Tag Archives: Shepherd

The Shepherd – A Poem

The other day I posted a “found poem” that my son wrote for his social studies class. After reading a bit about this form of poetry, I decided I wanted to try writing one. I thought of all the references to sheep and shepherds in the Bible and chose to focus on these references for my found poem. Biblegateway came in handy so that I could easily search and “find” the verses I wanted to include. I thought about including all of the scripture references as footnotes, but decided that would make the post too cluttered.

I’m posting this poem as my Thankful Thursday post because I am thankful that Jesus is our Good Shepherd. I am also thankful for the consistent theme of God as the shepherd of His lost and wandering sheep throughout the Bible.

The Shepherd

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel,
You who lead Joseph like a flock;
You who sit enthroned
between the cherubim.

Like a hunted gazelle, like sheep
without a shepherd,
each will flee to his native land.
Save your people and bless
your inheritance; be their shepherd
and carry them forever.

He had compassion on them,
because they were harassed and helpless,
like sheep without a shepherd.
This is what the Sovereign LORD says:
Woe to the shepherds of Israel
who only take care of themselves!

Should not shepherds take care of the flock?
The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not be in want.
“I will place shepherds over them
who will tend them, and they will
no longer be afraid or terrified,
nor will any be missing,” declares the LORD.

Then I will give you shepherds
after my own heart, who will lead you
with knowledge and understanding.
They will follow my laws
and be careful to keep my decrees.
And David shepherded them
with integrity of heart;
with skillful hands he led them.

For you were like sheep
going astray, but now
you have returned to the Shepherd
and Overseer of your souls.
And when the Chief Shepherd appears,
you will receive the crown of glory
that will never fade away.

For the Lamb at the center
of the throne will be their shepherd;
He will lead them to springs
of living water. And God
will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
So the LORD’s people will not
be like sheep without a shepherd.

But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.
“I have other sheep that are
not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.
They too will listen to my voice,
and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

He will stand and shepherd
his flock in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD
his God. And they will live securely,
for then his greatness will reach
to the ends of the earth.

“I am the good shepherd
who lays down his life for the sheep.”
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

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Pastor Dave and My Tuesday Three

I am so excited about our new pastor at my church, Pr. Dave Sorensen. I’ve only known him for a short time, but I already feel like he’s going to be a great pastor to our congregation, and to me, for quite some time to come. So I decided for My Tuesday Three I wanted to share three things about him that make him a good pastor.

First, he always keeps Jesus front and center. During his first sermon this past Sunday he said some things that made this very clear. He used a radio-controlled sports car to illustrate our church, all revved up and ready to go (and he definitely got the attention of the men). The car, he said, was already moving and he had to jump in the open door. But he was not getting into the driver’s seat because we must keep Jesus at the wheel deciding where we will go and when.

Then he talked about Jesus as our Good Shepherd. He commented that sometimes congregations call their pastor their shepherd, but that only Jesus is the Shepherd. As our pastor, he said, he was just the sheepdog. Everyone chuckled when he said this, but I think it was a great analogy. There really is only one Shepherd, but the Shepherd needs good sheepdogs who are obedient to His voice to help guide the flock and keep them out of danger.

Second, given a difficult situation or person, Pr. Dave has said he errs on the side of grace. We humans need grace because we struggle constantly with our pride and sinful nature. We require grace to bring us back to Christ when we have strayed. I am reminded of James 5:19-20:

My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

I suspect that through grace Pr. Dave has turned more than one sinner from the error of his ways, covering over a multitude of sins. That’s what the sheepdog is called to do.

Third, Pr. Dave is a very relational pastor. He has a great desire to get to know as many people as possible in our congregation, to really know us, our hopes, fears and dreams. He even plans to call on people who come to visit our church so they will feel welcome and want to come back. When you talk with him, you can tell he is listening.

Pr. Dave will be there for every member of our congregation who is sick and has to go in the hospital, every family grieving the loss of a loved one, every wedding, birth, baptism, and confirmation. In fact, only one day after officially being installed as our pastor he’s already spending time with a grieving widow whose husband unexpectedly passed away yesterday.

In reality, though, my second and third reasons I like Pr. Dave come back to the first reason. He gets his focus on grace from the Author of grace and truth, Jesus Christ. And he gets his relational nature from the One who began His earthly ministry by calling disciples to follow Him, the King of relationship development.

So if you’re ever in my neighborhood on a Sunday morning, stop by Community of Faith Church. It’s a place where you can meet Pr. Dave, but more importantly, it’s a place where you can get to know Jesus.

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The Politically Incorrect Narrow Gate

There is a movement in the church to forge a new, “progressive Christianity.” One of the primary tenants of this movement is that all religions and faiths are true for their adherents. In other words, progressive Christians reject the core Christian doctrine that Jesus is the only means of salvation. Although they generally eschew doctrine and “dogma,” they are adherents to the doctrine of relativism.

[Note: As I read through to edit this, I noticed that the initials for "progressive Christian" are P.C. And P.C., or "politically correct" they are indeed. This post, on the other hand, is not P.C.]

I have read and studied the Bible, and I frankly do not understand how this group can consider itself Christian. They ignore most of what Christ said about Himself and the means of salvation. Christ was very clear about the fact that trusting in Him was the only way to truly have a relationship with God. Although much of the writings of the apostles confirms this, one need not read past the Gospels and the words of Christ Jesus himself to see this truth.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14

     “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.
     Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” John 10:1-9.

There is only one gate, and that gate is Jesus Christ. Those who try to find salvation through their own works and their own efforts are trying to “climb in by some other way.” Those who call themselves pastors in the progressive Christian church have not entered by the One True Gate and are so are not true shepherd’s of Christ’s sheep. They are strangers. Those who belong to Christ will never listen to them.

Also, by claiming that all faiths are equally valid paths to God, the progressive Christians fail to follow Jesus’ great commission given to His disciples:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20.

He didn’t say to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit “unless they have found some other path to me.” There is no provision for allowing alternate paths because to do so leaves people traveling down the broad road to destruction. All other paths are based on each person saving themselves or one the collective salvation of a group because one belongs to the group that has earned salvation for its members.

The progressive Christian movement also focuses on what they call love, because Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love the Lord your God and the second was to love your neighbor as yourself. It is true that the best-known quote of Jesus talks about how much God loves the world and that He did not send Jesus to condemn the world. But it doesn’t stop there. To truly understand John 3:16, one must continue reading the rest of what Jesus said:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” John 3:16-21.

Jesus is the light and when we come into His presence and believe in Him, He exposes the depravity of our human heart and the power of God alone to make us righteous. But many do not want to admit that their heart is truly depraved. They prefer to cling to their pride and point to their own good deeds of social justice and loving their neighbor in the way they see fit.

This doesn’t seem like real love to me. A love that allows someone to continue down the broad road to destruction is not true love. A safe love that doesn’t rock the boat or stand upon the hard truths about the human condition and our need for a savior is no love at all. We show that we love our neighbor when we are willing to put our lives on the line for them. That’s what Jesus was willing to do, what He did, for us. And that’s how we know what love is.

I know what Jesus said, and if I am going to follow Him (which I definitely am!) then I am not comfortable ignoring what He said. Why, if there were other ways that God was going to call people to Himself, would Jesus say, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through me”? John 14:6. What kind of God would say “This is the only way” but not really mean it? I cannot understand claiming to be a follower of Christ but not believing or trusting what He has said.

I know that there are friends of mine who will read this and completely disagree with me, so may even get mad at me. Others won’t bother to even read this far. So be it. I also know I have other friends who will be encouraged, strengthened, and emboldened by what I have written and by the words of our Savior. Along with the great reformer Martin Luther, I respectfully but boldly state:

“Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”

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Through Is an Important Preposition

A fellow blogger wrote today about how God allows us to go through difficult times in our lives so that we might grow spiritually stronger. It got me thinking and so I wanted to expand on and add my own thoughts to this concept, which was based on Psalm 23:4. I want to look at the whole of Psalm 23, and particularly at the prepositions:

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
       he leads me beside quiet waters,

 3 he restores my soul.
       He guides me in paths of righteousness
       for his name’s sake.

In these first three verses, we find the prepositions “in” and “beside.” These are both words that suggest a stationary position. I like the thought of being in green pastures and beside quiet waters. And being in the paths of righteousness with God is a wonderful place to stay.

 4 Even though I walk
       through the valley of the shadow of death,
       I will fear no evil,
       for you are with me;
       your rod and your staff,
       they comfort me.

In this verse, we find the preposition “through.” As I commented on my friend Rani’s blog, this verse doesn’t say we are camping out or taking up residence in the valley of the shadow of death. Rather we are traveling through it. This is a wonderfully comforting thought to me, as it reminds me that no matter what difficulty I might be experiencing it is only temporary. On top of that, I am not traveling through the trial alone — God is with me all the way, all the time.

 5 You prepare a table before me
       in the presence of my enemies.
       You anoint my head with oil;
       my cup overflows.

 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
       all the days of my life,
       and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
       forever.

In verses five and six, after traveling through the valley of verse four, we have before us a table prepared by God. And in front of our enemies, no less! What more could we ask for than goodness and love all of our lives and to “dwell in the house of the Lord forever”? This is where that valley of the shadow of death leads. We could possibly avoid the valley, but at what cost?

As I’ve worked my way through this Psalm (no pun intended), I noticed one other thing. The paths of righteousness come before the valley of the shadow of death. It seems that is the key to arriving on the other side of the valley to dwell in the house of the Lord. If we don’t allow God to lead us in the paths of righteousness, perhaps the valley is more difficult, even impossible, to traverse safely. The journey through may be longer and fraught with more peril than necessary if we take a different path.

Are you traveling through a valley right now? If so, are you following the paths of righteousness prepared by our Lord so that you will safely reach the other side of the valley? He is waiting to lead you if only you will follow.

As a side note, I wrote the title of this post to include the words “important” and “preposition” because those words are in the top 5 of search terms that have brought people to this blog. I’m pretty sure these people aren’t looking for a spiritual answer, but perhaps they will learn a bit more about the blessing of following God as they pass through. (If you are one of these seekers, please leave a comment. I’d love to know what you think about what you have learned here about the importance of prepositions.)

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Minor Prophet with a Major Message

I’m slowly making my way through my Bible-in-a-year schedule. Thanks to vacation I am now a month behind. Now I need a relaxing vacation on a beach somewhere so I can get caught up!

Anyway, I am in the middle of Amos. I know I’ve read this book before because I did a Bible-in-a-year schedule once before (took me 2 1/2 years last time). But it’s not one of those go-to books that I’ve read multiple times, like John or Psalms or Ephesians or James. But something at the very beginning of this small book of a minor prophet most people have never heard of spoke to me.

Amos 1:1 says: “The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa.” Amos was a prophet not because he was a great king like Solomon or a wise man in the service of the king like Daniel, but because he spoke a truth given to him by God. He was a mere shepherd, one of many. But he listened to God and he wrote down for the people of Israel the warning that God had given to him to share.

It couldn’t have been easy for Amos, a lowly shepherd, to prophecy such things regarding the judgment that was to come upon Israel’s neighbors, and then upon Israel itself. He must have wondered who would even listen to him? Who would heed this terrible warning of God’s wrath and judgment to come for those who turned away from Him?

Amos is almost nine chapters of destruction and judgment. But then, in the final verses of Chapter 9, God restores Israel from the remnant that has been true to Him.

 11 “In that day I will restore
       David’s fallen tent.
       I will repair its broken places,
       restore its ruins,
       and build it as it used to be,

 12 so that they may possess the remnant of Edom
       and all the nations that bear my name,”
       declares the LORD, who will do these things.

* * * * *

15 “I will plant Israel in their own land,
       never again to be uprooted
       from the land I have given them,”
       says the LORD your God.

There are those like Amos among us even today, calling those who have strayed to come back to God, just as Amos called the Israelites who had strayed to be part of His remnant. They are not always learned men and pastors. Sometimes they are ordinary people, just as Amos was an ordinary shepherd.

Do we hear them? Do we even try to listen? Do those who have turned their backs on God heed the warning of the judgment that will overcome them if they do not return to the remnant that is safe is Christ Jesus?

Many like to think of Jesus as only a great moral teacher who talked of only love. But Jesus, the Good Shepherd, also warned of the coming judgment.

The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here. Matthew 12:41-42.

Jesus was talking to the Pharisees when He said this, but He could just as well have been talking to us today. I pray for ears to hear the warning and heed the call of God.

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The Priesthood of All Believers

Yesterday was Pentecost, considered the birthday of the Christian Church. The events of the first Christian Pentecost are recorded in Acts 2. However, Pentecost was a Jewish celebration of the Festival of Weeks, which is why the first disciples were gathered together on this day.

In church yesterday, our visiting pastor preached on the priesthood of all believers, which is a teaching that comes out of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all the believers of Christ at the Pentecost gathering. He pointed out that although the early church did have apostles, there were no pastors, bishops, priests, or cardinals mentioned in the Acts 2 account. The Holy Spirit came upon all who believed — upon each the same as on the apostles. This was something new and different from what occurred in the Old Testament.

In the Old Testament, the tribe of Levi was set apart as the priests, and only they could sacrifice the lamb on behalf of the people for the forgiveness of their sins. But when Christ came, that changed. When John the Baptist first saw Jesus, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29. No longer would the priests sacrifice the lambs for the people’s sins, for the sacrifice of the Lamb of God would take the place of the repeated sacrifices by the priests.

Interestingly, on the way to church yesterday, I was listening to a song that fit the sermon topic perfectly. It’s by a band called The O.C. Supertones and it’s called “The Shepherd is the Lamb.” The chorus is:

The Shepherd is the Lamb
Do you understand
That God became a man?
The Shepherd is the Lamb

I wonder, do you understand? God is both Shepherd of the flock and the Lamb that is slain to atone for our sins. In the background of the song, at the beginning and in the middle, is a person speaking, and he says:

The incarnation is God’s grace made evident and obvious. People matter. Life is sacred. Men, women, and children are worth the greatest sacrifice, the supreme effort, the ultimate gift.

It is the amazing manifestation of His unshakeable love for the unloved and the unlovely, the weak, the base, the unworthy and the unwarranted, the rebels and the sinners. . . . You and me.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites had to go through the priests, the Levites, to communicate with God. In the temple, God resided in the Holy of Holies, the inner chamber of the temple where the Ark of the Covenant was stored. Only the High Priest could enter there and there was a curtain several inches thick that hung in front of the opening to the place where God was. The unclean — the unloved and the unlovely — had no access to God because they could not even approach the temple courts.

But when Christ died, the curtain in front of the Holy of Holies was torn in two, as recorded in Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, and Luke 23:45. The barrier between all believers and God was ripped away so that we became the priesthood of all believers. We are all called to show others the Way to forgiveness and reconciliation with God. We are all, whether pastor or lay person in the church, called to serve one another in love. No longer are we separated from God and in need of another, of a priest or pastor, to do something to atone for our sins. We need only Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away all our sin. Like John the Baptist, we are called to point to Jesus and say to others, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

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