Friday, 8 February 2013


Jesus the Good Shepherd
This week I was researching how Jesus has been reflected in art down through the centuries. One of the recurring themes for artists is Jesus The Shepherd. He is frequently depicted gently holding a young lamb. While the New Testament never records Christ cuddling little lambs, these artists have risked being arrested by the Cheesy-Police to portray Jesus in a way that they consider to be a reflection of His love and care for people. If Psalm 23 is but a shadow, it is surely Jesus Christ who is casting this shadow. Beyond the arguments, the rantings, the shrill objections of those who defy God, the Holy Spirit today ministers the grace of Christ to believers in a way that the world could never understand. The closest we can come to explaining to a non-believer what Christ means to us might be Psalm 23.
¶ The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
¶ Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
¶ You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD

Psalm 23:1-6
Christ satisfies my deepest and most immediate needs ("I shall not want"). I have some big challenges at the moment. I have needs which constantly cause pressure. I need Christ's help to meet my needs. Over the past few months I have been praying intently for Christ to meet my pressing needs. Little by little, day by day, I am seeing the answer to that prayer. Because I know that Christ the Shepherd of my soul will take care of my needs, I am at peace. I don't have to try and figure out "how" or "when". I don't have to sweat with stress over it. I shall not want.
Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack! "

Psalm 34:9
Last year I had a continual battle with fatigue. On a few occasions my body wouldn't listen to me. It involuntarily took over and basically shut down. But in the midst of this I knew that Christ my Shepherd was also my Sabbath rest. He led me to observe a weekly sabbath, and trust that as I laid a day down a week to meet with Him in His House with His people (notice the flow of this Psalm, it's not the green grass where I am meant to find my deepest rest) I would be even more productive with just the six days I had left. If you have been battling weariness, or perhaps even fatigue, let Jesus your Shepherd lay you down in green pastures and rest you. I heard the testimony once of someone who was really struggling to sleep. (I know some people who suffer horribly from insomnia and they tell me how taxing it is on them physically, emotionally and even spiritually.) One night in desperation they cried out to God for help. As they lay there on their bed they had a vision of Christ beckoning them to come to Him. As they did, he laid them down and stroked their head. With each stroke the anguish of their mind seemed to fade. They were soon overcome with the peace of Christ and just as soon experiencing His rest. The person sharing this testimony said that they ceased to experience insomnia from that time. He makes me lie down in green pastures.
Written by Edith G. Cherry, 1895
We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender!
We go not forth alone against the foe;
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender,
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender,
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.

We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender!
Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise;
When passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.
When passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.
¶ This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:
¶ "In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.

Isaiah 30:15
Our Shepherd leads us. For too long I stressed about doing the "perfect will of God". But some time ago I met Jesus as my Shepherd who leads me. I found that if I stayed close to Him and walked through the doors that He opened I could only do the "perfect" will of God. Sure, I still pray for wisdom and guidance and I rarely rush into things, but I have found that Jesus is my leading Shepherd. He leads me beside calm waters. I have a relatively busy life. I run four organisations and am involved in running some more with other people. I serve voluntarily in these not-for-profit organisations gladly - joyously - and heartily. But its usually difficult to see any of them as "still" waters. In fact, in trying to fit everything in, I decided over the Summer to lay down one of my passions: tennis (so that I had time to fit everything in). But I felt Christ my Shepherd lead me to a tennis court which strangely resembled still water for me. When I'm on a tennis court hitting a ball my soul is restored from the calm clear waters. Others tell me that their still waters are literally still waters which they occasionally ripple with a fishing fly!

Christ's shepherding of my life causes me to be away from certain things and into other things because I represent Him. I am led up 'paths of righteousness for His Name's sake'. What I do with my time matters - because I bear His Name. What I watch on TV or my computer screen matters - because I bear His Name. How I talk to those I love (and those I don't) matters -because I bear His Name. Christ has changed my heart to feel what grieves His heart. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake.

In the eye of my busyness storm, when the valleys seem deep and the shadows cast long, I have been experiencing Christ's presence. At times His presence has overwhelmed me. Each morning, when I awake, I grab my iPad (from which I read my Bible) and go into another room by myself. As I read the Bible, I reflect and pray. Sometimes I'm struck by how relevant a Text is for what I'm going through. Sometimes I share these journal entries about these Texts with my Facebook friends. It is a time of worship. A time of renewal. A time when I fear no evil because Christ The Shepherd is with me and His rod and staff (protection and direction) comfort me.

The past few years have involved me being prominent within our State on matters surrounding the value of life. After one public forum where I presented I had a queue of upset people each waiting to tell me what an intolerant idiot I was. Just a few years before this I wrote a controversial paper on a development proposal which within half an hour of being published online resulted in a phone call from one of the most prominent politicians in our State demanding that it be taken down. Over the next few weeks I had several prominent politicians and business leaders demand that I recant. In these times I felt Christ's anointing on my head, and His table of nourishing set before me in the presence of opposition. While lesser critics of the same company behind the development project were being sued, threatened with solicitors' letters, and being economically handicapped, Christ kept me and caused my cup to overflow.

Christ The Shepherd has called me to pastor. I'm not like most pastors though. The burden to pastor that Christ has laid on my life is a little difficult to explain to most people because it's so unusual. Invariably, whenever I begin to explain it I am always misunderstood. It is often easier to let people be disappointed with my pastoring than to both disappoint and confuse them. My pastoral burden is not confined to a time-frame. I have burden to pastor in a way that will leave an ongoing legacy for generations. But it is a pastoral burden that yearns for the welfare of people who are beyond the regular reach of our church. And this is where people (within our church) begin to misunderstand me because it sounds like I'm saying that I don't care about those in our church. If you get to know me you'll discover very quickly that I deeply care about everyone in our church. But, just like the parents of an only child trying to help their child understand that just because they are having another baby doesn't mean they will love them any less, I try to help those in our church to understand that we are called to introduce them to The Shepherd and this involves us sharing in a slightly more impossible vision than we might have dared had.

This sense of call to pastor our community is being appreciated by a growing number of our flock who have been in our church long enough to understand this call. But our call to shepherd begins where we together experience Christ as ourShepherd: the House of The Lord - our local church. Thus, we say with the Psalmist King, I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. It has been my delight to be committed to the House of Lord at Legana. It has been in the House of the Lord that I have most experienced the Shepherd's goodness and mercy. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life as I dwell in the House of the Lord forever. This provision, this rest, this comfort, this anointing, this overflowing cup, this house of goodness and mercy, where Christ shepherds His, is an utter folly to those who have not been made believers by the Spirit of God. But to us who are His, it is the hand of the Great Shepherd running through our fleece to remove the burs, thistles, and mud of this world as with each stroke He restores our soul and nourishes our spirit.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28
Ps. Andrew

No comments:

Post a Comment