03/17/2021

I AM the Good Shepherd

Wednesday, March 17, 2021
Featuring: Rev. Richard Rogers
Week #4 of a 7-Week Lenten/Easter "I AM" Series

Click HERE to download this transcript.

INTRODUCTION
Rev. Richard Rogers: Hello; I'm Richard Rogers, and this is Wednesday night, and I'm so glad you're here! We're at Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center, and we are doing the "I AM" statements of Jesus. And I love these statements, because they really do affirm what is absolutely spiritually true -- not just about Jesus, but about what's true about you and your life. And as we begin to really own these "I AM" statements, it changes us. It transforms how we see ourselves. It transforms the way we live. So let's begin with just a moment of prayer.

 

OPENING PRAYER
I want you to close your eyes, and I want you to feel the presence of God within you. That there is a vast, unlimited resource within your soul that wants to be expressed in greater and greater ways. And that every time we claim the "I AM" the nature – any time we claim that power of God within us – we unleash the very power of God to heal, to bless, to transform our life.

I AM one with all that God is. So we claim that "I AM" nature, and we prepare for all the good that God is. And so it is. Amen.

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS
Alright; I've got a couple of announcements for you. The first one is that Easter morning, Sunrise Service out on the grass at 6, 7:30, 9 a.m. It's going to be fantastic! The music is always … Easter morning outside is one of my favorite services! So join us here Easter morning, April 4, for three services, and really feel the presence and power of the Resurrecting Christ.

AND, we are so excited to announce that we [laughs] are going live again! Regularly, routinely going live! We have been away from the Wednesday night service for months and months and months ... over a year! But on June 9, we're going LIVE in the building for the Wednesday night service! Sunday morning's going to begin regularly beginning on June 6. Wednesday, June 9. It's time to come back to church! And I could not be happier! That's my birthday week, so I'm looking forward to a very big celebration as we all come back together and celebrate all that God has done in our life in the last 15 months. So please join us June 9 as we come back together to celebrate all the good that God is.

We have great music by Charity Lockhart tonight. So thank you for being a part of this ministry.

 

SOLO
Guest artist Charity Lockhart sings, “Good, Good Father”

Oh, I've heard a thousand stories of what they think you're like
But I've heard the tender whisper of love in the dead of night
And you tell me that you're pleased
And that I'm, I’m never alone

You're a Good, Good Father
It's who you are, it's who you are, it's who you are
And I am loved by you
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am

Oh, and I've seen many searching for answers far and wide
But I know we're all searching
For answers only you provide
'Cause you know just what we need
Before we say a word

You're a Good, Good Father
It's who you are, it's who you are, it's who you are
And I am loved by you
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am

Because you’re perfect in all of your ways
You’re perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways to us

Oh, you’re perfect in all of your ways
You’re perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways to us

Oh, it's love so undeniable
I, I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable
I, I can hardly think

As you call me deeper still
As you call me deeper still
As you call me deeper still
Into love, love, love

You're a Good, Good Father
It's who you are, it's who you are, it's who you are
And I am loved by you
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am

You're a Good, Good Father
It's who you are, it's who you are, it's who you are
And I am loved by you
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am

You're a Good, Good Father
It's who you are, it's who you are, it's who you are
And I am loved by you
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am

You're a Good, Good Father
Oh, yes you are

 

MESSAGE
Rev. Richard Rogers: Alright; here we go! Have you ever felt lost? Have you ever not known what to do? Have you ever had a crisis or a struggle or a situation, and you just felt lost? You just felt like you didn't know where to go or where to turn or what to do or what to say? Or sometimes there's a crisis in our life, and we're just not sure how to handle it.

Well, tonight I want to talk about that. There's where I really want to begin: is those times in our life when we have to make a critical decision, and we're just not sure how to do this. I don't know if you saw on the newspaper this week – or online this week – Allan McDonald. And on January 27, 1986, Allan McDonald was the director of the booster rocket project for NASA. And he was a contractor with Morton Thiokol. And he was responsible for the two massive rockets that lifted the shuttle into space. And it was his job on that night -- before the launch -- to decide if those rockets were acceptable to go up into space. He had to sign off on it. He had to account that these were ready to go.

And, as we know -- as you remember 30 years ago -- the Challenger exploded as it took off. And it was his job to sign off on those rockets. And to sign the official form that would allow them to go up into space. And he made the decision that night, and he refused to sign it.

He refused to sign it for multiple reasons. The first one was that it was about 19 degrees that morning, and the rockets were only approved to launch in the 50s. And in the 50s in Florida is not a big deal; you know, how many times does it get below 50 in Florida? But it was in the teens, and he wasn't sure if those o-rings on the rockets would be able to withstand the cold. Because of the freezing temperature.

And so he didn't sign off on it. And he took some heat, right? As you can imagine. NASA pressured him. He was an outside contractor. NASA pressured him and the other scientists; the other engineers from his company were pressured to get a release. They refused. They said there were multiple concerns about the pressure because of the o-rings tended in cold temperatures to become more and more brittle, and they just weren't sure.

So NASA went actually over their head: went to the corporate headquarters of Morton Thiokol. And the executives signed it. And, as we all know, the next morning the rocket launches. A few minutes into the thing, it explodes. Seven astronauts die.

What's even more amazing than that is – from his personal point of view – was that, 12 days later, there was an investigation. A Senate investigation. And he comes into the back of the room. Sits in the back of the room. And as NASA and the other engineers are kind of white-washing this whole thing, he raises his hand. And he says, "I don't think that's accurate." In fact, let me read his exact quote: "I was sitting there thinking that's about as deceiving as anything I've ever heard. So I said, 'I think the president should know the truth and what was really happening.'" And so 53 degrees Fahrenheit was the recommended launch point, and we were well below that. "I never forget Chairman Rogers said, 'Would you please come forward and say that on the floor, and repeat what I think I heard?' He came down to the floor, repeated it, and it changed the direction of the whole investigation.

The reason this is so important for me is that there are times in our life where we need to take a stand. Where we need to do the right thing. And there's times when our personality – or our ego – wants to do the safe thing. You know, he had a family. He had four kids. He was married. You know, he was risking losing his job if he didn't sign off on that. He was going to be the guy that the whole country maybe knew didn't allow those astronauts to go up to space that day. Because it had been so cold, it would mean they would have to bring the ... They wouldn't be able to not only launch that day, but they'd have to bring the rockets down, and they'd have to change out the o-rings. And it was an extensive project that they were going to have to undertake if he didn't sign off on that ... the other engineers from his company. And he refused to do it. He said, "I didn't want those seven astronauts on my conscience ... that I didn't do the right thing."

And, you know, there's times in our life where – these moments – where  it would be easy to do the wrong thing. It would be easy to do the easy thing. And yet, to live in integrity with ourselves – to live in integrity with the truth and what we know. In those moments, we really have a choice. We can either stand up and do the right thing, or we can do what we sometimes consider the “easy” thing.

But, you know, the truth is: if he would have made that decision for the easy thing, he would have had to live with that the rest of his life. And no way would that have been the easy thing. You know, he passed away just a couple of weeks ago. And he ended up writing a book. And the name of the book was, Truth, Lies, O-Rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster. And it was maybe one of the hardest decisions he ever had to make in his life. But it was the best decision he had to ever make in his life.

So the question that I have for you today is: How do you make the decisions in your life? What do you do in your life to make the highest, the best for you, for your family, for your world?

You know, I've been doing this series of talks based on the "I AM" statements of Jesus, where he would make these incredible "I AM" statements. And, tonight, we're going to work on, "I am the good shepherd.”

Reading from John 10, beginning with Verse 11: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd, does not own the sheep, and sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and runs away; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. And the hired hand runs away because, as a hired hand, he does not care about the sheep. I am a good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. Just as the Father knows me, I know the Father: and I will lay down my life for my sheep. And I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold: and I must bring them, also, and they will listen to my voice, so that there will be one flock, and I will be the one shepherd."

And [laughs] I love this imagery! Right? Because here’s Jesus really making a powerful point about the nature of God leading us into a greater and greater life. And, yet, he kind of slides in this little zinger in there. He says, “You’re not my only flock! I’ve another flock! And this other flock will also hear my words, and they will know me just like my sheep hear me. They hear my voice, and they know me. They know me!” Right? Jesus was teaching a universal understanding; it wasn’t just for his people or his time or his group or his drive or his religion. It was a universal spiritual message that was available to all of us who could hear the spiritual truth and respond to it.

Like, Jesus wasn’t trying to enroll you in his club. [Laughs] Jesus didn’t have a club! He didn’t have a group of people. [Laughs] He didn’t have a membership or a secret handshake. He had a spiritual teaching that he put out to the people that were right in front of him. But he knew that those spiritual words would go on far beyond his human experience. But he was committed to being a spiritual presence in their lives.

So let’s look at this story. First is: what is the “I AM”? Right? The “I AM” is that nature of God that we’ve talked about over the last few weeks. That nature of God that’s within all of us. And every time we speak the “I AM,” we’re actually form and shape to the infinite possibilities in our lives.

So then, what’s the good shepherd? I believe the good shepherd is the activity of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s job is to shepherd us into a greater and greater life experience. The Holy Spirit is there to make sure all the little ducks get home. Right? To make sure each and every one of us moves into the fullness of God. And the Holy Spirit’s job now – as it was thousands and thousands from the beginning of time – is to make sure … It’s that activity of God that makes sure that each and every one of us keep  moving. That it guides us and directs us and is with us always. That is that power that – in that moment where we need to make a decision – actually guides us into a higher level of truth.

Charles Fillmore said, “The Holy Spirit in the world today, with a great power and wisdom, ready to pour upon all who look upon it for guidance.”

So what is the wolf? [Laughs] You know, I love … See, the way that I see the wolf … The wolf is life! Right? The wolf is the ups and downs of life that looks like it can take our good away from us. Looks like the pandemic. Or it looks like racism. It looks like all the ups and downs of life. That’s the wolf! The wolf looks like it’s going to take our good away from us. Like, that it’s going to steal all that we hold dear and is important to us. Right? And that’s the wolf. And that’s life.

So what is the hired hand? Well, I believe the hired hand represents our own ego. Right? [Laughs] It is our ego, who tries to take over for the good shepherd. It tries to take over for the Holy Spirit. Tries to take over for that “I AM” nature. And our ego wants to look like it’s got it all under control. The flock. “Yes! I’ve got the flock! Oh, I’ve got the flock under control! And everything’s good, and I can handle this!” Until something happens, and then our ego wants to bolt for the door. [Laughs] Like, our ego wants to run and say, “God, help us! What have I done?” Right? It just wants to run; it’s fearful and anxious. You know, that’s the hired hand! Right?

But the “I AM” is that activity of God within us. And so, over and over again, we have these life experiences. And we either learn to trust that “I AM” nature – that God nature in us – because our ego, over and over again – in those moments that are critical – heads for the door. Our ego gets so – and this is a spiritual term – “freaked out” that it wants to bolt from whatever same thing can happen. And, over and over again, when you lead your life based on the hired hand – when you hire the hired hand to be in charge of your life – you have missed the best part. You have missed the opportunity to really be led by God. Be led by the Holy Spirit. And learning to walk in grace.

Like, there is so much good that’s available to you! Let me tell you [laughs] about an experience from my own life. I had a cute little girlfriend when I was in sophomore year at college. She was a cutie pie! Right? She was about as cute as cute … Did I make the point? She was about as cute as cute gets. Right? I’m a sophomore in college, and I am ready to ditch college with everything within me. Right? I have had enough. I’m ready to get out. And this little cutie pie’s dad offers me a job in his construction company. He wants to make me his little prodigy. Right? To really bring me in to his construction business; he was doing alternative construction. And I was like, “Please! Let’s do it!” Right? Did I mention cutie pie? Job? Starving college student? Guess how much I wanted to ditch college. And I saw the life! The life was right there.

And everything – every one of my spiritual senses on the inside – said, “Richard, don’t. Don’t do it! Just don’t do it! Don’t go there; don’t go down that path. I know you want the money. I know you want to be out of school. I know you’re tired of this whole thing. Don’t do it!” And it took everything in me not just to follow my ego’s desire. Right? Did I mention little cutie pie? Did I mention a salary? Did I mention starving college student? Like, everything within me wanted to go this way, and Spirit said, “No!” [Laughs] “The path that I have for you – the life you’re going to move to – is far better than this situation. Don’t do it!”

Now, did I have free will? Yes! I absolutely had free will! I could have chosen this path, right? I had free will. Spirit’s saying, “But don’t! Yes, you could do that ...” [Laughs] “But move over here! Move the path over here. Take this road; finish school. Finish your degree. Everything will be provided for you; you’ll get through school. It’ll be fine! It’ll be fine!” Right? And I made that choice. And I think, in my young life, it was the hardest choice I ever made. But it’s the choice that brought me here! It’s the choice that brought me to my life work.

If I would have gone that path, I know I would have been successful. But this is the path that really was the highest and the best for me. And really made the difference in the most people’s lives.

So reading from Luke 15: “And Jesus told them a parable. He said, ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep, and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the 99 in open country and go and look for the lost sheep until he finds it? And then when he finds it, doesn’t he joyfully put it over his shoulder and goes home? And then he calls his friends and his neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me! For I have found my lost sheep.’”

Now, why does Jesus tell that story? You know, this imagery of being the good shepherd. This imagery of the lost sheep is an example that, no matter who you are – no matter what’s going on in your life – that the activity of God is 100% available to you. And in the moments when you feel the most lost – when you are the most confused; when you have no idea of where you’re going to go next – in that moment, that’s where the Holy Spirit will step in and guide you if you’re willing to listen!

Now, if you’re still operating out of your hired hand – if you’re still operating out of your ego – you’re not going to be willing to take the choice to make the decision and really follow the path that is the highest, the best, not only for you, but for everybody. Like, that’s what I really want you to hear! That every time you choose to be led by the Holy Spirit, it is the best for you and everyone involved! There is a higher, greater level of good!

And, yes; you can make decisions based on your ego. You have free will! You have a God-given right to let your hired hand run every level of your life! You can make your financial decisions, your career decisions, your relationship decisions … You can make every decision through your ego, through your hired hand. And it will work out as long as there’s never a problem. But when it comes to crunch time – when there is a problem, when things do get scary – it is a hundred times better to believe that you are walking the path that God gave you, and that you’re not in it alone. In the moment when you feel lost, to know that the Spirit of God is right there, walking with you to greater and greater levels of good. That we are not here to do this life on our own.

So how do you make your decisions? Right? What framework do you use to make your decisions? Many of us use our mental ideas, right? We think about it. We worry about it. We fret about it. We operate from that mental side.

Some of us – what’s it feel like, right? What’s the feeling? That we only make decisions based on good feelings. Right? So we go from this good feeling to that good feeling, until it doesn’t feel good any more. And then we go over this way until it doesn’t feel good any more. And then we go over here.

Some of us are mental; some of us are feeling. Some of us make decisions simply based on what’s the best for me in this moment. Like, what’s the best for me right now? Like, today! What is the best for me? That’s where I’m going.

Some of us base our decisions by talking to everybody. Right? [Laughs] We’ll talk to this person about a decision, or we’ll talk to that person. And we’ll see if we can find an expert. We’ll just talk and we talk and we talk until people are just tired of talking to us about it. And they’re just ready for us to decide!

And then some of us make decisions [laughs] simply on the mindset that we don’t make decisions. Right? And this is kind of an interesting choice, because individuals simply refuse to make a decision until life decides for them. Right? They just don’t decide! Their whole strategy is, “I don’t decide, because then I don’t have to be responsible. Then I don’t have to feel bad. I don’t make any decision; I just let life decide for me. And I just go into procrastination and resistance until it explodes, and then I say, ‘Well, it’s not my fault!’ Like I just didn’t decide; it’s not about me!” Right?

But I actually want you to have another framework! I want you to actually be able to listen to the Spirit of God within you that is going to guide you! To allow the Holy Spirit to do its mighty work in your life! To ask God what is the highest and best, not only for you, but for everybody involved in every decision. And really listen to what God is speaking to your soul!

You know, one of the forms of the “I AM” statement is called “the stand.” And a stand is an interesting thing, because a stand is really that declaration that you make in the middle of any situation about who you want to be, and how you want. It’s what Allan McDonald made when he made that decision; he was going to be a stand for what was right. The highest and the best.

And I want you to look at the stands that you’ve made in your life. Because a stand is technically an “I AM” statement. You know that I’ve said before publically: there was a time in my life where I took a stand that I want to be happy, free and wildly in love. And nothing in my life at that moment looked like I was happy, free or wildly in love. But I made a stand for it anyway. And it became the organizing principle for what was next for me in my life. That I wanted to be happy, free and wildly in love.

So you can take a stand: “I want to be debt free.” “I’m going to live free of fear.” “I’m going to overcome this addiction.” You can take a stand for any aspect in your life. And as you begin to live into that “I AM” statement, it begins to transform your life.

The caution that I have for you about that is that it’s really not designed to take a stand, a different one every few days. Right? If you’re going to take a stand in your life, it really has to be something that you want to really be in. You want it to be a foundational piece of your life. That you’re going to grow into over months and years. That you’re really going to make this a commitment. For me, anyway, it was to be happy and free and wildly in love. And I look at the level of freedom that I have in my life right now, and it’s really just … it’s stunning. The level of happiness, of being wildly in love, has truly transformed my life in many, many, many ways.

So the “I AM” statement is that way that we take a stand. “I AM!” We declare our new reality. We declare our new experience. And then, once we take a stand – “I am going to be happy.” “I am free.” “I am joyous.” “I am abundant.” “I am debt free.” Once we make our stand, it becomes our new reality.

Now, once we make a stand, the next thing we have to do then is, I believe, that we have to actually begin to listen to the voice of the activity of Spirit – the “I AM” nature within us – that actually begins to guide us in a direction. Because it’s not just enough to take a stand and expect that the hired hand – your ego – can actually get you there. You then actually have to listen to the Holy Spirit, who knows exactly how to move you into that direction. That, once we make that commitment to our “I AM” nature, we have to listen.

Then the last thing we have to do is: we have to obey. Obeying the activity of God is probably the most difficult thing we do, but it’s also the most powerful. When God said, “Don’t go this way, Richard; go that way,” and I was willing to obey, it changed my life forever. This had so many bells and whistles; this had so much good. There was money. Did I mention the cutie pie? It had money, a cutie pie, and a life that I didn’t have to be a broke college student any more. But I had to be willing to obey the highest good that God had for me. Because that was going to change, not only my life, but the lives of thousands of individuals.

Today, I want you to take a stand. I want you to take a stand for your life: who you want to be. And then, daily, I want you to listen to the activity of the Holy Spirit that is guiding you into that life. And then, on a regular basis, I want you to say, “Yes!” Even when it doesn’t make sense, I want you to say, “Yes!” to what Spirit is calling you to do. I want you to learn to trust the voice of God within you, and to be willing to say, “Yes!” to that over and over and over again.

This is a time of transformation. I want to know where you stand. I want to know who you want to be in this time of transformation. And I want you to take a stand that is bigger than your current experience, bigger than your life today. And then, every day, I want you to listen and obey. Listen and obey. And experience the fullness of God.

Let's take that into our time of meditation. Will you?

 

MEDITATION
And I invite you to open your mind, your heart, your soul to the activity of God that is right here, right now. And I want you just to listen to the voice of God within you: to the Spirit of God, to the Holy Spirit that is guiding you to greater and greater levels of life. God’s with you! Even in the times when you feel the most lost, the Holy Spirit is committed to picking you up and carrying you. To rejoicing that you’ve been found. That you are not alone, but that God is right there. That God is with you. And that, with God, all things are possible.

Tonight, take a stand for the person that you want to be. For the life that you want to live. Take a stand!, even though you’re not sure how to do it. Even though it seems almost impossible to take a stand that big tonight, take that stand! And then listen and follow. Let God guide you. Let the shepherd – the good shepherd – lead you to the path that God has for you. So in the name and through the power of the Living Christ, we give thanks. And so it is. Amen.

And so it is. Amen.

 

CLOSING/COLLECTION
This is a time of giving of our gifts and tithes. I invite you to hold them in your hand and we’re going to bless them. Even if you’re giving electronically, or dropping a check in the mail … And I want to thank you all for your generous support of this ministry during this time.

And we’re going to hold our offering in our hand, and our offering blessing is: “Divine love, through me, blesses and multiplies all that I have, all that I give, and all that I receive.” Together: “Divine love, through me, blesses and multiplies all that I have, all that I give, and all that I receive.” We give thanks for every gift and every giver. We dedicate every gift to the will and the work of the Living God moving in and through this ministry of light. In all things we look to God, and in all things we give thanks. And so it is. Amen.

Alright; let’s affirm together our Prayer for Protection:

The light of God surrounds us;
The love of God enfolds us;
The power of God protects us;
And the presence of God watches over us.
Wherever we are, God is!

God bless you all! Have a great week. And I look forward to being with you next week!

Unity of Phoenix Choir sings:
Let there be peace on earth
and let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth;
the peace that was meant to be.

With God as Creator,
family all are we.
Let us walk with each other
in perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me;
let this be the moment now.
With every step I take,
Let this be my joyous vow:

To take each moment
and live each moment
in peace eternally!

Let there be peace on earth
and let it begin with me!

Copyright 2021 Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center/Rev. Richard Rogers

 

 

Location and Contact Information

Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center

1500 E Greenway Pkwy
Phoenix, AZ 85022
Phone: (602) 978-3200

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