Archive for January, 2018

Jesus is the Only Way to Enter

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 days of Jesus shepherding was a very common profession.  A good shepherd would effortlessly love and care for his sheep.  Most shepherds were continually concerned with feeding and watering their livestock; they also fended off hungry predators, and made sure to keep the sheep free from dangerous parasites.  Over time, the sheep would come to trust in and rely upon the one who guided them and loved them.  After many days and nights of grazing in the open fields, the shepherd would need to rest; he would return home and put his animals in a pen where he knew they would be safe; the pen prevented them from wandering off; it also protected them from hungry predators.  Jesus is the ‘Good Shepherd.’  He came to gather together his sheep, and to lead them to safety.  The sheep pen is an illustration that represents heaven; a place free from predators, where all of God’s children will one day dwell safely in peace.  The Lord also proclaimed that there is just one way to enter the Kingdom of God.  Only those who have faith in and follow Jesus Christ can truly be saved.

     Today, flying is a common mode of transportation.  In recent years, many 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 appropriately severe.  There is only one way in, and one way out.  Those seeking to enter through the security checkpoints must have proper identification.  No license, or government identification, means no entry.  This rule is without exception (a nice smile, a kind face, and an appealing excuse are of no benefit.)  God’s kingdom is similar in many respects.  There is one way to enter; only those who have faith in Jesus Christ can be admitted.  If someone has been a kind and generous person for 85 years, but is not a child of God, they lack the proper identification.  No non-believing Buddhist, Muslim, atheist, or agnostic, for example will be allowed entry; for they lack the one thing needed to fellowship with the Eternal Father; his one and only Son.

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

      “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire to continue in the faith.  We have come to trust in You fully; lead us Lord; 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 in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you. 

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Giving is better than Receiving

JESUS SPEAKING

            “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20: 35.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            The word ‘blessed’ most commonly translates in to the English word for ‘happiness.’  Those who live a ‘blessed’ life regularly experience joy, peace, and contentment.  Such a pleasant existence can only be achieved and maintained through daily acts of selflessness and service.  Sadly however, nearly all human beings are resoundingly selfishness.  In an endeavor to acquire as many possessions as possible, many become isolated, depressed, and discouraged. They aren’t aware that true happiness doesn’t come from selfish gain; rather, it is the product of selfless giving.

            Michael Norton, a Harvard business professor, sought to discover a link between overall happiness and daily giving.  He conducted an experiment in which a small amount of money was given to a group of test subjects.  Half of the participants were instructed to spend the money on themselves; the other half were told to spend the money on someone else.  When researchers contacted the subjects at the end of the day, they found that those who had spent the money on someone else reported feeling much happier than those who had selfishly squandered their’ allotted funds.  [Note:  In another study, Norton found that sales team productivity and relationship quality increased as salespeople were given money to spend on other team members.]

            Norton had discovered that, although selfish gain seems appealing, it also lacks the power to bring about lasting joy.  Genuine peace and contentment are the products of selflessness and sacrifice.  By serving and giving, we can demonstrate the generosity and love of Jesus Christ. May we never forget that happiness comes not from what we might receive, but rather, from what we are willing to give.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, pour out upon us Your many blessings.  As we love and serve our fellows, may we be filled with happiness and joy.  May our selfish desires come to an end; that through sacrifice, others might come to glorify Your holy name. 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.

Making Amends

JESUS SPEAKING

          “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mathew 5: 23-24.)               

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          No one can have a close relationship with God in a vacuum; human beings live within complex social structures; communities made up of family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and even complete strangers.  Our relationship with others is a reflection of our relationship with God.  When we sin against our neighbor, we also sin against our Lord.  If we lie, slander, and hate another person, we have lied, slandered, and hated our own creator.  In the first century, many Jewish families traveled long distances to sacrifice animals to atone for their sins; having received forgiveness, they were restored to a right relationship with God.  Jesus teaches us that we are to first be reconciled to our neighbor; only then are we permitted to approach the Lord and honor Him with our sacrifices.  Today, this commandment, known as ‘making amends,’ is still an essential Christian practice.

          When I came to California many years ago, I began working a 12 step program; a system designed to help me overcome a horrible drug addiction.  The creators of the first six steps were Christians; a gathering of believers known as the oxford group.  In turn, the steps were heavily influenced by the teachings found in the book of James, the Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians, verse 13.  After becoming a Christian, I discovered that Christ’s command to make amends likely inspired the founders to create the 8th and 9th steps.  The eighth step reads, “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to amends to them all.”  The ninth step reads, “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”  From 2005 until today, I’ve continued making amends to those I’ve harmed.  I’ve made restitution and paid off every delinquent debt; I’ve also asked for forgiveness from those who were affected by my sins.  With every apology I’ve felt myself growing closer to the lord.

          Today, in order to move forward with God, you might consider delving into your past.  Examine your previous mistakes.  If you’ve stolen from anyone, pay them back; if you’ve lied, and your lies have caused hardship, return and speak the truth.  If by mistreating others, you have created resentments, you are commanded to humble yourself, and request forgiveness.  Making amends is an important Christian practice.  We’ve all sinned; but what we do with those sins will determine whether we grow closer to the Lord, or remain at a distance.  The choice is ours to make.

          “Lord Heavenly Father, bring to our remembrance the names of those we have harmed; may we approach them and make restitution.  Give us the strength and the humility to ask for forgiveness; that we might be reconciled to those who are resentful.  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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