The Return of The Older Minister

moses-19“Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” (1 Tim. 5:17). 

Have you ever heard the term-respect your elders? “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.” (Lev. 19:32).  Did you notice the motivation in respect of godly elders in that verse-the fear of God? God takes very seriously how we treat our elders and will punish those who do not respect them. We are to see them greatly honored and blessed by God because of the length of their life and the experience and wisdom which they have acquired. That is what the Bible teaches. That is God’s design for leadership in the church. Even outside of the church people realize the value of older workers.

Companies see the benefits of hiring older workers. They statistically exert a detail oriented, higher quality work. They are focused, punctual, organized, less rattled with problems and have pride in a job well done. They know how to train other workers and communicate better than those younger than them.

Surprised? I am not.

I wrote this article after hearing a district official of my former denomination say that they want younger men to pastor because older men are set in their ways. That is rubbish!  I say maybe older ministers are not recommended because they cannot be fooled by denominational politics. The middle aged man is the best candidate for being the Lead or Senior Pastor of a church today.  In a day when men are being dishonored or demeaned, needless the offensive manner in which seasoned citizens are being treated by society this is when a minister is at his best. In fact, it should be the biblical model for us to follow. The New Testament uses the term bishop, elders, and presbyters interchangeably. It refers to an older, seasoned Christian who presides over a church as a pastor.  No wonder the church has more and more issues because of the sophomoric mistakes of younger preachers who are getting job experience in pulpits.

In the past few decades, men and women have been entering the ministry at older ages. Most had another career before going to seminary, and by the time they settled into the role of minister they tended to be middle-aged. In a recent study, the median age of senior or solo Protestant pastors was 51. The median age of senior or solo black pastors was 53.

A church would have a great advantage having the Senior pastor training and mentoring younger ministers, who assist him in his ministry and church work. By doing this they gain training and experience. But the bottom line (with some few exceptions) the man leading the church should be no younger than thirty five years old which would give him at least 20 years experience in ministry training. Some of you whippersnappers are rolling your eyes. But I am telling you that churches that look for younger pastors are setting themselves up for the many mistakes of inexperience and youth.  Now people will tell me that Paul told Timothy, “Let no man despise thy youth” (1 Tim. 4:12). But he was at least 35 years old, maybe forty when he pastored Ephesus. We also have to take life expectancy of the times in view-but I think wisdom and experience trump youth and idealism any day of the week.

The Bible teaches older men should lead the church. “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders…” (see 1 Peter 5:1-14). I cannot say it any clearer churches today should desire that their leaders be elders-those who have acquired wisdom with age. 

In this day when we have so many still droning on about the Paul-Timothy relationship it seems we have the Timothy’s trying to tell the Paul’s that they are old schooled albatrosses because the elder reflects the sound doctrine of the Bible from past years while many younger men pant like a teenagers with their hormones out of control for new ways of doing things. I am so taken back by the stupid wet behind the ears attitude of men who say the methods have to change but the message stays the same. The message is the cross, the method is preaching. If these young fools would read their Bible they would know that, but they are full of silly misunderstandings. 

I know many ministers feel useless in the fifty and above crowd. But this is just the devil. God wants to bless others through your life and do not forget it, Your time will come. You stay in the Word and prayer and walk with the Lord and you will grow in wisdom and be a blessing to many of those in need of a fatherly person who can help them grow in Christ.

© 2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney

SPIRIT OF CHRIST CHURCH

spirit of Christ“Furthermore David the king said unto all the congregation, Solomon my son, whom alone God hath chosen, is yet young and tender, and the work is great: for the palace is not for man, but for the LORD God.” (1 Chr, 29:1).

When I think of the days of my first pastorate more things stand out to me than others after 27 years. Before and after I married my wife Sarah, I was preaching in the Northwest of the United States. I had opportunity to be the keynote speaker and preach the “This Jesus” Conference in November 1988. I preached on, “The Beauty of Jesus” from Psalm 45 and I will never forget it. God worked wonderfully especially among the ministers there. I was invited after that to speak in many different churches in that area, I loved doing it.

People would come in fifteen inches of snow like it was nothing. It was amazing. There was one church were at least 900 people were dancing in the Spirit. I never saw anything like that before. I tried to be dignified but it was really powerful. I saw numerous healing miracles and baptisms in the Holy Spirit. The devil was being defeated left and right.

While back on Staten Island in 1988 God was speaking to my heart. I felt what I could only describe as a spiritual anticipation. I knew something was happening in the Spirit. I was telling people that God has a church for me. One uncle said to me cynically, “You don’t have a church.”  Later, God spoke to me from scripture, “And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.”  (Psa. 27:6). Not long after, a Pastor for who I had preached for in Wisconsin connected me with a group in Pennsylvania who were meeting in a home. It was a beautiful home owned by Peter and Christine who were a tremendous force in the work of that ministry and who helped us maintain the building we would eventually purchase. I was well received by them. I was officially a home missions Pastor.

We moved into a townhouse in Lansdale, PA and wanted to get the carpets cleaned.  A man named Ted knocked and he was holding his baby girl Nicole when we opened the door. While looking around the house he saw my theological books all over the floor he asked me if I was a minister. I replied in the affirmative and he cleaned all the carpets for free. What a blessing!

I found out Ted came from a Mennonite family. I asked him if he would like to visit our church. He said that he did, but I did not see them for weeks. I called on the phone and I found out that both their children were suffering with the croup. So, God gave me holy boldness and I said something to the effect that, “I am going to pray that God heals both your children and when they do you will come out to service.”  Well, God did exactly that and Ted and Joyce came out to church. Joyce did not really agree with Pentecostalism and so I debated with her about some things. My wife wondered why I was being so forthright with her. I said, “I like Joyce. I think God is working on her heart.” He really was.

Not long after, my brother Mike was preaching one Sunday Night and Ted and his wife Joyce were there. My brother pointed at him and said, “Brother, the moment I lay hands on you you are going to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and speak with other tongues.” My brother came over, laid hands on him and Ted fell to his knees and quietly spoke in tongues. It was amazing. Ted and Joyce as I remember consumed the Bible and books about the Holy Spirit and his gifts.

Joyce had not received the baptism of the Spirit yet and on Sunday night we were sitting on the floor and I was praying with her while she was crying. I will never forget when she told me, “Everyone is getting the Holy Ghost but me.” It broke my heart.  But not long after, we were in church one Sunday and during worship I heard her speaking in tongues. I was surprised and asked her, “When were you going to tell me you were baptized in the Holy Spirit.” She told me that she had been praying at home and God filled her. Her countenance was glowing and she was so excited.

I found out Ted was a talented musician. We sang acapella and we had no music until he led worship. He played a twelve string guitar and he was anointed. He played it furiously and broke strings every Sunday. I had never seen a better Psalmist. While he was leading worship I saw what I believed was a hot flask of oil that poured on the top of his head by an invisible hand. I knew God was calling him and Joyce to ministry. They both have traveled internationally and were both he and his wife are pastoring a growing church in Pennsylvania.

I can tell you some things that came out to me among the many things that God did. There was a pregnant woman named Lisa hooked on drugs who came to our church. She was on speed during the pregnancy and her family concerned about the child. She gave her life to Christ and we prayed for her after she confessed this issue. God protected that baby and Amber was born healthy and strong.

I remember another woman named Sherri and she was drawn to Christ through a message on the armor of God. She said as she came up for prayer and knelt alone she could hear an argument going on between the devil and God. The devil said, “She’s mine!” and God spoke and said, “NO she is mine!” She became a glowing Christian. Wow.

Another woman, originally from Germany, was pregnant with what I believe was her fourth child. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She was told by the doctor’s at that time she would have to abort her unborn child in order to live and that was unacceptable to her. We prayed for her and God healed her and she had a beautiful baby boy.

One time I myself was stricken with Bells Palsy and the right side of my face froze, it was devastating. I wept a lot in private and no one knew how much it crushed me, especially during a time I was teaching on healing. It was Ted and another man that prayed with me. Ted prayed for my face, but he did not touch my face. He told me that he did not want me to feel any heat from his hand, so that I could feel the Holy Spirit healing me. God healed me and now I knew personally God heals the sick.

The Lord granted me opportunities to minister in Word and to sing on television and radio and I got to evangelize in New England often. We even created an album during my time in Pennsylvania.

But not all churches are perfect in fact, wherever people are they are problems. People will tell me this happened in a church or that happened. I always ask them, “Were humans involved?” As a young pastor I did not realize that the human factor would prove to be a huge issue. Where the Spirit is, the flesh is as well. Where God is at work, the devil is at work as well. We still live on this side of heaven.

These people I began to serve were at one time the disgruntled members of another church. It was my first pastorate and I was unaware of this and I had no idea how challenging it would be. I was only 23 years old and I thought preaching was enough experience- it was not. Whether the past issues of people were valid or not is not the point. Not all Pastors have diplomatic ability, people skills or political savvy and these abilities are NOT part of the requirements to be a Pastor. A Pastor’s obedience to God is his greatest asset. But if you are a person that is called to set fires instead of putting them out you may want to think twice about dealing with people who are hurt by a previous church in a pastoral capacity. I was more of a fire setter. I was confrontational and uncompromising-which means, I got hurt badly in the end.

The family that was the largest tithe payers were affluent and I think that since they were hurt by a previous church experience they took a very business like approach to church. The man owned a successful business for sure and he arranged a balloon mortgage on the church building. I was so young I did not even know what that entailed. If I would have known I would never have agreed to it.  He and his wife and another family left the church. A few years later when the mortgage came to maturity we had to sell the building to an Anglican church for not much more than the price for which we purchased it. I miss the building to this day and even feel selling it was a mistake. The lesson I learned was stay put and watch God provide he will take care of things despite what people do.

There was a woman and man, both who were married who were committing adultery in our church. While I was ministering in California a second time (a story I will relate another chapter). My father came and preached in my place. He was an excellent Bible teacher and loved teaching about God’s purpose for marriage. My father said they confronted him after one message. My dad let me know and he did not feel they had much respect for the Word. By this I learned that God was attempting to reach this couple in his mercy so that they would repent. I was shocked when I found out that same woman was crossing out verses in her Bible that she did not like, writing notes on the sides of her Bible such as, “My god would not do that.” She was under a spirit of delusion. I reprimanded them with the scripture and they left the church refusing the restoration process. These were very sweet people but sometimes when people think that they have more love than God does, they will end up in compromising situations which will damn their souls.

My mother in law, an angelic Pentecostal woman died suddenly from colon cancer at fifty two years of age. After that my father in law was experiencing severe heart issues and my wife was back on Staten Island taking care of him best as she could. What was worse is that we experienced a church exodus as well. It was my first, it hurt. A year later my dad died from heart surgery complications. Satan was hitting us on all fronts.  The best thing that happened during those times was the birth of my son Stephen. I learned that as a Pastor you had to play hurt, sometimes bleeding and that only going through things like these is when God will build compassion in your heart. This was the beginning of a very long painful process and eventually I would have to find a job, my dream of pastoring was shattered and I wept many a morning as I went to work.

It should be noted that Ted was influenced by an outside source and a very strange man attending our church who had an agenda of his own. The man was very subtle in his demeanor. He convinced Ted that I should no longer be the pastor. They even approached me and wanted me to give up the building so they could have it. That was unacceptable to us. Eventually, he and Joyce left. I tearfully begged them not to leave but they did anyway. It was a real shame. While I am thankful they are serving the Lord I also learned that if people do not want to serve in the church that you Pastor, let them go with a blessing. Keep your spirit sweet. God will provide others who love you and will be glad to serve the Lord with their gifts.

©2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney, give credit where credit is due

Christ’s Manifest Presence

IMG_2494The Bible teaches that Lord is enthroned and inhabits the praises of his people (Ps. 22:3).

This praise here is he Hebrew word  tĕhillah-an exuberant, spontaneous singing. The people here are the church, his saints who have been given grace to respond to the love of the Lord with all their hearts.

Only a real Christian who has the Lord on the throne of their heart will be aflame with the joy and rest of the Holy Spirit. Only that person desires to engage their Lord with exuberant joyful singing! Worship is never boring to them-that is why they sing with joy! 

First, biblical praise simply means worshiping God for who he is-his nature and character as revealed in the scriptures. That is why I love the old hymns, that focus on the loveliness of Jesus and the glory of our heavenly Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit.

When you hear the saint singing they do not ask him for anything they just sing loud and strong about him-that He is love; He is holy; He is faithful and He is powerful. Praise acknowledges the Lord Jesus who says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev. 1:8). The saint counts on the fact that with him, I have no need!

Second, we worship God for his actions: for what he has done what he is doing and what he will do (Hab. 3:2).  Psalm 111 says that, “The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.” We are thankful to God for his salvation and the forgiveness of sins; the sweet infilling of  the Holy Spirit and answered prayer. We thank God for his protection, provision and power over sin.  We thank God for giving us the strength to work, providing our needs, for physical health and well being. Thank God that he allows us to serve him by helping others, giving and encouraging others. There is something about thanking God in and above everything that brings joy!

Third, this sort of praise boldly responds to the involvement, even the invasive power of God that comes on the scene of our lives. When he is enthroned it is called “the throne of grace” where we can find mercy and help in the time of need (Heb 4:16). Praise him in the time of need!  Jesus is alive and real and ready to be there for us. He never changes, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8). He will come to you in power.  In this type of praise there is more than acknowledging that God is everywhere. This is talking specifically about the unique worship of the saints.  Jesus said that it is his manifest presence (John 14:21-23).  What is the manifest presence? 

AW Tozer puts it this way:  

“The Presence (of God) and the manifestation of the Presence are not the same. There can be the one without the other. God is here when we are wholly unaware of it. He is manifest only when and as we are aware of His Presence. On our part there must be surrender to the Spirit of God, for His work it is to show us the Father and the Son. If we co-operate with Him in loving obedience God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of His face…our pursuit of God is successful just because He is forever seeking to manifest Himself to us. The revelation of God to any man is not God coming from a distance upon a time to pay a brief and momentous visit to the man’s soul. Thus to think of it is to misunderstand it all. The approach of God to the soul or of the soul to God is not to be thought of in spatial terms at all. There is no idea of physical distance involved in the concept. It is not a matter of miles but of experience.”

Ah there is no distance between us and God! He is ever seeking to show himself to us and rid us of that the misconception of distance!  Oh let us praise him with our whole hearts. May he be  joyfully enthroned in our lives and I believe that we will experience him more and more and that the light of Christ will be seen in our lives.  This praise declares that Jesus is here to save, deliver, heal and set free.  We will know him not only as dear, but near.

Clinically Proven

I have to rant and rave every once in a while; it is quite therapeutic for me.

There is no doubt that you have seen infomercials advertising products as “clinically proven.”   Clinically proven may mean any number of things and on the other hand, it can mean absolutely nothing.  You see, when you really want to sell something  just throw in that “clinically proven” statement  which is usually a vague claim that requires no hard evidence and isn’t easy to disprove. Most people do not realize that as long as the product has, “These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA” disclaimer on the label, it’s not necessary to have evidence to back it up.

Scary.

My concern is for the “clinically proven” claims made by so called mega-churches, celebrity pastors and ministries.  These guys and gals are some of the best salespeople I have ever seen.  They advertise health, wealth and blessing through religious products. The anointing oil from Gethsemane, water from the Holy Land, a mustard seed in a necklace, at home communion sets, books, CD’s and DVD’s with the promise of blessing-all of this with a very generous love offering. Not convinced? You can watch the what testimonies of people who say they got it and it does everything from fixing their flat tire to paying off their mortgage.

Then there are the commercials. I have found it interesting that preaching has segments now. You even see it in church. Preaching is not enough so we throw a video in the mix.  Then the new breed of televangelists have interview formats, in the name of making Christianity more interesting and conversational.  The interviews even include celebrities who do not claim to be Christians but have tips on being successful. After a few minutes of preaching you have snippets of religious commericals advertising the message you are watching or future conferences and we even have pay-per-view preaching.

The emphasis of much Christianity today is all about results or being practical. Pastors and leaders are not immune from buying into the “clinically proven” church growth strategies from men who went from 40 to 4000 in a year or two. That is all that is pumped into the minds, conferences and groups of any denomination in the name of evangelism.

But who defines this?

You got it-the times and culture of the day redefine faith and religion in a whole new way.  Scripture is reinterpreted in line with the zeitgeist (a word meaning the “spirit of the age”).  The only problem is that such concepts of sin and atonement may become out of sync with the culture and so we have seen even Christianity  redefines God, sin and forgiveness and church in light of the world around them. They will spend time on issues such as practical living, family, marriage and health rather than on “doctrinal” issues in order to really “help people.”  That is their selling point and they say, “it works and you get results with our new religious product.”

It is all boulderdash!

Here is what matters to Christ-doing the will of God from your heart (Eph. 6:6).  It is God’s desire that we, “may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” (Col. 4:12).  That understanding of will of God is found in the clear teaching of the scriptures by gospel ministers in the meeting of the people called the church (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor 14:26). No sales, no cheesy punch lines, no dramatics, just a determination to do the will of God. It is after we have been persistent in doing God’s will that we will receive the promise of heaven and eternal life (Heb 10:36). All of this worldly flim- flam religion cannot last under the times of molten trials and fiery testing that will come (1 Cor 3:10-15). John makes it clear: “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17).

© 2012 Soul Health Care Ministries, If you share this article just let them know about us and where it came from.

Feed My Sheep 6: Beware of False Guides

Finally, we state once again the scripture, “Jesus saith unto him, ‘Feed my sheep.’ ” (John 21:17).

Christ has called shepherds not only to feed sheep, but to protect the sheep from the foul works and agents of the Enemy of their souls.  It is difficult being a shepherd. Not only do sheep have a propensity for wandering, they are vulnerable to predators.  This is why the pastor must both feed and protect the sheep.  Paul tearfully predicts that after he leaves, “shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29-30). 

John Calvin states: “Therefore we must have two voices, one sweet voice, to exhort them that shew themselves easy to be taught…another to cry out against wolves and thieves…”  How every preacher needs to pray that God would give him have these two voices!  Many people confuse this with negative preaching and being critical. They think we should only focus on the real and genuine and not waste time in exposing the fake and counterfeit.  This is unacceptable to Christ and the apostles (John 15:22; Eph 5:11).

It is not enough for a pastor to just preach about Christ and not against the anti-Christ. He cannot preach about grace unless he also condemns legalism. When it comes to truth and lies, “he must love one and hate the other.”  Jesus warned, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matt. 7:15). There is no side stepping these things, wolves come in sheeps clothing, left alone they will kill the sheep, a good faithful shepherd has to expose them.

According to Paul the danger will not only be external, “grievous wolves enter in among you”  but internal, “of your own selves shall men arise.”  It is hard enough to see the wolves, and even more difficult to see disease. Sadly, sheep are most victimized by people who carry the title, “Pastor.”  Jeremiah laments, “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.” (Jer. 23:1). Christ spoke of the men of his day who only sought self interest and not the welfare of the sheep (Jn. 10:8). These are false guides which “have caused them to go astray” to the point that “they have forgotten their resting place.” (Jer. 50:6). The sheep are devoured and broken (Jer. 50:17) and what was worse was that, “none did search or seek after them.” (Ezekiel 34:6).

The possibility of sheep being ripped off spiritually is always present. In John chapter ten Jesus mentions three enemies of the sheep, thieves, robbers, and hirelings. Christ teaches that religionists are “thieves and robbers” because they have not entered the door of salvation, Jesus Christ , but climb up “some other way.” (Jn. 10:1).  They are not only strangers to the sheep but the saving grace of God (John 10:5).  The possibility of unregenerate men posing as shepherds is plausible especially in our day and age.  This is no conspiracy theory. Christ in his day saw those in leadership that would eventually “die in their sins” despite the fact that they begin their name with a title of Reverend, pastor, bishop, deacon or elder (John 8:21, 24).

The often quoted words of Christ say, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10).  These scriptures do not refer so much to  the devil as they do false religion and leaders who destroy the souls of men and women by employing worldly religion and legalism.  Christ sees deep in the heart of men in ministry who seek  through stealth manipulation or various forms of intimidation and angry domination to embezzle what belongs to the sheep (Mt. 21:13).

Later on in John chapter ten Jesus spoke of “hirelings” or hired men who are “absentee pastors”  who abandon the sheep when danger approaches on the pasture.  Churches today, like Paul predicted, hire them or “heap to themselves teachers”  piling them up, accumulating and surrounding themselves with false teachers who will scratch the itch of their love for lies and entertainment (2 Tim 4:3).  They have become the clientele of the devil and deception.

The hirelings or religious salesman are again hard at work and even God’s people are not immune to their marketing. What is sad is that they are selling them what is already theirs.  These religious salesman are  deceived and being deceived (2 Tim. 3:13). “They pile lie upon lie and utterly refuse to acknowledge me,” says the LORD.” (Jer 9:6NLT). They have bought into what they sell. They are convinced, that they have an  interest in the welfare of the sheep: wealth, health and success. They preach this and tell others that as a hireling they should be good example of their doctrine.

In this day where men are captivated by religious salesmanship and management-who will listen to the true Shepherd?!  Where are the shepherds who will build on the only sure foundation of Christ (1 Cor. 3:11). He will come on, “the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12) the day of his “episcopacy” which according to Thayer is, “that act by which God looks into and searches out the ways, deeds character of men.”  Christ as building inspector will investigate the treatment of the flock, he will examine carefully all the building materials: teaching, preaching and worship practices (1 Cor 14:26). Christ, the purifier and refiner will test and clean all their construction by fire (Mal. 3:3). If  it does not meet the grade of scripture and godliness  it will be incinerated. The only things that can withstand that fire  are the precious metals and jewels of gospel truth (1 Cor 3:12-15).

God calls the pastor, “to maintain the pure doctrine of God, which is the food of life, to the end it be not taken from them, for whom God hath appointed it.”  (Calvin). The bread may fall to the little dogs in crumbs, but we should never allow it to be stolen from the mouths of the children for whom it was prepared (Mt. 15:27)!  Shepherds should watch over the flock with a godly jealousy (2 Cor 11:3) and if they will guide them to good pasture, Christ will feed them there and give them rest. God promises, “And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD.” (Jer. 23:4).

© 2011 Stephen S. Gibney Soul Health Care

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Feed My Sheep 6: Stay On Course

We quote once again the words of our Lord to Peter: “Jesus saith unto him, “Feed My Sheep.” “(John 21:17). 

Paul, like his fellow apostle Peter, knew what the priority of pastors should be when he told the elders at Ephesus, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28).  Notice the wording here, “take heed unto yourselves.”  God wants the shepherd to make his sole priority Christ, after which follows the spiritual state of his heart and then the care of God’s people.  This phrase actually means a ship holding to its course.  He says, “Stay on course, pay attention!”

The shepherd must pay attention to the condition of  his heart.  Solomon warns, “Keep your heart with all diligence.” (Prov 4:23).  The heart is used to acting like a fugitive from God and we should guard our hearts like nothing else, otherwise it easily escapes. It is very, very difficult to guard.  If the tongue is the expression of the heart and it is humanly impossible to tame (James 3:8) the heart must be wild and reckless!  That is why we need the protective custody of the scriptures (Gal. 3:23NLT) and the Spirit of Christ with our hearts. The heart must be constantly wooed with the love of God and admonished with the holiness of God. The heart has such an influence for good and evil on our lives that we have no other choice but to diagnostically examine it by daily prayer and the pondering the scriptures.

The shepherd is called to navigate his life and his role as shepherd by the map of the written Word and the leading of God’s spirit (Rom. 8:14-16).  This navigation makes the faithful pastor well able to watch over the flock and protect them from being exploited by both players and haters: those who appear godly but are not  (2 Tim. 3:5) and haters of God and good men (Rom. 1:30; 2 Thess. 3:2 ). The pastor must stay on course with God’s Written Word, the Bible. It bothers me how pastors rely on so many others maps and directions offered in religious enterprise, worship center entertainment and ecclesiastical marketing rather than on the best guide: the Lord Jesus Christ as Captain of their own hearts directing them into a smooth and direct road into the love of God and the patience of Jesus (2 Thess. 3:5; Rev 1:9). Instead with many today and I mean many is that, “They that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me.” (Jer 2:8)

The pastor must stay on course with the Living Word, Christ. This is vital because the only way they can lead and guide the sheep is that they must have a loving relationship with Christ their Shepherd. After all, we are all sheep, there are no social classes of Christians. Man made religion begins when people begin to neglect their first love-Christ. It all goes beyond the command of the Lord (Num. 24:13) and becomes dead works, mechanical and oppressive.

Paul makes it clear that to be a pastor can only stay on course  when he knows  his work is not a career it is a calling, it is the choice of God (Heb. 5:4).  The Holy Ghost makes pastors. Only Christ chooses who will pastor (John 15:16). Oh for pastors that God has made! They are forged in the wilderness until He has them ready to go public (Luke 1:80). He who made fishers of men, makes shepherds of the flock.  Lord, give us men who are sent forth by the Holy Ghost (Acts 13:4)!

The shepherds primary responsibility is defined once again as feeding  or one with authority to provide pasturage or food (Thayer).  It is not just food but pasturage. I like that word! The Pastor should stay on course in this ministry. Christ feeds his sheep through shepherds.  Christ as a Lamb feeds his people while he leads his people (Rev 7:17). How we need to learn this! God has designed it that way. Christ says, “I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jer. 3:15). Those rare qualities are on the menu of the biblical pastor.  They are to bring God’s people to the “banqueting house” of the scriptures where Christ shows them his love (Song 2:4).  The lips of these righteous men, with pure hearts and skillful hands feed many sheep and give them their portion of meat in due season (Prov 10:21; Luke 12:42; Ps 78:72).

When God’s people have problems, it is a sign of hunger.  It should not knock us off course when the people he shepherds are just a mess. No matter the generation God’s people seem ridden with problems.

Just because they belong to God does not mean they will always be doing well.

Just because they belong to God does not mean they will always make wise decisions.

Just because they belong to God does not mean they will not fall into sin.

God’s people of all ages have been problematic! They are a high maintenance people. That is why God provides shepherds to guide and direct them. In their times of hunger a faithful shepherd directs them to Christ, who alone can satisfy. Thus shepherds oversee Christ’s own flock with careful attention and love. Paul said that he had a self-sacrificial love for the churches his pastored and was willing to die for them because they were so dear to him. He was like a gentle mother caring for her little children and as a father who encourages and comforts his children (see 1 Thess. 2:7-12).

Yet despite all their issues, no matter how large or small the pastor treats the congregation with a dignity, respect and love. They are the church of God. These are the elect people of God, the assembly and fellowship of those who have been called out by Christ. Lord, send us men who minister to the flock with an awareness that those to whom they minister have been bought “with the blood of God.”  That is powerful! Christ the Eternal Son has laid down his life for these sheep and they never will and never do belong to anyone but God. God is their Father (2 Cor. 6:18) and Christ is their brother (Heb. 2:12) and the Holy Spirit is their Comforter (John 15:26). The pastor loves them because the Triune God loves them.

At the same time the pastor is to treat the congregation of the Lord with such a concern as though they were his flock. “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.” (Prov. 27:23). Gill says the Septuagint translates it, “the souls of thy flocks.”  The shepherd call  is to stay on course with a nurturing soul care.  Once again you see him guiding, not dictating; teaching not entertaining;  preaching not motivating.  The flock loves their Heavenly Shepherd and they already desire the will of God and they know his voice in the scriptures (John 10: 26-27).  Sheep are completely dependent upon their Heavenly Shepherd and they are never to be dependent upon another human being.

© 2011 Stephen S. Gibney Soul Health Care

 All material may be reproduced and distributed for edification, just leave a note that it was our article, please.

Feed My Sheep 5: For the Love of Christ

 “Lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” (John 21:16).

Christ’s own people need to be fed by men he has called to pastor his flock. It still amazes me at how Jesus told them simply to feed his sheep.  I thought, “Is that all?” With the whole “Christians are getting spiritually fat and need to work it off” messages I have heard that just does not seem right.

But we have learned that Christ is the spiritual food and drink of His flock (John 6:35). Sheep need guidance into fertile and nutritious pastures (Psa. 23:5; Ezek 34:14). God’s people must be constantly directed and escorted to Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd by his teaching in the scriptures and Holy Spirit working in and through his shepherds (John 15:26).

Later in his writings, Peter echos the command of Christ to the “under-shepherds” of his day, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Pet. 5:2-3). This is one of the most direct biblical commentary’s we have on Christ’s command.  Peter tells these elders that it is a blessing not a burden to feed God’s people. There was a reason he needed to say that. To “feed the sheep” is the shepherds loving response to Christ. They should not feel sluggish but ready and eager to serve. The ministry of the shepherd is to lead by example and not by dictatorship. They are to excel at serving. They are not busy telling people what to do, but showing them how to do it.

“I know” you think, “it sounds good on paper but in reality pastoring people is difficult.” There is no doubt about it, but we must do it for love of Christ despite what people do.

As pastors we are not to do things from constraint. The word for constraint here in Greek describes a person who feels burdened by sickness or looking for relief from trouble. Understandably, pastors become drained and even “sick of” people and ministry with all its daily challenges.  It is easy to forget whom we serve when we feel unappreciated. We are reminded, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men, knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” (Col. 3:23-24). So if we take the Apostle Paul’s words and use them in light of what Peter is teaching he is telling us to feed the flock heartily, literally out of your very soul with the certainty you serve the Lord Jesus Christ not human beings.

Gill says, feeding the flock, “should be done with all a man’s heart and soul, and should spring from pure love to Christ; for no man is fit to feed Christ’s lambs and sheep but those who sincerely love him.”

When pastors become weary they can make the mistake of looking for their reward elsewhere. They look for recognition, power and even wealth. This was the great fault of the Pharisees (Matt. 6:1-6; Matt. 23; Luke 16:14). Christ calls its hypocrisy. It is amazing instead of feeding the sheep they will begin to feed off the sheep which is forbidden by scripture (Ezek 34:10). There is a fair warning here from Christ and he does not coddle us when he says, “they have their reward”  over and over again. (Mt 6: 2, 5. 16). That’s what they want, that’s all they will get and yelling, “Lord, Lord” in eternity will not save them from God’s payback for their sin.I

I realize we have all been in a job we hated at one time and we begin to feel unappreciated and underpaid. The ministry needless to say is the toughest job in the world. Yet Peter exposes the pitfalls of doing ministry for money or recognition. The minister of the gospel and those who labor for the church show Christ they love him by feeding and tending to, “his people and the sheep of his pasture.” (Ps. 110:3).

A.W. Pink comments, “It is only those who truly love Christ that are fitted to minister to His flock! The work is so laborious, the appreciation is often so small, the response so discouraging, the criticisms so harsh, the attacks of Satan so fierce, that only the “love of Christ”—His for us and ours for Him—can “constrain” to such work.” Is this not a reminder why and for Whom we do what we do. We serve others for Christ. We do it because we love him.

That clears it up.

You have no business in ministry if you do not love Christ. Some presume they love Christ because they are in ministry, but that means nothing. If a pastor stays in this lethargic, lazy condition the quality of ministry, or spiritual nurture he administers will be not only be soured but it will be as though the people are served a low grade, stale, spiritual food. They will be made to eat something other than the bread of life! Christ will contend with you on this. Christ cries out, “Give them to me!” or even better “Come unto me!” (Mt. 11:28).

The energy with which the shepherd works is directly connected to their love for Christ and the awareness that Christ is among the flock that is among us (Col. 1:27-29). I realize the most sincere pastor becomes weary, and they may make the mistake of looking to other things for their reward or other ways of making things happen in the place where they pastor, so they feel successful in their endeavors. This is a terrible mistake.  Christ never promised pastors they would have great success or large congregations. Some do, most don’t. Christ desires their faithfulness not their fame (1 Cor. 4:1-2).

They forget that their positions may be that of a shepherd but they are only sheep themselves and as such need to look as much and even more to Christ.

After the miracle of the great catch in John 21 Jesus calls to them, “Come and dine.” (Jn. 21:12). From this we draw the analogy that the fisherman catch the fish and Jesus feeds the fisherman with his own stash of fish.  Christ made them fish for breakfast that had nothing to do with the fish they caught. It is like Jesus is saying, “I still have meat that you know nothing about.” (John 4:32). I gave you the fish out there and I cook the fish here. I don’t need your fish I have my own. I will feed you, you will not need to feed me. This reminds me when God says, “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for all the world is mine and everything in it.” (Psa. 50:2).  It seems Christ is demonstrating that our ministry is not about performing and appeasing men but it is all about how much you love Jesus. Jesus insists that there is nothing that you accomplish that I have not given your the power to produce. Thus shepherds feed the sheep and Christ feeds the shepherds.

Christ had no problem showing his first shepherds affection (John 13;1). Christ will give you dear pastor, all the love, attention and joy you need if you will come and dine with him. There is coming a time where every good and faithful servant will receive praise from God. (1 Cor. 4:5). Faithful shepherds see the opportunity to help others as though they were helping, feeding, clothing and visiting Christ himself (Mt. 25:31-46). We ought to see his face in the faces of our congregations. It should be our prayer that we ask God for the strength we need to serve for the sake of Christ and our love for him.

© 2011 Stephen S. Gibney Soul Health Care. Updated 2017

All material may be reproduced and distributed for edification, just leave a note that it was our article, please.

Feed My Sheep 4: Feed Them With Jesus

“Jesus saith unto him, ‘Feed my sheep.’ “ (John 21:17)

God’s people are a hungry people.

Jesus knew this and tells Peter to feed that hunger.  They have a spiritual appetite. What was the food of which Jesus Christ spoke?  It is obvious from John chapter six that Jesus Christ calls himself  that food, spiritual bread, soul food that satisfies that hunger. (John 6:35).

Feed them with Jesus you ask?

Now I am not promulgating the clap-trap of cheap, second-rate theology that says, “We don’t need doctrine, we need Jesus.”  and you end up not having either.  Pure doctrine is directly related to wholesome, nourishing teaching (1 Tim. 6:3).

When Jesus spoke in John chapter six he just miraculously fed multitudes of people.  He also spoke of his heavenly Father giving Moses and the people of Israel manna.  By this he pointed out that food that spoils cannot give eternal life.  By this he demonstrates that He  is spiritual food. 

This food has fallen from heaven like manna. he is the Word of God made flesh (John 1;1, 14). Christ has come down from heaven to be our life (Col. 4:4).  This life is generated and sustained through his words. “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63). He makes it clear: it is the Word that he speaks that gives us eternal life.

This is not limited making correct scriptural statements, for as irreplaceable as the verities of Christian doctrine are they must be received and then delivered as, “words which the Holy Ghost teacheth.” (1 Cor 2:13)  yet, we can be informed and unfed. Yes, we need to be catechized or trained in the truths of scripture, but are people being fed with Christ the living manna or religiously programmed. We must ask this question always for their soul can only delight itself in marrow and fatness and praise God with joyful lips as they are fed with Christ (see Psa. 63:5). 

Paul says he received from the word of the Lord and then he delivers the Word (1 Cor. 11:23; 15:3).  The Bread of Life,  Jesus Christ feeds us is as we pray and believe the promises of scripture (John 6:28-29).  If all you want is information you have your reward but if you want your soul to be fed ask the Son of God for his help! This bread of life will come from fresh and hot from the oven of prayer and study. If you receive this Bread you will be able to deliver it, for a genuinely mature Christians not only eats but feeds others. Thus Christ through his words is the living bread prepared by God himself  to give to those who are spiritually hungry and through those who have been fed with the Bread.

There are groups who have the right doctrine so it would seem and yet they are like a mother in a supermarket who reads aloud to her child sitting in the basket, the nutrition labels on the packages of food. It is as if she thinks that by reading this facts about the food she is feeding her child. In reality she is so concerned about what is in the food she never feeds their children.  

There is certain teaching that causes spiritual malnutrition.  It is has no life, no joy and no satisfaction. I listen to some people talk and they seem bent on eroding faith and worship and teach the Bible more like it is a science or history lesson than a nutritious home cooked meal. It is the preparation and serving of the wholesome spiritual food that makes the difference and provides the nutrition.

Be careful of those who read the Bible like it is words on a menu in one of their favorite restaurants.  They know how to read religious labels, familiar with catechism and confessions. They tell you it tastes good, in many languages and it sounds so wonderful when they read  but they have never ordered from the menu. They have never by faith believed God for his promises and eaten the fruit of the land. They do not know the wonderful taste of the bread of life or drank the thirst quenching water of life! The Bible describes them as, “clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots.” (Jude 1:12).

Now what we mean is hunger for the things of God after salvation. Hunger is an evidence of spiritual life and the sheep will never  thirst (John 4:14) never hunger (John 6:35) and never perish (John 10:28).  That has been satisfied and fulfilled by Christ the bread and water of life.  The food that satisfies the souls of those who have been saved by Christ is the that which fuels their walk with him in holiness.

We should note that when one is newly born again he “drinks milk” spiritually. A teacher of the Word may discern that the people to whom he ministers are immature so he will give them milk or basic biblical teaching on purpose because that is all they can digest (1 Cor 3:1-3).  Peter says that it is the pure colostrum or “breast milk” of the Word like a mother gives her new-born (1 Peter 2:1-2). God’s people are given this food and they must steadily become  more acquainted with pure teaching, not be sustained by means of a religious feeding tube.  But when people are first saved, the teacher of the scriptures must feed them with the milk of basic biblical truth and be gentle, “like a mother caring for her little children.” (1 Thess. 2:7).

“But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb. 5:14). Solid food or “meat” comes for the mature saint of God.  They must taste what they eat in order to be, “nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine.” (1 Tim. 4:6).  Barnes says that this verse speaks of  “the delicate taste of an experienced Christian.” (Barnes). I like that. Christians are particular about their spiritual diet and have a refined and sensitive taste.

The phrase “good and evil” in this verse are not good and evil in general but good and evil teaching.  Good doctrine nourishes the soul.  Bad doctrine  is poisonous to the soul. The mature believer in Jesus weighs what they hear by what they have already tasted by the Scriptures. Those who are mature are careful to only eat what is good doctrinally and spiritually. They only eat what is scriptural and they grow in Christ. “For the ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meat.” (Job 34:3).

God’s people take pleasure in the Word as a good meal.  “They shall hear my words; for they are sweet.” (Ps 141: 6).  How sweet is the Word to a son or daughter of God who eats at their masters table a feast of fat things or, “a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.” (Isa. 25:6ESV). They hunger and thirst for the sweetness of the living God, for his power and glory and his loving kindness is better than life itself (Ps. 63:1-3)! God promises them of that they will eat to their heart’s content (Mt. 5:6). There is spiritual food for God’s people, and his nourishing words feed their hearts as a sign of his blessing! We ought to pray for this fresh provision of bread or food from the Lord daily (Matt. 6: 11).

© 2011 Stephen S. Gibney Soul Health Care

All material may be reproduced and distributed for edification, just leave a note that it was our article, please.

Feed My Sheep 3: Meeting the Real Need

“Jesus saith unto him, ‘Feed my sheep.’ ” (John 21:17)

The service or ministry Jesus tells Peter to perform was to feed his people.  Notice the analogy, sheep, pastures and shepherd. Christ cares for our needs. Jesus Christ came to serve and give (Mk. 10:45). He went about doing good and met the needs of people, especially those of the household of faith (Acts 10:38; Gal 6:10).

Being a shepherd is a ancient and noble calling. The Bible speaks of the first shepherd Abel who guarded the sheep (Gen. 4:2). He was listed with the prophets (Mt 23: 29-39; Luke 11: 47-51) and receives honorable mention in the “hall of faith” (Heb. 11:4). Moses appointed Joshua so, “that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd.” (see Num. 27:16-18). The second king of Israel David (2 Sam 7:8) was a shepherd. He protected his sheep from predators (1 Sam 17:34-37) and he saw the people of God as the flock of the Lord (2 Sam 24:17).

Notice how Christ was concerned about the sheep being fed. 

He did not say, “lead my sheep.”  Peter and others like him were to follow Christ’s leadership as only sheep themselves (1 Peter 2:21) and the sheep should follow them as they follow Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). The Apostle Peter reiterates, “Neither as being lords over [God’s] heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” (1 Pet. 5:3). The did not need to boss the sheep around, just lead by example. Christ is the only Lord.

He did not say, “breed my sheep.”  He was not concerned about the “flock” growth, how many “purpose driven sheep” as the measure of success. Christ will build his church (Matt 16:18). The Lord knows those that belong to him (2 Tim. 2:19) and Christ will add to the church, “daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:47). Being overwrought with the size of a church is not a concern for souls! Imbibing too much of this church growth, “Red Bull” will only end up creating a “Golden calf.”

He did not say, “weed my sheep.”  Some people want to weed everyone out. I have developed a new phrase as of recent and it is, “theological neurotics.”  For them there is always “sin in the camp” and “Achan’s” to throw rocks at and bean them off the top of the head.  They are so busy trying to be pure and to mould people into their religious template that they become sterile.  If you don’t speak their certain Shibboleth you will be weeded out (Judges 12:6). This is spiritual snobbery and arrogance of the worst kind!

Jesus says, “Feed my sheep. I am the Good Shepherd.”  I will take care of my flock.  You just feed them. You serve them and by this show you love me. This is not to oversimplify matters but we are limited to help people physically and we cannot help anyone spiritually. We cannot comprehensively meet their real needs. We can help them in the morning and later that day they are a mess. I know people act crazy. I know they do not listen. I know they get in trouble despite the warnings. That is between them and God. There is no need to have an apoplexy or have a breakdown. Just feed the sheep and pray, Christ will take care of the rest.

The passage we are looking at  must be a reference to both spiritual and physical needs. People need food for the body and the soul.  Sheep get sick, afflicted in mind, persecuted, lonely and in financial distress. True ministry means to serve, to care for someone’s needs.  We serve God by serving his people. But it is not real ministry unless it leads them to Christ as their sole resource. The need above all other needs is Christ. A true Christian and a true undershepherd leads people to Christ in whom all their needs are met.

By all means and with all your power seek to feed the hungry but especially feed the spiritually hungry. You may feed people stomachs, but that is never enough.  Jesus quotes from the book of Deuteronomy and reprimands Satan saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.’ ” (Mt. 4:4).   We realize spiritual food is more vital because as Moses told Israel, “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you…” (Deut 8:3). God humbles us so we see our real need and then feeds us his food that brings genuine satisfaction for that need and teaches us that He supports us.

Everytime the Israelites bellies gurgled they wanted to go back to Egypt.  God knew that they had too much Egypt in them. It is amazing that Egypt could be painted in many different ways such as “the evil world system” but here it was simply a place where they could get their needs met without trusting God. It was the place of trusting man and the power of the flesh!  But to remedy this God ordained that they be empty for a time. He blocked and frustrated their path. He showed them that the stinking fleshpots of Egypt could never satisfy (Ex 16:3)!  They must get out of a “needs orientation” into a “God orientation.”  He brings a humility of soul, as we endure trials so that over and over again when the trial ends we will see him as our sole resource and provider.  Every time we have a a physical, emotional or financial need and it extends over a period of time, we become miserable!  Let the emptiness become an opportunity to see God fill that emptiness. Life is a constant series of  becoming empty of self and being filled with God.

I do not have time to go into the dynamics of Satan’s temptations and Christ’s resistance to them. It is obvious that Christ was not about to eat anything Satan told him to eat, especially rocks. Satan is a salesman who sells shortcuts, even religious ones. He promises a time-saving direct route that does not require faith, patience and character.  It is as if Satan says, “The need of the world is so great someone who can turn stones into bread can surely help the world.  Meet their needs and they will flock to you.” Christ knows this is not true (John 6:26-27) and he realizes there is no satisfaction in earthly things! He says, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” (John 4:34). Christ’s sheep will be fed with his bread, it is the only bread that can sustain them. He is that bread, Christ is our meat and drink (John 6:35, 55).

I pray with David, “Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance: feed them also, and lift them up for ever.” (Ps 28:9).  Lord let our emptiness be filled with you and only you. Take the whole world but give us Jesus because only He satisifes!

© 2011 Stephen S. Gibney Soul Health Care

All material may be reproduced and distributed for edification, just leave a note that it was our article, please.

Feed My Sheep 2: Christ our Guardian and Guide

“Jesus saith unto him, ‘Feed my sheep.’  ” (John 21:17).

Christ’s command to Peter is pastoral.  It is given as a true shepherd. The word “pastor” and shepherd” are words that are used interchangeably and rightfully so.  It describes the role of a man who is responsible for the care and feeding of sheep.  God declares that He takes sole responsibility for his sheep and despite the errors of men and churches- He tends them well. “The Prince of Pastors” (1 Peter 5:4DR) gives orders to Peter and all under-shepherds to care for his flock. We will speak of this in the next article.  But for now we must see that Christ  is concerned for the sheep. We fail to appreciate the pastoral role of Christ as the great Pastor of the sheep (Heb. 13:20). 

Christ is the shepherd that cares (1 Pet. 5:7) for us and  He says, “I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign LORD.” (Isa. 34:15NIV).  You are his, always and he will always care for you. Rev. Barnes says, “Friends on earth, the great, the frivilous, the noble, the rich, may forget you; God never will. Remember that you will never be entirely neglected. Father, mother, neighbor, friend, those whom you have loved, and those to whom you have done good, may neglect you, but God never will. You may become poor, and they may pass by you; you may lose your office, and flatterers may no longer throng your path; your beauty may fade, and your admirers may leave you; you may grow old, and be infirm, and appear to be useless in the world, and no one may seem to care for you; but it is not thus with the God whom you serve. When he loves, he always loves.” There is none like our shepherd Jesus.

Christ is the Good Pastor-Shepherd (John 10:11).   The literal rendering is,  “I am the shepherd, the good one.”  I like that. In the Latin Vulgate it reads, “Ego sum pastor bonus bonus pastor…”  Bonus is Latin for good and the Latin Vulgate emphasizes that he is good twice.  He is the very Good Shepherd, his actions are good, he went about doing good and laying down his life for his sheep was good. There are many shepherds but he is the GOOD one!  The word for good here is kalos, which in ancient writings refered to outward beauty. Thus Christ’s beauty is his character and nature as our Shepherd.  Of Christ,  the Holy Spirit says, “thou art fairer than the children of men.” (Psalm 45:2). Who is like this Good Shepherd?   His beauty is seen in his generosity, as he gives a gift that words cannot describe (1 Cor 9:15) and he gives his life.  He is the apex of all that is loveable and admirable and his sheep find they are irresistibly drawn to him (John 10: 26-27).

Jesus Christ takes up his rightful role in our lives and our Guide and Guardian. God claims sole ownership and care for his flock, his church.  All others who are called pastors are inferior to him. Yes, men who are pastors are gifts from the Son of God to his church (Eph 4:8) but Christ is the Chief Shepherd and the Guardian of the souls of his people (1 Pet. 2:25; 5:4). When expecting a Lion John saw a bleeding Lamb (Rev. 5:6) and when expecting a shepherd we see a leading Lamb. Even in eternity Jesus Christ is, “the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd.” (Rev. 7:17ESV). He is a Strong yet gentle Savior!  But here is another proof that we are not only rescued in his grace but kept by his grace. Grace, love, mercy are not just some force, or element or virtue separate from God. It is Christ himself who in his grace, mercy and love  guards and protects the souls of his flock.

Christ  is always concerned with the welfare of his own people and desires to nourish their souls.   That is the distinguishing mark of the Lord our Shepherd. The Bible says that, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” (Isa 40:11).  Notice from that passage that Christ feeds, carries and leads his people as his vulnerable flock, his young lambs. He alone is the source of their nourishment and guidance. It says that he guides them with the wisdom of a shepherd, bearing them with his strong protective arm and gently bringing them close to his chest. Paul says, that  “our life is hid with Christ in God.” (Col. 4:3).

He is the Lord is our Shepherd (Psa. 23:1). How often have we read Psalm 23 and failed to see Christ in whom all our needs are met.  Christ is all  (Col. 3:11), therefore all we need.  God has ordained this so that as he says, “thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth.” (Exodus 9:14).   There is none, we should not want because of him, we should want no other because of him.  He makes us to rest and guides us into peace.  He is the one who changes the direction of our lives into a paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even if the path leads through the valley of death’s shadow-not only the possibility but the eventuality of death, we do not need to fear because Christ bears us in his powerful hands all the way to the path of glory and heaven! Those that hate us even our enemies shall see the wonderful provision of the Lord for us, the oil of his presence in us. There will be such joy that our lives will overflow with goodness and mercy and we prepare in this life to spend eternity with our Shepherd.

© 2011 Stephen S. Gibney Soul Health Care Ministries

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