REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP
THE SERIES – BOOK TEN
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
1 Thessalonians 5 – 17[[“Pray without ceasing”.*]
Wow, never stopping, always praying? Is that what Paul is inferring and encouraging as a spiritually beneficial lifestyle for us followers of Jesus? Does he really mean, never stop?
In short: Yes. But first, to understand Paul’s statement we may have to take a step back and re-define what prayer is within the context of our everyday lives.
I think what Paul is trying to relate is this: Constant commune with God qualifies as prayer regardless of where, when, how, or its contextual significance. It doesn’t have to be earth shaking nor dramatic.
[*It need not be the laundry list of requests on behalf of others or ourselves. It could be as innocent and simple as a thank you or a sincere expression of praise for the beautiful flowers you just observed with an acknowledgement by you as to His magnificent creativity displayed in them. *]
This intimate, un-orchestrated, invitation from God to freely enjoy the blissful comfort of entering into an “instant access”, “drawing near”, experience with Him is always available and encouraged.
Therefore Paul is saying; Never ceasing prayer is no more or no less than conversation with your Creator, constantly. Therefore there is no legitimate need, cause, or reason to “cease” because God “never ceases” in His desire to communicate with us.
I’m sure Paul would also agree with; God is always talking into our lives, therefore we should always be listening and responding.
The “never ending conversation” is what Paul is prescribing as an edifying atmosphere of dialogue for us to enjoy, thus enhancing our spiritual peace and contentment throughout our days.
Using a human type example to make a valid spiritual point: Shila and I take walks in the park occasionally where she lives. We never do so “silently”. If we did, Shila might be left wondering if her presence in the walk truly mattered.
Shila and I have a tradition; “Scrambled eggs and toast” after church on Sundays. Shila is in England at present visiting her family. In her absence I can’t seem to make “scrambled eggs and toast” taste as good.
The point: My life is enhanced with Shila’s presence and diminished without it and so it is within the context of my relationship with God. Constant commune is for my benefit. Now let’s take it to the spiritual:
The one we love the most will be the one we want to commune with the most. Paul is stating that God has not only granted, but equally important desires, perpetual two-way open access between He and We. You see “We” are the ones “He” loves most. Therefore “We” should take “perpetual” advantage of His welcoming invite!
As our brother Israel Houghton so beautifully penned: “Your presence is heaven to me”. While in His presence let’s remember to talk while we walk. Otherwise He may wonder if His presence truly matters in the walk.
It’s intimacy. It’s relationship. It’s mutual love expressed without ceasing! It’s prayer!
Heaven’s Duet – Worship
Zephaniah 3 -17 : “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love he will no longer rebuke you but rejoice over you with singing”.
How interestingly amazing; God sings! Not just some generic melody that has caught His fancy, but a song crafted by Him and directed solely at us His children.
Even more amazingly He sings over us “with rejoicing”! To perceive ourselves as worthy of being “rejoiced over” is in itself a little mind boggling.
But according to our scripture reference His “great delight in us” leaves Him with a need to express himself through song. So He sings!
Here’s the incredible part to this melodic equation; He invites us to rejoice back over Him with singing, thus creating a co-operative duet with Heaven. We call it worship!
Therefore worship can never be relegated to a “casual thing”, nor a “Sunday thing”, nor a “sing along thing”. God sees true worship as an all-encompassing lifestyle. It’s intimate. It’s uniquely personal.
It’s an exchange of two-way expressed love, as God sings over us and we respond creating a spiritual fragrance that permeates both earth and heaven. Very “duet like” don’t you think.
The Fear Of Failure
The safety of the spiritual sidelines can be very enticing, especially after a “failure”. Trust me I know of what I speak! We position ourselves just close enough to be observed as accounted for, but not so close as to put ourselves in a place of vulnerability.
After all, we really don’t want to enhance the “failure thing” with another attempt.
No doubt that playing it safe has its insulated “fail proof” aspect of predictable comfort but could it be, that isn’t the point? Could it be “not trying” as opposed to “failing” is the ultimate failure of all?
We serve a God whose reaction to us “not getting it right” is; Get back up, brush yourself off, and try again!
How many of us have found ourselves mired face down in a failure with the enemies voice of accusation deafening us to our Encouragers instruction thereby deferring “the point” to a far later date than was the intended. And what is the point? To learn from the mistake!
We as humans learn from failure and God knows it. As babies we are the ones who bury our heads into coffee tables while “trying” to walk. We are also the ones who end up driving cars.
So does God enjoy our mis-steps? No, but His reaction to them isn’t nearly as dramatic as our own. We are not rejected because of them.
He uses them all with a comeback planned for each, complete with a lesson learned going forward to include in our spiritual arsenal. A lesson we can pass on to others as they embark on being followers of Jesus.
We are a people of multiple comebacks! Peter, scriptures poster boy on the subject, would remind us that he denied even knowing Jesus at one point in his journey, to later become “the voice” of the early church and preacher of the first Pentecost sermon.
Even before the denial, Peter is found cutting a Roman soldiers ear off, only to have Jesus needing to re-attach it, with the lesson: Peter, “If you live by the sword you will die by the sword”. This mis-step happened with Jesus already knowing about the upcoming denial!
So here we have our Lord teaching Peter a lesson completely aware there’s another mis-step waiting right around the corner for Peter to trip over.
As a sheep who feels he could challenge Peter for “poster boy status”, I’m convinced that the thing God struggles with most is not the fall, but rather the refusal to “get back up”.
If you’ve relegated yourself to side-line status, take a good look into the eyes of your Shepherd. You will discover He wants you back in the game! You will also notice His loving glance as He reaches out His hands to help you up.
Romans 8 – 1 > 2: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death”.
The flesh, with ample encouragement from the enemy will suggest you stay on the sidelines while the Spirit says: Did you really think you’d never fail? Even more so, did you really think that I thought you would never fail? Don’t you love how heaven always “makes sense”.
When you “least feel like” getting up, is when you “most need” to get up! Observing the great people of God in the bible they all have one thing in common; flesh failing with lessons learned.
In those times, I have found it helpful to focus on the “finished” work of the cross and avoid the “me finishing” that which is already “finished” mindset.
It seems clear to me that when my flesh gets involved in the process, the Spirit stands back and waits patiently to remind me: “Apart from Him I can do nothing”.
We all when in doubt, have a tendency to “try harder” ( the flesh ) when perhaps “trusting more” ( the Spirit ) would get the job done far more efficiently.
I’m aware it seems backwards, but everything in God is backwards “according to the flesh”!
Deuteronomy 31 – 6: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you. He will never leave or forsake you”.
Deuteronomy 31 -8 : “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid do not be discouraged”.
Joshua 1 – 5: “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you”.
The “repetitive” point to these scriptures and the one God wants us to be sure of is this: God doesn’t forsake His own ever for any reason. The word “never” is an emphatically strong descriptive leaving nothing to wonder about or doubt.
“Never” leaves “nothing” to debate over or to peruse in our imaginations, seeking out the deep “alternative” meanings. No, “never means never” and God stated it as such for our emotional and spiritual well-being.
Our great God fights our battles for us, while simultaneously asking us to trust Him for the end result! As we rest in His sovereign authority we find peace in the storm. While this truth may not change “the storm” it does change us in the storm.
It shifts our focus from the created to the Creator. It declares; our God is bigger than any storm! Therefore our concepts and impressions of life’s storms, while not being ignored, do become appropriately deflated.
We have been told in scripture that the battle is the Lords not ours. He doesn’t want us fighting our own battles. When we try to take on life in our own misguided sense of strength we become spiritually exhausted. Exhaustion leads to confusion.
Confusion leads to the cycle of ups and downs called the spiritual roller coaster. We are to reside in a sense of contented stillness with a knowing in our hearts that He is God reverberating health through our souls.
When you think about it, that’s all we truly need to know on a moment to moment basis as we walk out this journey with Jesus. He holds our worlds in His hands and loves to be trusted with them.
Who among us would enter into an exam already knowing the “singular answer” to the multiple unknown questions, and then worry about the questions?
My wellness is based on my understanding that at the center of my life isn’t the “questions”, but rather the “Answer”. One who provides me with daily spiritual equilibrium.
John 14 – 27: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”.
Words spoken over 2,000 years ago by Jesus. Words that have echoed down through the corridors of time to this day. Still 100 percent true! Thankfully truth never changes!
Sacrificial Or Beneficial
It’s very hard to defeat people who refuse to make “it” about “themselves”! A person who has died to self cannot be intimated.
It’s a very powerful platform to live life from and our God provided and prescribed, “Ace In The Hole” to be played in every hand that is dealt to us in our walk with Him.
Intimidation can only exist when the target has something to lose. The Apostle Paul said he had “lost” everything and counted it as nothing in view of the surpassing value of knowing Jesus.
What Paul was portraying was a comparison and concluded his loses were “nothing” compared to his gains!
If I am called, enabled, and privileged to be an image bearer of Jesus, how can that happen without me becoming less of an image bearer of myself?
Therefore dying to self is in my best interest! Less of me equalling more of Him is a good thing!
John 12 – 24 > 25: “I can guarantee this truth: A single grain of wheat doesn’t produce anything unless it is planted in the ground and dies. If it dies, it will produce a lot of grain.^ ^Those who love their lives will destroy them, and those who hate their lives in this world will guard them for everlasting life”.
This scripture has been read and taught worldwide millions of times from many perspectives, with the viewpoint always hinging on one’s impression of the heart of Christ towards His sheep.
That conclusion will determine our interpretation and motivation behind the point and purpose of our Lord’s instruction. I know Him “only” as the loving overseer of my life.
Therefore, I automatically assume, His instruction is for my “big picture” good. In this case the directive is, me controlling my life is in the end “bad” for me.
What a powerfully revealing statement: “Those who love their lives will destroy them”! Not He will destroy them but rather those who possess those lives will.
In other words: We are not qualified, nor should trust ourselves with the valuable gift of life that has been imparted to us by God with all its magnificent possibilities.
Placed in His hands, we now step into the divine potential those lives were meant to have.
Never one to present a dilemma without including a resolve, Jesus unveils the solution.
Empty yourself of yourself and I will fill you with Myself. All of you for all of Me. Trade your inferior for My superior. Possessing nothing will free you from having to protect anything. Occupy nowhere so that I can occupy everywhere.
It’s an invitation of supreme significance. One I find irresistible with its implications being far beyond my imaginations ability to comprehend.
The “great exchange” is sounding incredibly beneficial to be considered sacrificial. I think we may have gotten the “blessed ones” in this transaction backwards.
In our mentioned scripture reference, I hear the caring tone of my Lord’s voice inviting me into the deeper waters of His heart while strongly informing my heart that I will never be all I can be until the “me” gets out of the way. Therefore doing so, is in my best interest.
I’m reminded of the Garden of Gethsemane scene when Jesus declares to his arresters: “No man takes my life, I lay it down”.
In a similar fashion, I feel Jesus speaking personally to me saying: No one can “take” your life by force but if you will voluntarily emulate Me and lay it down, I promise to pick it up and like My Father resurrected Me I will do likewise for you.
And then He adds this spiritually tantalizing truth: I can do so much more through you if you will eliminate yourself from the equation. If offered, I will take your inferior and give you back My superior. My goodness; How can that be anything other than amazing?
In the end I have an eerie feeling I cheat myself from my “what could be glorious” when I overvalue Bill.
While trying to retain something of questionable significance I could end up losing everything of true value. It would be tragic to find out after the fact, what could have been but never was!
So back to my titled question: Sacrificial ? Absolutely not! Beneficial? Euphorically yes!
My every moment refrain should thankfully be: “I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today”.
Radical? Extreme? Not at all! Those twin dynamics happened 2,000 years ago on a cross. Mine is simply an appropriate response to my Lord’s “radicle and extreme”.
When I lay my life down at the feet of Jesus, I do myself a favor. And all of heaven says AMEN.
[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
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