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Archive for the tag “Feed My Sheep”

The Good Shepherd

Over the last month, I have heard messages about the Good Shepherd. There must be something in this passage that I need to learn. The passage is from Psalm 23. I think we have all heard this passage even if we know nothing about God or Jesus. I think every funeral has this as the main message; shadow of death and all. Yet, do we really know what it means? Do we really reflect on the truth found there?

King David is attributed as the writer to this psalm. King David had been a shepherd when he was called by God to be the next king. He was just a teenager at the time and wasn’t even present when the Jesse’s sons were lined up in front of the prophet Samuel. God told Samuel to go to Jesse’s to anoint the next king. The first son passed before Samuel, and he thought surely this is the one. But God said no. The second was passed by as well, but no. By the end of the line, Samuel must have wondered if he heard God correctly. But Jesse had one more son out in the fields tending the sheep. David was called from the fields and anointed king over Israel. But he went right back out to the fields until the day, God called him to bigger things.

Young David had time to think in those fields. I’m sure he contemplated many things as he drove the sheep from pasture to water and then enclosed them in for the night. The Bible tells us that David was a man after God’s own heart. He had a greater depth of knowledge about God than most do. Maybe he realized God is a Good Shepherd. Maybe David even realized at some point, we are like the sheep – helpless without the shepherd.

Ben Stewart from Passion City Church mentioned we are referenced as the sheep over 500 times in the Bible. Okay – the point is we’re like sheep. My pastor said on Sunday, this is not a good thing. Sheep are stupid. There is not one instance where a sheep has been trained. However, a sheep learns their shepherd’s voice and follows it. They are smart enough not to follow another shepherd. They are also aware that the shepherd is their lifeline.

Okay, maybe we’re not as sharp as sheep. At least the sheep realize their need for a shepherd. We on the other hand think that we can live our lives without assistance. We are brought up to be independent. Yet, how much easier would life be if we lived as a sheep – following a shepherd – not just any shepherd, but a good one! One that we knew that we could trust; one that had our best interest at heart.

Jesus told us in one of his “I am” statements (found in the Gospel of John) that He is the Good Shepherd. In this day and time, at least in the US, we don’t get that reference. We are far removed from the fields. He also said “I am the gate.” At night, the shepherd always moved the sheep into an enclosure to keep watch over them while they slept. The shepherd positioned himself at the gate to keep the sheep in and the predators out. There is no way a sheep could sleep unless it felt safe. There is no way for a sheep to protect itself or find food or good water or anything else to survive. It relies solely on the shepherd.

Jesus said that “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Before young David faced Goliath, he said that he protected his sheep from a lion and a bear; he killed them in order to save his flock. He faced Goliath knowing that God went before him just as he knew that it was God who protected him as he killed animals that threatened the sheep. He recognized he couldn’t do it alone, but God was with him.

Jesus said that His sheep know His voice. Jesus died for all of us – no matter who we are, what we’ve done or what nationality or color of our skin. We all have an opportunity to follow Him. But not everyone follows. A shepherd stays with the sheep – it’s a full time job. Pastor Ben said that the quality of the sheep depends on the proximity to the shepherd. He also said that things make a great gift but lousy gods. If we are running after things, we will never follow a shepherd. We follow after those shiny things that keep us distracted and away from the shepherd who knows what we need. Peace, rest and lots of green pasture with lots of living water and one trustworthy shepherd that would lead us there if we would just look to Him and Him alone. In these uncertain times, it’s time to get our focus right. There’s no better time than the present to follow the Good Shepherd.

 “Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good—a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice.John 10:1-4 (MSG)

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Abundance

I love food. I have always had an interest in eating. In the early years, it was the unhealthy variety. Since I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, I have learned to eat better. The diagnosis also caused me to be restricted on several of my favorite items – like flour and sugar. Since I have been restricted I have noticed I focus more on food than ever before. I am considering what I can eat for my next meal; searching for a “treat” for my snack; checking the list of what I need to buy in order to eat for the next few days. It just seems to circulate in my brain so much more now than ever before. In my quiet time in the last few weeks, I noticed a tendency to think more about my morning meal (smoothie and small coconut mini muffin) than concentrating on my praying partner Jesus.

This really disturbs me when I recognize I am doing it again. And I am sure it isn’t something Jesus wants me to focus on either during my quiet time. I know I am not going to starve, but yet I feel this mentality happening. I live in a land of plenty. There is an abundance of food. There is so much food that we tend to throw away much more than we should. We find a bad spot on an apple and toss away the whole apple. I was helping out with a dinner fund-raiser not too long ago where we threw out buckets of potatoes and green beans because there wasn’t a place to take it for the homeless or the ones who had nothing to eat. It really bothered me to throw the food away. I see the likes of other places around the world where people do not have enough to eat and wonder how we can distribute food better.

Then I hear from a news report that one of the most fertile valleys in this land has a water shortage problem due to a three-year drought. I wonder when the abundance will come to an end. In the Bible, prophecies about the end times concerns famine and water shortages. I believe water will be the new “oil” wars. Drinkable water is rare around the globe. One day we will look back at this time and marvel at our abundance. I am sure we will also wonder how we could have been so wasteful. I believe one day too that we will be accountable to God for our excess, wasteful and hoarding tendencies. I don’t know what I am to do about the distribution problem. But I need to start thinking about my own tendencies concerning food. I need to put it in proper perspective. Am I more concerned about my stomach or another person’s? Do I have the things in mind that God does? Am I meeting needs around me?

God has given abundance, but it’s not to build bigger barns to store it for a rainy day. Good quality food will one day be a rarity if we are not careful with the resources God has given us. Next week, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving here in this country. It’s the occasion of excess food. We will pile our plates high of favorite foods and sit down with family and friends. It’s a special time for sure. I enjoy my family time. But I also need to consider how I can feed someone else on this special day. I am grateful for God’s abundance. I shouldn’t ever take it for granted. But the focus should always be on Jesus and what He calls us to do with the abundance. We are to love one another and sometimes that means feeding others instead of ourselves. Jesus and I will be working on this stomach issue in the future (both mine and others)! Love of food is not wrong, until I start to focus on it rather than Jesus.

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:37-40

Everything Changes

I love the Gospel of John. The reason the disciple John wrote this gospel was to bear witness of Jesus so that we who would read (or hear) these stories would believe Jesus is the Messiah. He mentioned at the end of the gospel that there were too many stories to write down (John 21:25), but chose these things that by believing what was written we would have life in His name (John 20:31). John is testifying what he saw and heard so that we might believe.

There is one passage in John that is becoming one of my favorites. Sometime during the initial days after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter decides to go fishing. I imagine after all the stress of the crucifixion, resurrection and the uncertainties of the future Peter goes back to what he has done in the past. The others decide to join him. Maybe they wanted a bit of normalcy in such confusing times. Then Jesus shows up. Peter jumps out of the boat. I always assumed Peter ran toward Jesus on the shore. But I noticed upon reading the passage this time around, Peter was still close to the boat. Jesus asked them to bring some of the fish they just caught. Peter climbed aboard to bring in the net with the fish.

I also recognized this was the second miraculous catch involving Peter. The first time Jesus showed the group how to fish was in Luke 5. In that passage, Peter told Jesus that he couldn’t be in Jesus’ presence because of his sinful condition. Peter recognized Jesus’ holiness and his sinfulness. After being with Jesus for about three years, Peter still knew of his sinful condition. For some reason in this second fishing trip, Peter jumped out of the boat. Was he anxious to run toward him, but because of his recent betrayal of Jesus, it kept him from going to Him? What would I have done in the circumstances?

As the story continues, Jesus goes to Peter and reinstated Peter to his place in God’s plan. Peter was called to minister to Jesus’ people. The sheep would be without a shepherd to lead them to the living water when Jesus went back to heaven. The sheep would need to be fed. They would need guidance. This conversation changed everything for Peter. Whenever we encounter Jesus, it changes everything.

Sometimes I wonder if I have truly encountered Jesus. Like Peter in the beginning, he knew about Jesus. He had heard all about him. But by this time, Peter was truly changed. I have known about Jesus all my life. I have surrendered my life to him. I have left everything (so to speak) to follow Him. I decided a few months ago to go on my first mission trip. Everyone is telling me it will be life changing. For over two years I have been sitting at the feet of Jesus in constant study and prayer. What will come of it? The story will continue I’m sure of that. And just as it was for Peter, the encounter will change everything for me!

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:10b-11

And Peter

When I was in grade school, my church had an Easter play. I don’t remember much of it, but I do remember I played Peter’s part. Strange I know. I don’t know if I was assigned the role or I asked for it. I thought Peter was the best disciple. He was always right in the thick of things when it came to Jesus. He followed Jesus with his whole heart. He even got out of the boat as the storm was brewing to walk toward Jesus (Matthew 14). He had great faith or more so than all the others sitting in that boat. Jesus changed Peter’s name from Simon because Jesus was going to use him to build the church. Jesus said he was changing his name to Peter which means “the rock.” So naturally, I wanted to be Peter!

At my naivety, I don’t think I realized who Peter really was; his true nature. He was a man of action for sure. But he was a denier of Jesus. He did not have the concerns of God in mind. He thought he knew better what Jesus needed or wanted (Matthew 16-17). Peter was rebuked by Jesus probably more times than what is written in Scriptures. Yet, when Jesus rose again, the angels sent Mary Magdalene and the other women to the disciples and Peter (Mark 16:7). Jesus sought him out when Peter went back to fishing after Jesus had risen from the grave (John 21).

Peter was in a hard place. He was waiting on something to happen, but he just didn’t fully grasp the things of God. Jesus came to him while Peter was out fishing. Jesus waited for him to come ashore. And three times, Jesus asked Peter for his devotion. “Do you love me, Peter?” Peter answered you know all things, you know I love you. Jesus wanted Peter to know himself. Peter was probably wondering how all of it could have gone so wrong. Yet, Jesus wanted to reinstate Peter’s calling. Jesus asked Peter to “feed my sheep.”

Maybe I am more like Peter than I truly realize. So long I have been questioning my love and devotion to Jesus. I am waiting on something to happen but have no clue as to what God’s plan truly is for my life. I guess all I really need to be doing is the same that Peter was called to do – take care of His sheep. Yeah, Peter fell hard. So have I. Peter rushed ahead of God. So have I. Peter didn’t have the things of God in mind. Me either. I am not lost to God’s plan though. He has something amazing for me too. Not that I will be a rock for the church, but whatever my calling God has a place for me too. Me and Peter – maybe we’re like two peas in a pod after all. And maybe I will be as bold one day too.

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:15-18

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