or in prison in Egypt.

Or take the Apostle Paul. He was God’s greatest apostle to the Gentiles. There was so much work to be done for the Lord, and so little time to do it. Paul wanted to go to Rome and then on to Spain with the gospel.

How did God get Paul to Rome? He had him imprisoned on a false charge. The governor in Caesarea heard his case and knew that he was innocent, but he kept him in custody because he knew that Paul had some influential friends and he hoped for a bribe (Acts 24:26). Acts 24:27 reads, “But after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and wishing to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul imprisoned.” Two years! God’s great apostle was confined in Caesarea. People were perishing without Christ! Why didn’t God do something? Why didn’t He move the governor to release Paul? Wasn’t Paul walking by faith? Wasn’t he praying? Why did he have to sit there for more than two years?

That’s what David was going through. He had been anointed as king by the prophet Samuel when he was a teenager. But Saul was pursuing him like a partridge in the mountains (1 Sam. 26:20). David was perhaps now in his late twenties. This had been going on for years! Where was God? Had He forgotten about David? Perhaps you can relate! When God seems distant, it always affects our emotions:

B. DAVID HIMSELF WAS IN TURMOIL (13:2A, B).

The idea of the Hebrew in verse 2 is that of adding one thought to another in an attempt to get out of the difficulty, but they all fail and just add sorrow to sorrow. At night David made his plans, and by day he tried them, but they were all futile, just causing him more grief (H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Psalms [Baker], p. 135). David had gone from hope to despair so many times that he felt like he was on an emotional roller coaster. He was like a rat in a maze with no exit; God had dropped him in and walked away. Thus,

C. DAVID’S ENEMY SEEMED TO BE WINNING (13:2C).

Saul was still the king. He was enjoying the comforts of the palace, while David was sleeping in caves. What made it worse, Saul was the bad guy! He wasn’t seeking the Lord; David was. Saul was trying to kill David without cause, even though David had spared Saul’s life. Didn’t God know what was happening? Couldn’t He do something? Had He forgotten about David?

Sooner or later you’ll be there! You’re in an extended time of trial. You call out to God, but He doesn’t answer. You try to figure out how to get out of your circumstances, but nothing works. You go from the heights of hope to the depths of despair so many times that your stomach can’t take much more. Meanwhile, those who aren’t following the Lord are living the good life in the palace while you’re seeking the Lord from the cave. There are two vital lessons to remember at such a time:

(1) God has not forgotten you! Note Isaiah 49:14‑15: “But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me.’ ‘Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.’“ You may suffer for years, but God never forgets you if you are His child. “… He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’“ (Heb. 13:5).

But God does seemingly forget some of His choicest servants, as we have seen. Joseph, Paul, David‑‑all of them were shut up in unpleasant circumstances for years during which it seemed that God had forgotten. Do you know what was happening during that time? God was building maturity into those men as they learned to trust Him. Just as it takes years to grow a sturdy oak tree, so it takes years to build the godly character qualities needed to be an effective servant of the Lord. That’s the second lesson:

(2) There is no such thing as instant godliness. We have instant everything in our society, but there is no instant godliness. David was anointed as king in his teens. He had a strong faith at that time, as seen in his victory over Goliath. Did God put him on the throne when he turned twenty-one? No. Twenty-five? No. Twenty-six? Twenty-seven? Twenty-eight? Twenty-nine? No. Through all those years of running from Saul and living in caves, David learned to wait upon God. God was developing His man.

That’s so out‑of‑joint with our rush‑rush world! But that’s how God works. If God has you shut up in some frustrating circumstances; and you have racked your brain trying to figure a way out, but nothing has worked; and you see the godless prospering while you suffer; and it seems like God is far away; hang on! Let God do His perfect work in you. He hasn’t forgotten you. Learn to wait on Him.

2. The Petition: Call to the Lord (13:3-4).

Do you know why many Christians do not grow to maturity and why they are not used by God in a mighty way? It’s because when God seems distant to them, instead of calling out to Him, they just shrug their shoulders, say “Oh, well,” and go back into the world. Or, they go buy the latest self-help book that promises to fix their problem, but it doesn’t help them to trust in God alone.

David didn’t do that. When God seemed distant, he called on Him to answer him. Instead of turning from God, he turned to Him. Instead of complaining to men about God, David complained to God about men. Matthew Henry wisely observes, “We should never allow ourselves to make any complaints but what are fit to be offered up to God and what drive us to our knees” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary [Revell], 3:282). Four lessons from 13:3-4:

A. OUR PRAYERS SHOULD BE CONCERNED FOR GOD’S GLORY, NOT JUST FOR OUR HAPPINESS.

David wasn’t just praying for deliverance so that he could escape from his problems and be happy. His fear was that the enemy would rejoice (v. 4). Since David was God’s anointed king, if he died at the hands of his enemies, it would make God look bad. God’s honor was tied up with David’s deliverance. If you profess, as David did, to trust in God alone, then your defeat becomes God’s defeat. To defend His own honor, God will defend you. So in a time of crisis, you can call out to God to rescue you, not just for your relief, but for God’s glory. God delights to honor such prayers.

B. WE MUST SEEK GOD ESPECIALLY WHEN HE SEEMS DISTANT.

David was sensitive to the presence of God in his life. If he lost the sense of God’s presence, he went after it with a holy fervor. The test of your faith is not when God’s presence is real, when you see God at work in your life. The real test of your faith is when God seems distant. Do you seek Him then? If you seek Him, you will find Him, but if you turn to the world or look for a quick fix for your problems without seeking God, you won’t find Him. Seek God especially when He seems distant.

C. WE MUST KEEP AN AWARENESS OF GOD AND THE ENEMY BEFORE US AT ALL TIMES.

Derek Kidner writes: “Awareness of God and the enemy is virtually the hallmark of every psalm of David; the positive and negative charge which produced the driving‑force of his best years” (Psalms [IVP], 1:78). We need to keep both realities before us as the factors which motivate us to holiness and put us on guard against sin. As Christians, the honor of our God is at stake through us. If we fail Him, the enemy will rejoice. Satan is trying to drag the name of our Savior through the mud by getting us to forsake the Lord or fall into sin. We need to keep God and His honor and the reality of our unseen, evil adversary before us at all times so that we will not disgrace our Lord.

Dr. Howard Hendricks said: “When you are doing what Jesus Christ has called you to do, you can count on two things‑‑and you can stake your life on it: you will possess spiritual power because you have the presence of Christ, and you’ll experience opposition because the devil does not concentrate on secondary targets. He never majors on the minor” (Leadership [Summer, 1980], p. 114).

D. GOD ALLOWS US TO COME TO THE END OF OURSELVES SO THAT WE MUST RELY ON HIM.

David was fearing for his life. For the Hebrews, “dim eyes” were a sign that the vital powers were growing dim and that death was approaching. Bright eyes were a sign of life. David calls out to God to enlighten his eyes, that is, to bring him from the brink of death back to life again.

The Apostle Paul said that he and his co-workers in the gospel “despaired even of life”; “we had the sentence of death within ourselves, in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:8-9). Sometimes God seems distant and allows us to go right to the brink, to come to the end of ourselves, so that we learn to trust Him more. Whatever their intensity, all trials are designed to bring us to a deeper trust in the Lord. If we dodge them without learning that lesson, we missed what God had for us. David came to that point of trust. Thus, we see that David’s problem led to his petition which led to his praise:

3. Praise: Trust in God’s unfailing love (13:5-6).

David has not yet been delivered, but he trusts in the lovingkindness (NIV = “unfailing love”) of God, and a calm assurance comes over him. His heart is filled with joy as he thinks of the deliverance which God will bring about. By faith, David counts God’s future deliverance as past and says, “I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me” (v. 6).

Please note that David’s circumstances had not changed one bit from the start of the psalm, when he felt confused, depressed, and forsaken by God. David was still hiding in caves; Saul was still on the throne, trying to kill David.

So what changed? David’s focus! From focusing on himself and his problems at the start of the psalm, David shifted his thoughts to God’s loyal love and salvation. That shift in focus moved him from confusion and depression to joy and praise!

It didn’t happen accidentally, either! “But I” (v. 5) is emphatic (in Hebrew) and points to David’s deliberate choice to rely on God’s loyal love. He chose to interpret his circumstances by God’s love rather than to interpret God’s love by his circumstances. In a time of trial, Satan tries to get us to doubt God’s love. But we have to resist that temptation and affirm with God’s Word that He “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8:28). With Joseph, we must affirm that even though those who wronged us meant it for evil, God meant it for ultimate good (Gen. 50:20). So we deliberately choose to trust in God’s loyal love.

This Hebrew word for trust has the nuance of relying or leaning upon someone or something. You ask, “Then is God a crutch?” Yes, and we’re cripples! One of the main reasons people do not trust God is that they’re too proud to admit their total need. Or they mistakenly think that they must earn God’s love. But His love does not stem from any merit on our part, but only from God’s nature. Thus it is pure grace, undeserved on our part. But since God’s love stems from His unchanging nature rather than from our feeble effort, we can trust in it.

Conclusion

The famous preacher, Charles Spurgeon, was walking through the English countryside with a friend. He noticed a barn with a weather vane. At the top of the vane were the words, “God is love.” Spurgeon remarked that this was an inappropriate place for such a message, because weather vanes are changeable, but God’s love is constant. But Spurgeon’s friend disagreed. “You misunderstood the meaning,” he said. “That weather vane is stating the truth that no matter which way the wind blows, God is love.”

When God seems distant, join David in deliberately trusting in God’s unfailing love, however the winds of circumstance are blowing. As David wrote in Psalm 103:11: “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.” You can count on it, even when your circumstances seem contrary. He is only taking you through the difficulty to develop maturity and godly character. “But it’s been months! Years!” Yes, that’s the way He works. He builds things to last, and that takes time. But the finished product is so much better in quality than quick imitations that don’t develop trust in the living God.

If you are distant from God because of known sin, the answer is the same: Call out to Him and put your trust in His unfailing love as supremely demonstrated in the cross of Jesus Christ (John 3:16). He died as your substitute, taking the penalty you deserved. If you will flee to Him for refuge, He will never turn you away (John 6:37).

What Does the Bible Say About Faith?

What Do “Faith” and “Believe” Mean in the Bible?
Wherever we see the words “faith” or “believe” in the New Testament, they are usually a translation from the original Greek root word pistis. The noun form of the word, pistis, is usually translated as “faith” and the verb form, pisteuo, is translated as “believe.”
The ordinary definitions of “faith” and “believe” imply intellectual agreement with an idea or accepting something as truth, but pistis means more than that. As used in the Bible, it also implies trust in and reliance on God or Christ, surrender of our wills to God or Christ, and conduct consistent with that surrender1. All those elements are present in any mention of “faith” or “believe” in the New Testament, but from the context we can often see that some of the elements are emphasized.

Unfortunately, there are no words in the English language that capture the full meaning of the original pistis and pisteuo, so we are stuck with the often inadequate words “faith” and “believe.”

Examples of Faith in the Bible
In the New Testament, the words “faith” and “believe” often imply confidence, trust, reliance and humility with respect to God or Christ. That is the case with Jesus’ healings. In the story below, the woman had confidence that she would be healed if she could merely touch Jesus’ clothing. She put her trust in Jesus and relied on Him, because all worldly attempts to cure her had failed. She approached Jesus with utmost humility – in fear and trembling. Jesus’ power healed her, but her faith enabled that healing.
Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (NRSV, Mark 5:25-34)

The story of the woman with a hemorrhage also has a lesson. If we approach God with humility and put our confidence and trust in Him instead of in worldly things, our faith will enable our spiritual healing and salvation.

John 3:16 is one of the best known and most beloved verses in the Bible, but it must be read in context to appreciate its full meaning and implications:

14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.

21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” (NRSV, John 3:14-21)

From the verses immediately before and after John 3:16, we can see that the word “believe” (translated from pisteuo) brings to mind these ideas:

Verses 14-16: We can trust in Christ and rely on Him for salvation just as the Israelites trusted in Moses and relied on him while wandering in the desert. The image of a serpent that Moses lifted up on a pole was the cure for the snake bites suffered by the Israelites (Numbers 21:4-9). Similarly, Jesus was lifted up on the cross and then “lifted up” into His glory for the salvation of sinful mankind. That salvation is now available to the whole world, not just Israel.
Verses 17-18: We must put our trust and confidence in Christ as the way to salvation. By implication, our wealth, earthly power, intelligence, popularity, good deeds or obedience to rules and laws cannot save us from being condemned to hell.
Verses 19-20: People who do evil deeds have not come into the “light” of Christ – they are not true believers and do not have true faith. A thief works by night to avoid being seen in the light of day. Similarly, many people prefer their sinful ways and avoid facing the “light” of Jesus’ teachings about love, greed, morality, arrogance, etc. (Matthew 5:43-45, Mark 7:21-23, 12:28-31).
Verse 21: Although we are not saved by doing good deeds, good deeds and holy living will show clearly in the lives of those who do have saving faith.
Faith Vs. Works of the Law
The apostle Paul was not one of Jesus’ original followers or disciples. In fact, he despised the growing Christian movement and fiercely persecuted the early Christians. Then, several years after Jesus was crucified, raised and ascended to heaven, Paul had a dramatic encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9). After that, he spent time learning from some of Jesus’ disciples and became the most energetic disciple of all. He founded many Christian communities among the Gentiles (non-Jews), and his letters to these communities are among the earliest Christian documents preserved in the New Testament.
A group of people known as Judaizers opposed Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles. They told the Gentile converts to Christianity that they must observe all of the Jewish Law – circumcision, dietary restrictions, and all the many other rules and laws. But Paul said that was wrong; salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ, not by observing the Jewish Law.

Galatia, a region of central Asia Minor (modern Turkey), was one of the places the Judaizers were active. Paul wrote this to the Galatian Christians to correct the false teachings of the Judaizers:

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. (NRSV, Galatians 2:15-16)

Paul’s teaching has sometimes been interpreted as meaning that if we have faith, nothing else matters; we don’t need to repent of sin or do the “good works” of obeying God’s commandments and helping other people. But that was not Paul’s interpretation at all. He said if the Spirit of Christ is truly within us, we will turn away from evil deeds:

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (NIV, Galatians 5:19-26)

Faith Vs. “Good Works”
Church officials of the Middle Ages had fallen into the corrupt practice of selling indulgences to raise money. In return for the “good works” of a monetary contribution to the Church, it was often implied that people could virtually guarantee their entry into heaven, or even purchase release from the pains of purgatory for a deceased relative.
Martin Luther (1483-1546), was a Catholic monk and Professor of Scripture at the University of Wittenberg in Germany. From his study of Scripture, Luther knew that the “good works” of giving money to the Church did not have the power to forgive people’s sins. Instead, Luther taught that we can be justified (made acceptable to God) only by faith.

But Luther did not deny the importance of other good works such as obeying God’s commandments, helping other people, etc. He wrote, “For grace and faith are infused apart from our work, and when they are infused, then the works follow.” In other words, when one is saved by the grace of God, through faith, he or she will practice good works as a result of that transformation. He also taught that a believer must practice repentance throughout his or her whole life.

In 1517, Luther tacked his famous 95 theses entitled “On the Power of Indulgences” to the door of the castle church at Wittenberg. That document was a scathing indictment of the practice of selling indulgences, and it set off the chain of events that led to the Protestant Reformation. However, the Catholic Church soon undertook its own reforms and the practice of selling indulgences was abolished.

It is a great comfort to know we do not have to be perfect to find God’s favor. Even the worst of sinners can become a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) through faith. Then, through good works and repentance, the light of Christ will shine brightly in our lives (Matthew 5:16, Luke 15:7).

How to Find and Keep Faith
Proof That God Exists
The Bible takes it for granted that God exists, and it does not attempt to prove it. There is no proof of our faith that we can see or touch, and there is no evidence that will convince someone who does not want to believe. Knowledge of the physical world is based on things we can observe with our senses and analyze with mathematics and logic. But knowledge of God and Christ is a different kind of knowledge based on faith.
Some people see evidence of God in the life and teachings of Jesus. Some see evidence of God’s creation in the intricacies and wonders of the universe and life. Some may perceive God in the gift of life and the miracle of birth. Some see evidence of God in the beauty of the world. Some see God in unselfish love (1 John 4:7-8).

Other people see the sometimes hypocritical and cynical actions of Christians and religious leaders as a reason not to believe. However, the failures of some Christians does not disprove the existence and goodness of God.

Some people see the evils of war, crime, prejudice, greed and poverty and the tragedies of natural disasters and death as reasons to reject God. But others see the gift of life, the gift of unselfish love, the opportunity to serve others and the promise of a glorious eternal life as reasons for faith, hope and optimism.

Finding Faith
A conscious decision and a “leap of faith” are required to put our hopes and trust in God instead of in worldly things. But those who sincerely take that leap often develop a sense of peace, security and joy that confirms the correctness of the decision.
The person afraid to get in the water will never learn to swim. Similarly, the person afraid to believe without knowing all the answers will never find faith.

Facing Doubts and Growing in Faith
Everyone has questions and doubts about their faith from time to time. It is in working through those questions and doubts that our faith can become stronger and more mature and continue to grow throughout life. As mere humans, there are many things about God that we will never understand. It is through faith that we can trust that God is the One who has all the answers and knows what is best. As it says in the book of Isaiah,
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
(NRSV, Isaiah 55:8-9)
And the apostle Paul wrote this:

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (TNIV, 1 Corinthians 13:8-12)

6 Ways to Fight Temptation

6 Ways to Fight Temptation
by Ram Sridharan
If you’re interested in fighting temptation – whether it’s to do drugs, have sex, or something else you think you shouldn’t be doing – then I want to tell you “Congratulations!”

The reason I begin by celebrating with you is that your keen awareness of temptation is a sign that something has changed in you for the better. Having tasted what Jesus has to offer, you’re craving deeper and greater things.

But dealing with temptation can be difficult for Christians, especially new Christians. As you begin your relationship with Jesus, choosing to say “no” to things that seemed natural, comforting, and even pleasurable may seem painful, contrary, and confusing. It may make you question what you’ve signed up for.

The silver lining of temptation is it reminds you of just how much you need Jesus to keep rescuing you from yourself and from the evil around you. So here are six ways to join forces with Jesus to fight the temptations in your life:

1. Nip it in the bud.
Temptation starts out innocently enough. It’s just a small, passing thought at first. Then, the more you attention you give that thought, the more it grows into an obsession. Eventually that thought-turned-obsession gains momentum and lures you into action, which then leads to shame, deceit, and more sin.

Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
James 1:15 (NIV)

It’s a vicious pattern to which even biblical heroes fell prey. King David noticed Bathsheba bathing (thought) and didn’t stop looking (obsession). Next, he invited her over and had sex with her (action). Then it escalated further: David had Bathsheba’s husband killed to cover up her adulterous pregnancy (shame, deceit, and more sin).

What does this mean for your battle against temptation? The best way to fight temptation is in its infancy.

You’re undoubtedly going to have a tempting thought every so often (maybe very often). The key is not to get discouraged, but to choose to squash it while it’s still a thought.

Instead of entertaining a tempting thought, hand it over to Jesus and make the choice to refocus your mind for him. Choose not to look at the trashy magazines on the rack, so you’re less likely to buy one. Choose not to search for provocative videos on YouTube, so you don’t watch one. Choose not to spend time alone with your girlfriend or boyfriend late at night, so you don’t end up under the covers together. Choose not to take a cup at the party, so you don’t drink to excess.

Whatever that seemingly harmless thought may be for you, don’t give it an inch or it will drag you a mile.

2. Arm yourself with Scripture.
Ephesians 6:17 calls the Bible the “sword of the Spirit,” which means you’ve got access to a new kind of weapon! The lifelong process of learning Scripture will continually transform your mind and arm you for the fight against temptation.

Here are three ways to make sure you’re getting a regular supply:

Memorize Bible verses: When you commit verses to memory, you can whip them out any time you need them. A few verses to start with are Psalm 119:11 and 2 Corinthians 10:5. For a book on praying Scripture to overcome common strongholds, try Praying God’s Word by Beth Moore.
Have a regular “quiet time”: Carve out time on most days for studying the Bible by yourself. There are resources listed in the On Your Own tab for the “How do I learn something from the Bible?” session. One particular resource suggested there is to read the article “How do I start reading the Bible?”
Join a small group Bible study: Whether your Launch group has completed all the sessions or not, consider joining another study on your campus or at your local church. Small groups often study a book of the Bible, read a Christian book together, or even gear around topics that interest specific people groups like athletes, artists, business majors or year in school – watch this video to see how San Diego State’s InterVarsity chapter does small groups.
3. Be weak, not strong.
You may think you need to be strong when fighting battles for Christ, but I’d suggest striving for the opposite. You’re always weaker than your weaknesses. You’re weaker than Satan and weaker than the pull of this world. Instead of posturing in strength and making resolutions like, “I will never do that again,” you need to cry out in weakness to the one who can help you. This is the kind of prayer that will help you in temptation. Cry desperately for the one who will do battle on your behalf and deliver you.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

4. Be honest with your community.
Sometimes you’ll hide your temptations, thoughts, and desires because you feel ashamed of them. But hiding makes you vulnerable to increased temptation. My most helpful relationship regarding temptation is with the prayer partner I’ve had for 15 years. I simply pray, make a list of my sins, and then confess it to him clearly and briefly. He prays forgiveness for me and then I do the same for him. I have experienced more change through this relationship than in any other. You need to make 1-2 trustworthy friends with whom you can openly share your struggles and pray for each other.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
James 5:16 (NIV)

5. Pick your battles wisely.
Peer pressure doesn’t ease up after high school. And it gets harder to navigate when you’ve decided to quit certain habits.

On the one hand, you want to show your friends you’re still accessible now that you’re a Christian. On the other hand, they may still want or expect you to participate in areas you now consider temptations.

Don’t go it alone: ask your Christian community for guidance and accountability. Pray for God to help you know when it will be okay to hang out in certain situations versus when it will be too tempting and you’ll need to bow out. Ask God to prepare you for when the lure of your former life is still too strong for you and you need to find other ways to connect with your friends in different contexts.

For more on this topic, go through the “How do I make lifestyle changes and keep my friends?” session with your Launch group.

6. Explore your wounds.
You cannot blame others for the choices you make. However, past wounds, broken relationships, and abuse can make you more vulnerable to temptation. In many cases, Christ will begin to pinpoint these areas and invite you to extend forgiveness to someone who hurt you.

You may want to find a Christian counselor through your church or InterVarsity staff member who can bring the truth and light of Christ to painful areas. Becoming aware of your wounds and how they can lead you to sin is not only helpful against temptation, it will result in deeper freedom for you.

 

 

 

How would you apply just war theory to the present international crisis and imminent war on Iraq?

Just war theory is not so much a theory as a set of questions we should ask about any war. I think the questions are good questions. But they almost never lead to a consensus. Those who favor a war can usually argue that there it is being fought for a just end, with public declaration, prospect of victory, etc. Those against it can usually find flaws in the argument. Of course a nation going to war never does so from absolutely pure motives, is never sure about the prospect of victory, etc. So these arguments usually end indecisively.

Of course just war theory isn’t the Bible. It’s a tradition that goes from Aristotle to the Stoics, and it has then been adopted by Christians like Augustine.

But in the end we must make our ethical decisions sola Scriptura. There are some broad biblical principles that bear on war: the sanctity of life first of all. But Scripture is pretty realistic about war. It recognizes that it’s not always possible or desirable to protect all non-combatants, for example. Basically, it recognizes that war is hell and for the most part you just have to put everything into the war and end it quickly.

I know of course that arguments about “biblical principles” tend to be as inconclusive as arguments about just war theory. But I think the Bible is helpful in that it loosens things up. It doesn’t require the ethicist to micro-manage how many weapons are used, etc.

Obviously a Christian will never advocate killing anywhere unless it is a genuine responsibility of the civil magistrate, carried out with a serious regard for human life, even knowing that some human life must be sacrificed to attain the objective.

And I don’t know of anything in the Bible that rules out a pre-emptive strike, though just war theory generally abhors that. (Compare Harold Brown’s article with Arthur Holmes in the book Five Views of War (Zondervan, I think)). Certainly in Israel’s wars in the time of Joshua, Israel took the initiative.

In the present situation, I tend to trust the in I think the civil magistrate may sometimes, in order to protect his own people, make a pre-emptive strike. Or: he can neutralize the enemy with less loss of life by a pre-emptive strike, than by waiting for the enemy to attack. So I would support my government in an attack on Iraq. The agreement of the UN would be a nice thing, but it is morally irrelevant.

What does the Bible say about interracial marriage?

The Old Testament Law commanded the Israelites not to engage in interracial marriage (Deuteronomy 7:3–4). However, the reason for this was not primarily racial. Rather, it was religious. The reason God commanded against interracial marriage for the Jews was that people of other races were worshippers of false gods. The Israelites would be led astray from God if they intermarried with idol worshippers, pagans, or heathens. This is exactly what happened in Israel, according to Malachi 2:11.

A similar principle of spiritual purity is laid out in the New Testament, but it has nothing to do with race: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). Just as the Israelites (believers in the one true God) were commanded not to marry idolaters, so Christians (believers in the one true God) are commanded not to marry unbelievers. The Bible never says that interracial marriage is wrong. Anyone who forbids interracial marriage is doing so without biblical authority.

As Martin Luther King, Jr., noted, a person should be judged by his or her character, not by skin color. There is no place in the life of the Christian for favoritism based on race (James 2:1–10). In fact, the biblical perspective is that there is only one “race”—the human race, with everyone having descended from Adam and Eve. When selecting a mate, a Christian should first find out if the potential spouse is born again by faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:3–5). Faith in Christ, not skin color, is the biblical standard for choosing a spouse. Interracial marriage is not a matter of right or wrong but of wisdom, discernment, and prayer.

A couple considering marriage needs to weigh many factors. While a difference in skin color should not be ignored, it absolutely should not be the determining factor in whether a couple should marry. An interracial couple may face discrimination and ridicule, and they should be prepared to respond to such prejudice in a biblical manner. “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him” (Romans 10:12). A colorblind church and/or a Christian interracial marriage can be a powerful illustration of our equality in Christ.

Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/interracial-marriage.html#ixzz3CSDkLzRC

Psalm 104 Praise the Lord

104 My soul, praise the Lord!
Lord my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with glory and honor.
2 You wear light like a robe.
You spread out the skies like a curtain.
3 You built your home above them.[a]
You use the thick clouds like a chariot
and ride across the sky on the wings of the wind.
4 You make the winds your messengers
and flames of fire your servants.[b]
5 You built the earth on its foundations,
so it can never be moved.
6 You covered it with water like a blanket.
The water covered even the mountains.
7 But you gave the command, and the water turned back.
You shouted at the water, and it rushed away.
8 The water flowed down from the mountains into the valleys,
to the places you made for it.
9 You set the limits for the seas,
and the water will never again rise to cover the earth.
10 Lord, you cause water to flow from springs into the streams
that flow down between the mountains.
11 The streams provide water for all the wild animals.
Even the wild donkeys come there to drink.
12 Wild birds come to live by the pools;
they sing in the branches of nearby trees.
13 You send rain down on the mountains.
The earth gets everything it needs from what you have made.
14 You make the grass grow to feed the animals.
You provide plants for the crops we grow—
the plants that give us food from the earth.
15 You give us the wine that makes us happy,
the oil that makes our skin soft,[c]
and the food that makes us strong.
16 The great cedar trees of Lebanon belong to the Lord.
He planted them and gives them the water they need.
17 That’s where the birds make their nests,
and the storks live in the fir trees.
18 The high mountains are a home for wild goats.
The large rocks are hiding places for rock badgers.
19 Lord, you made the moon to show us when the festivals begin.
And the sun always knows when to set.
20 You made darkness to be the night—
the time when wild animals come out and roam around.
21 Lions roar as they attack,
as if they are asking God for the food he gives them.
22 When the sun rises, they leave
and go back to their dens to rest.
23 Then people go out to do their work,
and they work until evening.
24 Lord, you created so many things!
With your wisdom you made them all.
The earth is full of the living things you made.
25 Look at the ocean, so big and wide!
It is filled with all kinds of sea life.
There are creatures large and small—too many to count!
26 Ships sail over the ocean,
and playing there is Leviathan,[d]
the great sea creature you made.
27 Lord, all living things depend on you.
You give them food at the right time.
28 You give it, and they eat it.
They are filled with good food from your open hands.
29 When you turn away from them,
they become frightened.
When you take away their breath,[e]
they die, and their bodies return to the dust.
30 But when you send out your life-giving breath,[f]
things come alive, and the world is like new again!
31 May the Lord’s glory continue forever!
May the Lord enjoy what he made.
32 He just looks at the earth, and it trembles.
He just touches the mountains, and smoke rises from them.
33 I will sing to the Lord for the rest of my life.
I will sing praises to my God as long as I live.
34 May my words be pleasing to him.
The Lord is the one who makes me happy.
35 I wish sinners would disappear from the earth.
I wish the wicked would be gone forever.
My soul, praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!