Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Go In, Go Out, Find Pasture

         Sometimes, when we follow a path we can become so entrenched in that way that we do not even recognize that we have chosen a path that will take us away from the destination that God has planned for us. Who we associate with, listen to, read, watch, and seek counsel from will influence who we eventually become. Speaking of the power of influence, let me tell you two true stories about two sheep whose chosen paths,...let's just say....turned each into a new creation.

          When I was twelve years old I lived in the middle of Kansas on a small farm. We had the usual farm animals; goats, chickens, horses, cows, cats, dogs, and a pig. My best friend, at the time, lived on a sheep farm. Hanging out over at my friend's house I developed a love for the little lambs. My Dad, who did not want anymore animals on our six acre property, however did want to give his daughters the desires of their hearts. - My Dad's generous spirit is a direct reflection of our Heavenly Father's love for His children. One day my Dad took me on a business trip to a sheep shearer’s ranch. While talking to the sheep herder we learned that he was struggling with what to do with a little orphaned lamb, which was refusing to take a bottle. Offering to take the lamb off of the herder’s hands, my Dad become “Father of the Year” in the eyes of a twelve year old little girl.

          Within a week's time I had gotten BJ, my new woolly friend, to take to a bottle and enjoy life on our farm. As months went by I began to notice BJ spending a lot of time with our dogs. Being the only sheep on the farm, instead of developing into her sheepish ways, she started acting more and more like a canine. Yes, my sheep starting thinking she was a dog. BJ began chasing cars, sleeping on the porch, sniffing the bottoms of her friends, and even her bleat took on a tone that was surprisingly close to that of a bark. The dogs forgot that she was indeed a sheep and only saw her as one of their own, expecting her to act as they did. She had no influence as a sheep any longer, even the chickens began running from her, because they too saw her as a dog.

          Years went by on the farm and BJ grew older and more and more set in her doggish lifestyle. She never grew a thin tail or lost her wool replacing it with a fur coat, but her mannerisms began to take on the characteristics of a dog. Running after the mailmen, greeting me as I got off of the bus, scratching at the back door during thunderstorms, and barking...I mean "baaing" at squirrels in the yard - All became common practice for this sheep gone to the dogs.

          The years passed and we sold our farm and moved closer to town, but BJ and the dogs stayed with the new owners, a common practice in the farm world. As far as I know BJ continued her doggish behavior. I remember laughing about my crazy transformed sheep with my friends wondering how an animal could allow itself to lose its identity simply by hanging out with another kind. I came to discover that most anyone, influenced by those they surround themselves with, can and will change their behavior even to the point where they themselves become unrecognizable.

          As for the second sheep I was going to tell you about, I too slowly began giving up my identity as I moved away from my farm. At the age of ten I gave my life to Jesus and became actively involved in a bible-based church within walking distance from our farm. My family and I studied the Word of God and became very good friends with our pastor and his family, who had such a good influence on each of us; teaching and encouraging us in the Lord. After a few years our family church went through a church split, which led to our pastor moving back east. Even though our family had stopped attending church altogether during my adolescent years I still kept seeking God and kept surrounding myself with friends who believed. Still during those years, with little direction in the ways of God, I crept further and further away from who I once was.

          By the time I had moved a state away to attend college I yearned for what I once had, the guidance I got back in those days at our farm church, so I went out in search of a church to call my own. In my exploration I continually kept coming up empty, missing a place of real relationship with Jesus only to find religion. I decided to just focus on my relationship with Jesus privately and continue living my life, but did not account for the importance of godly relationships. I did not realize that while I tried to be a Christian I had surrounded myself with none and my voice increasingly grew dim in the world I lived in. Over time I, still being saved, I became a lukewarm believer confused and unrecognizable to the world that Jesus was not only my Savior but my Lord. I had no progress, simply a person at work in the world just like a nonbeliever.

          You see, I thought that I was bigger than the Word of God, because I thought that I could just do it my way and still live in the blessings of God. God loves us and nothing that we do will ever change that, yet He gave us His plans so if we do not follow His Word, it is us who become lost by our own chosen paths. We are all renewing our minds either for the world or from The Word of God. 

As our thoughts become influenced our destinies follow.

          As Christians we must not be influenced by the world, but influence the world for God. Once we ask Jesus to be our Lord we should not just stay inside our safe little land of Salvation, but we should "go out" into the world and tell others about the amazing love our God has so graciously bestowed upon us and lead others towards that same door, Jesus Christ.

"I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture,"
(John 10: 9 NKJV)

          Not only does God give us the instructions to "go in" and "go out", but He gives us an incentive to fulfill His plans. For a sheep a pasture is a place not only of rest, but of abundance. Pastures provide all the needs for those who abide in them from food, to protection, to peace, to enjoyment, to a beautiful view, to...well the list goes on and on. I believe that when we go out into the world and proclaim the truth about God's Word, leading others to know Jesus, we are then able to find pasture in our own lives.

          I am not perfect, but I am learning that as "A Work in Progress" it is just as important for this sheep to move forward as it is for me to help others progress. So many times we try to find ourselves by searching outwardly, when along if we simply seek God He will lead us to know who He has made us to be on the inside. When Christians seek counsel from God Himself and from those godly relationships closest to us we can live in the World, but not be of it. Then instead of just being one of the “herd” we can be the one who leads others back to their Sheppard. This will give us the voice into the lives of many, helping others to know Jesus so we may all walk up the path to green pasture.

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