Excerpt for Reflections Of A Sheep - The Series - Book Twelve by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP

THE SERIES - BOOK TWELVE



AUTHOR - BILL TAYLOR

COPYRIGHT 2017 - BILL TAYLOR

PUBLISHED BY BILL TAYLOR AT SMASHWORDS



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*Special thanks to Shila and Pragna for their encouragement and inspiration*

**********



The Privilege Of Choice

The unavoidable qualifier to the quality of spiritual content in our choices is always found in the motivation. There is one choice that transcends all others in the light of the One it impacts.

It’s important to recognize; it's a choice that selflessly excludes me as its benefactor. 

I have the choice to love God. That's amazing! Especially when I factor in this truth; He gave me the indwelling ability to do so!

It's a spiritually super-natural dynamic to be able to love the “un-seen” or “never-seen” and yet we can. 

It's not a decision that can be lectured or coaxed out of me. It can't be legislated as in “I have to”. I can't be guilted or shamed into it. It's completely voluntary.

Don’t you find it compelling that God honors are right to choose? I have thought at times; would it have been in God's best interest to “make us” love Him? He could have quite easily.

So why did He leave us on our own to make such a monumental decision? Why did He expose his heart to the possibility of rejection? Did he not “so love the world” to be loved back? The short answer is, Yes and No. He loved the world voluntarily, graciously and selflessly by choice.

He then left it up to the world to reciprocate in kind by choice thus making the world’s response contextually legitimate in His sight. God has no appetite for forced legislated love. What Father would?

By us activating this privileged “gift of choice” what might heaven's desired result be?

That we would bless the heart of God voluntarily, personally, intimately and selflessly, thereby creating a relationship of mutual two-way blessing between God and ourselves. A relationship containing profound importance from both perspectives.

Sometimes we peruse the landscape of the “big picture” and conclude we are “very little fish” in a “very big pond”. May I encourage you to embrace this truth.

God does not get loved by “schools of fish”. It's one fish at a time as we step up and place at His feet our “choice” to offer Him our love simply because we can and desire to do so.

Imagine, we as individuals have “the privilege of choice” to bless the heart of the Creator of the universe. Little fish? I think not!

He loved us “first” thereby setting the standard. It's truly our choice whether to reciprocate in kind. I love “the privilege” when it comes to other matters but I must remember the “purpose of privilege” has far greater implications than to serve my best interests!

I can't bring my “perfection” to Him seeing as I don't have any. But I do have love and it does my heart good to know I can bless His.

As is always the case, choices include priorities. Perhaps with one of this supreme importance and magnitude, it's a “first things first” type of thing. As previously mentioned; He loved me “first” therefore I will love Him “first”.

Perhaps better said; I can honor God “first” or honor Him “only”. In choosing the second option I’m thinking the “first” will take care of itself!

It’s amazing how all the other priorities get well taken care of when we put; “First Things First”.



Hope Met Hopeless

John 3 - 17: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through Him”.

Bethlehem is a very profoundly pivotal geographical location on planet earth. In fact there is none like it! It was there God birthed “hope” to the “hopeless” in the form of a baby. 

I've often wondered, why an infant? Why not have Jesus descend as a thirty year old in a like manner as He ascended as a thirty three year old. Was His first thirty years necessary, knowing His actual ministry lasted only three years? Did the accumulated calluses He acquired on His hands as He apprenticed as a carpenter under the tutelage of his Father have purpose?

We know God doesn't make it up as He goes. There's always a purpose that parallels His ultimate plan. His purpose? As we speak, Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father as our advocate, representing and defending us in Heaven.

His sacrifice not only purchased our forgiveness but equally His authority as our counsel to speak on our behalf. To legitimately do so, He had to live among us. He had to experience humanness..

He had to experience a broken heart to sympathize with our at times brokenness. He had to walk in our emotional shoes to feel what the blisters of life felt like. In short: He had to know what it was like to be us.

Therefore, He voluntarily leaves His ivory tower existence in heaven to come as a baby. In love He empties Himself to become one of us. We can only imagine what a massive “step down” that was for Jesus. We can only imagine the quality of love that would motivate Him to gladly agree to such a demotion. We can only imagine the loving intensity of His heart as He willingly came to us, knowing we couldn't come to Him.

In BethlehemHope Met Hopeless and we are the benefactors of God's desired introduction!

Hebrews 4 - 14 > 16: “Therefore since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way just as we are - yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace in our time of need”.

I'm so glad there were no short cuts implemented in God's plan for His visitation in the flesh. 

I find great comfort in knowing, Jesus knows what it's like to be me.



Do We Have A Jesus On-Off Switch

While leaving church a few weeks ago I noticed a very frustrated young male parking attendant trying to, as best as he could, orchestrate the safe passage of those exiting.

As I crawled up close enough to be heard, I decided to impart a touch of levity to hopefully save the fellow from exploding. I with tongue in cheek counselled: Tell them “the first shall be last”.

My attempt at humour worked as he broke into a thankful laughter of relief. But he did have something of a profound nature to say before I made my way past him and out into the street.

He shared: “I don't know what “they” look and sound like while in the building but things sure do change when they leave”. He had obviously manned his post-church ministry position long enough to have established a well founded by experience opinion.

An opinion that stuck with me throughout that day and in fact, many subsequent days after.

It became personally introspective to me as a possible explanation for many of the issues we have in life, leaving me with this question: Do we have a Jesus on-off switch?

One that's on just long enough to get our church attendance star, but never on so long as to interfere in our “out of church” lives. 

Have we made ''church attendance'' the point and not the One who is the singular reason for church?

If we met on a Wednesday at a coffee shop, would Jesus be the center of attention as He was for an hour or so on Sunday, or is that a mindset that gets re-visited next Sunday?

Did we leave Him there last Sunday with a sense of confidence that He will still be there when we return?

Or did we bring Jesus with us to accompany our every breath. This is where we could jump into a theological discussion regarding, Jesus always being with us as an indwelling presence in our lives, which is true.

So, perhaps the better way to pose the question should be: Do we care about His presence or is that a “Sunday to care about” thing. The Switch!

I'm so thankful for my long time two closest friends Shila and Pragna. This dynamic duo are natural sisters to each other, while being sisters in Christ to me.

We lean heavily on the second as being the one of supreme importance. We talk a lot, quickly getting through the at times necessary somewhat trivial, to get to the “good stuff”.

We are aware, the Darling Of Heaven Jesus awaits, wishing to impart His magnificent ministry to our hearts as we invite Him to be the center piece of our times together.

He never disappoints as we eventually part company more deeply in love with our Redeemer while looking forward to our next chat.

I don't think we have a switch but if we do it's stuck in the ON position! We’re aware “The Switch” is our enemy with its always available options of convenience. Options that tend to apply the “pause button” to our moment by moment relationship with God.

Options of convenience come at a high price. In this case, too high!

We are a bride with a groom, thus married to Christ. What marriage could possible sustain an attention span of an hour or so per week? The cost of a switch is therefore unaffordable!

Apart from the already mentioned massive benefits of being “switchless”, here's a side benefit you might be interested in considering. You attract “switchless” spectacular Jesus lovers into your life.

My lady friends gladly invest themselves in my daily writing with their much appreciated layers of inspiration. Based on the content, our chats are always God centered. Shila is my anointed “proof reader” while Pragna is my official Holy Spirit filled “cheerleader”. How cool is that!



Consecrated

The word itself sounds “heavy” doesn't it. A kind of dreary dark vow of commitment to a “Monk Like” lifestyle. No laughing, no joy, no talking, no: Well, just no everything! 

Nothing could be further from the truth. Consecrated simply means giving back for God's use, what He gave to us in the first place: Our lives!

We do so with an understanding that it is in fact His complete inclusion in our lives that makes our lives worth living.

The enhancement factor of a life committed to Jesus simply cannot be equalled or measured.

Therefore being in one's heart consecrated is a trusted, grace-given, and privileged opportunity to participate in heavens plan for others. 

It's all the colors of the rainbow and so much more! The bible describes it as: Abundant Life! Not beige, nor brown, nor off-white but rather magnificently and colorfully radiant!

The consecrated life style is so beautifully depicted in this great song of the church:

Nothing “drearily heavy” here. In fact it’s spiritually enticing as I see it. “Used by God”. What could be more thrilling than that!

Consecrated is a desired in us response, to the One who gave His all for us. Not out of guilt nor an attempt to pay back, but rather a birthed in our hearts loving need to say thank you.



Immanuel - God With Us

I highly doubt there has ever been penned three more powerfully profound words than these: “God with us”! 

The three words that changed everything, shaking the entire world to its foundations with heavens glorious announcement; “You on planet earth have very important company”!

This is life altering massive news! The God of the Universe is with us! Right now! This very moment! Intimately! Personally! Passionately! Emphatically!

He isn't “sort of” with us, He is “absolutely” with us! It isn't hypothetically theoretical, it's realistically factual! It's radical! God is with us in every way imaginable that one can be with another!  

God wants us to acknowledge and be overwhelmed by that truth, as we explode into our days with this revolutionary revelation branded on our hearts.

May we never relegate that thought's hugeness into something smaller to accommodate our finite minds comfort levels with being blown away.

Matthew 1 - 23: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel ( which means “God with us” ). I never get tired of hearing that!



Contentment - The Superior Product

“Contentment is not found in the understanding of all things but rather in intimately knowing the “One” who does”.

1 Timothy 6 - 6: “But godliness with contentment is great gain”.

Philippians 4 - 12: “I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the ''secret'' to being content in any and every situation whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want”.

Proverbs 19 - 23: “The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble”.

My goodness! Doesn't this sound like a euphorically fragrant atmosphere to spend our days in! It certainly brings an enticing flavor to our spiritual taste buds. Well, before we proceed let's be sure we aren't over simplifying the word or confusing it with another word.

“Content” and “Happy” are not the same. Happy is externally motivated. Its life span is always determined by the next event, good or bad. Contentment, while not necessarily changing the immediate circumstances of life, does change “us” in the middle of circumstances.

Here's the wonderful transcendency of contentment over happiness. Contentment is a choice that is not contingent on anything other than our choice to choose it!

Contentment derives its legitimacy from that sacred place where we intimately commune with Jesus.

You will notice that the descriptive “happy” is suspiciously missing in our scripture references.  The Apostle Paul said: “I have learned the secret to being content”. I think “happys” absence is the secret. 

Paul had learned the superiority of one over the other and decided to live in the superior! In Paul's life, his frequent visits to prison we not happy occasions. Being beaten by his enemies and often left for dead would also be disqualified as “happy times”. So what was Paul talking about ?

You see happiness and contentment are far more than semantics meaning the same thing. They are two totally different mindsets with two totally different net results.

I think Paul is saying: Happy is fine but there is something so much more valuable available to us.

Paul's “secret” was found in his desire to be consistently mindful within the context of what and Who he knew. His circumstances were completely unrelated to his contentment.

So, what did Paul base his contentment on? What could be so incredible as to have him relegate his circumstantial life so emphatically, as confirmed in Philippians 3 - 8: “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ”.

For Paul, the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus was the singular component to his sense of peace, reward, joy, and yes contentment. A worth that was understood by Paul as never changing, thus eternally significant beyond measure. All else he concluded was fleetingly trivial by comparison.

Paul would also say in: Philippians 3 -10: “I want to know Christ - Yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death”. 

Paul wasn't saying he wanted to die but rather “die to himself” in order to become more “alive” in Christ. Thus: “the power of His resurrection”. All resurrections must be prefaced by a death and Paul knew it as he wrote: “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain”: Philippians 1 - 21.  

Was Paul simply an extremist or did he realize, the extent of his contentment was directly related to the extent of his “knowing Christ”.

I'm thinking, Paul came to a place in his spiritual life when he understood: There's “knowing” and then there's “knowing” and chose the deeper meaning of the word as his preferred lifestyle.

A version that made Paul the powerfully undeterred man he was as he lived out this mindset; I don't have the luxury of waiting for my freedom to be content, therefore I will choose to be so in my imprisonment.

Contentment is Heaven’s antidote for the ups and downs of “fair weather faith”. It also removes us from the spiritual roller coaster we can find ourselves on when “happy” is entrenched as the ultimate goal.

So, is being happy wrong? No, as long as we realize that it can and will change, thus not a mentality to attach our spiritual well-being to.

Contentment when displayed “in spite of circumstances”, is powerfully persuasive to a world that can barely spell the word! 

Contentment maintains our calmness and stability during the storms of life. Contentment says: I don’t have to be happy to “choose” contentment!

*FREE E-BOOKS BY BILL TAYLOR*

REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP

REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP - THE SERIES - BOOK ONE

REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP - THE SERIES - BOOK TWO

REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP - THE SERIES - BOOK THREE

REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP - THE SERIES - BOOK FOUR

REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP - THE SERIES - BOOK FIVE

REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP - THE SERIES - BOOK SIX

REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP - THE SERIES - BOOK SEVEN

REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP - THE SERIES - BOOK EIGHT

REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP - THE SERIES - BOOK NINE

REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP - THE SERIES - BOOK TEN

REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP - THE SERIES - BOOK ELEVEN

REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP - THE SERIES - BOOK TWELVE

REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP - THE SERIES - BOOK THIRTEEN

REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP - THE SERIES - BOOK FOURTEEN

REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP - THE SERIES - BOOK FIFTEEN

REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP - THE SERIES - BOOK SIXTEEN

THE ROSE AND THE THORN

WILLING HEARTS - NO LIMITS

THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED

THE SECOND CROSS

BULLS IN CHINA SHOPS

FAITH IS A JOURNEY

EQUAL TIME

THE HEART IS SACRED

REJOICE - IT’S A NEW DAY!

BLESSED & CONTENT

MY FRIEND - MY PEACE - MY LORD

SOAR!

FEAR NOT!

YOU DECIDE - CHOICES

THE REAR VIEW MIRROR

HIS LOVE MADE PERFECT

AMAZING GRACE - AMAZING SAVIOR

TALK AND WALK

I FORGET

GUIDE ME HOLY SPIRIT

GOD IS BIGGER

HUGE TRUTH!

GETTING OVER “STUFF”

AVAILABLE

FAITH - GOD IS NOT INTIMIDATED

THE TRAP




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