Let Me Direct You Elsewhere…

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Grace And The Non-Instagrammable Church: This is true. When we can get over the fact that the church isn’t Instagram-ready, something amazing happens. When we own up to our messiness, we actually open the door for real, undiluted, unadulterated grace. I mean, the mess is exactly what grace is for! You wouldn’t need grace at an Instagrammable church.

Too Young To Cross A Street But Old Enough For A Sex Change: Goodness gracious, its a wild world out there. A new research study conducted at the University of Iowa has determined children younger than 14 do not possess the cognitive skills and judgment to safely cross a street. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published an excerpt of the study in its Daily Briefing, a nod some physicians found ironic, given the organization’s support for transgender treatment.

Barcelona – Get Up: Its a very old song and super random…but I’ve been into it these days. So there. 😉

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Let Me Direct You Elsewhere…

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What Can The Church Learn About Sexual Harassment: The recent Bill O’Reilly scandal has opened up an opportunity for the church to think through how we respond to these matters. And this article is a great starting point to this conversation.

Beware Of Broken Wolves: Wow. Yes, this is sooo out there and extremely important to know how to spot. These are the false teachers who use their own authenticity, pain, and brokenness to attract believers who are also suffering and broken—and then using their “brokenness” to lead the sheep to turn away from God’s Word and embrace sin.

How Brainy Women Benefit The Church: In response to gendered notions of intelligence, it’s easy to overcorrect with celebrations of “girl power.” While buying my daughter’s spring wardrobe, I came across T-shirts emblazoned with slogans like “It’s cool to be smart” and “Epic and smart… like my dad” and shockingly, “Smart is the new pretty.” These celebrations of female intelligence are not a form of overcorrection so much as mis-correction, a superficial response to a much deeper problem. While meant to affirm women, such tropes simply replace one form of hierarchy for another and all too quickly, being “not like other girls” means being superior to them.

Why Christians Should Support Religious Freedom For All: This is so important for our current times and we really need to know why we are for and not against religious freedom. Since the freedom to know and follow God is foundational to our humanity, it belongs to both Christians and non-Christians alike.

Gospel Reflections From The Mountaintop: Its been a couple of weeks since the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s death, so this is late. But please still watch this very powerful video remembering his work and his last speech. Let us never forget that racial harmony is a gospel issue.

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When Sin Gathers, So Must Love…

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My daughter has a habit of collecting things. However most of her collecting fondness is directed towards rocks. Some colorful, some smooth, big and small. Even the extremely regular or somewhat unexceptional ones she’s drawn to for whatever reason. She’ll fill her coat pockets or pass them off to me for safe keeping in the endless depths of my purse. Just one of the reasons mom’s tend to have big, heavy purses.

But she’ll gather her rocks together. She loves them.

At times I find this habit a bit of a nuisance, particularly when my hands are full with jackets, or back packs, or books and then I’m handed a somewhat useless rock that belongs on the ground – yet it’s absolutely necessary for her to keep it.

*sigh – “fine” I say.

However when her rocks are gathered together, each individual and unique I can see the appeal. There’s something charming about it.

When some things are gathered together in a beautiful collection, it’s a delight.

For the past few months I’ve been soaking myself in the book of 1 Peter. A book I’ve read and studied multiple times before but the Holy Spirit is always faithful to illuminate and open my eyes to new and wonderful depth’s of the heart of God through His Word.

One verse I’ve always loved is chapter 4:8…

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

Its nice isn’t it? Love is nice. And this verse is all about it and how it covers and clears up the darkness in this world. What’s not to love about love and by extension this verse? It’s the kind of verse we memorize and crochet on pillows – and we ought to.

And yet it all becomes more fascinating when we discover that Peter is writing these words to Christians in the midst of deep suffering and persecution. He’s giving them hard words and comforting words, and this is a surprisingly hard word. It’s more like a warning. Because he’s reminding these Christians that sin can creep through the cracks when suffering strikes.

Right before this verse about love is a long list of sins we should be avoiding (most of them really obvious) and its a reminder from Peter that sin is present in Christians – even in the middle of hardship. We are very likely to be tempted because the flesh is weak and sins appeal is luring.

Which means when Christians gather, just think of how many sins attend.

Multitudes and multitudes.

When we congregate on Sunday, so do our sins. Big and small, hidden or obvious, smooth and colorful – our sin piles one on top of the other. Cumbersome and excessive.

But there’s an antidote to this ample weight…and that’s love.

Church is a place where imperfect people congregate – where we bump into each other with disagreements, step on toes with harsh words and harden our hearts to difficult people. We are sinner’s on individual journey’s in sanctification.

And that journey can get bumpy.

Yet the church is also a hospital where hurting people get to come be ministered to, edified and equipped for the race God asks us to run. Because we are a community making up the body of Christ on a shared voyage of faith.

Individual and yet communal is the church.

And we commune because of the cross.

When the sins of humanity gathered onto Jesus on the cross…it was sacrificial and powerful love that won the victory.

And this is exactly why Peter implores the church to love each other. Christ love is so compelling we can’t let the burdens of this world numb our love for our brothers and sisters. We must love and care and help lift the load. Sin will tempt us away from affection for the body of Christ but God is calling us to have a default of love.

Because an abundance of sin needs an abundance of love.

Earnest, practiced and intentional…

love.

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Let Me Direct You Elsewhere…

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It has been such a challenge trying to get to this blog for some reason. Life has allowed little time and inspiration in order for good writing. So I apologize for the crickets over here. I’m hoping for a change of pace soon and some much-needed stimulated motivation.

Marriage Is The Gold Standard Of Family Stability: No surprise here. But studies are once again confirming the obvious. “So much for the argument that it is education, not marriage, that matters for family stability.”

God Loves Us Enough To Disappoint Us:What if God, in my season of waiting, is trying to show me that I am not powerful enough to do this on my own? What if He is inviting me to a deeper trust in Him, a better understanding of patience, and a real commitment to a long obedience in the same direction?”

The Surprising Role Of Guardian Angels: I’m fascinated by all things angels and I don’t think its taught enough in the church. So I found this articles interesting and maybe you will too.

Battle Hymn Of The Republic – Page CXVI: As I ponder this Holy week I just keep singing this song in my head.

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Women And Jesus…

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Last fall I had the privilege of speaking to one of the Women’s Ministries at my church about Jesus. More specifically I spoke about women and Jesus – a broad yet wonderfully heartening topic.

I got to study and dissect a piece of Scripture I had read and heard a thousand times before and yet knew very little about. What a gift it is – opening the Word. Searching, digging, interpreting, understanding, stirring, lifting up. As a woman I got to encounter something significant in my Savior. I learned a little better His love for me – a woman, a sinner and constant wanderer.

I’d like to share this Jesus here once again. Take a moment and read Luke 7:36-50, and we’ll go through it together also.

Let me start with a little context. The book of Luke is written by Luke, no big surprise there. He was a physician and travel companion of the apostle Paul. So far in this book Luke has been telling the stories of how Jesus travelled around healing folks of every kind and at this point in the book the Pharisees are wary of Him and keeping a close eye on what they think is Jesus disobeying God’s law.

In our text we have a prominent Pharisee named Simon deciding to invite Jesus to eat with him and controversy ensues. It says,

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.

Our English translation doesn’t convey the shock the pharisees had over this woman. When it says “and behold a woman” it is literally “Look a woman!” And the shock would have been primarily because of her reputation and the fact that she was approaching Jesus.

It’s important to note that this woman is different from the woman who cracked open a bottle of costly perfume to wash Jesus’ feet in Matthew 26. That was the Mary of Mary and Martha. She had some knowledge of Christ’s coming death and was anointing Him in preparation for burial. Although the stories are similar, this is a whole different story and Luke is the only one who records it. This story we are in now takes place about a year before Christ’s death.

This nameless woman with a sexual reputation took advantage of a cultural practice that allowed people in need to join meals like this. And she did so in order to see Jesus. She may have been a prostitute. She was likely abused. And she was definitely broken.

The story goes on to say,

Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among[h] themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Jesus is invited to a Pharisee named Simon’s home, an honor for sure, yet Simon clearly isn’t convinced Jesus is who He says He is, because he doesn’t give Him the most basic common courtesy of greeting Him with a kiss, washing his feet and anointing his head with oil. This seems excessive in hospitality for us today, but this was absolutely basic hospitality at the time.

It’s clear that at this point the pharisees already have a bit of contempt for Jesus, although nothing really tangible yet to condemn Him for. At least not yet.

And then a dirty lady approaches.
And what she begins to do is everything Simon wouldn’t.

Unlike Simon, this perfectly shattered woman was overcome by the presence of Jesus. His reclining position allowed her to out-pour her adoration in the posture of her spirit – humility. She washes His feet with tears of regret and kisses them in adulation, she anoints His feet with her own personal oils.

Her heart laid bare. Unashamed.
All in view of scrutinizing eyes.

Simon see’s and reveals his heart as he thinks to himself, If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.

His hardened heart hiding inside behind judgement and condemnation.

The contrast is stark between the heart of a beaten down repentant woman and the heart of a stoney law-abiding man. It’s an engrossing image of reckless grace.

But it doesn’t end there. Jesus hears the thoughts of Simon and answers them. Revealing exactly who He indeed is. He hears all and knows all. So He responds to these thoughts with a parable about money lenders and debtors. And by having this exchange and telling this story, Jesus gives Simon the opportunity to understand what’s really happening.

See Jesus knew that Simon had up-held the laws of Moses for probably what felt like forever. Jesus knows that the pharisees are rule following men, who deeply value personal purity. At least so they thought. And so their sins are seemingly few. But the hearts of these men have long become callous.

And Simon perceives what’s being taught in Jesus‘s parable, yet shows his reluctance to accept it by answering Jesus’s question with…”The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.”

He knows what the lesson means for him. And perhaps more alarmingly what it means for the woman. A woman who clearly does not value purity like he does. Plus – and this is the real kicker – she’s a woman. Which in the time would have put her at the bottom of the barrel in terms of value. The deck was stacked against her in terms of cultural worthlessness.

But Jesus see’s a contrite heart.

He doesn’t duck past her sin. He calls it out. Confirming its seriousness and need for forgiveness. He’s the one that said her sins are many. He just also see’s her faith. And she knows the debt of sin is high and the forgiver of that debt is reclining right in front of her.

You see, this story says so many things. But one thing that is essential to note, is how we see Jesus treat women in Scripture. His interactions with them are usually the same. He’s gentle, tender, straight-forward about the sin in their lives and he calls them to repentance and faith. This goes for the woman at the well, the unclean woman who touches the hem of His garment, Mary and Martha at Martha’s house, the widow who lost her son, the woman crippled by a demon in the synagogue. Just to name a few.

And it was women who He first revealed Himself to after he was resurrected back to life!

You see Jesus places value on almost every woman He meets in the gospels. In a time where women were under-valued and mistreated, Jesus see’s them differently. He shows us that men and women are valued equally and most importantly salvation is for all.

It was good news then, and its good news now.

We end this story with Jesus shocking the pants off the pharisees by saying He can forgive sins. It’s an audaciously blasphemous thing to say. Unless, of course, its true. Which, of course, it is.

We see Christ’s oneness with God here, and it’s the best news of this text and of the Bible in general.

It changes everything.

When I first came to the faith, I felt like this woman. I wasn’t pure. My sins were many. And boy oh boy was I burdened from the guilt and shame of it all. At times I felt worthless. But it was my knowledge of my own depravity that made the taste of resurrection forgiveness all the sweeter.

And now that I’ve been a Christian awhile I feel the pain of the pharisee. I relate to the struggle of relying so hard on my good works to keep my standing with God. But it doesn’t. We don’t earn Gods ear. We are saved by faith alone. That’s why Jesus said to this woman “Your faith has saved you”, not “your actions have saved you.” And there is nothing I can do that will make Him love me more. He already loves me enough.
He loves you enough too.

With all this in mind, I believe this story admonishes us to do three things.

1. We should be prepared to meet with Jesus. When we come to church on Sunday, or open the Bible for personal study, or come to Him in prayer – we must do so expectantly. This woman showed up to Simons house prepared with her oil, ready to do one thing – worship Jesus. She wasn’t looking for anything in return. She just wanted Jesus. How often do we have the same desire and out-look on our times with Christ? What I’m not saying is we should seek a warm and fuzzy feeling or seek an experience. If you have one…great, but don’t spend your life trying to find some spiritual high. What I am saying however is regardless of what your feeling that day, prepare your heart to be with Jesus. Sit at His feet in the Word and worship Him. Be a woman who feasts on Scripture. We have been given free rein to study Scripture. It’s not just for men. So indulge in it!

2. We should remember our sin and where we came from. We loose our thankfulness and desire to worship Christ when we forget our own depravity and that we don’t deserve what Jesus did for us. That was Simons issue. He didn’t know his heart was stoney. He thought as long as he was good enough in his actions, that’s all that mattered. But he neglected the work of the heart. On-going repentance and remembering our sin brings us into thankfulness and heart-felt worship of Christ. We begin to love much, because we remember how much He forgave. Which brings us to number 3.

3. Our response to this grace should be love. Always. Love for each other inside the church as well as those who are outside the church and in need of knowing Christ. We cannot be a people who believe anyone is outside the grace Jesus offers. Which means we must love all people, even the extra bad looking ones we deem more dirty than the rest of us. They aren’t.

It’s a magnificent thing to behold Christ’s redeeming love and head-long forgiveness.

Remember its goodness. And revel in it today.

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Let Me Direct You Elsewhere…

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Sorry for the radio silence, I was pretty sick for a couple of weeks but now I’m so grateful to be feeling better and back to my regular routine!

Pastor, Be Careful The Snapshots You Bring Home: This one is for the ministry people, and its a pretty important one. As a pastors wife I’ve experienced everything this article says, so I made sure to pass it on to my hubby immediately.

Called To Childlessness: The church can sometimes be one of the worst places to find refuge for a childless couple. But I cant imagine how much of a struggle it would be for couples who feel called to a lifetime of childlessness. We don’t often talk about this kind of calling. Give this one a read to help you understand better.

Jesus Did Not Die For ‘Comfortable’: Get ready to be slayed with conviction. But do it anyway, because its good for us. I really need reminders like this often! Following Christ leads to something better than the world’s temporary comforts; it leads to a true and better rest.

3 Questions To Consider Before You Share: Here’s a practical one! We live in the world of ‘over-share’ and sometimes we need to reel ourselves back in and ask ourselves what’s worth sharing. So read this one for some social media sharing help.

Bear’s Den – Agape: I’ve just been into this song lately.

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Pastor, It’s Your Job To Feed – 7 Reasons Why…

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I’ve noticed an unsettling trend in the church that needs to be addressed. I’m sure I’m not the first to notice nor address it, but this is my best shot at doing the latter.

Here is the trend in question: A pastor stands at the pulpit and says something like this…”If you aren’t being fed here, don’t blame me, it’s not my job to feed you, because you should be feeding yourself.”

Then usually a guilt trip follows about how Christians who aren’t “being fed” are weak, consumerist babies and its no fault of the pastor but solely the fault of the baby Christian who is sitting in front of him, starving. I’m happy to say these words have never been uttered by my current pastor, and I’m blessed to be apart of a church that feeds me. Yet I’m burdened for the churches who I know are under this kind of leadership.

Now if your reading this and think I’m overreacting or even agree with these statements, here are 7 reasons (in no particular order) on why I believe this rhetoric is damaging:

1. Pastors Who Don’t Feed, Must Not Be Given To Study: The majority of pastors who duck the feeding call, are often not preaching deep biblical messages, mainly because they no longer think they have to. Which means there’s a good chance they aren’t spending much time in the Word themselves. Why spend your work-time studying, if you aren’t going to pass it on?

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:25).

Paul is saying something important to Timothy here. He’s admonishing him to be a worker of the Word. A pastors very occupation is to rightly handle Scripture by studying it and then passing it on to the flock in which they minister. And if a pastor is not doing this, he’s very plainly not doing his job. And this ought to make the pastor feel ashamed.

2. Pastors Who Don’t Feed, Don’t Teach Their Flock How To Eat: Christians should be feeding themselves. This is a true statement. Yet, they also need to be taught how. When my children where 6 months old and we began introducing solid food, I didn’t just hand them a fork and say “figure it out”! It was a slow process that involved a lot of spoon-feeding, followed by finger foods, followed by utensil training – my floors taking the biggest brunt of this journey to self-feeding. But this is how training works.

And in one of the most biblically illiterate ages, we cannot expect new Christians to just pick up the Bible and figure it out. And one of the best ways a Christian learns how to read and study the Word is by observing how their pastor, with whom they trust, handles the Word on Sunday mornings. Does he take Scripture out of context and quickly apply it to felt needs? Is he methodical, giving background and context? These things train us how to read our Bibles, whether the pastor intends to teach or not. Which means the pulpit should be an example for Scripture-reading instruction to a generation whose good at throwing a lot of food on the floor.

3. Pastors Who Don’t Feed, Don’t Protect: It’s virtually impossible to protect the body of Christ without feeding them enough to make them strong for the fight.

The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10:2-5).

The reality is that wolves and “strangers” enter the fold regularly. There are wolves in the church and on TV and in the book store. And it’s the job of the pastor to protect their flock from them. But how do they do this? It’s not like our pastor’s can be with us wherever we go telling us who we should or shouldn’t listen to. A pastor does this by teaching sound doctrine to the flock (Titus 2:1), in order for the flock to know the difference when they encounter bad doctrine. When they are properly instructed they become able to distinguish the good shepherds voice from a wolves howl. Protection is one of the shepherds most crucial responsibilities and they can’t protect without feeding.

4. Pastors Who Don’t Feed, Don’t Motivate Following: A pastor who ducks his duty of feeding thwarts the call on the congregation to follow. Its like saying “Hey it’s not my job to feed you, but you must obey me as your leader.” There is a firm command from God that we obey our church leaders. And I believe this is very significant, because God’s Word is weighty here.

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17).

However what we see in this verse is a dual command. The writer of Hebrews is saying obey your leader but with the assumption that the leader is keeping watch over souls. He’s assuming the leader isn’t neglecting this soul-watching responsibility by saying, its your job to protect your own soulfeed yourself. We should definitely respect and submit to our leaders, but sometimes that looks like approaching them in love and reminding them of their role to be soul-protectors not CEO’s. And non-feeding pastors shouldn’t be surprised if their flock is unwilling to follow their lead, because its hard to follow when your dying of hunger.

5. Pastor’s Who Don’t Feed, Will Have To Give An Account For It: This is where it all gets real. The Hebrews verse above should alarm every person in pastoral ministry. Souls hang in the balance with this work. Real souls – who will live forever either with God or without God. This is no small task nor empty duty. And all who fulfill this role will have to stand in front of the Almighty and give an account for how they shepherded the flock. Will the reasoning for not feeding hold up on that day?

“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.”  (1 Peter 5:2)

Oversight, unlike popular western-churchy thought, does not mean being the most dynamic and charismatic leader who knows how to inspire people with scripture-light messages. Oversight in this text is Old Testament language harkening back to how priests in the temple taught the Torah and interceded for the people. This is soul work that requires a pastor to be a minister of the Word and prayer. Which is no small thing. Feeding the flock should not be done under compulsion, but willingly. Not for shameful, church-growth strategy gain…but eagerly, how God would have them. Because its God who we all stand before in the end.

6. Pastor’s Who don’t Feed, Are Lazy: Is this too harsh? I don’t think so. In Ezekiel 34, a Word from the Lord is revealed to Ezekiel about the Shepherds of Israel. And it’s not good. The reason being? These Shepherds were lazy by not feeding the flock.

Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. (Ezekiel 34:2-4)

Feeding is the most basic need to meet. And yet when this need gets explained away, so much more ends up being lost as well. The health of the sheep is at risk…and if the shepherd is unwilling or too lazy to bind up and help heal, that sheep will not survive. Same goes for the church of God. If we aren’t fed and taught to feed, you better believe we will suffer for it.

It’s also just really convenient for pastors to relieve themselves from this responsibility as it side-steps any criticism that might come their way. It’s lazy.

7. Congregations Who Aren’t Fed…Starve: They stay babies, they remain malnourished, and they become comfortable in their infancy and weakness. Meanwhile the pastor becomes more irritated with the congregations immaturity. I’ve seen it happen. Pastor’s who don’t feed, shoot themselves in the foot. This is not a duty to abandon. If anything, it’s the most important job of the pastor. And pastors should do it, because it’s the loving thing to do. This is why when Jesus badgered Peter about whether or not Peter loved Him…He did so with great purpose.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)

If you love Jesus…you feed His sheep. Because they are His. And because you love Him and you love them. It’s as simple as that.

Dear pastors, the sheep are hungry and fickle and in need of your guidance. We know the job is a challenging one. You often have to call us back into the fold, warn us and bind up our wounds. But when you feed us from the deep well of His Word you give us the bread of life.

You give us Jesus, and that’s the most important and pressing need we have.

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