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

REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP

THE SERIES - BOOK THIRTEEN



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*



Why God - There’s Always A Why

How often we question God when it comes to our lives. Why “did” this or that happen? Why “didn't” this or that happen? The “created” challenging the “Creator” seems to be the thing most humans feel entitled to do and truth be known, we all do it at one time or another.

We can be a touch fair-weather when it comes to our dealings with the Almighty. It's good He is more than big enough to handle our often “selective short-sightedness”. 

But have you noticed, we don't question “why” God loves us. We can't possibly think it's because we are all so loveable, so we simply accept “by faith” that He does and leave it there, interestingly not having the need to understand “why”.

For today's reflection I would like to step up and ask the never-questioned question and hopefully in the process discover and uncover the heart of God towards us, within all its magnificence?

God's love is pure and holy. It's gift-like in its makeup. Its texture has a stabilizing effect on our souls. It's without spot or blemish. It's perfect in every way! We find ourselves in awe of its unfathomable depth and beauty.

It's not of this world nor tainted by this world. Its dimensions are without measure. Its divinity allows it to be unimaginable yet experiential, simultaneously!

So back to the question: Why God do you love me? Who am I that you would love me? What could I ever have done to warrant such love? What could I ever do to maintain it? I need a “why” God! There's always a “why”.

Then we hear the sweetest of responses: My child, My love for you isn't about you but rather Me. I loved you before you knew Me.

I am capable of loving you in your most unlovely of states. My love is in fact unconditional and all-sufficient, as is My grace. It's of a quality your mind is unable to comprehend.

It came at a very high cost to Me. Therefore it’s completely secure in that I initiated it. My love isn't predicated on what you do or don't do, but rather on what I chose and choose to do.

I have chosen to love you, that's your “Why”. 

And my soul finds rest in His transcendent love. Thankfully, He doesn't love me because of me. I would be the never-ending “weak link” in that scenario. God covered that probability by making Himself the determining factor. 

What an amazing love, but now I'm left wondering: With all this being true and immensely appreciated by me, if I were to reciprocate by submitting to have my heart expanded by God to accommodate more of Him thus less of me, would I then be better able to love as He loves in all situations with all people, in a likewise un-conditional fashion, simply because I choose to?

Now that would be a “desired result” worthy of pressing into!

Unless of course, I've surmised that I am loved because I'm so lovable! I think not!!



You Will Receive Power

Acts 1 - 8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth”.

Those were the last words spoken by Jesus before He ascended to heaven. “You will receive power”, would suggest they didn't have it at the time of our Lord's final instructions.

Power is not found in how much we know, nor a specific personality type, but rather the person of the Holy Spirit intimately empowering us. My point: It's not our power, but us allowing by invitation, His power to flow through us.

The wonderful news: We all qualify! Under the anointing of the Holy Spirit there are no limits to what God can accomplish through us. Why would there be? He’s God!

A great illustration is found in the third chapter of Acts as we find Peter and John walking down a street on their way to the temple.

They come upon a man who was crippled from birth and begging for his daily needs. The man’s request is for money to which Peter declares: “Gold and silver I do not have but what I do have I give you, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk”!

Later, Peter sets the record straight as the onlookers are amazed by what had happened.

“Fellow Israelites why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk''?

So, what did Peter and John have that they didn't have before Jesus ascended and the Holy Spirit descended? Omni present, “promised” Power! But as Peter made clear, not their own.

The same “powerless” Peter who had denied Christ was now the “powerful” Peter.

So much so, that later he would pray a dead girl to life! There is only one explanation for Peter's transformation from “coward” to “courageous”. Power!

May we all embrace the truth that the same power that inhabited Peter inhabits us all.

Therefore we are to be inhabited, not inhibited. Let's go out into our worlds under the anointing of the Holy Spirit putting aside our insecurities and fears and watch God be God in all His glory, in us and through us!

For those who hunger to participate, I believe the day is coming when we will be at the grocery store when a lady has a heart attack and we will pray her back to life.

Then we like Peter will proclaim; Fellow citizens of the world why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had brought this lady back to life? It's in the name of Jesus that she lives! 

And our Lord will be highly exalted. The news people will have to show up and we will be witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

God will use these events to glorify Himself and “make known” His reality “through His own” just like in days gone by. Days “too far” gone by! We are all invited to join in! Whosoever will!



The Question

Last week I was asked by a friend and fairly new follower of Jesus, the meaning behind water baptism.

After going through all the “ins and outs” of the subject, I landed on the simple but profoundly sobering answer to her query, complete with a lesson for my heart to embrace.

“Baptism is an external expression of an internal experience”, I concluded. A conclusion that echoed in my heart, exposing a truth of great value that will serve me well going forward for the duration of my time on planet earth as a sheep.

That description is “applicable to” and “indicative of”, all I do! Absolutely everything about me resides under its umbrella of influence.

Deuteronomy 13 - 3: “The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love Him with all your heart and all your soul”.

My first time reading that scripture I interpreted it as God finding out. After much closer consideration it hit me: He already knows, it's “me” who God is saying needs to find out!

“The test” is for me to discover what my internal reality is with Him. Heart and soul being internal, will always reflect their hot or cold conditions externally and God knows it.

This is so very reminiscent of Peter's encounter with Jesus on the shore when our Lord, with plenty to talk about, asks “the question”: Peter do you love me? 

Equally, Jesus knew it was Peter that needed to answer the question for Peter's sake. Before Peter is given one drop of instruction he is asked “the question”.

Loving God is the beginning place and foundation to a radiant life in Christ. I was created to be a lover of God. It's my “from the beginning” destiny. In doing so I fulfill that destiny.

To the extent of my love for Him, will be to the extent that the foundations of my life are sweetly fragranced with His presence. Their textured strength will be equally established by that same love.

All external expressions evolve from that sacredly intimate place. Therefore, it would seem of paramount importance that I make periodic temperature checks. In the book of Revelation I am cautioned to be “hot”. So I'm taking that as the prescribed temperature of my seeking.

I can love many things that are connected to God without loving Him.

I can love my church and not love the “Reason” for my church.

I can love worship and not love the “One” I’m worshiping.

I can love writing and not the “One” who gave me the opportunity to write.

I can love singing and not the “One” who gave me something amazing to sing about.

I can love my salvation and not love my Savior!

There's a story in the bible regarding ten men with leprosy who were all healed by Jesus. While “all” were healed, nine of the ten felt no need to say thank you. They loved their healing but not their Healer.

We read that story and are totally bewildered knowing these nine were afflicted with a slow and painful “death sentence”. One that left them ostracized from community and family. 

We ask ourselves; How is it possible to be given back “everything” and not love the “Giver” enough to say thank you? 

The “one” who did, the bible says was made “whole”. Wholeness is internal! Loving God is the initiator of wholeness, thus fundamentally non-negotiable to my spiritual well-being.

Nine out of ten! 90% is a frightening number but if it shocks me by its size into understanding its commonness, I will hopefully take measures to land in the 10%. It's where reality lives!

So today I hear “the question” ringing in my ears: Bill, do you love Me? You see, Jesus knows that “I need” to know. My heart tells me, all else is secondary in importance to Him therefore should be secondary in importance to me.



The Least Likely - Got It

The scene is the crucifixion of Jesus. We have two groups of people in attendance.

First, there are those who knew Jesus and are mourning His soon to be death. As a group they are experiencing their worst nightmare! All their time spent together with Him, the promises that were repeated over and over again by Him, nor the magnificent miracles they saw Him perform, could pierce through the grotesque darkness of what they were beholding.

No one is saying: “Jesus said He would rise again on the third day. It's going to be OK”. Not even his Mother or closest disciple John could muster up a single word of hope.

Their grief had blinded and deafened them to what “had been” said, done, and promised. The visual they were exposed to had broken their hearts and faith. 

Post-crucifixion, they would all confirm this truth by returning to their pre-Jesus lives and even when visiting the tomb of Jesus, they were not expecting a resurrected Savior, thus shocked to find His body missing.

Coping with their loss was now their new reality. Their reason for breathing had just died and with it died their purpose. Jesus was their everything and He was gone. They had no “what's next” on the menu. We can only imagine the depth of their total sense of lostness.

The second group were the “mockers”. Those who found the event entertaining and a perfect opportunity to hurl insults at who they assumed, was a helpless man hanging on a cross. His executioners were men who enjoyed participating in this torturous behavior.

Others would have been some of those present at the moment of decision regarding Barabbas or Jesus as to which would be set free. They likely dropped by to take one last shot at justifying their blood thirsty screams of “crucify Him”.

So, we have our two attending groups. The “mourners” and the “mockers”. Neither side truly understanding the massive significance of what was transpiring, each with their own debilitating reasons why.

But in the middle of this myriad of sadistic insanity and broken hearts, heaven speaks a magnificent word of clarification through the “least likely” mouth!

As we know Jesus was crucified with two other men, both criminals, one on each side of Him.

As we draw close and listen to the dialogue between Jesus and one of those men, heaven’s choice as to who God chose to speak His clarifying truth through, is revealed as recorded in:  Luke 23 - 42 & 43: Then he ( the criminal ) said, “Jesus remember me when You come into Your Kingdom”.

Apart from our Lord's subsequent: “It is finished”, that was the most profound statement of the day! That man didn't say: “if You do”, he said “when You do” enter into Your Kingdom. The only one who “got it” was a criminal hanging on a cross being executed for his crimes.

I don't believe on his way to Calvary that man “got it”. I don't believe when they were driving the nails in his hands and feet, that man “got it”.

I do believe that in a moment in time heaven “gave it” to him to proclaim and suddenly he knew that the One hanging next to him was in fact the Son of God and based on that, “the man” had a seriously time sensitive request: “Jesus remember me when You come into Your Kingdom”. 

And our wonderful Lord responds in verse 43: Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise”.

Just imagine after seeing and hearing for hours from both groups for different reasons, the “it's over” visual and audio, heaven in a heart beat drops this revelation into the man's soul; “It’s not over”! And you, the most “unlikely of all” are the only one present, who knows that reality at the moment!

Don't you just love God's “least likely” recruits! The next time you discount your usability status based on your self-thought “un-likeliness of choice” remember our spoken of friend. We're still talking about him and we don't even know the man's name.

Our “nameless” little boy with a few fishes and loaves still finds his way into Sunday church messages. There was a widow with “no name” who gave a penny ( a mite ) for the needy that Jesus found so incredibly impressive, He gave her honorable mention in the bible.

You see it's not about them nor about us, but rather our great God who loves using the “least likely”, thus qualifying all, as useable in the outworking of heaven's story!



Rejoice By Choice - It's A Lifestyle

Philippians 4 - 4 > 7: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation, with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Wow, what a challenge! What Paul is describing in our scripture reference is not remotely common with its “always” qualifier. This isn't descriptive of: When everything's going my way, rejoice. Nor, when I've gotten what I wanted, rejoice. No, this is a “regardless of the weather” lifestyle the Apostle Paul is laying out for the Philippians to embrace and follow.

We know that Paul's life was far from trouble free to the extreme, so when he says always, he's talking about some serious scenarios.

So I wonder: What would be the net result if I immersed myself without wavering in Paul's instruction. He gives us a sneak preview at the end of verse seven to the likely impact: “And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”.

I believe my spiritual and emotional life ( heart and mind ) would be transformed! Now that sounds like a worthy cause to invest my energies in!


My Ministry Into Our Ministry


Mark 6 - 38 & 41: “How many loaves do you have He asked?” “Go and see”. When they found out they said, “Five and two fish”. Taking the five loaves and two fish and looking up to heaven He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to His disciples to DISTRIBUTE to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all”. ( Five thousand plus, were fed that day! )


In the biblical story of the “fishes and loaves”, I so clearly see three dynamics in play to achieve the desired completion of the heavenly orchestrated equation. The young boy GAVE what little he had, our Lord then MULTIPLIED it, and the disciples then DISTRIBUTED it.


It’s interesting to note that Jesus, after the multiplying didn’t say, “Come and get it”. What He did say was, “Everyone find a place to sit on the grass and I’ll bring it to you, through my own”. Folks, He loves to involve us. He loves to make us matter! We are blessed beyond measure to be written into, His stories! Just imagine: Invited by Him to participate in His plans for others!


From the inception of the idea of writing books to be made available to “all freely”, there has never been a moment when I haven’t been aware of its ministry context. I could easily be seen as the “young boy” in the story. Jesus has most certainly multiplied my meager offering to Him.


So may I invite and encourage you to be a distributor of that which He has multiplied, thereby elevating “My Ministry” into “Our Ministry”, thus completing “His Ministry”. There’s something about that idea that sounds “perfect” to my heart!


We all have friends, family, work mates, school mates, etc. I’ve included a simple directional on “how to find” the “fishes and loaves”. Please feel free to share “what you eat” with others. You have no idea where it could lead to! That young boy’s mother could never have dreamed, what that little lunch she had prepared for her son on that fateful morning, would produce!


Thanks in advance. Bill Taylor


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