Tag Archives: John

Ezekiel 28-30; John 10

The people surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” John 10:24-30

 

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When I went to India the first time, I was able to see firsthand what shepherding looked like during Biblical times. No barns, no fenced-in green pastures, no troughs of food or water, just a mass of goats (most commonly) or sheep and in their midst their shepherd and sometimes his nomadic family.

A dried rice paddy, the ground resting after a harvest, the herd hired to fertilize the land in preparation for the next planting season. A lone shepherd crouched down in the shade, a sun-bleached towel wrapped around his head to protect him from the elements, his watchful eye missing nothing.

A herd journeying through the village toward new grazing land, some stragglers lingering in the road blocking traffic. The shepherd, carrying the newest addition to the flock under his arm, gently guiding them with his staff, a unique clicking sound coming from his mouth, a warning to move out of the way…and the sheep instantly respond.

When there is more than one herd in the area, to the untrained eye, it is just a swarm of bodies, chaos and pandemonium. Then each shepherd bellows out, both calling his sheep like children. The herds separate like the Red Sea and every sheep goes to right or left toward the voice it recognizes.

But how do I recognize my Shepherd’s voice? How do I really know how to hear God’s voice?

I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the audible voice of God – that big, booming, Charlton Heston-like voice portrayed in most religious movies – but over the years I have learned to recognize how He talks to me.

When He says something, it may be words that come through my head like thoughts, it may be a picture I see in my mind’s eye, or an impression I feel with my heart or my other sensations, etc. And, I know it’s God, the same way I know it’s my mom or dad or my sister, my husband, or my friend on the phone; I recognize His voice because I have practiced listening to Him.

I have learned to distinguish the difference between God talking to me, the enemy accusing me, and my own self-talk. I have learned to look for the proof by seeing the fruit of what each voice brings. God’s voice is loving, full of grace and mercy. He speaks life and encouragement to my heart, even when He reprimands me, calling out my sin and convicting my heart to turn back to Him. Hearing His voice helps me know Him better and helps me follow, choosing the right path and walking in the footsteps of Heaven.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd. John 10:14-16

 

Blessings – Julie, Sholavandan, India (written in the U.S.A.

P.S. This video was filmed in Norway and is a superb example of sheep responding to their shepherds voice. When God calls His sheep we will come running.

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Image of shepherd in India: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970204520204577250391151923490

 

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Ezekiel 22-24; Psalm 134; John 8

“He who is without sin, let him throw a stone at her first,” (my emphasis).  Sometimes when I read Scripture I want to disassociate from the brutality of ancient cultures. At other times I struggle to make sense of the do’s and don’ts, the either this or that, the right way versus the wrong way, or the judgments on many juxtaposed with mercy to the few. Yet these words spoken by Jesus Christ stand out today as more than the obvious call to consider one’s own sinful past; it is an external – look at her face before you act – directive that harnesses the inhumanity of intentions with the finality of eternity. These are two terrifying steeds dangerously galloping in the darkest night, intent on lurching the driver and his passengers into the abyss.

If this seems too dramatic, perhaps we have grown lukewarm to the message of spiritual death. Consider the powerful influence of the Pharisees and scribes to judge the misdeeds of others. Even though they lacked the official authority to mete out death (only the Romans wielded the power to torture and crucify), the Jewish leaders were feared by their community for merciless judgments. Jesus certainly knew the dark intentions of their power hungry hearts, yet he exhorted all those present to consider what might befall them. Self-examination – what a worthy exhortation. By heeding this call, even we can avoid the hypocritical and negative accusations that cause us to look like fools and that will alienate us from others who pride themselves in being the more tolerant of our day. Even the ungodly knows to make calculated decisions to avoid committing social suicide. The oldest in the crowd that Jesus addressed were the first to understand this. Their impulsiveness was stayed, perhaps not by looking at the adulteress, but by remembering a longer and possibly more shameful history of mistakes than those of younger men.

Unfortunately I, too, have reacted much too impulsively and emphatically when making judgments – not reviewing the self-incrimination of my past words and actions – instead, whipping those horses into a run without a thought to the cliffs up ahead. My judgments and assumptions have risen from worldly observations and biased interpretations, forgetting that I could not do what I required of others.

Even worse, I have arrogantly believed that I controlled the reigns. In my own understanding, I maintained that a word spoken with authority fell within my knowledge and power to affect change. How shocking to find the target trampled under the wheels! Had I not judged, the grace of God might have brought the forgiveness that truly changes a heart and a destiny.

Jesus once said to the Pharisees and scribes, “You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one,” (New International Version). This is an amazing statement considering He is the Son of God and will judge all mankind. Yet I hear deadly caution in His words not to decide for another eternal life or death. Isn’t spiritual death what awaited the adulterous woman? She was to die in her sins without mercy. Inhumanity’s justice carried out. Jesus, however, directed these men to look at her; then think about their own sins and the consequences of dying without absolution. For their own sakes, those stones were dropped to the ground. Christ snatched this woman out of a careening carriage hell-bent toward spiritual death because He looked past hers, theirs, and our sins to offer redemption and an eternal destiny with Him. She was given a chance to “sin no more.” Can we remember to do the same for others, and if not for their sakes for our own?

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Ezekiel 19-21; Psalm 84; John 7

Confession: usually I read Ezekiel over lightly. It’s not my favorite book in the Bible, but today something caught my attention; I counted over 12 references to eyes, seeing and sight in Ezekiel 20 alone. And throughout this past week, there have been numerous times when the topic of eyes and seeing have come up.

It started last Saturday when I was visiting my Turkish friend’s home. Displayed about her apartment were beautiful blue glass “evil eyes.”  When I asked her what they meant,  she explained that in Turkish culture, how you look at someone as well as how you are seen is taken very seriously. The manner in which something or someone is looked upon holds a certain influence or power for both the one looking and the one seen. The purpose of the “evil eye” is to divert the vision and diminish its power if the intention is evil.

In the West, we tend to minimize the power of what we look at as well as how we are seen, but Ezekiel tells us that God sees this as a life and death matter. He is heartbroken when the Israelites  turn their eyes from Him to gaze longingly at false gods. He holds back his wrath: “for the sake of my name, I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out.” Ezekiel 20:22.

Ezekiel asks me to examine the object of my vision, my attention. My focus rests on what or whom I love. I am more likely to become like the object of my affection than that which I disregard. When I focus on the One who knows me, loves me and made me, “my Soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” Psalm 84:2.

Lord Jesus, this morning, I sing this prayer to you:

Be Thou my vision O Lord of my heart.

Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art

Thou my best thought, by day or by night

Waking or sleeping, they presence my light.

Dallon Forgaill

Klueh

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Ezra 6, 7, 8; John 21

And whatever else is required for the house of your God, which it falls to you to provide, you may provide it out of the king’s treasury. And I, Artaxerxes the king, make a decree to all the treasurers in the province Beyond the River: Whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven, requires of you, let it be done with all diligence, up to 100 talents of silver, 100 cors of wheat, 100 baths of wine, 100 baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much. Whatever is decreed by the God of heaven, let it be done in full for the house of the God of heaven, lest his wrath be against the realm of the king and his sons. Ezra 7:20-23

So many people ask me how I do what I do. How do I live in a different country without the comforts of home? How do I travel long distances with my kids and no one to help me? …

My answer is typically something to the effect of: “You do what you have to do.”

The reality is that God gives me His strength and gives me His favor. I can’t do anything in my own power; I can accomplish everything in Jesus Christ.

The Israelites were in a similar position – exiled for years, not much more than slaves, the temple destroyed, their customs laid aside. There was little natural hope for their future. And, yet because of God’s approval, because the God above All gods turn the king’s hearts toward the people, their prospects rose out of the dust and they were filled with joy.

And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the Lord had made them joyful and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel. Ezra 6:22

…Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him. Ezra 7:6

The favor that this generation of Israelites experienced was supernatural. The Assyrian king completely funded the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem from his treasury; it was an act of kindness beyond what was usual in this time or in any time for that matter. The king’s deed was one of the many demonstrations in the Old Testament of how God loved His people and a yet another foreshadowing of the unmerited gift of grace believers would be able to receive as a result of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, the ultimate treasury emptied for His beloved.

…I [take] courage, for the hand of the Lord my God [is] on me… Ezra 7:28

Because of His sacrifice, I can accomplish everything in Jesus Christ…and, I can be encouraged that His hand is upon me and His favor goes before me in my journey. I’ve been chosen and I can be certain that He will always be with me.

Yesappa, Thank You for strengthening me, keeping Your hand on me, and giving me Your favor. Thank You for encouraging me and never leaving nor forsaking me, no matter how difficult the trials in my life are. Thank You for giving me hope and for raising me up out of the ashes. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Blessings – Julie (writing from the U.S.A.)

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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2 Chronicles 23, 24, 25; John 16:16-33

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:20-24

Last year I chose my ‘one word’, joining in with millions of others who decided to focus on one thing rather than make a list of resolutions that are quickly forgotten when life takes over. The word I selected was ‘perspective’; I was merely hoping to gain some.

Honing in on this word began opening my eyes even more to the different viewpoints I could have in every situation and circumstance. Simplified – I can look through half-full or a half-empty glass(es). I can look at things from the view of American culture or Kingdom culture. I can look at everything through my human eyes or choose to see the world through God’s eyes.

Though I gained perspective last year, in the midst of the insanity that life brought, I was caught up and bogged down with the day-to-day of life, the struggles, and the loneliness. I misplaced my joy.

So this year, I have been on a quest…quest to rediscover joy.

I am not just looking for a fleeting happiness in the moment (though being happy is most definitely a part of it). I am looking for inhabitation.

I want to be filled with joy regardless of the circumstance, regardless of the trial. I want to rejoice always. I want gladness to satisfy my heart. I want gratitude to spill from my mouth. I want to be delighted by my relationship with the Lord, and I want Him to be captivated by me. I want to take delight in the world around me, in my husband, in my children, even in my daily duties. I want joy to become my legacy.

 

Yesappa, You told me to ask, so, Jesus I ask for fullness of joy; that I may no longer focus of the sorrow, on the anguish of tribulation, but dwell in a house of joy that will never be taken away or lost. Thank You for being the joy of my salvation. Help me learn how to hold on to Your joy forever. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Blessings – Julie (writing from the U.S.A.)

 

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Filed under 2 Chronicles, 66 Books, ESV Through the Bible in a Year, John, New Testament, Old Testament