Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Scratching the Surface
(A Brief and Incomplete Guide to Good Shepherding)
If I were a betting man which I am not, I would wager Psalm 23 and John 3:16 are the most memorized verses of the Bible.
Both generate calm certainty about God’s existential and eternal care; or as Eugene Peterson wrote, “The sooner we get the message, the better off we’ll be, for the message is good: God is here, and He’s on our side…God is here right now, and on our side, actively seeking to help us in the way we most need help…God is passionate to save us.”
John 3:16 is a concise summary of God’s love in Jesus that guarantees the eternal after the existential by grace through faith; and whoever embraces Him experiences confident living in knowing the heavenly follows the last breath in time.
Psalm 23 spells out His existential and eternal care.
“The Lord is my shepherd.”
God’s love for us is compared to a shepherd’s care for sheep.
Sheep are notoriously – and please remember I don’t write ‘em; just read ‘em – stupid. They wander off from what’s good for ‘em and always get into trouble when apart from the shepherd’s guidance and protection.
Shepherds – and keep in mind that God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the Good Shepherd and all who love Him by loving like Him are His undershepherds – live to guide and protect the sheep.
Referring to Himself as the Good Shepherd and undershepherds who love Him by loving like Him, read John 10:1-18 to flesh out undershepherding as patterned perfectly by Jesus.
“I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.”
God provides as well as guides and protects. Green pastures represent places of rest, renewal, and nourishment. Still waters connote unhurried satiating contentment. Depleted by the meanness, madness, misery, and miscreance of living in a fallen world, God regenerates our emotional, intellectual, and spiritual wholeness, happiness, joy, safety, and security.
“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
Jesus provides the perfect pattern – way and truth leading to abundant life in time and forever – for a right relationship with God. His example and instructions are intended to inspire us into greater intimacy with God and His will; resulting, as Don Skarr likes to say, in a life that sins less. Though we can never be pure and perfect in every way or sinless, always needing Lord Jesus as Savior, we can be more better and sin less; resulting in an undeniable equation: more holy = more happy.
God does this “for His name’s sake” because His reputation is at risk juxtaposed to the existential and eternal welfare of people who trust Him from here to eternity; which is why I often pray, “Lord, bless Your people so those who are not Your people take notice of how You bless Your people and then turn to You! As Your people live triumphantly with strong calm sanity no matter who, what, where, when, or why, Your reputation as true God in Jesus to save increases! So bless, bless, bless for Your glory, laud, and honor to hasten the day when every tongue confesses Jesus is Lord and Savior and every knee bows before Him as One with Father and Spirit.”
“Though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. You are with me. Your rod and staff comfort me.”
While the world is filled with dangerous “shadows” and dark conspiracies to hinder and hurt God’s flock, He is with us and provides the weapons for combat – rod and staff – to keep count so none are lost, guide so none lose their way, rescue those so prone to wander off into the pits of life, and protect us from predators.
With God’s promises like Joshua 1:9, Psalm 62, Matthew 10, John 10, Ephesians 6:10-20, and countless complementary quoted assurances from Father, Son, and Holy Spirit throughout Holy Scripture, believers know the truth of Matthew 7:24-27 in a 1 John 4:18 kinda way.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows.”
Even when surrounded by enemies of God who are enemies of anyone related to Him by grace through faith in Jesus, God’s family feels/is safe, sane, strong, and secure; or as Betsy said to sister Corrie ten Boom while dying in a concentration camp, “We must go everywhere and tell everyone that no pit is so deep that God is not deeper still!”
Anointing oil has always been a symbol of rejoicing related to feeling/being esteemed, guided, and protected. Intimate with God, we feel/are blessed existentially and eternally beyond expectations: “My cup overflows.”
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow all the days of my life. I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Summarizing the preceding verses, anyone intimate with God knows His guidance and protection “on earth as it is in heaven” with irrepressible confident living in the assurance of eternal life.
Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, a movie about legendary Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle, includes one of the best expositions of Matthew 10:16 within the context of Psalm 23 and John 3:16. Wayne Kyle says to his sons, “There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. Some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world…they…[don’t]…know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep….Then you’ve got the predators who use violence to prey on the weak…wolves…and then there are those blessed…with an overpowering need to protect the flock…who live to confront the wolf…sheepdogs.”
Jesus is the Good Shepherd who guides and protects the flock; and women and men who love Him by loving like Him – undershepherds – model their guiding and protecting lives and ministries after Him. It’s not enough to heal wounds. Godly people prevent wounds.
Blessings and Love!
Look up! Stand up! Speak up! Act up for Jesus!
Salt! Shine! Leavenate!