Standing Up!

“The easily embarrassed don’t learn.” Jewish Proverb

Moses is about to die and Joshua was his God picked successor to give the Jewish people a homeland.

Joshua, though, must have been a bit timid about his new role. Repeatedly, we read that he was told to “be strong and courageous.” He was told this by Moses (Deut. 31:6), 3 times by God Himself (Joshua 1:6-9); and then from the Israeli leadership (Joshua 1:18).

God also told Joshua that He would go before him, be with him and never leave him. What part of never doesn’t mean never? No matter what came about – victories and/or defeats – God was going to walk with and be there for him.

All Joshua had to do was to hold onto the Lord (be strong) and keep going no matter what happened (courageous).

After a string of victories, though, Joshua fails and wanted to quit (Joshua 7:1-9). Did the Lord leave him? No. In fact, after allowing Joshua a little time to wallow in self-pity, the Lord tells him to stand up and keep moving.

Learn from Joshua. He was embarrassed and slipped back into being discouraged when he failed (we’ll talk about this next week). Yet, he stood up and finished the job the Lord gave him.

The Father has a purpose for your life, which in the midst of, you will learn more and more about who He is and what He can do. Will you make mistakes? Probably.

Know this, however. Your God loves you and is there to give you a hand up. So keep learning. He’s well worth standing up for and knowing!

Hear from Your Shepherd

“If you have trouble hearing God speak, you are in trouble at the very core of your walk with Christ.” Blackaby

When have you ever seen a shepherd feed the sheep? They don’t, unless that sheep is sick. Healthy sheep feed themselves wherever the Shepherd takes them.

David’s life was not an easy one in getting to where God wanted him, Israel’s throne. David literally risked his life time and time again only to thrive under hardship. He was hunted down numerous times by his own government only to grow in his faith. He was looked down upon by his own family and betrayed by his own people only to rise above their expectations.

David was always on the move; and yet, David tells us he was being shepherded by God Himself. It was his Shepherd who constantly led him to green pastures and along still waters (Ps. 23:2). It was his Shepherd who moved David, even when he didn’t want to go (Ps. 23:4), to be where his Shepherd knew he should be.

Yet, it never says David’s Shepherd made him eat or drink! David had to do that for himself. When David chose to eat where his Shepherd brought him, though, his soul was restored or brought closer to his Shepherd.

It was his Shepherd, not David, who knew exactly where the food and water was for David to thrive here on earth. David, though, had to want to be healthy and eat and drink where his Shepherd put him.

Just like it was David’s choice to be healthy or sick, so it is with you. Just like David chose to hear from his Shepherd rather than listen to those around him, so must you. And just like the Good Shepherd had plans on David’s life, He has plans on your life as well.

The Good Shepherd wants you to hear from Him so He can lead you where He wants you to go in order to find a true and fulfilling life in an ever changing and chaotic world.

The only questions is: Will you choose to hear from your Shepherd and go where He leads?

The Shepherd Came

“I am the Good Shepherd.” Jesus

We just finished celebrating the Son of God, Jesus, taking on human flesh through Mary.

We don’t know when, but we do know where. Scripture revealed centuries earlier that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), which in Hebrew means house of bread.

During that same time, within the Temple in Jerusalem, would be a table with 12 loaves of fresh bread placed on it every Sabbath. This table of bread was called the Table of His Presence or literally, the Table of Faces. The word is plural.

Scripture is giving us a hint as to what took place in that manger. The Father (one face) loved us so much that He sent His only Son (one face) conceived through the Spirit (one face) to bring us into His presence.

The Son of God showed up in Bethlehem, which was literally surrounded by Shepherd’s Fields (pictured) to later reveal Himself as the Bread of Life and the Good Shepherd. He didn’t come to rip us off, but to lay His life down to bring us life through being in the very presence of God.

Your Shepherd is good. He offers to bring you life. Do you want this life for yourself? Or, are you holding God at arm’s distance? This may be caused by a distorted image of both God and the Father due to past hurts and disappointments either self-inflicted or put there by others.

I pray that you make 2024 the year that you let the Good Shepherd get you past those images to experience the life He came to give you.

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.