“The Lord is my Shepherd” … but

IMG_3844(Note:  I would like to thank fellow blogger, Prayerson Christian, for including me in the “3 Days, 3 Quotes” challenge on Word Press.  I have chosen to write about one of the most quoted scriptures ever, from a personal viewpoint.)

“Baa, Baa.”

Okay, we are not to sound like sheep, but, in many ways, we are to act like them

One of the most famous Bible scriptures tells us that the Lord is our shepherd.  It is a comforting thought, but do I really want to compare myself to a sheep?

Sheep are not the smartest animal.  They are needy.  They are defenseless.  They need to be led.

Am I willing to view myself that way?

I am an educated woman.  I have held down a job for over 30 years.  I can manage my home, my finances and my life.  Am I prepared to consider myself  ‘needy’ and “defenseless”?  Will I let the Lord shepherd me?

Sheep  cannot open the door of the sheepfold.  They stay in the sheepfold until the gate is opened and the shepherd leads them out.  They will only follow their shepherd, and if a stranger comes will shy away.  That is what it says in John 10: 2-5:
“The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  The doorkeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them.  The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice.”

Sheep do not make decisions.  They do not tell the shepherd:  “We Just want to run around and play today” or “you need to lead us to the pasture by the big date palm tree” or “make sure you have your staff, because a lion is going to try to attack us today”.  They simply listen for his voice and follow.  It is the shepherd, not the sheep, that chooses the path that is walked.

The path that the shepherd chooses may not always be straight or easy.  It may not even make sense to the sheep.  It may have some curves.

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Please notice the pathway in this picture.  There is a curve in it, and you cannot see the end of the pathway from the view in the photo.

Much like my life right now.

My husband and I were walking through life, and I was thinking it would always be the way it was.  We were on a leadership team in a local church, working with the children and helping in other areas. Then the Lord led us to attend a different church.

“Go somewhere else?  What do you mean Lord?  We’re actively serving you here . . . and we even joke that they prayed me into my husband’s life when we were both single!”

I never actively said that, but I had to work through those issues.  Sheep do not argue.  Sheep follow the shepherd.

Sheep remember the other times the Lord has shepherded them.  I’ve had rough times at my work place, which included a stress leave.  When I was having a bad day at work, I was encouraged by a customer in such an appropriate way that I wondered if he was an angel.  Also, my mother passed away about two years ago.  God was very gracious to me at that time, including the fact that I had extra time off work to spend with her.

I am very aware that there are harsher curves in the road than changing the church you attend.  Curves can be caused by the death of a loved one, loss of a job, divorce, sickness and many other things.

May I be the kind of sheep that is easy to shepherd.  May I walk near the Shepherd, listening to His voice and following His guidance.  May I accept the correction He gives.

The sheep in the photograph had his eyes directly on me as I took his picture.  May I keep my eyes directly on Jesus, as I move forward in my life.

May you also allow the Lord to shepherd you.

Copyright: Katherine Carswell

(Please note: Unless otherwise notes, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, Copyright 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible, Holman CSB and HCSB are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.)

Note about the photos:  The picture of the sheep was taken in the Village of Nazareth, a tourist site that portrays how people lived at the time of Jesus.  I did enjoy petting the sheep! The picture of the almond tree in bloom and the pathway was taken at the Biblical Garden in Israel.  The pictures were taken by myself on a trip to Israel that my husband and I recently had the privilege to go on.  (Pictures:  Katherine C.)

 

 

 

Grace and Glory (Psalm 84:11)

Psalm 84:11  For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory:  no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.

What can we expect, as individuals and as members of churches, when God gives us grace and glory?

First of all:  let’s define the terms.  Grace is often called God’s riches at Christ’s expense.  It is when God gives us good things that we don’t deserve.  It contrasts to his mercy, which is His withholding from us the bad things we do deserve.  The Oxford dictionary’s definition of grace include elegance of movement, polite good will, attractive qualities of behavior and finally, in Christian belief, the unearned favor of God.

Glory is both a noun and a verb.  According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical words it has several meaning as a noun.  They include the nature and acts of God as he manifests himself, especially in the person and acts of Christ; the character and ways of God as exhibited through Christ to and through believers; a state of blessedness believers will enter into; and brightness and splendor emanating from God.  The Oxford dictionary defines the word as fame or honor won by notable achievements; magnificence, great beat; a very beautiful or impressive thing and worship and thanksgiving offered to God.

As a verb, to glory means to boast.  So in order to fully enjoy His grace and glory, we as individuals, and as a church, might want to do several things.  We may admit that the good things we have, come to us from God’s hands.  They are his gifts, not something we have earned by our own efforts.

We can partake of his grace in another way, letting God more fully mold our characters into his likeness.  This will allow him to use us to draw others closer to Him.  Being molded more closely into the character of Jesus does not necessarily mean we will have an ‘easy’ time.  It is a day to day process, that is sometimes painful.  It is a process, however, that is always for our benefit.

Jesus walked on earth, showing us both God’s grace and glory.  He showed both when he turned the water into wine at a wedding in Canaan.  He did this act, even though he told his mother his time had not yet come (John chapter 2).  He showed us grace and glory in his power to heal, in his love of spending time with his Father, in his interactions with the people and religious leaders of his day.  Even in his angry moments, when he was cleansing the temple area from the presence of the greed of the money changers, he was displaying God’s grace and glory.  That area of the temple was the only area in which gentiles could pray.  Could you imagine wanting to pray and having a mall at Christmas time the only available, appropriate place?  Could you hear God through all the noise and confusion?  God does speak any and every where, but Jesus wanted people to have a more peaceful place to pray!

Jesus was portraying God’s grace and glory to the people of his day.  Scriptures tell us that he was the full manifestation of God in bodily form (Col. 2:9).  Yet, scripture also describes Jesus in a totally different way.  It says “He had no form or comeliness, and when people shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2).

As his ministry began, the people of Nazareth were amazed, saying, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” (Luke 4:22).  He looked just like an ordinary man.  the people (and yes, even the religious people) missed seeing God’s glory.

When God’s grace and glory comes to us, what will it look like?  Will it be such a heavy presence of God, that no one can remain standing in the church (See reference in 2 Chronicles, chapter 7).  Or will it seem so ordinary, that unless our spirits ar in tune with what God is doing, we will miss it?  It may even comes in both ways . . .

As Jesus showed God’s grace and glory to the people of his day, he wants to use us to show his grace and glory to our family, neighbors, co-workers and the world.  May we all hear his voice, follow his lead, and let God’s grace and glory shine from our lives.

Note:  This is a slight re-working of an article I wrote for a publication for a church I am connected with.  The original article was published in January of 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Challenge of Diligence

The to do list keeps getting longer.  The challenge is to be more diligent, to get important things done in a timely fashion.  Challenges to diligence include procrastination, perfectionism and the feeling the work will not be noticed even if it is done.

The Biblical book of Ruth challenges me to work diligently with what I have; teaches me to do it with love, and says there may be unexpected blessings along the way.006 Continue reading The Challenge of Diligence

Handling unmet needs and disappointments (Thoughts from Exodus 15)

Hi friends, how are you this month?  I hope you are all doing well, with very few unmet needs and disappointments.  However, they are a part of life, so let’s discuss how to handle them.

The Israelites showed us one way to handle them in Exodus 15:24:  “The people grumbled to Moses, ‘What are we going to drink?'”  Let’s backtrack a bit and see what led them to that comment.

Exodus 12 tells the story of the first Passover, the Egyptians experiencing the death of their first-born and Pharaoh ordering Moses and the people to leave.  The Egyptian people took part in getting the people to leave in a hurry.  “Now the Egyptians pressured the people in order to send them quickly out of the country, for they said, ‘We’re all going to die!’ “(Exodus 12:33).  The Egyptians gave the Israelites silver and gold jewelry and clothing (Exodus 12:35, 36).  They were willing to give them what they asked for, they just wanted them gone!

Exodus 14 tells the story of the Israelites going through the Red Sea on dry ground and of the Egyptian army pursuing them and drowning.  Exodus 15 begins with Moses leading the people in a song of praise to the Lord, and Miriam, Moses’ older sister, playing a tambourine and leading the women in singing praises and dancing to the Lord.  It was a very happy, very victorious time.

Then they journeyed into the wilderness for three days.  Day one, no water.  Day two, no water.  No water for the adults, for the children, for their livestock.  Day three, no water.  Then they arrived at Marah — and there was water!  Can you hear the shouts of joy, see the smiles of the people’s faces?  Finally — water!  The legitimate need was met.

The smiles were short-lived.  The water was bitter.  It was undrinkable.  It had looked like a solution to their problem, but it was a false one. The water was a huge disappointment.  So the people grumbled to Moses.

I think if I had been there, I probably would have been one of the grumblers.  I’d like to think that I would not have grumbled, but I know myself better than that . . . I’d like to think that I would have said to the people:  ‘Hey, remember God parted the Red Sea for us.  He had to handle a lot of water to do that!  Maybe He can handle a lack of water, too.  Let’s ask Him to do it for us!”  But, I probably would have grumbled with the rest of them . . .

It is not recorded that Moses responded to the people’s grumbling.  What is recorded is that “he cried out to the Lord” (Exodus 15:25).  Moses did not ignore the problem.  He did not ignore the fact that he had no idea how to solve it.  He took the problem to the Lord.

He took the problem to the Lord — and he got a solution.  The Lord showed him a tree and when Moses threw the tree into the water, the water become drinkable (Exodus 15:25).  I have no idea how throwing a tree into bitter water makes it drinkable.  But it did.  It was a creative solution that worked.  The problem was solved.

When I next have an unmet need, when I am bitterly disappointed, what will I do?  Will I withdraw from the relationship or situation that I think is hurting me?  Will I grumble and complain about how rough life is?  Or will I, like Moses, have the good sense to cry out to the Lord and act on the creative ideas and solutions he gives me?  That’s my challenge to myself this month . . . I encourage you to cry out to the Lord about any unmet needs or disappointments you have.  May God show you all good things and creative solutions to your challenges.

And remember, when we go through hard times, God sometimes has a deeper purpose.  At Marah, God made a statue and a ordinance for the people.  He gave them a very special promise. Exodus 15:26 states  “If you will carefully obey the Lord your God, do what is right in his eyes, pay attention to his statutes, I will not inflict any illnesses on you that I inflicted on the Egyptians.  For I am Yahweh who heals you.”

The Israelites had faced a lack of water.  They ended up with a promise that God would be their healer.  How great is His love for them and us!  Let’s follow Him, cry out to him when we face disappointments and challenges, and let Him heal in us what needs to be healed in us.

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, Copyright 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers.  Used by permission.  Holman Christian Standard Bible, Holman CSB and HCSB are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.)

Carrying the presence of God

006Good day friends.  Welcome to my blog.  I hope  to encourage you as we follow the Lord Jesus Christ together.

This month I would like to discuss Deuteronomy 10:8,9.  It states:  “At that time the Lord set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the Lord’s covenant, to stand before Yahweh to serve him and to pronounce blessings in his name, as it is today.  For this reason, Levi does not have a portion or inheritance like his brothers; the Lord is his inheritance, as the Lord your God told him.”

The tribe of Levi was to carry the ark of the Lord’s covenant, a symbol of His presence.  they were to be a blessing among the nation of Israel.  But how, did they become a blessing?

The Levites were the descendants of Levi, the third son of Jacob and Leah (Gen.29:34).  The name Levi sounds like the Hebrew words for ‘attached to’ and in naming her son Leah expressed her wish that her husband would become more attached to her and love her more.  Leah felt unloved, because her younger sister Rachel was the favorite wife.

In Genesis 34, Simeon and Levi take revenge on Shechem and the men of his city for the rape of their sister Dinah.  Jacob was unhappy with his sons for they had used deceit to ensure they had the upper hand in the battle.  He was afraid their actions would cause further problems for his family.  At the end of his life, Jacob expressed his thoughts about his sons. He spoke of Simeon and Levi in Gen. 49:5-7.  It states:  ‘Simeon and Levi are brothers; their knives are vicious weapons.  May I never enter their council; may I never join their assembly.  For in their anger, they kill men and on a whim they hamstring oxen.  Their anger is cursed, for it is strong and their fury, for it is cruel!  I will disperse them throughout Judah and scatter them throughout Israel.’

Jacob was not blessing his sons when he said this.  The blessing to Abraham included land for each tribe, and for these tribes not to have land meant they were not fully participating in the blessing.

Jacob’s words did not stop God from blessing the tribe of Levi.  God chose them to carry the ark and to be a blessing to the rest of the nation.  They were not scattered among the tribes as a curse, but sent among the tribes as a blessing, to lead them closer to God.

Let’s discuss more about how this blessing happened.  They had the option to stand for God and decided to do so.

As Christians we carry the presence of God to our nation, just like the Levites did for the nation of Israel.  My challenge to myself this month has been:  how good am I at carrying the presence of God into the situations that I face?  I admit, I have not always done a perfect job of this.  Daily time with God helps me carry his presence better.  May we all carry the presence of God into our world.  May we be used by God to bless others, to lead them closer to God.