Devotionals · God's Word · Pondering

Resting – Sheep and Shepherds

sheep sleep

He makes me lie down in green pastures.  Psalm 23:2a

Sheep will lie down when they are:

  • free from fear
  • free from friction (within the flock)
  • free of pests (flies, parasites, etc.)
  • free from hunger

The shepherd makes it possible for sheep to lie down, to rest, to be quiet, content, and relaxed.

* Free from fear

Sheep are timid and can be panicked so very easily.  A jackrabbit can bound before a flock, sending them all into a stampede.  Most do not know what they are fleeing, but follow in fright.

  • Sheep are quieted and reassured when they actually see their shepherd, knowing he or she is near.

* Free from friction

Sheep, like most animals, have an order of dominance within the flock.  Shepherds call this the “butting order.”  This may bring tension, rivalry, conflict, even cruelty within the flock.  The sheep are always ready to defend their place in that order or against intruders.

  • The shepherd’s presence calms them.  They tend to forget their contests and discontent.  The less aggressive sheep will be more content as well as more restful and calm.  Sheep do not need to defend themselves when the shepherd is around.

* Free from pests

Sheep can be tormented by a number of insects and parasites.  It is virtually impossible for them to lie down and rest when this occurs.  They are shaking their heads, stamping around, always up on their feet.

  • A good shepherd is diligent to keep his flock free from these pests.  Insect repellents, dips, and other methods of care are most important to the sheep’s health.  The shepherd is in and among his flock, keeping a watchful eye for problems.  He wants to catch them early so as not to allow them to spread or cause serious disease in the flock.  He is there to provide relief.

* Free from hunger

Sheep will remain on their feet as long as they are hungry.  They are not content while they search for food.

  • David was a shepherd boy before he was a king.  He raised his father’s flocks in an arid, barren land.  Green pastures of rich foliage needed to be produced in such a place.  A shepherd works hard to clear land of rocks and brush.  The land is then plowed and prepared for seeds of grass, grain and legumes.  Watering the grasses is part of this preparation.  The sheep need to be moved from one pasture to another as they will eat the grasses down to stubble, even into the root, if left in one area for too long.  When sheep have this land of plenty, they flourish for they fill up quickly and then will lie down to rest and ruminate.

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How does our Shepherd, Jesus Christ, guide us into rest?

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.  Psalm 4:8

* Free from fear

We live in a world where anxiety, fear, and stress often knock upon our doors.  We can dwell upon these things or we can rest in the Lord.  When we are in the midst of those overwhelming feelings, it is truly hard to draw near to the One Who shepherds us.  We tend to run without knowing what we run from or stand still while shaking in our boots.   Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit Who reassures us that Christ is near, has all things under His control.  We do not need to do anything but rest in Him.

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.  2 Timothy 1:7

“It is the special office work of God’s gracious Spirit to convey this sense of the Christ to our fearful hearts.  He comes quietly to reassure us that Christ Himself is aware of our dilemma and deeply involved in it with us.”  W. Phillip Keller

* Free from friction

We also can live in friction.  We struggle with competition, keeping up with our neighbors, jealousy, hatred, rivalry, covetousness, and discontent.  When we are near to our Shepherd, in prayer, in reading His Word, in communion, in love, His Presence takes the discontent, hatred, and all else away.  Abiding in the One Who is worthy to be praised removes those feelings because we are praising Him, loving Him, and walking with Him.

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing.  He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.  But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.  1 Timothy 6:3-7

And He said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  Luke 12:15

“It is the humble heart walking quietly and contentedly in the close and intimate companionship of Christ that is at rest, that can relax, simply glad to lie down and let the world go by.  When my eyes are on my Master they are not on those around me.  This is the place of peace.”   W. Phillip Keller

* Free from pests

We live with many small irritations, things that “bug” us.  They may include disagreements with family members or friends, frustrations in traffic or at work, irritations that keep us awake at night.  Our tendency is to hash and rehash things while they keep us restless.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:26-28

We have been given the Holy Spirit for intercession.  He is there for us.

“In Scripture He is often symbolized by oil — by that which brings healing and comfort and relief from harsh and abrasive aspects of life.  The gracious Holy Spirit makes real in me the very presence of Christ.  He brings quietness, serenity, strength and calmness in the face of frustrations and futility.”  W. Phillip Keller 

Resting in the Shepherd  by trusting Him with our cares and concerns is vital.

* Free from hunger

We have been given salvation and life in Christ.  He is our Shepherd, the Good Shepherd.  We have been given the gift to move from our sin into a life of overcoming victory.  Jesus desires a life of abundant joy and contentment for us if we will come to Him.  He will provide those green pastures.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”  Matthew 5:6

Jesus said to them, “I am the Bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.”  John 6:35

“How He works to clear the life of rocks of stoney unbelief.  How He tries to tear out the roots of bitterness.  He attempts to break up the hard, proud human heart that is set like sun-dried clay.  He then sows the seed of His own precious Word, which, if given half a chance to grow, will produce rich crops of contentment and peace.  He waters this with the dews and rain of His own presence by the Holy Spirit.  He tends and cares and cultivates the life, longing to see it become rich and green and productive.”  W. Phillip Keller

Our Good Shepherd prepares and then leads us to the lush green pastures where we can feed on His Word and rest in Him.

Will we follow Him there?

Will we obey His lead?

Father, I pray that this is so.  I ask You to open our eyes to the One Who gave His life for us.  He is our Shepherd.  I pray that we will obediently follow Him to these beautiful pastures of His loving care.  I pray that we will feed upon Your Word ravenously.  I pray that we will know the feeling of fulfillment so that our time of rest is calm, peaceful, filled with contentment.  Thank You, Father, for the words and thoughts of Mr. Keller for he has taught beautifully while Your Word is a fountain of knowledge from You.  I am grateful for this pasture.  I lie in it more often than not.  May I call upon Your Holy Spirit when I stray, finding myself lost.  I want to lie in it always.  Thank You, Lord, for being my Shepherd.  Thank You for Your forgiveness.  You are Beautiful to me, Lord Jesus.  I pray in Your Holy Name.  Amen.

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Photo 1:  https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=sheep+lie+down&view=detailv2&&id=9BC7072561ABB6981FAA1618A883ACE23BB9525E&selectedIndex=33&ccid=8gPrAn%2fY&simid=608030665586708327&thid=OIP.Mf203eb027fd81a768de47d6d20879251H0&ajaxhist=0

Photo 2: by Biegun Wschodni  https://unsplash.com/photos/vD3L-rN_qNw

and http://www.biegunwschodni.pl/?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=unsplash

Quotes from A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm by W. Phillip Keller

W. Phillip Keller, author of A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm, is due credit for the outline of this post. The 4 points of freedom are from this book.

Devotionals · God's Word · Pondering

Sheep Grazing

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Sheep follow one another.  They will wander into areas that may lead to danger, or cause them to hunger or thirst.  Sheep, left on their own, will graze the same area over and over until there is nothing left to eat, gnawing the grass right down to the dirt.  As they graze and re-graze one area, they will make ruts in the dirt.

A shepherd’s reputation is based on the appearance of his pastures as well as the condition of the sheep.  If the pastures are run down, not very green, filled with deep ruts, then it is safe to assume that he is not a good shepherd.  The same could be said of the shepherd if the sheep are not well cared for.  They need to be constantly tended to, groomed, fed, and protected.  The shepherd’s reputation is on the line.

When sheep are led by a good shepherd, he/she will drive them into fresh pastures regularly.  He will have a pattern whereby he leads his sheep from one area of new grasses to another so that they are continually fed, and minimally damaging the land.  The shepherd will know his land well in order to drive or lead them each day into an area that would be a benefit to his sheep.  He will know right where the watering holes are as well.      

He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  Psalm 23:3

Jesus is our Shepherd.  He leads us.  However, we don’t always trust Him (or anyone else) to lead us where we think best.  Instead, like sheep, we will often stay in one pasture, working ourselves along the same paths turning them into ruts.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on Him
the iniquity of us all.  
Isaiah 53:6

We can be stubborn, prideful, stiff-necked, filled with self.  We often blindly follow another or are determined to go our own way.

There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.  Proverbs 14:12

Looking around at others near to us or gazing into a mirror back at ourselves, we might see abuse of drugs or alcohol, sexual promiscuity, dead-end careers or jobs, wrong or falling-apart relationships, family members gone astray, following others into New Age religions, or so much more.

Can we ask: Where have I strayed away from the LORD?

The LORD calls us into fresh pastures…each day…for nourishment and refreshment.

It is important to note that it is for the LORD’s Name sake that He leads us. Our well-being, our peacefulness and joy reflect upon His character, His ownership, His management, His protection of us.  If we claim be to Christ’s, His image would be tarnished by our behavior or thought patterns when we go astray.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  John 10:10

Am I willing to be led?  Am I willing to follow Him to fresh pasture for nourishment?

Am I willing to love Christ and others more than myself?

By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  1 John 3:16

Am I willing to be set apart for Him?

Am I willing to release what I might call my “rights”?

Jesus did not say this would be easy.

And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.  Mark 4:17

BUT…Jesus said,

“I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

Am I willing to rest in being His and not mine?  

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  John 14:6

Am I willing to be gracious and thankful for all situations, no matter what comes my way?

Am I willing to have no self-will, but have His will for my life?

Am I willing to follow Christ to obey all He asks of me?

“And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”  Acts 5:32

…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.  Philippians 2:13

LORD, I pray that I will be like a lamb that jumps and plays, that brings a smile due to joy-filled leaps into the Shepherd’s arms.  I want to be filled with that joy because You loved me first.  

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LORD, I thank You for caring for me always.  Thank You for loving me.  Even while I strayed, going my own way time and time again, You waited patiently for me.  Once I became Yours, I wanted to be Your sheep.  I have to admit that it has not been easy, but I love You so and want to please You more than anything.  May I walk in the steps You have prepared for me and stay close.  May I feed within the pastures where You lead me and drink from the water You know is thirst-quenching and safe.  LORD, You are my Shepherd.  Praises to the Shepherd of Israel.  In Your Name I pray.  Amen.  

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Sheep grazing near to Pentraeth by Nigel Williams  This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Imgarcade: Baby Lamb Jumping

Devotionals · God's Word · Pondering

Hungry? Thirsty?

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Jesus said to them, 
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, 
and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”  
John 6:35

I come to Jesus.

I believe in Jesus. 

So how can I be hungry?  hungry for God?

I have an insatiable appetite for my God.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 
for they shall be satisfied.”  
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So I am blessed as I hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God.
 
I will be satisfied.  I yearn for the Only One Who fills me up to full.

“The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers.  And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.  And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.   Deuteronomy 8:1-4

God reminds me of His Ways. 

My heart hungers for the taste of the One Who loves me so. His love is always waiting for me. That insatiable hunger that can never seem to be filled to the brim because I am who I am, this human being.

I hunger for His touch. I want to know He is right here. (He is, Linda. He is with you always…I remind myself.)

I hunger for His very Presence. He tells me He is in my life; He never leaves me nor forsakes me.

I hunger because I look to the world for the fulfillment of that which only God can give me completely.

God has so much more to give to me than I can possibly know.

Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you.  So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.  Deuteronomy 8:5-6

Only God can quench the hunger and the thirst with His Living Waters, with His Love, with Himself. He calls me to be obedient. He will discipline me. He humbles me. I may be hungry, but He will quench my hunger with Himself. (Only God, Linda.)

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper.  Deuteronomy 8:7-9

The LORD my God leads me into abundance of life, of living, as I follow His ways, walk in obedience to His Voice.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And after fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry.  And the tempter came and said to him, “If You are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  But He answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”   Matthew 4:1-4

Jesus knew… He knew God’s commandments … the Truth. Jesus’ obedience is sure. His relationship with His Father brought Him through the temptation. I eat the Word. I devour His Truth. I learn of His Ways. I will not hunger nor thirst as I live by the Word.

Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by Your name, O LORD, God of hosts.  Jeremiah 15:16

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And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.  Deuteronomy 8:10

I shall not live by bread alone, LORD.  I come to You with a hunger and thirst for You, for only You, knowing that You are my Fulfillment.  Forgive me when I look to the world for that filling.  Forgive me for my disobedience, for my closed eyes and ears.  You have promised to take me into Your Promised Land.  I want to eat from Your abundance, from Your Word.  I want to bless You, my Abba.  AsI thirst and hunger for more, I know You are already filling me because You love me.  And I love You, Sweet LORD.  Amen.

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