Girlfriends in God - October 6, 2011


October 6, 2011
I Have a Shepherd
Mary Southerland

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

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. 

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 (Ephesians 1:13, NIV).

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 – right? Look at all of the good things I had done. I looked like 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 but I did not know Him. It 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 I met Jesus Christ 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 I still had to deal with life on a daily basis and still had to face stressful situations. I also discovered who I really am - 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, has 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 am wanted, chosen and marked for God. I no longer have to live life on my own because I have a Shepherd. God's love precedes me, goes before me and surrounds me as I live each day.  Knowing 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 danger. 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 or in need, they simply turn to their Shepherd, instinctively knowing He will take care of them and comfort them until healing comes. 

We need to remember and often revisit the fact that we are all sheep and that Jesus Christ really is our Shepherd and nothing else really matters. 

Let’s Pray
Thank You, Lord, for being so faithful to me – even when my faith is small and my strength is gone. Help me learn how to trust You more and turn to You first when I am in trouble. I surrender my fears to You, Lord. I need Your love and guidance to get me through each day. I need Your protection from people and circumstances that are harmful. You are my Source and my Deliverer.  Help me choose to trust You in such a way that brings You glory and honor.
In Jesus’ name,

Now It’s Your Turn
Record the following promises in your journal. Beside each promise, write the words of Psalm 23 that substantiate that promise. I have listed a few to help you get started.

God promises to meet every need in my life. “I shall not want.”
God gives me rest and peace. “He leads me beside quiet waters.”
God gives my life purpose and direction._________________________________________
God comforts me when my heart is broken. ______________________________________
God promises that He will never leave me._______________________________________
God gives me victory over my enemies. _________________________________________
God promises me eternal life. _________________________________________________

More from the Girlfriends
Need help? Mary’s book, Escaping the Stress Trap, is based on Psalm 23 and is a step-by-step plan for dealing with the stress in life and learning to truly trust God.

Come as You Are, Mary’s NEW Online Bible Study, has just begun. Enroll before October 15and have access to all 2011 lessons. Need a friend? Connect with Mary on Facebookor through email.

Seeking God?
Click here to find out more about
how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Girlfriends in God
P.O. Box 725
Matthews, NC 28106

Click here to learn more about hosting a Girlfriends in God conference in your area or having one of the GiGs speak at your next women's event.

Originally published Thursday, 06 October 2011.