All Kinds of Sheep

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  John 10:27

There are sheep who don’t listen to nor follow His voice, sheep who follow everything but the Holy Spirit. They go the opposite direction entirely, or run a somewhat parallel course. Until that road diverges and they end up miles and miles from the watchful eye of the Good Shepherd.

Some follow not God but people, especially leaders who sound sure of themselves, or who present a “feel-good” gospel such as legalism. Doesn’t it feel good to be always right? Doesn’t it feel righteous to never need to go through those refining fires you demand of others? Doesn’t it feel set-apart to be morally superior to everyone who doesn’t conform to your belief structure?

Stop and ask yourself:

Did you shop around for same-breed sheep so that you can all affirm each other in your “rightness”? Do you view “outsiders” as all wrong without turning that same critical lens on yourself? Do you think, “They are wrong, they are lost sheep” without seeking God’s insight on the heart of each and every one of those people you so cavalierly lump together? Do you put on your “good Christian” costume, complete with a forced, compassionate smile, say “God loves you,” and then inflict corrupt laws, guilt, shame, or manipulation on them? Do you force-feed Koolaid — pollution, poison, cyanide — all in the name of Christ, in order to gain others’ conformity or to position yourself as their guru? Do you corral those who are insecure and vulnerable, or lower people in your eyes so that you can lord over them? Do you look for and play to people’s needs, lavish compliments and gifts, or amp up the charm to obligate them to you?

Do you silently and shamelessly communicate, “I have conformed. I do what is expected. Now you conform to me or to us. Do what we demand and expect of you. It is the Great Commission of which we fastidiously participate. It is love. It is freedom. It is The Way”

Is it?

Or is it this?:

Doing what is expected will produce a splendid Pharisee.

(“The Taproot of Religion and Its Fruitage”, by Charles F. Sanders.)

Stop and reflect:

Who are you following? If it’s a person or group, are you denied the right to think for yourself? Because that doesn’t happen when you are in relationship with God — He is a Counselor, a Teacher, a Friend who confides and shares insight and who listens and understands. He is a Helper, a perfect Father, a fiercely-protective but astoundingly-gentle Shepherd.

flock of sheep with shepherd, free image

Maybe it’s not a false shepherd that you are following but YOU that you are following. Check your motives. Inspect your heart. Do you find yourself rationalizing your distorted theologies? Are you sure you ever stood on the solid rock of truth of Christ and Christ alone? Did you at one time and have since drifted from it? Has it gone on so long that you are no longer aware of the distance between you and God? Did you refuse His help, direction, and discipline He so lovingly offered in the past? Have you expected His long-suffering patience to last forever while you knowingly, habitually, pridefully reject His interventions on your behalf?

Are you looking for an easy ride on the shirt-tails of someone who is doing all the work? Do you plan to use them to reap the benefits and rewards of their hard labor? Are you too important, too proud, or too dishonest to lay yourself bare at God’s feet and let Him do what He wants with you? — however painful it may feel or long it takes? — regardless the loss of some part of yourself that you know is wrong and yet refuse to give up? Do you follow after anything BUT the Holy Spirit of God because you want a shortcut? Is it because you know at this point you may be left behind to go through His consecration process while others who already did that hard work over long years move on ahead?


Matthew 7:13-14

The Narrow and Wide Gates

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Many Christians think that applies to “non-believers”.  They are exempt from any concern. But there’s this:  

Matthew 7:21-23

I Never Knew You

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

My prayer is:

That you press on to find the narrow gate and enter through it. Nobody can find it for you, it is between you and God. Do you genuinely search for the gate? Do you sincerely want Him or not? Do you seek Him? Yield to Him? Desire Him? Do you actually love and obey Him? — You can fool people and deceive yourself that you do, but not God, of course God knows. So seek Him. Sincerely. He guarantees to you that you can find him. It’s never too late to start, or too hopeless to begin again.

Gate, field free

Jesus said:

John 10:9

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.

Jeremiah 29:13

13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.



Did Anyone Ask God?

Some religious people make all kinds of claims about God and what He endorses:  a certain cultural value or political view, a specific theology, and, increasingly frequently, a dismissive conclusion about people who don’t comply with those views. But who among those “so-sure-of-themselves-people” even stops to ask God what He has to say?

I’ve asked that question of a few individuals before — people who are so entrenched in their “correct”, hateful stances that they don’t even see they are nothing like the Christ they claim to represent. Their answers were all some form of the same “We’re done here” rebuke:

“I don’t have to ask God. He clearly already commanded it in His Word.” The intimation is, ” If you were in right standing with God, you would know this, too”, said non-verbally with a parting prolonged stare, the equivalent of a gavel pummeling their bench of judgment.

I have come to hate that word, clearly. Clearly — enough said. I am right and you are wrong. End of discussion. Guilty as I charged. It is used by those who are embedded in self-righteousness, safety-in-numbers, corporate self-exaltation, and “outsider” judgement, dismissal and relegation.

They are so proud, that they no longer have eyes to see that many of those “outsiders” are actually “insiders” with God.

Many are meeting God all by themselves (“What, they can’t do that!”), and responding to Him, loving Him, even obeying Him. (“But we didn’t get to take credit for their conversions, or assign them to ourselves as their mentors!”) Many are sacrificing for Him, enduring the refiner’s fires for Him. Many, many, many people actually KNOW Him all on their own. (“Without interventionists?! Not possible! Clearly!”)

Yes, possible, and they actually LISTEN TO God. And HONOR God.  And have given their lives to do with as He pleases. They are forging ahead in admirable and honorable relationships with the Holy Spirit of God, and are grateful for the poignant, humbling, sometimes-difficult, occasionally-painful, always-sublime PRIVILEGE of knowing Him.

So, to the Pharisees of present day, you “clearly correct”, self-assigned and self-promoted “ambassadors of Christ” …

Many of those who you disqualified actually ARE ambassadors of Christ. Because they DO think about God. They DO listen to God. They DO care about what He thinks, what He wants, what He says, what He endorses, and where He leads. They actually connect directly with Him as a branch to the vine.

You say they can’t do that? — They must connect to the humans that claim His name, they can’t bypass the religious institution?

Oh, but they can. And they are.

I ask those who already think they know everything of God …

“Do you ever think about God?” Oh, not what your religion says about God, not even what you have read in the Bible — Do you KNOW Him? If you can’t tell me what He has “spoken” to your heart and mind about a myriad of present-day questions and issues, that’s fine, that’s honest — just don’t claim that you already clearly know exactly what God thinks and feels about those issues.

If you haven’t cared enough about God to even ask Him, to wait as long as it takes to hear it from Him, and Him alone, then …

It’s time you stop demanding others comply with your views.

It’s time for you to push the “PAUSE” button of your religiosity …

It’s time for you to “STOP” …

It’s time for you to “LISTEN”.

I have thought about God and my own life’s existence
And it’s not like I’ve not been on my knees in repentance
Bigger than life and out on my own
I’ve come to these conclusions about God

I have thought about God when searching for solutions
Disappointment and cost birthing such confusion
Surrendered my trust to the truth, not a system
And to God

How can we walk underneath an open sky?
How can we say we have eyes and yet we can be so blind?
You have your race and religion and I guess I have mine
What about God?

I had thought about God when my own father was dying
I thought the idea of death and its timing
I turned the other cheek only because I was crying
Out to God

How can we walk underneath an open sky?
How can we say we have eyes and yet we can be so blind?
You have your race and religion and I guess I have mine
What about God? What about God?

How can we walk underneath an open sky?
How can we say we have eyes and yet we can be so blind?
You have your race and religion and I guess I have mine
What about God? Do you think about God?

You can look through the windows of a stained-glass cathedral
You can speak in tongues in a church with a steeple
Who holds the keys to your own heart’s temple
I wonder if it’s God, I wonder if it’s God

Do you ever think about God?
Do you ever think about God?

Written and performed by Rita Springer, “About God” from the album “Effortless”.

The Discovery of More

I have always been practical and fact-driven, influenced by a childhood spent on a farm, an education focused on biology, and a career as a physical therapist. I was never one to put my confidence in anything speculative, so, despite a Christian upbringing, I long-doubted the existence of God. It’s not that I didn’t try to believe, or want to believe — I just didn’t. Or maybe I couldn’t.

As it happened, twenty years ago life for me became excruciating. I had exhausted all options to stop a person from destroying my family. I was desperate enough to consider God once again — if he did exist, I needed his help. Honestly, in directing a “prayer” to him “somewhere up there in the sky” I was more prepared for no response than for divine intervention.

I remember vividly the afternoon soon after — I was alone on a long, country run when a “presence” suddenly appeared next to me. It was so outside my paradigm of reality, I was more stunned than comforted. The unseen “presence” that matched my strides that day had an actual personality. Similar to how we can discern personalities of humans, I could discern some of his:

Foremost was his overwhelming purity — I felt filthy by comparison the second he appeared. I braced myself for him to point out my contaminants: I was very aware of my hatred toward the person destroying us, not to mention a sudden awareness of more filth within me. To my amazement, no judgment came from him. I could sense his restraint, as if to say, “No that’s not me. You thought that’s what I do … condemn and judge … that’s not who I am.” There were no words, just an emission of that truth about him. He was pure himself, aware of my filth, but he was not there to compare, judge, or condemn.

DSCN0261.jpg God is light, best edit, for blog

That was all. It lasted only seconds and rocked me for weeks. I did some digging and found “him” in the Bible: the same personality, the same purity, the same “being” came through the stories. Though I knew many of the Biblical stories were controversial according to scholars (and I agree that many stories are likely metaphorical, not literal), I could care less about that — the God I found in there was the “being” I had met.

Was “he” that I had experienced on my run that day God himself? — I don’t think so. Jesus? — Probably not, though inexplicably I knew Jesus was part of “him” somehow. An angel? — No. The Holy Spirit? — Yes, from what I found in the Bible on my own, that was whom I had met.

I remember telling a close friend, “Why didn’t anyone tell me the Holy Spirit makes himself palpable on the Earth today? I went to church my whole life and nobody told me. That would have been helpful, so I could have avoided my whole thinking and world being upended.”

Why God responded as he did that day and not the countless times I had reached out to him previously, I do not know. Perhaps it was because he knew there was a shipwreck just ahead for me. Perhaps it was to offer himself as a lifeline even before my young sons and I were dumped into an inhospitable sea.

Storm-at-Sea on boat.jpg rebuked the wind for blogThe “why” did not matter — he had shown himself once; that was all I needed to want his constant, ongoing presence. Infrequent visits and aid were unacceptable to me — I wanted him alongside every minute of every day. I put a demand on him — I expected him to be with me, “speak” to me, advise and guide me.

I thought I was prepared for what I was asking. I was not. Nowhere near.

For the first few years, unexpected spiritual experiences startled me: “knowing things” placed there by God; “seeing things” that perfectly provided answers I needed in ceaseless problems I faced; visions and dreams of grand concepts I could not possibly understand, and his frequent palpable presence, which I loved but which also overwhelmed me. Each experience left me steadied, helped, and deeply honored to be in his confidence, but they also emphatically disturbed my understanding of the world. I had no one to turn to, no one who had experienced God in the same way. Whom could I tell who wouldn’t think me crazy? Who would believe me? I never felt more alone.

In my quest for information and human comfort, I sought “serious” Bible-teaching churches. I assumed those who were especially “religious” would understand the spiritual world that had collided with my earthly one. Those I confided in identified everything I had experienced as happening to plenty of people before … in Bible days. That was little comfort to me. I thought, “It’s the 1990’s and I’m a freak!” It sounds funny to me now, but initially I resented the very God that was keeping me afloat — I never asked for all that he was. He had rocked the world as I knew it. In doing so, I had become a person even longstanding Christians eyed with suspicion.

I am indebted to the accepting, knowledgeable, and helpful people I met in those early years. At the same time, in the very places I sought refuge, the harshest, cruelest of people came out of the woodwork to confront me. That was when I first saw unchecked evil hiding behind “religion” within the Church. It persists today — the mismatch between our pure Creator and the religious institution that is often nothing like him.

Hard-hearted, legalistic religious people pursue others uninvited. They begin harmlessly enough, but quickly move to their agendas. They always want something: power, control, attention, exaltation, limelight, money, endorsement, insight, silence regarding their abuses, or to gain one more pelt to sling over their predator backs. If they meet resistance, they don’t hesitate to impose, manipulate, and bully. They fancy themselves as “gatekeepers” to God.


Yes, there is much ugliness in the Church …

However … 

I refuse to blame God or all Christians for the perversions of some. He gives us free will — what people do with it is theirs to own.

Jesus addressed religious people like that as, “You brood of vipers”, “snakes”, “strangers”, “wolves”, “evil doers”, “of the devil”, and “fools”. You would think hate-fueled “Christians” (are they really Christians?) would learn — they only make the rest of us more determined to advocate for the people they condemn; they only expose their own hearts, making it easier to know we must route around them.

People are not the keeper of the gate to God. They never were, and never will be. No human can block the passage of anyone on Earth who wants to enter. Jesus corrected the Pharisees who played bouncers and gatekeepers in his day with this:

“Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10: 7-10

DSCN0262.jpg edit, thru our portico door to sunny courtyard at Esbelli Evi.jpg flip