A Crash Course in Shepherding
I’ve been reading A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller. Even though my friend gave it to me a few years ago, it hasn’t been on my radar until recently.
Because within the span of four weeks, six lambs have been born on our farm.
When we purchased the first two ewes, the seller suggested they might be pregnant, but they weren’t. A few months later, we purchased two young females and a male. Six months old, the owner said.
Less than five months later, I received a call from my husband. I hopped up and down on our church stage at the shocking news.
“What’s wrong?” The music director looked alarmed as we practiced for Sunday morning.
“The youngest ewe we have is giving birth!” I shouted, clapping my hands.
What we didn’t expect, was five more to follow born almost exactly one week apart.
“Just call it ‘lambing Thursday,’” Tom added.
Let’s just say Tom and I have been taking a crash course in shepherding.
Thus, Keller’s book. It relates his sheep ranch and his care of them to our spiritual lives.
Sheep have no natural defenses except to flee from predators. They need protection. That is where Molly comes in. She is our Livestock Guardian Dog. Big, fluffy and friendly, besides guarding the chickens, instinctively, she raced toward the new-born lambs.
As our one-hundred-pound canine made a bee-line toward the baby to welcome it into the world, the ewe stood erect, eyed our canine, and stomped her hoof.
That was her defense.
When I take over protecting my stuff or my reputation or my future, it’s kind of like a lousy stamp of my foot. In the end, there is nothing I can do to protect myself.
But I have a Good Shepherd. And He protects His sheep. Not from all harm—often this dumb sheep needs a good lesson and it can only be learned from failing. And I fail often.
But when I do, He always comes through. I am thankful for The Good Shepherd’s protection.
Sheep need provision, too. Our 8-acre pasture is green and hilly — full of sweet grass with fresh water available to them at all times. They have everything they need. Often, when I arrive home from work, I’ll see our small, contented flock grazing, or laying down. They have everything they need.
I have everything that I need too, sometimes I just don’t know it. Sometimes I want when I should be content.
1 Timothy 6:6 states,
“But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (NIV)
Recently, I have been thanking the Lord for not giving me what I want. As I look back, what I wanted was the exact opposite of what I needed. Only time and eternity will show how Our Good Shepherd provided for us — in spite of us.
Before the seat belt laws, as a youngster, when riding in the car with my bigger-than-life father, I’d lean against him and we’d sing. Our favorite was “There were Ninety-and-Nine.” The song talks about Our Shepherd-King. He leaves his flock and travels a great distance to rescue a wandering sheep and rejoices when the foolish sheep is found.
That is me.
And He is my Good Shepherd.
Are You My Leader?
by Meghan Kleppinger, crosswalk.com
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. – John 10:27
For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you – John 13:15
In the classic children’s story Are You My Mother, a baby bird falls from his nest and spends the remainder of the book approaching various animals, from dogs to cows, asking if any of them are his mother.
When asking the cow, her response is: “How could I be your mother? I am a cow.”
Yes, this story about birds, cows, dogs, and so forth reminds me of human nature. By design, we humans desire someone who will step up and tell us what to do. We want someone to say “Don’t worry, I have things under control.” We crave leadership!
Children often look to athletes…
Teens look to celebrities…
Adults look to political and spiritual leaders.
Unfortunately, and only too often, there is news about an athlete abusing and killing animals, a celebrity heavily involved in alcohol and illegal drugs, or a political leader using power for unscrupulous gain. Even more unfortunate, our Christian leaders aren’t immune from earthly temptations and failings.
It’s enough for us to cry out like that little birdie, “I want my mother!”
In a fallen world, humans will make mistakes, and leaders will fall. We all fall. It’s not wrong to have role models and people to look to for leadership. I’m sure that bird learned a lot of interesting things in his travels, but he was not going to learn how to be bird from a cow, a dog, or a cat.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ll be the first to admit that much of my spiritual growth has come under the mentorship of godly leaders, and that’s a good thing. Paul was used as an example of Christ-likeness throughout scripture (2 Thessalonians 3:7; Philippians 3:17) to). We, too, are called to be examples (Titus 2:7; 1 Timothy 2:12).
God uses leaders to point to Him, but we must never forget that they are not Him. He sent a Perfect Example to earth, not only to die for us, but to show us how to live for Him. We learn best to be like Christ from Christ himself.
“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
His Light Shines in Your Darkness
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5 (NIV)
I spent most of my childhood doing my homework in the dark under a burning gas lamp. As war erupted in my Middle Eastern country, we had electricity only eight hours a day, and then it was dark.
Not only was my country physically dark, it was also spiritually dark. My family experienced the effects of this darkness, as we were the only Christians in our village. When we shared the gospel with our neighbors, we received heavy persecution and death threats urging us to stop, or my father would be killed. I experienced darkness at my school as well, where I was bullied for my faith. Often, my heart sank deep within me as I felt the rejection from those around me.
Persecution was affecting my family from the outside, but from the inside, poverty was taking over.
We often lacked food and sometimes only had raw onion and bread for dinner. We lived in a small apartment with no furniture, couches or beds. I desired to have new clothes, dolls and toys, but we could not afford them, and I didn’t receive gifts on Christmas or my birthday.
Yet, my parents continuously encouraged me to be content and to keep my eyes on Jesus. Mom recited Psalm 23 to me every night before going to bed, and she taught me to pray and bring all my needs to God.
During this season of darkness, Christian resources were limited. Aside from finding other Christians to meet, a Christian radio station broadcasted two hours a day. My family desired to have access to the station, but we could not afford a radio. Being a family of prayer, we brought this need to God.
Then God pierced through our darkness.
Amid the war, poverty and persecution, I was given the gift of a beautifully wrapped shoebox packed by someone halfway across the world who wanted to show me God’s love.
My family gathered to open the shoebox. As I opened it, my heart was filled with joy! I found many things that were an answer to my prayers and reflected my innermost self so well. There were hygiene items, school supplies and many beautiful toys such as a slinky and a Beanie Baby.
As we rejoiced over each item inside the box, there was another surprise awaiting us. Inside the shoebox was a smaller box, and inside that box we found a mini radio!
Out of millions of boxes, God orchestrated that box to come specifically to my family with what we needed and had prayed for. That day, as I sat in our room holding my box, the darkness did not go away, but it was overcome by God’s light. Just as the Bible says in John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
From that day forward, every time I turned on the radio, I was reminded that God is the God of details. In a unique yet ordinary way, He pierced through the surrounding darkness and showed me that I am seen and loved by Him, even when rejected by many.
There are times when darkness seems too overwhelming and blinds us from seeing God’s presence in our lives. The enemy uses many forms of attack to blur or even blind our vision of the One True Light.
But God is not deterred by the darkness around us.
Continue to seek God even when everything is dark. God is actively working behind the scenes. He is still the God of love, the God of peace and the God of answered prayers.