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Summary: Jesus is the Good Shepherd because he laid down his life to save the sheep. He led and leads the sheep to life not to slaughter. He guards and protects His sheep because He loves them.

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“I am the Good Shepherd”

“I am” Series

I would like to take a few moments to congratulate our graduates today and share a few thoughts with them to keep in mind as they enter this next phase of their journey in life.

Opening Illustration and thoughts which are focused to the 2010 graduates:

IF I HAD MY LIFE TO LIVE OVER- by Erma Bombeck

(written after she found out she was dying from cancer).

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for the day.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the ’good’ living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have sat on the lawn with my grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and more while watching life.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn’t show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, "Later. Now go get washed up for dinner." There would have been more "I love you’s." More "I’m sorry’s."

But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute...look at it and really see it. Live it and never give it back.

Stop sweating the small stuff.

I read these echoing words from Erma this week and they resonated in my heart. Erma is a great funny writer but when faced with the reality of her death she decided to pen for all us some words of wisdom. She shared what she would have done different in her life in light of the imminent prospect of death. As she lived life and got caught up in the business of life she in her own words admitted she made some mistakes. She missed and took for granted the precious moments in life and focused on things that were only temporary and even meaningless now that death was at the threshold of her life. I admire Erma Bombeck’s honesty and it has made me think this week – Here are some of my thoughts, “If I were facing my transition from here to eternity what would I have wanted to have changed in my life?” Many things cross my mind – more time with the girls, less focus on material things and more on eternal things ranks at the top. I read an e-mail I received this week from a fellow minister his “Napkin Dreams.” He resigned his church ministry position with the blessings of his wife and family. They no longer wanted to be the pastor or the pastor’s wife and family. They sold everything they had got out of debt, scaled back on stuff and bought an RV so they as a family can travel the USA for the next couple of years. He shares how he wants to live with less stress, and less pressure in life.

He wants to experience life, not just live it, not just exist but really live. What did I get out of his letter? I must admit I was envious of him! I have always wanted to do something like this in my life. This man is doing it and he is doing it with his family – wow – I applaud his step of faith.

As I read these two stories this week it caused me to ponder my life, my choices, my lifestyle, my dreams, my values in life and my imminent death. As I tossed these stirrings through my brain it made me look deeply at my past 50 years. I must admit it’s been a revelatory week for me especially when on Tuesday I was told that at 50 I am too old to sit on a planning committee for the FCA National Convention being hosted here in Chicago. That was a punch in the stomach for me!

But then I read the Gospels, the life of Jesus, His lifestyle, His teachings, His travels, His miracles and I get a glimpse into His eternal mindset. He lived His life with death and eternity in mind every day. He made His choices and decisions in life based on the fact that He wanted to please God the Father and do what God asked of Him. He was to choose to die on the cross – to die so that people like me could be set free from sin, so that I could be given the great gift of eternal life. Jesus never lived for himself, he never made decisions based on selfish motives, he never put value in things like houses, chariots, horses, gold or even rubies. His value system was rooted in Heaven, in God, in doing God’s will and also in dying to Himself. His many good and Godly qualities compel us to praise Him in worship today. Why? Because Jesus is a Good Shepherd!

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