REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP
THE SERIES – BOOK SIXTEEN
AUTHOR – BILL TAYLOR
COPYRIGHT 2017 – BILL TAYLOR
PUBLISHED BY BILL TAYLOR AT Shakespir
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Special thanks to Shila and Pragna for their encouragement and inspiration
Galatians 5 – 6: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love”.
John – 13 – 35: “By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another”.
John 13 – 13 > 17: “You call me Teacher and Lord and rightfully so, for that is what I am. Now that I your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet. I have set for you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things you will be blessed if you do them”.
There’s the old “knowing and doing” dichotomy presented to us again. Jesus must have known our preference for knowing over doing.
Therefore, He makes clear this truth; From heaven’s perspective, love is a “verb” not a noun.
It would seem our Shepherd has a serious mindset regarding love! In fact He clearly states, it will be our identification mark to the world. As a sheep is recognized by its owner’s branding, this will be ours.
The Apostle Paul said: It’s the only thing that counts in that faith is expressed through it. Can we therefore conclude: This is non-optional!
So, how do we do it? We all have experienced the struggles involved trying to replicate what Jesus instructed. May I share a “hopefully helpful hint” of insight to the dilemma.
We’ve all tried and failed multiple times so let’s consider a different approach. Could it be that we are using the wrong product? The inferior trying to achieve the superior.
This love that Jesus speaks of is not the normal societal type. He refers to it as one possessing a quality worthy of “great reward”. It’s backwards to the world’s version.
It’s radically different and within its difference we find its identifying characteristic as being “of God”, setting us apart as being “obviously” His.
We have been graciously adopted by God into a “spiritually transcendent” society, “the body of Christ”. One of His making, choosing, and direction. A society that dances to a completely different drummer, Jesus.
We can find ourselves trying to live out the “transcendently radicle” fueled by the “earthly normal”. That’s an impossible task! After failing, we then defer to our default option of blaming our insufficiency in this area on the ones we’re supposed to be loving.
We can get caught in the trap of using a “BIG” word and applying a “small” meaning to it. We need to get a clear picture concerning the “quality factor” regarding the love that Jesus spoke of. To find that, as is the usual, let’s look to the cross.
While being crucified, our Lord and example, was mocked with these words by His abusers: “If you are the Son of God, then save yourself”. Our Lords response without saying as much: I didn’t come to save myself but rather, YOU. That’s right, YOU who are mocking me!
It would seem the love Jesus spoke of in our scriptural references includes unconditional grace.
Transcendent love is therefore, not easy! It transcends everything but the call to do it. So, do we just do it? No. He does it through us as we surrender our “old ordinary” and embrace His “new extraordinary”.
And by “this” they will know that we are “obviously” His. They will see the quality of Him in us and through us.
May God grant us the wisdom to allow an expansion of our hearts to accommodate and reflect His “Superior Product”.
Jesus loved to the extreme but not simply for the sake of it. No, He loved with a purpose. One that aligned itself with His understood earthly ministry: “To reveal the heart of His Father” to a world full of people who desperately needed to know God’s love for them.
Jesus made Himself available each day to respond to this question: What does love require of me today? There came a day when the love Jesus spoke of would require a response beyond our imaginations abilities to comprehend; the cross!
Mere hours before His crucifixion, knowing what His immediate future included, we see Jesus washing His disciple’s feet. Serving them at a table that He knew would be their “last supper” together. Ministering to them, not being ministered to. As we read in John 13 – 13 > 17: He was busy establishing an example for them and us to follow.
He made their “last supper” about them, not Him. Stop and consider for a moment: Jesus washed the feet of Judas! That’s what love required! So, what does love require of us today? To understand that it’s not about us, but rather those sitting next to us, at the table of life!
Think It Not Strange That You Change
It was well over two years ago since I prayed. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve prayed since. What I’m referring to is “that prayer”.
The one I call the prayer of utter frustration with an area of known and serious insufficiency.
“The prayer” that cries out to God; Father I’m sick of me within the heavenly equation of us!
The one that changed things; more accurately stated; changed me!
I believe there are divinely appointed and anointed moments of profound decision making importance in our individual walks with God. They are unique, intimate, and personal. They are directional changers or directional re-enforcers, depending on our ultimate choices.
I also believe, as much as they may seem to be “our ideas”, they in fact are not.
They are created, orchestrated, and prompted by the God’s Spirit. They are those one to one spiritual conversations with our Creator that “others” are not invited into. Advice seeking from those “others” is not welcome from heaven’s perspective during these moments of divine intervention.
No, these moments are between us as individuals and God only. To call them reverently sacred would be descriptively correct. Their long term relevance, while unknown here, will one day be known in heaven.
On that day we will be shocked at the importance of our “back in the day” chat we had with God! As we know, Moses went up Mount Sinai to talk with God “alone” leaving the troops behind by God’s direction and instruction.
So I’m thinking, don’t we all have our “Mount Sinai” moments when it’s just us and God with us having a keen awareness of the seriousness within the commune itself. Such was the case with my previously mentioned prayer of “never to be forgotten” status.
So, what was my spiritual frustration that I presented to God? My insufficiency that enveloped a type of moderate torment within its content? This bothersome prickly thing that poked at my soul needing the surgical expertise of the God’s scalpel. The “thing” I was completely incapable of changing myself!
Before presenting that answer, allow me to back up a step with a reflective confession. I have known for a very long time the quality of the love that I am loved with. The cross is tattooed on my soul and along with it, my awareness of undeserved and yet granted grace! In short: My love for Jesus is beyond measure as is His for me.
How amazingly wonderful to walk in that awareness! But with it comes an appropriate sense of indebtedness. To freely give not only what, but also with the quality, that I have freely received.
You see, prior to my prayer I wasn’t some awful human being who only cared for himself. On a scale of 1 to 10, I might have been a 7. That’s pretty good in the big picture.
Well, that depends on which “big picture” one is looking at. This Jesus I so adore, made clear His instruction as to my dispensing of “freely received love and grace”. “Love others as I have loved you. By this they will know you are mine’‘.
I had “conditions” to navigate around before implementing my Lord’s instructions while simultaneously desiring more than anything that His magnificent love would shine through me, thus identifying me as His, while honoring Him.
I couldn’t think of anything more glorious than to be obviously His to that extent. Thus my problem. Thus my frustration. Thus my dilemma. Thus my prayer!
I as a branch, connected to my vine Jesus, had developed a “conditional blockage” of the heart. The healthy fruit producing nutrients of love imparted to me through my vine were struggling to by-pass my “blockage”.
Oh some got through but more of a trickle than a flow and definitely not near enough to accomplish mine or God’s desired goal for my life.
Spiritual surgery was obviously needed and agreed to by me. My prayer was: “Whatever it takes, please do it Jesus”.
Did you think my prayer would have been longer? Desperate times often call for short, to the point, prayers and I was desperate! Remember the one who was hanging on a cross next to Jesus. He got right to the point as did I!
Well, it’s been a while. I’m so very glad that I find myself today as somewhat unrecognizable from the man who cried out to His God for relief. I’m thankful for the encouragement of the Holy Spirit as I climbed my Mount Sinai to talk with God alone.
The previous version of me was doing the best he could but not near as representative of his “altogether lovely” Lord as he wished. He needed to, along with his conditions, get out of the way and let God flow through him. I believe we call that; “dying to self”. God grants prayers like that easily, quickly, and often dramatically.
The folks closest to me would testify to that truth as they now get to enjoy the much improved version of me. God’s version!
If you are in that season of life with God where you feel the “blockage” or the “constriction” of “meant to be” unimpeded love flowing through you, may I encourage you to climb your Mount Sinai.
I promise you this: God’s surgical expertise will not fail nor disappoint and you will be welcomed into His operating room with loving, welcoming, and caring open arms, totally absent of judgement or condemnation.
Back to our brother Moses. He went up the mountain with dark hair. He returned with snow white hair. He never again had dark hair. The change can be that dramatic and permanent! So, if you feel God prompting you to pray that prayer; “Think it not strange that you change”.
As to not alarm you great ladies and to clarify the timing of my grayness, let me relieve your possible concerns: My hair was grey “before” I went up my mountain!
I Will Rejoice For He Has Made Me Glad
Isaiah 61 – 7: “Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land and everlasting joy will be yours”.
Everlasting joy? Not intermittent? Not occasional? No, everlasting by inheritance!
From my first year on planet earth to my twenty seventh, I lived completely void of this mentioned inheritance. To categorize it as “hard” would be the understatement of all time. It was gut wrenchingly hard!
The never ending tread mill of performance based approval that predictably led back to the same starting point over and over again was truly insane, while simultaneously seen by others as normal.
Well, what “others” thought of me was paramount, so I continued to do my impression of a hamster and was perceived as, societally well-adjusted by doing so.
“Conforming” to the majority opinion meant constantly “performing” to appease the masses. An appropriate metaphor: A Seal doing tricks for a fish, and considering the behavior correct.
And then I met Jesus or more correctly stated: He met me, with this scripture:
Matthew 11 – 28 > 30: “Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light”.
Wow! Rest, easy and light. A little too good to be true so I queried Jesus; Are you simply going to give me a new treadmill where I’ll end up being a religious hamster? No, He responded; I’m going to deliver you from the treadmill of performance altogether.
You will now live within the context of your, blood bought through My cross, “inheritance” of grace, peace, contentment, blessing, and “everlasting joy”. Your world is now in My hands!
Your status as a hamster has been changed to “child of God” with all the rights afforded that title. Take the robe of My righteousness and the ring of your adopted by Me Son-Ship, and wear them with the dignity they warrant. This is your “New Life”! Enjoy it!
Going forward, I will be living My life in and through you. You will no longer be common nor ordinary. You will never again desire to “fit in” but rather “stand out”. You will never again be a “game player”, you will now be a “game changer”!
Well, I wish I could say everything changed in that instant. While that wouldn’t be true this is: The direction changed. Old habits of “performance based thinking” are tricky to break, but as time has passed I have noticed them to have developed a strangely distasteful flavor.
By God’s patience and grace I have learned, “unconditional” is a heavenly term not usually associated with planet earth and its inhabitants. It takes a while to wear it comfortably. I must remind myself I’m in the world “not of it” nor should I be living according to its statutes or tendencies.
My citizenship also changed that day as part of my inheritance. I now have the luxury and license to see myself and others from heavens viewpoint through the cross of Jesus, which is far more encouraging, inspiring, and consistent than that of the world or worldly mindsets.
Jesus has faithfully given me a wonderful life. One that transcends the mundane. One that offers the choice of being lived out in the deeper waters of the magnificently spectacular!
Our Shepherd Watches Over Us
My daily ritualistic stroll takes me along the same route every day. One that has provided many wonderful adventures in God. I think of it as my own little anointed path.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be so presumptuous, but I tend to “expect” something significant to pop up before arriving back home. I think “expecting” helps me notice when it does!
My mindset of “expecting”, exposes a clear indication of my “spoiled by God” status as He graciously continues to allow me the privilege of participating in His magnificent heart towards others. My goodness; what a heart it is!
I’ve learned that “holy nudges” go hand in hand with our needed undivided attention. Our sensitivity to God’s “nudges” are equally as important as the “nudges” themselves.
It’s a co-operative duet type dynamic between us and heaven, leaving us the most blessed as we get to “see” the “unseen” in action!
Each day my walk takes me past a much frequented restaurant called “Markham Station”. Today I noticed a very elderly couple, perhaps ninety years of age, struggling to remove themselves from their car.
Out came the necessary “walkers” as they slowly but surely made their way to the front door of the restaurant.
They were looking pretty “spiffy”, maybe celebrating a special day, I thought. Perhaps an anniversary or a birthday caused them to go through their pre-arrival ordeal of difficulty.
I paused to be sure they made it through the front door without incident as we enjoyed a little mutual chat while I guided them to a table. With my “enjoy your dinner” comment expressed, I left to continue my walk. God speaks! I realize that’s a statement that makes some folks a little squeamish, but the truth is He does!
It’s a spiritual type of speaking. If God were to speak audibly to us we’d all have heart attacks on the spot!
Think of it this way; the last act of kindness you imparted to another wasn’t your idea. God “spoke” it into your consciousness.
I got a few steps from the restaurant when I felt God “speak” these words to my heart. “That elderly couple you just assisted; I now would like you to treat them to dinner “on Me” and “for Me”!
In my euphoria, ( I always get a little euphoric when these things happen ) it took me a minute or so to realize, I didn’t have my wallet with me and not near enough cash to cover the bill!
God always has side-benefits to His ideas. For me it was cardiac enhancing exercise as I ran back home, grabbed my wallet, and ran back to the restaurant at full speed, before my new friends had finished their meal! Whew! Thank you Lord for the “work-out”!
Having returned in time and not wanting to confuse the elderly couple while they were eating, I simply found their waitress and with one “tap” of my trusty credit card had purchased, “with God’s money”, one more story of “Our Shepherd’s Attentive Love” to share with you good folks.
Our God has an amazing heart! Is it really any mystery why we love Him? How could we not?
[FREE E-BOOKS BY BILL TAYLOR]
REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP
REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP – THE SERIES – BOOK ONE
REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP – THE SERIES – BOOK TWO
REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP – THE SERIES – BOOK THREE
REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP – THE SERIES – BOOK FOUR
REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP – THE SERIES – BOOK FIVE
REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP – THE SERIES – BOOK SIX
REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP – THE SERIES – BOOK SEVEN
REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP – THE SERIES – BOOK EIGHT
REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP – THE SERIES – BOOK NINE
REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP – THE SERIES – BOOK TEN
REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP – THE SERIES – BOOK ELEVEN
REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP – THE SERIES – BOOK TWELVE
REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP – THE SERIES – BOOK THIRTEEN
REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP – THE SERIES – BOOK FOURTEEN
REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP – THE SERIES – BOOK FIFTEEN
REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP – THE SERIES – BOOK SIXTEEN
THE ROSE AND THE THORN
WILLING HEARTS – NO LIMITS
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED
THE SECOND CROSS
BULLS IN CHINA SHOPS
FAITH IS A JOURNEY
THE HEART IS SACRED
REJOICE – IT’S A NEW DAY!
BLESSED & CONTENT
MY FRIEND – MY PEACE – MY LORD
YOU DECIDE – CHOICES
THE REAR VIEW MIRROR
HIS LOVE MADE PERFECT
AMAZING GRACE – AMAZING SAVIOR