RETURNING TO THE RIGHT SHEPHERD

15 01 2018

follow-shepherd

In the Book of Joel 2:20, the second half of the verse going into verse 21 reads, “Surely God has done great things! Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things!” These words were written to the Israelites as they were coming back to the faith they had abandoned. The Hebrews had wandered from their God, choosing to try to replace Him with worldly pursuits and temporary pleasures. They found no lasting satisfaction; as a matter of fact they ended up losing much more than they had ever gained. But now they were returning to the source of their very being. If there is a word that defines their behavior; it would be repentance.

 In the midst of our chaos, God brings us a promise of comfort as a response to our repentance. Repentance is a word that I believe is misunderstood in the modern day. It literally refers to an individual reversing their course.  They were walking away from God and now they are turning in the opposite direction to go after him. It makes room for God’s amazing grace to redecorate a heart. Old habits are replaced by a new behavior that reflects God’s holiness. Prior labels are replaced by signs that reflect the new ownership of Heaven upon what was once monopolized by the things of earth.

 Real repentance happens when you are genuinely sorry for what you used to keep a secret! You no longer try to hide what you know must be addressed. You are no longer sweeping under the rug what must be totally removed. You allow God to go into your closet and deal with every one of those ugly skeletons. Your faith in God leads to you forsaking your old ways. You humbly surrender your stubborn and selfish ways so that you can freely be available to serve in God’s will. Repentance is so much more than just feeling guilty. It opens the door for you to be godly! There can be no saving faith without sacrificial repentance. There can be no real rescue without admitting that you are drowning.

 God’s holiness is not on display to render us hopeless. God’s goodness is our only hope to open our eyes to the truth that only within his hands will we ever really discover the path to find our way home! It is only by our sudden and sincere return to the Lord that we can receive and reap his promise that he will miraculously provide more life from fewer moments than we could ever hope to muster or manufacture. God can do more in one day surrendered to him than we could ever hope to accomplish in a lifetime.

 The Prophet Joel also proclaims this promise for those not afraid to admit that they can’t do much living without a commitment to the author of life. In Joel 2 we read that God says that he will make up for the lost years of the great locust devastations. He will heal us from the memory of both the savage locusts and those that were deadly. This includes the fierce locusts and the locusts of doom. The Lord will repair, redeem and renew our land from the damage of all those great locust invasions. If we trust the Lord, we will once again eat our fill of good food. Our mouths will stop the grumbling and once again shout out praises of gratitude. Never again will we be shamed or humiliated. Never again will we be alone and unloved.

Religion has always been about us trying to impress God with our outside actions. Christianity has always been about us allowing God to do a transforming work on the inside of our dying hearts. Religion has a way of proving us inadequate. A relationship with Jesus has a way of showcasing God’s amazing grace. There is nothing embarrassing about coming clean with the Lord. We can be secure that in the Lord’s care, we will never have to worry about our heart’s being hung out to dry again.

 When I was 8 years old I went on an Altar Boy’s Trip with my Church from North Jersey. We went as a group to Point Pleasant. It was a different time because we were left loose to roam with very little supervision. I remember that on this day I actually jumped off a diving board for the first time. It was a really good day until my moment of disaster. Father Mark told us that we had to be back at the Bus by 7PM. I was terrified of him. I made the decision to not be late at the expense of me wetting my pants. I confided in the Priest what I had done with the hope of receiving mercy. What I got was total humiliation. He announced to the entire bus what I had done and proceeded to tell me to move away from him because I stunk. Needless to say, I felt like a hopeless Loser in this man’s sight. And I never again felt good enough to be loved by God.

 Who is your Shepherd today? I have decided to follow Jesus and only in him can I delight in the redeemed miraculous provisions that God has promised a plague filled person like me. What the locusts have attempted to annihilate, the Lord has powerfully renewed to animate and because of his intervention, he has opened the door to some exciting brand new adventures. This time I won’t be shamed. This time I will be saved. This time I won’t be rejected. This time I will be respected. This time I won’t be left alone. This time I will be loved.  It does matter how you walk and where you walk and who you choose to walk with. Rather than wandering aimlessly in a world of charades and smoke and mirrors, why not get back to where you once belonged. It’s a New Year and it’s time for some new moves. Sheep are vulnerable to begin with. In the wrong hands, they are lamb chops. I don’t want to be basted. I am tired of my days being wasted. I desire to humbly be part of God’s flock. And when we come to Jesus, we will never be turned away!


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