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Only One 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 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 usually 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; and 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. 

Jesus Creates Division

JESUS SPEAKING

    “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!  Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division.  For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Luke 12: 49-53.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

    Jesus corrected the commonly held belief that he came to bring peace to the earth; his real purpose was to give everyone the opportunity to choose their eternal destinations for themselves.  The baptism Jesus underwent on the cross divided the world in two; some have accepted his sacrifice and followed his teachings; still others believe he was just a man, and the cross has no meaning in their lives.  On this earth the strongest of all bonds exists within the family unit. Loyalty among siblings is paramount; as is the fidelity between children and their parents; yet not even these sacred relationships can withstand the new order Christ’s sacrifice has produced; the believer’s new supreme allegiance belongs to the Son of God, and those who share this allegiance make-up, ‘The Body of Christ.’

    In the book of Luke, Jesus presented a man with the gospel, saying, “Follow me!”  The man responded, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”  Jesus then replied, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you, go and preach the kingdom.”  Eventually another man came to him and said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”  Jesus responded saying, “No one, having put his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God.”  In both cases Jesus caused turmoil and separation; creating division between those who believe and those who do not.

    Jesus Christ is the prince of peace; however, he is also a sword that cuts the world in two.  He came to produce unity among his followers and division between those followers and everyone else.  Often, if we are at peace with the world, then we are in opposition to God. Persecution is also a very real part of genuine faith.  We will be divided from others and suffer numerous afflictions, but we will never be alone. We must be strong for each other; as a single body we can endure and overcome the world; through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ we can know victory.

    “Lord Heavenly Father, we ask that You give us the strength to step out in faith.  We hunger for Your Word, and desire to be Your followers. May we be filled with love, and may we never be ashamed of the truth.  May our allegiance to You and to Your Son be supreme; may we never put anyone or anything ahead of You Lord. 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 we pray.  Amen.” God bless all of you!

A Genuine Servant

JESUS SPEAKING

    But Jesus called them to himself and said, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  However, it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.  And whoever desires to be first shall be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10: 42 – 45.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

    As children we are taught that dominance is better than submission, and that a higher social status means a better life.  Many therefore seek to acquire positions of great power and authority.  Yet Christ’s teachings are in direct opposition to such worldly principles.  Those who follow Jesus must deny what they have been taught, in order to embrace the doctrines of genuine faith and divine humility.  Only by abandoning the desire for greatness, can one completely and lovingly serve others. [Note: This does not mean you need to quit your job or stop seeking a higher wage or position. However, we must always be humble, no matter our station in life.]

    For years young men from across the country have flocked to the church where I used to serve, seeking to do pastoral ministry.  Many hopefuls were initially referred to a pastor named Romain, who employed a special technique designed to separate the qualified from the unqualified.  As the prospects approached, he would hand them a broom and tell them to go sweep a portion of the church.  Although many were obedient, others felt insulted and became upset.  One common response sounded something like this, “I came here to be a pastor and to teach the bible, not to sweep floors.”  Pastor Romain knew then that they did not have a servant’s heart; they had not come to serve and to practice humility, but to acquire power and authority.

    Those who follow the Son of God must give-up the desire for worldly greatness in order to pursue lowliness and humility.  Seeking to serve others rather than to be served, we become the men and women God has called us to be.  We can serve at home, in the community, at work, and in our church.  We can serve our family members, coworkers, friends, neighbors, and even complete strangers.  Only through selflessness and sacrifice can we be transformed into the image of our great Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.     

    “Lord Heavenly Father, inspire us to seek lowliness and humility.  May we hunger to love and serve others in sincerity and singleness of heart.  Provide us with opportunities to place the needs of our fellows ahead of our own, that we might be examples of Your great mercy and everlasting affection.  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!

Actions Matter

JESUS SPEAKING

    “But what do you think?  A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in my vineyard.’  He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went.  Then he came to the second and said likewise.  And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir’ but he did not go.  Which of the two did the will of his Father?”  They said to him, “The first.”  Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that the tax collectors and the harlots enter the kingdom of God before you” (Mathew 21: 28-31.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

    There are two kinds of people; those who do and those who don’t.  The priests and religious leaders failed to obey God despite their many years of biblical study; they preached of righteousness but were unsuccessful in achieving it.  They confused knowledge with wisdom (knowledge is the comprehension of truth; whereas wisdom is the application of it.)  While the intelligent were refusing to be obedient, many prostitutes and tax collectors were receiving salvation.  These social outcasts possessed very little knowledge of scripture; yet what little they did possess, they chose to apply.  The gospel is not just a thought or a good intention; it is an action.

  In the spring of 1862 a confederate Major General named ‘Stonewall Jackson’ fought a famous military campaign in a valley near the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.  His tactics were unorthodox and his troop movements unpredictable (he utilized speed and stealth to attack his union counterparts.)  Concerning speed, he reportedly marched his 17,000 men nearly ‘646 miles in 48 days’ (approximately 13 miles a day.)  Traveling at this furious pace, they met many natural obstacles (such as hills and streams.)  At one point, they encountered a river too treacherous to cross.  Jackson told his engineers to draw up plans for a bridge; he then summoned his wagon master and informed him that they urgently needed to cross the river.  The wagon master began to gather together every rock, fence rail, and log he could find; before sunrise the next day, the wagon master approached General Jackson and said, ‘The artillery and wagons have crossed the river sir.’  General Jackson replied, ‘Where are the engineers, and what are they doing?’  The wagon master replied, ‘they are in their tent, drawing up the plans for the bridge.’

    Knowledge is useless unless it is implemented to accomplish a task.  We are called to be ‘doers of the word, and not hearers only.’  The Christian life is a life of action.  When God commands us to love our enemies, we must love them.  When he instructs us to give to the poor and needy, we must open our wallets (and purses.)  When we are directed to pray for those who persecute us, we must drop to our knees.  Keep the commandments of God and you will be blessed; obey Him and you will experience peace; follow Him and you will know joy; joy eternal; joy everlasting; joy without end.

 “Lord Heavenly Father, give us the strength to live out Your commandments.  May we receive Your words and accomplish them.  May we be ‘doers of Your word and not hearers only;’ may our actions bring others to repentance; may we love our neighbors without restraint or indignation.  We love You Father, and 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.

The Rapture

JESUS SPEAKING

    “And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of man (Jesus Christ):  For they ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all […] even so will it be in the day that the Son of man (Jesus Christ) is revealed.  In that day, he who is on the housetop and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away.  And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back.  Remember Lot’s wife.  Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.  I tell you in that night there will be two men in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left.  Two women will be grinding together; the one will be taken and the other left.  Two men will be in the field; the one will be taken and the other left” (Luke 17: 26 – 27, 30 – 36.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

    The event Jesus describes in this scripture has collectively become known as ‘the rapture.’  In a moment, in the blink of an eye, God will gather up his faithful believers from around the world before pouring out His wrath upon the earth.  Co-workers, relatives, friends, and complete strangers will vanish in an instant.  Those who are left behind will face God’s judgments.  How can we be prepared for the rapture?  By loving eternal rewards more than worldly possessions (wealth, homes, jobs, belongings, etc.)  Jesus asks us to consider Lot’s wife; a woman who was ill-prepared for God’s deliverance.  In the Old Testament, she and her family were lead out of the wicked city of Sodom and Gomorrah just prior to its destruction.  Sadly she disobeyed God’s command, by turning around and looking back upon the city with fondness and affection.  As a result she was turned in to a pillar of salt.

    Like Lot’s wife, many people throughout history have mistakenly loved worldly possessions more than their own lives.  One day as my dad and I were driving through the town where I grew up, we happened by a certain building.  He informed me that decades earlier the building had caught on fire.  The owner foolishly rushed in and went to the basement to collect some of his valuables.  Unfortunately he became trapped inside.  He desperately tried to crawl through a basement window; but it was too small for him to fit through.  Unable to help, onlookers could do nothing but watch as he perished in the flames.  He died because he valued his possessions more than his own life.

    Similarly, some people today value their belongings more than their eternal lives. Those who take great comfort in their worldly possessions might be ill-prepared for the coming kingdom.  As believers we must be ready for ‘the rapture;’ an event that could occur at any moment.  To be completely prepared is to love God more than anything else.  We must make truth more important than trust funds and make people more valuable than possessions.  As our values change we will come to embrace the rapture and look forward to it with great joy and overwhelming anticipation.

    “Lord Heavenly Father, help us to value the things that are truly important.  Prepare our hearts and minds for the rapture; may our thoughts be continually focused upon Your coming Kingdom.  Strengthen us by the power of Your Holy Spirit that we might accomplish your will and bring honor and glory to your Holy name. We love you, and praise you, and thank you, and ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name,  amen.”  God bless all of you!

Eradicating Doubt

JESUS SPEAKING

   And he left them, and getting in to a boat again (with his disciples), departed to the other side.  Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and they did not have more than one loaf with them in the boat.  Then he charged them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”  And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have no bread.”  But Jesus being aware of it, said to them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread?  Do you not yet perceive nor understand?  Is your heart still hardened?  Having eyes, do you not see?  And having ears, do you not hear?  And do you not remember?  When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?”  They said to Him, “Twelve.”  “Also when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?”  And they said, “Seven.”  So he said to them, “How is it you do not understand?” (Mark 8: 13 – 21.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

   Shortly after feeding four thousand people with seven loaves of bread, Jesus warned his disciples to beware of doubtful thoughts.  Despite having just witnessed God’s heavenly provision, the disciples began to fear that they hadn’t brought enough food for their journey.  The Lord addressed their uncertainties by reminding them of his previous miracles.  On two separate occasions he had fed thousands with scarcely enough food to feed a small family.  If doubts arise within our hearts, they can quickly be eradicated by recalling the many miracles God has performed for us in the past.

   I once heard a man give his personal testimony.  As a youth he had been hopelessly addicted to drugs.  Eventually he received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  He began reading the bible and his life started changing.  Although sober, he hadn’t yet given up his old friends.  One day he was gathered together with them in a house; he was reading his bible while they were doing drugs.  Suddenly a group of heavily armed police officers broke through the door and began arresting everyone.  He was so frightened he could barely move.  He thought, ‘If I just sit here and read my bible, nothing will happen to me.’  He heard lamps falling and people yelling as they were being dragged to the ground and arrested.  As the commotion swirled around him he never took his eyes off of God’s word.  After a short time he heard the front door slam and the house was completely silent.  Looking up he realized he was all alone.  No one had tackled him; no one had arrested him; no one had even questioned him.  Sometime afterward, God told him that He had blinded the eyes of the officers so that they couldn’t see him.  This man has undoubtedly recalled this miracle on many occasions to dispel his doubts and to inspire his faith.

   Even the most faithful believers can occasionally experience doubtful thoughts.  If and when they arise, the natural remedy is remembrance.  How often has God healed our bodies; how often has He provided for our needs and protected us from trouble?  Our faith is preserved in times of trouble by remembering the wonderful miracles God has already performed in our lives.

  “Lord Heavenly Father, increase our faithfulness.  In moments of weakness may we be reminded of the many miracles You have already performed.  Through remembrance may our doubts be destroyed and our fears be put to death.  Fill our hearts with love, and peace, and truth, that we may continually trust in You and Your Son.  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!

Trust in God

JESUS SPEAKING

      Then he got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s (Peter’s), and asked him to put out a little from the land.  And he sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.  When he had stopped speaking, he said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” But Simon (Peter) answered and said to him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at your word I will let down the net.”  And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their net was breaking.  So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them.  And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. When Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5: 3-8.) 

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

      The disciples had just finished fishing, and having caught nothing, they were busy cleaning their nets for the day.  Jesus told Peter to push out one last time and drop his nets.  Although he didn’t want to, Peter obeyed Jesus and pushed out to sea.  Because of his obedience, they caught more fish than they could’ve ever imagined; so many that the net was nearly bursting.  In recognition of this miracle, Peter humbled himself and fell down before Jesus.  His understanding of who Jesus was had abruptly transformed.  Peter had witnessed a miracle because he didn’t permit his experience as a fisherman, or his own reasoning to compete with the commandment of Christ.  Peter didn’t push out into the water because he expected to haul in the largest catch of his career; instead he pushed out into the sea because he was being obedient to Jesus Christ.

      Each of us woke up this morning with many preexisting expectations.  We expected our alarm clocks to work, our cars to start, and our cell phones to be functional; we have learned to rely upon them; we trust in them.  We can trust our gadgets, and even our own instincts and abilities, but when it comes to trusting Jesus Christ, we often have difficulty? Peter initially questioned Christ’s command to ‘push out;’ preferring instead to rely upon his own understanding and knowledge.  And yet he eventually witnessed God accomplish a wonderful work, because he stopped trusting in himself and began to trust in God. 

      Today, we need to trust in God and not always our own limited understanding.  We must be obedient to what God is calling us to do.  Is there some area of your life where you are refusing to relinquish control?  Search your heart.  God has called each of us to be obedient to His commands.  Obedience is often difficult, but unless we obey God we will never experience any of His miracles.  May we all ‘push out’ and always place our trust in the almighty and everlasting God.

      “Dear Heavenly Father, help us to relinquish control over our lives and give them back to You.  Lord Jesus, please help us to be obedient.  Fill us with the Holy Spirit, that we might have the faith to trust in you.  Reveal to us any areas where we are walking in error, and help us to change.  We love You Father, we thank You, and we trust 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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