A friend asked me what my favourite Bible was recently. This was a hard question as I have a number of Bibles that I use for different things and some of them have been bought at different parts of my journey of faith.
My first favourite Bible was a hard cover Good News Study Bible I bought when I when I was a brand new Christian. I purchased the gold leaf tabs with all the Bible names on them to make it easier to find the places. Now it is old and worn and underlined all the way through. It has served me well and in many ways feels like an old friend when I pick it up.
My current favourite Bible is my Thompson Chain New International Version. This one is great for students and it has loads of extra material in the margins and refers you to lots of other passages to help in your research. In the back it had lots of maps, book overviews, timelines and more. It is my favourite at the moment as I am full on into the books. And yes it has the gold leaf tabs on the side to help me find the books easily. One of my friends regularly comments on how I like them!
How about you? Have you got a favourite Bible? What do you like about it? Have you got several favourite Bibles? Is one like an old friend?
In my Pastoral Care unit we looked at some examples of good and bad shepherds this week. In Ezekiel 34 it gives us a guide to what good and bad pastoral care is.
Ezekiel was told to prophesy against the shepherds of Israel that are taking care of themselves and not the people. Ezekiel 34:1-5 are the negative examples.
- v3 – You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock.
- v4 – You have not strengthened the weak, healed the sick or bound up the injured.
- v5 – You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost.
- v5 – You have ruled them harshly and brutally.
All in all this is a pretty bad picture of how they were taking care of the flock. They are selfish and not doing what they were meant to be doing. You can see why God has asked Ezekiel to speak out against them.
In the latter part of the chapter God says that He Himself is going to care for the people. In this He says what He is going to do. Ezekiel 34:15-31 gives us some good examples.
- v16 – I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.
- v16 – I will bind up the injured.
- v16 – I will strengthen the weak.
- v16 – I will shepherd the flock with justice.
- v22 – I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered.
In this simple picture of good and bad shepherds we see what God wants and expects from Pastors and shepherds. He wants them to care for, watch out for and strengthen the flock. And they are to do this with justice and a selfless motivation.
It is interesting on how you see things differently when you read through a whole book of the Bible in one sitting. You see how things tie together as a whole.
This morning I read through the whole book of Mark from the New Testament. It was interesting how Mark really stresses Jesus as the Son of God. He does this in a number of places – Mark 1:1, Mark 1:11, Mark 3:11, Mark 5:7, Mark 9:7 and finally Mark 15:39.
The thing that really jumped out at me in those references is that none of the disciples recognised Jesus as the Son of God. They had come to see Him as the Christ or the Messiah, not the Son of God.
The only ones who used this title for Jesus was God the Father in a voice from heaven (1:11, 9:7) and the demons as they were being caste out (3:11, 5:7). The first person to actually state that Jesus was the Son of God was the Roman Centurion in Mark 15:39. This was after Jesus had died on the cross.
I just found it interesting that those closest to Jesus did not recognise Jesus as the Son of God until much later.
A couple of weeks ago I shared in this post what Jesus saved us from. I shared that salvation involves two main ideas…
- Being rescued from the penalty of sin – which means death and eternal separation from God.
- Being in right relationship with God – both now and for all eternity.
In essence the salvation Jesus has purchased puts us in a right relationship with God.
In taking this a step further we look at the three chief ingredients for a person to be saved. They are a need, a provision and a response.
- A Need – Each of us needs to realise that we have sinned and fallen short of God’s standards in the way we live our lives. We have all fallen short in some way at some time in our lives and only Jesus can save us (Romans 3:23).
- A Provision – The Bible tells us that while the punishment for sin is death and eternal separation from God, there is some good news. God has given us a gift of eternal life if we are trusting in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23)
- A Response – Jesus has played His part in dying on the cross for us and making the way open to God. However we all need to respond personally to this offer (Revelations 3:20).
If you would like to respond to what Jesus has done and come into a personal relationship with God today. Please visit my “Peace with God” page. It is a chance to make a whole new start with God.
Ezekiel 33:1-6 talks about a watchman standing up on the wall looking to the distance to see if a threat is coming against the city. If the watchman sees a threat he is to sound a trumpet warning and then it is up to the people in the city to respond to the call. It says if the watchman sounds his warning he has done his job. It is then up to the people to respond or not.
In many ways the role of an intercessor is a bit like a watchman on the wall. When you pray for certain events and situations you sometimes pick things up that might be a “threat”. It is almost like you are staring into the distance trying to see what is coming. As you pray and ask for more understanding, the Holy Spirit might reveal how to pray or other things specific to that situation.
As the Holy Spirit reveals things then you respond in prayer to cover the situation. Sometimes though, you might find it is bigger than just your prayer and that you need to “sound the trumpet” to let others know. Much like the watchman it is up to the people to respond.
If you would like to read more on intercessory prayer, Joy Dawson brought out a great book a number of years ago called “Intercession: Thrilling and Fulfilling”. It is available from Koorong.com.
It is interesting that when we look at Jesus’ ministry we see that He didn’t just stay at the Temple all the time. He would travel around and visit with people in different places. Jesus often went to meet people where they were at spiritually and geographically.
Here are a few examples of the places He met people.
- At the seashore (Mark 4:1)
- At the well (John 4:6)
- On the highway (Mark 10:46)
- At the Marketplace (Matthew 20:3)
- On the mountain (Matthew 5:1)
As with my previous post about Jesus this week, we see that each time Jesus met with people, He met their deepest needs. He gave them what they needed and He did it where they were at, not just at the Temple.
One of the things I love about Jesus is that He is a Saviour for all people. In the Bible we see that He spent time with and reached out to people of all backgrounds and nationalities.
This is especially interesting because at the time Jesus walked the earth, many people only spent time with people from their own people group. They did not mix with others because in many cases they thought they were unclean.
Here are a few examples of the different groups of people Jesus spent time with.
- The Sadducees (Matthew 22:23)
- The Pharisees (Matthew 12:2-6)
- The Herodians (Matthew 22:15-22)
- The Romans (Luke 7:2)
- The Zealots (Luke 6:15)
- The Samaritans (John 4:39-42)
Combine this with Jesus spending time with other social outcasts of the day like tax collectors, prostitutes and lepers shows that Jesus was a Savior for all people. He didn’t discriminate. He just genuinely loved and cared for people, no matter who they were or what they had done.
If you don’t know Jesus personally I would encourage you to visit my “Peace with God” page right now. Jesus loves and accepts you no matter what background or nationality you are. He wants to be your Saviour today.
It is interesting when you look at the life of Christ just how many times He ministered one-on-one to people. As you can imagine most of His time would have been taking up teaching the disciples and traveling around to preach, teach and heal the multitudes.
However there are a number of occasions recorded in the Gospels that show Jesus taking the time for one person and their needs. Here are just a few…
- Jesus with Nicodemus where Jesus explains the need to be born again (John 3:1-10)
- Jesus with the Samaritan woman by the well where they talk about living water (John 4:41-42)
- Jesus and the rich young ruler who asked about eternal life (Matthew 19:16-22)
- Jesus and the man who was born blind and then was healed by Jesus (John 9:1-12)
- Jesus and the widow whose son had died and Jesus raised to life (Luke 7:11)
Every time Jesus stopped and took the time to be with each of these people (and many more) their lives were impacted and changed dramatically.
I found it interesting that in the midst of His busy mission of “seeking and saving the lost” (Luke 19:10), Jesus always took the time for the one person in need. I think it is a great pattern for us to follow.