Good Shepherds

I got pulled over by a Sheriff’s deputy last week. Yep, it happens. It was an unexpected encounter in many ways. First, when he put his flashy blue lights in my rear view mirror, I seriously thought he was trying to get around me to go bust a heroin ring or chase down a gunman. We were on a narrow, twisty, curvy two-lane road on the island where I live where passing is nigh impossible. So when this good citizen saw the lights go on, I assumed I was being asked to do my duty in cooperating with whatever chase he was about to start and get out of his way.

Turns out he was chasing me.

I pulled into a convenient side road and was startled when he pulled in behind me. I had checked my speedometer when the lights went on by reflex, and I had been driving 34 in a 35 MPH zone. What the heck!?!

We exchanged pleasantries through the open window and I still wasn’t sure why we were having such a lovely chat. Turns out that I had been doing 34 in a 25 MPH speed zone. This is what happens when you aren’t paying attention to which part of the curves you are traveling on. Most of the road is 35, except that small portion of extreme curviness where he caught me.

I deserved a ticket.

Our passage is a very familiar one from John which talks about the Jesus being the Good Shepherd. I want you to read this differently today and focus on the function of the sheep pen:

John 10 ( The Message)

11-13 “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him.

14-18 “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too.

The sheep pen is a place of safety, just like speed limits. When we stay inside them, we are kept from harm. Just like playgrounds have fences, things that are designed to “contain” us are meant to be places where ravaging wolves and traffic accidents can’t threaten us. Jesus not only wants to keep us safe in his “pen” of commandments, he wants those who live outside the pen to come in.

They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.”

Our Good Shepherd acts completely for the good of the one flock. He is willing to freely lay down his life for the sheep…which in fact he did.

My encounter with the deputy reminded me that this man is also willing to lay down his life for my safety. All first responders do. They race into places where harm is happening, without any thought to their own safety. I am grateful for that.

I am also grateful that Officer Long did not give me a ticket or even a written warning that day. I deserved it, but he showed me some grace. He was my Good Shepherd on the road, and I am humbled to know that he is out there keeping my community safe.

Remember to pray for the first responders in your community. They need the protection of their Good Shepherd, too.

Slow Curves

The Rescuing Gift

Living in the Outer Banks has increased my deep appreciation for First Responders. When the tourist season begins in earnest, we see an increase in their efforts. Ocean Rescue begins their patrols again. Life Guards take their stands. Emergency crews gear up for the inevitable water and Bypass accidents. The Coast Guard increases their practice drills. We go from sleepy chill to high alert as winter moves into spring and on into summer.

I am forever impressed and humbly grateful for the work these men and women do. They RUN toward tragedy while the rest of us shrink back. I remember a time when my mother collapsed outside a restaurant and was lying unconscious on the ground. I called for help and within minutes the EMTs arrived. Their incredible care, their kindness in dealing with her, and they way they spoke to both of us still stay with me to this day. People like this have a rescuing gift, and thank God, they use it to serve the community.

In the book of Romans, Paul talks about the ultimate rescuing gift that came in the form of Jesus on the cross. Paul makes the case that one man’s sin (Adam) separated us from God. But that was overturned by another man’s gift (Jesus) which gave us life:

Romans 5 (The Message)

15-17 Yet the rescuing gift is not exactly parallel to the death-dealing sin. If one man’s sin put crowds of people at the dead-end abyss of separation from God, just think what God’s gift poured through one man, Jesus Christ, will do! There’s no comparison between that death-dealing sin and this generous, life-giving gift. The verdict on that one sin was the death sentence; the verdict on the many sins that followed was this wonderful life sentence. If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides?

I love how Paul describes this as a breathtaking recovery, a wildly extravagant life-gift that Jesus provides. It is indeed a grand setting-everything-right that puts death at bay and offers eternal life in its place. Death has no sting! All because Jesus said yes.

18-19 Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right.

How about you? Is today the day you will say yes to Jesus? Will this be that moment that you accept him as your Savior and put your whole trust in his grace? Will you confess your sins and ask him to cleanse you? And then promise to follow him for the rest of your life?

It’s a simple step, one that brings the rescuing gift into your own grasp. Jesus died so that you might live. He offers you the breathtaking recovery of a sovereign life, and gives you an extravagant life-gift. Are you ready?

Just say yes.

Getting Ready