Monday, October 24, 2011

I Am...the Good Shepherd!

I am the good shepherd (John 10:11, 14)...

While I haven’t spent a lot of time around sheep, I do know a few things about them.  What I know makes me resent this “I Am...”  If Jesus is the good shepherd, then by common sense deduction, I am a sheep.  Forget the soft cuddly little animal that decorates nurseries.  What a misrepresentation of the real deal.  Everything I know about sheep begins with the letter “s”.  They stink.  They are stubborn.  They are stupid.  The last thing I want to acknowledge about myself is that I might be a sheep.  In reality, however, it is an accurate comparison (well, my smell isn’t so awful, but my behavior can be...).  So, yes, I need a shepherd...desperately!
I already know that it’s going to take more than one brief blog to dialogue about Jesus as our shepherd. For the purposes of this week’s reflection, we will only look at one attribute of a good shepherd.  A good shepherd is a good leader:
“...the sheep listen to his voice.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them...and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.  They will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice (3b-4).”
Sheep do that, you know...they follow their own shepherd.  They might be in a field filled with other sheep from other folds, but, because they have spent so much time with their own shepherd, they recognize his voice.  When they hear that voice, they follow.  They separate out from the rest of the sheep, and they go after their shepherd.  Because they have spent so much time with their own shepherd, they trust that he will “lead them beside quiet, restorative waters (Ps 23:2b-3).”  They won’t trust other shepherds to do the same.  Following is an issue of trust...always!
When Jesus speaks this “I am” statement, his singular vision, his primary purpose, his truth for me to grapple with is this:  Will I let Him lead?
You see, a lot of times, I look to Jesus as a friend, a confidant, an advisor, an encourager, a counselor, a “life-coach” (if you will), a computerized GPS.  While he is very much those things along the way of life, he. first and foremost, desires my determination to allow him to do what he does best – LEAD.   The problem is I want a bit of a say in where we go.  I want a head’s up for the journey ahead.  I really am saying something like this to my shepherd, “Oh, I’ll follow............but, with some consideration.  Just give me a little idea of what’s up the road.  Let me deliberate a little bit.”  Jesus, the good shepherd, doesn’t want our consideration.  He doesn’t desire deliberation.  He plans for our participation.  We can trust that while the up may sometimes seem steep and rocky – the grass at the top will be healthier and we will ultimately be happier (more blessed).
Blessed am I when I don’t just consider following my good shepherd, but surrender to him with willing participation!

Monday, October 17, 2011

I Am...the Door!

So, Jesus said to them, “I am the door... (John 10:7, 9)

In a section of Scripture that mostly refers to Jesus as The Good Shepherd (next week), we can’t move forward until we stop at these words, “I am the door.”  He is: the way in, the opening, the gate, the entrance.  If you come in any other way, you don’t belong (in fact, you would be a thief or a robber).

Obviously, Jesus is referring to being the only way to salvation...the only way “in” to heaven.  He is the only way “in” to a relationship with the Father.  Yet, I think there’s more; there’s more to being a door.  Not only did the door allow entrance, the door kept out that which should not go inside.  The door was the filter, the guard that kept good protected, as well as defended, yet kept out the bad.  If Jesus is the door, then He, too, is the filter; and the Bible makes it clear that as The Filter, He is love.  He is good.

So, unless we create another way in, evil (as in the thief/robber) cannot be present in the sheepfold.  Yet trials, hardship, struggles, and suffering sometimes hit the sheep in the pen.  If Jesus is The Filter, how come?  Why?  After all, we just said it, He is love.  Those are the questions we often ask.  Yet, The Filter can’t be what He is not.  He has to be good.  He has to be love.  The door simply is what it is.  So, reason stands that if this is true, those things that are allowed in that seem bad are really good. 

Whoa!  Wait a minute! We can’t call bad good!  Why not?  Is bad not redeemable?  If it can’t be redeemed, then can Jesus be The Redeemer?  Bad always becomes good when it passes through the door.  It is transformed in the midst of the filtering process.  Because bad is transformed into good, it also becomes transforming.  The sheep are changed.  True, they may be broken down, but, always for the purpose of being built back up.  Bad becomes good because of the transforming redemptive quality.  It has been used for Redemption’s sake.

There is circumstance, no trouble, no testing that can ever touch me until, first of all it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me.  If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose, which I may not understand at the moment.  But as I refuse to become panicky, as I lift up my eyes to him and accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose of blessing to my own heart, no sorrow will ever disturb me, no trial will ever disarm me, no circumstance will cause me to fret.  For I will rest in the joy of what my Lord is!  That is the rest of VICTORY!

Monday, October 10, 2011

I Am...The God of Nevertheless!

“I interrupt this series…” Well, sort of.  While this isn’t an “I Am” statement of Jesus (like those we’ve been diving into), this is an “I Am,” nevertheless.   As I was reading through Psalm 106 this morning, my eyes were stopped twice by one word.  It is a sweet word.  A hopeful word.  A cleansing word.  A word promising a better tomorrow: a do-over!  It is a word that really can only, wholly be fulfilled from the heart of a God of lovingkindness.  NEVERTHELESS.

Their hearts were hardened…NEVERTHELESS.
They rebelled…NEVERTHELESS.
They provoked God to wrath…NEVERTHELESS.
They served idols…NEVERTHELESS.
They played the harlot…NEVERTHELESS.
They even sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons…NEVERTHELESS.
They became unclean in their practices…NEVERTHELESS.
They grumbled…NEVERTHELESS.
They were jealous…NEVERTHELESS.
They sinned, committed iniquity, & behaved wickedly…NEVERTHELESS.
They forgot God’s abundant kindnesses…NEVERTHELESS.
They craved, they lusted, & they tempted God…NEVERTHELESS.
They exchanged their glory (God) for the image of an ox…NEVERTHELESS.

Yes, there were consequences.  Some died; experienced disease; were swallowed up; carried off to foreign lands as slaves; provoked God’s anger, and, He even abhorred His inheritance…NEVERTHELESS!

He heard their cries.
Looked upon their distress.
Remembered His covenant.
He was sorry according to the GREATNESS of His lovingkindness.
Many times He would deliver them.

They received salvation that He might make His power known.
He redeemed them.  Rescued them.  Gave them new beginnings and fresh starts. 

Praise the Lord!  O Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.  His lovingkindness is everlasting (verse 1).

May the “NEVERTHELESS-es” in my life always lead me to NEVER AGAINS!

Monday, October 3, 2011

I Am...the Light of the World, 2!

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.   Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12

I was just re-visiting last week’s “thought.”  It just dawned on me there is one bug that doesn’t like light – the cockroach.  So, that got me thinking about how those who “love the darkness” (cockroaches, spiritually speaking) respond when they are forced into the light?  What happens to the sin-steeped soul that steps into THE LIGHT?  I’m thinking I know, as there have been times (sorry to pop any naive bubbles) when I have tried to avoid the light from exposing my own sinful nature.  I react very much like a cockroach and try to escape quickly into hiding once more.  The dark “feels” much safer.  At least, during those times, that is my perception.  If I’m a cockroach, I don’t love the light.

So, I have been drawn back to John 8 asking the Lord for a little more “light” on this dilemma.  Sometimes it’s shocking to me how God answers those kinds of questions.  Do you know what story precedes this passage?  The woman caught in adultery!  After picking my jaw up off the floor when I realized this fact, I began to ask myself why this story, right here, sandwiched in this place?  Think about it.  This woman with no name was caught in the very act of adultery.  She was drug from the bed in a darkened room out into the daylight to stand before the SONLIGHT.  There she stood.  Naked.  Exposed.  From the inside out.  Whatever Jesus wrote in the dirt, caused the others to run for cover (maybe he exposed the “cockroachedness” of their sinful hearts), but the woman stayed.  She could have run, but I’m thinking she was tired of running.  Sometimes, even amidst the painfulness of the exposure, we’re glad we finally got caught.  We’re glad we can stop running.  Somehow, there in the face of THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD, she saw mercy. 

“Woman, where are your accusers?” 


“Neither do I accuse you.  Go and sin no more.”

The very thing that we shy away from when we are in sin (Light) becomes the very thing that now covers our sin (Light). Who would have thought?!  Only in the way the mind of God works, could we ever find the irony of total healing.  If we don’t step into the light, there will be no answer for our hidden shame.  If we don’t step into the light, we cannot be covered.  If we don’t let the light expose and cover, we will not find freedom to “go and sin no more.”  Victory is only found in the LIGHT. 

The LIGHT is not to be feared...but treasured.  Not to scurry away from into hidden dark corners of our hearts, but to run toward as fast as our feet can carry us.  GO!  Sin no more.

(A) He is THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD  +  (B)  I am covered and set free.  =  (C)  I can live life to the full in that freedom, no longer a cockroach (maybe a lightning bug?)!