September Article

Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Psalm 100:3

“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me…” John 10:14

In As I Was Saying, I’ve written of my youth, including experiences caring for sheep. Not good. At all. Lessons then did prove useful to me later, in the season of raising children. I think there were somewhat better outcomes.

Pictures in the Word show God’s people as sheep, and the Lord Jesus as the Good Shepherd. It is spiritually detrimental to lose the meaning of these images. Phillip Keller, introducing his A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, notes that many have a deficit in understanding many biblical stories and illustrations, due to coming from an “urban, man-made environment.”

The benefit gained through learning of things rural and natural, is better understanding and closer application of His Word to our lives.

Rebellious, stubborn, defenseless, prone to wander… you can discover many things about the nature of sheep, and why the picture fits us so well.

Caring, protecting, leading, feeding, correcting… you begin to understand more of the heart of the “great Shepherd of the sheep” (Heb. 13:20).

We should not neglect regular, deep times in God’s Word. Tools to aid our biblical understanding need to be chosen with discernment: there is much dross among the gold.

…be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body. Ecclesiastes 12:12b 

One day we shall enter new pastures. We will stand before the One who has cared for us through this life, and into the life to come: The Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (1 Pe. 2:25).

August Article

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

I’m writing from home, overlooking the garden. It’s a scaled-down thing this year—so much is pulling at time and shuffling priorities in this season.

I’m reflecting on a passage from John 15; the Lord gives an earthly picture of spiritual truths. Most of what He speaks, I have seen illustrated in this garden.

When a branch is removed, it goes on the burn pile. I’ve not seen much root itself, once cut off and tossed. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” (:6)

If I want a good harvest, I need to trim back healthy plants. Showy foliage is worthless for filling my table. “…every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” (:2b)

The branch separated from the parent-root is not destined for survival. Cut a strawberry runner too soon, and watch the inevitable result. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” (:4)

There is joy in seeing mature plants produce a crop; to observe their responsiveness to your direct, purposeful  care. It’s also uplifting to hear that your work is good. “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” (:8)

May we all reflect over these words of our Lord, confirming His truth in His garden, where we abide under His loving care.

July Article

…You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.   1 Peter 2:5

They were useless; irritating to deal with when working around them. No, not people… but stones. The perimeter of my backyard was loaded with off-cast stones, tossed to the edge of the lawn much as a farmer would do when clearing a field.

One day, when constructing a fire pit, I pried out these stones and brought them together. I carefully stacked them up around that ring, and they received purpose. Together they form a good thing; united in a structure. From worthless to worthwhile, by building them together: my hand, my design.

We as the church are likened to stones, gathered and placed on purpose. The Lord Himself is the builder, and owner:

…but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. Hebrews 3:6 

…I will build my church… Matthew 16:18

It is a truth worth meditating upon: We are not called to isolation and solitary living, remote as a stone on the periphery. The Lord has saved us for community: together we are built up by His hand, together we offer worthy sacrifices to God, together we minister for His praise and glory.

Together.

In a day of individualism and distance, in a culture that champions independence and arm’s-length relations, we have serious responsiveness and yielding to attend to. Apart from Him, we are only a stumbling block.

The master builder presides over His dwelling: …we have a great priest over the house of God… (Hebrews 10:21.)  In Him, we become—together—the Body of Christ.