The 99

Luke 15:1-7 New Living Translation (NLT)

15 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!

So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

Maybe it’s just me, but have you ever read a passage of Scripture over and over again and think, in your arrogance, “yeah, I get it?” Until someone says “many people get confused by it [this parable], but….?” And you are instantly offended?

Just me? Ok.

IMG_2961When I re-read the above passage, the Holy Spirit breathed life onto the page and BOOM, revelation invaded my soul. Humbly, I cried out, “Oh….God…I’m so sorry for leaning on my own understanding….thank you for revealing your truth to me.”

I had always assumed the 99 were already saved, and God abandoned them. I was continually irritated when this message was preached in seeker friendly services (what does that mean, anyway? “Seeker friendly”?!). Pastors would declare, “it’s not about YOU, it’s about the one.” Excuse me? What does THAT mean? Am I not loved by God? Am I to be abandoned in the wilderness when He goes after the one?

No. No. No!

The 99 represented the Pharisees and teachers of religious law. They had no relationship with the Shepherd, even though they belonged to Him. The 99 stayed in the wilderness, instead of following the Shepherd.

Here’s the deal: The Shepherd loves all His sheep. He died for all of them. But, He goes after the one. The one He chose before the foundations of the earth. He leaves the 99 who reject him. He pursues the one. He finds the one. And when the lost sheep humbles himself, the Shepherd picks him up, puts him on His shoulders, and carries him home.

I am the one.

I was part of the 99. I stayed in the wilderness for decades. I was raised in the church. I knew about God. I was involved in religious activity. But I did not know the Shepherd. I was lost. I was a notorious sinner.

Now I am found!

The Lord left the 99 to search for me 19 years ago. ME! He chose ME before the foundations of the earth. He pursued ME. He found ME. And when this stubborn sheep humbled myself before the Great Shepherd, He picked me up, put me on His shoulders and carried me home. There was joy in heaven for ME!

I am the one.

Are you?

(Thank you, @realcoryasbury https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xx0d3R2LoU )

Pray for me

Acts 8:9-24 New Living Translation (NLT)

A man named Simon had been a sorcerer there for many years, amazing the people of Samaria and claiming to be someone great. 10 Everyone, from the least to the greatest, often spoke of him as “the Great One—the Power of God.” 11 They listened closely to him because for a long time he had astounded them with his magic.

12 But now the people believed Philip’s message of Good News concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. As a result, many men and women were baptized. 13 Then Simon himself believed and was baptized. He began following Philip wherever he went, and he was amazed by the signs and great miracles Philip performed.

14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had accepted God’s message, they sent Peter and John there. 15 As soon as they arrived, they prayed for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit. 16 The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, for they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit.

18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given when the apostles laid their hands on people, he offered them money to buy this power. 19 “Let me have this power, too,” he exclaimed, “so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!”

20 But Peter replied, “May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! 21 You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God. 22 Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts, 23 for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin.”

24 “Pray to the Lord for me,” Simon exclaimed, “that these terrible things you’ve said won’t happen to me!”

Simon had been astounding the people of Samaria with his sorcery for many years, but when the Good News was preached by Philip, he lost his followers. He, along with many other men and women believed in Jesus and were baptized after hearing Philips message. Amazed by the signs and miracles Philip performed, Simon began following him.

Then Peter and John arrived in the city.

The apostles laid hands on and prayed for the new believers to receive the Holy Spirit. Apparently, Simon was not among the many who received, but he saw the POWER that manifested amongst the people. He wanted that POWER, so he attempted to purchase it from Peter.

He was quickly and firmly rebuked.

Simon had believed and was baptized, but his heart (soul & spirit) was not right with God. Peter implored him to repent to the Lord and be forgiven from the sin that held him captive: PRIDE. Instead, he audaciously commanded Peter to pray for him so that he wouldn’t be destroyed by his sin.

IMG_4466We may not be practicing magic as Simon, but we certainly practice exercising our PRIDE regularly, don’t we? Like Simon, we may even be drawn to the POWER we see manifesting through the lives of others who preach the Good News. Like Simon, we may be jealous of the many who have been baptized with fire, as was prophesied by John the Baptist. Like Simon, we may even believe in the Son of God and have been baptized in water. But if we haven’t received the Holy Spirit as Jesus promised to his disciples (and future disciples), we cannot be set free from the sin that so easily entangles us.

We cannot purchase freedom from sin.

We cannot deliver ourselves from PRIDE.

We cannot buy the POWER to release the Holy Spirit into our lives- or others.

We cannot command or manipulate others in the body of Christ to get what we want.

We can believe in Jesus, be baptized in water and receive the Holy Spirit when we humble ourselves and PRAY.

The next time you are tempted to tell another believer, “pray for me” you may wanna stop and ask the Lord to check your heart. If He reveals wickedness, repent quickly of your bitter jealousy (you probably believe God hears & answers their prayers so you’re attempting to manipulate their access to the Lord). Then ask another believer who is filled with the Holy Spirit if they would lay their hands on you and pray for you to receive the POWER of the Holy Spirit!

God-breathed

2 Timothy 3:16-17 New International Version (NIV)

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 

Just as God breathed life into man’s body in the garden, God breathed life into the men that wrote each verse, chapter and book recorded in the canon of Scripture. Ordinary men were equipped by the power of the Holy Spirit to write an extraordinary love letter to the world.

Woven through the life stories of men, women and children throughout Scripture we learn who God is and who mankind is in relationship to Him. We discover love, grace, mercy and forgiveness. We realize the ramifications of sin. We are introduced to the Savior. We are warned about an enemy.

IMG_2961Each day as we study, the Holy Spirit breathes life and the words on the page become the Word written on our heart. Miraculously, we begin to receive instruction, rebuke, and correction. Through this supernatural training in humility and submission, our lives are transformed by the renewing of our mind. We are made righteous. We are equipped as a servant of God. We are able to do every good work.

If we don’t know the Word (Jesus) by studying the word (Scripture), we are not equipped to do any work. A student who is fully trained will become like their teacher (Luke 6:40). But a student who refuses to be trained, rejects the Teacher and becomes like the one they follow; Satan (John 8:44).

Reading a verse fragment a few times a week on a Bible app or Facebook post with a pretty background picture won’t thoroughly equip you. Would you give your child a handful of goldfish for the week and expect him to be sustained physically? NO! The child would be hungry and eventually, he’d starve to death because of the lack of nourishment. A child cannot live on goldfish alone. He needs the Word of God.

IMG_4461Dear child, if you’ve become malnourished, you cannot serve God. Sure, you may be able to sustain yourself and work for a little while, but the signs of starvation will eventually emerge. You may not notice it – but the people around you will. Your wife may say she feels unloved because you’re too tired to lay your life down for her. Your husband may say that he feels disrespected because you’re too busy to spend time serving him. Your kids may repeatedly disobey you because you’re too preoccupied to deal with their foolishness. The people you lead in the church may keep falling back into the same cycle of sin because you’re unequipped to shepherd their broken soul.

But don’t give up! There is still HOPE. The Good News is still the Good News. You can have abundant life. You can love your wife. You can submit to your husband. You can train your kids. You can lead others in the church. You can do every good work.

All you have to do is choose whom you will serve. God’s mercy is new every morning. Set that alarm on your smart phone to wake up 5, 15, 30 minutes earlier tomorrow. Grab your bible, pen, journal and a cup of strong coffee. Saturate your mind in Scripture. Then…do what it says.

You may feel ordinary, but Scripture will train you to be an extraordinary man or woman of God. God breathed life into your body when He saved you. God will breathe life into your soul when you study His love letter to the world.