An I Love My Shepherd Christmas Present

Merry Christmas, dear readers!

Isn’t this the day of days? Christmas amazes me by the sheer fact that we have a God who comes to earth to be with us, to walk with us. He spent 33 years getting to know us, our sorrows, and our doubts.

Of course He knows all and is in all.

Of course He never even needed to draw closer…

but He did.

He came to us.

Just as He comes to us every day in His Word and through our relationships with one another; as the Holy Spirit moves and does His thing changing hearts and lives.

Yay!

Even in a season of grieving, even in a season of blah, even in a season of busy- that is the promise we hold tight to.

This Christmas I’d like to give you something to help you to cling to that promise. Yes, baby Jesus is the best gift, but He’s not the only gift. 😉

Christmas Day only, please download the Kindle versions of my print studies, Think on These and Casting Stones for free.

Who doesn’t love free?

Here are the links for each book:

Think on These: A Study of Philippians 4:8

Think on These has 5-10 minute daily reads. It is meant to be short and sweet, but allow you to linger in the Word with questions and contemplation if you desire. It’s good for individual or group study. There are YouTube Videos to compliment your study if desired.

Casting Stones: A Study of Ecclesiastes 3

Casting Stones came out of a time when I was struggling and I think you can see, hear, and feel the struggle in this study of the seasons of life. This is a longer text, still with five days of study a week, but slightly longer daily reads for more contemplation. Color outside the lines! No need to follow the study each day. Pick it up, put it down, repeat. 😉

Merry Christmas!

And of course, a Happy New Year!

Things to look for in the New Year at I Love My Shepherd:

Our 8-week Spring Online Study -My Redeemer Lives!

***February 19-April 13 (Are you marking your calendar?)***

Podcast series that include:

The Truth about Mental Health – Anxiety, Grief, Suicide, and more

Ministry Moments – Happy Hour, Middle Schoolers, and more

Written in Iron Ink – Physical Wellbeing and Weightloss, Tending Marriage, Rest, and more

The print and Kindle versions of He Calls Me Loved: A Study of Isaiah

***June 2018***

and…

Altogether Beautiful: A Study of the Song of Songs

***release date – April 2018***

This study will be a full color layout, video driven study, available through Concordia Publishing House. Find more information on this study in the weeks to come! There will be pre-order freebies, a series of bonus articles related to beauty, relationships, and the study, along with all kinds of fun stuff in the New Year.

Now back to Christmas:

To Him who always give freely to us of grace and mercy…a very blessed Christmas to you all!

Casting Stones

Three years ago we went through one of the toughest seasons of our life.

I was angry. I was hurt and I was tired.

I turned to Scripture and demanded answers from God. What I got back wasn’t what I expected. It wasn’t,

 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

and it wasn’t,

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

These verses, and promises like them were helpful, but when someone shared them, I wanted to physically harm them. I didn’t struggle with why, I struggled with “What do you want from me, Lord?”

What brought me comfort was wisdom from a King, who was also struggling, who wanted answers to unanswerable questions, and found peace in laying it before God and honestly admitting,

“I am small. You are big. The answers aren’t mine. They’re Yours.”

I found hope in these three words…

A time to…

Ecclesiastes 3 introduces this idea –

God in His infinence gives meaning and purpose to every single month, day, hour, and year. I see good days and bad days. God see days that matter. I see storms and I see sunshine. I rue the storms and want to linger in the sunshine. What if God values both?

What if God sees difficult and declares it beautiful?

What if God loves me just as much when I’m shaking my fist, as He does when I’m lavishing Him with praise?

I wanted to know that this season wouldn’t be forever. That bottom of the pit wasn’t every darn day and that held was a real and true promise, not a made up radio song.

I found truth. I found the Savior’s affection. I found my joy again.

For one of the first times in my life I wanted to know who God really was, what He really valued and not the second-hand version I had settled for.

Then, I realized that my trial was a drop in an ocean of earthly trials. We all have them. We all have tears. We all have heartbreak. We all have triumph. We all have uncertainty. We all have times of wrestling. We all have times to build and times to break down.  We all have times to gather together, and times to cast away.

Casting Stones is my invitation to wrestle alongside, to open the Word and find truth in the trial and the triumph, as well as the ordinary day.

It has devotions for five days of study a week, questions for individual growth and discovery, or to discuss as a group, because community around the Word makes every day brighter and less daunting. Let’s cast together, let’s build up together, let’s wrestle together, let’s plant together.

Discover more by ordering through Amazon

Casting Stones Print or Kindle edition

or checking out our expanded resources on the Studies Available page.

Join us for study snippets by catching the archive on the I Love My Shepherd YouTube channel.

Casting Stones… we’re in this life together. Every triumph and joy, every affliction and sorrow, He is right there with us.

To everything there is a season

I love seasonal living.

I think I could live without them, but for the brief autumn that we lived in Haiti, I eagerly scanned my Facebook newsfeed for any pictures of people picking apples, or sitting around plump orange pumpkins, or drinking their pumpkin spice lattes to their hearts content. Don’t get me wrong, living on an Island with the beach nearby had its benefits, but my internal clock is firmly set to mark the seasons.

In fact, I believe that all of our clocks are set to mark seasons.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 wisely tells us,

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.

Our internal clock isn’t just about falling leaves or spring’s crocuses. This clock is set by a Creator who knit us in the womb and wove our DNA into place. He set our hearts on eternity in Him (Ecc. 3:11) and created us for the seasons of life.

Our present season may look like a new job, or a move, or the same old same old. Our present season may welcome a new baby or an empty nest. It may herald in marital anniversary bliss or marriage darkness. It may have us caring for children, or caring for parents, or both. It may find us surrounded by people and affection, or it may find us feeling very much alone.

Matthew Henry says it so well:

“The day will give place to the night and the night again to the day. Is it summer? It will be winter. Is it winter? Stay awhile, and it will be summer. Every purpose has a time. The clearest sky will be clouded…joy succeeds sorrow; and the most clouded sky will clear up.”   

It isn’t analyzing the season that we are in presently that we are talking about, although that is valuable.

It is knowing that God does in fact have a time for us, in the big things –

A season for independence

A season to get married

A season of fun and exhaustion with little ones

A season for career “success”

A season for a new job

A season of good health

A season of health struggles

A season of watching children take wing

A season of retirement

A season of death

And in the little things –

A season for vacation

A season of busyness

A season of tightening the belt of finances

A season of plenty

A season of coffee, coffee, and more coffee

A season of grumbling

A season of romance

Recognizing that God weaves us in and out of seasons in our lives, we can stand through the dark stuff knowing that this too shall pass. And when we are waiting desperately for something, we can be assured that our season for that may just be around the corner.

It gives us a little bit of patience and a whole lot of assurance that our God holds our days in His hands. The same God who sends the sun over the horizon and causes it to set at dusk, the God who makes the snow fall and the flowers spring up a few months later, holds our lives and our plans close to His heart.

We cry out from our hearts the words of Psalm 31:14-16 –

But I trust in you, O Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hand;
    rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
16 Make your face shine on your servant;
    save me in your steadfast love! (emphasis added)

What season are you in?

Is it a joyous time, or a season of struggle? Is it a season of normal and average (which is a blessing sometimes!) or surprise and excitement?

To everything there is a season.

Whatever the season, embrace it as a time to know a little more of the One who creates and sustains and brings us to the next season. May your seasons ever be a further revealing of His work in your life.

What is your favorite season (winter, spring, summer, or fall)?

What big or little seasons of life can you add to the above lists?

What does your current life-season look like?

In what ways have you seen God work in your seasons?

This post is a sample from the I Love My Shepherd study, Casting Stones: A Study of Ecclesiastes 3, which is available from Amazon. Find more information on the Studies Available page.