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The Shepherd’s Care for His Sheep

What words come to mind when you think about a valley? The first part of Psalm 23 paints a picture of green pastures and abundant waters. It’s a restful, sheltered, and restorative place where every need is met and God’s care is evident. Some valleys, however, are inhospitable passages with deep shadows and restricted views of what lies ahead. In the “valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4), travelers feel vulnerable to all sorts of dangers.

For the Christian, green pastures and dark valleys are both a part of life. There are times when God’s abundant outward blessings are obvious, and we respond in joy and gratitude. But on other occasions, we’re surrounded by darkness, loss, and pain. Obscured by shadows, the path to the future is filled with fearful uncertainties—the way seems long, with no end in sight.

However, the same Shepherd who cares for us in the green pasture also remains by our side in the dismal valley and leads us though. No circumstance can keep His goodness and lovingkindness from us. We can count on His comfort and protection throughout life’s journey—until we safely reach our Father’s house.

Characteristics of Christians

Today’s verse from Romans 15 is Paul’s concise description of how God can transform hearts and attitudes when people trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Instead of being filled with fear, anxiety, frustration, and stress, they can now—empowered by the Holy Spirit—be characterized by hope, joy, and peace.

Yet all too often those old emotions come back when circumstances are difficult. We walk around, weighed down with concerns even though Jesus says His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt. 11:30). As anxious thoughts and hopelessness take over, we not only suffer personally but also cease to be a light in the world because Christ is no longer reflected in our life. On the surface, in fact, we appear just as pressured, stressed, and fearful as those without Christ.

Although we don’t rejoice in the adversities themselves, we can find hope, joy, and peace in knowing that our difficulties aren’t in vain. God may be refining our character and melting away things that don’t reflect Christ. If we submit to whatever road the Lord has chosen for us, His Spirit will guide us and—slowly but surely—produce His fruit.

Vision Without Boundaries

Before ascending to heaven, Jesus told His followers to tell all nations about Him. However, many of us aren’t working to fulfill this Great Commission—at least not fervently and purposefully. What might be holding us back?

Sometimes self-preserving barriers, such as fear, are the reason. For instance, if evangelizing means traveling overseas, we might be concerned about safety or how family and friends will react to our decision. We also might worry about how people will respond to our message.

Another hindrance might be conditional obedience—in other words, when we respond to God’s call but with our own modifications. Instead of being willing to serve where God wants for as long as He wants, we might think, That’s too much money or That’s too much time. We end up settling for something less than what God intended and fail to fully carry out our role in the Great Commission.

There are many obstacles that can keep us from telling people the good news of the gospel. But when we’re willing to tear those barriers down, we’ll be amazed at what God can accomplish through us. Are you passionately sharing the gospel? If not, ask God to show you what stands in your way. Then pray for forgiveness, and refocus on your part in the mission Jesus gave us all.

Evangelism: Every Believer’s Calling

One Sunday a man approached me between services to share his story. He had been addicted to drugs and was leading a hopeless life when he heard a Scripture verse in a sermon. He said that one passage led him to place his trust in Jesus Christ.

We all have a story. Oftentimes the more we surrender to God, the more we see His hand in our life. And the more we watch Him work, the more we want to share with others what He has done.

The same was true of the disciples, who gathered around Jesus before His ascension. They heard His command to spread the gospel, make disciples, and baptize people from all nations. Surely this seemed like an overwhelming task for a handful of followers, but they obeyed. Their personal experiences with Christ undoubtedly motivated them to share the good news, and they also must have gained confidence from Jesus’ promise of His presence and power.

Are you passionately telling others about Christ? One of our highest callings is to tell others about Him. As was true for the early Christians, our own experience with the Savior is the most exciting and convincing story to tell.

@Keith posted:

Characteristics of Christians

Today’s verse from Romans 15 is Paul’s concise description of how God can transform hearts and attitudes when people trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Instead of being filled with fear, anxiety, frustration, and stress, they can now—empowered by the Holy Spirit—be characterized by hope, joy, and peace.

Yet all too often those old emotions come back when circumstances are difficult. We walk around, weighed down with concerns even though Jesus says His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt. 11:30). As anxious thoughts and hopelessness take over, we not only suffer personally but also cease to be a light in the world because Christ is no longer reflected in our life. On the surface, in fact, we appear just as pressured, stressed, and fearful as those without Christ.

Although we don’t rejoice in the adversities themselves, we can find hope, joy, and peace in knowing that our difficulties aren’t in vain. God may be refining our character and melting away things that don’t reflect Christ. If we submit to whatever road the Lord has chosen for us, His Spirit will guide us and—slowly but surely—produce His fruit.

You only have to be stupid!

God’s Power Working in Us

It’s easy to become discouraged in the Christian life because of our struggle with sin. Even though we want to walk obediently before the Lord, we often find ourselves thinking sinful thoughts, adopting worldly attitudes, speaking rashly, and acting in ways that are anything but Christlike.

Whenever you feel defeated, remember this: As believers, we have all the power needed to live as God desires, because He has given us His Holy Spirit (John 14:17). So, although you may never achieve success as the world measures it, God’s Spirit is always working towards your spiritual success by ...

Illuminating your mind to know the truth. Then you can grow in the knowledge of God and His Word (1 Corinthians 2:12).

Transforming your character. He produces His spiritual fruit within you, making you more like Christ (Gal. 5:22-23).

Aligning your desires with God’s will. He works to help you yearn for the things God wants (Phil. 2:12-13).

Strengthening you. He enables you both to endure hardship and to serve God (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).

Human strength and willpower fall short, but the Lord promises to complete the good work He began in us. And He will not fail.

How can you know God?

It all starts with accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ provides a relationship with the Father and eternal life through His death on the cross and resurrection, see Romans. 5:10.

Romans. 10:9 promises, "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." If you have not yet begun your personal relationship with God, understand that the One who created you loves you no matter who you are or what you’ve done. He wants you to experience the profound depth of His care.

Therefore, tell God that you are willing to trust Him for salvation. You can tell Him in your own words or use this simple prayer:

Lord Jesus, I ask You to forgive my sins and save me from eternal separation from God. By faith, I accept Your work and death on the cross as sufficient payment for my sins. Thank You for providing the way for me to know You and to have a relationship with my heavenly Father. Through faith in You, I have eternal life. Thank You also for hearing my prayers and loving me unconditionally. Please give me the strength, wisdom, and determination to walk in the center of Your will. In Jesus’ name, amen.

If you have just prayed this prayer, congratulations!

You have received Christ as your Savior and have made the best decision you will ever make—one that will change your life forever!

@Mitwah posted:

He couldn't save himself. You gotta be stupid to believe this nonsense.

Now, now, Mits! He was spiritual in outlook! Those who crucified him were materialists, children of their father the devil (the one who proclaimed himself 'thy Lord annd thy God', Exodus 20: 2, an fing alien who wanted gold, silver, etc for his Ark, his communications center, and the fat of animals for him and his associates, because he couldn't create them! Some Creator god!)! See John 8: 44!  Materialists will do anything to survive because they don't know where they came from and where they will return! Lie, murder, cheat, whatever! The grave is the end for them! We never die! Is your body self-moving, or do you, a spirit, cause it to move and do your will? ALL is experience, whether personally acceptable or not!

Keith conflates Jesus' God, a Spirit, with the god of the illiterate Hebrews! Poor dumb Keith!

Last edited by Former Member

With all thy getting, Keith, you moron, get first understanding of what Jesus really taught! Much attributed to him has been falsely inserted by Paul's dupes!

Ask yourself first, how does this saying or that align with the Lord's Prayer!

Last edited by Former Member

Mits, there is much attributed to Jesus that he couldn't have said! I read only the 4 gospels and those questioningly! I must be on the right track or why would he visit me? And I doubted at first as I don't easily believe!

The Grace to Wait

Nobody in our culture likes to wait. It’s easy to become impatient for the doctor to enter the exam room, the grocery cashier to work faster, or the website to load. Patience can even be elusive in our relationship with God if He doesn’t answer our prayer requests as soon as we want.

David, the author of today’s psalm, wrote often about the need to wait on the Lord. In the original language, this word means “to rest quietly” or “to quiet oneself.” Does that describe how you wait, or do you fret and worry?

The key to waiting quietly for the Lord is to maintain your hope in Him regardless of your situation. That’s how David was able to wait for God’s ordained time to become king. Although he was anointed as king in his youth, the promise wasn’t fulfilled until he was 30 years old. In those intervening years he suffered much hardship and unfairness, but he upheld his hope in the Lord.

Are you waiting today for God to change or accomplish something in your life? If so, follow David’s example: With awareness that the Lord is your refuge and strength, trust in both His timing and provision.

Learning to Wait

What are we to think when we have prayed but the Lord doesn’t answer? As creatures limited by time, we can find waiting very frustrating. However, God doesn’t perceive time as we do. He knows the end of a matter before it has even begun. His knowledge reaches from eternity past to eternity future, and nothing is hidden from His sight.

Furthermore, His compassion and lovingkindness surround those who belong to Him. He allows difficult circumstances in our life, not to destroy us but rather to build up our faith and bring us to spiritual maturity. Sometimes He withholds answers because they are not spiritually beneficial for us.

Psalm 25:9-10 teaches that waiting on the Lord requires at least three things:

1. Instead of demanding that God do things our way, we must humble ourselves so He can teach us His ways.
2. We must trust the Lord’s leadership, knowing that all His paths are established on His lovingkindness and truth.
3. We must be obedient to Him—which sometimes requires waiting and trusting.

If God seems slow in answering your prayer, realize that He hasn’t left you but is redirecting you onto His path.

Made to Be Like Him

The Lord makes known His love for mankind in so many ways. Consider, for example, His providential care and kindness to all humanity, our beautiful planet filled with creation’s wonders, and the gift of eternal life to all who trust Christ as Savior. But have you ever recognized that God also shows love by transforming believers into the image of His Son?

Genesis 1:26 tells us that in the beginning, God created mankind in His likeness. Though that image was marred when Adam and Eve sinned, God’s purposes were not thwarted. Before He had created anything, the plan for mankind’s restoration was already in place (1 Peter 1:18-21).

God provided salvation through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. Everyone who trusts in Jesus is forgiven, spiritually reborn, and adopted into the heavenly Father’s family. The Holy Spirit enters each new believer’s life and begins the process of molding the renewed heart and mind into Christlikeness. And ultimately the transformation will be completed when we are bodily resurrected and stand before our Father in our glorified state.

But even before we reach that perfected state, God is glorified through His followers—when the likeness of His Son is revealed in our character, conversation, and conduct to those around us.

Bearing One Another’s Burdens

At some point, all of us struggle under the weight of a difficult situation. It might be a sin we cannot overcome, a trial that just doesn’t let up, or a need that remains unmet. However, there’s no need to struggle through it alone, because we have the support of fellow believers as we bear one another’s burdens.

There is an example of this in the book of Acts. Christians of the early church pooled their resources to help meet the material and financial needs of believers who were in poverty (Acts 4:32-35). Paul also displays this concern for others’ welfare in his various letters to growing churches. He knew it was his responsibility and privilege to strengthen them even though he was repeatedly undergoing his own hardships and afflictions.

We can’t wait until life is free from problems before reaching out to others—that day may never come. Though every one of us has his or her own needs, it’s important to remember we can do all things through Christ’s strength. And that includes sharing someone else’s burden.

When we’re willing to wade into a fellow believer’s troubles to help, that person is blessed, and we’re fulfilling the Lord’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Sharing Burdens in the Church

Although pastors are called to care for the needs of people in the church, this duty is not theirs alone. And it has nothing to do with the size of the pastoral staff—the entire congregation is to be involved in caring for each other.

Every Christian is equipped to serve other believers. First, God has distributed spiritual gifts that enable His followers to minister in the particular ways He’s determined for each one. And second, you may have experienced challenges similar to those facing another believer, which specially qualifies you to empathize, encourage, and strengthen that person. As you pray for your pastor and congregation, ask the Lord how He would have you share the load and help meet people’s needs.

The church is a network of shoulders supporting the collective weight of everyone’s troubles. When you dive in and help hold a sister’s burden, a brother takes on a bit of yours. Although your contribution might feel small and go unnoticed by all but the individual who is helped, your heavenly Father sees and will reward you for following His command.

The next time you go to church, ask God to direct you to those who could use your help. When you extend the hands of Jesus, people find rest for their weary heart.

Our Calling in Troubled Times

We’ve been living in difficult times lately, and the more tumultuous life becomes, the easier it is to be self-centered. Even though the future is uncertain, we can’t afford to let ourselves be consumed with fear and anxiety regarding how we might be affected.

God wants us to get our mind off ourselves and onto Him because He is our rock and refuge in trouble. When we rely on our own limited perspective, confusion and hopelessness are the likely outcome. Instead, we must look at the greatness, promises, and purposes of our God as revealed in His Word, because divine truth is our anchor in the storms of life.

Think about how the early church responded to their turbulent time. They went forward boldly—even willing to lose their life—because they knew the gospel was the only hope for a lost world. When persecution broke out against them in Jerusalem, they scattered and took the gospel wherever they went (Acts 8:1-4). God doesn’t want us to retreat from the world and focus on ourselves in times of crisis or instability. This is our opportunity to give hope to others through the message of salvation in Jesus Christ.

Our Eyes Are on God

How do you respond in times of crisis? If you’re like most people, it’s probable that your attention is immediately focused on the situation rather than on God. But by forgetting the Lord and relying on your own resources to solve the problem, you’ll miss the opportunity for trust in Him to grow.

If King Jehoshaphat had wrung his hands in fear instead of concentrating on God’s greatness and past provision, Jerusalem might have been captured by the invading armies. But he turned to the Lord, knowing that no problem was bigger than the God of heaven. In his prayer, Jehoshaphat magnified the Lord’s greatness, recalled His mighty works, and asked for divine protection. Trusting God with the dire situation, the king said, “Our eyes are on You” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

When you encounter trouble and distress and don’t know what to do, remember this moment in Jehoshaphat’s life, and fix your eyes on your mighty God. Read a passage of Scripture that describes His greatness, recount all the ways He has led and protected you, and ask Him to accomplish His good will in this situation. Then rest in His faithfulness, trusting Him to guide you.

The Fruitful Giver

Have you ever had the chance to visit Israel? There is a stark contrast between the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. The banks of the Jordan are surrounded by trees and greenery, but very little grows in the vicinity of the Dead Sea because there’s no outlet—water can only evaporate. This process leaves salt minerals behind and makes the water so salty that it’s unfit to nourish the land, which is dry and barren.

Christians are to be like rivers, not stagnant lakes. The blessings God gives us are to be shared instead of hoarded. This applies to every area of life, including our financial resources. As God’s provision flows in to bless us, He wants us to extend the blessing to those who are in need. The result is a fruitful life centered on glorifying the Lord and building His kingdom.

We never have to fear that we will run out of resources, because the Lord promises to take care of us (Matt. 6:31-33). Believers can trust Him to provide both the means to live and enough extra so we can be generous with others. Best of all, God will increase our righteousness and use us to supply the needs of fellow believers, who will thank and glorify God because of our obedience (2 Corinthians 9:10-13).

The Influence of Our Convictions

Although our circles of influence vary in size, we all have the power to affect people at home, in church, or in the world. The fact is, our life is always on display, whether we’re aware of it or not.

Daniel didn’t set out to impress others, but his convictions had an effect on everyone who came in contact with him— from lowly servants to kings of empires. He clung to the truth of the Scriptures. When he was taken to Babylon’s royal court, he “made up his mind” not to defile himself with the king’s food (Dan. 1:8), because he knew that eating meat offered to idols was forbidden by the Mosaic law.

The important thing to notice is that Daniel’s convictions, not his environment, determined his behavior. One can always find some reason to give in, but being sure of our beliefs ahead of time can help us stand firm in obedience to God. Although the world may mock our values, people actually lose respect for us when we waffle and yield to temptation. What’s worse, our witness for Christ is damaged.

Conviction about God’s truth is like an anchor holding you steady in the waves of temptation and the winds of opinion. Don’t underestimate your obedience to the Lord—it can powerfully influence others.

The Power of Consistency

We live in a noncommittal world, where perseverance is all too rare. If a job is difficult or boring, people often think, Why not find another one? Or when a marriage becomes unhappy, many wonder, Should I be with someone else?

Sadly, this mindset is also found among believers. At the first sign of conflict, some Christians hop to another church instead of working through difficulties with their local body of believers. And when it comes to our personal walk of faith, many of us struggle to maintain a consistent quiet time with the Lord.

Daniel was a man of steadfast loyalty. Not even the awareness that he could be killed interfered with his practice of praying three times a day. Such commitment to the Lord was noted by others. Jealous officers and governors used Daniel’s consistency to trap him, but the king made a remarkable statement: “Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you” (Dan. 6:16). Apparently, he believed Daniel’s devotion would be the key to the young man’s deliverance

Daniel’s victory in the lion’s den led to great influence, as it inspired the king’s decree to worship the Lord. Have you considered that the Lord was able to use him because of his unwavering obedience and worship? Imagine what God can do with you when you also commit yourself to Him.

When We Don’t Understand

Starting at a very early age, children will repeatedly ask their parents the question Why? And this desire for reasons isn’t something we outgrow. As adults, especially during dark times when we cannot figure out what the Lord is doing, we tend to think, If I could just know why, then it would be easier to bear.

In his extreme suffering, Job experienced pain and frustration at God’s silence. He longed to present his case and hear what the Lord had to say. But when God did not immediately respond, Job nevertheless clung to Him and relied upon what he knew to be true: “He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

Like Job, we should channel our emotions and responses through the truth of God’s Word. Otherwise, we might be tempted to doubt our Father’s goodness and love, since they aren’t readily visible in times of hardship. But if we trust in what the Scriptures reveal about God’s character and ways, we can endure affliction faithfully, whether or not He ever explains why. After all, God never guaranteed us answers during our time on earth, but He did promise to be with us.

A Passion to Obey

A passion to obey God doesn’t come naturally. Salvation may spark love and a desire to please Him, but a passionate fire is built slowly from the timbers of spiritual knowledge, faith, and devotion.

Obedience usually begins with a fear of the consequences of disobeying. That is, newer believers can at least enjoy the safety of avoiding repercussions until they develop better reasons to follow God. Thankfully, as we mature and build a scriptural foundation, fear is replaced by both recognition of God’s sovereignty and submission to His wisdom.

Over time, following the Lord becomes less about consequences for disobeying and more about blessings for obeying. Once we taste His goodness, we learn that obedience and God’s best are natural partners—good derives from following divine commands, while suffering results when we demand our own way. This irrevocable principle plays out in the Bible as well as in day-to-day life, and the more we observe it, the more we realize the Lord’s will is the wisest choice.

All the promised blessings in the world cannot make a believer follow God into some frightening places. But that’s where love for our Father comes in, as it compels us toward obedience no matter what is at stake.

Passionate Obedience

Yesterday, we studied passionate obedience and how it develops over time. The apostles reached the pinnacle of submission. Without being compelled by fear or the hope of reward, they faced shame, pain, and death. Why? Because they loved Christ too much to stay quiet.

People who receive salvation and then sit back, content that they’ll go to heaven when they die, have missed the point. Salvation isn’t just about heaven; it also allows us to be used for God’s glory here on earth. He lives through us, expressing His life-changing truth so that we can impact others. The only hindrance is the restriction we set on our own usefulness.

Limitations and passionate obedience can’t coexist. Life might seem easier if we choose when to obey God, but that type of existence won’t ever prove totally satisfying. Instead, we will tend to wonder why the Lord doesn’t use us or bless us more.

Passionate obedience begins with commitment. Our dedication may at first be based on the promised reward, which is acceptable because blessing is part of obedience. But as we mature, we’re likely to experience increasingly difficult challenges relative to our submission. And then our devotion also grows until we, too, can rejoice when we suffer for Jesus’ name.