Sheepish Thinking

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“For thus says the Lord God; ‘Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.’” Ezekiel 34:11

Lord, I just want to see You for who You are and how You are. I mean, if I can’t look at You rightly, how can I respond to You rightly? If I think that my life is about pleasing You, doesn’t that skew my idea of me? Don’t I therefore try to make myself pleasing? And wouldn’t I think that I am more arrived at that then others around me? And then I think I would get an attitude like these shepherds who would trample on the people they should be leading because the pitiful sheep just don’t understand like I do. You know, I could judge people or just be angry with them for not getting it. It seems like that’s what would happen.

But what if my focus was on You and just all about knowing You. Would I judge less because I would realize I am under the scrutiny of the Greatest Judge? Maybe I would remember continually, “Judge not that you be not judged,” if I remembered who I was standing before. What if I was so concerned with remaining in Your presence and being accepted by You, it didn’t matter if anyone else accepted me or approved of me? Would that change my behavior? What if I was so intently focused and drawn by Your love that whether I was loved by others wouldn’t occupy my thoughts, rather, loving others regardless of their returned actions or feelings would be my response? What if being a sheep is all about knowing the shepherd? And what if I can’t be a sheep unless I am of the shepherd?

That’s a little weird, isn’t it? I mean sheep are sheep from the start, right? Well, physical sheep are.  But what about spiritual sheep? I don’t know. Maybe some sheep are really goats thinking that they’re sheep and acting like sheep and eating like sheep and hanging with the sheep but they’re not sheep at all. A sheep is a sheep. It has wool. Goats don’t have wool. The wool is shed to clothe others. Sorry, but sheep are needy and dumb. Goats aren’t. They’re pretty proud and tend to take care of themselves with finding their own food and getting around. They don’t fall on their backs and need to be turned over by a shepherd. They don’t need to be led to green pastures. Both are eaten, sometimes, but when the sheep goes to the slaughter, she goes without a sound. Somehow, I just don’t think we start out as sheep. I think, if we’re honest, we’re more like goats being goats or maybe goats acting like sheep when it suits.

But the truth is that I must know that You Lord, You alone are God. I have to get that as more than a concept in my head. I have to get that as a reality of my life, as a part of me that inhabits everything I do and think. Psalm 100:3 reminds me that You made us. You made everything, every last particle and ability that consists in my being. I didn’t do it. You created us to be Yours. That’s reality. But the lie is that we can be our own, that we can choose to be sheep or goats. But we weren’t made to be goats. We were made to be Your sheep, glorifying You by being the sheep of Your pasture.

What’s the problem then. David hits upon it in Psalm 95:7,8. “Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your heart…” Today, this very day, and every day, and every moment, I must listen and follow Your voice, the voice of the Shepherd with all of my being. That’s what sheep do, not goats.

Maybe we’re too busy wanting to be shepherds, but I’m thinking that a shepherd in God’s flock can’t be a shepherd if he isn’t a real sheep first. How can you lead sheep if you don’t know sheep? Ezekiel 34 is beautiful. It’s all about shepherds and sheep according to God’s view. Well, it’s about shepherds not being shepherds and about the Shepherd of shepherds who was to come and has come. But here we see shepherds who were shepherding for themselves and their gain and not shepherding in God. They were busy exploiting the sheep instead of feeding the sheep. There’s lots of ways to exploit the flock if your focus isn’t on the One who created the flock. If you start to think you are in charge of the flock, well, you tend to not care so much about the sick and weak or the broken or the lost or driven away. If you care more about your image, you won’t care so much about the sheep. And if you don’t care about the sheep, well frankly, you’re not a shepherd.

Here’s the beauty of Ezekiel 34 to me. God cares about every sheep. He is angry when those who ought to be shepherding them with His same care, don’t. He cares about His sheep. He loves them. They are His. He is a God who delivers His sheep. He searches for each and every one. He seeks them out. Listen, this is God we are talking about. When earthly shepherds fail, He does not! There is no where that a sheep can be, whether he has wandered or been driven away, that God cannot find him and gather him back to Himself! He can bring us back!

Where does He bring us back? Where is this pasture? Is it heaven? No! It is Him. Some day it will be a place with Him but now it is wherever we are with Him. You will feed us continually and never exploit us. You will give us peace so we can lie down. Hear these beautiful words again to Israel and to all lost sheep outside the fold, “I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick.” (Ezekiel 34:16)

This just hits home so much. I understand the way that God truly seeks us out when no one else is. I think of when I was just a new believer and entered college. I didn’t mean to stray, but I had no shepherd to help me stay in the flock. I was on my own. And I followed the goats in lots of ways. I didn’t even realize I was a being a goat. But I certainly wasn’t living like a sheep. In all my four years, hardly any shepherds approached me. But God did not let me go. In my fourth year I heard His still quiet voice remind me, “This isn’t who I created you to be.” That’s what it took. That’s all. My Shepherd, seeking me out, Imagine that. Here I was, this “saved” sheep wondering off. I should have known better but I didn’t. But my real Shepherd wasn’t judging me or forgetting me or writing me off. My real Shepherd wasn’t too busy to think about me. I was on His heart. In one sense, He didn’t ever have to come to me. He doesn’t have to do anything for me. But He does and He chooses to come. This God who chooses to be my Shepherd is above anything I can imagine.

But on the other hand, I have to remember, it’s not just about me and it’s about something bigger than me. It’s about Your glory, God. It glorifies You to redeem me and to bring me back into Your fold and to wash me white as snow so that I will shine forth Your glory in You. It’s not a me thing because this little sheep is so special. It’s a God thing because You are so overwhelmingly wonderful and full of grace and love and glory and righteousness and so much more than I can ever totally fathom. Just the wonder of You thinking and acting this way is worthy of awe.

What kind of god searches for lost sheep? My God. The true God. The only God. What kind of god would send a baby to become the savior of the world? My God. Jesus came to draw back the lost sheep of Israel first, but He also came to lead back the other sheep not of that fold so they would all be of one fold. He is a God who looks at the multitudes and is moved with compassion on them because they are scattered and have no real shepherd. (Matthew 9:3, Mark 6:34) He is the kind of God who would search out one, just that one sheep who needs to be found, like me, or like you wherever you are. And then He’s the kind of God who will rejoice over you.

But I have to respond. Am I listening to my Shepherd’s voice? Do I hear and follow and obey? Am I letting him lead me or am I choosing my own way like a goat? Am I dependent upon Him? Am I spending so much time in His presence that I know His voice? There may be great shepherds of the church around me, great mentors who love me, but are my ears and heart tuned in most closely to my lead Shepherd’s voice and will? After all, Jesus said, “I am the door of the sheep… I am the good Shepherd: the good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep…I am the good Shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knows me, even so I know the Father: and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd…My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

Whose voice am I listening to? Do I know Your voice above all the rest? Whose voice am I following? Am I following You? If I am following You, am I truly feeding Your sheep as You would feed Your sheep? How am I caring for them? Like You? I suppose, the extent to which I care for others will display the extent to which I understand Your shepherding of me. May I fully live in the power and care of Your shepherding presence so that I may extend that power and care to others. May Your fold grow and grow as we journey out together to those who have been scattered like I was. I want them to know that they are not alone and they are not forgotten. I want to share the heart of the Shepherd for them.  I want every sheep to know that if they’ve fallen on their back and can’t get up, Jesus is here to set them on their feet better than before.

Dumb Sheep to Transformed Sheep

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“Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, and seven pairs of birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth.”  Genesis 7:2-3

Did you ever stop to think that all these pairs of animals walking two by two onto the ark could have a spiritual application?  But I think it really does.  I mean, why did You pick pairs?  Well, that’s a no-brainer, right?  So they could make babies and multiply their kind on the face of the earth.  But is this really just about animals or is this a picture of Your desire for Your children?

I was thinking about something I read last night.  It was talking about leadership, about shepherding.  And it was talking about how most of us in the church have gotten it wrong because we haven’t really been following Your example.  Because if we get back to following Your example, it brings me back to this two by two thing, to this being called and sent in pairs.  And maybe there’s a reason bigger than saving the animals from the flood.

So I go back in time to where You have gathered Your disciples, the twelve.  And they have learned from You and seen You and been witnesses to Your power and Your person.  As a matter of fact, they haven’t arrived all the way in learning everything they need to.  They are still learners.  But Mark tells us that You “called the twelve and began to send them out two by  two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.

And that takes me back farther in time, even farther than the animals arriving on the ark in pairs.  It takes me back to Adam and Eve.  If You had wanted us to do things on our own, You would have stopped with Adam, that guy you formed and had name all the animals, that guy who was working and keeping the garden of Eden.  Here’s this guy You made who had everything at his fingertips except that tree of the garden, the one called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  It was just Adam, the animals, the plants, and a responsibility to take care of it all, and no weeds in the deal, just one warning.  I’m pretty sure Adam thought it was good.  But God already knew that wasn’t good for Adam.  There’s no way he could do it sufficiently on his own.

How do I know he wouldn’t be sufficient on his own?  God made a help meet for him.  That’s that ezer kenegdo.  God makes him one to stand beside him, actually face to face.  God makes him one who can sweep down and rescue him like God rescues Israel.  Because the truth is, none of us were created to be islands.  I guess I could think of it just being Eve that was that help meet for him, the warrior woman created to stand face to face with Adam and watch out for him so that he could be everything he was created to be.  But that face to face part just makes me think of this reflection of this image.  And it’s not the reflection of the image of Adam, or Eve, but it’s the reflection of the image of God in them.

Why would You make a help meet for him?  Could it be because he’s not the full image on his own?  Why did You create Eve?  Was she better?  Or did she just complete that image?  Does it take a man and a woman and what You created them both to offer to share Your image the best?  Notice I didn’t say that it takes man and a woman to offer what they want to share Your image best.  But what if this idea of Eve being that help meet, that ezer kenegdo, that warrior woman for man is because You really intended man to be that warrior man for Eve?  What if this help meet for him was intended to be recipricol?  What if You intended for these two that were created to stand face to face, to love and protect and honor and esteem each other like that, each as much as the other?  After all, Paul reminds us to do nothing through selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than ourselves.  We’re not supposed to look at only our own interests, but also to the interests of others, having the same mind as Christ, who”though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  And why did You do that, Jesus?  Is that because You were our Ezer Kenegdo, our Help Meet, from the start?  Well, that put’s a new twist to ezer kenegdo, that help meet idea, doesn’t  it.

Well, that’s a lot of jumping around so let’s jump back up to Luke 10.  Timewise it comes after You send the 12 disciples out by twos to proclaim Your kingdom and heal.  Why by two”s?  Do You want us to learn dependency on each other?  Could we be called to lean on each other as another form of ezer kenegdo?  Is there something vitally important about community and walking this walk in You together?  Just going back to the twelve, You told them not to take anything for their journey, no staff, money, bread, bag, and not even a change of clothes.  They would stay in a stranger’s house who would receive them.  And they did that.  They went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing, and staying with people and getting to know them.  And I suppose that gave people the opportunity to get to know them and see that there was something different about them.

Alright, so I’m only in Luke 9, still looking at the 12, and I haven’t made it to Luke 10 yet.  And I’m looking at these disciples, sent out in community, sent out to build community, and it’s Jesus’ time to share and preach and teach.  And all these people have come out into this far away desolate place just to hear from this Jesus these guys have been telling them about.  Their hearts want more.  And they’re even forgetting about their next meal and forgetting to look at their watches because here they are out in the wilderness, far from home, with nothing to eat, but they want to hear.  Wow, this method of Jesus’, sending out His disciples in community, it seems pretty effective.  It seems like hearts are searching.

Funny thing is that the disciples don’t realize all that’s transpiring.  And then Jesus invites them to be an even closer part of the community.  “You feed them.”  Well, that causes a quandary, doesn’t it?  I suppose if I had just been preaching this wonderful news and healing people of diseases and casting out demons, which I’d never been able to do before, you’d think I might think a little more extraordinarily about things.  But maybe not.  I mean, if I just “flew into Neverland on a pirate ship, you would think my view of reality would be a little more fluid”(from Pan).  But I guess we all miss the obvious when we’re not used to seeing it.

“You give them something to eat.”  “You be my hands and feet.”  “You be my mouth.”  “You be my love.”  “What do we have to give that would be sufficient?”  What’s the answer? “Me, by faith.”  So we obey in community.  If You tell us to have them sit down in groups of 50 each, well, we do it.  And then we wait and we watch, together.  And then we minister together.  We give them what You give us to give them.  We feed them.  And there’s overflow, and we get to see it and be a part of it and reap it’s benefits!  But only in community with You and each other.  And then we reap the benefit of seeing You.  It’s when we come to say and see and know that “You are the Christ of God.”

Oh, there’s more that happened in that chapter, but if you want to know, you’ll have to read it.  But it continues to help us to grow in the knowledge of Christ and in community.  And then after these things, and after more followers, more disciples have been drawn to You, You appoint 72 others and send them ahead of You two by two into every town and place where You Yourself were about to go.  You sent them into a harvest that was ready and waiting.  You sent them into a harvest with few laborers.  You sent them out to pray for more laborers.  It was a doable deal.  You had already sent out 6 pairs of disciples and now there were 36 more pairs to send out.

I think it’s kind of ironic that You sent them out “as lambs in the midst of wolves.”  I just heard again yesterday how stupid sheep are.  That sheep sometimes just fall down because they are afraid or they just start running and running and don’t even think about where they are going.  The comment was made that sheep are probably the dumbest creatures.  So You send out Your disciples as sheep?  As sheep in the midst of wolves?

What if living in community with You and fellow believers so alters this sheep that they don’t respond in the ways people or wolves expect them to respond.  What if these sheep are so in tune to their Master and so in tune to their brothers and sisters that they blow other’s expectations of them away?  What if we’re talking about some radical reactions of some kind of radically recreated sheep?  I mean, who goes out without money, knapsack, sandals, and doesn’t greet everyone on the road.  Who is that focussed?  Who is that obedient?  Who is that certain?  These dumb sheep.  Or maybe more so, these transformed sheep.

I think of Your command in Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.”  That’s what man and woman were created to do together.  That’s what the body of Christ was created to do in community.  Adam and Eve can’t be fruitful without true community.  And it won’t lead to filling the earth and subduing it in the Lord without living in community with You, Lord.  Animals may be a far stretch, but if they don’t follow out the purpose they were created for, in their own communities, they’ll go extinct.  And extinction could be a real danger for believers who don’t know how to live in community with You and each other.  We’re not called to build our own kingdom our own way.  We’re called to build Your kingdom Your way.  I want to get on board with You.  I want to live in community.  I want to partner with others to bear Your image more fully.  I want to partner with other brothers and sisters so that people see something different, something they would want to come hear more about, something they would forget they were hungry over.

I want to be like those 12 or like the 72 who returned with joy so excited about what You were doing through them.  But I want to remain even more excited that I am Yours forever and You are mine.  My name is written in heaven.  But not just mine.  Look!  Look at all my brothers and sisters names too!  Now that’s exciting!  And it’s exciting to think about the other names that will be added as brothers and sisters as I go out two by two (or even more!) with those already in the Book.  I’m not a dumb sheep any more, I’m a transformed sheep.  I want to walk in the community of other transformed sheep and I want to draw more dumb sheep into the fold so they can be transformed.  And that’s right in line with Your will so I can’t think of a better place to be than right there, in the middle of Your fold, listening to Your voice, and helping others to come so they can hear.

Of Sheep and Disciples

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“…but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.”  John 10:26

I’ve heard it said that sheep are dumb.  I’ve even heard that if a sheep falls on it’s back, it won’t be able to get back up, and will die within a few hours.  And I wondered about that, so I did some research, and the majority of research I’ve done, says that sheep have the ability to right themselves unless they are actually injured.  But, Lord, since You are only concerned with the truth, You never mentioned anything about overturned sheep.  And You didn’t think them dumb.  You actually thought they had some redeeming qualities.  Or maybe You saw something worth redeeming in them.  Or, actually, maybe You saw a little bit of yourself in them, I mean, You are the Lamb of God.

Biblically, sheep represent meekness, patience, and submission, and You are the prime example.   Isaiah 53:7 says of You, “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”  Well, how is that for meekness, patience, and submission before the Father and before man?

In Your Word, sheep are spoken of over 500 times.  Maybe there is something You want us to understand about the character of sheep, especially since You refer to Your children, to believers as sheep.  There is this account I found of this man who was looking into this Biblical behavior of sheep.  I believe his name is Hartley.  And in his “Researches in Greece and the Levant” he shares this account with a shepherd.  Keep in mind John 10:1-16.  “Having had my attention directed last night to the words in ( John 10:3 ) I asked my man if it was usual in Greece to give names to the sheep. He informed me that it was, and that the sheep obeyed the shepherd when he called them by their names. This morning I had an opportunity of verifying the truth of this remark. Passing by a flock of sheep I asked the shepherd the same question which I had put to the servant, and he gave me the same answer. I then had him call one of his sheep. He did so, and it instantly left its pasturage and its companions and ran up to the hands of the shepherd with signs of pleasure and with a prompt obedience which I had never before observed in any other animal. It is also true in this country that a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him. The shepherd told me that many of his sheep were still wild, that they had not yet learned their names, but that by teaching them they would all learn them.”

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  John 10:27  These are Your words, Lord.  You designed sheep like that.  You created them for this example.  You created them to respond like this.  Before time began as we know it, You were the Lamb of God, because You are the I AM, You never change.  So what if these things we call simple sheep aren’t so simple after all?  What if they were created as illustrations to draw us to You in a right spirit and through right character?  What if the world’s perception of a sheep doesn’t matter?  What if all that matters is Your perception of the sheep and the sheep’s perception of You?

And what if it’s not really about sheep at all?  What if it’s really about me, about each of us, and Your perception of us and our perception of You?  What if it has everything to do with my meekness before You, with my patience before You, and with my submission before You?  What if it has to do with my trusting You and recognizing Your voice and Your care of me?  What if it has to do with the way I run to You when You call my name?  What if it has to do with whether I even acknowledge You calling my name?

I mean, when You show me something in Your word or in my heart fromYour word, do I instantly run to You and obey with a heart of pleasure?  Or am I one of those sheep that needs to be trained to respond to You?  And I wonder if there are sheep that are untrainable, that never understand the joy and pleasure of the shepherd?

Well, I really don’t know that much about sheep, yet I’m learning what it is like to be one.  But I’m not really the one who has to know sheep, my Shepherd knows.  And as long as I know the Shepherd, as long as I know You, Lord, I’m going to be fine, because You are going to see to that.  Because the proof of being a sheep and not a goat is that I can discern Your voice.  And as I hear Your voice, I respond to it.  And as I respond to Your voice I follow You.  And You keep me right where I need to be- in You.

“They follow me.”  That’s important stuff.  Because being a disciple, being a believer is more than agreeing; it’s not just informational.  “Akaloutheo” means “to follow after, to go behind.”  “Halak’ahar” is the Hebrew equivalent.  Both words mean “to go after.”  Your disciples aren’t people who are just learning facts.  We are actively and behaviorally being transformed.  Sheep don’t just sit around discussing and learning and talking about it.  They learn to follow You for their sustenance and safety and pleasure.  They don’t just write books or blogs about it.  They don’t just have family devotions.  They live it out.

Akoloutheo is about “following behind” You, Lord.  When You invite someone to “follow Me,” You “mean that Your followers adopt the same life purpose and behavior that You demonstrate.  We are to be followers, not pupils, and those who are followers are truly disciples.  No man who is only a pupil is a real disciple.”  (Skip Moen)  Or a real sheep for that matter.   

So what does this mean for my life?  Well, if I’m really His disciple, I’ll follow “His life in actions, thoughts, and attitudes.”  I’ll let You personally transform me.  I’ll go from being a sheep who doesn’t recognize Your voice to being a sheep who loves to hear You call my name and comes running immediately when You do, and not only immediately, but joyfully!  My life ought to look more and more like Yours every day, not just in talk but in it’s actual actions.  Whatever You looked like, I ought to look like- compassionate, reaching out to the poor and hurt and sick, desirous of my time with God, patient, meek, submissive, ready to act upon the will of God in His power.  All my “behavior, attitude, and thinking” must be transformed until it resembles the Lamb of God I follow.  Skip Moen put it this way, “Until what we learn is absorbed into how we live, there is no discipleship (and in the Hebrew view, there is no learning either).  All following includes active obedience.”

There is One who leads.  I am to follow the One who leads.  To hear is to obey.  There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.  To hear is not to determine, or to rationalize, or to examine, or analyze, or document, or just retain.  When Scripture says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God,” it’s not just talking about words coming in our ears.  It’s talking about words coming to life in our whole beings.  This is the Word coming to fruition in us.  This is when I live it out.  Faith is hearing and living it and doing it as I follow all of Jesus’s ways.  Remember, a follower walks where?  A follower walks behind.  I’m not dragged or pulled sitting and listening on a cart where I make no effort of my own.   I willingly get on my feet, leave the world behind, and follow You, Jesus.  My steps become the steps of the One who leads me.

Why did You say these people weren’t Your sheep?  Because they didn’t know Your voice, they didn’t acknowledge Your voice, and they didn’t follow You or even really come to You in joy.  What about me? Am I a sheep?  Am I following after You like I’ve never followed anything else in my life?  Am I following after You as though my life depended on it?  Am I following after You as the joy of my life?

Lord, more than anything, I want to be a chip off the old block that is You.  I want to be a replica of the Lamb of God that I follow.  May I have an attitude of meekness, patience, and submission that resembles You and is straight from You as You transform me.  May I always be attentive to Your voice and may I joyfully run to You in obedience no matter the task, no matter the call.  There is absolutely no one who can understand me the way You do.  And there is no one who loves me in the way that You do.  How can I ever return to You what You have given me?  The least I can do is to faithfully and actively follow You in adoration.  Thank You for making me a sheep and for training me to be more like You every day.

Forever Yours

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“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:  and I give unto them eternal life;  and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”  John 10:27,28

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Lord, here’s a little word again.  And in the King James Version in e-Sword it’s even italicized.  It’s this word “man.”  And I looked in a bunch of other translations and everyone felt they should use the idea of no “man” plucking Your sheep away from You.  I wondered, “Why is that little word in italics?”  Sometimes that means it wasn’t present in the earliest of transcripts.  But that’s not the case here.  So, I went back to Strong’s to check out what the Greek word could mean.  And this little word “tis” can mean any person or object.  In other words, it can be any man, thing, or thing at all.

Now, since the Pharisees were the ones that You were addressing here, it’s right for them to understand that no man, not even them, can get in the way of God’s drawing someone to Him through Jesus.  Because, Jesus has told them they are not of Him, they don’t recognize His voice as the Shepherd, and they won’t respond to Him.  Therefore, they can only act as false teachers and lead people away from Him.  Only there will still be some that hear and ignore them.  And nothing they do can stand in the way or tear them back away from God because of God’s keeping power over His own.

But I’m still thinking about this.  Your sheep hear Your voice.  I hear Your voice.  I recognize You.  And it doesn’t just stop there.  You know Your sheep.  You recognize them.  You are familiar with them.  You are intimate with them.  You know them apart from other sheep.  This is how You know me.  And because You have brought me to hear and recognize and know You, and because You intimately know me, the joy of my life is to follow You.  I want to attach myself to You in every way, shape, and form.

I mean, after all, in You “I am never in need.”  In You I have all the green pastures and peaceful waters I need.  In You my soul is renewed.  You guide me.  Even in dangerous places, I don’t have to be afraid because You are there.  You are my courage.  You overflow in Your goodness to me.  Why would I want anything or anyone but You?  “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  {Psalm 23)  And that little word dwell means to sit down.  It “has the sense of to sit, dwell, remain, abide and emphasizes a thoroughly settled state or condition. One has settled down and is comfortable and content.” (www.preceptaustin)  I think of Mary and Martha and how Mary just sat and was content and comfortable just being with You and listening to You.  But Martha was burdened about other things.  And then I think about other times when the Israelites sat down and became comfortable in places they shouldn’t have, with people they shouldn’t have and were drawn away from You.

But Martha couldn’t change Mary’s mind because Mary’s heart was Yours.  She was Your sheep.  She was listening to Your voice and hearing and knowing You.  She got this taste of You.  She saw You.  She experienced how good You are.  And neither Martha nor the circumstances going on around her could alter where she found her contentment and where she found her peace  Everything else paled in comparison to sitting at Your feet and beholding You and soaking in Your words.

So, it’s only natural that these sheep, like Mary, (and eventually Martha), follow You.  Because You unite Yourself with them and they unite themselves with You.  And it’s in this unity that the peace and comfort and protection and safety flows.  This is where You are.  This is where I want to be.  I want to be where You can care for me to the utmost.  I want to be where I can reciprocate my adoration for You to the utmost.

And what’s Your reward for becoming a sheep that sticks by that closely?  An eternity of closeness.  An eternity of safety.  An eternity of relationship.  An eternity of peace and joy and comfort and rest.  And I shall never be separated from You.  Never.  Ever.  Because not only can no man pluck me away from Your hold on me, but neither can anything pluck me away.  Not anything at all.

Not only that, here is another reason I believe that nothing, absolutely nothing can snatch me out of Your hand.  Because Paul thought so to.  Listen from Romans 8.  “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written, ‘For Your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors (super conquerors!) through Him that loved us.  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The fact is, I am persuaded also.  You, Lord, have persuaded me.  I am absolutely convinced.  This is my confidence.  It’s all in You.  Because it’s not just man who tries to persuade me otherwise.  There are spiritual powers out there throwing things in my life to try to convince me otherwise.  There are situations by nature of living in a fallen world that are set on convincing me otherwise.  And sometimes, my old nature wants to convince me otherwise.  But, I’ve seen and tasted Your presence.  I’ve seen and tasted Your protection.  I’ve seen and tasted Your love.  I’ve seen and tasted Your deliverance.  And frankly, You taste delicious.  The rest of that stuff tastes nasty.

Lord, what can I do?  I trust You more than the stuff going on around me.  I want to continually yield to You and not the pressure of the world or the pressure of people.  I want to take my focus off of everything else that is trying to snatch my attention from You.  I want to hear You above every storm.  I want to be uncomfortable everywhere else but in You.  I want to continually live in the knowledge that I have been called by You, I am forever loved by You, and I am forever kept by You.  I am so grateful that the hands that hold me are bigger and stronger and more loving than any other hands that shall ever exist.  Lord, I humbly rest in Your grasp and pray that You will bring Your will to pass in my life.  May I be fully surrendered to You in every attitude and aspect.  I am so abundantly glad that I am forever Yours.

(Credit for the picture at top goes to Randy Batiquin)