Complimented By Sheep

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Complimented By Sheep

By Patricia Knight

In the ancient Near East, Israeli people were known as nomadic herdsmen; the barren plains were dotted with sheep. Israel was dependent upon sheep for its livelihood: wool for warm coats, leather for tents, their milk and meat for sustenance, and live animals for temple sacrifices and offerings. Both Jacob and Job were wealthy patriarchs, their prosperity determined by the size of their livestock herds.  Jacob was “exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks of sheep and goats” (Genesis 30:43). Job “owned seven thousand sheep” (Job 1:3).

Sheep are mentioned more frequently than any other animal in the Bible. It seems natural, then, that so many narratives and parables in God’s Word use illustrations of shepherds and sheep. Kings in Old Testament times were often referred to as shepherd-leaders of their people. Jesus is our Great Shepherd.‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep’” (John 10:14-15). How miraculous that Jesus describes our shepherd-sheep relationship in terms He shares with His heavenly Father!

Jesus’ role extends beyond that of our shepherd; He is also our Shepherd-King, our salvation, security, and strength. We recognize His voice and respond with obedience. “Know that the Lord is God. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3).

The shepherd invests his life in the care of his flock. Such timid, docile animals are content to remain in the presence of their shepherd, as Christians thrive in the nearness of their Lord. The New Testament church was compared to a sheepfold and Jesus to the shepherd who protected the gate of the fold. The sheepfold is an enclosure where sheep gather in a flock at night. The shepherd sleeps at the entrance, the door or the gate of the fold, positioning his body between the defenseless sheep and nocturnal predators, scavengers, or thieves

Jesus is our door; nothing threatens us without it first alerting Him to danger. He is a living gate of the sheepfold, protecting us, His sheep. Jesus said, “‘I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture’” (John 10:9). In Jesus there is safety. We have the freedom to rest and have all of our needs supplied by the Great Shepherd, our Lord and Savior.

Israeli shepherds led their sheep rather than driving them. Their sheep responded to their own shepherd’s voice, and the shepherd knew each animal in his flock. “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. He goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But, they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice” (John 10:3b; 4b-5).

Sheep are dumb, but curious animals. If a sheep wanders from his sheepfold, it is unable to find its way back. The shepherd must keep a keen eye on each member of the flock. Frequently an animal that roams gets entangled in briers, helpless to move; it may get mired in a water hole, or it may stumble over a cliff, lying injured below. The shepherd leaves the flock to search for one lost lamb. When he locates it, he tenderly wraps the frightened lamb in his coat and carries it to safety on his shoulders. Our Shepherd rescues us in a similar manner. “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders” (Deuteronomy 33:12), the place of safety.

Sheep don’t seek isolation, but are social animals and prefer to live in a flock for safety and warmth. If one animal meanders from the fold, without his shepherd to follow, the lamb’s sense of direction is confused and it is quickly lost. As long as the shepherd is within hearing distance, sheep will bed down, comfortable and protected. Our Great Shepherd offers confidence, protection, and provision for us. “‘I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down,’ declares the Sovereign Lord. ‘I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will build up the injured and strengthen the weak. I will shepherd the flock with justice’” (Ezekiel 34:15-16).

Sheep refuse to drink stagnant water, and are frightened by rushing or turbulent rivers, preferring to drink from tranquil streams. If there is no accessible water nearby, the shepherd patiently transports water in a pail to hydrate his flock.

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Jesus taught the Samaritan woman at the well about Living Water. “‘Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life’” (John 4:14). Jesus gives spiritual life by means of Living Water, as from a fresh water spring or a mountain stream, bubbling purity that refreshes and revives. Jesus, our Living Water, provides eternal life, producing rest and refreshment along life’s journey, the only antidote for quenching spiritual thirst.

We are created with free wills, but we frequently neglect to use our intelligence wisely, making bad choices, creating consequences like a wandering, lost lamb. Jesus, our Shepherd-King, promises to lead, to strengthen, and to rescue us from danger. He gave His own life as a sacrifice to redeem the sins of the spiritually lost. Those who know Jesus respond to His voice and to His leadership. “‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one’” (John 10:27-30, NLT).

Sheep symbolize the relationship with their shepherd that the Great Shepherd desires with us. Sheep are ideal models of submission; followers, not leaders, obedient to one shepherd, reacting to his call, comfortable in his presence. They depend upon their shepherd for food, for protection, and for treating their injuries. Jesus admonishes us to follow Him with similar dependency and trust.

Being compared to sheep may offend human pride, but Jesus himself designed the appropriate analogy. Like lambs, do we follow our Great Shepherd as if our lives depend upon His leadership? Let us humbly recall the numerous occasions on which our Shepherd-Lord rescued us from prickly brier patches of temptation and thorny thickets of sin. “For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd, the Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25). Perhaps being compared to sheep is a spiritual compliment after all!

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The Counsel I Often Give Young Married Couples

Sharing today from the Radical blog.

The Counsel I Often Give Young Married Couples

By Sean Gould

Have you guys had your orange juice moment yet?

This was a question my wife and I received over dinner with an older couple in our church. We had been married for a few months and were excited to spend the evening with an older and wiser couple in their home. This question, however, was a little bit of a shock to us. We had not received it before and certainly did not know what they meant. We stumbled a bit in our response and confessed we were a bit confused by the question.

They proceeded to tell us a story that explained the origin of this odd question. Many years ago when they were a newly married couple, they ventured out one Saturday morning together to the local grocery store. After walking through various aisles together and placing items into their cart they finally came to the orange juice section.

Read the rest here.

First Day of Autumn

 Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return.
Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains
in the fall and in the spring.
They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen.
 
You, too, must be patient.
Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.

—James 5:7-8, NLT

My Help

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
—Psalm 121:1-4

Take Refuge in the Lord

Psalm 5

A Prayer for Guidance
To the Chief Musician. With flutes.

A Psalm of David.

Give ear to my words, O Lord,
Consider my meditation.

2 Give heed to the voice of my cry,

My King and my God,
For to You I will pray.

3 My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord;

In the morning I will direct it to You,
And I will look up.

4 For You are not a God who takes pleasure
 in wickedness,
Nor shall evil dwell with You.

5 The boastful shall not stand in Your sight;

You hate all workers of iniquity.

6 You shall destroy those who speak falsehood;

The Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

7 But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy;

In fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple.

8 Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies;

Make Your way straight before my face.

9 For there is no faithfulness in their mouth;

Their inward part is destruction;
Their throat is an open tomb;
They flatter with their tongue.

10 Pronounce them guilty, O God!

Let them fall by their own counsels;
Cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions,
For they have rebelled against You.

11 But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You;
Let them ever shout for JOY, because You defend them;
Let those also who love Your name
Be JOYFUL in You.

12 For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous;

With favor You will surround him as with a shield.


New King James Version (NKJV). Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Excuses, Excuses…

Excuses, Excuses…

By Patricia Knight

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The Lord said to him,
“Who gave human beings their mouths?
Who makes them deaf or mute?
Who gives them sight or makes them blind?
Is it not I, the Lord?
 
Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord.
Please send someone else.” 

—Exodus 4:11-13, NIV

God called Moses to lead His people to freedom, terminating four hundred years of slavery in Egypt. As God’s representative, Moses would establish non-negotiable terms of release with Pharaoh. Moses resisted God’s assignment with repeated, feeble excuses, pleading with God, “‘Please find someone else to do it’” (Exodus 4:13). God had already chosen an assistant and said to Moses, ”’What about your brother, Aaron, the Levite {priest}. He is already on his way to meet you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you and will teach you what to do’” (Exodus 14b-15). After declining a fifth and final time, Moses finally accepted God’s commission. To allay Moses’ fears, God demonstrated miracles Moses could perform when facing Pharaoh.

Moses’ stubborn resistance collapsed in submission to God’s authority and divine assistance. His stalwart determination, obedience, and allegiance to God and his people strengthened with each future adversity blocking his path, providing a pattern for all Christians to follow. Moses learned the roles of advocate and intercessor for the Israelites, pleading with God several times to save them when God was so angry with their disobedience, He was prepared to annihilate the entire population, calling them a stiff-necked people.

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Though initially manifesting anxiety that exposed a wobbly faith walk, Moses later became the great leader, lawgiver, and spokesman for Israel, achieving monumental triumphs in his career. He wasn’t a natural-born leader, but he was willing to follow God, learning leadership skills for a lifetime of service.

How do we respond when God presents us with an assignment that we hesitate to perform? Like Moses, are we primarily worried about our personal frailty and faults? Christians are adept at conjuring up clever excuses when God requires that we step outside our comfort zone. Lack of faith is usually responsible for blocking our path of obedience.

God focuses on our availabilities rather than our abilities.

He uses common people for uncommon jobs. And, He always walks before us, preparing our paths, leading us with His mighty power. “God has never sent any difficulties into the lives of His children without His accompanying offer of help in this life and reward in the life to come” (Billy Graham).

God hasn’t changed during the centuries since Moses lived, still promising strength and leadership with every mission He assigns. The Apostle Paul said, “‘I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me’” (Philippians 4:13, KJV). Paul recognized the limitless nature of his abilities when his plans conformed to God’s will. “All things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27). If we believe in God’s Word, we receive power to accomplish God’s work.

Imagine walking the paths of a flower garden, inhaling the sweet fragrance naturally emitted from mature blossoms? “Now he {God} uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God” (2 Corinthians 2:14b-15 NLT).When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, our lives are transformed by His grace. We appropriate the character traits of Jesus, radiating the fragrance of His life. Love for our Savior is portrayed by our humility, integrity, and compassion.

Our lives are letters written by the Holy Spirit for all to read. “You yourselves are our letter, written on your hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). Is your life a letter that captivates readers’ interest, from which they will acquire great truth and knowledge of Jesus? Our lives are the only Bible some people will ever read. May your relationship with God be revealed by joy, dependency, and love.

Jesus said, “‘You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. If I make you a light-beacon, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bushel, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven’” (Matthew 5: 13-16, The Msg.).

A Christian’s primary function is to glorify God. Spiritual effectiveness is determined by our ability to flavor the world for Christ. God-centered lives honor our Father in heaven, witness to His goodness, and proclaim His salvation. Believers possess no inherent light, but Christ shines His light through us, penetrating a dark world.

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Jesus told his disciples, “‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20, NKJV). The risen Savior commanded His Word be preached to all people, in every nation. Though few of us will serve as missionaries in a foreign land, each believer is a disciple of Christ. The old adage, “Bloom where you are planted,” indicates the most effective place to communicate Jesus’ message of salvation is within our own circle of influence.

It is wise to ponder God’s instructions before we frivolously dismiss His leadership, avoiding Moses’ initial reaction of shrinking in fear when God requested that he embark on a new spiritual challenge. It is futile to argue with God; in doing so, we minimize our participation in miraculous victories He plans to accomplish through us. God has demonstrated His faithfulness and trustworthiness throughout the ages. Now we have the opportunity to serve Him enthusiastically and wholeheartedly, as He empowers us to do the work to which He assigns us.

#Rescue and #Protect

If you make the Lord your refuge,
    if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
    no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
    to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
    you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.”

—Psalm 91:9-16, NLT