The Shepherd’s Voice

Sheep

In a recent Bible study on Psalms 23, Jennifer Rothschild pointed out some interesting facts she learned about sheep. She shared a video showing different people trying to call a herd of sheep but the sheep ignore them. However, when their shepherd calls them, they follow his commands. John 10:4 says, “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.” Whose voice do you listen to?

There are a lot of voices fighting for our attention. Social media and the nightly news are filled with loud, angry people battling for attention. They each have their own take on a situation and their own agenda. It can feel like we are being tugged in a million different directions. Each side begins to think they are in the right; therefore, everyone else must be in the wrong.

TrainHowever, the truth usually resides somewhere in the middle. Perspective has a lot to do with how we view situations. There is an illustration of this that I heard at a conference: There are three people standing together at the end of a tunnel. The pessimist only sees darkness. The optimist sees a light at the end of the tunnel. The realist sees an oncoming train. At the other end of the tunnel the train engineer sees three idiots standing on the tracks. While the three people may stand and argue forever about the situation, in the end they may miss the point entirely.

God, like the train engineer has a totally different perspective. He sees all of eternity, not just one brief moment. His purpose is to make us more like Christ. He sent Jesus, Our Shepherd, and The Holy Spirit to lead us through life. Sometimes this means leading us beside still waters and to green pastures, and sometimes it is walking with us through the valleys (Psalm 23). The key is sticking to the path and following the shepherd’s voice. The enemy will try to distract us with all manner of arguments and try to lead us down different paths that seem easier or more prestigious, but they are dead ends. The voice of the Shepherd is the only one that can be trusted, the still small voice in the midst of the storm.

We can know His voice because it is always in alignment with God’s Word. As believers, we have the Holy Spirit inside us to help us recognize His voice. John 14:26 says, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” The Holy Spirit will remind us of the scripture so that we can discern what is truth and what is not.

So, when the voices of the world get too loud, spend time in the Word of God and prayer, and the voice of the Shepherd will show you the way to go. Like the songs say, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.”

Soul Food

setting table

Our church is famous for its socials. We always have an impressive spread with delicious dishes and enough of a variety to surely please anyone. But, it’s not just about the food. It is a time for everyone to slow down for a moment and sit down together with people that don’t normally see every day and catch up. The same is true of the Father’s Table.

Psalm 23:5 says, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” The Shepherd provides for His sheep. My church fellowships have nothing in comparison to what God provides at His table. He gives a lavish banquet that is masterfully arranged so that it feeds our soul with His goodness.

What exactly does God provide? Sure, He provides physical food and water, but He also provides “soul” food. Where do you get this food? One of the ways Satan tempted Jesus, Matthew 4:4 gives Jesus’ response: “But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” The BreadWord of God is food for our soul, and it is a bountiful buffet. When we dig into the Word, we find comfort, peace, and guidance. We find the answers to our questions. This soul food satisfies in a way that physical food never will. When we eat of this food and drink of this drink, we will never hunger or thirst again (John 6:35).

Not only does His Word feed our soul, but so does His Presence. When we sit down at the table, we don’t eat alone. God joins us. He set the table so that we could spend time with Him and gain comfort from His Presence. In Psalm 23:6, David ends the psalm with a desire to “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” The house of the Lord is anywhere that God is present, so we can dwell in His presence and eat at His table every day. Charles Spurgeon described it this way:

“While I am here I will be a child at home with my God; the whole world shall be his house to me; and when I ascend into the upper chamber, I shall not change my company, nor even change the house; I shall only go to dwell in the upper storey of the house of the Lord for ever.”

So, let’s dwell in God’s house and pull up a chair to God’s Table every day. There we will find comfort in His presence and food for our souls.

Overflowing

May Your Cup Overflow

The age old question: Is your cup half-full or half-empty? Your answer is supposed to determine whether you are an optimist or a pessimist. While it may be an entertaining argument, the real question is why is your cup half full?

Psalm 23:5 says, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” God wants our cup to not be half full or empty. He doesn’t want it just to be full. He wants it to run over into your saucer. Why is that?

First, God wants to give us the abundant life. John 10:10 says, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Abundance, like overflow, means to have plenty or more than enough. It means we have extra to spare. That is the kind of life that God wants for His children.

Second, it is from this overflow that we are able to share the extra with those around us. We don’t minister to others through a scarcity; we give through an abundance that flows from God. We were created for a relationship with God and with others. God gives us grace, mercy, joy, love, and hope, and He wants us to share the overflow with those around us.

So, what do you do when you feel like your cup is only to the halfway point?

You go to the source and fill her up. We all have times in our lives where we feel like Empty Cuphalfway would be awesome since we are currently running on empty. We can fill our cup up in a number of ways. Prayer is a great start. Prayer has the double benefit of helping us empty ourselves of negative things like worry and refilling us with joy and peace. Then, there is music, whether it is singing or just listening. Music can lift us up and remind us of the good things in life. Reading and studying the Bible can remind us of God’s promises and strengthen us spiritually. Talking with supportive friends can boost our spirits as well as they give from their overflow. Finally, do something that makes you happy. I like to knit because it is calming and creative.

FREE REFILLS!

Overflowing CupThe important thing is to discover your way to the Source (God) and fill up your cup. Don’t go halfway! Fill it until it flows over into your saucer so that you have enough to share. That is when the abundant life is alive and well in our lives. So, lift your cups and take a sip because God refills for free.

Enriched

Enrich

In school I actually enjoyed the vocabulary assignments where you are given a list of words to look up in the dictionary, write out the definition in your workbook, and then use it in a sample sentence. I loved learning new words or additional meanings to words that I already knew. This love of mine comes in handy when doing Bible study.

Aristotle always emphasized the need to use the right name for things, to be specific. This is especially true in the scriptures. Words have power in the Bible. Everything began with words because God spoke all of creation into being. God said let there be light, and there was light. Then, in the New Testament, Jesus himself was called The Word Incarnate. Since words are so important, then it pays to actually use a dictionary and make sure we truly understand the words being used.

For example, I was excited to see a recent Bible study use a definition of a word in order to expound on the scripture. The word was enrich, and it is a word I have read over many times without actually thinking about what it means. The verses being discussed were from 2 Corinthians 9:10-11:

“ Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; 11 you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God” (NASB).

I had never really looked up or considered all the different uses of the word enrich. According to Merriam Webster, enrich means “to make richer especially by the addition or increase of some desirable quality, attribute, or ingredient:

  • To add beauty to
  • To enhance the taste of
  • To make (a soil) more fertile
  • To improve the nutritive value of (a food) by adding nutrients…especially by restoring part of the nutrients lost in processing
  • To process so as to add or increase the proportion of a desirable ingredient.”

So, God (the supplier) will enrich us so that we can be better seed (the gospel) planters and increase the production of fruit both in our lives as well as in the lives of others. He will make us richer by:

  • Adding beauty
  • Making us saltier since we are the salt of the earth
  • Making the soil more fertile where we are planting seeds
  • Restoring what is needed but has been lost
  • Increasing the proportion of grace to our lives.

When we study God’s Word, sometimes it is better to take time to actually focus on a section of scripture or even one verse instead of a whole chapter so that we can really grasp what God is trying to say to us. Like most things in life, true richness comes from quality not quantity. I have been doing a Bible study on Psalm 23 with Jennifer Rothschild. Each week she covers just one verse of the Psalm so that we can dig out all that God has to say to us in each verse.

Dr. Robert Smith gave a sermon during chapel at Samford University on Psalm 23. I don’t remember all the details, but he was talking about how he planned to read through the chapter while he was on a plane, but he never got through the entire chapter because he kept stopping to wonder at the individual words and phrases. A whole sermon could be given on just “The Lord” and who He is. This just emphasizes that we need to take the time to look in-depth at things instead of rushing to finish something so that we can check it off our list.

Priscilla Shirer talks about the process of taking a verse and studying it for a week, to really meditate on what it means instead of trying to read a massive amount of scripture to meet a goal, like reading through the Bible in a year. Reading through the Bible is not a bad goal, but if we merely read through to say we have done it, then what have we gained? The Bible says to meditate on His Word. Meditation is the practice of purposeful focus on something, which is more than a quick reading through a chapter. It is about understanding every aspect of a scripture and then trying to apply it to our daily lives.

If we want to be enriched, we have to take the time to let the Word sink into our roots, to soak up all the nutrients, and then let it seep out of us and into the world around us. Then it will produce thanksgiving to God.

 

Rattled

SheepWhat do a hairball, palmetto bug, the USPS, and the IRS have in common? They teamed up together to rattle me. I had never really considered the definition of rattled until I was watching a video that goes along with the Bible study Psalm 23: The Shepherd With Me. Jennifer Rothschild defines rattled as “thrown into a state of agitated confusion.” She was describing the characteristics of a sheep and how they are often rattled by the smallest thing to the point that they are incapable of moving until the shepherd comes and finds them and redirects them back to safety. I can totally relate.

I came home, tired after a long week, to find one of the cats had been sick…on the Young Mancomforter…on my side of the bed. Not his fault because he has had some digestive issues that are partly of my making due to changing his food too much. Still, any thoughts of a brief nap were shot as I cleaned the spot and left it to dry.

Then, I got the mail out of the box to find a reminder about my mortgage being late, which I was very well aware of and still not sure how I was going to wrangle along with other bills this month. There was also another notice of a certified letter from the IRS, regarding a late tax payment because…well see earlier comment about money. I spent a few moments fuming about why the government thinks I could afford to pay more taxes and then wasted an hour online at the IRS website getting more depressed and rattled.

I ate dinner and was contemplating whether or not to buy a Bible study book and decided against it because I felt I shouldn’t buy anything given financial issues. Later, I went to check on the bed cover and found it dry, so I pulled the bed covers back and a palmetto bug jumped out from under the comforter. Of course, I jumped, swatted, and called for my pest control team (3 cats – who leisurely took their time in dispatching the interloper).

Rattled…I was definitely rattled. It was a little ironic because just last week I wrote a blog on trust and obey, and here I was having a melt down over 2 pieces of mail, a random incident, and a stupid bug. So, I relate to the sheep being easily rattled until they are frozen in place. The difference in me and the sheep is that the sheep is waiting on the shepherd to come find her, and I am lamenting all the possible terrible things that could happen if I don’t get things straightened out myself.

Then…the Shepherd found me.

I left the cats to their hunting and sat down to watch the video that goes along with the study and the Shepherd whispered to me. The scripture for the study was Psalm 23:1: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” Jennifer Rothschild shared this simple but profound point:

“You make Jesus all you need, and then all you need is found in Jesus, In other words, like sheep, you pay more attention to the Shepherd who supplies your needs than you do to the needs themselves.”

Just like that the Shepherd picked me up, turned me around, and pointed me in the right direction again. The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack for nothing.  Then, I ordered the book because I realized that the enemy did not want me to have it, so it must be something the Lord wants me to hear. I used my birthday money to purchase it. I’m sure when the book gets here the enemy will try to “rattle” me again, but the Lord is my Shepherd, so I have nothing to worry about. In the meantime, I just got an offer for a short-term job for December which the Shepherd knew about even before I knew I needed it.

Psalm 23 Bible study

Here is a link to the book Psalm 23: The Shepherd With Me if you would like to read more.

#Psalm23Study