It’s Mutual

Identity in Christ is a two-way relationship; you in Him, and Him in you; the mystery of the Gospel.

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John 10:27 – My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

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Are you one of His sheep?  That means you have been born again.  You are not one of His sheep simply because you believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  Even devils “believe” that “and tremble.”  At one point in the Scriptures when Father spoke over Jesus, many heard a sound, but not all heard it as the voice of God.  In fact, some thought it thundered, while others thought an angel had spoken.  These observations are offered to point out that fact that when God speaks, not everyone understands and knows who has spoken.  It’s a matter of relationship.  If Jesus is NOT your Lord, you won’t know His voice.  If Jesus IS your Lord, you will know His voice.  And even IF He IS your Lord, obedience is still a matter of your own choosing.  Remember, Jesus is your Lord, NOT your taskmaster.

The second observation in our Text for Today is that when Jesus is your Lord, HE KNOWS YOU.  This is NOT a casual awareness, such as being asked if you know who the American President is.  I know who he is, but I do NOT personally KNOW the President of the United States.  In the case of our Text for Today, Jesus KNOWS those who belong to HIM in a very personal and intimate way.  They have been born again of the incorruptible seed of His Word, washed in His blood, and made ONE with Him as a part of His body.  In a very simply way of expressing it, I could say, “I see you hand and I know you have fingers.  But I KNOW my fingers.  They are connected to me.  I feel them when they are hot or cold.  What they feel tells me to a certain degree what they are touching or holding, for they are MY fingers.”  In that sense of the Word, Jesus KNOWS those who belong to Him, who are part of His body.

And the third observation may be, in some ways, a bit subtler.  Look at our Text for Today once again.  Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  Note closely the final statement.  “They follow Me.”  Don’t misunderstand my statement.  One can be a follower of a follower of Christ, and not be a follower of Christ.  Yes, in the body of Christ, we have leaders, who like the Apostle Paul could say, “Follow (imitate) me as I follow (imitate) Christ.”  But in the final analysis, while someone may follow me as I follow Christ, if they belong to Jesus, they are, in fact, following the Lord.  Keep in mind that while someone you know who is older, wider, more knowledgeable than you in Jesus may be a model for you, if Jesus is your Lord, you are, in truth, following Jesus.  Follow Him and finish your second mile. 

Manna for Today – John 10:22-42; John 12:29

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Told!

When one is told the truth, one becomes responsible for the truth heard.

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John 10:25 – Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.

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When a jury of 12 people sit through a criminal trial, they are witness to the testimony and evidence that is disclosed to them.  Once all the testimony and evidence is presented, they are charged with the responsibility of determining guilt or innocence of the accused, within a reasonable doubt.  That means they must consider the evidence presented, along with the testimony of all witnesses, to determine their verdict.  In making that determination, evidence is often the determining factor as to whether a witness is considered to be honest in his/her testimony.  If evidence is clearly confirming of testimony, the work of the jury becomes much easier.  Without PHYSICAL evidence, testimony becomes dependent upon circumstantial evidence, and the decision can become much more difficult and open to many critical questions.  But when evidence is PHYSICALTANGIBLECONCRETE in form, it can stand the test of scrutiny much more easily.

Jesus gave verbal testimony of Who He was and what He had come to do.  Jesus also presented physical, tangible, concrete evidence through the miracles, signs, wonders, and healings He performed.  The truth is that all to which Jesus testified should have been readily accepted as true, and there really should have been no question of Who He was.  Yet, throughout His earthly ministry, He faced the battle of dealing with that question, and the accusations of unbelievers and enemies.  It is little wonder that such still exists today.

But I wonder if we, the Church, have not made it easier for the unbelievers and enemies of the faith to make their case.  I know that signs and wonder, healings and miracles are still being performed today.  But I also realize that the frequency and regularity with which they are performed is greatly diminished in the 21st century Church.  I don’t believe this should be the way of the modern Church.  I am fully persuaded that it is the will of Father for the church to be operating at a level of effectiveness that truly represents the Lord Jesus Christ, with the ultimate results being a swelling computation of greater works, they being the numbers of people saved and filled with Holy Spirit should be ever-increasing.  We have been told, my friend.  Let us believe with all faith that which our Lord has spoken, and let us step forward with every expectation and anticipation that ALL He has said He WILL perform.  And to make that possible, may we all live a life of covenant conformity to His will for our lives, individually and collectively.  We have been told.  Now let us believe and act, and finish our second mile. 

Manna for Today – John 10:22-42; Hebrews 11:1-6; Romans 10:17; John 14:12-14; Mark 16:15-20

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Laid Down

Get ready to make a choice; a POWERFUL choice.

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John 10:17-18 – Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.  No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

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Take a few moments to deeply consider the words of our Lord in the Text for Today.  Note closely that Jesus said, “No man taketh it from me.”  Think on that for a few moments.  For centuries, many in history said the Jews killed Jesus.  Others have said the Romans killed Jesus.  Still others said it was the lost (the unsaved whom Jesus came to save) killed Jesus.  And while on the surface it appears each of those statements holds some factual basis, the truth is that NO ONE killed Jesus; at least not according to His Own words.  He said of His life, “I lay it down of myself.”  You see, the truth is this; if Jesus had not laid down His Own life, had He not “given up” the ghost, that is, released His Own spirit man to depart from His body, especially the moment before He became sin for us, He would not have died.  You see, Jesus was eternal; He was the Word made flesh; He was God-in-the-flesh; He was the perfect outshining of the Father; He NEVER sinned, and was the spotless, sinless, blameless Son of God.

But Jesus CHOSE to die.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, He cried to the Father, “Not My will be done, but Thine.”  Though it was not His personal desire to suffer the death of the cross and pay the penalty for our redemption, He yielded His will to Father’s will for the fulfillment of Scriptures and the setting in place the work of our redemption from the curse of the Law.

But now consider the authority of the believer in Christ.  Jesus said we would do the works He did.  One of those works was living a true Psalm 91 life.  Take a moment to read Psalm 91, and as you do, behold with rejoicing your placement and privilege in Christ, and the blessing and benefit if you walk in that covenant.  The Lord will “satisfy him (you) with long life.”  In fact, Psalm 91 clearly points to the truth that no one can take your life IF you live in the covenant life described in Psalm 91.  Well, dear friend, when considered in light of the truth of Psalm 91 and Genesis 6:3, it appears you, like Jesus, can live free of fear of anyone TAKING your life, for you have the privilege, and I believe the responsibility, to LAY YOUR LIFE DOWN; not for the sake of man’s redemption as Jesus did, but for the sake of honoring and serving our redeeming Lord.  Now go and walk out your SECOND MILE. 

Manna for Today – John 10:1-21; John 20:21; John 14:12-14; Romans 4:13-22; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Galatians 3:13-29; Psalm 91; Genesis 6:3

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He Already Knew

I’m so glad Father “so loved the world,” and not just one kindred, tribe, tongue, or nation.

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John 10:16 – And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice, and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

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The Scriptures tell us that in the plan of God, Jesus was crucified from BEFORE the foundation of the world.  His plan for our redemption was in place before the first particle of dust passed between His holy hands in the making of the first man.  Before Adam ever took his first breath, a glorious inhale of the very breath of God, our names were already written in heaven.  When Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary, the plan for our salvation was already in place.  I am speaking of the salvation of the Jew and Greek, bond and free, male and female, regardless of ethnicity, nationality, gender, or any other status by which men examine one another.  Jesus, when He was confounding the Scribes, Pharisees, and doctors of the Law in the temple in Jerusalem, knew why He was come into the world.  On His way to the cross as He journeyed through the ultimate torture for mankind, He knew His objective, and from it He would not sway.  While He hung on the cross, asking why Father had forsaken Him, He still knew His purpose was to serve His Father’s will, Whom He ultimately trusted with the commitment of His spirit.

And knowing all He knew, why He came, what He would suffer, where He had to go, and the price He had to pay, He continued in obedience to His Father, not only for the house of Israel, but for sheep for whom He paid the price that were not of the Israeli fold.  That fold was you and me; we who had no entry into His kingdom by natural bloodline.  It was you and me; sheep not of that fold, for whom He paid the same price as for the fold of the household of Israel.  We are those sheep.  Oh how great should be our daily thanksgiving to Him for our redemption, for through Christ, we have become the seed of Abraham, and heirs according to the promise.  Rejoice in that, my friend, and again I say rejoice.  Jesus knew us before we were even a thought in this natural world.  He has a plan for you.  In His eyes, you are as important as any other person who has ever lived.  He loves you like He loves Jesus, with Whom you are a joint-heir. 

Manna for Today – John 10:1-21; John 3:16-17; Romans 10:6-17; Galatians 3:13-29

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He Already Knew

I’m so glad Father “so loved the world,” and not just one kindred, tribe, tongue, or nation.

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John 10:16 – And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

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The Scriptures tell us that in the plan of God, Jesus was crucified from BEFORE the foundation of the world.  His plan for our redemption was in place before the first particle of dust passed between His holy hands in the making of the first man.  Before Adam ever took his first breath, a glorious inhale of the very breath of God, our names were already written in heaven.  When Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary, the plan for our salvation was already in place.  I am speaking of the salvation of the Jew and Greek, bond and free, male and female, regardless of ethnicity, nationality, gender, or any other status by which men examine one another.  Jesus, when He was confounding the Scribes, Pharisees, and doctors of the Law in the temple in Jerusalem, knew why He was come into the world.  On His way to the cross as He journeyed through the ultimate torture for mankind, He knew His objective, and from it He would not sway.  While He hung on the cross, asking why Father had forsaken Him, He still knew His purpose was to serve His Father’s will, Whom He ultimately trusted with the commitment of His spirit.

And knowing all He knew, why He came, what He would suffer, where He had to go, and the price He had to pay, He continued in obedience to His Father, not only for the house of Israel, but for sheep for whom He paid the price that were not of the Israeli fold.  That fold was you and me; we who had no entry into His kingdom by natural blood-line.  It was you and me; sheep not of that fold, for whom He paid the same price as for the fold of the household of Israel.  We are those sheep.  Oh how great should be our daily thanksgiving to Him for our redemption, for through Christ, we have become the seed of Abraham, and heirs according to the promise.  Rejoice in that, my friend, and again I say rejoice.  Jesus knew us before we were even a thought in this natural world.  He has a plan for you.  In His eyes, are you as important as any other person who has ever lived.  He loves you like He loves Jesus, of Whom you are a joint-heir. 

Manna for Today – John 10:1-21; John 3:16-17; Romans 10:6-17; Galatians 3:13-29

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Signification of a Good Shepherd

Aside from Jesus, are there any other good shepherds?

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John 10:11-12 – I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.  But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.

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To the answer of my introductory question, I declare, “Yes.”  In our Text for Today, Jesus clearly indicates the qualifications for a “good shepherd.”  Jesus declared, “the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”  Yes, it is an all-too-well-known fact that many pulpits have had self-serving agents, “career ministers,” and even charlatans filling them for the sake of a pay check, a feeling of power, or by a sense of self-worth because the fell they should inherit that position.  But all those “qualifications” do not describe a “good shepherd.”

Some people take the five-fold ministry as a profession.  It is not.  It is a calling; a divine calling.  Some think the pastoral office to be a “cushy” job in which one gains an audience and a paycheck.  It is not.  It is a place in which one is put to serve the body of Christ; not use it as a showcase.  And it is not a position of authority, but rather a placement of divine service to the body of Christ.  I personally know individuals who meet all those qualifications in a strong and consistent manner.  Yes, they are human, and as such, can make mistakes; even sin.  Yes, they live in physical bodies that can come under attack by the enemy, and constantly live with the need to use their faith for victory.  Yes, they have bills to pay, homes to maintain, and natural needs that should come to them through the giving of the church, but ultimately are provided to them by faith in Jesus Christ.  And yes, they have in the past, now do, and will continue to lay down their lives for the church they lead.  I served in that role for 28 years.  I know the responsibility, the weight, the burden, and the depth to which the work can take its toll on one’s life.  I know the struggles that can ensue, the attacks of the enemy, and the ploys he will use to attempt to cause a pastor to pull back from the pastoral responsibility.   All these things can be, and often are costly.  Every pastor I know lives in a place in which the need for constant learning and growth can be overwhelming.  The pastor is often faced with situations of which he never dreamed.  But rest assured, the Lord DOES know the answer.  It is the pastor who always places his trust in his Lord in those situations that one can call a “good shepherd.”  He is divinely connected to Jesus.  Through is daily living, manner of life, study, compelling drive to grow personally so he can serve better, a pastor shows himself a follower (imitator) of THE GOOD SHEPHERD, and as such, can be recognized as such. 

Manna for Today – John 10:1-21; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 2 Timothy 4:5

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Life Alone

Does it bring abundance of life?  If so, thank God for it.

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John 10:10 – 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.

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In our Text for Today, let us make a determined observation.  Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”  In that statement, who is “they?”  If you will read the preceding three verses, that will become clear to you.  “They” are His sheep.  Are you one of His sheep?  If so, this verse is specifically for you, and it is for you in its fullness.

Now let’s look a step further.  Jesus said He came so “they” might have something, and that something is very specific.  That specific thing is “life.”  But it is not simply “life;” it is life “more abundantly.”  So we are not talking about simply eating, breathing, walking about, working, and sleeping.  We are talking about a life of abundance being enjoyed in those activities.  Father wants you to enjoy eating, but He also wants your eating to create great health, joy, and blessing in your life.  Father wants you to breathe, but He wants your breathing to be clear, supplying all you need to enjoy every breath.  Father wants you to walk about, but He also wants you to possess wherever you set your foot – that’s prosperity.  Father wants you to sleep peacefully and to arise rested, refreshed, and ready to walk every step you take in victory and joy.

There is NOTHING Father desires for you that does not speak and represent life in its fullest.  There is NOTHING of Father that is “barely get along,” or “just make it by” in life.  His desire for your life is abun-dance in every arena of living, every day you live, for as long as you live.  Take a moment and consider our Text for Today once again.  These words of Jesus are so powerful, and very much to the point.  He wants us to have life, and to have it more abundantly.  And that, my dear friend, according to His Own words, IS WHY HE CAME.  Allow me to offer you this encouragement today.  Let Jesus do it for you.  Don’t disappoint Him.  He came for a purpose.  He said He always did those things that please the Father.  Therefore, for His people to enjoy absolute abundance of life is the will of both Father and Son, and if Their will, also the will of Holy Spirit.  Now with Father, Son, and Holy Ghost on your side, how could, and why should we live in any other way and at any other level.  Jesus did it all for you.  Enjoy it; that fullness of abundance in life He has provided for you! 

Manna for Today – John 10:1-21; Proverbs 4:20-23; Joshua 1:8; Isaiah 55:11; Psalm 107:20

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Patterns of a Thief

Throughout life, accurate observance reveals patterns.  Recognized patterns are defensible.

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John 10:10 – 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.

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Our Text for Today is one of the cornerstones of delineation for recognition of whose hand is at work.  If it “steals, kills, and destroys,” it is the hand of the enemy.  If it brings “life, and life abundantly,” it is from the Lord.  But today, our intent is to learn the pattern by which the enemy of our soul operates, and knowing that pattern, be able to stand against it in a more defensible stance.  Let’s examine the steps our enemy engages, understanding that Jesus said Satan comes to “steal, kill, and destroy.”

STEAL – Satan’s first order of business is to steal.  When the Word is sown, Satan comes immediately to “steal” the Word.  If Satan can steal the Word of God that has been sown in your heart, he can stop your faith.  If he can stop your faith, he has stolen from you the victory that is yours to overcome the world.  If your victory is stolen, all you have remaining is the defeat with which you must live, and which is likely to shorten, and certainly make more difficult, the life you live.

KILL – If Satan cannot steal the Word from your heart before it sprouts, before the seed becomes the blade, he has to move to the next level of his strategy.  Now you have the Word of God sprouting in your life.  When that happens, you can count on the fact that “persecutions and afflictions will arise for the Word’s sake.  This is Satan’s attempt to choke the life out of the Word of God in your heart, or to “kill” the Word in you.  If he can succeed in this venture, he prevents you from being fruitful.  If a plant is dead, no fruit will ever come from it.

DESTROY – If the Word in your heart begins to show forth fruit, as yet unripe, but nonetheless, being visible in your life, he rises to destroy that fruit.  He uses “the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things” to choke the Word, thereby destroying the fruitfulness that is about to become fully useable from your life.

My friend, this is Satan’s pattern.  It is used universally against the kingdom of God.  His devices to stop you, to steal your blessings, kill you, and destroy your testimony and the works you’ve done are encap-sulated in this pattern.  Don’t forget it.  Ah, but here is great news for you in this arena.  When you know his devices, and work by faith through love to bring forth fruit pleasing to Father, you can learn to live in a perpetual season of harvest in the different arenas of life.  You should plant for harvest in the arenas of spirit, soul, body, domestic, financial, professional, and social.  When you know the patterns of the thief, you achieve your harvest and preserve you fruit.  Your goal should be to make this perpetual in every arena of life. 

Manna for Today – John 10:1-21; Mark 4:1-26

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Go Ahead, Be a Window

There is more to building than the entry door.

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John 10:7 – Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.

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For my first assertion, I am in NO WAY endeavoring to belittle or make of any minor importance in the truth Jesus states in our Text for Today.  He ISthe “door of the sheep.”  And Jesus goes on to say that the door is the ONLY entry into the kingdom of God.   But there is something very important that He did NOT say in this passage, as well as some other very important indicators in the Word of God touching this topic.  What Jesus did not say something about in this passage was “windows.”

There is, however, a very important passage in which windows are a specific element of the conversation, and it is a passage I believe may not be fully embraced in our thoughts.  In the Malachi 3 passage about tithing, the Lord says if we follow His instruction concerning the paying of our tithes, there is a marked response He will show forth.  Look at it closely.  I believe too often we have ready it too quickly, and failed to recognize the full meaning of one repeated three-letter word – YOU.  We have read it to say that God would open the windows and pour out blessings for you that were too great to receive.  But look more closely.  It doesn’t say that.  What it DOES SAY is the He will open YOU the windows of heaven and pour YOU out a blessing to great to receive.  I believe He is saying that He will open YOU and pour YOU out.

You see, Jesus is the door, but you and I are the windows of heaven.  It is THROUGH us that people should be able to see the joys, riches, dynamics, power, love, life, and blessings of heaven.  What I am saying is simple.  We are not reservoirs designed to be containers of the blessing and power of the Lord.  On the contrary, we are channels THROUGH whom the life, power, and blessing of God is to flow.  Jesus is the DOOR to the kingdom, and you and I are the WINDOWS THROUGH which the world may view the blessing of the kingdom, and it is you and I that the Lord wants to pour out, flowing so dynamically with Holy Spirit that should be flowing our of our bellies, that there is not room enough to contain you.  I tell you, my friend, for a truth, when YOU cannot be contained because so much of Holy Spirit, His power, and His glory is flowing out of you, people will beg for an introduction to the DOOR. 

Manna for Today – John 10:1-21; Malachi 3:6-12

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Strange Voice

There is a sure way to know if the voice you hear is that of a stranger or not.

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John 10:5 – And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.

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In our world today, there are more voices speaking into the atmosphere about us than one can imagine.  Some think it makes no difference what they hear, but this is a deception of the enemy.  Jesus said we should both take heed “WHAT” and “HOW” we hear.  The reason for that needs to be understood by every believer, but sadly, it is not.  You see, faith, the spiritual force that pleases, and therefore, moves God, comes by hearing.  HEARING is critical to the life you lead.  Hear lies, and you train yourself to hear lies.  Hear gossip and you train yourself to hear gossip.  Hear backbiting and you train yourself to hear backbiting.  Hear deception and you train yourself to hear deception.  Hear faith, and you train yourself to hear faith.  In short, what you train yourself to hear is what you will most predominantly hear.

Moreover, what we hear impacts us like the information we receive from no other sense gate.  Once again, Jesus said we are to take heed “HOW” and “WHAT” we hear.  I have used the following pattern for life for many years.  “Guard your thoughts, they become your words.  Guard your words they become your actions.  Guard your actions, they become your habits.  Guard your habits, they become your character.  Guard your character, it becomes your legacy.”  One point that is not made in that litany of things to guard is your hearing.  And what makes that so very important to his list Is that what hear, if not guarded with your “HOW” and “WHAT” filters will become your thoughts.  Have you ever found yourself thinking about something to which you have only casually listened?  Yes, sight is important, but sight plays primarily to your soulish (mind, will, intellect, and emotions) arena, while hearing plays directly into your spirit man.  And this is especially true when we speak to ourselves.  That is why meditation (speaking, or muttering, to yourself the same words again and again) of the Word is vital to victorious Christian living.

So how can we be assured that what we hear is truth?  Go to the Word, my friend, go to the Word.  God’s Word is truth.  It is the truth you know that makes you free.  If it is freedom you seek, then it is truth you must hear and in which you must walk.  When you know the Word of God, you know when that which is NOT the Word is being spoken, and you know you should avoid it and get away from it.  And when you hear voices that speak contrary to the Word of God, you are hearing the voice of a stranger.  Regardless of how well you may know the sound of someone’s voice (parent, sibling, etc.) it is the source of one’s voice that is either true or false, that of your Master or a stranger.  Know the Word, my friend, and you can guard yourself against the voice of a stranger. 

Manna for Today – John 10:1-21; 2 Timothy 2:22; John 8:31-32; Mark 4:24; Luke 8:18

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