When shepherds cease to do their jobs the sheep do scatter. They know not to stay together, nor have the strength to fight off wolves as one flock.
Moment to moment it is not hard to lead the flock. The test is in endurance. Staying with them and moving at their pace. Sheep are slow and keep their heads down. A shepherd task is to be their additional eyes and ears and to care for them with a willing and able heart knowing that the master looks on the shepherd’s way and his management of the flock.
By definition, a shepherd is a constant guide and physician, trained with an eye to watch for intruders, lambs that go astray and lambs that are sick and need tending.
Many do purport themselves to be shepherds across the earth and indeed do lead sheep of different sorts.
In the house of the Lord, the guidance and management of lambs has the shepherds walking a fine line, his actions being magnified and creating a shadow of influence across the flock in almost lock-step formation. By his caring and tending, the Lord manages the life of the shepherds in real-time imperceptibly.
A true shepherd is aware of this and takes on the mantle of sheep-guiding with humility and a heart of service, as the least of the lambs in his flock. The shepherd of shepherds in turn tries the heart and mind of his servant, allowing both free will and a ready path that is visible to follow.
A part of me has wanted to say that it has not been hard to become a shepherd, but I do look back on my life and notice the hard way I have walked and the training I have received. Battered and storm-tested, abased and reduced, lifted and thrown down till all that is left is heart, bone, flesh and mind on an altar for God. Albeit an imperfect man, complete with faults and desires. Even so, a willing and cheerful shepherd happy to be of service.
I Begin To Stand
Standing up and looking around, I look on what has passed for shepherding in the land and across the world. Here and there pockets of righteousness, but altogether watered-down guidance that has refused the very words of God, picking and choosing commandments, interpreting as is seen fit, and straying off the path that has been intended.
One nicely-robed shepherd casts himself as the authority over God’s word with great emulations of piety in front of cameras while he allows his people to worship statues. His lambs venerate the images of people who use to walk the land and where part of creation itself. In his pews across the world, the unadulterated Word of God can never be found. He surrounds himself with armies of other robed men all walking to and fro with great shows of humility and importance. His bank account pits him and his organization as the wealthiest land owner in the world, he even has a telescope he affectionately calls Lucifer.
What kind of shepherd is this? How is it that the lambs follow after him? I went to the domain of such a shepherd in Rome and saw the masses of people lining up to pass through his halls. I stood afar off beholding the spectacle and thinking about my worn and torn bible sitting back in my room.
Across the United States of America I see shepherds who have walked away from such show and splendor and have looked to take better care of the flocks, and yet, I still do not see the Lord’s unadulterated Word in their pews. What I do see is man placing himself over this Word and sanctifying himself authoritatively. Why not simply point people into the Word? One of the God’s principles is that his book of books teaches us how to interpret itself. The teacher is in the book! The blueprint to understand the code is in the reading and re-reading of it through and through.
Now the lambs are smart and do know the voice of the true shepherd of shepherds, yet they attend the service of these shepherds because their is no other game in town that approaches the spiritual sustenance needed for their hearts not to faint altogether.
Truly, these are hard things I place before you. They are divisive and carry a hint of admonishing.
I am a shepard. I am not the shepard of shepards. I am an ambassador of his. I also have fallen in times past. Deep in the pits I have been. But I knew I belonged to God since I was young. In this world, but not of this world I remember thinking as early as the age of five or so that I was not better than others, but that I was his and set apart. My life has not been easy. My life has been hard. I recall always questioning to myself how is it that people’s hearts can be so petty and divisive, controlling and narrow-hearted. It is a lack of real spiritual food.
It is not hard to command the reigns of shepherding when I look at what passes for shepherds. I stand up and my heart is on fire from the Lord… just as it is within each of his lambs. The role of a true shepherd is not some ‘holier than thou role,’ but one of service, grit and constant spiritual battle. It is tiring and continuous. One’s own supposed flock questions and argues, whines and even can work in concert against the well-being of the greater flock. Being a shepherd is not static then, but a work of humbling service in thanksgiving that keeps the guide on the ground ever tending the true prize, the flock itself, which belongs to God.
Call me Jonah and Call me Michael
I did not want to lead at first. I foresaw all this and was reluctant. I knew that non-believers who have taken the seat as the mainstream gatekeepers of reason, justice and truth would analyze the rise of any true shepherd who attempted to lead. That their would be scrutiny and reviling, mud-slinging and disdain directed my way. That they would seek to stop my rise. But then I fathomed, can you stop that which is of God? In my leaving the path God prepared storms in my life to show me that those were not his ways for me, but that there was only one way, and that was his. Many a times I have argued with the Lord in prayer and have walked into darkness. In fact, I was many years in darkness though I always had a little light from his Word next to me. I left one door open (or did he direct that door to be left open?).
I am still a reluctant ‘shepherd.’ I choose to not lead from a physical building made with hands, but look to lead from the example of my life and the messages that I release onto you from here.
I am not perfect.
In this way, I allow you to walk away from me and to also come back without me knowing. There is no pressure to stay. I do not see your face, I only speak to your heart and mind. You see my life, I do not see yours, only I see it as a reflection of our local and national community. I am here to mend hearts and to feed the spiritually hungry, as our Father in heaven has directed. I am here to make the spiritually blind see, that the walking wounded to be healed from the inside out and the voiceless speak out. Just like the works of his son, who is God himself, calling and drawing us in as joint-heirs with him.. his brothers, sisters and friends.