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Alpha Ministries, Inc

Church in the Woods at ....

Freedom Ranch

Choices

Dear Saints,

All of us are confronted with a multitude of choices to make daily. Many of them seem small and almost inconsequential while others seem overwhelming and life threatening. What makes life so complicated and hard is not just the choices we make but often it seems we really have no choice at all. Much of our confusion and frustration in life comes from the fact that we are not sure what choices we have, if we even have a choice, and exactly what choice we should make in any given situation. Welcome to the world of a control freak!

Seeking to control the people and circumstances in our life comes from a deep need to make ourselves secure in an insecure world. There is no guarantee that we will be unconditionally loved, accepted, and forgiven in this dog-eat-dog and often hostile world. In fact, chances are that we will be neglected, abandoned, or even abused. Likewise, unless we can control the people and circumstances in the chaos of this world it is impossible to find a real sense of importance, purpose, and competence. Wrong or bad choices seem naturally to lead to a meaningless and unsatisfying life.

Underlying all other choices we must make is the most important and basic choice. It is the choice the Bible urges us to make daily and describes it in a variety of terms. Jesus invites us to take his “yoke” upon us (Matthew 11: 28-30). Paul urges us to “present our bodies as living sacrifices unto God” (Romans 12: 1-2). James tells us to ask for wisdom from above (James 1: 5). Peter calls on us to “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5: 6). All these directives (and many more) have one thing in common…surrender. We give up trying to make it happen and let God do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

In the AA program of recovery the 3rd step describes this kind of surrender as deciding to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God. Making the choice to surrender all our decisions as well as our very lives to the control and care of God is the foundation and start of a new and satisfying lifestyle of grace in which God, through his indwelling Spirit, leads us, guides us into all truth, comforts us in our choices, reminds us who we are, and produces the very character of Christ in us. As Paul instructed the Philippians 2: 12-13, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have obeyed, not in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which works in you both to will and do of his good pleasure. “

The fundamental choice we all must make each day is whether we want to let God control our lives. It is really a no-brainer since he is the sovereign creator and sustainer of the universe and loves us so much he gave his life for us. For me it boils down to one simple prayer each morning, “Lord please remind me of who you made me to be in your son and guide me in how you want me to love others around me today”. I really do not have any other choice that makes sense.

John

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The Good Shepherd

Posted on 11 March, 2021 at 13:15

Dear Saints,

 

John records Jesus’ parable of the good shepherd in the 10th chapter of his gospel. The context of this passage makes it clear that Jesus was explaining to the religious leaders of his day why people were following him rather than them. By this time in his short ministry on earth Jesus had great multitudes following him around and ignoring the religious leaders and all their commandments. In short, they were losing their power over the people and trying to understand why.

 

In his parable Jesus contrasted the shepherd with a thief or robber by stating that the shepherd has an intimate relationship with his sheep, calling them by name, and they were able to recognize his voice. When the shepherd leads his sheep they follow him because they know his voice. But they will not follow a stranger whose voice they don’t recognize. In essence he told these leaders politely that the people were following him because they recognized his voice as their rightful shepherd.

 

John goes on to tell us that no one, especially the leaders, understood what he meant, and Jesus explained the difference more intensely. He stated that he was the “door” meaning the shepherd who protected the sheep and that all others before him were “thieves and robbers” that the sheep did not hear. Further, he told them that he alone provided the salvation, freedom, and life for the sheep and that the thief sought only to steal, kill, and destroy the sheep. Finally, he said he had come to give the sheep life and that they might have it more abundantly since as the good shepherd he would lay down his life for the sheep. Finally, he contrasted his care for the sheep with the “hireling” who was only in it for himself.

 

After that explanation John tells us there was a division among the Jews. Many, no doubt the leaders who were jealous of his following, said he was demon possessed and had gone crazy. Soon after they asked him again in the Temple to tell them plainly whether he was the Christ, the Messiah. Jesus said he had already told them, and they didn’t believe him. Then he explained they believed not because they were not his sheep and once again told them, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”. The argument ended when the leaders were so enraged by his answer they picked up rocks to stone him to death right on the spot.

 

In the Spirit realm things haven’t change for the better over the last two millennia. Religious leaders become insanely jealous when people say they recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow him rather than whatever religious system is in place. In our secular culture today the “religion” of progressive liberal politics seeks to care for the needs of the people in much the same way as the “hirelings” cared for the sheep in Jesus’ parable. Rather than recognizing the voice of the Good Shepherd and willingly serve the sheep they care for they seek to “fleece” the flock for their own gain.

 

Now more than ever it is time for the sheep to listen for and recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd. Although the hirelings are making a lot of noise seeking attention for their own agenda, the still, small voice of the Good Shepherd cannot be overcome in his sheep. The hireling’s voice will always incite fear, guilt, and pride whereas the Good Shepherd’s voice will generate faith, hope, and love. The hireling is a thief who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy while the Good Shepherd comes to give abundant life.

 

John

 

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