John 10:11-13 ” I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”

Here Jesus is contrasting the stark difference between Himself & the hired hand. Jesus gave His life willingly on behalf of sinners…while the cowardly servant forsook the sheep as soon as there was a threat. While the good shepherd showed His greater love by laying down His life for the flock, (John 15:13) the hired hand immediately deserted the sheep, controlled only by self-interest & lack of compassion. Which sadly left the sheep forsaken, vulnerable to attacks, and separated from one another. In other words, open for the evil one to pillage at leisure. But God cares for His people, the sheep of His pasture, or as I Peter 2:25 tells us, “For you were like sheep gone astray, but now you have returned to the shepherd & overseer of your souls.” The Lord Jesus Christ is the great shepherd of the sheep. (Hebrews 13:20)

Luke 8:16 ” No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.”

The whole purpose of a oil lamp is that it may give off light…not be hidden away somewhere. And our whole purpose as Believers is to display God’s light through our lives…not conceal it to others around us. But instead of shining like a burning lamp in the dark, we tend to veil the light within us, too afraid to share it with the world. In Isaiah 60:1-3 God promised that the light of His glory in Israel would attract all nations. And we are then told in John 1:9 that Jesus is the light of the world… His light now shining through His Church. (I John 1:8-10) So as His Church, now is the time to pull our lamps out from under the bed and allow them to shine like beacons on a hill to a dark & dying world.

John 10:10 ” The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

The evil one doesn’t want you to succeed. He cares nothing about what your Ministry is, your dedication to serving others, or your desire to follow Jesus. His only focus is how he can cast doubt in your mind, tempt you to stumble, or bring about such confusion that you become discouraged & give up. And then he’s won…stealing your joy, effectively killing your Kingdom work, and destroying your fellowship with the Lord…and he didn’t even work hard or use any new technique. No, from the beginning in the Garden of Eden with Adam & Eve he’s used the same old play book. But this verse above contrasts him with that which Jesus gives us, namely eternal life. We read in Romans 5:17, “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” This gift of grace is over & above enough…it’s exceedingly greater than sin, judgment, & condemnation…abundantly promising justification, righteousness, and life.

John 10:7-9 ” Jesus said again, ‘ I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before Me were thieves & robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; Whoever enters through Me will be saved. He will come in & go out, and find pasture.’ “

A flock of sheep was a common image of God’s people throughout the Bible…and here Jesus is also using the same analogy when He makes another “I AM” statement. “I Am the gate for the sheep.” In other words, I Am the only way to salvation & eternal life. Jesus was very explicate when He said in Matthew 7:13, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide & the way is easy that leads to destruction, & those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow & the way is hard that leads to life, & those who find it are few.” And He was just as blunt when He called Church leaders thieves & robbers…for their failing to faithfully administer God’s Word & protect the flock that was under their care. In Ezekiel 34:15 God declares to these disloyal shepherds, “I Myself will tend My sheep….” with Jesus later taking on that role of Good Shepherd.

Revelation 22: 7, 12, 20 ” Behold I am coming soon! Behold I am coming soon. Yes, I am coming soon.”

Across the ages, the Church has looked with joyous anticipation to the promised return of Christ Jesus. Just as His first coming secured our redemption, His second return is our blessed hope for the full consummation of His Kingdom here on earth. But we are not to just sit back on our hands as we wait…we are to be doing Kingdom work, spreading the Gospel Message, and serving the needs of others. But we are to also be vigilant in our watch for Jesus’ return…alert & discerning that we may not be deceived. (Luke 21:34-36) And as we labor, we can look forward with encouragement, joy, and hope for this marvelous future manifestation, or as Jesus told His disciples in Luke 21:28, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near.”

James 4:4 ” You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes enemy of God.”

His deeply emotional writings have given Jeremiah the title of the Weeping Prophet, for he spoke on behalf of God during the final days of his beloved nation, Judah, before it was overtaken by Babylon. Jeremiah was called a traitor, his pleas for repentance interpreted as treason by the people of Jerusalem…to the point that Jeremiah even complained to God that he didn’t want to speak His Words anymore. “But if I say I won’t mention Him or speak anymore in His Name, His Word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I’m weary of holding it in; indeed, I can’t.” (Jeremiah 20:9) And so Jeremiah continued to call God’s people to repentance…to turn from sin & turn back to Him. But then in Chapter 12 God turns His attention to the main reason why Judah is suffering so…”Many shepherds will ruin My vineyard and trample down My field; they will turn My pleasant field into a desolate wasteland. It will be made a wasteland, parched and desolate before Me; the whole land will be laid waste because there is no one who cares.” (Jeremiah 12:10-11) Let that last phrase sink in for a moment…”Because there is no one who cares.” Has the Church gotten to that point? A point where social issues out-weight the Word of God coming from the pulpit on Sundays? Where the color of the new carpet for the Sanctuary is more hotly debated than God’s Word? James warned us in the Scripture above that we can’t have it both ways…we either stand with God or fall with the world. But has the Church gotten to that point already…a point where we only go to Church to be entertained with big musical productions, and feel-good sermons that tickle our ears but are just full of fluff? God warns us in the last verses of Chapter 12 of Jeremiah, “But if any nation doesn’t listen, I will completely uproot & destroy it.” The Church is at a very pivotal moment in time, a critical time of taking personal & corporate responsibility as the Body of Christ to take a hard look at what the Church as become. The Church is not to be a country club for people to waltz in & out with little obligation or commitment. No, the Church is to be the instigator of change for the world…but are we willing to take the challenge, or are we just too comfortable with the status quo?

Habakkuk 2:3 “For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainty come and not delay.”

Now Habakkuk was a prophet who wrestled with God concerning the injustice put upon His people. But here, He is reassuring Habakkuk that the appointed time for God to reveal His Will, vision & purpose will come…and to wait for it. Patient obedience is devotion to God, not misguided devotion to the vision He has given us. It’s reaching out for more of God…not satisfied with the status quo…our reach always exceeding our grasp. Or as Paul puts it in Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Jesus Christ took hold of me.” But what do we usually do with that first vision God gives us for our life? We don’t wait, but rather rush off doing “busy work” thinking we are pleasing Him…but in reality dishonoring the vision God has given us. No wonder the vision usually remains dormant as a melancholy reminder of our first love. Waiting shows true faithfulness in God, and confidence that He will answer. And never giving up on that vision demonstrates our best for God’s glory.

I Thessalonians 5:19 ” Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.”

The Holy Spirit is not some impersonal force, but rather a person & part of the Holy Trinity. Nor does He have a loud thunderous voice that we can’t ignore…instead, I Kings 19:12 says its sound is more like a gentle whisper. The Spirit lives within us as a Comforter, Encourager, and Guide. But as longtime Believers, why are we warned then that we can still quench or grieve the Holy Spirit? Just ask yourself these questions…is your personal testimony only about the past works of God in your life? Do you “look back” rather than move forward…or as Jesus said in Luke 9:62, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the Kingdom of God.” Are you not moving forward in God’s plan & purpose for your life out of subtle disobedience & defiance to the promptings of the Holy Spirit? Sadly, we can all easily snuff out the fire of the Holy Spirit in our lives by simply ignoring Him…and in doing so move farther and farther away from the light. But the cure for this apathy is to recognize & respond to the Holy Spirit in humility & wonder for the intimate fellowship and oneness we have with Him.

John 10:3-4 ” The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

Throughout both the New & Old Testament, Jesus Christ is called the Good Shepherd, the Shepherd of Israel, and the Great Shepherd. Isaiah 40:11 tells us that the Messiah will tend His flock like a shepherd: He will gather the lambs in His arms & carry them close to His heart; and He will gently lead those who have young. But why do sheep (or we for that matter) need a shepherd? If you’ve ever raised sheep, you know they can be kind of flighty…that’s why you usually see guard dogs, goats, & shepherds as part of the flock to watch over and guide them safely. Again, Isaiah points out these tendencies to wander, when he writes, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…” (Isaiah 53:6) But as His flock, these verses in John should also give us great encouragement. First, we see the hired hand recognize his master & promptly open the only gate to welcome him in. Then we see the sheep give immediate attention to the shepherd as He calls out each one of them by name. Finally, as the shepherd leads the way out, the sheep follow…out of obedience, love, & adoration for the Shepherd who they know cares deeply for each one of them. “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hands. Psalm 95:7

Isaiah 32:13 “The land of My people, a land overgrown with thorns and briers.”

In this verse the landscape is a wasteland, the once productive cultivated land now covered with thorns & briers and completely barren. But in verse 15, God promises that the land will again flourish by the power of the Holy Spirit. “Till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field.” Sometimes our lives can feel the same way…dry, barren, with the worries of this life choking the Word & making us unfruitful. (Mark 4:19) But the answer is to seek after God… asking the Holy Spirit to pour out His Spirit anew & afresh on each one of us…so that we too can flourish once more.

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