Our Gentle Shepherd


Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Isaiah 40:11, “He protects His flock like a shepherd, He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them in the fold of His garment. He gently leads those that are nursing.” (CSB) Have you ever watched a shepherd with his flock of sheep? I have. My husband and I were on vacation in the mountains of Wyoming. Our campsite was on the edge of the forest and went up into a pasture high in the mountains. When we woke up the next morning, we heard what almost sounded like a great crowd of people talking. When we looked out the window of our camper, we saw a whole flock of sheep grazing on the mountainside. The shepherd was sitting and watching over the sheep and his dogs were carefully keeping their charges in line, not allowing them to stray too far.

We went up to talk to the shepherd. He told us about taking care of the sheep, all the while keeping his eyes on the sheep, making sure they were safe and not getting into trouble. He had a cook/camp wagon where he slept and fixed his meals. He stayed with the sheep all the time until it was time to take them back to the ranch. He had raised each one of them, and he ensured that they were safe from predators like coyotes and wolves, which roam freely in the mountains.

Our God is like that shepherd. He watches over us constantly! When we are hurt, He gathers us up in His arms to minister healing and comfort to us. When we get ourselves into sticky situations, He is there to rescue us. He also administers discipline when we get out of line. Like the shepherd my husband and I talked to, God must dole out correction to His sheep. The shepherd’s staff has a crook at the end to reign in the wayward sheep, and much like that shepherd who must guide his sheep back to the fold, God must reign us in and get us back on the right pathway.

Both do correction lovingly, not harshly. Why? Because of their love for the sheep. Like that shepherd, God exhibits His love for us in how He takes care of and watches over us. The sheep of the shepherd we talked to also knew their master’s voice. He would call to them and they would listen. John chapter 10 talks about that also. Jesus is telling the people how the sheep know the shepherd’s voice and will respond, but a stranger they will not listen to because they don’t know his voice. Jesus also talks about how the shepherd will lay down his life for his sheep because he loves them. Jesus is our shepherd; He is the Great Shepherd.

In Bible times the shepherd would sleep in the door of the sheep fold to protect the sheep at night. The website, http://www.gotquestions.org describes this: “There were two kinds of sheepfolds or pens. One kind was a public sheepfold found in the cities and villages. It would be large enough to hold several flocks of sheep. This sheep pen would be in the care of a porter or doorkeeper, whose duty it was to guard the door to the sheep pen during the night and to admit the shepherds in the morning. The shepherds would call their sheep, each of which knew its own shepherd’s voice, and would lead them out to pasture.

The second kind of sheep pen was in the countryside, where the shepherds would keep their flocks in good weather. This type of sheep pen was nothing more than a rough circle of rocks piled into a wall with a small open space to enter. Through it the shepherd would drive the sheep at nightfall. Since there was no gate to close—just an opening—the shepherd would keep the sheep in and wild animals out by lying across the opening. He would sleep there, in this case literally becoming the door to the sheep.” Jesus used this illustration in John 10:7 where He says that He is the door. “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’” (NASB)

We are like sheep, wandering anywhere we choose, getting ourselves into all kinds of trouble, not too bright, and in need of a keeper. Sheep are not known to be very smart; they will go into places that will most certainly bring instant death, without the benefit of a keeper. They need guidance and constant watching. A shepherd will go to any lengths to save his sheep from harm, including putting his life on the line.

Jesus loves us to the point of dying for us. He gave up His life so that we could have eternal life. Like those sheep, the only door through which we must go, is the one our Shepherd provides for us. We must go through Him for safety. By accepting Jesus as our Savior, living our lives in a manner that brings Him glory and honor, and being obedient to Him, we can know peace, safety and life!

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This Blood

I am deviating from our study on grace for a moment, but in reality, God’s grace is plainly shown in our journaling for today. We just celebrated the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. During our Easter service at my church our worship team did a song called, “This Blood.” I woke this morning with that song running in my mind. Take a listen:

As I thought about the words and heard the song in my head, I began to get an image in my mind, one of my sin being covered by Jesus’ blood, no longer to be remembered or to be charged against me. The image was so powerful to me that I knew I had to journal it in my Bible. So, I searched for a Scripture that would express what I was feeling. I came upon John 19:30, “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, ‘It is finished’; and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.” (KJV) The thing that hits me is that when Jesus died on the cross, He did it willingly because of His great love and grace toward me. As I am sitting here listening to the song, I can’t help but be completely in awe of what Jesus has done for me. He has forgiven me of every sin I have ever committed or ever will commit. He has welcomed me into His family. He has become my Best Friend, He is my Healer, He loves me unconditionally, and He beckons me to have a relationship with Him.

The Scripture reference highlights for me that nothing more is needed to be done. Jesus finished the work assigned to Him to bring about my salvation. Nothing more is needed, not from Him, and most certainly not from me, because there is nothing I can do to purchase my salvation, only Jesus was the perfect sacrifice! The old hymn, “Nothing but the Blood”, says it all…” What can wash away my sin…nothing but the blood of Jesus! What can make me whole again…nothing but the blood of Jesus!”

Not only did He die for my sins, He rose from the grave three days later and conquered sin, death, and the grave! That gives me hope (confidence). A hope that one day I will also rise again and be joined with Him in the sky to go Home to Heaven! I have nothing to fear because He will walk with me through death.

What can be more precious than that? To walk through a time that can be fearful, with your Best Friend who will bring comfort and strength just as He has done your entire life. Peace beyond anything we can even imagine overflows our hearts and souls at the thought of being with Jesus.

This morning, my heart overflows with love for my Lord and Savior! I am so grateful for His salvation, His love, His friendship, and His leadership. “This Blood” is so precious to me!

No More Pain

Today I am remembering my nephew, Brian. He passed away on April 3, 2019. My heart is so broken. He is my sister’s first-born, and he was such a joy to have around. Although life dealt him some painful blows, he tried to survive the hits but unfortunately, his way of dealing with it was drug addiction. My sister and I tried to help him, and he seemed to really be trying, going into drug rehab at the local rescue mission a couple of months before he died. He tried to kick the drugs and was going to the chapel services and studies that are part of the therapy there. He thanked me for sending my blog posts for encouragement to him, and my sister took him to her church once when he was able to go. It seemed like he was finally on the right road.

I find comfort in God’s Word during times like this. Matthew 5:4 says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (NASB) God is there helping us through times of sorrow. His arms are lovingly wrapped around us drawing us to Himself. Broken hearts are His specialty! Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (NASB) Right now, my family is feeling that crushing of the spirit. My life verse is Hebrews 4:16, “Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (NASB) When I think of this verse, I see God sitting in an overstuffed chair, not a cold, austere throne, and He is saying, “Come my daughter,” as He pats His leg for me to crawl up in His lap and let Him wrap His arms around me and lets me pour out my heart to Him.
He is my Abba Father, my Heavenly Daddy. When my heart is so full of hurt, He applies the salve to my heart to bring healing. As the salve flows over the hurt and the pain, I feel His love for me healing my heart.

As I was journaling my remembrance page for Brian, I found a sticker that says, “You are worth dying for – Jesus Christ” and that is what I hope Brian finally discovered before he died. I hope through the last couple of months that he found that God loves him despite what he has done. No one comes to Jesus being perfect, we all come to Him in a mess of our own making. In fact, He doesn’t want us to try and clean ourselves up before we come to Him. We couldn’t anyway. Nothing we can do can make up for all the sin in our lives. Only Jesus’ precious blood can cleanse our sin away. Only Jesus can forgive our sins and bring us salvation.

My heart’s cry is that Brian found the way to salvation and accepted Jesus in to his life. That is also my desire for my readers, that each one has come to the realization that there is nothing any of us can do to be acceptable in the sight of God. Only by accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, asking forgiveness for our sins, and promising to follow Him and live a life worthy of Him, can we find salvation. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” (KJV) I am a whosoever, you are a whosoever, and He loves us so much that the only payment for our sins had to be paid by His Son, Jesus, on the cross. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (NASB) Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” (NASB) Death is the penalty for our sin, and only a perfect blood sacrifice could pay for our sins. But God showed His love and grace toward us by sending His Son to die on a cross for our sins, so that we would not have to pay the penalty. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” (KJV) God’s grace is poured out on us when we ask Jesus to save us and be Lord and Master. God invites us to accept Him, all we need to do is ask. Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (KJV) If you don’t know Jesus as your personal Savior, Jesus is lovingly knocking on your heart’s door asking to be invited in. He will not push His way in, He is a gentleman. But He longs to have a relationship with you. He desires for you to decide today. II Corinthians 6:2 says, “…Now is the day of salvation.” My prayer for all of my readers is that they make that decision to follow Christ and find out that a life of surrender to Him can bring peace and joy.

Hope That Brings Strength

 

Today we are looking at a very familiar verse to most Christians, Isaiah 40:31, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (KJV) That kind of strength comes only from God! Our hope is in God. Remember, we have said that the kind of hope we are talking about is confidence…confidence in God, confidence that He will do what He has promised, confidence that no matter what we go through, He has our back, and that no problem is too big or too small for Him.

There are days we go through when it just seems like it’s too much. Everything seems harder than it should. We can barely keep ourselves together, much less accomplish a task. That’s where hope in God’s strength comes into play. We rely on His strength to get us through. When we feel we can barely crawl, He gives us the strength to walk, then to run. Our hope, our confidence is in knowing we are not alone, He walks with us, sometimes, He carries us.

Our Scripture reference talks about mounting up with wings as eagles. If you have never seen eagles fly, it is an absolutely amazing thing to see. When I lived in Montana, in the fall, the eagles would fly over the canyon in their mating ritual. It was awesome to see them do their mating dance and see the strength they had in their wings to be able to grab their talons together and fly hooked to one another. God gives us that kind of strength. We are held by God, He gives us strength to persevere through each circumstance, and our hope, our confidence, grows with each situation we face.

I know for me, God has given me strength in several instances. My husband and I have gone through a hard time over the last two years. We were married March 25, 2017, and right after that he went to the doctor for a yearly physical. The doctors found something wasn’t right and he had to have a biopsy. We waited to go on our honeymoon because my niece was getting married in May, and we decided to take it then. While we were on our honeymoon, the doctor’s office called and told us that my husband, Kraig, had prostate cancer. We both were rocked to our core. But God held us both up through the whole process of Kraig’s treatment. After having radiation treatments, a lot of prayer from family, church, and friends…Kraig was declared cancer free on October 23, 2017! His last test a few months ago showed an improvement in his test scores, in fact they were lower than previously! He still is being watched by the doctor, but for all practical purposes, there is no more treatment needed, just to keep an eye on things. We are rejoicing for God’s goodness and care. I thank Him for the strength He gave us and the hope of knowing that He is a healer.

That hope, that confidence, that God would do as He promised is what held us together and kept us from falling apart. It not only strengthened us spiritually, but also strengthened our commitment to one another. We found out that we could go through anything if we could go through that. We both held on to God, believing in His healing power for Kraig, and we gained strength.

Our Scripture says we are to “wait upon the Lord.” That means to trust His timing on things, trust that He knows our situation and knows the solution, and have the confidence that nothing that happens to us goes without notice by Him. Then we can fly like the eagles, we can run and walk, and not faint.

Choose Hope

In today’s world there doesn’t seem to be much hope. If we listen to the evening news, most of the stories are depressing, full of violence, and it seems the world is bent on destroying itself. Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Matthew 12:21, “And in His name the Gentiles will hope.” Our hope is found in Jesus Christ!

There are times in our lives when just like the evening news, there seems to be no hope. But God’s Word says that our hope is in Jesus. We can go to Him when life seems to fall apart all around us. Amid trials, Jesus is our hope. When life is going great, it is easy to hope. We are in a good place, circumstances and events are going our way. But in the times of distress, when we can not find any hope in what is going on around us, God has everything in His control, and we do not have to be discouraged.

I’ve mentioned before in other posts that the darkest time in my life was when my first husband had his first stroke. The doctors told me the brain bleed was very serious and if he didn’t get to surgery right away, he would die. At that time, there was no neurosurgeon in our area, so my husband had to be life-flighted to a hospital in another state. I was completely devastated, I could barely think, much less find hope in the situation. At that time, my hope was that he would live, and not die. I prayed so hard for God to save him. The surgery took so long, I was a complete basket case, and on top of that, my family were in other states, so I didn’t have my family with me. Praise God I have a church family who stood by me through the whole process. They held me up when I could barely function. Waiting to find out if my husband would be ok was excruciating. All I could do was hope that God would spare him. God worked a miracle through the doctors, and my husband survived, and this began a long seven-year trial of caring for my husband before God finally took him Home.

We can find our hope in God through faith in Jesus Christ. This is not just a, “I hope so” kind of faith, it is a rock-solid reliance on God for every day of our lives. The enemy of our souls wants us defeated, he wants us to lose our hope, to lose our joy, to lose our grounding in Jesus. He throws road blocks in our way to steer us off the pathway we are to walk. He distracts us, deceives us, and brings discord into situations where we should have our minds focused on God, and listening to the truth of God’s Word, and find peace.

So, in those circumstances we must choose hope. Our first instinct should be to turn to God, our Hope. Psalm 42:5 says, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.” (NASB) We have this assurance found in Psalm 38:15, “For I hope in You, O Lord; You will answer, O Lord my God.” (NASB) We have the promise that not only will He answer our prayers, He will help us in times of need.

But we also have a hope spiritually. Jesus Christ is our hope of eternal life. His sacrificial death on the cross gives us something to look forward to, a life with Him in Heaven. When we accept Jesus into our hearts and lives, He takes us into His family and offers us a life full of joy, peace, and the hope of His return for us, and eternal life with Him! Romans 8:24 says, “In hope we have been saved…” (NASB) We cling to that hope daily. Are you going through a difficult period in your life? Choose hope! Don’t allow Satan to blind-side you and discourage you. Hope in Christ!

God’s Got This!

 

I’m going to take a little break from our study on God’s Plans and Promises for today. My heart is heavy today because our pastor relayed a health issue he has to the congregation and in human terms, it isn’t good. I’ve been in prayer for him and his wife since last night when they told us, and this morning as I did my morning devotions the Scripture was on James 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (NASB) I decided to read before that passage a little, and starting in verse 12, James is asking questions, are any suffering, is anyone cheerful, are any sick? And then he gives solutions or answers to those questions.

Are you suffering? Pray. Are you cheerful? Sing praises. Are you sick? Go before the elders and have them lay hands on you and pray for your healing. Verse 15 says, “and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.” Prayer is the key, and not just praying, but praying in faith, believing! Our faith and belief that God will do as He promises, is the key to getting prayers answered.

Giving praise to God for whatever circumstance we find ourselves also is a pathway to getting prayers answered. My husband is a big proponent of this. When he was diagnosed with prostate cancer shortly after we were married, he began to praise God for the cancer. Now, I know that sounds weird, and to the world, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But, praising God in your situation changes the atmosphere, it changes your whole outlook on what you are going through, and it strengthens your faith in God’s ability to bring about a good outcome. Now, that isn’t to say that the situation itself is a good thing, but Romans 8:28 tells us that “God works all things together for good of those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (NASB) In other words, GOD’S GOT THIS! I firmly believe that my husband’s praise and prayer in faith is what set the stage for God to heal him of cancer.

I’ve gone through this cancer scare with my family; four grandparents, my Mom and my Dad, and then my husband, all had cancer of one form or another. My grandparents all were claimed by the disease. My parents survived and passed away from something else, and my husband is cancer free today. I’ve come to learn that the best thing I can do is not panic, but turn to God immediately, and go into prayer warrior mode. When I intercede on behalf of someone, Heaven is listening, ministering angels are put on alert, and the gates of Hell are being bombarded against this attack.

Our church is on the verge of something big, it’s been building for months, and as I’ve heard many times before, Satan turns up the heat even more when a great blessing is about to come forth. So, of course, the enemy attacks the head, in an effort to kill the body, or to make it ineffective. Our pastor and associate pastor are both under attack in their health, and I agree with my pastor, the enemy is really trying to thwart whatever blessing God has in store for us. But I keep coming back to GOD’S GOT THIS! These attacks haven’t slipped up on Him, it isn’t by any surprise to Him. He’s not shocked to find out our pastors are dealing with health issues. He knows what is in store for our church, He has a plan for our church, and He has called us according to His purpose. Are we shaken? In human terms, maybe a little. But we serve a God Who is our Healer, and He’s Got This!

God Keeps His Promises

Today’s Bible Journaling is from II Corinthians 1:20, “For every one of God’s promises is “Yes” in him. Therefore, through him we also say “Amen” to the glory of God.” (CSB) Today has been one of those days…I am convinced that there is something about this study that the enemy doesn’t want brought out. I woke up this morning and took a bath and when I got out of the tub and got dressed, I got so dizzy I could barely stand. My hubby had to help me to a chair and bring my hair dryer and things so I could dry my hair and then brought my vitamins and medicine and breakfast to me because I could hardly stand up without the room spinning. After sitting for a while, eating my breakfast, taking my meds, and drying my hair, I began to feel better. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, my hubby went downstairs to the basement only to discover that the sewer had backed up into our basement and left about 4 inches of water down there.

All these things have been a distraction this morning and have made it hard to concentrate on my journaling. I said something to my hubby about how I thought this was a Spiritual attack, and we prayed together and rebuked Satan’s attempt at distracting us from what God had called us to do, my hubby and his work on his commentary on the book of Revelation and me from my Bible Journaling and blog.

As I’ve been thinking about all of this, I look at the Scripture and am reminded first of all that God has made promises to us. The second thing I am reminded of is that God keeps His promises. Every promise He has made in the past, He has fulfilled. There are promises for the future that we can be certain that He will make good. His promises are “Yes!” That means He intends to keep that promise! We can trust Him! He will never turn His back on us, He will never make a promise and then break it. Because of that we can say, “AMEN!” God will receive the glory because others will see how God has kept His promises in our lives.

With the situation today, God has always promised His protection. The water leakage could have been much worse, running into the house, but thankfully it didn’t because God has promised protection over us and our property. My illness could have been much worse, causing me to go to the hospital, but it wasn’t because God had His Hand on me and in effect, told the dizziness, “This far and no farther.”

The same is regarding the devices Satan tries to bring into our lives to distract us from following God. I think of Job and the trials he had. Satan wanted to throw everything including the kitchen sink at him to prove to God that Job would turn his back on God. But God gave Satan limits…God told Satan that he could do what he wanted but he couldn’t take Job’s life. (Job 1:6-12) Satan does have power, but he can only do what God allows. That should give us peace because we know that Satan is allowed to do only so much, even though it seems like the end of the world, God will not let him totally destroy us.

We can trust God because of His promises. We can trust that He will fulfill those promises, we can trust that we are safely in His Hand. We can have faith that whatever happens, God is with us and we can run to Him for security and safety. He is our Abba Father and He loves us. He will not allow anything to happen to us that isn’t under His protection or will. Are you facing trials that seem to destroy you? Trust God, He promises to keep you in the safety of His Hand. Has He kept promises He made to you? Then give Him praise and relate those fulfilled promises to those around you. Not only will it encourage you, it will encourage others also.