Saturday, September 18, 2010

Beside the Still Waters

Months ago I went up a nearby mountain on my bicycle, seeking to make the most of the time I had available to me and seeking some wisdom from the Lord.

I am not afraid of dealing with wolves. The one who is afraid is not a true shepherd (John 10:12,13).

  • "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:15).

  • "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert..." (Acts 20:28-31).

The greatest threat the Church faces will always arise from within, not from without. The challenges to the Church from the government should give us opportunity to testify to the Kingdom of God in the name of Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:17,18). The perversion of the culture gives us the arena in which we shine as brilliant lights (Philippians 2:15,16). But a Church who has allowed wolves to define her character and mission is a sick Body.

We need more members of the Church who have an apostolic burden for the purity of the Church in her heart and actions: "I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:2,3). Wolves stand in the way and will show themselves when presented with the Word and admonitions to live that Word. Even the calmest and most loving voice, when spoken with the Word in the Holy Spirit, will cause the wolves to bear their teeth. They cannot abide the Word.

But there comes a time when the wolves are mostly gone (I don't think we'll ever be completely without them in this world, and there is a little bit of wolf in all of us disciples that keeps us humble). What does the shepherd do then? Scarred, weary, and tempted to swing at any sheep that used to stand near the wolves or even has a wolfish hair in its wool...but called to be a shepherd, and that means more than warring, even if for a good cause.

So I'm bicycling up a mountain, the physical effort mirrored in my heart, mind, and spirit as I beg the Lord to break me of this wolf-killing instinct in the midst of a flock ready for green pastures. There are times when the trail is so steep and rocky that the bicycle loses traction. I have to get off and walk it up ten, twenty feet. No amount of straining, sweating, roaring get the bicycle to surmount the unfriendly trail at these points. It's not the bicycle's shortcoming, I realize on one of these spots. It's just that I'm not strong enough...He's good at breaking me.

Thunder rumbles from the other side of the mountain. I stop and turn back, knowing trouble is on the way. On the way down the wind changes, the sun disappears behind clouds that tower over this mountain I'm on. Then the small hail - graupel - starts falling, thickly, quickly covering the ground and hiding the trail. Lightning flashes around me. Close (I am literally in the clouds of the storm as they wrap around the mountain). I make a wrong turn, stop, and find the trail again.

I am gripping the brakes so hard my hands hurt. My toes will be bruised for a month from keeping the bicycle from crashing on the steep, rough, and now white descent.

But in the midst of this I hear: "Lead them beside the still waters." Once, twice, over and over.

And so, here I am, five months later, leading beside the still waters. It takes emotional risk, careful compromise (not of doctrine but of "my way of wanting to do things"), and loving communication even with those that are resistant to being loved. I see Reformation, Revolution that I have desired for this people finally beginning to dawn (that grey with the fainted tinge of yellow or orange an hour before sunrise), and have a peace knowing it's not my Revolution. I don't even hear the howling of wolves now two valleys away, fading every day. Other shepherds have come with wisdom and a similar desire for green grass and still waters.

The, the God of the stormy mountain...has spoken once again to His stubborn servant. He's sometimes got to almost kill me to get through to me. I'm ready for the wolves should they rise again...I'm stronger, a little wiser (very little), hopefully more still and humble in spirit (time will tell). But now I'm delighting in these sheep, these beautiful and hungry sheep, delighting in watching them flourish beside the still waters.