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Girlfriends in God - Apr. 30, 2010

April 30, 2010 

The Lord is My Shepherd 

Mary Southerland

Today's Truth 
Psalm 100:3 (NCV) "Know that the Lord is God. He made us, and we belong to him; we are his people, the sheep he tends."

Friend To Friend 
Shepherding was one of the oldest callings in Israel, even before farming. Shepherds traveled from place to place, living in tents while driving their flocks from one pasture to another. The sheep and their shepherd lived together every minute of every day. In fact, they were so intimately bound together that individual sheep, even when mixed with other flocks, could recognize the voice of their own shepherd and would come immediately when called by name.

A shepherd owned and marked his sheep. In some cases, the sheep were even branded, although branding is no longer an accepted method of identification because of the damage it does to the wool. Today, the ears of sheep are pierced with identification tags but for thousands of years, shepherds around the world marked their sheep by notching their ears with a sharp knife. Each shepherd had his own distinctive notch that indicated identity and ownership.

When we come to Jesus Christ in complete surrender and begin the journey of becoming a fully devoted follower of Christ, we are redeemed by his forgiveness, made whole by his grace and marked with his love through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. 

Ephesians 1:13 "You were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed; you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit."

For years, I desperately struggled to be a Christian with only head knowledge of who God was and wanted to be in my life. The result was a pitifully shallow existence with stress and frustration as my constant companions. To make things worse, I was up to my neck in ministry at the time.

I grew up in a Christian home, attending church just about every time the doors were open. I sang all of the right songs, spoke all of the right words and did all of the right things in front of all the right people. I fervently prayed that my works would validate my faith and desperately hoped that by following the rules, I would please the Ruler. It was not until middle school that the authentic life and spiritual integrity of a dynamic youth pastor made me hunger and thirst for something more. I wanted to know God - not only as my Lord and King - but as my Shepherd, the one who would lead me, provide for me and love me like no other. 

During a special Saturday evening revival service at our small country church, I sat in my usual spot, desperately clutching the back of the pew in front of me while wrestling with God over the condition of my soul and my eternal security. After all, I was a very active church member, a soloist and pianist for our worship services, and even directed a children's choir. I never missed a service unless I was deathly ill. I was a leader in our youth group, rarely failed to attend a youth activity and often brought friends who were lost, unlike me, of course, and needed to know God. How embarrassing to walk down that aisle, admitting to everyone that I had been living a lie. I clung to that pew in sheer arrogance and argued that I was a Christian. I must be.  Look at all of the good things I had done. I looked liked a believer, talked like a believer and even acted like I was fully devoted to God. 

Then a startling certainty hit me like a ton of bricks!  I knew all about God - and then the deeper truth of that reality followed closely behind. Yes, I had certainly accumulated a lot of knowledge about God but I did not know Him. To know about God wasn't enough for me or for God. I have come to realize that God's perfect love settles for nothing less than an intimate and loving relationship with his children. That night, we met as I surrendered all that I knew about myself to all that I knew about Him. 

While the course of my life was changed forever, I quickly discovered that I still had to deal with life on a daily basis and still had to face stressful situations but I also discovered who I really was - a sheep - and being a sheep is awesome! When I am afraid, Jesus Christ is there to bring peace.  When my heart is broken, the Holy Spirit comforts and restores me. Even when I found myself in a deep, dark pit of clinical depression, Jesus Christ, my Shepherd, led me from the darkness into the light. 

I began to understand the incredible truth that, Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd had planned my very existence, prepared a plan in response to his love for me, and even made provision for the payment of my past, present and future sin. I was wanted, chosen and marked for God. I no longer had to live life on my own because I now had a Shepherd. God's love precedes me, goes before me and surrounds me as I live each day. Knowing that we are loved fosters peace in our hearts, and when our hearts are filled with peace, there is little room for stress. 

Actually, when you think about it, sheep don't come across as stressed-out creatures. In fact, they seem almost oblivious to the dangers of being a sheep. Sheep don't seem to worry about where their next meal is coming from, if they will have a place to sleep each night, when the next enemy or thief will attack, or even what the next day holds. When sheep are sick, they simply turn to their Shepherd, instinctively knowing that He will take care of them and comfort them until healing comes. We need to remember that we are all sheep; that Jesus Christ really is our Shepherd and that nothing else really matters. 

Let's Pray 
Father, thank You for the truth that You are my Shepherd and that You will lead, guide and protect me and provide everything I need. Help me learn how to trust You fully and follow You. I know Your plan for me is the highest and best plan for my life. I surrender to You and that plan. I love you, Lord.

In Jesus' name, 

Now It's Your Turn 
Life can be very stressful when we try to live it on our own. Identify the most stressful areas of your life. Read Psalm 23 every day this month, committing each one of these areas to the Shepherd. As you walk through each stress-filled day, lean on the truths of this psalm. At the end of the month, evaluate your stress level and then celebrate God's sufficiency.

More From The Girlfriends 
We all know how hard it is to deal with stress. A personal relationship with God is the only way to experience true peace. Do you know Him?  Click here to learn more about how to have a personal relationship with God.

Need encouragement? Check out my weekly online Bible Study, Light for the Journey. We are beginning a new series, "Take This Job and Love It."  

Afraid? I know some of you are trying to weather some kind of storm in your life. Remember that God is with you! Find new strength for the difficult times in my new DVD, Strength for the Storm.

Stressed out? Escaping the Stress Trap may be just what you need. Based on Psalm 23, this book will lead you to discover the peace of God in a new way.

I would love to connect with you on Facebook or through email. Let's talk!

Need prayer? Email your prayer request to our Prayer Team Director, Ginger Meador.


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