Valued By God: John 10:1-21

Focus Passage: John 10:1-21 (CEV)

    1 Jesus said:

   I tell you for certain that only thieves and robbers climb over the fence instead of going in through the gate to the sheep pen. 2-3 But the gatekeeper opens the gate for the shepherd, and he goes in through it. The sheep know their shepherd’s voice. He calls each of them by name and leads them out.

    4 When he has led out all of his sheep, he walks in front of them, and they follow, because they know his voice. 5 The sheep will not follow strangers. They don’t recognize a stranger’s voice, and they run away.

    6 Jesus told the people this story. But they did not understand what he was talking about.

    7 Jesus said:

   I tell you for certain that I am the gate for the sheep. 8 Everyone who came before me was a thief or a robber, and the sheep did not listen to any of them. 9 I am the gate. All who come in through me will be saved. Through me they will come and go and find pasture.

    10 A thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest. 11 I am the good shepherd, and the good shepherd gives up his life for his sheep. 12 Hired workers are not like the shepherd. They don’t own the sheep, and when they see a wolf coming, they run off and leave the sheep. Then the wolf attacks and scatters the flock. 13 Hired workers run away because they don’t care about the sheep.

    14 I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and they know me. 15 Just as the Father knows me, I know the Father, and I give up my life for my sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not in this sheep pen. I must bring them together too, when they hear my voice. Then there will be one flock of sheep and one shepherd.

    17 The Father loves me, because I give up my life, so that I may receive it back again. 18 No one takes my life from me. I give it up willingly! I have the power to give it up and the power to receive it back again, just as my Father commanded me to do.

    19 The people took sides because of what Jesus had told them. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon in him! He is crazy! Why listen to him?”

    21 But others said, “How could anyone with a demon in him say these things? No one like that could give sight to a blind person!”

Read John 10:1-21 in context and/or in other translations on!

In this passage, Jesus gives one of His more profound and perplexing statements.

It is our tendency when we read this that Jesus is talking to a select group of people, but this teaching was to a crowd where every group and class of people were represented.

John 10, verse 10 is the verse that holds this statement: “A thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest.

In this short verse, Jesus contrasts the mission of His ministry with all other “ministries” that would come before and after. In this verse, Jesus challenges the notion that He came to “steal” people away from earth. That idea goes against what Jesus says here. A “thief” steals from the places they have targeted, and Jesus positions Himself on the opposite side of this idea.

Jesus sets Himself on the platform that He came to help everyone have a full life.

This is where things can get a little uncomfortable for some. Jesus clearly says “everyone”. This is not Jesus saying, “Only those who follow Me can have the full life.” That might make sense, but this is not Jesus’ words. Jesus wanted everyone in the crowd to live a full life – regardless of their past, and regardless of where they were in the moment He spoke those words.

The same is true today. Jesus wants you and I, regardless of our past or where we are in the present, to have a full life. His statement is 100% inclusive and not exclusive to anyone.

However, not everyone wants a “full” life. Not everyone believes the truth about what leads to a full life. There are billions of people running across the planet who might say they want a full life, but then they act in ways that cheapens their value to others and themselves. God’s idea of a “full” life does not lead to anyone feeling less than how God feels about them, and if you don’t know what God thinks of you, simply look to the cross – the place where the Creator of the earth died. We see our value in how much God gave up to be with us.

When we get a glimpse of how valuable we are to God, we can begin to live life to God’s fullest!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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A Congruent Life: Matthew 23:1-36

Focus Passage: Matthew 23:1-36 (NASB)

During Jesus teaching, Matthew describes a point where He shares His big issues with the religious leaders of that time period. While Mark and Luke include a brief summary couple of verses, Matthew devotes almost an entire chapter to this section of Jesus’ words.

In this teaching, Jesus describes one of the ways the scribes and Pharisees are hypocrites: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.” (v. 25-26)

Jesus then restates this idea with a different metaphor saying, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (v. 27-28)

With these two challenges and warnings, Jesus shares a principle that can help us be wiser. This principle says that our inner lives will ultimately, eventually reflect our outer lives. Applying this principle to these scribes and Pharisees tells us that even though they are putting on a good show and are currently fooling many people, the robbery, self-indulgence, hypocrisy, and lawlessness will eventually come out and taint their outwardly perfect looking lives.

But the challenge Jesus shares with them in this principle is that by fixing their inner lives and getting rid of the sin that his hidden right now, they will be able to keep an outwardly clean life.

It is the same with us living today. While it is easy to fracture ourselves, and show a different side of ourselves whether we are at home, at work, with friends, or sharing online, eventually all the facets of our lives will blend together. If any of the parts, facets, or sides of our lives do not go well together with the other parts, we will have a problem, and the negative parts of our character will bleed over and taint the positive image we are trying to portray.

Jesus’ challenge for everyone listening to Him (including us 2,000ish years later) is to focus on cleaning up our inner, hidden lives, because only by doing this first will we better able to keep the public sides of our lives congruent and clean.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Flashback Episode — Growing Fruit: Mark 11:12-14, 20-26

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Continuing our journey through Mark’s gospel, we come to an event that Mark breaks into two parts. In the first portion of this event, we have one of two places where the gospel writers record Jesus as hungry. It is interesting that in both of the times Jesus is recorded as being hungry, He faces a similar situation.

The first time Jesus is identified as hungry was while he was fasting in the wilderness for 40 days leading up to being tempted by Satan. The second time is what we will be focusing in on at the start of our passage for this event.

Let’s read about what happened. Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 11, and we will read from the New Century Version. Starting in verse 12, Mark tells us that:

12 The next day as Jesus was leaving Bethany, he became hungry. 13 Seeing a fig tree in leaf from far away, he went to see if it had any figs on it. But he found no figs, only leaves, because it was not the right season for figs. 14 So Jesus said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And Jesus’ followers heard him say this.

Let’s pause reading here. On the surface, this event sound entirely unlike the first time the gospels mention Jesus as feeling hunger, but while the situations were very different, in both cases, Jesus does not get his hunger satisfied – at least initially.

In a similar way, when we face feelings of hunger, whether they are feelings of hunger that are literal or feelings of hunger that are spiritual, oftentimes we are unable to satisfy those feelings immediately. Sometimes when we feel hungry, there is no immediate way for us to satisfy our hunger. In other times, when we feel hungry, we intentionally push our hunger aside for more immediate or pressing concerns.

Regardless of what prompts our feelings of hunger, if you aren’t able to satisfy your hunger, understand that Jesus has been there too.

Also in this event, we are introduced to a fig tree that was full of life, but it had no fruit. Mark tells us this was because it wasn’t the right season for figs, but that detail does not appear to matter to Jesus. In the context of this event, Jesus expected a tree that had life to also have fruit.

While this is a very literal event, I wonder if Jesus responds in a way that emphasizes a spiritual truth. If we are full of life while alive on this earth, I wonder if we are also equally expected to be bearing fruit. While we face different seasons in our lives, I wonder if every season of our lives is able to bear a different type of fruit. I wonder if in the drier seasons, our fruit is more internal, growing more trust, more dependence, and more faith, while during other seasons, our fruit is able to be more visible, and we are able to share this spiritual fruit with others.

While we normally think of fruit trees as having fruit only during the season for picking fruit, if it isn’t winter time when many of these trees go dormant, every other season has these fruit trees working on producing fruit. In the spring, the trees work on buds and flowers that will ultimately become fruit, and in the summer, we see fruit beginning to form and grow. It is only when we reach harvest time that the fruit is ripe and ready to pick.

I wonder if Jesus didn’t see any evidence of any fruit growing on this fig tree. Regardless of whether it was the right season to pick figs or not, if the tree had leaves on it, it would be reasonable to expect it to have some evidence of figs growing even if these figs were not yet ripe. I wonder if this tree showed no fruit at all.

Because of the lack of fruit, Jesus curses the tree saying “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.

Jumping down a few verses to the next day, we pick back up in verse 20:

20 The next morning as Jesus was passing by with his followers, they saw the fig tree dry and dead, even to the roots. 21 Peter remembered the tree and said to Jesus, “Teacher, look! The fig tree you cursed is dry and dead!”

22 Jesus answered, “Have faith in God. 23 I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, fall into the sea.’ And if you have no doubts in your mind and believe that what you say will happen, God will do it for you. 24 So I tell you to believe that you have received the things you ask for in prayer, and God will give them to you. 25 When you are praying, if you are angry with someone, forgive him so that your Father in heaven will also forgive your sins. [ 26 But if you don’t forgive other people, then your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins.]”

In this event, Jesus turns the now dead fig tree into being an example of the power of faith and prayer. I think too often, we immediately jump to this second illustration while missing focusing on the importance of being fruitful.

Actually, as I mention this, I think that all of these characteristics are connected. I don’t believe we can have visible faith and powerful prayer without being fruitful and being fruitful is evidence of a powerful faith and a powerful prayer connection with God.

I don’t believe God wants us to run around killing fruit trees or throwing mountains into the sea with our faith. Instead, I believe He wants us to know that our faith is powerful and when we have faith in Jesus, we can do more with God than we could even imagine. God wants our faith and our prayers to be fruitful, and when we are being fruitful we are living the lives God created us to live!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first in your life and choose to be fruitful in whatever season you are in. Whether you are resting in the winter or growing fruit at various stages during the spring, summer, and fall seasons, intentionally be fruitful with what God has blessed you with in the season of life you are in.

Also, continue to pray and study the Bible for yourself to grow a strong faith and connection with God. Only when we are connected with God can we produce the fruit God wants us to have in our lives and when we are connected to Jesus, we are able to be fruitful from eternity’s perspective!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or give up on where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year in Mark – Episode 29: Discover why it is important for us to always be growing fruit in our lives and what that has to do with the fate of an unfruitful fig tree Jesus happens to pass when He suddenly became hungry.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

Looking Towards Forever: Luke 22:31-38

Focus Passage: Luke 22:31-38 (NIV)

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”

“Nothing,” they answered.

36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”

“That’s enough!” he replied.

Read Luke 22:31-38 in context and/or in other translations on!

On the night of Jesus’ arrest, Luke includes an interesting instruction that Jesus shares with His disciples during their supper together. In this instruction, Jesus echoes back to an earlier challenge He gave to the disciples.

Luke tells us Jesus sets up this statement by asking the disciples, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” (v. 35a)

The disciples responded by saying, “Nothing.” (v. 35b)

Then Jesus adjusts and updates this earlier command by telling them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” (v. 36-37)

On the surface, this seems pretty practical. Earlier, it was safe to be associated with Jesus, but from this point forward, being one of Jesus’ followers could potentially be dangerous.

Jesus intended His instructions for each disciple personally moving forward, but they seemed to understand His words as transitioning His ministry into a military one. In this statement, the disciples excitement was felt because Jesus seemed to be preparing for the conquest against the Romans that tradition at the time said would happen. The disciples eagerly tell Jesus, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” (v. 38a)

It’s as though the disciples heard Jesus’ instructions to buy a single sword, and they are excited because they doubled His expectation with two swords. But Jesus, realizing that they have missed His point simply responds, “That’s enough!” (v. 38b)

Jesus was not interested in taking a military role for His ministry. The swords He recommended the disciples purchasing were not intended for offensive action. The swords were simply to be a deterrent for someone else deciding whether or not to attack. One is less likely to attack someone who is armed than one who is not armed.

Following Jesus after His death has been more physically dangerous at some points than at others. Early on, Christians were crucified and fed to lions for sport.

However, following Jesus at this time is less physically dangerous in most places of our world, but the growing danger is one that is a social danger. It is unpopular to associate with Jesus openly, and while the pendulum is swinging away from Christian spirituality, it will only become more unpopular to hold to a Biblical worldview.

But Jesus has called His followers to take the harder, unpopular path – the one that gives glory and honor towards the Father. What Jesus predicted came true. He was numbered with those who broke the law, and He was crucified – but His crucifixion opens the way for us to have eternal life. When we put our belief, faith, hope, and trust in Jesus, we are safe to save for eternity – and eternity lasts longer than today’s popular opinion.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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