The 4th Sunday of Easter
The Lamb is Our Shepherd
Text: Revelation 7:9-17
It’s dark, isn’t it? The valley. I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and it is so dark. The darkness is so thick, sometimes I feel like there is no light in my life at all. The path is rough, rugged, and runs every which way. With with darkness surrounding me, I hardly know where I’m going. I stumble and fall a lot. Even worse, I know as I’m walking through this dark valley that I’m a sitting duck, or a sitting sheep I suppose. I’m an easy target. I’m weak. I’m vulnerable prey. There are dangers all around me. There is darkness all around me. I’m lost. I’m alone. I’m afraid.
Ever feel that way? There’s a reason why Psalm 23 has some of the most popular Bible verses in the world. Even people who don’t believe in the Bible will quote it. Perhaps the most striking picture that people know is in verse 4: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” That verse is so popular because all people can relate to it. Read the rest of this entry
4th Sunday of Easter
Your Good Shepherd
1. Listen to Him
2. Follow Him
3. Trust Him
Text: John 10:22-30
It was December, wintertime in Jerusalem. The Jews were celebrating the Feast of Dedication. This was not a God-ordained festival, but man-made festival. During the Feast of Dedication, also known as the Festival of Lights, also known as Hanukkah, the Jews commemorated Judas Maccabaeus. In 165 B.C. Judas Maccabaeus led the Jews in driving the Syrians out of Jerusalem and purifying the temple. The Jews, still to this day, light one candle or a seven-candle menorah to commemorate this event.
Once, Jesus was in Jerusalem during the celebration. While the Jews were celebrating this joyous event, they couldn’t help but think about things that Jesus had been saying. Seeing Jesus in the temple during Hanukkah, they could hardly keep quiet. Verse 24: “The Jews gathered around him, saying, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’”
Normally Jesus would have given a very clear and simple answer. In John 3 Jesus had a meaningful conversation with Nicodemus about who he was. In John 4 the Samaritan woman at the well said she was looking for the Christ to come and Jesus said, “I who speak to you am he.” But his answer was different this time. Verse 25: “Jesus answered, ‘I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.’”
Jesus had told them plainly and often that he was the promised Messiah. Not only did he tell them often, but he also showed them often with powerful miracles. They didn’t need any more testimony from Jesus. They would have only hated Jesus more. They didn’t know how good the Good Shepherd is because they weren’t his sheep. They simply didn’t believe in him. Read the rest of this entry
9th Sunday after Pentecost
The Lord Supplies Our Needs
1. A Righteous Shepherd
2. Shepherds of righteousness
Text: Jeremiah 23:1-6
The spiritual scene in the country is pathetic at best. Most people say they believe in the true God, yet most people don’t really know who that true God is. Others worship a conglomeration of gods from around the world. But in actuality, few care about religion.
Rather, money is more important. Possessions are prized. Living the good life is the ultimate goal. If that means cheating and stealing, fine. If that means drunkenness, debauchery, and a life of lustful encounters, so be it.
And in this culture and climate of pathetic immorality, worst of all—the leaders are corrupt. Conspiracy is normal. Embezzlement is common. Scandals are expected. Not just the political leaders either. The spiritual leaders are even corrupt!
What a horrible, unspiritual, sinful time . . . the prophet Jeremiah lived in! It isn’t very difficult to relate to Jeremiah. Maybe Jeremiah’s writing tablet was a scroll and not an iPad, and maybe he had actual horsepower from an actual horse rather than a hemi in his garage. But the spiritual climate and cultural situation he lived through and preached in was very similar to our world today.
How blessed we are today then to learn from Jeremiah and from the Lord’s words to Jeremiah as we see this morning that The Lord Supplies Our Needs. Read the rest of this entry
5th Sunday of Easter
Looking for Guidance? Consider Your Good Shepherd’s Resume!
Text: John 10:11-18
The young man’s heart was racing. Alone and lost in an unfamiliar city this young teen was tense. It would soon be dark which would make it harder to navigate by the landmarks he had seen for the first time that morning.
“I don’t remember seeing that building” he thought to himself… “I don’t remember being on this street for this long, did I miss a turn… am I even on the right street… what do I do when it gets dark…”
He breaks out in a nervous sweat despite the cool of the evening, his heart continues to race, his footsteps become quicker, almost at a jog his eyes dart back and forth desperately hoping to see something familiar, something that will help him get his bearings. He can’t stop and ask for directions, not because he’s male, but because everyone around him speaks Ukrainian and he knows all of 5 words in Ukrainian. And even if there were street signs he couldn’t read them, he doesn’t know the Cyrillic alphabet! This young man was experiencing what it was like to be lost, and I mean really lost with no idea where he was or where he had to go. This 16 year old young man was me, lost in Kamyanets Podilsky Ukraine…
Being lost is not a fun thing. As humans we love to feel that we are in control of our lives and when we are lost we feel that control start to slip through our fingertips. We enter the land of the unknown where we lose the ability to predict with any degree of certainty what will happen next and stress and panic and worry and doubt begin to fill our minds.
The fear that I experienced in the Ukraine was simply a fear of the unknown, control was out of my hands and I was terrified. Fear of the unknown is something that all humans feel to one degree or another. Fear of the unknown is what drives us to surround ourselves with gadgets and gizmos that give us the delusion that we are in control. Smart phones, GPS’, state of the art cars and security systems make us feel safe. In this crazy, confusing, messed up, unpredictable world proper guidance is an imperative.
Surprise, surprise, the God who created us knows that we need guidance, and he offers it. Are you looking for a GPS for life? Are you looking for someone to guide you through the peaks and valleys of this human existence? Consider for a moment Jesus’ resume, consider the Good Shepherd’s credentials. Read the rest of this entry
Text: John 10:11-18
He didn’t have to die… you know that don’t you? When the crowd mercilessly shouted, “He saved others but he can’t save himself,” well, they didn’t know what they were talking about. Well before he was dragged before rulers and courts, well before he was brutally beaten, well before he was sentenced to death Jesus made one thing very clear, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”
He didn’t have to die… so why did he? Jesus’ willful surrendering of his own life seems crazy to our selfish minds. I mean sure, I would die for my son or my wife but would I be so willing to take the electric chair for a man who killed my son or wife and showed no sign of repentance? Jesus wasn’t dying for a group of pretty good people who needed just a little bit of extra help to get to heaven. Jesus was going to willingly die for a world that hated him, a world that wants nothing to do with him.
He didn’t have to die… but he wanted to. He wanted to because he is the Good Shepherd. He willingly faced the wolves because he loves us. He willingly died because in his death he could secure for us pleasant pastures in heaven. It defies reason, but God has made clear that he was pleased to save the world through such an outwardly foolish and simple truth. Your Good Shepherd died for your sins. He didn’t have to but he did and that is the Gospel Truth; that is all you need to know. Heaven is your home because of your Good Shepherd Jesus.
Prayer: My shepherd will supply my need –Jehovah is his name.
In pastures fresh he makes me feed beside the living stream.
He brings my wand’ring spirit back when I forsake his ways,
And leads me, for his mercy’s sake, in paths of truth and grace.
When I walk through the shades of death, his presence is my stay.
One word of his supporting breath drives all my fears away.
His hand, in sight of all my foes, will still my tables spread.
My cup with blessings overflows; his oil anoints my head. Amen.