Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sheep talk week 1 notes

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.

The picture of Christ as a Shepherd, and us as sheep is one of the most frequent word pictures of our relationship with God.  It's used in the OT and the NT.  Now most of us don't wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and say to ourselves...dang I look white and wooly today.  The idea of shepherds and sheep is really far removed from us.  So let's break down our identity according to Christ down.  But first, let's pray. 

The Lord is my shepherd.  Before anything else, any of the promises in this psalm this is the starting point.

What is a shepherd?  A shepherd is a man or woman who cares for, feeds, leads to water and protects the flock of sheep under his care.  

What are sheep?  Sheep are white, wooly creatures.  They are known for certain kinds of behaviors.  

1. timid, fearful, easily panicked, gullible
2. easily influenced by a leader
3. stampede easily, vulnerable to mob psychology
4. little or no means of self-defense; can only run
5. easily killed by enemies
6. jealous, competitive for dominance
7. constantly need fresh water, fresh pasture
8. have very little discernment in choosing food or water
9. perverse, stubborn - will insist on their own way , even eating poisonous
plants or drinking dirty water
10. easily "cast" - flipped over on their back, unable to right themselves
will die of starvation if not turned over by shepherd; helpless
11. frequently look for easy places to rest
12. creatures of habit; get into "ruts"
13. need the most care of all livestock
14. need to be "on the move"; need a pre-determined plan, pattern of grazing

When one sheep moves, the rest will follow, even if it is not a good idea. The flocking and following instinct of sheep is so strong that it caused the death of 400 sheep in 2006 in eastern Turkey. The sheep plunged to their death after one of the sheep tried to cross a 15-meter deep ravine, and the rest of the flock followed.

A shepherd usually carries a staff or a stick or a rod to help him lead and correct the flock.  One end of it is for disciplining the rowdy ones in the bunch.  The other end helps him to rescue sheep who are stuck in precarious places. 

A stick has many uses. It’s a support for walking over rough terrain...... a means of catching ewes and lambs around the neck or legs, and a defense weapon against flock predators.


A shepherds job is to provide what the flock needs.  The flock may want to eat poison weeds.  The flock may want to wander off the edge of a cliff.  The flock may think that hanging out next to a wolf's den is a great idea.  It's not the shepherd's job to cater to what the flock wants.  The shepherd's job is to provide what they need by taking them to nutritious food.  Clean water.  Safe pasture.  and to defend them from predators.

So the vital important first thing in this passage is the very first phrase.  The Lord is my shepherd.

Without a shepherd the flock will wander, eat poison, fall, get lost, starve, be preyed on.  In order for them to be safe they have to have a shepherd.  And they have to follow him.

Erwin McManus says that some people want God to be like a GPS.  Hey God, let me punch in where I want to go, and you get me there.  Instead of allowing him to set the course, they want to control the course and just get there by the quickest, most easy route.

That's not what the verse says.  The verse doesn't say the Lord is my GPS.  Or the Lord is my Google Maps.  Or the Lord is my concierge.  It says the Lord is my shepherd.  Therefore.

I am a sheep.

Lets go back to that list of character qualities of sheep.

I am a sheep.  I need a shepherd.  Before any of the rest of this.  Before the lacking nothing, before the rest and pasture.  I need a shepherd.  I need to follow him.  Because he knows how to get me where I need to go.  Not where I want to go.  Where I need to go.  If we treat God as a GPS and we want to tell him where we are going, then as a sheep with these character qualities I am going to possibly choose poisoned food.  Treacherous paths.  Places where wolves may gather.  Do we want to be delivered safely and quickly to destruction?  Or do we want to let someone set the course who knows what he is doing?   We need a shepherd.

 Q 1.  Are you treating God as your Leader, Lord and Shepherd, or are you treating him like a GPS in your life?

Woooohooo!  So we got allll of that out of The Lord is my shepherd.  Are you guys ready for the next part?

I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.

I lack nothing.(NIV)  I shall not want.  (KJV)  I have all that I need (NLT)

Erwin McManus also says this about Psalm 23 want:  false promise between this and wealth.  People connect those two things immediately.  Well, lacking nothing means that I'll get money, health, romance, toys, homes, cars.  But what is the verse right before it?  The Lord is my shepherd.  Erwin says, the provision of God comes when we step into the mission of God.  Lacking nothing definitely does not mean no problems because 4 verses in we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death.  

What these verses are saying here is this.  When you follow God there will be refreshing for your soul.  Life will not always be easy breezy and beautiful, but God will bring you to oasis of peace if you follow him.  No matter what valley or desert you are in,  you can trust your shepherd to lead you well. You will lack nothing.  He will care for you in the middle of the storm. 

Storming is also a constant story theme in the Bible and I want to talk about Jesus as a Shepherd in a storm situation.  Let's look at Mark 6. 

Mark 6 

46 Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.
47 Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.
Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

So this story is the second time that he's with the disciples in a storm.  The first time he's in the boat with them.  The storm comes.  He is sleeping.  They are absolutely terrified.  He calms the storm and then tells them they have little faith.

Right before this second storm, Christ had just fed 5000 people from a lunchbox.  He showed off a little, providing a pasture and a still place for his disciples and his flock.

And then Jesus was really intentional about sending them ahead in a boat into a storm.  By themselves.   And here they are in the same situation again.  Christ gives them a new opportunity to trust him.  He is a patient Shepherd.  Sometimes he is intentional about sending us into storms.  Not so He can change the circumstances of our lives, but so he can use the circumstances to change us.

The disciples had now seen him calm a storm once, and feed thousands miraculously, and what does the scripture say they do when they see him?  They scream like girls.  

Matthew has a little more detail about what happened next.  In this extended story Peter says hey Jesus, if it's you tell me to come.  Jesus says come and holds out his hand and Peter does great.  He looks at Jesus and he's frolicing across an ocean in a storm.  And then he looks at the storm instead of his Shepherd.  He is a distracted sheep.  And he sinks.  And Christ pulls him up, gets in the boat and the storm dies.

Our Shepherd is a Prince of Peace, my friends.  He leads us to still waters.  Even in storms.  Sometimes He wants to calm our storm and sometimes He wants us to walk with Him in the middle of it.  Either way.  He will bring us peace if we follow him. 

So we are sheep.  We can choose to be lost sheep wandering around on our own.  Or we can choose to follow Christ and allow him to choose our paths.  To calm our storms.   To be Lord of our lives and Prince of our Peace.

What does this look like practically.

There is the initial choice for Christ.  If you have not chosen a personal relationship with Christ, fully surrendered to him, repented of your sin and accepted his sacrifice on the cross as your righteousness in exchange for your sin, you are a lost sheep.

Jesus loves lost sheep.  Look with me at Luke 15

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Jesus is seeking you.  If you have not given your life to Christ he is seeking you and all you have to do is confess your need for him and ask him to be the lord of your life.  

Step 1. 

Step 2:

If you are a sheep of Jesus' practically speaking this is what you do.  Obey him.  Following is boiled down to this concept.  Obey your shepherd. 

Gal 5:

 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.

Q2.  Is Jesus your Shepherd?  If He is your Shepherd where do you need to obey your Shepherd this week?  How can you turn away from acts of the flesh and walk in the Spirit? 



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