Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 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. (John 10:14-16)

When Jesus speaks of being the good shepherd, he is saying a lot. I know my sheep and my sheep know me. Jesus says that he knows those who belong to him, those who have been given to him by the Father. Just as sheep respond to the voice of their shepherd, those who belong to Jesus hear his voice and respond. Please notice this: Jesus’ sheep already belong to him before he calls them and they hear his voice! These are the ones for whom Jesus died. His sheep are already his before they answer his call! Those of us who are Christians already know this to be true. How did we ever come to faith in Christ? We heard his voice and responded. But how could we respond unless we already belonged to him?

Jesus goes on to say, 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. Jesus already had many sheep who were not part of the Jewish sheep pen. He had sheep from all the nations and peoples of the world. These would have to come to him as well. But Jesus never went to those nations to call his sheep! How would they come? His followers would go in his place and they would call out the good news Jesus gave them. Listen, this is amazing: When we call people to come to follow Jesus, it is his voice that they hear! They recognize the voice of the Master…not ours!

There will be only one flock with one shepherd. This is the kind of teaching that is speaking powerfully to me in these days. One flock. One shepherd. Not a flock of white sheep and a flock of black sheep and a flock of Asian sheep and a flock of Mexican sheep, just one flock! We are all to be one as Jesus prayed in John 17. There should not be a Baptist flock and a Methodist flock and an Anglican flock and a Reformed flock and a Pentecostal flock. Just as there is only one shepherd there can be only one flock; yet we continue to try to pull ourselves apart to form our own flocks! When will we learn to begin to do the work we must do in order to be the one flock Jesus leads? When will we stop pointing out the flaws in the other sheep of our flock as if we are the only perfect sheep? One flock. One shepherd. These are the words of the Good Shepherd.

Please keep an eye on the bookshelves in your local Christian bookstore. My dear friend, John Armstrong, has a book coming in the next month or so that is a must read on this subject. It is entitled Your Church Is Too Small and will be in your bookstores soon.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


David and Goliath
1 Samuel 17

Sometimes I am surprised by the things that come to my mind when I am reading my Bible. I see things I have never seen before and think thoughts I’ve never thought before. At times my ideas seem so outlandish that I’m afraid to talk to anyone about them. I recently read 1 Samuel 17, the account of David and Goliath.

Goliath was challenging and opposing the army of Israel on a daily basis. Saul and his army sat behind their front lines and listened to the challenges and did nothing. They were afraid. No one was willing to stand up and fight this enemy. They waited and waited while not knowing what it was they were waiting for. And so the church has stood behind the lines for generations while the opposition has strengthened its position and hurled its challenges. The American church has stood on its history while waiting for something to happen. It has become increasingly isolationist and irrelevant as the years have passed.

David arrived on the scene at the front lines and began asking inconvenient questions. Surely older experienced warriors resented his questioning. He showed no fear of the Philistine and wondered aloud why nothing was being done. But David was attacked by his brother for being conceited and wicked. And so some Davids arose in the church and began asking inconvenient questions of church leaders and denominations. Why isn’t the church engaging the culture? Why are we living separately? Shouldn’t we advance in the name of Jesus and listen to what the society has to say and enter into dialogue? But the church criticized the Davids and implied they had become liberal while they were the ones who were holding onto the truth. Suddenly, the opposition was no longer the culture but the church itself.

Saul gave David his armor. “Here, son. Take my armor. I’ve always worn it against my enemies. All the warriors wear armor. It’s the way we’ve always fought.” But David could not feel comfortable in the armor. He was not used to the way the warriors of Israel fought. This was a big problem for the church. The young Davids did not fight in the same way they had always fought. They had their own weapons. They actually wanted to go out and meet the giant without the old armor!

David went forth in the name of the LORD Almighty and confronted Goliath. He went forth in faith. He believed that the battle was the Lord’s and the Lord was going before him to fight for him. It was not the sword or spear that would save him. It was not the weapons of the old ways that would protect him. And so the church has to deal with Davids who fight the battle with different weapons. Perhaps the old warriors shake their heads and sit back to watch thinking the young Davids will be destroyed. Or perhaps they fear that the young Davids will fail because they have abandoned the old ways. They may even believe that the young Davids are not fighting for the church anymore because of the way they fight. But David killed Goliath because the Lord was with him and things were never the same in Israel again.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


1 Samuel 16

The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king” (1 Samuel 16:1).

Samuel went to Bethlehem to sacrifice and worship. He invited Jesse and his sons to join him at the sacrifice. Samuel saw Jesse’s son, Eliab, and thought, “Surely the LORD’S anointed stands here before the LORD” (1 Samuel 16:6). But God said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

So the other sons of Jesse came and stood before Samuel; Abinadab, Shammah, and four more! None of these seven sons of Jesse was chosen to be king. Samuel knew that God hadn’t chosen any of them. So he asked Jesse if he had any more sons. Jesse answered, “Yes, the youngest; but he is tending the sheep” (1 Samuel 16:11). In other words, David occupied the lowest position among Jesse’s sons. He was the shepherd. He was the dirty, stinky one. Surely the Lord would not choose him! But when David arrived the Lord said to Samuel, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one” (1 Samuel 16:12).

It seems that nobody would have chosen David. He had seven older brothers, some of whom really looked the part of a king. But man looks at the outward appearance, the LORD looks at the heart! We see that more than once in this passage. The Lord tells Samuel to quit the mourning for Saul. Yes, Saul was tall and handsome and powerful and charismatic. But that is all outside stuff. His heart was not with God! David was the least of his brothers. But that was all outside stuff too. His heart was a heart after God’s own!

The church has been deceived far too many times by judging according to appearance. People who dress well and come across as polished and fluent and smart and successful, are given positions of leadership and influence. People who are always in attendance at worship are generally considered to be faithful Christians. Those who give generously are thought of as committed disciples of Christ. While those who are poor or less educated or not very well-spoken are not considered good enough for leadership roles. But all this is outside stuff! We must quit looking at the outside and seek to see the heart!

Aren’t you glad that God does not judge by appearances? Aren’t you glad that he is not fooled by how things look on the outside? I am! But at the same time I realize that what this means is that I need to make sure my heart really is where it ought to be. Oh! That God would give me the heart of David! The heart that is after God’s own heart!