The God Who Teaches Me

“We know that we have believed in the Lord Jesus because we have, over and above all else, a secret something, indescribable to others, but well-known by ourselves, which is called in Scripture, the witness of the Holy Spirit—for it is written, “The Spirit Himself also bears witness with our spirit that we are born of God.” First our spirit bears witness to our new birth, and then the Spirit of God comes in and bears witness with our spirit to the same effect! Do you know what it means? If you do not, I cannot tell you. “The secret of the Lord is with them who fear Him.”

There comes stealing over the soul, sometimes, a peace, a joy, a perfect rest, a heavenly deliciousness, a supreme content in which, though no voice is heard, yet we are conscious that there is rushing through our souls, like a strain of Heaven’s own music, the witness of the Spirit of God! We are sure of it, as sure as we are of our own being! And by that witness we know that we are, indeed, Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.” ~Charles Spurgeon

“Look!” my husband said with a gasp as he directed my gaze from our children to a sun-drenched field that was radiant with God’s majesty…

As I paused in a moment of awe, everything faded away as the God who teaches me led me out into the field through the communion we share, testifying to my spirit that I am His child.

“The Spirit Himself [thus] testifies together with our own spirit, [assuring us] that we are children of God.” ~Romans 8:16, AMP

It was a moment of assurance that I am His. It was a pause in the busy day for remembering His faithfulness, worshiping my Savior, and feeling the thrill of fresh hope for the people we have surrendered our lives to love.

It has been a long season of weaning from being spiritually fed like I was in America – church like I once knew it, Christian radio, ladies Bible studies, ladies retreats, and church events.  I thought I knew how to feed myself spiritually, but I had not realized how deafening the silence of Christian influence in this Muslim nation would be.

I have mourned the loss of these these things.

I have longed to have them back for a year now.

But as my life has become one of having the everyday life collide with the spiritual life, the result has been beautiful. There really should be no disconnect – they should be one.

The moments of longing – the moments of weakness – have been the sadness that has birthed the joy of feeling His Spirit testify to mine and watching the world come alive (even in the darkness of this Islamic nation) with glimpses of His grace and presence. There is nowhere that I walk that He has not been before. The moments of wanting my old life back is the blessed sorrow that precedes the joyful thankfulness of seeing the Father Himself teach me and nourish me and encourage me to run my race well.

What joy there is in the loss of all things for the glory of God.

What joy there is in the loss of all that I was for all that I am becoming.

With each moment of longing, the Spirit reminds me to not look back, and so by accepting the Spirit’s tender conviction, I press on with expectancy as I seek to find Him where my humanity doubts He is.  With this passage recalled to mind often, I obey and fix my gaze forward

The Cost of Following Jesus

57 As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”

59 He said to another person, “Come, follow me.”

The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”

60 But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”

61 Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.”

62 But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God. ~Luke 9:57-62

This summer has been one of God capturing my attention in everyday life and showing me that it is He who is my teacher. He is the One who makes the world around me – both the beautiful moments and the gut-wrenching ones – come alive as a living and breathing classroom in which I am being discipled. When everyday life and spiritual life become one, the fusion breathes abundance into the ordinary of our days and allows every circumstance to point us to Christ and mature us in the faith. The Holy Spirit leads us to all truth and although we live in a world that does not know Him, I know Him. Although this country is dark and does not recognize Him, I do.

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

15 “If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. 20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” ~John 14:15-21

…and so, in that ordinary field of Central Asia that my husband pointed out, I spoke with the shepherd, and he welcomed me into his world and allowed me to capture the beauty my eyes beheld…

IMG_8366editWEBI am a seeker of Light and a lover of Christ and as I stood in the magical glow of the sunset, His Light enveloped me, and His presence was near. The shepherd brought a single sheep to show me and as I bent down and looked through the lens of my camera, I noticed his hand gently but firmly holding that precious one…I saw myself in that single sheep and was taken back in time to July 2004…

“Last night was the night to break free from my bondage. I have this overwhelming sense of joy and life on the inside! I woke up this morning and feel like a new person.  I feel refreshed and my heart doesn’t feel the guilt, shame, and depression that I have felt for so long.  God keep this fire alive within me! I want to be changed forever.” ~An excerpt from my journal .  July 11, 2004 . Mozambique, Africa

“He said that he thinks of me when he thinks about the story of how a flock of 99 sheep (Matthew 18:10-14) will be left by the shepherd when one wanders off.  Like the shepherd, God will go get that one sheep and bring it back.  He said that when he was praying, he had this vision about me.  That I was that one sheep that wandered off, way off, and because it was so far away, this will be a road to healing.  But God has gone out, picked me up, and placed me around His shoulders to carry me back.  This is the beginning of a new season in my life, one that is very close and intimate with Christ.” ~An excerpt from my journal . July 12, 2004 . Mozambique, Africa . The words of the leader of our trip.

The Parable of the Wandering Sheep

12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish. ~Matthew 18:12-14

Kneeling on Central Asian soil, 10 years later, I remembered what it felt like to be without hope and my heart burned bright with alert expectancy. I was reminded how the Lord had found me, His lost sheep, and made me one of His flock. The day the power of my soul resurrection through Jesus ceases to amaze and empower me, is the day that apathy and wandering will happen.  Oh Father, may my salvation always bring me joy and courage and a Spirit-led urgency to share with those who have yet to be rescued.

In a split second, the Spirit had reminded me of the very moment I became His and started the love relationship of my life. I smiled to myself as the Spirit testified to my spirit that I am His child. I felt the joy of my salvation shoot through my heart and revive any part of it that had succumbed to weariness.  I felt alive just like I first felt alive 10 years ago.

Then I looked up…

I watched that one sheep run back to the flock and I watched as the shepherd called to certain sheep and seemed to play with them.  He knew them and as I approached, they retreated a bit.  They knew I wasn’t their overseer and so I just observed and watched and continued to listen for His voice…

As I continued to watch the shepherd proudly show me his sheep and tell me how he tirelessly looks after them every single day, walking all over and never stopping, the joyful sorrow that I felt opened my eyes to what He was showing me…

As this shepherd’s sheep know him and his voice, so do I know my Shepherd and His voice. I was caught up in the blissful sunlight and moments of seeing the Word of God come to life in my ordinary, everyday setting…..but….as I turned to converse with the shepherd, my heart throbbed with pain.

he does not know His Shepherd.

he is a beautiful illustration of the One who wants to be his Overseer, and yet he does not know the Shepherd’s voice.

The joy of being reminded in that field that I know my Shepherd and I hear His voice.

The sorrow of being reminded in that field that these people do not know their Shepherd.

God was using this moment to fan the flame within my soul that burns for the nations. Sometimes that flame flickers and becomes small when trials abound and spiritual warfare is heavy.  But the God who called me is faithful to sustain and inspire as I walk in obedience.

The Good Shepherd and His Sheep

10 “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.

17 “The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. 18 No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” ~John 10:1-17

 Jesus said there are other sheep that are not in the fold but that they will be brought in.

How will they be brought in unless they are told about the One who calls them to enter through the Gate into the rich, satisfying, abundant life?

As I thanked the shepherd for allowing me to look at his sheep, I turned around full of gratitude for a precious moment of being fed by the Father. The hunger to continue to saturate my life in the scripture was ravenous and my thirst for more moments like that one was powerful. When we spend our days reading the Word and memorizing the voice and character of God, the Spirit can take that same scripture and bring it to life in our ordinary days.

My prayer for you is that you will spend everyday in His Word and seeking Him in your everyday life.  My prayer is also that you will realize that as His child, you are in the sheepfold, but that there are others around you, wherever you live, that are waiting to be brought in. Who can you share your story with today?  Who can you share His story with today?  The sheep that are waiting will hear His voice as you speak and live the gospel and they will respond!