The Christian’s Inner Battle

“For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19)

A new Christian, that is an individual who has been born again, quickly recognizes the existence of a battle within. The conflict between the flesh and His redeemed self. The believer is now spiritually regenerated and endued with the Spirit of God but the flesh remains weak and corrupt.

Let us remember that the body is an organism in which the soul exists. It is decaying day by day and will return to dust. For some, a great emphasis is placed on the body. The appearance and health of the body is a multi-billion dollar industry in America and the foods, medicines and supplements that are available today is staggering.

Is it important to care for the body? Of course. With the body we serve God and our fellow man. But yet our bodies, our flesh, are a slave to sin without Christ. With that idea in mind, this is a recent conversation I had with a four year girl for whom I provided child care. We will call her Jane:

Me: I hear you’re having a birthday party this weekend.

Jane: Ya

Me: Tom and I will be there.

Jane: No! I don’t want you to come! You will eat all my cake!

Me: Well, what should I do with the presents?

Jane: You have presents for me?

Me: Yes

Jane: Well, then you can come.

That’s the flesh speaking. The unrestrained flesh and mind of a child. We were all there at one time. Self absorbed, as if the entire universe revolved around us. This child needs to be taught self control and a caring awareness of others. Hopefully that will develop over time.

The apostle Paul recognized the war within and described it this way:

For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! (Romans 7:22-24a)

Even though are souls are redeemed, having been purchased from the grips of the enemy and we have a new nature, the memories of our unregenerate humanness remain. Memories are stored in the mind and when the memories of our past life emerge, our flesh has a propensity to act and bring forth sin. The actions, the words, and emotions associated with our past unregenerate life become active and are quickly acted upon if not for the grace of God within.

Continuing on with Romans 7:24 – Who will deliver me from this body of death? Verse 25 – Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So there we have our rescue. Through Jesus Christ and the indwelling Spirit of God which provides the power to overcome our sinful tendencies. Not once and for all (that will come later) but with each temptation, God provides a way out from it. Jesus provided a perfect example of what it looks like to resist temptation.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are to train ourselves to submit to the Spirit of God and His Holy Word. We are to pick up our cross daily and follow Him. A life committed to the Lord is by no means an easy life. It demands that we crucify the flesh and it’s lusts continually and when we fail, we have the promise of forgiveness when we repent. (1 John 1:9)

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who has called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16)

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11-12)

The above instructions have always been of utmost importance in the lives of Christians. Outsiders are quick to point out hypocrisy in believers which can cause us to be disqualified as a witness to Christ. This importance carries on into our present day of turmoil and increased satanic activity. We must stand firm in our conviction of who we are in Christ if we are to make a difference in the world around us.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself untainted by the world. (James 1:27)

We were set free from the bondage of sin which once governed our lives and now we are free to serve the living God and what a joy it truly is!

~Bonnie Roerdink

Don’t Waste Your Life

A few years ago, while at a ladies convention I purchased a book authored by John Piper titled “Don’t Waste Your Life.” It begins this way on the back cover:

“I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider this story from the February 1998 Readers Digest: ‘A couple took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball and collect shells…’ Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgement: ‘Look, Lord. See my shells.’ That is a tragedy.”

Since reading that introduction to John Piper’s fine book, I have returned to it occasionally to ponder the usefulness of my own life.

Having raised four sons over the course of 34 years and working in various aspects of caregiving for 20 years, I entered retirement six years ago. My focus now rests more fully on God and learning His Word and His ways. Along with that is husband care, pet care, house care and pursuing my newfound hobby of sewing. And yes, caring for myself. Perhaps too much of the latter.

The apostle Paul reminds us:

“You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

So there it is. Those who have been called by God, by grace, through faith in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, are obligated to glorify God with every part of the heart, soul, and mind. When we were separated from the world onto Him, we were set on the path which is in the opposite direction from the one we had been traveling on. Instead of running from God, we are to run towards God.

Perhaps while traveling on this path you have stumbled a bit over your own feet. I know I have. Then I am prone to sit on the sidelines. This activity, or rather lack of activity, is oftentimes desirable to an introverted individual such as myself but has no eternal value or Kingdom value on earth. So what is the appropriate response?

Consider the cost. Abraham obediently placed His beloved son Isaac on the altar and was prepared to sacrifice him to God when suddenly God saved Isaac from impending death by offering a substitute. Now consider God the Father, summoning His only Son Jesus, to take that place on the altar, but this time, there is no substitute for His Son. All humanity has sinned against God and we rightly deserve to die as a result of those sins. (Romans 6:23) As God provided a substitute to take the place of Isaac, so He provided a substitute to take the place of us. Even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And this is the great love God has towards His children. The dramatic scene of Abraham and Isaac on a mountain in the land of Moriah was a type and shadow of the future sacrifice of God’s perfect Lamb whose death paid our sin debt.

Understand your identity in Christ.

Second Corinthians 5:17: Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come.

Gone are the days of living for self and being controlled by our sinful desires. The indwelling Holy Spirit of God works continually to conform us to the image of God. We must respond to the inner prompting of the cleansing work of God. When we respond with repentance and obedience and endeavor to live a life of praise and thanksgiving, the more we will experience the power of the Holy Spirit and the greater usefulness we will be to the King of Kings. With God’s help we will crucify the old man daily and live more fully as one who follows Jesus.

Glorify God in your body

Often we are more committed to the purposes of our own kingdom than the purposes of the Eternal Kingdom. Every place we go and everything we do and say, let it all be for the glory of God. Present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. (Romans 6:13)

Live a life wholly committed to the Lord and be zealous for good works. (Titus 2:14)

Good works are so vital to the life of a Christian that James, our Lord’s brother declared: Faith without works is dead. (James 2:26) Our works testify of our faith in Jesus Christ and are able to ignite faith in others as they see our good works. Good works bless others and display the love of God.

Good works benefit the Kingdom of God on the earth and they also reap eternal rewards. Let’s consider 1 Corinthians 3:10 where Paul says: According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. Verse 12: Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay or straw-13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. Verse 14: If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survived (signified by gold, silver, and precious stones) he will receive a reward. Verse 15: If anyone’s work is burned up (signified by the wood, hay or straw) he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

This is the eternal outcome of our works, either good or bad on the day we stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:10: We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

It is a judgement of God based on His reward system and not a judgement that brings condemnation. The judgement of condemnation pertains to the unbeliever when he stands before the Great White Throne of Judgement. (Revelation 20:11-15) Praise God that we have escaped that judgement! If not for the grace of God, that would be the destiny of all people.

Let us go out and by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, snatch our neighbors, our friends, our acquaintances, strangers and even our enemies, if possible, from the judgement that leads to condemnation.

And may our lives reflect the glory of God!

~Bonnie Roerdink

Worldly Justice and Biblical Justice

In this post I will attempt to renew my mind and perhaps the readers’ mind on the subject of social justice. Studying biblical truth on any given subject clarifies our thinking, and if we allow it to enter our soul, and endeavor to put what we have received from the Lord into practice, we will have accomplished God’s will.

We see the discord, hostility, chaos, aggression and violence erupt in our country, all in the name of social justice. Let’s define social justice based on what we have recently observed.

Social Justice: A system that classifies people into groups and then pits them against each other.

When we judge the appearance and actions of others and conclude that what we see doesn’t meet our approval and begin to apply our disapproval to entire people groups, we have entered the arena of injustice. All manner of strife is created and the problem escalates as we draw others into our judgemental, immature, selfish ways of thinking. We decide we are justified in lashing out at others, demanding payback for what we perceive has been taken from us. In extreme acts of retribution, the property of others is trashed and set on fire. We are determined to inflict pain on those we scorn. It is amazing to believe that behavior such as this will actually gain the respect they are demanding. Seems to me the protestors are fighting against their own cause.

And is frequently the case, there are two sides to the story. There are those who do treat others unfairly and are worthy of judgement. It is far better to be the victim of injustice than to be the perpetrator of injustice. The victim has the opportunity to exhibit a Christ like example to others, perhaps leading others to the truth. To be precise, the acts of injustice are sinful and the church should not be involved in this type of behavior alongside the unbeliever. We must not allow society, the news media and the current trends to influence our thinking and cloud our vision. Our focus must be stayed on Jesus and His example of humility.

2 Corinthians 6:17 “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you.”

It is disobedience to be bound together with unbelievers. God forbids us to think the way the world thinks or act the way the world acts.

Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”

There have been many people groups throughout the history of the world that have been treated unfairly. One of the earliest instances of this is recorded in Genesis 15:13-

Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be slaves there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgement on the nation they will serve, and afterwards they will come out with great possessions.”

Notice the second sentence of this passage. God will bring judgement on the nation they were in bondage to and afterwards those in slavery were blessed with great possessions. May I say that if we followed this example and let the retribution be the Lord’s by His design, we will reap spiritual blessings in the future. Obedience always leads to blessings.

God loved the world He created. The world that was peacefully in order according to His design. This euphoria existed until Adam and Eve exercised their will against God’s will and the result was…well, all hell broke loose. Dominion of the world transferred to the enemy of God, who is also the enemy of man.

The sad thing is, many, many people believe this change of dominion is just fine. They no longer feel compelled to submit to God and His laws and statutes and instead they serve themselves and the god of this world. Their consciences have been seared. (1Timothy 4:2) They have traded the truth of God for a lie. They are self serving and self consumed. And so we live in the chaos created by man. Like children throwing a tantrum, the protestors kick and scream as if they are having grand mall seizures. The truth is, their way is not working. They are protesting and acting against those whom they claim are oppressing them. They are doing the same thing that they hate!

If only they would heed theses Godly instructions:

Romans 12:19 “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Matthew 5:44 -45 “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…”

We can and should be proactive as Christians in supporting justice. Extend the love of God to those who are truly oppressed, weary, lost and seemingly hopeless. These are the very people Jesus ministered to; the weak of society who knew they were incapable of curing themselves both physically and spiritually.

Proverbs 31:9 Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Perhaps a time of repentance is needed. In my own life there are times when my judgements have been wrong and I have falsely held others accountable and expected to be compensated. When I reflect on that now, I can see that I judged myself to be superior. That is certainly displeasing to God. Help us Lord to make right judgements.

John 7:24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement.

Christians are to judge between what is good and righteous, and what is worldly and evil; turning to the Word of God to accurately make these assessments and then to proceed accordingly.

This is the response Christ followers are to have regarding justice. Leave the vengeance to God. Pray for your enemies. The proud and the strong aren’t among those who inherit the Kingdom of God. It is the poor in spirit who inherit the coming promised land of euphoria. And it will come. A new day will dawn, perhaps in the near future, and those of us who love and serve God will fly away. That is only the beginning of a glorious eternal existence where the promises of God will come full circle. Those of us who died to sin and self and are born of God, by grace, through faith, will receive the promised inheritance of our loving Father.

~Bonnie Roerdink

To God Be The Glory

“You did not choose me, but I chose you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide…John 15:16

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had conversations with people only for them to walk away, holding onto a doctrine; a doctrine created by man, which states the opposite of John 15:16. They say: “I made a decision for Christ, or today my friend chose Jesus or I accepted Jesus or I invited Jesus into my heart.” This doctrine of man clearly states: I am in control. I am in control of when and how and if I make a decision for Christ. I decide on my terms and in my own way. After all, God created us with free will, didn’t He?

Yes we have free will. We often begin our day by opening our closet doors and choosing what we will wear. We base our decisions on the weather report, or the places we will visit, or even the mood we are in. Quite mundane decisions, to be sure. In these decisions we are exercising our free will.

The decision some folks say they make for Christ is of a caliber far more important than any other decision. It is a decision of a lifetime and will determine their futures. There is not one person, having made a mental “decision” to accept Christ, that can rightly claim they have been saved and are now a Christian. That may sound radical to some, but nonetheless it is true. We can not save ourselves simply by accepting Christ or choosing Christ, or making a decision for Christ, as good as that may sound.

We were not born good nor do we become good with the passage of time.

Psalm 51:5 says: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

A birth produces a living, breathing soul. A soul that does not know God nor does that soul desire God. We are all born dead in trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1) To clarify this situation, the apostle Paul, speaking to believers said:

“Among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. “(Ephesians 2:3)

Did you catch that? It is our natural inclination to gravitate towards sin. The body and the mind of the natural man are controlled by a sin nature resulting in the wrath of God directed upon our sinful state. This is the spiritual reality of every person born into this life. In and of ourselves there is no way of escape. Why?

Because a spiritually dead person can not make a spiritual decision.

Again, Paul (can you tell He is one of my favorites in Bible land?) asks the question:

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me me from this body of death?” Romans 7:24

Certainly not Paul, as great as he was. Certainly not any of his companions. Certainly not you or I. We have zero ability to deliver ourselves from the body of sin in which we live. We may intellectually comprehend the gospel and that is good, but we’re still not there. Something very important is missing. The vital missing element is a person. The Holy Spirit. The third person of the Trinity, God the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit’s work of transforming our hearts, changing our hearts; in essence giving us a new heart, we would never willingly approach God with repentance and the faith that is needed to believe.

“No man can say that Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:13

When our hearts, our inner man is changed to conform to the will of God, then we will desire Him. Our souls will be convicted of sin and we will understand our need for a savior, who is Christ the Lord. The day we bow down before God, perhaps with tears streaming from our faces and confess that we are a sinner, having lived with ourselves as the central figure, with little regard for the One who created us, is the day we become joined to Christ for eternity.

A beautiful description of the Spirit’s work is found in Ezekiel 36:25: “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.

The new spirit is the Spirit of God and the new heart is our thoughts and will being brought into conformity with God. He has created for Himself a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17) We are now willing and able to answer the call of God.

Just as change and growth happen as a fetus matures in the womb, so God’s chosen ones undergo a transformation prior to the new birth into the Kingdom of God. These changes are initiated by God, not by human effort.

The process is this: first, regeneration by the work of the Holy Spirit. Second, the Holy Spirit of God pierces our heart, convicting us of living a sinful life apart from Him and giving us the gift of repentance and so we repent. And third, God gives us the gift of faith that enables us to answer the call of God. He reveals Himself to us and gives us the gift of faith so we can believe. Believe in the gospel which has the power to save a soul from sin, from hell and from the wrath of God which is to come.

All these gifts that pertain to salvation are a result of grace. He delivers these gifts of grace to whomever He has chosen from before the world was formed. He sets these gifts into motion according to His will and according to His good pleasure. The process of salvation belongs to God so He rightly receives all the credit, all the glory due His name.

Unfortunately, there are multitudes of people who believe they are saved based on a decision or a choice they have made. Or perhaps they were led to recite a “sinners prayer” or came forward during an altar call. They feel good about what they have done, but as time goes on and they don’t feel lead to pursue a relationship with God, or get involved with a church, or study the Bible. They begin to question God. They may blame God for their continued problems or their lack of interest in the things of God. They see no real real change in their lives.

The problem is that without the Holy Spirit, the conversion to Christianity can never take place. It is God who gave His only Son to die in payment for our sin debt. He directs the Holy Spirit to transform our dead spirit and creates in us a new heart that desires Him and gives us the gift of faith to believe. There is no way man can accomplish this unaided. And furthermore, He deposits the Holy Spirit within us to empower us to do the work Christ has called us to do. To testify of Him to the ends of the earth.

Let us examine ourselves carefully and not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to. Let us not take credit for the things God has done. To God be the glory!

~Bonnie Roerdink

A Change of Perspective

Recently I was invited to one of those parties. You know the ones. The ones in which the host or hostess offers coffee, tea and snacks. Then the presentation begins. In this case the presentation was one of natural hair and skin care products. Inevitably I begin to develop restless leg syndrome that a speedy run for the door would cure.

Why this reaction? Because I have no need to spend money on something that, up to this time in my life, have been living perfectly fine without. We use the big box store hair care products and shower gels without giving it much thought.

Why go then, you may ask. To be sociable, I guess.

My husband and I are trying to cut costs. We are trying to reduce our debt and live more within our means.

And besides, my perspective has changed. Ever since meeting a young man named Modou.

Modou lives in West Africa. Daily life for him and his family can be a struggle. A struggle to find food with the little resources they have. A struggle to stay cool without the comforts of air conditioning or an electric fan. It’s a challenge at times to find clean water in which to cook, drink and bathe. A challenge to stay safe.

You see, by the grace of God, my friend Modou is a Christian. A missionary came through, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and Modou was born again. He lives in a country which is predominantly Muslim. An environment in which the people would rather give their food to the dogs, rather than to a Christian. They won’t hire him because of his faith.

He has very little and we have so much.

Modou has much to be thankful for. He owns a Bible. There are some pages missing but He loves to read the words written by His Heavenly Father. He loves to read and reread the promises of God and the glorious future that awaits him. His faith in Jesus inspires me. He teaches me. He cares for my spiritual wellbeing and has quickly become the friend I may never have the opportunity to meet in person until we are reunited with the Lord. Since meeting Modou, the first thing I see on my phone each day is a scripture that He retrieves from a Bible app.

Pure religion is this, that we help widows and orphans. (James 1:27) My friend in the Lord, Modou, is an orphan. He and his little sister lost both their parents, bringing an end to so much in his life including the opportunity to pursue higher learning.

Modou has something far greater than the things this world can supply. He is royalty because his Father is a King. His Father has a place prepared for Him in a mansion that has many rooms.

It’s all about Him, the Creator of the universe. It’s not about me, getting the best that money can buy. The best automobile, the best clothes, the best food, the best hair products or the best of anything. It is about giving our best to God. The One who layed down His life for you and for me.

Which brings me back to spending money on things I’ve been living perfectly fine without. In fact, I may just find that there are plenty of things I never needed in the first place.

Pray for Modou. Pray that God will continue to supply all his needs according to His riches in glory. Pray for we the people who live in the wealthiest country in the world. That we would have no other gods before the One True God. That we understand what it is to sacrifice for others. Whether it be time, prayer or resources. Look for opportunities to serve others and do everything as unto the Lord.

~Bonnie Roerdink

Your Life in Christ: From Shepherd to Monarch

EttingerWriting.com

By David Ettinger

Called to Reign
Do you know that as a Christian you have been called to reign? There are a number of verses that confirm this. However, before you begin shopping for regal robes, remember that your reign will begin when Christ establishes His Millennial (1,000-year) Kingdom. For now, though, it is good to remember what you once were – a lonely, isolated shepherd.

This spiritual nugget is derived from 2 Kings Chapter 7, where God promises David an everlasting kingdom. This chapter is filled with messianic significance, but this is not our focus. Rather, I reference the opening sentence of God’s decree to David: “I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel” (2 Samuel 7:8).

It is as if God is saying, “David, I have made you a ruler of men and nations and have blessed you…

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A New Identity

Children develop their sense of self from the environment in which they live. The family plays a large role in shaping the identity of children.

I am by no means an expert in identity formation but I can speak from personal experiences when I say that a parents’ opinion of their children and the ways they choose to communicate those opinions will either cultivate a positive, confident view of oneself or have a devastating effect upon a child’s sense of self.

In my case, the latter was true.

James 3:6 “And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.

James 3:9 “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.”

As a child I believed I was who they said I was. I was told that I would never amount to anything; that I was stupid and dumb. I was told to stay out of their sight. I was often locked in closets or confined to the basement and was severely punished for infractions. Their words and actions cut to the core of my being. I was depressed, anxious and withdrawn.

Here is where I have to stop and say: but God! He had plans for me that were yet to be unveiled.

As Joseph stated in Genesis 50:20 “As for you, you meant it as evil against me, but God meant it for good…”

When I was saved in 1989, along with the gift of faith came hope. Hope that, with God’s help, I would overcome the past and begin anew.

Second Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

I clung to that verse as a new believer and began to see that truth manifest in my life. God began to give me a new identity. An identity that He was familiar with from before the foundation of the world. An identity that He created; unique and wrought by His love. He began to tell me who I am.

Recanting this now has the power to bring me to my knees, overwhelmed by His grace.

He spoke the words I longed to hear as a child. That I was loved and valuable. That I was the daughter of the King. I had been lied to for all those years. His words entered that place of my heart that had been cut by evil words and experiences and gradually healing came and then joy, abundant joy! As my Heavenly Father began to reveal truth, His truth, I was transformed into a new creature in Christ. The former pain and rejection were loosening it’s grip on my soul and I soared on eagles wings. Delivered and set free!

This is my story. It can become your story too! The following Old Testament prophesy is being fulfilled by Jesus Himself. He is near to those who mourn; who cry out to Him with a sincere heart. Now is the year of the Lord’s favor.

Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor, He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”

I was bound up with self condemnation. But…

Romans 8:1 says “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

We get to wear Jesus Christ’s robe of righteousness. Continually until we draw our last breath, leave this body, and enter into the eternity He has planned for us.

There is a miracle that can change your life. That miracle is Jesus!

~Bonnie Roerdink

The Shepherd and His Lamb

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Psalm 95:6-7

“Oh, give ear, Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock; You who are enthroned above the cherubim, shine forth!” Psalm 80:1

“As for you, My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, you are men, and I am your God, declares the Lord God.” Ezekiel 34:31

Photo by kailash kumar on Pexels.com

The above verses are a beautiful depiction of God’s relationship towards His people, then and now. It speaks of safety, provision, and caring leadership. It speaks of sacrifice, patience, and faithfulness. Perfect words to describe the God of heaven and earth.

The Old Testament speaks of many people who were shepherds. The first was Abel who brought the best portions of the firstborn of his flock. (Genesis 4:4.) God was pleased with this offering. I’m sure He was thinking of His firstborn Son; the perfect Lamb that He was to send into the world.

Then there was Abraham and Jacob, and the prophet Moses. David, was the most famous shepherd of them all. He learned valuable lessons as a young lad tending his family’s sheep. He learned how to be a fierce defender of the flock and later became a fierce defender of the people Israel, even killing a giant with a sling shot and a single stone. God the Shepherd taught David the shepherd leadership skills that proved to be invaluable while he served as the King of Israel. These lessons developed a mindset within David of faith and dependence which propelled Him to conquer nations and kings. David drew from his years as a shepherd to write the beloved Twenty-Third Psalm.

Then there were sheep. Lots of sheep. Job had 14,000 sheep (Job 42:12) and King Solomon sacrificed 120,000 sheep at the Temple’s dedication. (1Kings 8:63) The Bible makes reference to sheep more than 500 times.

Why so many sheep? During ancient biblical times, God set up a system of animal sacrifice for atonement of sin. Sacrifices were presented to God as payment for their sins and to thwart the anger their sin generated. It was a system in which the people received forgiveness of sin and thereby were reconciled to the God of Israel. It served as a continuous reminder to the Israelites of their sinful nature and consequently their disobedience of the laws of God.

One primary aspect of the sacrificial law was that the animal sacrifice had to be free of blemish. It needed to be the best of the best. This standard reflected the coming Lamb of God, who was born in the flesh, without the inheritance of original sin. Conceived by the Holy Spirit of God, born of a virgin, and lived a sinless life.

The Jewish people were continually slaughtering lambs, goats and bulls as described, for instance, in Second Chronicles 29:21. They were to offer to Yahweh the best of their flocks and herds in order to atone for their sins. They understood that their sins were forgiven by the shedding of blood.

Leviticus 17:11 helps us understand the importance of this ancient ritual. God, speaking to Moses said: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”

Jesus said:

“I have sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. Then there will be one flock and one shepherd.” John 10:16

How would Jesus bring these other sheep?

Answer: By laying down the glory He shared with His Father, and submitting to His Father’s will. God, the Shepherd and His Son, the Lamb, that was slain from before the foundation of the world. We were ransomed…

.. “With the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Peter 1:19)

You see, sinful man can not stand in the presence of Almighty, Holy God and all people by birth inherited the sin nature of Adam.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

And…

The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…(Romans 1:18)

God, in His love and grace sent His first born Son to this planet to walk in the midst of a perverted generation to show us the Way to be saved from our sin and the wrath of God. Jesus received the assignment given to Him by the Father. To lay down His life for the sheep and take upon Himself our sin and in the process of all this, shed His blood, thereby atoning for our sin. He was the perfect Lamb of God who opened not His mouth in defense of His sinless life. Jesus showed us the Way; His Way to be declared righteous to stand before God without being destroyed by sin and fear.

It is a fearful thing for an unrepentant sinner to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:31

Jesus said: “…Repent, and believe the gospel.” Mark 1:15

Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:11-12)

What we were helpless to do, Christ did for us. Romans 5:6

Our part is merely to respond to the call of God. It’s an irresistable, grace filled, supernatural drawing of the Holy Spirit; inviting a repentant sinner to joyfully receive the precious Lamb of God. It is a gift unmatched by any other. It is a gift that will never tarnish or fade away. It yields peace, joy, truth and eternal life. The recipient of this life altering gift is now on a new course with a new goal. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the child of God begins to look upward towards their calling in Christ Jesus rather than inward, focusing on themselves and the temporal things of the world. We have been set free from serving sin to serving the God of creation. And this, all provided by God the Shepherd, Jesus the Lamb and the Holy Spirit.

~Bonnie Roerdink

The Potter And The Clay

One of my favorite images contained within scripture is found in Jeremiah chapter 18.

The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel.

And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” Jeremiah 18:1-6

As the text implies, these words were spoken to Israel and addressed their rebellious heart condition. Verses 7-11 explains that when a nation or kingdom would turn from their evil ways, the Lord would relent of the disaster that He had planned for them. Likewise, if evil is committed, which included not listening to the voice of the Lord, He would relent of the good that He had planned for them.

If this principle was in full force today, may I say, our country would be in serious trouble. However, in the era in which we live, God has extended amazing grace towards our rebellion, desiring that no man perish.

Having entered into a New Covenant with God, through the precious blood of Jesus Christ, we as individuals, stand before God as a people whose sins have been forgiven. What a glorious age this is to be alive to serve the living God.

Now back to the potter. It is beneficial for us to picture ourselves on the potter’s wheel. A potter uses various tools such as needles, fettling knives, ribs and scrapers; just to name a few. They are all intended to alter the clay in order to make it into something useful and pleasing to the eye.

However, God has no need for these tools when it comes to creating us for His use. He has a multitude of ways to shape us and mold us to conform to the image of His Son.

Second Corinthians 3:18 says we are being changed into the image of the Lord from glory to glory.

Here are just a few things God uses in His work of transformation:

1. The new birth. God changes us radically at the moment of salvation by imparting new life into us. The old creature has passed away, the new creature has been born. Immediately, without any effort on our part, we are lifted onto the potter’s wheel and there we remain until death do us part. Sounds like a marriage, doesn’t it?

2. His written Word. All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

3. Temptations. The Biblical meaning of temptation is a trial in which man has a free choice of being faithful or unfaithful to God. It can also be referred to simply as a test or a test of faith. We think of Abraham’s test of faith as an extreme test of His faithfulness to God. We often face temptations or tests and the end result can often have short term or long term consequences. We may be left with bitterness or we may find ourselves rejoicing and giving thanks.

4. Life’s occurrences such as natural disasters, job loss, illness or the death of a loved one. The test can also be of a positive nature such as an unexpected refund or a report that a friend has been released from the hospital. God is waiting for our response. Will we give thanks and praise for his provisions or will we fail to recognize His grace? Surely the reader has experienced some of these events that have tested your faithfulness to God or perhaps you understood them as corrections from the Lord.

In my own life, God used a cancer diagnosis to correct my waywardness and draw me back to Him. It was one of the most painful times and one of the most memorable times of my life and I thank God for it.

Because we are sinful beings, we have a natural tendency to want to avoid difficult situations and react to them with willful stubbornness. Some people walk away from God in the midst of trouble and some people run to God. The next time a trial or temptation enters your life, which way will you choose?

We are hurting ourselves and the body of Christ when we do not yield to the correction of the Lord. Let us not be so rigid that we are unwilling to abandon our long held beliefs when we receive biblical instruction from a reputable Pastor, teacher, brother or sister in the Lord. We can all learn from each as we submit to the Word and the Spirit of Truth.

When we face temptation or trials let us remember our Lord’s instructions:

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. (Proverbs 18:10)

Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you. (1 Peter 5:6)

If we are truly His, there is no escaping the Potter’s wheel. Let us willingly submit to His correction and be quick to repent when we fall short. Let us remain pliable in the hands of our Maker.

Do we not know that we are clay pots that God has deposited His treasures into? (2 Corinthians 4:7.) Just think about that. We are vessels that God has filled with treasures. What are these treasures? The Holy Spirit and the gospel, along with all the accompanying truth. There remains no other treasure more valuable than these. However, we can easily tarnish our witness and reputation when we speak contrary to the Word of God or become involved in questionable activities. We can either lead people astray or lead them to God. We have a great responsibility towards God and towards each other.

God loves us so much that He is not willing to leave us in the same condition in which He found us. He will continue to conform us; comparing His handiwork to His beloved Son. Let us forge ahead, submitting to holy correction; allowing God to mold us into a vessel that can be used for His glory.

~Bonnie Roerdink

Who Would Have Thought

Reflections on Easter

by Bonnie Roerdink

Who would have thought, even two months ago, that the doors of the churches would be closed during what is typically known as Holy Week. The week in which anyone who considers themselves to be a Christian gives extra attention to the events that took place in the life of Jesus Christ.

We may take the time this week to read through the biblical accounts and ponder what all this means for us today; in light of the modern times in which we live. And rightly so.

The churches would have been busily preparing for Easter Sunday and the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord. Perhaps volunteers would be shopping for all the food stuffs needed for a sunrise breakfast and others would be decorating the church and still others would be rehearsing special music.

Folks who ordinarily don’t attend church, often will make an exception for Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Then there’s the shopping. A new outfit, a pair of shoes or a spring handbag. So much detail goes into preparing for Easter. It is, after all, one of the most important days on the Christian calendar.

What if, just suppose, that God was desiring that we lay aside the busyness, the fanfare, and the preparations that are so typical of this season. What if He was looking for a people who do not need special days to commemorate His death, burial and resurrection. A people who understand that the events that took place more than 2,000 years ago are the reason that they live and move and have their being. (Acts 17:28)

For true believers, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ has transformed our lives. Our lives are no longer our own. We were bought at a great price. (1Corinthians 6:19-20)

Good Friday and Easter will come and it will go. The candy will be gone, the eggs eaten and the decorations all put away. But the events that altered human history and changed the course of many souls will live on for eternity.

We move ahead, holding in our hearts the fateful days of our Lord’s passion and all that He accomplished for us And maybe, just maybe, this will become our passion too.