Week 9 -The Good Shepherd

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A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:10-11

This is one of those verses I’ve heard over and over again in my life. When it comes to familiar verses, it can be easy to skim over them in our reading and studying. I think that’s why I’m enjoying this scripture challenge. It is making me slow down and get beyond all I’ve heard, studied or known about some of my favorite verses.

Sometimes, when studying scripture, we need to dig deeper into the people or places being used to express the meaning. Jesus and the authors of the Bible used examples from their daily lives to help explain God’s great love, lessons, and truths to those around them. Just like it’s easier for us to understand scripture when our teachers or pastors use modern examples to make scripture come alive so it was for the people of Biblical times.

We don’t have a lot of shepherds around these days. So it can be difficult to understand the background, concepts, and meanings that make these verses come to life. So, I dug into shepherds this week.

Interestingly, the shepherd who guarded his sheep didn’t have a door or hinged gate to lock as a means to protect his sheep. Instead, the shepherd would actually sleep across the doorway. Meaning, he was the “literal” door between himself and his sheep. Just as a shepherd would lay down to guard his sheep, our Shepherd (Jesus Christ) also laid down His life for us. Jesus not only stands in the gap (doorway) for us, He opens the door to eternal life and protects us like a Good Shepherd.

I love this illustration of Jesus as a door. A door of protection and opening to eternal life. A shepherd that loves, adores, protects and guides. Everything else is like a thief in the night that only leads to death and destruction. Like a thief, sin can sneak into our hearts and lives destroying everything from health to our relationships.

BUT Jesus came so we could have life, guidance, protection, forgiveness and love. Things a thief can never take away from us with the Good Shepherd as our protector. May we all find joy and thanksgiving this week in the truth of His promises and great plan.

 

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Week 8 – Mercy in the Mess

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The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. Psalm 103:8-10

These verses are a wonderful reminder of the God we worship, serve and praise. They allude to Exodus 34 and the forgiveness Israel received from the Lord. However, my thoughts this week kept taking me down the road of personal conviction. I’m so thankful the Lord doesn’t treat us the way we deserve or the way we treat others. Without His great mercy and His immeasurable capacity to remove our sin, there would be no hope. But, as followers of Christ, we are told, “Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.” Luke 6:31 and “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3

I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t always do a great job with this. I strive to do a better job every day, but some moments, I can really stink it up in this area. As I reflected on this, I realized that it’s more difficult for me to treat others as I want to be treated when I’m tired, busy, already frustrated or disagree with their actions. What are your triggers?

As I sit and think about all the bad decisions I’ve made, things I’ve said and done over the past forty some years, there are A LOT! I have no doubt the Lord was frustrated with or disagreed with way more than just a few. Thank goodness He never turned His back on me. Thank goodness He continued to shower me with mercy, covered my sin with forgiveness and allowed me back into the fold of His loving arms. That’s true unconditional love.

Yes, there were times when He was quiet, but it drew me back to Him. It made my desire to seek Him stronger, my faith deeper and my hope brighter. He was always there, just quiet. Just like in the book of Esther. It’s the only book of the Bible where God’s name isn’t mentioned, but He’s in every detail, drawing all eyes and hearts in His direction.

This week I feel as if I should write this verse on my forehead.  I want to remember, this week and always, to praise God for the amazing love and mercy He shows me in my mess. And I don’t want to stop there! I want to extend the love and mercy He shows me onto others. Others who look, think, believe and act differently from me. Others who may automatically think the worst of me before I even open my mouth. Others who . . . . you fill in the blank.

Are you up for the challenge? I pray I am! I have no doubt God will place these people in my path this week, even more than usual, to help solidify this lesson in my heart. Stay strong and courageous friends. Keep your eyes on the cross and the world behind you and remember if you are feeling comfortable in this world you aren’t doing something right. This isn’t our world. It’s just a temporary stop before our final destination.

 

 

Week 7 – A Good Washing

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But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:4-5

OK, at first glance, I thought this week’s scripture might be a piece of cake with just a few thoughts on how we are saved by God’s mercy, not our works. However, after I read these two verses they tumbled in my head like clean clothes in a dryer.  I kept getting caught up on these four little words, “by the washing of regeneration.” I have no doubt, if I had been reading more than just these two scriptures, I would have passed over them and kept on trucking through. Thankfully, that’s what this year is all about. Slowing down and spotlighting verses so I can dig deeper into the true meaning and context. So, let’s dig into this washing of regeneration.

Regeneration is a spiritual renewal, revival or a renewal or restoration of a body. The cross referencing scripture is John 3:5.

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. John 3:5

Stick with me because this is so cool! In this verse, the water that Jesus is referring to is the Word of God (the Bible).  So, Jesus is actually telling us that the Bible (God’s Word) washes us. We are washed and cleansed when we open and read the word of God. This God breathed scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17) is the washing of our spirits so we are regenerated into new people through Christ. People who aren’t perfect, but are saved. People who are dirty, but cleansed through Christ. People who sin, but are forgiven through repentance. People who fight the flesh but trust God is stronger than the flesh will ever be. People who get knocked down, but get back up again with God’s strength. We, the people of God who are cleansed and washed through His written Word.

What an image. We are more than covered, we are washed clean. One of my greatest passions is encouraging women to dig into the Word of God so they know and trust the promises of our Heavenly Father for themselves. So His love and truth seeps into their hearts and takes up permanent residence. But the revelations from Titus 3:4-5 this week have taken that passion to an even deeper level.

May God continue to reveal Himself to you in new ways as you read His Word and the truth of His love and mercy penetrate your hearts.

 

 

 

Week 6 – Turnaround

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For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:10 

Have you ever seen someone making the wrong move in their life, a relationship or career and reached out to offer guidance and direction only to be disappointed they continued down the same path of destruction that ended in disaster and some tough consequences? I have and the reason I knew it was the wrong move was usually because I had made the same mistake myself and wanted to save someone else from having to learn the hard way like I did.

I wish I had been able to have a firm grasp on this verse 15-20 years ago. Better late than never, I guess. There were three main things that I grabbed from this scripture and it’s related content this week.

1. The Greek word used in 2 Corinthians 7:10 for repentance is metanoia and it means “to change your mind.” I also stopped on the word salvation and pondered its definition because we use this word a lot in “Christianity” but I wonder if we always consider the depth of its meaning. Salvation is the deliverance from sin through our belief in Christ. Essentially, when our grief from sin makes us change our course of action, we have no regrets or doubts about being delivered from sin through Christ.

It’s like when you are traveling, thinking or acting in one way and decide to do a complete turnaround and go or act in a completely different one. This turnaround is what happens to the hearts of those who truly believe in the gift of salvation. The fact that the Creator of the Universe, of all we see and don’t see, sent His only Son to die a criminal’s death, so all our sin could be covered and taken away, changes you. And if it doesn’t, I don’t think we really get it. I know I didn’t REALLY get it until about the age of 32.

2. We shouldn’t cry a bucket of tears, ask forgiveness and then get up and continue down the same path of sin, but I’ll be the first to admit I’m guilty of this. In my earlier years, I would come home, repent of my sinful actions and then go out and do it again the next weekend. Back then, I had the excuse of not really getting it. But, as an adult, even after truly finding Christ, I still mess things up.  I can fall into the trap of judgment or gossip, repent and fall in again. Not as fast or without a fight, but I still fall. Although I’m far from perfect, my desire to improve and turn away from sin leads to “salvation without regret.” After reading the Bible for many years, I truly understand the gift of my salvation and that it doesn’t make me perfect, but gives me a strong desire for “metanoia.”

3. What shines the brightest for me in this verse is that as Christians, it’s our belief in Jesus Christ that leads to repentance, which then leads to a desire to turn away from sin. But, for those seeking or lost, I think our focus can sometimes be on the wrong thing.  As much as we want others to stop and turn away from sin and painful paths, we can’t change the hearts of others. We can’t make them choose a better path if they don’t want to. We can’t force them to be kind, compassionate, honest, to have integrity, rid themselves of narcissism or addiction, BUT God can. The truth of His salvation can.

Sure, we may all have moments of regret over sinful nature, but until we grasp salvation and believe it is ours, it’s difficult to make a turnaround. For it’s Christ and the gift of salvation that leads to true repentance and change. So, maybe, just maybe . . . we should step back from some people in our lives and shine the light of Christ into the situation through prayer and see if God can do His work. For it’s only through Him we turn around and experience true “metanoia.”