Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us.”
1 John 4: 10
Love of God
“Thou Grace divine, encircling all,
A soundless, shoreless sea!
Where over dizzy steps we go,
One soft hand blinds our eyes
The other leads us safe and slow, -
O Love of God most wise!
And though we turn us from Thy face,
And wander wide and long,
Thou holdest us, still in Thy embrace
O Love of God most strong!
The saddened heart, the restless soul,
The toilworn frame and mind,
Alike confess Thy sweet control,
O Love of God most kind!
But not alone Thy care we claim,
Our wayward steps to win,
We know Thee by a dearer name,
O Love of God within!
And, filled and quickened by Thy breath,
Our souls are strong and free
To rise o’er sin, and fear, and death,
O Love of God, to Thee!”
Today’s Study Text:
“Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep’s pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good – a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it.”
John 10: 1-5
The Message Bible
Psalm 23: Part 32
“The Good Shepherd – He Knows Our Name”
“God never ceases to speak to us, but the noise of the world without and the tumult of our passions within bewilder us and prevent us from listening to Him.”
Are there familiar voices that I recognize in my life?
Would I recognize my “Good Shepherd’s” voice?
“God does not speak to us until we slow down, tune out the static, and give Him our attention.”
“There is some significance in what convinced this woman that Jesus stood before. She does not recognize His voice in His question. What she recognizes is His voice calling her name. When her name is called by the risen Christ, she knows the new truth of the resurrection.”
“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you crying so? For Whom are you looking?’ Supposing that it was the gardener, she replied, ‘Sir, if you carried Him away from here, tell me where you have put Him and I will take away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ Turning around she said to Him in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!’ – which means Teacher or Master.”
John 20: 15, 16
The story found in Chapter 20 of the Apostle John’s gospel is one of my favorites in all the Bible. Not only is it a revelation of the resurrection of Jesus, but also, John takes the time to lovingly give us the details regarding Jesus’ personal concern for a single little lamb – in this case Mary. In John 20: 15, 16 we find that a woman was standing outside an empty garden tomb. She was distraught because she had no idea where the body of her dearest Friend was. Alone in this solitary place, the woman heard a voice but her sorrow blinded her to any recognition. That is until a man she believed to be the gardener called out her name, “Mary.” I would have loved to have been hiding behind a tree or crunched under a bush just to witness the look on Mary’s face when Jesus called out her name.
Maybe you’ve had a similar experience in your own life when you thought you were all alone and that no one cared for you. Then from seemingly out of nowhere, you heard a comforting voice. And an individual called out your name. Did you feel the relief Mary did? There’s something about our names that when spoken touches us in an unexplainable way. For Mary, early one Sunday before the light of day, hearing Jesus call her name literally turned her world upside down.
Interestingly, Jesus understood the immense bond that is woven into our lives when we are called by our name, rather than treated as an “it” or a “thing” or a nameless object to be used or abused. This is the reason that at the end of our study through Psalm 23, I want to spend time looking at the way the “Shepherd’s Psalm” links the Old Testament and New Testament in a vital way which I believe is critical to our journey “Home.”
In John 10, verses 1-5, Jesus shares with us important information about the way we are able to identify our “Shepherd.” I believe Jesus left us with this information because He understands our vulnerability. He knows that sheep can be easily led astray by false shepherds. And so He gave us two important markers which will assist us in identifying the false from the true. He wanted us to know that He isn’t just the “Good Shepherd,” but that we will recognize Him by two specific characteristics.
The first marker is identified in John 10: 3-5, “The watchman opens the gate for (the Shepherd) and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger, in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”
As I’ve spent time getting better acquainted with the particular habits of sheep, I’ve come to learn that this unique creature is a lot like the description Jesus leaves for us. Donald Senior observes in his commentary on John10: 1-10 that “sheep recognize their shepherd by knowing his voice…this passage reflects actual circumstances. Ancient and current experience in traditional societies confirms that the shepherd often knows each sheep by name, and they in turn recognize his distinctive call…in the Middle East one can still see shepherds walking out in front of their herd repeatedly calling to them to keep them together.”
At this point you may be wondering, “Well, it’s great to follow the voice of Jesus – my Shepherd, the problem is, I haven’t heard Him call out my name recently.” If you asked me, I’ve never heard the voice of Jesus calling my name, either. But I’d like to offer some ways in my own life which God has used to show me His close attention to the details of my day as He helps me “listen” and “hear” His voice.
First, all too often I can’t hear my Shepherd’s call because I’m too busy with my own designs and plans. As Hospice Chaplin Nancy Blakeley points out: “The shepherd’s voice is key. As Jesus says, ‘I know my own and my own know me.’” However, Chaplain Blakeley observes that “sometimes we go astray, just like sheep. Sheep that are ill may follow the voice of a stranger…There are many voices out there vying for our attention. Many distractions lure us from the path. Jesus promises that He will never let us go. His voice will bring us back. We belong to Him. This is a strong word of reassurance to us in our struggles to be faithful. In our choices each day as we practice our faith by saying yes to some voices and saying no to others, Jesus is there, going before us.” In case this sounds like pie-in-the-sky, I’d like to share a practical daily routine that has opened up my life to recognizing my Shepherd’s voice. Several years ago I had taken on way too much. I was overseeing our Advertising Agency and I was volunteering on the Board of the local Art School as well as trying to keep up with my daily writing in Transformation Garden. Physically I was overwhelmed. I remember one day when I said to myself, “I can’t even hear myself think.” Has this ever happened to you?
Frankly, hearing God’s voice at that time was nearly impossible. Then one evening, I was reading the words to some old hymns when I came upon the song, “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne” by Emily Elliott who penned the words in 1864. The refrain ends: “O Come to my heart, Lord Jesus, There is room in my heart for Thee.” It was as if a light bulb went off in my head and a thought struck me like a bolt of lightening: “What if I ended my morning prayer time by telling my Father that my heart was not going to be cluttered with the unnecessary – indeed, there’s more than enough room for Him to be in my heart each day?” And this is when I began to ask God to show me at least once a day that He was alive, well and active in Dorothy’s World. Since that time, not a day goes by without something happening that has let me know God is speaking to me – personally! Several weeks ago I had an experience here in Transformation Garden that let me know God was involved in every thing that happens in my life. Within two hours, two of God’s daughters sent prayer requests so similar, at first I thought it must be a duplicate request. Well it wasn’t. My heart ached so badly for these two dearest ladies, both requesting prayer for their husbands struggling with addiction. If these requests had come days apart, with the number of emails which arrive daily, I would most likely not have linked the two needs. But since I believe God sends every request, His timing was perfect and so was the idea He sent to me to link these two individuals up so they could pray directly for each other. I don’t think I’m stretching to believe that God called my name the other night as I prayerfully was going through all the requests and recognized my Shepherd’s desire to bond His lambs closer together to support each other on our journey home. I was able to share two email addresses because God knows the names of three of His lambs.
I could go on and on with ways I’ve “heard” my Shepherd’s voice, maybe not in the way He called “Mary” in the garden, but then He has more than one way of communicating with each of us. I’m so inspired by the writings of 16th century theologian Francois Fénelon who wrote: “God is our true Friend, who always gives us the counsel and comfort we need. Our danger lies in resisting Him; so it is essential that we acquire the habit of hearkening to His voice…listening so as to lose nothing of what He says to us.”
Our Shepherd knows our name. He knows the uniqueness that makes us special. If we will listen, we will hear Him call us today. He knows my name!
We confess our confusion and busyness, which cause us to mistake Your presence in our lives. Or we cannot feel Your presence at all. Be with us in our searches. Grant us patience and steadfastness to listen for the calling of our names and to follow the purposes You have for us. Amen”
“But now, God’s Message: the God who made you in the first place…the One who got you started…’Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine.”
Isaiah 43: 1
The Message Bible
He Know My Name
“I have a Maker
He formed my heart,
Before even time began
My life was in His hands.
He knows my name.
He knows my every thought.
He sees each tear that falls
And hears me when I call.
I have a Father
He calls me His own.
He’ll never leave me,
No matter where I go.
He knows my name.
He knows my every thought.
He sees each tear that falls
And hears me when I call.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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