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Archive for the tag “Jesus is the gate”

Hard Truth

All day, I have been avoiding this post. When I woke up this morning, a conversation I had yesterday was on my mind. When I had my quiet time, the conversation was still there – even more so after praying about it. After my quiet time, I went to the gym. I came home for lunch; it was still there. After lunch, I worked out in the yard. The longer I put it off the more it burned in my heart. So I guess I need to convey what was said and what’s troubling me about it.

For the last few weeks (months?), I have been praying for opportunities to talk with a friend about her beliefs. I have had a couple of occasions where I got bits and pieces and the picture is getting a bit clearer. It is as I suspected which makes me pray even more so. However, what I didn’t really pray about was another friend’s beliefs. I thought I knew what she believed and was not as concerned about her.

A couple of weeks ago, the latter friend and I started a conversation about the decision handed down from the governing board of the United Methodist Church. She’s a member of the UMC. I thought I knew her position and didn’t want to debate her about the decision. The decision the board revealed at that time was the decision to stay with the traditional views of the church doctrine. She was upset with their decision. The conversation was interrupted and we never got back to it until yesterday.

She received an email from her local church concerning this traditional plan and their denouncement of the board’s decision. She wanted me to read the email, which I did. Then she wanted my opinion. I told her I disagreed with the principles they were laying out for their church to follow. She was floored by my views, but I knew she would not understand. She started questioning me about what I believed about the Bible. She said she believed that it was not to be taken literally. But the kicker for me was that she said that God had to change with culture. I was floored. Why would God change on the fickleness of human thinking? It made no sense to me.

I don’t know everything about the Bible; there is still room to grow in my knowledge. However, I feel confident that what I know to be true is true – God does not change. The Bible is God’s Word and I believe every word of it. I didn’t know how to respond any further to her. If we can’t agree on the foundation of the Bible, there wasn’t anything more I could say that would change her mind. The conversation has left me with feeling a bit perplexed.

Many years ago, my viewpoint was totally different. I was very liberal, just like my friend. But I was living a lifestyle that was against God’s teaching. I wanted my beliefs to line up with my thinking. I was discounting the verses that didn’t line up with my thinking. The Bible cannot be bent to please my ears. After I left that lifestyle and started listening to sound teaching and reading the Bible daily, I began to see how deceived I had been in those early years.

What I find so disconcerting right now is the spiritual battle being waged in the church body today. I think some of the funk that I have been in for the last few months is the darkness that is being revealed in the church body. I feel the oppression like a weight bearing down on my soul. I don’t know everything about spiritual battles, but I know enough to see how the war is being fought hard for the church to survive in America today.

The Scripture tells us Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). Jesus said that the Way to heaven is narrow and few will find it (Matthew 7:13-14). One other Scripture comes to mind, Jesus said that the one who stands firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13). In the verse before this, He said sin will be rampant everywhere. How true it is today – even in the church. But to the ones who stand firm on His teachings will be saved – it’s His promise. The others? The future isn’t that promising.

I turn to Revelation and see the last church mentioned before the end of the church age – the church in Laodicea. The church is lukewarm – neither hot nor cold. The church thought they were rich; but by Jesus’ standards, they were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked (Revelation 3:18). Jesus said to be earnest and repent. He stands at the door knocking, waiting on us to open the door and let Him in. In the church. In our hearts. When we give Him access, we change, He doesn’t.

The one who is victorious will have the right to sit with Jesus on His throne. Stand firm on God’s Word. Don’t let culture deceive you into thinking that God’s word is outdated. God’s Word stands forever. God does not change and He will not be mocked. I truly believe this. Do you?

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Galatians 6:7-8

“The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8

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The Good Shepherd

Over the last month, I have heard messages about the Good Shepherd. There must be something in this passage that I need to learn. The passage is from Psalm 23. I think we have all heard this passage even if we know nothing about God or Jesus. I think every funeral has this as the main message; shadow of death and all. Yet, do we really know what it means? Do we really reflect on the truth found there?

King David is attributed as the writer to this psalm. King David had been a shepherd when he was called by God to be the next king. He was just a teenager at the time and wasn’t even present when the Jesse’s sons were lined up in front of the prophet Samuel. God told Samuel to go to Jesse’s to anoint the next king. The first son passed before Samuel, and he thought surely this is the one. But God said no. The second was passed by as well, but no. By the end of the line, Samuel must have wondered if he heard God correctly. But Jesse had one more son out in the fields tending the sheep. David was called from the fields and anointed king over Israel. But he went right back out to the fields until the day, God called him to bigger things.

Young David had time to think in those fields. I’m sure he contemplated many things as he drove the sheep from pasture to water and then enclosed them in for the night. The Bible tells us that David was a man after God’s own heart. He had a greater depth of knowledge about God than most do. Maybe he realized God is a Good Shepherd. Maybe David even realized at some point, we are like the sheep – helpless without the shepherd.

Ben Stewart from Passion City Church mentioned we are referenced as the sheep over 500 times in the Bible. Okay – the point is we’re like sheep. My pastor said on Sunday, this is not a good thing. Sheep are stupid. There is not one instance where a sheep has been trained. However, a sheep learns their shepherd’s voice and follows it. They are smart enough not to follow another shepherd. They are also aware that the shepherd is their lifeline.

Okay, maybe we’re not as sharp as sheep. At least the sheep realize their need for a shepherd. We on the other hand think that we can live our lives without assistance. We are brought up to be independent. Yet, how much easier would life be if we lived as a sheep – following a shepherd – not just any shepherd, but a good one! One that we knew that we could trust; one that had our best interest at heart.

Jesus told us in one of his “I am” statements (found in the Gospel of John) that He is the Good Shepherd. In this day and time, at least in the US, we don’t get that reference. We are far removed from the fields. He also said “I am the gate.” At night, the shepherd always moved the sheep into an enclosure to keep watch over them while they slept. The shepherd positioned himself at the gate to keep the sheep in and the predators out. There is no way a sheep could sleep unless it felt safe. There is no way for a sheep to protect itself or find food or good water or anything else to survive. It relies solely on the shepherd.

Jesus said that “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Before young David faced Goliath, he said that he protected his sheep from a lion and a bear; he killed them in order to save his flock. He faced Goliath knowing that God went before him just as he knew that it was God who protected him as he killed animals that threatened the sheep. He recognized he couldn’t do it alone, but God was with him.

Jesus said that His sheep know His voice. Jesus died for all of us – no matter who we are, what we’ve done or what nationality or color of our skin. We all have an opportunity to follow Him. But not everyone follows. A shepherd stays with the sheep – it’s a full time job. Pastor Ben said that the quality of the sheep depends on the proximity to the shepherd. He also said that things make a great gift but lousy gods. If we are running after things, we will never follow a shepherd. We follow after those shiny things that keep us distracted and away from the shepherd who knows what we need. Peace, rest and lots of green pasture with lots of living water and one trustworthy shepherd that would lead us there if we would just look to Him and Him alone. In these uncertain times, it’s time to get our focus right. There’s no better time than the present to follow the Good Shepherd.

 “Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good—a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice.John 10:1-4 (MSG)

What are you doing?

Several weeks ago, I read a couple of Andy Andrew’s books. I love his writings. He has great insight. He said in one of his earlier books that his mentor, Jones, gave him biographies to read. Jones said biographies give perspective. Andy went on to write in the Traveler’s Gift about what he discovered in those biographies.

In the book The Noticer, Andy writes about Jones. In one of his meetings with Jones, they were sharing a meal on a beach. Jones asked Andy what he was doing right then. Andy responded eating fish and chips on the beach. Jones said that was the problem with people today, they lacked perspective. Andy asked what he meant. Jones replied – “you’re eating fish and chips on a beach; I am eating surf and turf with an ocean view!” It’s all about perspective. We all need a new perspective.

Several years ago, I mentioned to my aunt I would love to quit my job and just write. Guess what I am doing today? I quit my job five years ago; and I write blogs, I write a monthly newsletter on health and wellness, and I wrote two books. I never told my aunt how I could afford to do it because there was no way I saw myself doing it. It was insane to even contemplate such a thing. But somehow, I took that step of faith; and God has sustained me throughout this time. Sometimes I get down and out because I can’t afford to do the things I want to do – like travel or buy things I want instead of things I need. I see the things I lack instead of the things I can do. I have a very flexible schedule. I love to be able to talk with my neighbors in the yard on a sunny afternoon. I go to the gym when I want. I can sleep in when I have had a bad night, etc.

Before I left my job in 2011, I had a dream or a vision. The only thing I remember about this dream was a sliding glass door that I tried to close. The door popped back open when I attempted to close it. When the door popped open, I immediately woke up and was very afraid that someone was in the room with me. But God gave me peace, and I went right back to sleep. So, what was that vision all about? Was it about leaving the job? I hadn’t thought about it for years until this week when Christine Caine spoke about the “moving past the past.” She also spoke about perspective.

In her talk, she said we all have a gate (or door) of opportunity right before us. The past is on one side, and the future is on the other. Many times we are stuck at the gate. The gate is not to keep us in but to let us out. If there was no gate, then it would be a prison. But Jesus gave us a gate. He said He is the gate (John 10:7, 9). He is the one who opens the door of the opportunity to go out and help other prisoners be set free. With freedom comes responsibility. Our current circumstance is not a prison. It’s just a training ground for what we need in the future. The season we’re in currently will pass one day. It’s what we learn in the current circumstances that can bring a blessing from it and benefit someone else.

Christine said (commenting on 2 Kings 7:1-6) there’s power in the question “Why stay here until we die?” We sit at the gate waiting on something to fall from the sky – like the supernatural manna from heaven. The gate is not the end point. God could provide manna from heaven while we wait at the gate, but what if the best thing lay just beyond the door? It may take a risky step or three to get out of the comfortable, complacency where we sit today. When God says move, it’s time to move. We can go forward in the confidence that God goes with us. We might be afraid, but we still need to move forward. The future is out there, not behind our prison walls. It just takes a new perspective to see the possibilities. So, what are you doing? Are you eating fish and chips or surf and turf with an ocean view?

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. You, my brothers (and sisters), were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. Galatians 5: 1-2, 13

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