Our Good Shepherd

Psalms 23 is such a familiar psalm that it is easy to recite it and move on without seeing the rich blessings of love, care, protection, and guidance our Good Shepherd provides for us. I remember in VBS the summer between second and third grade getting a prize for memorizing Psalm 23. I could recite it by rote, but did not grasp the rich meanings of it.
The Lord is MY shepherd!!! I am HIS lamb in HIS flock. He personally cares for me and each one in His flock. My shepherd is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11). Because He is our Shepherd, we shall not want. This want is not speaking of physical or material riches. Phillip Keller writes in “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”—“yet amid such hardships he can still boast ‘I shall not want… I shall not lack the expert care and management of my master.’”
Sheep will not drink if water is moving or lie down if there is any fear of danger. The shepherd finds still pools of water that quench and refresh and green pastures of refuge and safety where He watches over them. Sheep are dependent on their shepherd to find the water, nourishment, safety, care and rest they need.

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How tenderly our God cares for each of us as His sheep! He gives us His living water and meets our needs. We are blessed with a refuge where we can safely lie down, rest and be at peace in His presence. Our Shepherd leads us on righteous paths to grow us into conformity to His image (Romans 8:29)—to become more like Him. When we go through seemingly hopeless situations, where death seems to lurk nearby, we can have peace and comfort in His wondrous presence rather than be overcome by fear of evil.
Lord, may we, as Your precious sheep, never forget to rejoice and express gratitude to You, the One who shepherds us through all our life until we reach eternity. Thank You for being the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us, Your sheep. Enable us to recognize and remember to ever praise You for Your care, provision, protection, comfort and peace in both the green pastures and the dark valley of death. Thank You that in You we shall not want but can rest content in your perfect care.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.
~ Deb Peabody

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Finding Purpose in Suffering – Part 1

This blog post is my biggest take away from the women’s conference I attended in Colorado Springs last weekend where Nancy Guthrie was the speaker. I only was able to attend Saturday and each of those sessions were grounded in the Word of God and both convicted and encouraged. The last session “Trusting God with Our Hardest Question” was the one that most impacted me.

Nancy shared how our hardest question while in the midst of suffering is why? Why me? Why did this happen? What caused it? What purpose is there in it? She went on to talk about causes of suffering but what really gripped my attention was when she began talking about what is the purpose of my suffering. I am compiling from my notes from the conference, experiences and thoughts since the conference a list of twelve purposes in suffering. Today I will share the first six and the rest will be covered in my next post.

TWELVE PURPOSES IN SUFFERING

1. To Put God’s Glory on Display (John 9:3)

John 9 Jesus heals the blind beggar

1As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud 7and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

People immediately were assuming this man’s blindness was because of his or his parents sins but Jesus corrects that and says it is so that the works of God might be displayed. So often, we too, want to find somebody to blame or a cause and effect when that is not the case but instead is a way for God’s glory to be on display in our lives.

This makes me want to pray and ask God to display His works in my life whether that is healing from my chronic illness or His spirit enabling me to be filled with joy and peace in the midst of it.

2.To Make Me More Fruitful (John 15:2)

John 15:1-2

1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

When you prune plants in your garden you do not do it to hurt the plants but to make them be more fruitful. We saw a firsthand illustration of this a few years ago while living in Arizona. We had decided to grow grapes after seeing them in our next door neighbors yard.. After the first year, the vines had spread a huge amount. We got our booklet from the county extension on how to prune our grapes and we followed the instructions. When we had finished, over three fourths of the vines were pruned away. Our grapes looked hacked up and terrible until spring came. That year they grew and put on so many grapes we were overwhelmed with a huge abundance of grapes at harvest and had many to share with others.It  made me want to stop praying for God to stop the painful pruning, but to instead, ask that it result in eternal fruit for the Lord.

3. To Shape Me into Christ’s Likeness (Romans 8:29)

We often hear the verse Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” It will all work out for good without thinking that the good it is referring to is in the following verse. “29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

God is using all things to work together to make us look more like Jesus, often in the crucible of difficulty.

4. To Equip Me to Comfort Others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthinas 1:3-4.

If we want our suffering to be wasted just keep it to ourselves. Instead, we should allow the broken places of our life to be used to minister to others. Another brother or sister who has walked through what you are now walking through whether it is death of a loved one, infertility, loss of a job, chronic illness etc. can offer comfort better than anyone else. They know from experience what you are going through and can share how God met them in the midst of it.

5. To Cause Me to Depend on God More Fully (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)

8For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

Suffering makes us less self-reliant and more reliant and dependent on God. Suffering makes us unable to rescue ourselves or change the circumstances which cause us to call out in dependence upon Him.

6. To Make the Life of Jesus More Evident (2 Corinthians 4:10-11)

7But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2 Corinthians 4:7-11

So our weaknesses and sufferings are a canvas on which Jesus stands out and is made more evident.

Purposes 7 through 12 will be shared in my next blog post. Praying that allows time for you to consider these purposes and ponder how God is working them in your lives.

Blessings,

Deb

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