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"It [knowing Jesus] will never be enough until my faith becomes sight and I know him as fully as I am known. I find that my yearning for Him is ravenous and it has once again led me to immerse myself in the pages of His Word-in particular, the eyewitness account of His life and ministry that was recorded by the disciple with whom I most identify-John." -Anne Graham Lotz
Long heralded by Billy Graham as the "best preacher in the family," Anne Graham Lotz draws new insights from passages containing Jesus' teachings to his disciples toward the end of his earthly ministry when the disciples were trying to cling to Him most. Anne writes, "I wanted to know what He had to say to those who were desperate for more of Him."
Anne focuses each chapter on a passage from the last half of the book of John and features a corresponding life application. Chapter titles will include. His Voice in My Ears, His Tears on My Face, His Praise on My Lips, His Death in My Life, His Dirt on My Hands, His Hope in My Grief, His Fruit in My Service, His Love in My Home, His Courage in My Convictions, His Nearness in My Loneliness, His Answers to My Prayers, and His Glory on My Knees.
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Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy and Ruth Graham, is the President and Executive Director of AnGeL Ministries, a non-profit organization offering Christian outreach. She is the award-winning author of ten books, including Just Give Me Jesus.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
More of His Voice in My Ear
God told me to tell you that you are supposed to marry me." I received that astonishing bit of information on a lined sheet of notebook paper that had food stains on it when I was fourteen years of age! It was a personal letter to me from some delusional young man that had been forwarded from my father’s organization. I remember writing back rather crisply, "Well, He hasn’t told me!"
As amusing as that incident was, a similar attitude was conveyed to me at the beginning of my ministry that was not so humorous. Some church leaders publicly expressed disapproval of my ministry because I was willing to speak when there were men in the audience. And their stand was based on what they said God says.
A typical argument from one of these men was something like this: "God told me that you as a woman are not to speak to an audience in which there are men. God has also told me women are not to be preachers."
My initial reaction was the same as it was when I was fourteen: "Well, God hasn’t told me!" But because this argument was made by those with seminary degrees and reputations for being spiritual, by godly men who held positions as shepherds in their congregations, this little sheep needed to hear her Shepherd’s voice. I did not want to hear what others said He said. I wanted to hear from Him directly. I wanted to hear His voice in the ears of my spirit.
Do you have a similar dilemma in your life? Have you been confronted with those who, in essence, have said, "God told me to tell you if you only had more faith, you would be healed," or "If God really loved you, that bad thing would not have happened to you," or "It’s God’s will that your loved one died"? Such "words of knowledge" spoken by sincere people within our circle of Christian friends can put us in a tailspin of emotional devastation and spiritual doubt. It is especially traumatic and confusing when those words are uttered by someone in a position of religious leadership.
How can you and I know which voice speaks the truth and is therefore authentic?
The Bible tells us that God does speak to His children and that we will hear and know His voice even as sheep hear and know the voice of their shepherd.
In Western civilization, the concept of a personal shepherd is relatively meaningless. With hoof-and-mouth disease in the news, we’ve seen British sheep ranches flashed on the news and sheep pens in Northern Ireland pictured on the front of our morning newspapers. If you live in a rural area, you may have noticed that sheep today graze in carefully fenced-in pastures where they’re guarded by specially bred dogs and identified by a number tattooed in their ears. Computers track when they are born and when they are ready for either shearing or slaughter. There is no personal shepherd. Unless the sheep are on a very small farm, even the sheep’s owner can’t tell one animal from another.
But the Eastern shepherd was, and in many parts of the world still is, very different. He raised his sheep from the time they were lambs and maintained responsibility for them twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, year in and year out, for the sheep’s entire lifetime. There were no dogs or fences or tattoos or computers.
The Eastern shepherd of Jesus’ day raised his sheep primarily in the Judean uplands. The countryside was rocky, hilly, and creased with deep crevices and ravines. Patches of grass were sparse. So the shepherd had to establish a personal relationship with each sheep, nurturing its love and trust in him in order to lead it to where the path was the smoothest, the grass was the greenest, the water was the cleanest, and the nights were the safest. The shepherd always led the sheep. He knew their names, and when he called them, they recognized his voice, following him like a swarm of little chicks follows the mother hen. When he stopped, the sheep huddled closely around him, pressing against his legs. Their personal relationship with him was based on his voice, which they knew and trusted.
The Bible describes our relationship with Jesus as being similar to the relationship between the Eastern shepherd and his sheep–a relationship based on His voice. And make no mistake about it, His voice is God’s Word, the Holy Bible.
God speaks primarily through the Scriptures, and at times, through other people–which is where we must be careful. One of the most familiar teachings of Jesus is one He launched into after a confrontation with the "shepherds," or religious leaders, of His day who professed to speak for God. John recorded that the confrontation had taken place after an incident involving one of the many blind beggars in the city.
Jesus had been walking through the congested streets of Jerusalem when His attention was caught by a beggar who had been born blind. Stopping, Jesus had patiently explained to His disciples and to the man that the blindness was the result of no one’s fault. Instead, it was an opportunity to reveal the glory of God. The resulting display of God’s glory as Jesus created sight in eyes that had never seen before should have caused everyone, including the religious authorities–especially the religious authorities!–to fall at His feet in worship. Instead, it provoked a confrontational exchange between the man and the religious leaders that resulted in the man’s excommunication from the temple. Try to enter into the drama of the former blind beggar’s experience:
In one day, the former blind man’s life had turned upside down and inside out. As he must have wandered in a daze through the narrow, crowded streets, surely he tried to comprehend all he had experienced, realizing that although he had gained his physical sight he had lost any social acceptance he would ever hope to have. Did he wage an almost superhuman battle to force his attention away from all he was seeing for the first time to all the thoughts he was thinking for the first time? And where would he go? Back to the alleyway where he had begged all of his life? Back to his home where his parents resented the disgrace he had brought on the family? Back to his "friends" who had turned him over to the authorities in the first place? Since he had received his sight, not one person had congratulated him or shaken his hand or slapped him on the back or even smiled joy and approval. Having lived in a world of darkness all of his life, surely he had never felt so alone as he did in the light.
Until he heard that familiar voice. It was coming from an ordinary-looking Man standing in front of him–
a Man Who had heard of his excommunication from the temple,
a Man Who knew what it was to be lonely in a crowd,
a Man Who understood what it felt like to be treated like a criminal because of God’s presence in His life,
a Man Who would Himself experience being outcast, not just from the temple and the city, but from the human heart–
a Man Who had heard, Who understood, Who loved, and Who had searched until He found the formerly blind beggar to whom He had given sight.
Praise God! Jesus draws near to those who are afflicted and persecuted and criticized and ostracized. Jesus draws near to those who are suffering–especially when the suffering is for His sake.
As the former beggar heard the voice he would never forget, did his heart leap? Did his newly focused eyes cling to the Man’s face, drinking in every detail, listening to every syllable, as the Man gently inquired, "Do you believe the Son of Man?" Eagerly the man responded, "Who is he, sir? . . . Tell me so that I may believe in him."
And "Jesus said, ‘You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.’ Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him" (9:35—38).
Jesus then gave a scathing condemnation of the Pharisees who had stood in judgment over the man and were still hounding him. He declared that the man who had been blind could now see, not only physically, but also spiritually because he recognized Jesus as the Son of God and placed his faith in Him. But the Pharisees, who claimed with all of their religious training and knowledge and experience that they could see spiritually, remained blind because they rejected the truth of Who Jesus is (9:39—41).
The haughty, superpious, elaborately dressed Pharisees who had slipped through the temple courtyard to spy on the beggar caught him in conversation with Jesus. So Jesus used what was inevitably another imminent confrontation with the religious leaders to make a point that I believe needs to resonate in the ears of Christians today. With eyes that surely flashed with righteous indignation, and with the same breath that indicted the religious leaders for their spiritual blindness, Jesus warned His followers that not all religious leaders, or "shepherds," were authentic.
The Confusion about Authenticity
This mixture of true and false shepherds can be confusing to those who have become casual in their relationship with God and their attitude toward His Word. In the Old Testament, when God’s people refused to pay attention to Him or His Word, He allowed multitudes of false prophets to preach on every street corner, but none of them spoke the truth.3 The New Testament also warns that this judgment will be repeated in the last days of human history, when once again a multitude of false prophets will permeate the religious landscape.
Those of us in the church need to wake up! Just because someone . . . pastors a church, or uses contemporary examples, or reads Greek and Hebrew, or preaches with eloquence, or moves the audience to tears, or makes an audience laugh, or holds degrees from a reputable seminary, or befriends individuals with a caring and kind demeanor . . . DOES NOT MEAN HE IS FROM GOD!
With eyes that must have narrowed fiercely on the self-righteous Pharisees who claimed to be spiritual leaders yet had sought to destroy the beggar’s testimony of faith, Jesus unleashed His warning. With daring boldness He did not back down from His pompous, yet powerful, enemies–not even a little. With a voice that must have reverberated in emotional tones of outrage, He made it very clear to the Pharisees, the blind man, and the curious bystanders, as well as to His own disciples then and now, that there would be those who claim to be shepherds, leaders of His people, but they would not be authentic.
Using the very familiar setting of a winter sheepfold to drive home His point, He stated emphatically, "I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice" (10:1—3).
The winter sheepfolds were located in the barren, rocky Judean hills. Each one was used by several shepherds who kept their flocks in the fold during the night for safety. The fold would have had high stone walls accessed by one strong, wooden door. It had no roof. One of the shepherds would act as the watchman at the door, staying inside the fold with the sheep all night, guarding against thieves, wild animals, and anything else that might harm the sheep. In the morning, the authentic shepherds of the sheep would come to the door and identify themselves. The watchman would open the door, then each shepherd would call out his own sheep by name. One by one, his particular sheep would separate from all the others in the fold and follow him out to graze the Judean hills for the day.
The Criterion for Authenticity
You and I, as God’s "sheep," can determine the authenticity of the shepherds by their approach to us. The criterion for the authentic shepherd is that he or she always approaches through the door of God’s Word, which the Watchman, the Holy Spirit, opens to us. The false shepherd approaches through a "door" that is other than God’s Word. His approach may be through a leadership position, a denominational doctrine, a ceremonial ritual, a cultural prejudice, traditional theology, public opinion, popular polls, marketing strategy, or pop psychology.
This lesson was driven home to me at the beginning of my itinerant ministry thirteen years ago. As I went into the world in answer to God’s call, one of the first opportunities I accepted was to address a large convention of pastors. Eight hundred church leaders were seated around tables in a banquet-type setting that seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see. As I walked to the lectern, I was distracted by the sound of movement in the audience. I was shocked to see that many of the pastors had turned their chairs around and put their backs to me! Some of those who faced me did so with such hostile expressions of rejection that I was confused and ashamed.
I managed to share the message I’d been invited to present, but by the time I concluded, I was shaking. I crawled away in my spirit.
How could godly men find what I was doing so offensive that they would stage such a demonstration, especially when their organization had invited me to speak? I was confused. Was the inaudible voice I had heard from these men–in essence saying, "Anne, you don’t belong in the pulpit or on the platform when men are present"–authentic or not?
Rather than blindly abide by what these critics demanded or strike back in anger with a harsh exchange of words, I pleaded with God to give me His Word. I knew that many of these men were religious professionals serving in the church as "shepherds." Automatically, I considered their opinions as valuable. Yet I wanted to hear my Shepherd’s voice and follow Him–which meant, very practically, I had to go home and open my Bible.
When I went home, I told the Lord I had never had a problem with women in ministry or with women sharing God’s Word when men were present, but now I did. The problem those pastors obviously had was now my problem, too. So I humbly asked the Watchman, the Holy Spirit, to convict me if I was out of His will or to confirm His call once again.
I found myself re-reading the story of Mary Magdalene in John 20. Following the resurrection, when Mary encountered the risen Christ, He commanded her, "Go . . , to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’" In other words, Jesus was telling Mary, a woman, to go to Jerusalem and tell eleven men what she had seen and heard. Jesus also commanded the other women who had gone to the tomb that early Sunday morning to go and tell the disciples–not only tell them their personal testimony about their experience with the risen Christ, but His Word instructing them to go to Galilee. I concluded, therefore, that Jesus Himself did not have a problem with women either sharing their own personal testimony or sharing His Word when men were in the audience.
Next, the Watchman seemed to open the door of Jeremiah, where once again I heard the Shepherd’s voice say, "I have put My words in your mouth. . . . You are not responsi...
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Book Description W Pub Group, 2002. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0849963435