The Good Shepherd
In order to stay out of the fray, I got myself up and ready for church, and I headed over to Scottsdale Bible Church for a good Sunday of praise and worship. I am so glad I went today. I mean, I didn’t have any reason not to do so, except for the fact that I was a bit tired from my late night of conversation with my love. Still, I needed some quality time with the Lord and His people, so I made the journey over this morning. The worship center was pretty full, given that it is the Sunday of a holiday weekend. I suspected less people today, but the sanctuary seemed to be its normal “almost filled” status. Our normal worship team was missing, but the young man who led the music did a super job. The message was part of our regular series on the Book of John, and today, the pastor covered John 10:1-21. This passage is the portion of scripture that covers the allegory of the Good Shepherd. It was familiar fare, but the pastor did a super job bringing it home. He stressed followership, which I love, and made a strong case for the difference between being a strong believer and a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. In church lingo, the difference is huge. You see, many people consider themselves strong believers in the Lord. They may be longtime Christians, active in church and ministry, students of the Word, etc., but they aren’t followers of the Lord. They are Christians, yes — born again — but they haven’t surrendered their lives, their days and nights, to following Him yet. They are still in control, going their own way, leaning on their own understanding, and creating plans of their own making. They haven’t come into that deeper, more intimate relationship of being a follower of Jesus.
I loved this message because it spoke so surely to my heart and my mind. Much of what the pastor said was almost spot on to my experience as a Christian. I spent the better part of 30 years becoming a strong and ardent believer in God. I knew the Word well. I attended church faithfully. I served in ministry, and I loved everything about “church” and being a Christian. But, I was firmly rooted in my own self-directed life. I was living what I thought was the best way, mostly through legalism and adherence to the Law, and as a result, I was miserable. I was always feeling the guilt and shame of living a life less than what I believed was required of me. I prayed, I cried, I tried, I gave my all, and nothing I did ever really made a difference for me. Until, that is, I gave it all up, laid it all down, and accepted His gift of grace. Not for my sins — that had been dealt with so long ago — but grace for my life, my failed attempts at legalistic perfection (or Christian perfection). I accepted freedom, the freedom to be a follower instead of a leader. The freedom to let go and to start living my life as the Lord leads me. Miracles began to happen. My life changed. I changed. I became new — like brand new — and my heart and my mind started to understand the Word from this new perspective. I was less punitive toward others, more forgiving, and more willing to let things slide. I didn’t hold that harsh line anymore. I was open to accepting others, no matter how flawed they were, for the very fact that they were brothers and sisters in Christ. I simply became someone who mellowed out, chilled out, and while my intense passion for the Lord increased ten-fold, my work level (my doing) dropped to next to nothing. I stopped doing in my own strength, and starting living in His.
This message was confirmatory to me, and it helped me see how frequently believers in Christ miss the open door. They live so near to Christ, but not in Him. They miss the blessedness of a life that is designed around followership.
As I listened to the pastor preach, I realized that even though I made the decision to become a wholly devoted follower of Christ Jesus nearly ten years ago this spring, I still am not always doing what I should. I mean, I listen, but I do not always follow. It is obedience with me, really. I listen, but at times, I refuse to follow where He leads. It has been a problem for a time, and I have had to learn, really progress through experiences that helped me deal with trust issues. I had to learn how to trust the Lord, then I had to learn how to abide in Him, and now I am learning how to rest. It is progressive. Trust comes first. Trust is learning to do more than just believe something is true and reliable. Trust is letting go and knowing, really believing, that the Lord has you covered -- that He IS, that He is the Great I AM. It is believing that no matter the circumstance, no matter the situation, He is there with you, and He will take care of you. Abiding is knowing where your provision, sustenance comes from, and it takes into consideration leaning on the Lord. To abide means that you acknowledge where your Source for life comes from and that your efforts, while noble, are not enough to get the job done. You must lean on and abide in the True Vine. Lastly, resting is letting go and letting the Lord lead, guide, and provide. It means you are in 100% dependence upon Him for everything — every breath, every morsel you eat, every thought you think -- and every deed you commit. You are wholly dependent on Him, and as such, you understand that nothing will be accomplished in your own way. It is all His way, all the time.
I have come to learn what it means to be a follower. It has taken time, lots of time. It has required sacrifice, and some painful experiences to help me learn how to do it. I am not a perfect follower because I still goof up, I mess up, but I keep on trying my best. I keep on surrendering my life, daily, to His leadership, and then I follow. I obey. I walk after Him. I have grown tremendously over the past ten years, and now that I am on the brink of a new life, new changes, and such, I realize that these next steps cannot take place until I am ready to let Him lead. I am ready. As of today, I am ready.
My Mind is at Rest
Today, as I left church, I had this amazing sense of peace of mind. I cannot really explain it other than to say that my mind is eased. It is like a rubber baby bumper has been placed around my mind today. You know, like when you are a kid at the carnival and you are in the bumper cars. You are bumping and crashing into other cars, but the big bumper cushions the blow. My mind has been cranked to this high level of tension, mostly due to my recent scholarly work, but also through stress -- worry, fear, doubt -- about everything in my life. My body has been at peace. I have felt the anxiety wear off, slowly coming down from a 9 out of 10 to about a 3 or 4. I have felt rested, refreshed, and relaxed, but my mind was racing, always trying to stay on top of all the details. Now, it just feels protected, like cushioned, and with that comes a sense of well-being, of comfort, and of relaxation. My mind is at rest, and it feels so good to let the worries go.
My prayer today is to experience this blessed restfulness as an on-going way of life. I want my mind to be completely resting in the Lord. I want my heart, my body, my soul, and my mind to be 100% obedient. You know it is like this:
"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" (Deut. 6:5 NASB)
and again here:
I have been progressively learning how to love the Lord with my whole heart and life. I have struggled with the mind part and of course with the strength part. Now, I feel like I have crossed the threshold, and I am resting with my mind. I am at rest in my heart, my life, my mind, and my strength. My entire being, inside and out, is at rest in the Lord.
Today is a blessed day, a good day. I am blessed to be alive and to be living in the way of His choosing. He is good to me, so very good to me!
Psalm 17:19 (AMP)
Blessed be His glorious name forever;
And may the whole earth be filled with His glory.
Amen and Amen.