Thursday, January 26, 2017

The cost

"Take up your cross and follow me"

This command of the Lord Jesus Christ remains the unheeded challenge of so many Christians. ‘Taking up a cross’ is rather well defined in the book of Revelation – “for they loved not their lives even unto death” (12.11).

The example has been set by the Lord Himself. He surrendered His will to the will of God. His life was not for Himself, but for others and if that meant death for the sake of God’s purpose, the ultimate sacrifice was paid. So the one who would follow Him, will work by the same rule.

How much of our life, is spent ‘loving our lives’. It has even become popular to say ‘I love living’ or ‘I love life’.  This ‘me-ism’ ignores the command of the  Lord Jesus, and life is all about what I can get out of this life. To so many Eternity seems nonexistent, and commitment to a rejected master is ignored if it involves sacrifice.  So much so, that Christianity is promoted for what people can get out of it in this life. For sure the principles of Christ bring great blessing now eg holiness and love, but reading His word gives a very real emphasis on the greater reality of God’s purposes for His people in the time of the resurrection and restoration of all things. Hebrews chapter 11 presents the example of many who in life ‘followed’ the call of God, with the focus on the life to come.

The call of the Lord was – “Come follow Me” – that meant the surrender of all, to then be associated with a rejected leader whose commitment was ‘to do the Father’s will’. He saw eternal values as more important than the present needs. On this basis, many around the world are choosing to die for Christ, rather than deny Him. ( It has been reported that on average,a christian dies for Christ every six minutes!)


May I ask that you pray for me, that true discipleship may yet be fulfilled in me, and in you.


John

Saturday, January 21, 2017

What does the future hold?

Revelation


My present meditations on the book of Revelation are focused on the principles involved.
The book is primarily about Jesus Christ
The judgements on earth are executed by Him
The end result is sure
The destination is the glory of God and the Lamb

This so relevant for us today to see the working of God in the world and prophecy as to the future.

Scientists forecast happenings for the next 50-100 years.
Politicians rise promising great things and then they are gone.
Medical care is wonderful for those who can afford it.
Weather patterns are changing with significant effects.
Alliances between countries are changing.
War machines are becoming more destructive.

2017 is a year of great uncertainty!

Is there hope for the future??
Let us ponder a book that has endured the ages:
So much of Revelation is actually a reflection of the Old Testament. (Not so much saying something new, as restating what God revealed centuries before )

Chapter 1   God describes Himself as “I am.....” This is the assurance that the God who revealed Himself to Moses is alive and well, and ready to execute the judgements of His holiness as He did in Egypt.

Chapter 4  -  “You created all things”  This is a restatement Genesis 1 where God spoke and all things came into being, and He alone has authority over it.

Chapter 5  “Worthy is the Lamb”  This new song is a reflection of Isaiah 52/53  where the one led as a lamb to the slaughter becomes the one high and lifted up. He is the executor of God’s wrath and judgements.

So this book of Revelation insists that the future is in the hand of God and of the Lamb.

Revelation 11:17 puts it so well:
“We give thanks to you, Lord God almighty
Who is, and who was,
For you have taken your great power and begun to reign.”
This answer to the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6) and Psalm 2, gives the future a clearer perspective. The present opportunity for humanity to turn from rebellion and turn to God will end. The righteous judgements against wickedness will be implemented .  God through the Lamb (Jesus Christ), will reinstate justice, righteousness, with true honour to whom it is due.

Today is the day of reconciliation:-

Isaiah 1 “ Come now and let us reason together say the Lord”

Revelation 22 “the Spirit and the bride say ‘come’, and let the one who hears say ‘come’. And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires, take of the water of life without price.”


Psalm 2 “Blessed are all those who put their trust in HIM.”


May you read through the last book of the bible and receive the blessing promised for doing so. A glimpse of HIS glory is worth it all!


johnmckee@internode.on.net

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The fullness of the Shepherd's care

Psalm 23 – the latter half

The claim of faith in verse one covers all situations – “I shall not want” . Then the song gives detail of the shepherd  meeting the needs of his flock.

I would like to continue from my previous article, giving the application to our great Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ.

 In verse 4 , we see the treasure of His presence. As Moses said “If thy presence go not with us, carry us not up hence.” This indeed makes life worth living, to have the LORD with us.
Added to the power of His presence is the comfort that he carries the shepherd’s‘tools of trade’ to be effective in the dark valley. The rod and staff give assurance of His protection of the sheep and His ability to control and restore the sheep. Just to remember the Lord Jesus dealing with the enemy in His life on earth is comforting, but to know He has been given all authority for today is even better. In the valley experiences of life we can trust Him.

There are enemies. Just as David risked his life to rescue the sheep from the lion, so our Lord Jesus Christ well understands the enemy of our souls. He able to keep.  But He is more interested in providing good wholesome food to strengthen the sheep – “a table spread in the presence of mine enemies” . We do well to feed regularly at the table of His providing so as to nourish our souls and spirits. Let us not despise the heavenly manna( as Israel did). Rather let us show gratitude to the giver by eating thankfully of the word of God.

“You anoint my head with oil” – the little booklet ‘Song of the Syrian Guest’, indicates that at the end of the day, the sheep are counted in and checked for scratches and wounds. It is to these wounds that the shepherd applies the healing balm of olive oil.
After a hot dusty day, the Shepherd gives each sheep refreshment from an overflowing cup. The still waters mentioned earlier in the Psalm were essential, but now the refreshment from the overflowing cup is quite personal.

Now at the end of the song, we have the summary of the Shepherd’s care :
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”
The Shepherd is faithful and consistent in His goodness and abiding love. Not  like an hireling who is only in it for himself. The Shepherd loves the sheep and He loves them unto the end.

The last line of this psalm is special. Instead of the Shepherd leaving the sheep in the sheepfold, He brings them into His dwelling place. This sounds like John 14:1-6 :  “I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.”
It is our privilege to enjoy the Lord’s presence now, but oh how much greater it will be to one day bow at His feet in worship, to look upon His brilliant face and be transformed into His likeness!



Note: Much of this Psalm relates to the experiences of David who became the King of Israel. That interpretation is very helpful. I have as a matter of brevity gone directly to the Messianic application of Jesus the great shepherd of the sheep as detailed in the New Testament. May you be blessed by spending much time walking with HIM.


johnmckee@internode.on.net

Perhaps you would this Psalm as a wall plaque or one to stand on a sideboard. Send me an email as we make these to give away.
John

Friday, January 13, 2017

Revelation

The Judgements foretold in the book  of Revelation.

These judgements seem horrendous – and they are. Much the same as the judgements of God against the inhabitants of Canaan (in the Old Testament), seemed unduly severe. What do I make of this? Is it out of keeping with the character of God?     .......No.  It is the perspective that is faulty. ( I , having grown up in the modern and post modern era, have seen the destructive influence of atheism on the thinking of society – where the liberty of grace is abused as licence, yea rights for godless misbehaviour and idolatry. e.g. almost no one raises their voice against fornication.)

 The book of revelation restates the perspective of heaven.

1.       God is holy

2.       That God revealed in Jesus Christ was not incidental, but central to God relating to humanity. ( To reject HIM is so offensive to the Great Creator)

3.     God  revealed in the Lamb, will have the last say and accomplish final victory. (Where all who have chosen the way of the evil one will be destroyed as he will be)



How important to be sealed as one of His own sheep, so that no matter what comes, we can trust the great Shepherd who will guide to springs of living water and wipe away every tear. (Revelation 7.17)

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Shepherd Psalm

Psalm 23

 This gem Psalm presents a true shepherd taking his place as a sheep in God’s fold.

I would like to give this song a little context:
Many years ago a realist stood up and said “ All of us have strayed away like lost sheep” and to make matters worse he said “ we have encouraged everyone to do his own thing, go his own way”
Peter was right when he said “you were as sheep going astray but now have returned to the shepherd and overseer of your souls.”

How blessed we are to be able to read the word’s of the Lord Jesus Christ – “ I am the gate, the door , whoever enters through Me will be saved”
And again  “I am the good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” 
This links directly with Psalm 22. Beginning with ‘My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” and after describing in detail the horrors of the cross ends with “he has done this!”

The Good shepherd saw the problem, our problem – our wandering ways, our lostness, our guilt and He died to reconcile us back to God.
I trust that we all have responded to the Good Shepherd’s invitation to ‘enter in’, to wholeheartedly trust in Him. His promise is eternal “They shall never perish”.

Psalm 24 is so different, so triumphant.
It describes the chief Shepherd leading the victory procession. Well might the spectators ask “Who is this?”   It is the Lord – notice Lord is spelt with capital letters –LORD –The personal name of God almost too holy to utter YHWH
This is the same one that the angels announced to the ‘shepherds’ near Bethlehem – “For unto you is born this day in the city f David a Saviour who is Christ the LORD”
Psalm 24 describes the present and future glories of our victorious Lord Jesus Christ. The gates of every city will be opened wide to let the King of glory come in.


Now wedged in between these two appearings, we have the Psalm of the great Shepherd – Psalm 23.

David had grown up  as a shepherd caring for sheep, but he understood that he too needed a shepherd greater than himself to care for him.
As he sat on the hillsides of Bethlehem, watching over the sheep, he took his place as a sheep in God’s care. Perhaps it was then that he took his small harp  and composed this ancient song (3000 years old). Although he became Israel’s greatest king, he was not a self made man. The best leader is the one who can take the lowest place – as a dependant sheep, as a humble servant.

Now let us meditate on the lyrics of the song:
“The LORD” – notice the capitals – none less than the almighty, covenant keeping God
“My shepherd” – David’s trust was personal and likewise this makes our trust personal
“I shall not want” – faith says ‘He is all I need’

How precious it is to ‘lie down’ , content with the food he provides – food for our tables –yes , but greater is the food for our souls and spirits.  – the joy of meditation on Christ the bread of heaven.
And on the hot, demanding days to take time out to be refreshed by His Holy Spirit.

“He restores my soul” His gentle voice that rebukes my wandering ways, that calls me back from selfishness, that warns me of the paths of danger. Am I daily listening to the shepherds voice?

He alone can guide me in “the paths of righteousness”
The world has a standard of righteousness – unrighteousness
The media has very low standards of righteousness – beware
Today let us resolve to be led, guided by the one voice – the shepherd’s voice.
Remember the word in John 10 ‘My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

Now we come to an unusual expression “For His name’s sake”
Modern society has lost the meaning of this and instead has interposed ‘for my sake’ – I mean the awful disease of me-ism. The commercial world is so good at appealing to the flesh, that everything is for ME. Politics has changed from ‘who is capable to lead’ to ‘what is in it for me?’ – and so I could go on.

The genuine sheep in the Lord’s flock sees everything as being for HIM – for His Name’s sake. My very existence is for HIM.
Sure others are involved in life, but He must be the priority, the focus, the motive and the Lord of all.
Perhaps I have said enough for one session, but it could be that this year some of you will go through a valley experience. Just remember that the Shepherd Himself has also been through the deepest valley ( read Isaiah 53) and He will be with you too. Perhaps some will face enemies ( like the millions of persecuted Christians across the globe). The shepherd knows and cares.

But best of all comes the promise at the end
“I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever”
It is a thing most wonderful to be one of His treasured sheep, how much more to be invited into His house!!
This can be our daily enjoyment of His nearness now, but how much better when we see His face, to be transformed into His likeness and to enjoy the place that He has prepared for those who love Him.
Until then, let us trust the LORD as our Shepherd, and in the coming year let Him lead, provide, protect and bring us into His dwelling place.

He holds the key of all unknown
And I am glad
If other hands should hold the key
Or if he trusted it to me,   I might be sad.

The very dimness of my sight makes me secure
For groping in my misty way
I feel His hand: I hear Him say – My help is sure

I cannot read His future plans, but this I know
I have the smiling of His face
And all the refuge of His Grace

While here below.


John McKee