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...anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold… must surely be a thief and a robber! - John 10:1 (NLT)
A woman recently snuck aboard a flight in Atlanta with no identification, boarding pass, or even a ticket. It wasn’t discovered until someone found her in their assigned seat. The woman refused to budge, even when authorities confronted her. She stared at the seat in front of her and said, “I’m not moving.” When she was unable to produce any documentation, claiming to have thrown it away, she was removed from the plane. Unfortunately, the rest of the passengers were also required to deplane and submit to another security screening, delaying their takeoff three more hours. This woman was thwarted in her attempt to sneak aboard the flight but still managed to steal hundreds of cumulative hours away from the people whose combined three-hour delay added up to lost time, missed connections, and other impacts from the delay.
The “thief” Jesus speaks of in today’s text will try anything. His motivation is focused on theft, destruction, and even death. This enemy wants to steal from us, but also from our Shepherd. But Satan cannot hurt God directly, so his efforts are focused on striking at our Good Father’s heart by hurting His kids. Rest assured, God is well aware of this strategy. It’s been in play since Jesus was born— God in the flesh, harassed at every turn by this soon-to-be-defeated enemy.
Jesus wants to take good care of us, so He takes on this “robber”... make no mistake, there’s a battle raging. It’s urgent that we lean in and stay close to our Shepherd. The thief sneaks in when we’re tired, drifting, not paying attention—when we’re easy to pick off. But our Savior knows how to protect us. The enemy may try to steal, kill, and destroy. But Jesus came to give us life. Real life. The fullest kind of life you can imagine. Guess who wins?
One of the ways we know Jesus loves us so deeply is because of His desire to protect and rescue us. He died to remove the consequence and penalty of death from the picture. Want to learn more? Click here.Share Tweet
...the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. - John 10:2 (NLT)
Maybe you’ve heard the story before. The one about a man who saw sheep being driven through the streets of a city. They were panicked, staying just ahead of the crack of a whip. When he asked, “Why would a shepherd do such a thing?” the man replied, “I’m not a shepherd. I’m the butcher.” The butcher motivates through fear. At his hands, animals are rushed along… ultimately to their deaths. But a good shepherd? He leads his sheep. They forge a bond through kindness, care, provision, and genuine concern. Now, both the butcher and the shepherd have their work cut out for them. Because sheep are out of control; they’re just not super-smart animals. Try to control them and you ultimately have two choices: Be the boss or be the leader. We, as people, are much the same.
When things are out of control in our lives… there is a strong sense of gravity that pulls us toward trying to control anything we can just to grab hold of some semblance of security, some kind of anchor point, in the tossing and turning of a stormy season. But one truth Jesus came to share with us is that we don’t need to be in control. We need to be led by the One who is truly in control. And who loves us so deeply.
The enemy tries to rush us to our death. But Jesus leads us. He invites us. Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid,” so often that it’s amazing I sometimes still forget it. No, Jesus doesn’t try to control us. He doesn’t want that. He invites a response. Invites us to follow Him. He loves us. Deeply. And wants to care well for us… like the good, kind God that He is.
Part of the way we grow as followers of Jesus over a lifetime is getting to know Him. Who He is. How He leads. The sound of His voice. The way He acts and reacts. Join me to pray that this Christmas season is one in which we all get to know Jesus better and better. In a way that brings joy to us, to the world—and also to Him.Share Tweet
...the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. - John 10:3 (NLT)
A man had parked his car at the bar and knew he was too drunk to drive. In an attempt to avoid being charged with a DUI, he snagged an electric shopping cart from the Wal-Mart parking lot for the journey from one bar to the next. He managed to steer clear of the drunk driving charges, but wound up being arrested for theft and charged with “unauthorized use of a moveable” instead. What voice was he listening to? Where did he get the idea this was a good option?
That voice in your head… where is it coming from? If God is trying to get our attention, we can recognize it’s Him because His words will pass through two filters: It agrees with His Word and it is the wise thing to do. It’s so important that we become familiar with and follow the voice of Jesus away from poor choices, out of danger, toward life.
One way to get to know someone’s voice is to stop talking long enough to let them speak. As you approach prayer today, or maybe in the next few days, may I recommend you try leaving your requests behind for a moment and simply ask God questions? And then get quiet enough to wait for answers.
You’ll eventually notice three things:
He showed us by showing up. Born in a stable. Lived in poverty. Experienced the pain we do. He gets it. Will you give Him the best gift possible—your heart—this year?
Want to cultivate an ear for His voice? Get to know God’s word. Start a reading plan today. You can even get a jump start on reading through the entire Bible in 2020! We learn to listen to Him, one page at a time.Share Tweet
...they follow him because they know his voice. - John 10:4 (NLT)
Have you seen the old painting of the Good Shepherd? The one where Jesus is carrying a sheep draped across His shoulders? I was shocked to hear that, when a sheep strays too often, the shepherd will “break” their leg, then proceed to carry it across their shoulders until it’s healed enough to walk again. The whole story ends with an uneasy, not-so-warm-fuzzy feeling—with the assumption that, in the end, the sheep grows close to the shepherd, recognizes his voice, and no longer strays.
Well… I was grateful to learn the story is false. It’s been perpetuated based on a misunderstanding that stems from a misspelling. You see, the word isn’t “break”... it’s “brake”. When a sheep is prone to stray, the shepherd applies a braking device to one of their legs. This “brake” slows it down and keeps it from wandering very far, making it easier to keep track of and redirect if it wanders. So think less like a “broken leg” and more like the brakes in a car… Finally, the metaphor begins to align, becoming much more accurate as we think about Jesus, our Shepherd.
When a shepherd “puts on the brakes...” it allows time to slow down until the sheep learns the shepherd’s voice… but also, and I love this so much… until they learn their own name. The One who loves us and cares for us wants very much for us to know Him and hear His voice. But He also wants us to discover who we are and what we’re living for. (Check out Ephesians 1:11, MSG) As we slow down enough to stay in step with our Shepherd—or are slowed down enough to be in that space—we discover our identity, who we really are, a little more about why we’re here. The blessing of sticking close to our Shepherd.
Jesus showed up on the scene in Bethlehem. Thereby, God came near to demonstrate how deeply He loves us. He knows how to care for us and how to get through to us. He’s persistent and He never stops pursuing. He’s the One who leads and feeds. Guides and provides. Corrects and protects. Brakes and… doesn’t break! Will you slow down to listen for His voice in the midst of this busy season?Share Tweet
They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice. - John 10:5 (NLT)
I was 19 when I met Jesus. In the previous six months, everything I found my value in had been stripped away, leaving me looking for hope, healing, wholeness. You’d think I’d have learned the lesson of dependency by the time I responded to God’s invitation to baptism. But no. I went from not having Jesus to having Jesus. From being unsaved to being saved. Going from nothing to something is not an incremental growth step. It felt like an infinite leap. Like that’s all I needed. Good to go. Ready to take on the world. I had God in my pocket, and, of course, at 19, I knew it all...
The next five years was less of a growth-season as it was a season of a growing awareness of the sin in my life. It wasn’t until the end of that time, as God’s Spirit worked in my desires, that I finally began to cultivate an ear for His voice. Funny enough, it started with a nudge from His Spirit to pray one of the most genuine and authentic prayers I had ever prayed:
“God, I have no interest in reading the Bible. If You want me to, You’re going to have to give me a hunger for it. And, while we’re at it, I don’t feel like praying. If you want me to pray, You’re going to have to give me a passion for prayer.”
Translation: I need the real-deal or I’m out. About a month later, He answered those two prayers with a resounding YES! I’ve since fallen in love with His Word and the depths of prayer; I’ve begun to recognize His voice. There’s greater clarity with each passing year to discern when the voice I’m sensing comes from the world’s pressure, my desire to be awesome, the enemy’s driving demanding tone… or from my Good Father.
Today there’s so much greater richness, so much greater joy, the highs and lows are much more exciting. And His voice…? I wouldn’t trade a sense of God’s words “whispered” in my ear through the Bible, teaching and preaching, devos, friends, prayer, and more. His voice is so much clearer and dearer to me than it’s ever been. Just give it time, friends. Keep showing up. Don’t stop listening. He’s here and He’s not silent.