Archive for December, 2015

The Good Shepherd

JESUS SPEAKING

            Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  He will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy; I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full” (John 10: 7-10.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            In the first century shepherding was a very common profession.  Every good shepherd would tirelessly love and care for his sheep.  Feeding and watering the livestock remained an unending endeavor.  Every shepherd was also tasked with fending off hungry predators and keeping their sheep free from dangerous parasites.  Over time, the sheep would come to trust in and rely upon the individual guiding and protecting them.  After many days and nights of grazing in the open fields, the shepherd would need to rest.  Upon returning home, he would place his animals in a pen where he knew they would be safe.  Jesus is the ‘Good Shepherd.’  He came to gather his sheep together and lead them to safety.  In this parable, the sheep pen is meant to represent heaven; there remains a single gate through which one can enter.  Only those who have faith in and follow Jesus Christ are granted access to God’s kingdom.

            Today, flying is a very common mode of modern transportation.  In recent years, terrorists have utilized airplanes to commit atrocious acts of violence against many innocent people.  In an effort to prevent these attacks from occurring, airport security has become correspondingly severe.  There is now only one way in and one way out.  In turn, those seeking to enter through the security checkpoints must have the proper identification.  No license or alternative form of identification means no entry.  This rule is without exception; a nice smile, a kind face, and an appealing excuse are of no benefit whatsoever.  God’s kingdom is similar in many respects.  Simply put, there is one way to enter; and only those who have faith in the messiah are granted access.

            Jesus Christ is the ‘Good Shepherd.’  He came to lead his sheep into everlasting life.  Many have heard his words and received Him.  Still others however, have rejected him entirely.  Despite a number of differences, the faithful and the unfaithful have one thing in common; they will both one day stand at the gate; and only those who have called Jesus master and Lord will be able to enter God’s eternal Kingdom. 

            “Lord Heavenly Father, may we enter Your Kingdom.  We have come to trust in You; please lead us and teach us; provide for all of our needs.  May we be Your sheep and may You be our Shepherd; may we know Your voice and never be deceived.  Protect us from those who would seek to do us harm and inspire us to reach out to those who are lost.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you. 

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Shining Brightly

JESUS SPEAKING

            “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?  It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” (Mathew 5: 13.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            In ancient time’s salt was a very important commodity used to preserve meats; it was also a common ingredient included in many medicinal remedies.  However, despite its many varying applications, salt was most commonly employed to flavor foods; a little pinch and an otherwise bland dish would become rather tasty.  In this parable Jesus likens every believer to salt; those who remain flavorful are those who continue to fulfill their primary purpose; such individuals consistently serve their fellows, love others, and give to those in need.  Unfortunately, many who start out strong in the faith eventually lose their saltiness; they become self-centered and ungodly; they no longer possess the zeal to accomplish good works.  By serving themselves and not others, they become useless to God.

            The statue of liberty is one of America’s most widely recognized icons.  She remains an enduring symbol of freedom to all nations.  And yet ‘Lady Liberty’ has changed a great deal over the years.  On the day of her dedication in 1886, her polished copper surface was a vibrant spectacle of orange and bronze; a truly marvelous sight to behold.  Sadly, when copper interacts with the atmosphere it corrodes; over time, her shiny exterior has grown dull, muted, and green.  The statue of liberty is still a magnificent example of ingenuity and craftsmanship; however, she is no longer as marvelous as she once was on the day of her dedication.

            Similarly, many Christians dedicate themselves to Jesus Christ, and initially they shine quite brilliantly.  Their zeal for what is good and their desire to spread the gospel is unparalleled.  As they serve, the love of The Lord is manifest in them; drawing others toward God.  Sadly, over time, as other things displace their faith, selfishness begins to reign in their hearts.  They become dull and muted; such individuals are rendered useless to God.  May we never grow dull; may we continually put the Lord first in all that we do; and may we tirelessly strive to accomplish His will in this place.

            “Heavenly Father, fill us with Your Holy Spirit.  Give us opportunities to lovingly serve others.  We desire to be pleasing to You in all things; use us to further Your Kingdom.  May we always be zealous and flavorful; and may we never grow dull.  If we have turned away, please convict us and correct us.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Applying the word of God

JESUS SPEAKING

            “But why do you call me Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6: 46.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            The term ‘Lord,’ or ‘Master,’ is a title that implies supreme authority.  Every master employs servants; and a faithful servant obeys his master without question.  An unfaithful servant says he will obey but doesn’t.  Although the faithful and the unfaithful may both hear the word of God, hearing alone accomplishes very little.  Many atheists have read the bible; even those who hate Christ may have some knowledge of scripture; the devil himself excels in his understanding of divine truth.  Yet understanding and knowledge are meaningless without genuine obedience.  What distinguishes the faithful from the unfaithful isn’t years of contemplation or careful study; rather, it is the application of God’s word to daily living.  Only those who fully implement the teachings of Jesus Christ can truly call themselves servants of the living God.

            Jesus said, “You are the light of the world […] Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Some time ago, after reading this scripture, I chose to implement it; I bought brownies for the coffee shop employees and attached a card thanking them for their wonderful service.  I then delivered brownies to the bank employees and wished them a Merry Christmas.  I also purchased and delivered a small Christmas snack to an acquaintance who works at the grocery store; and another to a friend in the coffee shop.  I gave a gift to an employee at the gym.  I then bought and delivered a toy to the church office for the Christmas toy drive.  While answering the prayer lines at the church I gave Christmas gifts to everyone in the front office.  When I arrived at work later in the day, I handed a Christmas gift to my co-worker.  Then I shared my dinner with the client I work for.  Because I had been obedient to the teachings of the Lord, he used me to bring Him Glory.  Being exposed to God’s commandments is important; but applying them is perhaps even more critical.

            Reading the word of God is merely half of an absolutely essential task.  To listen to a sermon is to receive inspiration that demands application.  Faith in its most complete form is an action.  Faithful servants are therefore those who hear the words of Jesus Christ and do them.  If you desire obedience, become familiar with your masters teachings; read His word daily, and seek to carry out His desires in the lives of all those you meet. [Note:  In the bible, ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ is the most concise and condensed summary of the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Become acquainted with this section of scripture.  The discourse begins in Mathew Chapter 5 verse 1, and ends in Mathew chapter 7, verse 27.]   

            “Lord Jesus Christ, we want to be doers of Your word and not hearers only.  May Your inspiration find its application in our lives.  Teach us Your precepts and fill our hearts with Your commands.  Give us the opportunities to accomplish Your will in this world.  May all of our deeds exemplify Your love for others.  May we lay down our lives to serve You; our Lord and our master!  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ name, amen.”  God bless all of you.

God is our friend

JESUS SPEAKING

                “You are my friends if you do whatever I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15: 14 – 15.) 

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                After eating the Passover feast, the Lord said farewell to his closest companions.  In a long discourse (filled with emotion and love) Jesus revealed God’s complete plan to his disciples.  During his address, those who had called him Master were urged to consider him a ‘friend.’  The term ‘friend’ implies a deeper, more intimate relationship.  In ancient times, masters and servants were never equals; they weren’t partners; and they certainly weren’t friends; their positions prevented them from engaging in close personal fellowship.  In order to preserve authority and respect, the master had to maintain a safe distance (as “familiarity breeds disrespect.”)  Yet the ‘King of Kings’ (Jesus) shattered the barriers that hindered true intimacy.  He was no longer just their Lord and master, but also their brother and friend.

                When I was 19, I worked as a guard and counselor at a minimum security juvenile facility.  My role was that of a disciplinarian.  Often, when a child misbehaved, we had to intervene and physically restrain them.  We were therefore given a great deal of power and authority.  Although we interacted with the children in positive ways, we had to maintain a professional distance.  Too much intimacy would cause them to lose respect for us and our positions.  If they came to believe that we were their equals, they would question and disobey our commands.  Those who falsely see God as an equal lose respect for Him.  Fear of God is good; those who fear Him are aware of his power and authority.  In turn, God sent His Son, so that all could know Him as a ‘friend’ as well as a Father.

              God must always be honored and respected; He is our master and we are His servants; in turn, there is a distance between God and man.  In His divine wisdom, He chose to use His only Son to draw near to all people.  Jesus Christ is God’s gift to mankind.  He is God in a form we need not fear; we need only approach Him in love; we are free to speak to Him; to fellowship with Him; and to be in communion with Him.  He is more than our teacher, our master, and our shepherd; he is also our brother, our closest companion, and our best friend.  Would you like to know God?  If you seek intimacy with the Lord, then embrace Jesus Christ and you will experience true peace; look to the Son of God and you will know the Father.  Invite him in to your heart and he will teach you all things; and “you will know the truth; and the truth shall make you free.”

                “Lord Heavenly Father we love You, and we thank You for Your son.  We desire to draw near to him; therefore remove every obstacle and destroy every barrier.  May he be our brother, our companion, and our friend; that through Him we might look to You for direction, comfort, and affection.  We love You Father; we praise You, and we praise thank You; and we ask all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you. 


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