Friday, March 7, 2014

Is Jesus Your Shepherd?

Being a shepherd is hard on your heart.

We've been the caretakers of a small herd of Barbado Blackbelly sheep since October. But in that short time I've suffered all kinds of worry, and ultimately some heartbreak, over those four-legged creatures. Are they finding enough water? Did they make it through the frigid night? What if a coyote attacks them? On and on. If you follow this blog, then you may remember my post from January 18 about the Great Sheep Escape and how God worked some serious miracles to bring them home. One of those miracles included a little lost lamb I dubbed "Junior." Here we are on that day:

Junior and Me

But anyone who owns animals knows bad things can happen. Cats and dogs get hit by cars. Fish float to the top of the tank and birds fall to the bottom of the cage. We even had a small dog once that was mauled by larger dogs in our neighborhood. Death comes to us all, even the pets we love.

And it happens to sheep who live within reach of predators.

In the past couple weeks, we've lost five lambs. It could be wild hogs, or coyotes, or both. The first lamb missing was Gimpy. He had a gimpy leg, but we'd been watching him and he was on the mend. Next to go were a set of new twins, pictured below. I'd dubbed them "George Lincolnton" because they were born around President's Day. My oldest son was born on Abe Lincoln's birthday, and as a young boy he used to say he was born on "George Lincolnton's" birthday. The fourth lamb to disappear was Junior's lookalike. He had similar coloring to Junior, but was just a bit lighter. I mourned all of them, especially the tiny twins.

Twins George Lincolnton

But when we discovered Junior missing yesterday morning, I lost it. "Not Junior!" I cried. Surely he'd just become separated from the herd. He and his mama had wandered away from the group once before. Maybe he'd done it again, like the day of the Great Sheep Escape. Mama is the tamest sheep out of the bunch, to the point that I've petted her multiple times as I'm feeding them corn. She and Junior were kind of my favorites. I just couldn't accept that Junior had become the latest casualty, so I set off in the ATV to search the 350 acres, believing he had to be somewhere. Even Mama Sheep thought so, because she kept calling him. But after hours of driving around, hollering for him, rattling a sack of corn, looking in every one of their favorite locations, he was still no where to be found.

That's when the hard reality of being a shepherd set in.

A shepherd can't always protect their flock from danger. Sheep, like people, have a mind of their own. Instead of staying in an area where they would be fairly safe from predators, they like to hang out in the hills where the coyotes and hogs roam. They don't understand they are putting themselves in danger by their choices. Choices that make sense to them but are ultimately very bad and very dangerous.

I understand now why Jesus likened us to sheep. As our Shepherd, he wants to keep us safe, but sometimes our choices put us in danger. Danger of attack from the Enemy. Danger of eternal death. We have to listen to his voice, like the sheep listen to The Sheep Whisperer and me when we go out to check on them. We have to heed Jesus's "rules" if you will, in order to keep our soul and body safe. The Shepherd only wants what is best for his sheep, yet we sheep often disregard what Jesus says or what our heart tells us is right and good. We want to do things our way, but often our way is the most dangerous way. Like the coyotes and hogs that are killing my sheep, the Enemy of this world is drooling over you and me. He's just waiting for us to wander away from the Shepherd. And when we do, that's when he attacks.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to be a casualty like little Junior. I don't want my Shepherd mourning over me because the Enemy got a hold of me. I want my life choices to align with God's Word. I want to listen to his voice, and know him, and find rest and comfort in him.

That is my prayer for you, too! Jesus will leave the ninety-nine obedient sheep to go out and search for the lost lamb who wandered away, just like I did. But sometimes it's too late. Sometimes the Enemy has already won. Don't be a Junior. Your Shepherd is calling you to safety this very moment. Listen!

"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand." John 10:27-28 (but all of Chapter 10 is great!) 

This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are: USA, Czech Republic, Israel, Philippines, Poland, Ukraine (especially lifting you and your country!), Netherlands, Russia, Australia, Germany, United Kingdom

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