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Are we really Sheep after all…

My husband and I recently hosted a family dinner with friends of ours. We hadn’t seen either of the couples in about 20 years, and it was the first time we’d met their children, but it felt like no time had passed at all. The color of our hair, the reading glasses, and the wrinkles on our faces say otherwise. But it was spectacular! We used to meet with four other couples, including these two, when we first were married every month and it was fantastic! Sharing meals, playing board games, celebrating holidays and special occasions. Then life took us all in different directions ~ but thank goodness for Christmas cards and social media!  Am I right??

At any rate, one of our friends have now been sheep farmers in Wyoming for the past 9 years and they love it! We heard all kinds of new terms like, “Oh yeah, we like to lamb in the summer.  It’s way too cold for us and for the lambs to be born in 10-degree weather.” Jesse and Michelle have over 400 sheep at any given time, but lambing season is definitely a highlight. By the way…I’m totally planning some time in my schedule to go next summer and experience Fowler Farms for myself!

When I asked what the best/hardest part of being a modern-day shepherd was, they said that both aspects kinda went hand in hand. Taking care of hundreds of sheep is a major full time 24/7 job!

Then my friends’ husband said, “The hardest part is where the romance ends, and the work really begins.” Isn’t it always so enticing to think about having pets or adding animals into your home equation…until they actually arrive! And with a slight chuckle, they said that after all the years they have been raising sheep, they totally understand why the Lord compares us to sheep in the Bible! LOL!

My friend Michelle recalled a particularly difficult birthing experience. It was on Mother’s Day and she had to unexpectedly go out to help her husband help a struggling mama ewe. At first it made her so mad because after all, we momma’s look forward to Mother’s Day. But then, she and Jesse were able to save the babies and the mama. “The experience of that incredible birthing moment was in fact quite spiritual. And then you step back and thank God for letting you be a part of His great work!”

I did a little research via the old world-wide web too and found a great site that gave the basics about sheep and it was amazing to me to see the correlations between us and sheep and how the Lord shepherds both.

There are four areas where the shepherd must pay attention:

  • Flock Welfare
  • Protecting from Predators
  • Protecting Health
  • Shearing the Flock

Just as Christ came to be our salvation, the first thing a shepherd must be aware of is the safety of his flock. “The shepherd will graze the animals, herding them to areas of good forage, and keeping a watchful eye out for poisonous plants. Shepherds often live in trailers or other mobile quarters. As the sheep eat all the forage in an area, the shepherd will move both the sheep and his living quarters to fresh range. In most cases, the shepherd and his dogs will move the sheep out to fresh grazing each day and bring them back to bed down in the same area each night.” *

This is what Christ does for us every day. But the difference between us and the sheep, is that we activate more of a conscious choice about how and when we will listen to the voice of the shepherd. Each day, as we read God’s word, we are grazing in fresh areas of truth. Even if it’s a passage that we’ve read multiple times, when we are attuned to the voice of the Lord, we can experience the verse anew. When our focus in on the Lord and are following Him, we do a better job of avoiding sinful temptations in our life.

In terms of protection, “…a shepherd may use guard dogs or other guard animals.” * The Lord gave us the Holy Spirit for this same purpose. Read here in John 14 and 16,

John 14:26 “But the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you.”

John 16:7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him (the Holy Spirit) to you [to be in close fellowship with you].”

When my daughters were younger and new in their faith, I used to explain the ministry of the Holy Spirit to them very simply. I would tell them, “When you have that ‘uh oh’ feeling in your tummy, that was the Holy Spirit giving them a warning that maybe what they were about to do or so was not something honoring to the Lord.” Hey, I still think that’s a good way to recognize the direction the Holy Spirit gives us. It’s not about emotionalism…it’s about learning to discern the warnings and guidance the Lord intends to give us through His Holy Spirit every day.

The same way that spending time in scripture helps us to learn more about who God is and what His plans for us are, it is always how we stay healthy: spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Modern day shepherds must be vigilant in protecting the health of their flock and monitor their animals at all times and especially during the lambing season. The sheep, “…may also be bothered by insects, some of which carry disease. During lambing season, the shepherd will make frequent checks on the ewes at all hours of the day and night and may assist the ewe if birthing problems occur. Shepherds may also dock, or cut off, the tails of young lambs.” *

Hebrews 12:11 says it perfectly, “For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems sad and painful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness [right standing with God and a lifestyle and attitude that seeks conformity to God’s will and purpose].”

As believers in Christ, we belong to the Lord. He is with us always, so He is keenly aware when we need help going through trials, when there is disease {sin} creeping in to take over our heart and mind, or when we simply need to know that He sees us. Just as a ewe cries out alerting her shepherd that she needs help, we can cry out to the Lord and He hears us. We may not always get the answer we want, but He will always answer us.

Just last week I was having a terrible attitude going into church. I had allowed myself to fall prey to the temptation of irritation with others and self-doubt and spiraled from there. We got to church late, had to walk through to the middle of the row, and usually I love singing but I could barely get the words out, so I just stood there. But I was fighting a battle…a big spiritual one and I needed help. I asked the Lord to help me get out of this ridiculous funk because I wanted to sing, and I wanted to hear what our pastor had to share in his sermon.

I began to feel the sadness leave my mind as we sat down in our seats. In that moment, a sweet older lady that was sitting behind me, reached forward to hug me and give me a kiss on the cheek. Then she whispered in my ear, “Hello sweetheart! I’m so glad you here.” WHAT IN THE WORLD!!!!  I knew in that moment; Jesus was whispering those same words to my heavy heart. My sinful attitude didn’t deserve such a kindness, but in my quiet plea to the Lord, I knew He had heard me and wanted to gift to me tangible proof to show me so.

He is a good good Shepherd!

The last piece of being a good Shepherd is to know when and how to shear the sheep. The article* I read says this, “Unlike other animals that shed their hair in the spring, many breeds of sheep must be shorn – have their fleece cut off with shears or clippers. This task may be assigned to sheepshearers, whose primary occupation is shearing, or it may be the responsibility of the shepherd. Sheep may be sheared in the open or in holding pens. ”

If I’d not seen it myself, I’m not sure I could’ve truly understood the complete trust a sheep has in the shepherd. A few years ago, I was able to go with my husband on a business trip to New Zealand. One of the producers he was working with, asked if I’d be up for his wife to take me on a few adventures while we were there ~ you betcha!! Almost apologetically she said, “It’s kind of touristy, but would you want to go to Sheep World?” Um…yeah, I want to go to sheep world!  And it was absolutely amazing!! {here’s the website if you’re ever in NZ ~ http://www.sheepworldfarm.co.nz/}

Part of the show was to educate people on the nature of sheep and to raise them. It was fascinating to watch the sheep being called in by the shepherd…partly using his sheep dog to corral the sheep up on the hill and partly his own set of voice commands that the sheep recognized. Then he brought in a few sheep who needed shearing. He showed our small audience how to do it properly ~ how to hold these massive animals in such a way as to cause them to be calm while being sheared. It was remarkable. The sheep made no sound and didn’t struggle to get away. It was clear though, when the shearing was over they wanted to get back to the flock as quickly as possible.

And guess what…this shepherd gave folks an opportunity to do some shearing…and my new friend started pointing at me. I almost turned down the chance but figured I probably wouldn’t get that opportunity again! So, I sheared a bit of wool off this lovely creature and then a bit later I was able to hold a sweet newborn lamb and feed it with a bottle! I was in heaven!!

{Side note: there are many stories out there perpetuated by well-meaning pastors and speakers that state the idea that shepherds will break a leg of a lamb when they stray too many times, in order to teach it to stay with the flock. Not being able to interview someone who lived during the days of Jesus, and seeing a few articles about ancient shepherding, this possibly was done but not as an everyday measure. I’ve spent hours researching this concept on the website and asked my friends who’ve been running a sheep farm ~ all point to the fact that this hasn’t been a reality for a very very very long time! A good shepherd would not intentionally cause harm to a member of his flock. In the same way, Jesus our Good Shepherd, does not intentionally “break” us when we have strayed. He stays nearby, calling our name until we are able to recognize His voice again and in a spiritual sense (and maybe even a physical sense) rejoin the flock and follow the path He has for us.

If you have ever heard this other version and thus made the decision to leave Christ out of your life for fear that He will cause harm to come to you, please know that I’m praying for you to understand who Jesus really is. He is the One who came to save us from our sinful life that, without Him, leads to eternal separation from Him. He will give us lessons in order to have the opportunity to turn away from sin and follow Him. When we ask for forgiveness it is immediate and it is not brought up again. Jesus does not need to “break our leg” in order for us to follow Him. The Lord will always have His arms outstretched to gather us to Himself; when we are wounded by this world, He is there to carry us. He does not do the wounding.}

So, are we sheep after all? Yeah…I think we are.

  • We don’t always see well and tend to wander around with the rest of the flock.
  • We must learn to hear the true voice of our Shepherd to keep us from falling over a cliff or to know when danger is present and to run the other way.,
  • We need someone to watch over us; to pick off the diseased parts in our soul and to shear off the weight of coverings that we no longer need.

And most of all, we need a gentle Shepherd to lead us home to Himself.

Blessings,

René

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Photo by Tanner Yould on Unsplash

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Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Teachers, Uncategorized, Women's Ministries, Writers

I Told You So….

So when you read the title, did you immediately picture a charming little scene of one child saying this to another?  Hands on hips, chin jutting out, smirk on face…with the sing-songy lyric, “I toooolllldddd you sooooo!”  Oh man, did I get in trouble if I ever said this to one of my siblings, or worse…if I said it to my Mom!  Yikes!  Just had to happen once and that swat cured me for life….or at least within earshot of my mother.

Today, I want to linger on this phrasing in a positive way.  The Lord Jesus tells us, in so many words, “I told you so” in a variety of circumstances throughout His word.  A more “biblical” way to say it is in all of the “I will” statements the Lord makes.  It is really exciting to me whenever I read the words “I will” because I know that if the Lord said it, He WILL do it!  Most of these verses are positive, but there are some that are in a tone of warning.  But the same is true for both statements ~ what He says He will do…He WILL DO IT!

As early as in Genesis chapter 2, the Lord tells Adam that He will create for him a special helpmate…and He created Eve (vs. 18). Throughout the entire book of Genesis, you can read mulitple accounts of God saving those who worship Him, destroying the earth He made because the people had become so evil, God promising Abraham & Sarah that they would have a child from whom a multitude of descendants would come from including Jesus, God comforting His people when they were discouraged, the promise of new land ~ and that’s just in Genesis!

Of course, the “I will” promises are much easier to take to heart but we have got to be fully aware of the “I will” warnings. We cannot simply go through life taking scripture out of context because it makes us “feel good.”  We cannot twist things around that are meant to be a warning into some kind of proof that we can do whatever we want because Jesus has said that once we confess our sin and our need for a Savior, that He will save us.

Don’t get me wrong…I absolutely and wholeheartedly believe that once we are saved by Jesus Christ, we do not lose our salvation.  We do not have to repeat the salvation prayer, “just in case” it didn’t work the first time.  In the same vein, we cannot ever do anything to earn our salvation either.  Only the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can do that.

The Lord brings us to Him to be saved, not so we can remain living in our sinful ways…so we can become like Him.  The world is so backwards right now saying that Christians aren’t fair.  True, there are some who call themselves christian and act nothing like the Lord teaches.  And it is true that Jesus will accept everyone exactly as they are.  However…Jesus will not abide by us STAYING exactly as we were.  He calls us to Himself to learn who HE is and how we can mirror His character.

We cannot be a light to the world if we haven’t changed our power source!

Let’s go to the scripture so you can see a few verses showing some of God’s “I Will’s…”

Romans 9:14-16 (HCSB) says, What should we say then? Is there injustice with God Absolutely not! For He tells Moses: I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it does not depend on human will or effort but on God who shows mercy.”

I love this because it reminds us that there is nothing that we can do on our own human efforts to change God’s mercy, blessings, grace, or discipline…it will be done as He sets forth.

Genesis 17:2 (HSCB) shows what God the Father says to Abram (aka Abraham after this blessing is spoken over him) when He calls him to leave his comfort zone, “I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you greatly.”  And He did.  There were definite hurdles in the story (if you haven’t read it, go now and see how even though Abraham tried to hurry up God’s plan, God still had the final say on it all!)

Psalms 91:14-15 (HSCB), is a promise from the Old Testament as to how God will act toward His people when they believe in Him, Because he is lovingly devoted to Me, I will deliver him;
I will protect him because he knows My name. When he calls out to Me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble. I will rescue him and give him honor.” Even when we feel we are not being heard by God, or answered by Him, He does in fact hear our every cry.  He is in tune with our hearts because He loves us.  Remain connected with your Savior and trust that He has your best at heart.

Jeremiah 30:11 (HSCB), (spoken to Israel and Judah through the prophet Jeremiah after the Lord freed them from captivity) For I will be with you— this is the Lord’s declaration— to save you!  I will bring destruction on all the nations where I have scattered you; however, I will not bring destruction on you. I will discipline you justly, and I will by no means leave you unpunished.”  The Lord God does not take joy in disciplining us, but because He loves us so much He will do what is needed.  Our lives are to be a reflection of Him and if we are not living out what scripture teaches then we are not representing Him properly to the world.

I love this verse in Isaiah 41:10 (HSCB) because it is a faithful reminder to me that as a believer, I have the power of the living God inside me and I can trust that what the Lord says here in scripture is true, Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.”

On the other hand, Matthew 7:23 (HSCB) reminds us that those who choose in this life to ignore the authority of Jesus Christ and the fact that they need a Savior, He will have no choice on the day of Judgement but to say, “Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!'”  It is difficult to think of this sometimes, but the world has an opportunity every day to choose Christ and choose to serve Him.  When we do choose Him, Matthew 10:32-33 (HCSB) tells us what we will hear, “Therefore, everyone who will acknowledge Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father in heaven.”

John 14:27-29 (HSCB) speaks beautifully to the peace that only God can give us. While John 4:14 (HCSB) shares the promise of the New Testament that the living water of Christ will well up in our soul.  Matthew 11:28-30 (HCSB) provides the encouragement that following the Lord is the best way to become unburdened.

Perhaps one of the best “I will” statements that the Lord makes in Scriputre is found in Mark 14:36 (HCSB). “And He said, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” Even now as I read this it brings tears to my eyes and joy to my heart.  Because Jesus showed us that His heart was breaking for the task ahead, He ultimately was letting us know that the will of the Father is what is the most important to follow.  Jesus chose to live a human life that was destined for death in order to bring us eternal life that we don’t deserve.

As you read the Bible in your quiet times ahead, look out for those “I will” phrases (the “I told ya so’s). You will never find a promise that is unfulfilled.  You will never find a contradiction of God’s love and grace for us. Rest in His promises!

Blessings,

René

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* (HCSB) ~ Holman Christian Study Bible version *

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Stay at Home Moms, Women's Ministries

Seeing the Delight in being Set Apart

Does this title seem like an oxymoron to you?  It does to me ~ and I’m truly beginning to love how God has been working in my heart in the past few years.  Showing me delight in things I previously found absolutely frightening.  He is so good and so patient as I learn these truths.

What does it mean to be set-apart?  As I searched these words in scripture, there are about 60 verses that touch on the subject.  Some of them deal with animals, unclean things, or cities.  However, most of these verses deal with people and how the Lord has set us apart.  Being “set apart” is not for only certain people.  It is not for those who’ve gone through seminary or special theology classes…it is for all who call on the name of Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.  Let me share a few with you here ~

Leviticus 20:26, “You are to be holy to Me because I, Yahweh, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be Mine.”

Psalm 4:3, “Know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for Himself; the Lord will hear when I call to Him.”

Jeremiah 1:5, “I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Galatians 1:15, “But when God, who from my birth set me apart and called me by His grace, was pleased”

I Peter 1:2-3, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father and set apart by the Spirit for obedience and for sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ. May grace and peace be multiplied to you. Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”

I think the verse in Leviticus gives us a beautiful picture of who we are to the Lord.  The phrasing is very clear, that we have done nothing on our own to receive the bounty of God’s love.  Simply because HE is Holy, we are called holy and called to be set apart.  We are separate from those who do not have a relationship with the Lord.  This does not mean we are better than others.  But it does give us an amazing privilege ~ to call the Almighty Creator of the Universe, our Father.  We can call Him our friend, our confidante, our protector, our healer, our Savior.

God is PLEASED to call us His own ~ He yearns to reconcile us back to Him.

I know I wrote a bit about being “set apart” in my last blog, but felt like there was more to say.  It can be our delight to be set apart.  When we allow God to lead us into the calling He personally and specifically places on our life, being set apart doesn’t look lonely ~ it looks whole and full!  This is not the game of kickball in 2nd grade where you got picked last…or not at all.  God chose YOU to be right where you are at this very moment in time because YOU are the one He wants to be a light to the neighbors, family, or co-workers that surround you.  You have a unique job that no one else can quite fill the way you do.  Dive in and see what He has planned for you!

Sometimes, being set apart can feel like you are alone in the quest that God has given you.  Especially if you are the only Christian in your home, work place, dorm room, or in your family. But you are not by yourself ~ the Lord is with you and because He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever,” (Hebrews 13:8), He will never leave you or forget about you.

So take a moment today and ask God what it is that He has set you apart for.  What is it that He has been whispering to your heart to do?  Take time in your prayers to seek Him and not say a word ~ yep…just quietly listen to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit and not give a list of wants and needs.  God is faithful to answer you when you call.

It is always safe to go where God is.

Psalm 4 verse 3

Blessings,

René