Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Nature Within

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me..."
John 10:27
(KJV)

Our dog, Paige, is part Australian Shepherd.


Studying up on the history of this dog breed,
I found this statement on Wikipedia...
"The Australian Shepherd was a particularly tireless sheep herder in the Rocky Mountains
because it is relatively unaffected by altitude.
Ranchers in Boulder, Colorado began breeding the dogs,
which would attract purchasers from as far west as California
for their legendary sheep herding abilities."

Sheep-herding is what they were bred for.
It is my understanding that herding sheep is their inherent, natural ability.

To my knowledge, little Miss Paige had never before encountered sheep....
that is, until the other day.
Zach and Austin were outside playing,
and of course, Paige was tagging along behind them.


All of a sudden, Austin burst through the front door....
a mixture of excitement and terror all over his face.

"Paige is over there chasing Bill's sheep!"

We all darted outside to see our beautiful dog running full-speed,
across the mountainside,
directly on the heels of a fat, woolly sheep.
It was running for all it was worth....trying to escape her control.
She had already managed to herd a group of sheep into a circle,
and evidently, she was having a time getting this particular one to cooperate.

Watching this scene unfold was amazing to me.
How did she know how to do that?
As far as I know, she has had no formal training.
Why did she feel the urge and need to herd sheep?
All it seemed to take was for her to see them.
Feeling they needed to be herded just seemed to be an automated, natural reaction.

Bill is a farmer whose livelihood depends upon raising and selling his livestock.

Several of us began calling Paige's name...all at once....
to try to convince her to forsake her shepherding "duties" 
and come on back home.
The wind always seems to blow harder up on the high hill where Mom and Dad live,
and for a period of time, it seemed Paige couldn't hear our voice because of it.
She had wandered beyond the realm of our being able to communicate with her.
Finally, the wind stopped blowing so hard, and she heard our call.
Once she hears us, she is rarely disobedient, 
so as soon as she realized we were commanding her back home,
 she came running....lickety-split....sailing down over the mountain,
towards the road that separates Mom and Dad's yard from the neighbor's.

All at once, I became aware of another problem,
as I looked out of the corner of my eye and caught a glimpse of a truck coming over the hill.
There was no way Paige could see it.
It looked like she and the truck would reach the road at the exact, same time,
and we all began to panic.
There was absolutely no way to warn Paige and make her understand that she was in danger.
She had heard her master's voice, and she was determinedly racing towards us.
That was all that was on her mind.

I turned around to walk inside and told Kevin I couldn't bear to watch.
Just the thoughts of seeing what seemed to be a horrible inevitability was more than I could take.

Somehow, by some miracle, Paige missed colliding with the truck,
and she was soon back safe on Mom and Dad's porch.
We verbally scolded her about the sheep,
 letting her know she was not to run back across the street....
under any circumstances. :~)
It is amazing how smart she is....
and even though we were there for several days after,
she did not cross the road....or go near the sheep again.

Once while standing outside with her,
I saw her watching them.
Her eyes were fixed....her ears perked.
It was easy to sense that everything within her yearned to take off into a full run
and chase them with all her might.....
but I gently said, "No, Paige."
Her dedication to obedience overpowered 
the nature within her to herd sheep.
She never budged from my side.
She is such a sweet, wonderful, loyal dog.

The most troubling part of this whole incident is what we found out
after everything was over.

Two weeks before, two stray dogs had paid an uninvited visit to Bill's farm.
They had chased and tormented the sheep, running two of them into the pond.
The weight of their wet wool rendered them unable to leave the pond,
which sadly caused both of the sheep to drown.
A man who depends on sheep-raising and cattle-breeding to sustain life
cannot afford to keep losing his livestock.

What we didn't know...
what we couldn't see from across the road....
is that the watchful eye of the shepherd was upon the sheep...
as Paige performed her "heroic", infamous dog-herding act.
He was taking in the whole scene....in its entirety.
He had never seen Paige before.
He didn't know who she belonged to.
All Bill knew is that there was a strange dog chasing after his sheep,
and he needed to put a stop to it before he lost another one.
He had reached for his Winchester .243 caliber rifle
and set the sight on one target.
Paige.
His finger was on the trigger.
He was ready to shoot....
when he heard our voices calling her from across the road.
He stopped, as Paige answered our call,
left his sheep, and came back home.

There was no fault on the part of Bill.
He is a good man.
A great neighbor.
He cares about his animals.
He is their shepherd.
It is his job to look out for them and protect them from intruding perils.
He certainly meant no harm.
Bless his heart, he felt so bad afterwards.
He apologized over and over again and said how bad he would have felt
had he killed our dog.

You can't really blame Paige either.
She is an Australian Shepherd.
Australian Shepherds herd sheep.

She absolutely acted on instinct when she chased the sheep.
It was a natural reaction that was generated from an innate, inbred impulse.

She saw sheep.
She felt the urge to shepherd them.
Nothing else mattered.
Until she heard our voice.

We had no idea how close she was to death....
had no idea Bill had her focused smack dab in the center of the intersecting lines
of the crosshairs on the scope of his rifle.

My mind has considered so many "what ifs?"

What if she hadn't obeyed?
What if she had ignored our warnings?
What if the wind hadn't died down...right when it did?
What if she hadn't been listening for the familiarity of her master's voice?
What if Austin and Zach hadn't seen her over there?
What if they hadn't come in and told us when they did?
What if we had lost our sweet dog that day?
What if we had been forced to return home without her?
How would it have affected Zachary...and the rest of us...
to watch her get shot right in front of our eyes?
To come home to life's routine....minus the dog who is such a part of our family....
would have been very hard.

She escaped death twice...
once from Bill's rifle,
and once from the truck that happened to be coming over the hill
at the same instant Paige was reaching the road.
Unbeknownst to her, she placed herself in jeopardy,
all because she gave in to a tendency that is bred into her nature.

Every time we leave our driveway,
there is a prayer we pray together in the car.
It is repetitious.
I don't care.
We say it faithfully and consistently.
We never leave without praying it.
In the prayer, among other petitions,
we ask the dear Lord to allow all of us to return home safely....
together....
including Paige, if she is with us.

That was all I could think of when it was all over.
God had heard and answered that prayer....once again.
How many thousands of times has He heard and answered that prayer
and allowed all of us who left together to return together...
safe, unharmed, the same as when we left?

My heart overflows with gratitude...
when I think what might have been,
and what God did.
He is so faithful.
He cares so deeply...about all of His creation.

Thinking of Paige and how she acted on impulses that have been bred within her,
got me to thinking about the human race and our sinful condition.
I just knew there had to be a spiritual application in there somewhere!  :~)

Adam was the first man God created.
He created him in the image of Himself....
pure, holy, righteous, sinless, morally perfect.
Adam disobeyed God.
He sinned.
His wife sinned.
Together, they parented children.
Because of their disobedience to God,
their children and every child born after them
have come into this world with a propensity to sin.
All, that is, except one Man...the Lord, Jesus Christ.
As Adam was created directly by God,
so was Christ.
A human male was not involved in the conception of Christ.
The Holy Spirit overshadowed the virgin Mary's womb,
and the seed within her was conceived directly by God.
(This is one reason Christ is referred to as "the last Adam" in
I Corinthians 15:45.)
Other than the two of them (Adam and Jesus Christ),
the rest of us all have the same problem, at birth.
It is inbred sin....
the carnal nature.
Some call it "the Adamic" nature.
One thing for certain, whatever you choose to call it,
we all inherited it....thanks to Adam and his act of disobedience.

There is an innate, natural, inbred "bend" and inclination to do wrong
automatically instilled and born into the composition of every one of us.
The inbred sin causes us to commit sin.

Just as the Australian Shepherd breed is bred to herd sheep,
so we are bred to go contrary to God's commands.

Paige did nothing to cause her inclination to shepherd.
We did nothing to cause our inclination to sin.

Yet, the condition exists,
and it creates quite a problem for every, single one of us.
Our "bend" to go astray leads us down many a forbidden path.
We see something that appeals to us,
and off we go.
It is just natural.
Sadly, many of our adventures place us straight in the crosshairs of one
who seeks to kill and destroy us and everything good in our lives.
His sight is set....continually.
We don't even know it.
We don't realize it.
We are so bent on pursuing what we inherently desire...
chasing after whatever catches our eye and lures us in....
that we are unaware of the evil eyes that lurk on the other side of the scope.
We become so caught up in what feels right
that we fail to realize we are trespassing on ground controlled by our archenemy,
and that it is his finger resting eagerly....on the trigger.

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion,
 walketh about, seeking whom he may devour..."
I Peter 5:8

Thankfully, we have a Shepherd.
A Master.
A Redeemer...who purchased our salvation by the shedding of His Own blood.
One Who faithfully calls to us when we are in danger.
He sees the landmines....the pitfalls....the hidden snares.
He watches as the rifle is picked up and we become the target.
So, He calls.
He beckons.
He warns.
He draws us back...to His open arms.

"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.
And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous..."
I John 2:1

Our Shepherd, Master, and Redeemer is also our advocate with God the Father.
The One Who intercedes for us
The One Whose blood cleanses from all sin...
no matter how deep and dark and horrific the stain.

"As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one..."
Romans 3:10

"All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."
Isaiah 53:6

Jesus took our iniquities upon Himself.
He stretched out His precious, mutilated, bloodied arms
and allowed them to be nailed to an old, rugged cross,
and, in essence, He spoke words that deeply pierce my guilty heart.
It seems I can hear the echoes...all these years later...
as I find myself prostrate and helpless, at His nail-scarred feet....
"Holy Father, I am guilty of Cheryl's sins.
All of them.
I take full blame, Father.
Don't punish her.
Punish Me, instead."

Because I have gone astray, because I have followed my "bend" towards wrong,
even though I knew full-well it was leading in a direction contrary to His will,
Jesus Christ was made to suffer....
for what I have done wrong.
Do you know how that makes me feel?
Put your name in the place of mine....
 and then you will have an idea...
how it feels to know that an innocent Man died for crimes you...and I....committed.

Oh, my friend, do you hear it?
Do you see what He did?
It breaks my heart, but it is absolutely the truth.
My sins nailed Jesus to that cross.
So did yours.

But, I don't want you to despair.
He doesn't either.
I want you to take courage.
No matter what you are facing today,
no matter what your inherited nature has led you to do,
no matter what has side-tracked you,
no matter what has drawn you in to forbidden ground,
no matter how far you have gone,
no matter how long it has been,
Jesus loves you....still.
He died for you.

If you find yourself trespassing on posted land, on the neighbor's mountainside,
running full-speed on forbidden territory....
if you have wandered from your home at the Father's house....so far that you can barely hear His voice....
if you are struggling with the repercussions of transgressing His law
and dealing with the aftermath of going astray,
the thing to keep in mind is this, my friend....
 the Shepherd's eyes are upon you.

He knew what you would do long before you did it.
He took the blame for every bit of it,
and He died for you anyway....
in spite of the fact that it cost His very life.

He is now, as we speak, calling you home.

Do you hear His voice?
Off in the distance?
Pleading?

All you have to do is listen and take heed,
leave forbidden territory,
come home,
repent, and fall into His open, forgiving arms.

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,
 and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
I John 1:9

If Paige hadn't responded to us that day,
if she had valued the thrill of the chase more than the approval of her master,
she would now permanently rest beneath West Virginia sod.
And, here is the worst part.
Her tragic end would have affected more than just her.
Everyone who knows and loves her would be beyond sad.

If we don't listen to our Shepherd,
if we fail to respond to His gentle reproof....His tender warnings....
His call to come closer....
we will plunge ourselves into deeper peril....
bringing sorrow to not only ourselves,
but to everyone who cares about us.
The farther we drift from Him,
the less likely our chances to hear His voice...
and the greater the likelihood of satan pulling the trigger.

Perhaps it isn't you who has wandered.
Maybe you are today struggling with the burden of a loved one gone astray....
a wayward, rebellious child,
an estranged spouse,
a lost parent, sibling, or friend.
It may look hopeless to you.
It may appear that they have drifted too far.
That the situation is irreparable....
the relationship unrestorable.
That they have drifted beyond the sound of the Shepherd's voice.
It may seem that evil has won, the trigger has been pulled,
and they are down for the count.
If they still live and breathe, remember this....it isn't over.
No matter how impossible it looks.

I plead with you to keep praying for the wayward one(s) you love.
Keep doing all you can to help them find their way to the Shepherd.
Remind them how much Jesus loves them...still.
Tell them He still forgives and cleanses all manner of sin...
that the fountain of cleansing still flows....
that He is a merciful Lord Who is willing and ready to forgive. (Psalm 86:5)
Don't give up, my friend!
You may be the very channel God is using to bring them to redemption.
Keep calling to them....reminding them....encouraging them....to seek after God.
Pray for their protection from self-destruction.
Bombard Heaven with their name.

After all, hearing us calling Paige's name is the only thing that kept Bill from pulling the trigger.
What if we had given up?
What if we had stopped calling her name?
When the wind was against us?
When she seemed unreachable?
When it appeared impossible?
What if we had turned and gone back inside, surrendering to a hopeless resolution?
Bill would have pulled the trigger, and Paige would no longer live and breathe.

However hopeless things look today,
the truth is,
there is still hope...in abundance!
Jesus still searches for that one lost sheep.

Perhaps it is you.

Or maybe He just needs you to help Him find it.


Maybe this is His biggest dream for you....of all.

4 comments:

  1. This is such powerful Truth...may we always listen to Him and what He wants for us. Thank you for sharing, friend! Blessings on your day! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, Mel...and for leaving encouragement behind! You are a blessing, my friend! Love, Cheryl

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  2. Cheryl,
    I am so glad that I was that one sheep that Christ never stopped searching for!! Thank you for your beautiful writing from a beautiful and grateful heart! I've tried to comment several times and it never works...praying this one gets through. Blessings and love friend,
    Bev

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  3. Cheryl,
    I am so thankful that I was that one lost sheep that Christ never stopped searching for. Thankful for your writing from and beautiful and grateful heart! I've tried leaving comments before and it never works...praying this one gets through. Love and blessings friend,
    Bev

    ReplyDelete