“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” Mark 8: 34-36, NIV
This has been a long arduous summer and yet so fully alive with all the possibilities that God has shown me. I’m fast approaching the nearly finished task of co-authoring a book on natural dog health with a holistic veterinarian, launched out a new product line with Saving Grace Enterprises, and ramping up for an online conference with veterinarians, doctors, etc., to help educate on stopping a superbug staph infection. Now this all sounds kind of serious right? Well not according to what God has been telling me all week!
Last Sunday in service, our pastor had a very interesting sermon on Psalm 23 as we closed out a series on The Godward Heart. We’ve all heard and read that psalm since we were children most likely, no matter which Christian religion we are. However, I’ve not ever heard it presented like this and that is most likely why it resonated so loudly with me. Let me do my usual roundabout way of getting to the point here…
Psalm 23 is all about the Shepard and His sheep, right? Understanding what a shepard’s duty was and how he went about it in Jesus’ day is what got my attention. Anyone who has read my articles here know that I am not only a pet lover but my business is a business in natural pet care. When our pastor started explaining how a shepard cares for his sheep and what tools he uses, I felt like God was sitting next to me and whispering in my ear and it sent shivers up my spine in a most delightful way!
I’ve wondered for a long time how God would use me in a natural pet care business. Then He brought me together with Dee Kreidel and Saving Grace Enterprises to create our new product line in custom hand-tooled leather collars, leashes and journals. Huh I said? How does that go with natural pet care Lord? I got an interesting answer Sunday AND one that told me not to take myself so seriously. I’ll get to all that in a bit.
The Shepard had a staff (we all know that) that was about 5 or 6 ft tall I believe our pastor said. It had the hook at the end we all know about and that was to keep sheep gathered in and not wandering. Sound familiar? Ever wonder why God refers to us as sheep? It’s not a flattering statement because they are not the brightest creatures in creation, and they need constant tending and supervision. The shepard also carried a baton about the size of what our police officers carry today. He would use that to fend off attacking predators. He also used it for something a bit more harsh.
If one sheep was constantly wandering off and not learning to stay with the herd, the Shepard would use the baton to break one or two of this sheep’s legs and then immediately set them. Then he’d carry that sheep around his neck until he was fully healed. The purpose? For the sheep to become dependent upon the Shepard for all its needs and to bond fully with him. Again, God does the same to His children.
Another interesting thing the Shepard would do is to put oil on each sheep’s head and also body to ward off pests (fleas, ticks, flies, the usual suspects). Now the oil referred to isn’t your vegetable cooking oil as that would not ward off insects. Nope it was what we now know as essential oils (which by the way still are used extensively in that part of the world for their healing benefits and fast growing here in the USA) mixed with most likely olive oil. The oils served another purpose too. Sheep are goofy and get angry with each other over anything (again like us). When they did get angry, they’d go charging into each other to butt heads so hard that they could kill each other. With the oil on their heads, it would help them to skid off each other keeping them from killing each other.
Yep, I’m getting to the pet business with Dee and the “serious stuff”. So for his own protection the Shepard would carry a big leather poncho he would wear during inclement weather and also use as a “pup tent” of sorts to sleep in. So we’ve got Dee’s leather products and my essential oils from the pet business. Hmmm. Leather was the Shepard’s protection. Oil throughout the Bible is representative of the Holy Spirit. He uses animals as examples of us. Is anyone else “seeing” this? God will definitely use whatever, wherever, whomever for His purpose and glory if we just get the heck out of the way. Be relieved of ourselves so that Jesus can reign and work. He will protect us and He will provide for us.
Here was what was so funny to me when our pastor got to the Three Points of Application part:
1. Because the Shepard is in control, I don’t have to take myself so seriously. It’s ALL about Him. This does not mean to not take ISSUES in the world seriously because we should. It means to not take OURSELVES so seriously. If we do keep taking ourselves so seriously, then that is really internalized pride and wrong thinking rooted in the inability to surrender.
2. Because the Shepard cares, I can release my burdens to Him. Matthew 11:28, 1 Peter 5:7.
3. Because the Shepard is qualified, I can trust Him to guide my life.
God told me in no uncertain terms not only WHAT I’m supposed to be doing but also WHY, and HOW it all tied in with WHO He is. What He did not tell me was WHEN. Leave it to Him to keep tempering and teaching as He goes about His purpose.
On Tuesday or Wednesday after this riveting sermon on Sunday, John Fischer of a Purpose Driven Life wrote this in his devotional Acquittal by Penguin the following paragraph:
“This is not to say that any behavior in the natural kingdom legitimizes corresponding activity among human beings, but I do believe God has given us animals to mirror human behavior, and help us see ourselves in another light and not take ourselves or our roles so seriously. ” (italics mine)
Hey, do you think God is trying to tell me something? So then I was listening to some contemporary Christian music on Thursday while doing my housework. I was playing Jennifer Knapp’s CD, Lay it Down, and the song “Into You” came on. The words in the chorus “relieve me of myself, bring me into You” just stuck out like a sore thumb and I’ve listened to that song a multitude of times. I KNOW God was telling me to take a chill pill, lay it down, trust Him, don’t take myself so seriously, He has a purpose for the work I’m doing so allow Him to work, be relieved of myself, depend on Him and just enjoy the ride! WHEW! What a ride too brethren. So if anyone is getting too “puffed up” maybe we all just need to get over ourselves and rest in the Shepard. I sure don’t want to have to learn the hard way and take a 2X4 baton!