I Love My Shepherd: The Podcast

Releasing today Thursday, May 18th –

I Love My Shepherd: The Podcast!

The goal of the I Love My Shepherd podcast is to get the Word into your life by offering our resources to you in short listenable segments. The podcast will include discussions of some of the articles and topics you find on the blog, very short audio segments of the online Bible studies, and special episode series like:

Written in Iron Ink: Ministry Stories – hear from people in the trenches of life together, sharing the Word and the work of our Savior every day, from their context and their perspective. Normalize some of the struggles of life lived in ministry and with God’s people, rejoice in the victory of God’s work and testimony through unique settings, trial, and restoration. Some of the interviews we’ll do include topics like individuality, diversity, cancer, leadership, infant loss, and more!

Ministry Moments – ideas, ideas, and more ideas. We’ll share usable ideas and thoughts for reaching out with Hope and Word into the lives of those around us.

Stuff that matters – genuineness and authenticity, mental health, building community, marriage, friendship, all those big words that are on the fringes of theology and spirituality but have a practical understanding as well.

Look to subscribe on iTunes by searching I Love My Shepherd. Look for the album art with the I Love My Shepherd script logo and the green border. Send a review our way (pretty please!), and share and comment away! You will be able to subscribe on Stitcher soon as well. When you comment, review, or share, not only am I encouraged, but others are much more likely to find us to hear our message of Hope, and find our articles and resources about all that good stuff that matters.

Here’s a preview of Episode 1: What is I Love My Shepherd?

This is what I Love My Shepherd is all about…

Intensely theological, while intensely practical

One more woman in the Word every day

Jesus in everything

People matter more

Hear more on Episode 1 today!

Subscribe on iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/i-love-my-shepherd/id1236987559

or

Subscribe on Stitcher:

http://www.stitcher.com/s?fid=139423&refid=stpr

Mercy Pursues You

I’m not the only one with good ideas. Obviously.

It’s one thing I love about Bible study. When we open the Word, insights come flying of the page, and your insights will probably look different than mine. The same message will apply differently depending on the given day, moment, season, or struggle in life, along with the sure and certain message that transcends time and space – that hits home for the hearer in the First Century and is exactly the same for the hearer 2000+ years later.

I am convinced that one gigantic benefit of the Body of Christ is the gift of connection and insight. When we gather to be vulnerable and share what we hear from the Word for our own lives, we also reach across the table in a way we cannot completely understand to touch the life and offer insight for the person in study with us.

Last Fall, one of the women in our Bible studies at I Love My Shepherd shared with me a simple insight, passed along from her pastor to her years before, to those of us in the Word that day –

Mercy pursues.

Open your Bible to Psalm 23:6 –

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever. (ESV)

The Greek root word for follow here is radaph. It can mean to follow, to pursue, to chase, or even in certain circumstances, to persecute. Context helps translators choose which are most usable in Biblical translation. Look at the character of God, according to the Psalm as a whole:

He shepherds.

He leads.

He disciplines. 

He comforts.

He prepares.

And it is in His nature to pursue, as well as follow.

How many of you have had a situation in life that you can point to and say, “Mercy pursued me? He was after my heart, my mind, my soul, all of me.”

God is patient. He is loving and kind.

He is also jealous for His children. He sent Hosea to chase after Gomer. He sent the spies into Jericho for Rahab, among other things. He handed His mother to John from the cross. He found Saul on the road to Damascus.

He has a plan. He has a great big awesome plan that involves Mercy in your life, with a capital M.

Sometimes He sits and lets us do our thing. Sometimes we wonder what in the world He’s doing, where in the world He is. Sometimes we wonder if He’s even listening, but He has a plan. He is active, when we cannot see Him. He is active when we cannot feel Him.

His plan is for our good, for mercy to come in, for loving-kindness to infiltrate, and He knows just the right time. His plans are always best and oh so worth the wait.

In all of this He is always, always pursuing us; never for a moment are we not on His mind and in His heart.

Some days, friends, I need to know that I’m worthy of pursuit. Because God calls me Child, He also calls me pursued. When I look to other people to seek after me, to honor me, and deem me worthy… I can look around and find His mercy, which was the only thing that ever mattered all along.

So, what do I do with this insight? I shared it with my friend, Melissa, and we created a reminder. This Summer we’ll be coming out with the Mercy Pursues line on the I Love My Shepherd Products with a Message page.

Someone needs to know Mercy pursues them, so let’s tell them.

Here’s a downloadable Facebook Cover, which is also a sneak peek at our new line. Orange suns, grey and white goodness – clean and simple.

Free downloadable Facebook cover

 

Christ Jesus pursues me.

Christ Jesus pursues you.

Today, know that Goodness and Mercy is after you, because you are worth chasing after. Radaph

Mercy pursues.

 

Fattened Hearts and Faithful Lives

In this week’s video lesson we examine James 5:1-6 and dig into what makes for a fattened heart in our relationship with God and one another. We are imperfect believers in an imperfect world, but He is an ever Faithful and Perfect Father with Good Gifts for us! We also bounce around Scripture to discover God’s gift of a wide open heart through our Lord and Savior.

What gifts does He give us for stretching our hearts wide open for Christ Jesus?

11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

2 Corinthians 6:11-13


Share this graphic or download the image as a phone wallpaper. Let’s pray this prayer together- Lord, open wide our hearts for You and Your people.

Video notes:

James 5:5 – “You have fattened your hearts…” Greek notes: http://biblehub.com/greek/5142.htm

James 5:6 – “He does not resist you.” Greek notes: http://biblehub.com/greek/498.htm

2 Corinthians 6:11 “our heart is open wide…” Greek notes: http://biblehub.com/greek/4115.htm

 

What did God really promise me?


We are so much like little children when it comes to God.

We want what we want, how we want it, when we want it.

No? No? It’s just me?

I sincerely doubt it. I’m old enough, with enough grey hair, to look out at our culture and see our expectations of God are out of control. We don’t want a fire-and-brimstone God, one who judges our thoughts and actions, but we also don’t want a God who lets the sins of the murderer slide. We want Him to intervene, but we also want Him to leave well enough alone. We want Him to fix things in our lives, but we want to be absolutely in charge of our own lives. Can you see these ideas play out in the culture around you?

James, again, wants us to have a congruent picture of God, as well as a congruent walk of faith. He’s very concerned with who God really is, according to Scripture, not our changing pictures of Him.

In James chapter 5, he addresses the subject of promises – the things we hold God to, what we want from Him, what we expect from Him. In just two short verses, James turns our God-in-a-box ideas upside down and inside out.

Instead of looking inward at our own ideas and suggestions, James reminds us that our eyes, thoughts, ideas, and trust are firmly fixed on eternity in Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit living in us.

Read James 5:7-8 –

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

So, what does God promise? Let’s sit on that for a minute. What promises does He make to us? List some in your head or on paper.

He promises us – He values us (Luke 12:6-7).

He promises us – He loves us (Romans 8:38-39).

He promises us – He is patient with us (2 Peter 3:9).

He promises us hope, a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

James 5 in my Bible begins with the subheading, “Warning to the Rich” and then another subheading “Patience in Suffering” before James 5:7-8. Subheadings are helpful, but remember, they are uninspired. They can play mental mind tricks and cause us to see the passage as two separate pieces instead of one letter. For our purposes today read through James 5:1-10 as one segment, forgetting the subheadings, and answer the questions that follow for yourself:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you. Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

What does richness or wealth have to do with patience or impatience?

What grumbling may come against our brother because of wealth of any kind?

What did the prophets fight for in the name of the Lord and what does that have to do with patience? What does it have to do with wealth?

I can’t say it enough- in this world we like stuff. We value stuff. Because of that, even if we’re not really “stuff” people, we want stuff from God and we inadvertently hold Him to promises He never made. 

We look at our neighbors’ house and think – “Well, God, they have nicer things. Why, God? What’s wrong with me, God? I’m faithful.”

We look at our neighbors’ family and think – “Well, God, their children are well behaved. Why, God? What’s wrong with me, God? I follow You.”

We look at our neighbors’ lives and think, “They have it so much easier. Where’s the burden, Lord? Where’s the struggle? Why me, God? You are giving me less.”

These sound harsh, but the internal dialogue down deep helps us to understand our need for Jesus.

God promised Jesus.

End of sentence. All His promises (and there are many) could be wrapped up into that one sentence.

God promised Jesus.

No matter what else we want from Him, this is the promise that everything else clings to.

If we look deep down at what we want from God and don’t come up with Jesus, or something related to Jesus, it was never really promised to begin with.

James 5:8 tells us simply and eloquently –

Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Jesus is the promise.

In the struggle, I see Jesus tend to me. He is at hand.

In the abundance, I see Jesus’ overflowing love. He is at hand.

In the early rains, I see Jesus’ plans spring up. He is at hand.

In the late rains, I see Jesus’ perseverance and pursuit of me. He is at hand.

What promises are you asking of God today? Hold them out before Him. Ask yourself, ask God in prayer,

Is this about Jesus?

If not, it’s secondary. It wasn’t promised to begin with. It’s not eternity; it’s just now. It may happen, but it doesn’t have to happen, and our awareness of eternity brings patience.

I’m holding God to His promises with you, friends!

Lord, in Your Spirit, give us forgiveness, and always, always give us Jesus. Amen.




Discussion:

What promises of God can you recall from Scripture?

What promises do people hold God to that are not about Jesus?

What prayer requests do you have and how can you apply the question, “Is this about Jesus?” in those?

No one sits in the corner: the gift of impartiality

“No one puts Baby in a corner.”

Maybe this makes me sound old, but I’ll lean on the world’s general love of cult classics. This line from the movie Dirty Dancing is familiar to many of our ears. If not, you can easily Google this reference and see it for yourself.

Often, life feels like that corner. We feel less than at work, at home, in our families, our communities, even at church. On our bad days our internal dialogue goes something like…

Do I matter?

Do I have anything worthwhile to contribute?

Would anyone miss me if I’m gone?

This pop culture staple maybe stays with us so well, not because Patrick Swayze was often found on “Teen Dream Boys” magazine, but because we ourselves want someone to reach out their hand and bring us out of the corner.

To feel special. To say, “You matter.”

The problem comes in that in our concern to be told that we matter, we end up seeking, “You matter…more.” In our sinfulness, we take it too far. We need other people to matter less in order for people to see our worth.

James hands us the mirror and says, “It’s not working for you.”

Read James 2:1-7 and see this struggle played out in the Christian church during the first century. They were sinners too, redeemed by the same God.

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court?Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

James is going to have none of this sitting-in-a-corner business. First, he calls out the hearer for what he is, what we are. We are followers of Christ. Pay special attention to the words of verse one. Underline the words, “as you hold the faith” in your Bible, if you are willing.

Christ in us makes things different. Christ always shakes things up. We do not exist as the world exists because of Christ in us. We hold to Him, hold to faith in Him, rather than whatever praise or honor or lifting up the world would offer. It’s another kind of “fixing our eyes.”

Look further in at Hebrews 12:1-3 in the NIV translation to understand more of why holding to the faith changes our perspectives:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

It’s easy to lose heart, to feel like we’re sitting in a corner and no one notices. Jesus does. Jesus offers us the very best seat in His heart, as cheesy as it sounds, and so the other stuff, the need to be better than or higher than someone else, in order to be noticed, can be thrown off or as the ESV puts it, lain aside. You sit over here, selfish need of mine. You aren’t welcome to this party.

You see, if Jesus is invited, all that other junk isn’t, and isn’t needed. He fills in everything. He is the author and perfecter…Son of the good, good Father of all good gifts.

Now read James 1:9-11 to cement this idea, to help you hold the faith, rather than holding on to the titles or favors or specialness this world offers.

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

We really are all just grass on this earth. We will perish in the blink of an eye. Whether we’re seen a beautiful, wonderful, the most fun, the it person of any event or time and space in history, it doesn’t matter. We’re the same in Christ.

Christ puts no one in a corner. He raises people up in His death and resurrection.

Who can we also raise up? How can we make a difference by holding the faith, rather than holding on to our own need for “special”? Christ is seated in the best place, so we can invite others to come near to His throne rather than taking a back seat.

No partiality, brothers and sisters. No one sitting in the corner. Christ rolls out the banquet feast and aren’t we blest to hand out the invitations?

Who’s coming to Good Gifts Live tonight? I hope to see you at 8pm CST on the I Love My Shepherd Facebook Page! Ask questions, interact, comment and share together in real time. Click here to go to the I Love My Shepherd Facebook Page.

https://www.facebook.com/ilovemyshepherd/

The video will be archived on youtube and available Friday morning on the blog.

 

Discussion:

What kind of things are you good at, have you received recognition for? We want to know! We all have skills and talents to share. (Remember, this is not shameful. Recognition is great! It’s when we need it for validation or when we diminish others that it is a problem.)

Can you remember a situation in which you wish someone would have noticed you? or you felt left out?

Who can you reach a hand out to and bring from the “corner”? Who in your life (or even a people group in the world) is God calling you to stand up for because they are getting the back seat?

Bonus work – How are wisdom and impartiality connected? Look into 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 and compare this passage to James 1:9-11 and 2:1-7.