A Redemption Allegory

sheep in a pen

When we study God’s salvation, it isn’t like anything a person would logically come up with. Let me give you an allegory, and then I’ll point us to a Scriptures.

An Allegory About Redemption

Imagine a drove of dirty, sickly, starving sheep with only small patches of fleece. They are standing in a pen which has nothing for them to eat. The owner of the sheep is standing by the only gate. Jesus walks up and says, “Those are my sheep.” The devil says, “No, the sheep asked me to be their master, so they’re in my pen, and I own them.”

Jesus says to the devil, “Look, here is my perfect blood sacrifice, the proof that I have paid (i.e., redeemed) all of them. Since I am one of them (i.e., Son of Man), the Law says that as a “kinsman,” I have the right to redeem them. And that’s what I’m doing.” The devil opens the gate, and Jesus calls to the sheep, “I am your Kinsman Redeemer, I have paid the price for your freedom. Come follow me!”

Some of the sheep run to Jesus and when they touch Him that are miraculasly changed into the most beautiful sheep that ever existed; other sheep gather around the open gate because they like Jesus, but they don’t leave because the pen is their home. Still other sheep run to the backside of the pen. They want nothing to do with Jesus. A few, perhaps, may start to leave the pen, but then they pull back.

Only the sheep that leave the devil’s pen and come to Jesus receive forgiveness for their sin. All the other sheep that remain in the pen, no matter how close they came to Jesus, do not receive forgiveness; their sin remains with them. The sheep that remain in the pen will receive the same punishment from God that their master, the devil, will receive.

God’s Process

Notice that redemption comes before God’s call. God’s process for our salvation is:
– Redemption, once for all (Jn. 3:16, Ro. 6:9)
– Preaching the Good News of Jesus (Mt. 28:19, Ro. 10:15)
– Coming to Jesus. (2 Cor. 6:17)
– Being reborn into the kingdom of God. (Jn. 3:3) 

What an amazing salvation God has provided! “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” Colossians 2:12-15 (ESV)

Isn’t God amazing!

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Walk, don't run!​

kids running

I have no idea how many times, when I was growing up, I was told walk, don’t run! In the school’s hallways, at church, when our family visited friends or relatives. It was always slow down, walk, don’t run!

Matthew 4:18 (NLT), One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living.

When I first began computer programming, it took 24 hours for me to get the results back from my program. When I worked on a significant software project back in the 1990s, I was told that the results from a User clicking a button had to come back in 15 seconds or less. When I a manager of product development, I was told the results from a User clicking a button had to return in less time than a person could pick up their coffee cup, take a drink, and put it back down. Now, a User will abandon a web site if it doesn’t come up in less than one second.

The world in which we live is all about instantaneous. People have no time for “slow.” This mindset collides with that of God, for He is not in a hurry. He’s never running late. He never gets upset when someone else throws a prayer request on Him. He is the Great “I AM” and the Creator of time.

A Different Perspective

Nowhere in the Bible is this difference of perspectives made more evident than in Isaiah 5:19 (NLT): They even mock God and say, “Hurry up and do something! We want to see what you can do. Let the Holy One of Israel carry out his plan, for we want to know what it is.”

We are now in arguably the most hurried and stressful time of the year – Christmas. How easy it is for us to become infected with the “hurry & worry” virus. Let God’s Word inoculate you. We are to be imitators of Jesus (Ephesians 5:1). We should flow with the Holy Spirit, make no compromise with the impatience of others, and seek Jesus; even during Christmas, you will find Him!

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Which is better?

birthday party

Which is better, to be the first to recognize Jesus or the first to run to Christ for forgiveness? That’s a question that entered my mind as I read the following:

It is the Lord!

John 21:6-7 ESV, He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some. So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved [John] therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.

A niece’s birthday party, purchasing a box of nails at the local hardware store, or ice fishing, we are rightly focused on the task at hand. And then Jesus shows up. 

Surely it is excellent to recognize Jesus within any situation, especially where we were not expecting Him. And we are more likely to recognize Jesus when we are in close communion with Jesus. Still, it was Jesus that said, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?“, Luke 15:4 (ESV)

After Christ’s resurrection, it was He that sought out Peter, the Apostle that estranged from Him. And it was Peter when shown where Jesus was, that dove into the sea to run back to Jesus.

Maybe Both

It seems to me that my question shouldn’t be either/or, because I think the answer is, “Both.” 

Christians in close communion with Jesus will spot Him, even when there’s no expectation that Christ will manifest His presence. And it is those Christians who nudge others and say, “Hey, Jesus is here!” That’s when people that have a burning in their hearts to get right with Jesus will run to Him.

We all need to walk with Jesus, but there are times when some wander off. Jesus will not lose His own. He goes after them, and maybe it’s you that will play the role of the Apostle John and say, “Hey, I see Jesus!”

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13 milliseconds

an eye

The human brain can identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds. – MIT NEWS That’s nearly eight times faster than a blink of an eye.  Admittedly, we don’t know how long Jesus looked at Peter when Jesus was on trial, but it was enough time for both of them to know that Christ’s prophecy about Peter was fulfilled.

Luke 22:61 (ESV), And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”

I can’t think within 13 milliseconds, so I need to be so full of the Holy Spirit that He’s continually leaking out of me, through my eyes, through my words, through the way I carry myself, through my facial muscles. I need all of those working for God if I only have 13 milliseconds for someone to see Jesus in me. 

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Rest Easy

cat resting on a person

In the observable universe, there are an estimated 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars. That’s 1 billion trillion. And that’s not counting planets, moons, and so forth. We can’t truly comprehend that number, yet each celestial object is unique. Here’s what our God said about this starry host:

Isaiah 40:25-26 (ESV)
“To whom will you compare Me,
or who is My equal?” asks the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high:
Who created all these?
He leads forth the starry host by number;
He calls each one by name.
Because of His great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.

Indeed, God is beyond our understanding, and yet He knows everything and everyone in the universe! He knows you, and He knows me, and He knows what we need and what our hearts desire.

Thanks to Jesus, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 ESV)

We have joy, mercy, grace, and peace in God through Jesus Christ. Rest in Jesus, no matter what you need!

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Thanksgiving

Solders in chow line for Thanksgiving

Colossians 3:15-17 The Message (MSG)
15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

As long as I’ve been a Christian, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday. Shouldn’t Christmas be it since I am a Christian? Good question. Yes, it SHOULD, but the intention of this Holy Day is more soiled, shredded, and mutilated than the items people hold in their avaricious hands as they stand in line at Walmart. Why not Easter? Same story. The Easter egg hunt reigns supreme on this intended Holy Day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Savior.

Conspicuous Consumption

No, for most of my Christian life the best that conspicuous consumption could stir up against Thanksgiving was a turkey and pumpkin pie. Both good but not able to overshadow the 800-pound gorilla in the room; to whom do you give thanks?

Giving thanks implies a Giver and places the Giver above the receiver unless you can give back as much, and in kind. A one-shot, day of giving stuff at Christmas pales in comparison to receiving every breath you take for every second or every day for the whole year. – My mother suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for, to me, too many years. But I won’t know until I get to heaven what was gained in God’s kingdom from her battle.

Well, I am still grasping on to Thanksgiving despite its slow, maniacal disassembly. We have Black Friday, Shop Local Saturday, and Cyber Monday. We have Christmas commercials that overlap Halloween. Commercialism is in a no-holds-barred battle against Thanksgiving, and it’s winning.

Friendsgiving 🙁

Just last week I saw a commercial that called Thanksgiving “Friendsgiving”; they’ve tossed the gorilla out of the window. My guess is that the Thanksgiving Holy Day will fall in line with the other three-day weekend holidays: FaceTime a few friends and family, pop some popcorn and watch football. Yes, I think that is the future of my beloved Holy Day. But not for me. Not in this house. “… as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15 NIV).

Take A Little Time

In closing, I’d like to leave you with Andrae Crouch’s song, “Take A Little Time”. You will be blessed.

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You Need a Log

a small pond surrounded by trees

In the wilderness of Shur, the Israelites had no water. At Marah, they had water, but it was bitter (poisonous); so that they could not drink it. 

We find this account in Exodus 15:23-25 (ESV): When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” And he cried to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

God Leads us to Bitter Waters

There’s a great lesson (probably several) in this brief passage of Scripture. God often leads us to “bitter water,” not to be cruel but to use us for change.

Moses and all of Israel arrived where God led them, but what they found was unsuitable for them or anyone. Immediately all of the Debbie Downers began complaining. Wow, if you’ve ever been in a leadership role of any kind, you know how “helpful” whining and complaining is to solving problems!

We’re There for a Reason

Nevertheless, God put His people there for a reason. And He will do the same for each of us. Why? Because God chooses to use His children to affect change; to transform bitter waters into sweet waters. We are well equipped for these assignments because the Holy Spirit lives within us, and He intends to use us to point people to Jesus.

No, we don’t walk around with blessed logs that we’re to through into bitter situations (there’s a lawsuit). What God does is show us the tool, the instrument of change, the “log” that He has prepared to transform situations, problems, people that are poisonous into something wholesome, healthy, and refreshing.

Don’t Panic

Don’t panic, don’t join the complainers but pray, seek God’s will, ask for the Holy Spirit to show you the “log” that is needed and then act in faith and watch God work. When once you’ve experienced this, you will desire God to lead you to the next crises; well, maybe not, but you’ll sure be ready!

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Stone of Proof

Doesn’t the title of this devotional sound like a spy novel? I read and listen to a lot of spy novels with Daniel Silva being one of my favorite sleuthing authors. Anyway, in every spy book, someone of importance is living in an evil country, and they want out. So, in these espionage books, that person ends up seeking asylum in America or Canada or England.

Well, the “stone of proof” is real and we can find it in Isaiah 28:16. Here’s the Scripture: therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ – Isaiah 28:16

Jesus is the Stone of Proof

The cornerstone can be nothing other than Jesus, the promised Messiah.  Ephesians 2:20 and  Peter 2:6-7 validate this.

Christ Jesus, our Savior, is the “tested stone,” which means “stone of proof.” Jesus is the “stone of proof” because He succeeds in every test, and He tests all who come in contact with Him. He is either an asylum or a “stumbling block (1 Peter 2:7-9)”, according to the character of the person that touches Jesus. We see this in Luke 2:34-35 and Luke 20:18.

You are Important

No, you aren’t living in a spy novel, but you are someone of importance, and yes, you’re living in an evil world. And just like a good espionage book, you can seek asylum in Jesus. He is the Stone of Proof. He will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), and you can cast ALL your cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7). When you need help, you can find refuge in Him. 

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Fight for Sight

semi-truck

One of the most significant challenges for my wife when she’s driving is having her vision blocked by semi-trucks. We recently were on a two-lane (i.e., one each direction) road that had lots of curves and hills, and semi-trucks. 

Since neither one of us could see around the bends or over the crest of the hills, it was nearly impossible to find opportunities to pass these slow-moving vehicles.

With the thought of our recent trip on my mind, I came across a magnificent comment by Christian author Jason Meyer. He said, “Discouragement keeps testing our vision. The battle against discouragement is really a fight for sight.”

God’s Vision

God’s Word is full of examples where a child of His struggles to see past the obstacles in their path so they can fulfill the vision God has placed in his or her heart.

Ponder the Scripture that God raises in you about your fight for sight. Is it the two spies, Joshua and Caleb, from Numbers, chapter thirteen, who brought back a good report and believed that God would help them succeed? Perhaps your thoughts went to the tax collector Zacchaeus, from Luke 19:1-4, that climbed a tree to see Jesus. My thoughts went to Luke 8:43-48 (NLT):

A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding, and she could find no cure. Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped.
“Who touched me?” Jesus asked
Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.”
But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” 

I can see this poor woman in my mind’s eye. Weakened by the loss of blood, and with a crowd so large it pressed in on our Saviour from every side, no doubt she would catch a glimpse of Jesus and then lose sight of him.

Press On

How easy it would have been to give up her vision. In her heart, she knew that her healing would come if she could touch Jesus, even the hem of His garment. And she did! And she was! And this event has been remembered for two millennia for Christ Jesus’ compassion and her determination.

What vision has Jesus given you? Do you sometimes become despondent because that vision’s fulfillment is so hard to see? And God, sometimes you may struggle even to see God in the vision which He gave you. Take heart! The vision hasn’t vanished, for God completes what He starts.

Ask Jesus, right now, to move some obstacles out of the way so that you can catch sight of that vision; so that you can see Jesus in that vision. Just as the woman with the issue of blood, Jesus isn’t far from you. Press in. Receive His power.

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Learning from Peter

group of young people gathered around a campfire

There may be times in your life when Jesus places you in a position where you can share the Gospel of Jesus with a group. Perhaps the people are co-workers or in a Sunday school class or other settings.

The fact is that it’s wise to know how to preach to a group. How you do this is very similar to personal witnessing. The most important thing to do is listen for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Still, there are some things you can do to prepare.

Learning from Peter

To learn how to share Jesus with a group, let’s look at an exceptional sermon preached by one of Christ’s Apostles.

Acts 2:14 (NIV), Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.

Let me explain this to you.” Here the Apostle Peter provides us with an excellent example for starting a discourse with a group. Usually there is some catalytic event. Jesus performed miracles, here the Apostle Peter is using the astonishing baptism of the Holy Spirit as the event that drew people into a group.

Acts 2:22 (NIV), “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.”

Identify With the Group

Fellow Israelites, listen to this.” Now the Apostle Peter begins builds commonality by including himself with the crowd. Then the Apostle Peter verifies his statements by reminding the crowd that “you yourselves know.” For us, we can remind people that the written accounts by the Apostles are eyewitness testimonies.

By verse 29, the Apostle Peter has established his intent, his kinship, and the credibility of his core message. So, he moves his message forward by declaring, “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently.” By now, there is no reason for the crowd not to believe what the Apostle Peter is saying.

By verse 40, the Apostle Peter calls on the people in the crowd to response: With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 

Finally, in verse 41, the Apostle Peter concludes the message. He receives those who accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

So now you Know

So now we’ve been shown by an Apostle of Jesus how to present the Christ’s Good News to a group. As always, success in the kingdom of God is not measured numerically.

You may have one person accept Jesus, or maybe no one gets saved. That part is not your job. The Holy Spirit convicts and leads people into salvation.

I pray that our Lord Jesus will give you opportunities to preach His Good News to groups of people. Amen.

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