The Sustaining Shepherd

In life’s toughest time, Jesus followed His Father.

In the Tanakh (aka OT), the idea of God being a shepherd is used only twice. And it’s no coincidence that both stories are written about and by shepherds – David and Jacob.

You are probably familiar with David’s story in Psalm 23. Yet, you might not be too familiar with Jacob’s story in Genesis 48.

Jacob said that God had been his shepherd his entire life. What was that life? Hard! He lied to his dad and was then forced to leave his homeland because his brother wanted to kill him. His boss changed his work contract on ten different occasions to Jacob’s loss. He was forced to run away from his wife’s family who also wanted to take his life only to meet his avenging brother and army on the way home!

Think it ends there? Nope. His beloved wife dies giving birth to her second child on this trip back. And after setting down roots, his only daughter gets raped and one of his sons was believed to be killed by ravenous wolves.

Wow, what kind of shepherd is that for crying out loud?! A sustaining one. Jacob ends his statement about this Shepherd as one who got him through, not around, all harm.

God never promised an easy life after the fall of mankind in the garden. Life on earth greatly changed in an instance as a body and land that were supposed to live forever now had been corrupted.

Simply living on this planet, therefore, brings challenges. Jacob is that example. The key, however, is where do you turn when those hardships come: yourself, your drugs of choice (see Romans 1:28-32), or your Shepherd who can get you safely through those hardships?

Jacob sought the Sustaining Shepherd. And, when he left this planet of hardships, he was surrounded by his family, grand and great grandchildren included. Life was good, not easy, but good. Why? As a sheep, Jacob followed a Sustaining Shepherd who got him safely and successfully through his time on earth.

As a sheep, who or what will you practice following in 2024? Hopefully it is Jesus, the Sustaining Shepherd.

Growth through Losing

It depends upon to whom you lose.

During my high school athletic career, I participated in multiple sports. Yet, there was one sport I was adamant about never doing, wrestling. I was the youngest of four brothers, two of whom wrestled and gave me plenty of reasons why I never would.

Yet, here I am, wrestling. Not with people, but with God. Genesis 32 gives insight as to why this happens when Jacob wrestled with God.

“The Hebrew word for “divine” in Genesis 32 is Elohim, symbolizing God’s presence in nature. Nature acts as a veil, concealing God from the world. Therefore, to struggle with Elohim is to perceive the divine presence beyond the superficial layer of nature, to challenge the ordinary flow of events, and to seek a connection with the manifestation of God that lies beyond the natural world.” (Rabbi Pinchas Polonsky)

God used this wrestling match to allow me to see behind what I could see. I was still making life about me and what I wanted. You’d think after 63 years on this planet, I would be over myself by now.

Guess not. And this current wrestling match only brought that to the surface. God wanted to draw me closer to Him, which meant I needed to learn something new about Him, which meant getting me out of the way.

How about you? Are you wrestling with God over something He’s been asking you to work through – personally or professionally?

Take it from one who hates wrestling. Ask the Spirit to give you insight into why you are struggling/wrestling with God; and then, let Him win. You just might learn something important about who your God is that will change your life both now and for eternity.

Hope in Death

Death is part of living.

Even in a room full of people, we can feel alone, right? One can feel this way with the Father. He lives within and is all around us; and yet, we feel alone, maybe even on our own.

When this happens, it could be that He is trying to awaken within us the reality that something is dead in our lives. And sometimes, no matter what He does to get our attention, He allows us to taste death to give us the incentive to want to change what we think is not broken.

We all act consistently with what we really believe. This is normalcy. Yet, is what we believe, truth? Jesus said that He is truth. Thus, anything in our head not put there by Him is not true and leads to death.

When we put our faith in what Jesus did for us – died, buried, rose again – the next phase of our life after physical death was made secure. Yet, what about all the bad programming (lies) left in our brains that keeps us from getting closer (death) to the Father right now?

Death and life can co-exist in one place. It’s like a graveyard. My mother-in-law’s grave is shaded by a beautiful colorful tree and covered with green lushes grass.

Though we live in a graveyard called earth, we know that neither physical nor spiritual death are permanent. There is hope that there is life both now and later for the believer in Jesus.

The question is, then, do you want to change? Be careful how you answer that question. Change is hard work. The Spirit may have to do some digging into rooms of your brain that you want to remain closed or have forgotten even existed.

If this is the case, you may have to taste death (feeling alone, lost, forsaken, tears, scared, fearful, angry, etc.) to awaken you to life. Death is not pleasant. But abundant life is.

Oh what a hope Jesus gives us! As he came alive through death, so can we.

Stop Digging

“When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” Will Rogers

It’s a good thing, but I really don’t enjoy it, though. The first two verses of my Bible reading hit me so hard, I had to put it down and meditate.

Isaiah 59:1-2: “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

The Spirit tells us that our God is not only wanting and willing to help, but He is also fully capable of defeating the challenges we’re facing. He wants to hear from you!

If you’ve been digging yourself a hole and are finally willing to say, “Uncle. I give. Help!” He will definitely hear that prayer because you are now looking to Him to solve your problem.

Now, comes that wonderful word, but. But, if you are knowingly sinning and continuing to dig your hole deeper, no matter how much you whine or complain, He’s not going to step in and rescue you. As the old saying goes, “You haven’t hit bottom yet.” He’ll let you continue to dig.

I was convicted when I read that passage. He’s asked me to fast from playing games, reading sports scores and watching funny videos on my phone and iPad in order to talk with Him. But, I’ve been continuing to dig my hole, deeper and deeper while hoping He will answer the prayers I do throw up there, seriously?

The Spirit through Isaiah is saying, “Stop digging! Put the shovel down. And do what you know I’ve been chirping at you, not others, but you to do.”

Then and then will your Father in heaven do what only He can do, be God.