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I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen... - John 10:16 (NIV)
A couple years ago I was on a very narrow and icy road leaving work when my car suddenly slid straight into the other lane with a car oncoming. I did my best to slowly correct as not to overcorrect but that section of the road was completely covered in ice. Miraculously (and I use that word mostly literally) I avoided oncoming traffic and the ditch on the other side as I worked back over into my own lane. If you would have seen my experience from overhead it would have looked like a hand from above was guiding my car. I wasn’t headed for anything fatal, but that icy drive got my blood pumping and my mind racing. All of us can look back at instances or moments in our lives and see where we were spared from danger.
On Sunday, as we celebrated Christmas services at Southland, Jon shared that Jesus came to LOVE us and to LEAD us. Jesus was for everyone. His rescue mission was so expansive it led to Him laying down His life for anyone that would choose to accept Him and the eternal life He came to offer. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” During this entire sermon series, we’ve learned that Jesus described himself as a shepherd, illustrating the vital role He plays in our lives. A good shepherd sacrifices himself to keep his sheep from danger.
Like sheep, we are mostly unaware of just how much we need the Good Shepherd. As busy as Christmas week is, it’s vital to listen daily to His voice. Today as we are getting through all “the things” let’s take time to tune into Jesus’ voice.
...I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full. - John 10:10 (NIV)
Today is Christmas Eve which is the setting for one of my favorite Christmas movies of all time, It’s a Wonderful Life. The film opens with George Bailey contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve. He is at the very end of his rope and believes life would truly be better if he was never born. Fortunately for him, a last-ditch prayer is answered and his guardian angel, 2nd class, Clarence arrives to put some context to life without him.
George Bailey was almost a victim to what our series, “Sheep Among Wolves” has been about. The Bible tells us that Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy our lives. In direct contrast, Jesus has come so that we can have life, a full and wonderful life. When the movie shifts to reveal a world without George, he sees how different and dreary people's lives would be without his presence. I can’t pretend to create an alternate version of the world without you in it, but I will say that if you have a pulse you have a purpose. The light of Jesus in you is shining out to people around you and they are blessed by it.
Tomorrow we will gather with family and friends to celebrate the Light of the World. He came to bring meaning and purpose to our lives. Today let’s ask God to point out to us just how much light is in our lives because of Jesus. Let’s also ask God to use us to shine a light on others.
They follow him because they know his voice. - John 10:4 (NLT)
Merry Christmas!!! I pray that today is a special day for you and your family. For many today will be a day of joy and celebration, but for some of us grieving the loss of loved ones or hard circumstances it will be heavy. For all of us, it’s important to listen to the voice of our Good Shepherd. Lay down your expectations for today and let God move in your midst. Trust Him to lead and guide you moment by moment. Our Good Shepherd came to love us and to lead us and it all started in a manger. From the most humble beginnings, His birth was the start of God’s greatest work in our midst. Humble yourself and let the day come to you. You aren’t in control. It’s freeing to remember that and when we relax and let God take control we can maximize the joy of this special day.
As you begin the day please take a few minutes to pray and reflect. Be quiet and still and listen for the voice of your Heavenly Father. As best you can, slow your mind and ask Him to carefully lead you today. Also, set a couple of reminders on your phone or accessible device to point you back to Him. Put, “Listen to the Shepherd” in the reminder so you can keep close with Him throughout the entire day. Before bed tonight take some time to quietly worship, thanking Jesus for his sacrificial love and patient leadership.
I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. - John 10:14 (NIV)
I spent a year in Florida working at a church between my sophomore and junior years of college. During that year I learned A TON about ministry. There was nothing like doing the things I had started to learn about in my Bible College classes. I worked with a youth pastor who was awesome with students and had a youth ministry that was a magnet for kids. Seeing him in his element and working closely together was inspiring, challenging, and very shaping for me as I trained to become a pastor.
During that year I had the chance to go and take in a practice round of a golf tournament in Orlando. The big thrill was seeing Tiger Woods. I got his autograph, TWICE! He was the biggest star in golf and one of the biggest stars in the world. Being in his presence was thrilling but it didn’t make me a better golfer or person.
Our relationship with Jesus should be a lot like one of the two experiences and relationships I described above. Jesus wants us to be inspired, challenged, and shaped by Him. He doesn’t want us just emotionally charged up from a one-time meeting. He wants us to grow in a relationship with Him over the course of time. He wants to lead us. He wants to lead us as a Good Shepherd to the point that He sent His Spirit, the Holy Spirit to be with us.
Like sheep, we are vulnerable and in need of His leading. Fortunately for us, we have constant access to God’s guidance through the power of the Holy Spirit. A great way to access the power of the Spirit is by memorizing scripture. Our minds are transformed and become fertile ground for the Fruit of the Spirit to grow.
"The LORD is my shepherd... He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams." - Psalms 23:1-2 (NLT)
The words above come from Psalm 23. If it’s not the most famous Psalm, it’s in the top three easily. It was written by King David. By today’s standards, it would be hard to find a parallel for such a well rounded and successful man. He was a hard worker, war hero, artist, singer/songwriter (with chart-topping hits), a successful world leader, and a king. If there was ever anyone who had a life moving in the right direction it was David. He was a driven and successful leader with a long streak of humility that served him well in almost every season of his life.
All this context could stand in contrast to our American sensibilities. To be that successful usually means that success was found in hard work and maximum effort at all times. Burning the midnight oil and candle at both ends. Most American success stories center around personal ambition, a fire to make life happen no matter the personal cost. But when David writes Psalm 23 he describes a very different experience than “win at all costs” leadership. He describes peace, and calm, and comfort.
I’m all for success in life and hard work, but let’s not confuse this with the idea that we are called to lead ourselves without our “hair on fire.” We are called to follow Jesus. We aren’t called to make it all happen at all costs; we are called to be led in rest and peace. If you have been somewhat or mostly miserable for most of 2019, then let me ask you, “Are you following Jesus or yourself?”
If you answered yourself then you’ve taken a critical step in following Jesus again. You’ve recognized your error.