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Most of the articles on these WebPages have been written by godly men with a central belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. However as with most of us, they may have different beliefs concerning some particular doctrines. These articles have been made available for the purpose of “gleaning the good” where good can be found. I do not necessarily endorse all that is written by others, anymore than I expect others to endorse all that I write.

   Morning Thoughts by Elder Philip Conley

John 21:15-17, "So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep."

This morning, our mind is drawn to a simple, yet paramount, responsibility of the ministry. In my own little experience, I find that some self-examination generally leads to awareness of some aspect of the ministry that I am neglecting, whether it be in certain areas of Scripture or certain functions of the ministry. Then, when I focus on those areas that seem neglected, I, in turn, neglect something else just as vitally important as the one I am focused upon. However, in all of our various duties and functions, the subject of feeding God's lambs and sheep should never be "put on the back burner." We may feel some correction is necessary and in order, but that does not, in turn, merit the withholding of necessary food for their souls. One thing I have learned, since having natural children of my own, is that no matter how much discipline they need, they will continue to stand in need of food on a daily basis. Granted, we may have "bad days" full of necessary spankings and other corrective measures, but neglecting the feeding of them is dire indeed. Should we neglect the correction, we have fat, lazy children or sheep. Should we neglect the food, we will have whipped, starved little scarecrows. Therefore, let us labour in the right balance, seeking to know the right measure of each.

Peter here is being asked by Christ about the very heart of the calling of the ministry. While there are far more thoughts here than we will be able to address, let us discover as many as suitable for this writing. Christ's first question is more detailed than the subsequent two that will follow. The first time Christ asks there is included in the question "more than these." Many men have written many different ideas about what the "these" are that Christ referred to here. Briefly, some have stated that 1. the "these" are the fish laying on the shore that represented Peter's secular occupation, 2. the "these" are the other disciples that Christ was asking if he (Peter) loved Him (Christ) more than they did, or 3. the "these" are the other disciples that Christ was asking if Peter loved Him (Christ) more than he loved them. The first thought brings to light that the love we have for the Lord and His people needs to far exceed any natural calling, occupation, or endeavour. The second thought brings to light that we should be striving to love Him more now than before (although not in the spirit of comparative competition). The third thought brings to light that no matter how much we love someone else (even those in the household of faith and church of the Living God) we should love Him more. Each of these thoughts holds merit, and quite frankly, I would probably "amen" any one of them, although I tend to lean towards the third thought more than the others.

As Christ moves on in continuing to basically ask Peter the same question, we get the same response from Peter. The answer given to Peter then is the same answer that ministers have today. If we truly love the Lord, His people, and our calling, then we are to feed them whether in season or out of season. One of the things that I have always found interesting about this scene between Peter and the Lord is that the Lord did not give Peter any different instructions for feeding the lambs than He did the sheep. Should there be any Biblical merit for our children learning in church differently from the adults, there would not be a more ideal place for it than here, in my opinion. Rather, Christ gives him a basic instruction to feed them all alike. Peter understood from past experiences with Christ that He fed them all alike in one accord in one place. Peter's course, from this command, was to be no different. Christ refused not the children to come unto Him, and they sat in the multitudes with their parents. So likewise was Peter to feed and instruct old and young alike.

Now we get into something that I think about quite often and accomplish much less. On one occasion, my late father was asked by a younger minister, "Why is it that there seem to be three different types of preachers? There are those that other preachers seem to enjoy but the congregation doesn't. There are those that the congregation seems to enjoy but other preachers don't. Then, there are those that everybody seems to enjoy. Why is that?" My father's response will be paraphrased in the next paragraph, and it really gets to the heart of how we are to teach and feed the people from the oldest to the youngest, the most sage and wise elder to the youngest babe in Israel.

Preachers that are enjoyed by other preachers and not the congregation are those that are appealing to people that have really dug down deep to study. They are going to places that it takes a developed palate to taste and enjoy. These ministers are loading up their buffet wagon with caviar, sushi, exotic meats, and luxury items. My own mouth would be very unsuited to many of those natural foods because I have not often or ever had the opportunity to eat them. Many of the lambs of Zion have not been to these areas that these ministers go to, and therefore do not enjoy it that much, while the fellow ministers do enjoy it as they have studied similar things. Preachers that the congregation enjoys that other preachers do not are those that preach very simply to the young, and they load their buffet wagon up with fried catfish, fried chicken, hush puppies, french fries, and a bottle of ketchup. The congregation enjoys the taste, but the studied ministers may feel neglected in the ministration. The third group is where we should all, as ministers, seek to be. Load our buffet wagon up and lay the sushi next to the catfish. Take the tray of caviar and lay it down with the french fries. Let all feed together, enjoy the meal, and glorify the Lord for the effort.

When the lambs and sheep feed together from the same field and trough, their stomachs may require certain things to promote healthy growth. A natural lamb needs more milk than an old ram does. Too much grain or grass may be unhealthy for a lamb's stomach, while the ewe needs such to grow. Ministers need to be very conscientious of this so that the proper food reaches all together to maintain healthy growth. Again, should this need to be done in separation from one another, I believe the Lord would have here specified it, but dear friends, He did not, as there is no need. I have witnessed as God blessed a minister to stand and proclaim the rich truths of Zion to the hungry lambs and sheep in which all rejoiced as all were fed the necessary food to promote their growth in grace and knowledge in the Lord Jesus Christ.

One final thought about the feeding of God's sheep is this: God asked Peter three times this question. Peter's final response included an extra clause (much like Christ's first question included an extra clause), "Lord, thou knowest all things." Peter understood that the One before him knew the thoughts and intents of his heart, and was thereby grieved when the question came up three times. I have always personally thought that Christ's three questions are directly related to Peter's three denials of Him. Peter understands that Christ knows the answer, but Christ is showing Him that we still need to re-affirm it. Saying we love Him once would be akin to a married couple only telling each other of their love on their wedding day. As a married man, I understand that my wife likes to hear affirmed what she already knows to be true. Our Lord enjoys hearing us say what He knows our hearts already speak. So, why the point of affirming love to Him in
conjunction with feeding His heritage?

The logical link between affirming love to Him and feeding sheep is that they must go hand-in-hand. What feeds the soul like nothing else? Hearing about the love of God, manifested in the Person of Jesus Christ. Hearing of His great love for us and how that love constrains us (II Corinthians 5:14) sparks the fire of declaration of our love for Him. Souls are nourished up in this fashion as we grow together by charitable affirmation. When the love of God is preached as it ought to be preached or grace is heralded as it ought to be proclaimed, our duty and labour of love and confirmation to these things will flow from it like a river. By hearing how great things He has done for us, the logical course leads to the love we have for Him and should show to Him. We may be dining on what the world considers poor and pitiful herbs, but a meal with Christ where love is far exceeds any of the stalled oxen in the world where hatred abounds. (Proverbs 15:17)
Therefore, may we meet together showing our love for Him above all others, seeking as ministers to feed all what they stand in need of (looking to the Lord for direction), and showing forth a bond of charity that someone from the outside would freely confess upon seeing the sight, "God is in you of a truth." (I Corinthians 14:25)

In Hope,

Bro Philip