REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP
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 – RELIANCE ON HIS GUIDANCE
2 – BEAUTIFUL ONE
3 – TOUCHABLE BEFORE THE FACT
4 – EVENTS – I LOVE YOUR STYLE JESUS
5 – LOVED – VALUED – PURCHASED
Reliance On His Guidance
John 16 – 13: “But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears and he will tell you what is yet to come”.
Oh the folly of spiritual independence. Oh how confusing, exhausting, exasperating, and frustrating life can get when we lead and expect God to follow as if seeing Him as the doer of our ideas rather than the facilitator of His own plans.
Oh how we need to become more and more aware of His presence and voice. A caring voice that often saves us from ourselves. A voice that at times pleads with us to follow Him, being fully aware of the un-affordable cost of alternative approaches.
I am learning, apart from the clear and concise direction of God’s Spirit, I can be an accident looking for a place to happen! A speeding car with no brakes, type of thing.
My un-quenchable zeal, enthusiasm, and love for Jesus can periodically have me moving faster than God’s prescribed speed for my life.
If I’m listening, God’s voice always stands at the ready with this advice: “Bill, you are running a marathon not a sprint. Pacing yourself is therefore important to us both. I’ll set the pace, you run the race”.
So, how do I know when this “well-meaning condition” finds itself seeping into my walk with Jesus? What are the warning signs? What should I be watching for as indicators that speed is becoming problematic?
The most obvious “red light” I’ve noticed is ‘‘The Fruits Of The Spirit’‘ begin to diminish in sincerity, quality, and consistency.
All of those wonderful attributes of the heart of God, which can only be implemented by His Spirit through me, become more difficult to exemplify in my daily life.
What usually flows naturally becomes strangely awkward. Noticing that, I then foolishly “try harder’’ rather than “trust more” only to make things worse leading to frustration.
I forget: I’m the branch not the vine. I forget that I bear fruit, I don’t produce fruit. I forget what Jesus said, that apart from Him I can do nothing. I forget that I’m the sheep and He’s the Shepherd. I forget that Shepherds lead and sheep follow. In my enthusiasm to be used by God: I forget!
Today’s self-reflection has this as its conclusion. I’m thankful that I catch this occasional “spiritual condition” much more quickly than I used to thus limiting its potential fallout.
I’m aware the answer can never be found in de-intensifying my zeal, or love for Jesus nor my desire to be used by Him.
So, perhaps it’s this: I don’t need more of God’s Spirit, God’s Spirit needs more of me.
More of my sensitivity to his desired inclusion in all things pertaining to my life. More of an awareness of my moment by moment, breath by breath: “Reliance On His Guidance”.
Innocent beyond innocent. Crimeless and yet found guilty. The spotless Lamb of God. Perfect in every way. Rights denied. Physically abused to the point of non-recognition.
Throughout His ordeal the bible describes our Lord’s dialogue as being very little and seldom. But what He did save His energy and breath to proclaim changed the entire world!
Many declare their greatness from a throne. A place of esteem with the riches of this world prominently displayed for all to admire. With all due respect, that’s the way the world works.
Jesus left His throne to become nothing, so that we could become everything. Knowing we couldn’t make our way to Him, He came to us and in doing so displayed, for all to see and admire: Incomprehensible, unfathomable, undeniable and gracious beyond gracious Love!
I will take that over the golden trinkets and currency of Kings and Queens every day. The others of self-proclaimed prominence have come and gone and will continue to do so.
Empires thought of as impenetrable, have risen only to eventually fall but this Beautiful One Jesus, remains forever and as we speak, sits on His throne as King of Kings and Lord of Lords in the only place that truly matters, Heaven!
But there was a time two thousand years ago when He spoke of His Kingship and Kingdom from a cross. A cross He hung on at the time. Mocking insults such as: ‘’You certainly don’t look like a King’’, were hurled at Him. Correct, He didn’t. He looked exactly like a slain Lamb covered in blood.
In the middle of His unimaginable abuse, we hear the fewest of words painting the clearest of pictures. Words that reveal the never to be forgotten true heart of Jesus. The noise surrounding this grotesque display of sub-human depravity demands that we draw near to hear our Lord’s voice.
The criminal hanging next to Jesus hears these words of compassion as confirmation to his dying request to be remembered: Jesus said: “Today you will be with me in Paradise”.
Camped at the foot of the cross, John and Mary, the Mother of Jesus, hear these words of caring concern: “John behold your Mother, Mother behold your Son”. Paraphrased: John please take care of My Mother as if she were your own. Mother this is my replacement as your Son. Trust him as such.
This scene so reminds me of my Mother who while dying of cancer at eighty four years of age, needed to know if her forty year old “Baby Bill”, was going to be alright. “I can’t leave until I know”, she said.
Who thinks of those things at a time like that? It would seem, Jesus and those who love Him do!
Having saved enough energy for His finest moment, He spoke these few final words that have since profoundly echoed down through the corridors of time. Words that to some have become the sweetest words ears have ever heard.
“Father forgive them for they know not what they do” followed with “It is finished”! And as a final act of confirmation to His sovereign authority Jesus dismissed His own spirit.
While Jesus is praying for His abuser’s forgiveness, no one is asking to be forgiven. That takes my breath away. Who does that? Jesus does, as would be confirmed by the participants in His crucifixion with their final verbalized conclusion.
“This had to have been the Son of God”. It’s interesting how God confirmed our Lord’s true heavenly status through the very ones who crucified Him. One’s who if circumstances were normal wouldn’t have cared less.
Just another Jew being executed, been there done that type of thinking would have prevailed. They had all seen this scene enacted many times before!
But this wasn’t “normal circumstances” and our Lord’s haunting words of loving forgiveness confirmed to His abusers the truth behind that bone-chilling and breath-taking, reality.
On that day Jesus had optional choices. Earlier He had proclaimed that: “No man takes My life I lay it down”. Two thousand years ago He deferred His own well-being, instead choosing to surrender His life to minister to the needs of the entire world, while the world mocked Him.
Amazingly, in the middle of His torment He could only think of the well-being of those closest to Him at the scene of His torturous crucifixion. This is the heart of our Lord. This is the One who is the object of our affection as we are His! This is our “Beautiful One”.
Touchable - Before The Fact
The ministry of Jesus was one of radicalism to the extreme but not simply for the sake of being radical. He often broke the status quo rules of His day, thereby deferring to the higher and more correct heavenly viewpoint in every situation presented to Him.
Therefore His life on earth transcended the prevailing societal mindsets to a degree that scared the religious and political elitists. His beautiful heart superseded their collective comfort zones to reside in the heavenly realm of God’s will. He did things that were seen as “wrong” to be “right”.
As we fast forward to today, I’m so very thankful to be able to say, nothing has changed! Jesus can still be found with the needy, the sick, the downcast, the hungry, the thirsty, the rejects, the disposables and the “untouchables”.
Equally and interestingly, His absenteeism from the political and religious elite also continues, they without knowing it. As He so clearly stated to the Pharisees of his day: “I’ve come for those who need Me and in your minds, you don’t”.
Matthew 8 – 1 > 3: “When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed Him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before Him and said: Lord if you are willing, You can make me clean. Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man: I am willing He said, be clean. Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy”.
The law of the day was clear. Those with leprosy were labelled as “untouchable”. They were not to be touched by anyone or touch others. They were by law, to live out their gradual and painful death sentence in complete solitude, even from family.
As they walked they were ordered to announce their hideous condition for all passers-by to hear with this soul raping repetitive refrain: Unclean, unclean, unclean , over and over again, until it became in time their emotionally branded conscious sense of non-worth.
Their “announcement” became their “renouncement” to being seen or treated as humans!
Our scripture states: Jesus reached out His hand and “touched” the man with His declaration: “I am willing”, followed with: And immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.
At that point in the story, from the prevailing society’s perspective, the man became touchable.
Here’s where the heart of Jesus is so beautifully exposed.
Jesus saw the man as “touchable” before society aligned itself with a likewise conclusion. Jesus saw the man as “touchable” before the fact.
Is it any wonder I love Him as I do? What a magnificently compassionate heart I have had the privilege of being exposed to. It’s been said: “To know Him is to love Him”. Indeed!
Events – I Love Your Style Jesus
I truly believe that God orchestrates the steps of the ones who “desire” to have their steps orchestrated. Spiritual “events” are the net result of our normal every day mundane being transformed by God’s welcomed inclusionary presence and direction.
God provided opportunities, which I refer to as orchestrated “God Treats” prompted by “Holy Nudges” abound, as we simply put one foot in front of the other with a spiritual awareness that each step is important!
While experienced by us as, in the moment, improvisational, and impromptu: in fact they are very much planned well in advance by God’s beyond magnificent mind, according to His will and desires for others.
They are always exciting within the context of their obvious reality and considered by me to be the spice of life, adding flavor to my every step. In short: They are very cool! They are equally very real!
I walked up to the corner grocery store this afternoon to pick up some bleach. I nearly didn’t. I was a little tired from my prior “late night” and after all, it was only bleach and could have just as easily been purchased the next day.
No rush I thought and yet out the door I went, as if “pushed”. Jesus orchestrates our steps, “one step at a time” I’ve noticed. We don’t get to see the “why” until the “why” needs to be shown. I’m thinking Jesus thinks it would spoil the surprise.
I was delayed from my arrival as I found myself immersed in a chat with a lovely lady who was in the middle of being harassed by a stranger. I decided to intervene, acting as if I knew her to cause the stranger to move along. He did, probably intimidated by my sixty nine year old muscular 130 pound frame! With that behind me, it was bleach time.
Following me into the store was a lady with two little ones in tow. She looked and sounded like she had been put through the ringer before arriving by the mentioned two little ones. You know how they can do that to a parent on their best of days, and with all due respect, this didn’t seem to be one of their “best of days”.
Interestingly, had I not been delayed by the first lady, I wouldn’t have met the second. Did I mention, “one step at a time”?
To say I “met” her at this point would be slightly premature as the story for accuracy sake should be shared in its proper chronological order. I hadn’t as of yet, but I would. But what I did do is hear an exhausted lady pleading with a very loud and desperate tone for her little ones to stay close. Evidently they, the little ones, had developed an innate ability to run in two different directions simultaneously, neither being the direction of Mom.
Well, time to cash out as I got in the ‘‘fast service’‘ line which interestingly, in the light of its purpose, had what seemed to be everyone in the store residing in it. The lady in question had positioned herself directly behind me with the previously mentioned two little ones still in need of constant high volume up-dating on the “stay close to Mom” cautionary concept.
The long anticipated visual of the cashier appeared before me as if an angel of light had entered the story. Almost there, I thought. Almost out of the nightmarish sound of this poor Mother who by now, my heart had broken for.
I wondered to myself if there was a Father in the picture or was she handling the load herself. The look of anxiety on her face would suggest she had been flying solo as a parent for quite a while.
Do you ever wonder who causes us to think those thoughts without judgement inferred. Do you ever wonder how we can have an inescapable instant heart of compassion for a perfect stranger?
The front door, with its assumed potential of relief was finally in sight as I paid my $1.99 for the bleach. What a visual with its promise of emotional deliverance from the noise! But with it there remained a lingering concern for the lady directly behind me, with a face that told a painful story.
“Holy Nudges” are real. They’re to be paid attention to. They’re neither frivolous or silly or created in our own minds. To respond to them is seldom accompanied with our knowing the importance of our response. From our perspective, we are simply saying “yes” to a heavenly request.
I suddenly couldn’t leave the store nor felt a wanting to. God’s request felt seriously non-optional and I knew it. I backed up a few steps and hovering over that wonderful piece of technology that we can now “tap” with our credit cards, I waited for my soon to be friend to run her few items through.
When she had finished and without asking for permission, I “tapped”. The young cashier looked at me as if I had made a mistake as did the lady. I’m guessing, assumed senility was the concern causing their deafening silence. Even the “little ones” got quiet. That was amazing!
There are moments in life when you have to say “words of explanation” quickly as to prevent complicated misunderstandings. Shila has a British phrase she likes to use to describe such moments: “Gobsmacked”.
The dictionaries meaning: “Extremely surprised, shocked or astounded”. I guess we could add to that, “speechless” as was the case today.
So I “spoke”, seeing as I was the “tapper” thus responsible for the awkward silence.
“This one is on me today sister. You are doing an incredible job mothering your little ones. They are fortunate to have you, have a very blessed day”: was what came out of my mouth.
Isn’t it wonderful of God to be sure not to embarrass a mother doing her very best that He desires to bless? Isn’t it wonderful of God to have a young cashier privy to observing His gentleness and compassion without the residue of “charity status” attached to the event?
Isn’t it wonderful of God to orchestrate my steps, “one step at a time”, in order for me to be in the exact right place at the exact right time to experience the privilege of participation?
With a slight tremble in her voice Mom thanked me as if already knowing where it came from.
The young cashier smiled as though she had seen something very special.
And I thanked God for His trust that I so appreciate.
And as for the “little ones”, they stayed quiet! It was a very good day. “One step at a time”.
Loved – Valued – Purchased
Our titles “three” descriptives for today’s reflection applies to us and makes crystal clear our moment by moment reality in Jesus. We “are” all three, not “becoming” all three.
All three are accurately indicative of our “present tense” status in God! Therefore we need not wait for some time later to immerse ourselves in this God imparted profound truth.
We have been given heavenly licence in the immediate to “dwell” in its beautifying spiritual fragrance and in fact encouraged to do so by our Creator, who being the “Purchaser”, gets the final word on the matter!
The ongoing, perpetually lived in revelation of how we are seen from heaven’s perspective only serves to draw us progressively closer into the welcoming waters of the loving heart of our Lord continually enhancing and deepening our intimacy level thus reality, in and with Jesus.
I’m so thankful that I’ve lived long enough to have noticed; It’s not His “inclusion” in my life as I once thought, but rather His “ownership” of my life as I now think, that has transformed my every breath into transparently revealing relevance.
It would seem the revelation of the immensity and quality of the love bestowed upon us from our perfectly faithful Savior has no limits nor end, thus our love for Him never grows dormant with its “verb like” activity always churning in our hearts in response to His grace.
If we have been purchased, “and we have”, then an acknowledgement on our part of an “ownership change” would seem not only appropriate but more importantly beneficial to us all.
He reveals Himself to those He owns and we get to peruse His beauty continuously. What a visual! What a God granted by grace, landscaped lifestyle to live in!
What an inspiring divinely appointed “three faceted garment” of identity we have been given to wear throughout our days! It’s an amazing life to be a sheep who has acknowledged its present day status as perpetually Loved, Valued, and Owned by its Shepherd!
We sheep should live it according to its amazingness! We are no longer slaves to other’s opinions, we are children of God by His choosing! That’s the truth! A truth that by its very nature is wonderfully empowering.
It’s interestingly insightful when realized: while we don’t get to dictate “truth”, we do get to embrace or reject it. By choosing to embrace it we don’t change “truth” but rather “truth” changes us, making us a far more accurate reflection of who we truly are in Christ!
OTHER FREE EBOOKS 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
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