Once you leave, can you ever come back?

I have a lot of experience raising sheep. I know that’s not a normal thing to admit to, but it’s the truth. And maybe I don’t have enough experience to really talk about it, but I did it long enough to know how hard it is. My brother and I did it for 4-H for two years. A great experience, in all honesty. It was hard, dirty, taxing work, and it involved training a super dumb animal how to stand, how to stand still, and how to walk.

But before 4-H and during, my neighbor ran a herd of ewes on my five acres. Sometimes there were twelve. Sometimes there were twenty. But no matter how many there were, the fences would always break. And you’ve never seen anything like a herd of twenty sheep stampeding toward you at the same time. It’s terrifying until you learn how to yell, and then they scatter away from you like they’re afraid you’re going to eat them. The sheep would run crazy all over our property. They’d eat the fruit tree blossoms and leave droppings all over the yard. And it was my job to round them back up again. They were beyond stupid. They were just ridiculous. But I did get a lot of exercise.


Sheep - Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

So when I read today’s verses, John 10:7, 9-10, I spent a little time recalling my exciting adventures chasing sheep all over my five acres.

So he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 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. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

This is a good example of why it’s a good idea to read the whole chapter. This passage seems a little discombobulated, but if you read the entire chapter of John 10, it gets clearer. Jesus is talking about being the Good Shepherd. The whole of John 10 really is fantastic.

But what is really interesting to me is how Jesus clarifies his statement. Notice verse 7 says “he explained it to them.” At the beginning of John 10, Jesus is talking about being a Good Shepherd. And he clarifies not by calling himself a shepherd but by calling himself the Gate.

Christ is the gate. We are the sheep.

But even as much as I noticed that Jesus clarified by identifying himself as the only way to salvation, I thought it was doubly interesting that he expands by saying, “They will come and go freely.”


I think there’s a perception that once you decide to follow Christ you are strapped down to a big book of rules and you aren’t allowed to live or have fun or do anything pleasant with your life ever again. That perception is there, even among believers. That’s why Christians hesitate to give their whole lives to God. They’ll believe that Jesus died for them, but they won’t take that last step and live for Him.

So how do you explain that Jesus is the Gate that allows his sheep to come and go freely?

What I have learned in my brief life as a Christian is that while God tells us what we should do, He also allows us to choose. We already know what He expects from us, how He wants us to live. So sometimes we choose right, but sometimes we choose wrong. But in any case, He gives us the chance to choose. We are free to choose. We are free to come. We are free to go.

Once we’ve entered his fold, we are his sheep. And there is a verse later on that speaks to when a sheep wanders too far away how the Good Shepherd will come out and bring him back (often with some leg breaking involved).

God doesn’t force us to do anything. We always have a choice. We have a choice to drink or abuse drugs. We have choice of what clothing to wear. We have a choice of what person we will date. We have a choice of what friends we make. We have a choice of how to spend our time each day.

God also says in this verse that it’s his purpose to give us a rich and satisfying life. A rich and satisfying life doesn’t come from obeying a bunch of rules. To me, there is nothing richer and more satisfying than knowing I’m free because of Christ’s sacrifice and that even when I’m not perfect, God still loves me.

We should all strive to live a life that is pleasing to God, and we should all learn from our mistakes. But we aren’t born perfect. And when we first accept Christ, we aren’t immediately changed into someone who will never make mistakes. We all stumble. Not saying we shouldn’t try to do our best, but we shouldn’t give up either. Because God doesn’t give up on us.

Sometimes we make wise choices. Other times we make easy choices. But no matter what choice we make, we are still free to come back.

Dumber than a sheep

Sheep are pretty stupid. They’re one of those animals that people always make into stuffed toys and cute little figurines, and I always wonder why because I’ve been up close and person with too many of them to ever find them adorable.

And then Scripture has to go and compare us to them. I never really understood how much like sheep we are until I started raising and training them (or trying to). Sheep are pretty stupid, yes, but then people are pretty stupid too. But I think, to a certain extent, people outdistance sheep in the stupid factor.


Well, no matter how stupid a sheep is, it knows the voice of its shepherd. The sheep I raised, when they heard me coming, they would get excited because they knew I was coming to feed them. The sheep my neighbor has, they know the sound of his truck and come running toward it for food. Today’s verse talks about this.

Today’s verse is John 10:14-15.

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.

But what do people do? We recognize God and God at work in our lives and in the lives of people around us, but we run away from it. Or we refuse to acknowledge it. Or we just don’t think about it.

Why? Well, there are a lot of reasons why. But I would anticipate that the strongest reason is pride because we don’t want to give over any of our own authority in our lives.

Have you met people like that? People who know that God is the only explanation but who still refuse to acknowledge Him? I have. And it’s really sad.

I don’t know what I would do without God in my life. I don’t know how I could function without knowing that He is working, whether in my life or in someone else’s. I don’t understand the purpose of trying to ignore God’s voice. I don’t understand what benefit that is.

That being said, I’ve done it. I’ve clearly heard God tell me something and I have turned away from it, thinking I know better. Thinking better of my own plans than of His. And following my own plans never works out very well.

So the next time I see a sheep (which will probably be on my morning drive to work), I think I’ll apologize. Because I never thought that anyone could be dumber than a sheep, but I’ve proven myself wrong a couple of times.

Because if a sheep can recognize its shepherd’s name and doesn’t mind running toward him for help, what the heck is wrong with me?

We like sheep

I got ahead of myself. Yesterday, the verse for the day were two out of Isaiah 53 and becuase it’s such an awesome chapter, I went ahead and posted the whole thing. So . . . guess what the verses for today are?


Isaiah 53:5-6

 5 But he was pierced for our rebellion,
      crushed for our sins.
   He was beaten so we could be whole.
      He was whipped so we could be healed.
 6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
      We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
   Yet the Lord laid on him
      the sins of us all.

I always found it interesting how this verse refers to people as sheep. That won’t mean anything to anyone unless you’ve raised sheep.

Sheep are the dumbest animals alive. I’m telling you, they’re on the level of turkeys who look up during a rainstorm and drown. We had sheep grazing on our property for a number of years, and for two years I raised market lambs for 4-H. So I have a little bit of experience with them, and what experience I have has taught me a lot about why the Bible calls us sheep.

And it’s not a compliment.

Yes, lambs are cute and cuddly, but like most other farm-type critters, they grow up and they’re not cute and cuddly anymore and they’re just a headache.

For example, if we knew we were going to be out of town for a day or two, we had to get our neighbor to help us feed them because if you put extra food in their stall to sustain them while you were gone, they wouldn’t stop eating it. It’s like they have no “I’m full” switch in their brain. So they’ll gorge themselves, literally eat themselves to death.

My sheep actually almost did that too at the fair one year. We had set their feed bag too close to their stall, and they’d chewed into it and eaten most of what was in there.

Similarly, you have to mix salt in with their food instead of giving them a salt lick because they’ll gnaw holes in their teeth.

And it doesn’t matter what the situation is, if you have six sheep and a tiny little door they will all try to run through the door at the same time.

I’ve seen them stampede each other for no apparent reason. I’ve seen them freak over something that was going to help them and cause damage in their panic.

So . . . . how much of this sounds like us?

How many of us are so undisciplined that we gorge ourselves? And not necessarily on food. There are other things we shouldn’t have too much of . . . even if they’re good for us. How many of us do things we know we’re not supposed to do? How many of us do things that hurt us even though we know it will hurt us? How many times have we caved to the herd mentality and followed someone even though that person didn’t have a clue what he/she was doing and usually ended up making decisions that damaged everyone?

I know I’ve been there.

The Bible calls us sheep. There are other instances in the New Testment where Jesus also compares us to sheep. I can’t remember the reference, but it’s spoken in a good way. About His sheep knowing His voice. That’s the difference between shepherding in the Eastern World and in the Western World. In the U.S., we herd sheep and demand that they follow us; in the Middle East, the sheep follow their shepherds.

But in this context in Isaiah, being a sheep isn’t a good thing. It’s the epitome of rebellion by stupidity. All sheep have a shepherd, and the shepherd takes care of His sheep. That’s what shepherds do. But sheep are stupid and they want to do things their own way, even though any thinking sheep could see (if sheep could think) that following the shepherd makes sense. So what happens? Sheep wander off. They stray. They take off down a path that they think is the best option for them, and they end up in trouble.

Jesus tells a story about how the shepherd goes and gets the sheep that’s wandered off and brings it back to the fold. But this statement in Isaiah is different. It’s not about the shepherd and his work to rescue a sheep. It’s about the punishment that the shepherd endures because his flock is stupid.

All of us are like sheep. Not one of us has actually stayed on God’s path, and for that reason, Jesus accepted punishment. We’re the ones who made the mistake, but He was the One who paid for it.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be like a sheep. I’ve worked with them enough to have little respect for them. Cute and cuddly will only get you so far when you’re dumber than a post.

So the next time I’m tempted to go off on my own — to do something I know God has said is wrong or not good for me — I’m going to think about those sheep all trying to cram through one tiny little door. Finding sheep who act stupid is easy. Finding a sheep that actually keeps following his shepherd when it has the opportunity to run away? That’s unusual.