The Good Shepherd?

I had a conversation with someone last week and something that was said completely disturbed me.

We were talking about God and suffering and I said that I absolutely do not believe for one minute that God puts suffering/sickness on us to “teach us a lesson” or to discipline us.  Aside from the fact that it is unscriptural (please do NOT mention Job’s boils or Paul’s thorn), it is out of God’s character to do such a thing.  The person I was talking to disagreed with me wholeheartedly and believed that He does do that.   After some back and forth, this person then tells me that they once heard a pastor (well-known) do a sermon on Psalm 23, the shepherd and His sheep.  I’ve personally read “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” by Phillip Keller (highly recommended) and couldn’t imagine where they were going with this.

They said that this pastor said sheep are inherently stupid, that they needed to be disciplined (i.e. the rod, of which this person also mentioned the “spare the rod, spoil the child” verse, etc).  This pastor then went on to say that to keep the sheep safe that the shepherd would BREAK THE LEGS of a wayward sheep to keep it from running away from the flock and into danger then he would carry it on his shoulders until it was healed and it would be dependent on the shepherd and never stray again.

I’m sorry…..WHAT?  I was so incensed by this statement because it’s so out of God’s character but I mean… is this what His people are really saying and believing about Him?  Of course I went and researched this statement to see if any of it was true.  Nope.  Not true.  It’s an anecdote pastor’s use.  (To keep this short I’ll paste one of the article links here http://pulpitandpen.org/2014/06/27/the-shepherd-breaking-his-sheeps-legs-myths-thatll-preach/ ).

But let’s say that human shepherds actually DID do that?  What does that say about God?  Would that in any way reflect how Jesus treats us as His sheep?  We have to measure everything against His Word so what does scripture say about the sheep (us) and the shepherds (pastors or God/Jesus Himself)?

First of all, there is a scathing judgment on the “shepherds” of Israel by God Himself in Ezekiel 34.  The first four verses read:

And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.”  (Read all of this chapter, very telling)

Sorry, but to me, breaking someone’s bones to “keep them safe” is forceful, cruel and abusive.  Causing disease and suffering to “work something out” in people’s lives and character is forceful, cruel and abusive.  Let me ask you this:  would YOU do that to someone you love to teach them a lesson?  When children are harmed or beat in the natural, it’s considered ABUSE right?  Well, have you ever thought that maybe their parents are trying to work out some character flaw in them?  I mean, isn’t that what we’re saying about God?  Imagine this:  maybe you see your child is going astray, making poor decisions or acting in ways that are “sinful,”  ways that are going to bring more harm to them in some way….so based on this “logic”, maybe you should afflict them physically, inject them with poison or a disease so that you can “keep them safe” or strengthen their character, teach them a valuable lesson.  And not only that, but then they will come to depend on you as caretaker and parent and it will draw them closer to you.  Then, ultimately you get to decide when they are ready to be healed and restored, if at all.

Ridiculous, isn’t it?  Doesn’t that make you mad?

That would be considered a “captive audience” and God is the Liberator, not the Captor.  How many times does the Word say He came to set the captives free?  “And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity.”  (Jeremiah 29:14A)  And not only that, but God does not force Himself on anyone, He does not work against someone’s will.  We have free will, we make our own decisions and God cannot and will not go against anyone’s will.

Does that above scenario sound loving to you?  So how can people say that God is love and in the same breath say that God gave them cancer?  Or that He killed someone they love because “He needed them?”  They say it because that’s what they are taught.

Back to scripture.  What about Jesus?  What does HE say about sheep (us) and being the Good Shepherd?

Matthew 12:9-14 – “And when He was departed thence, He went into their synagogue: And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked Him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse Him. And He said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Then saith He to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And He stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him.”  Notice: first, the man in the parable did not break the sheep’s legs to teach it to not stray, nor did he leave it in that condition, he went and SAVED IT.  Second, Jesus was talking about HEALING, healing the man, who is better than the sheep!

Luke 15:4-6 – “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.” There is rejoicing over the one found.  Not anger or punishment. He left all the rest of his flock to go and rescue the one who was lost.  Do we not all get lost at times?  Do we not all go astray?  Are we always perfect and obedient?  No.  But God comes through LOVE, His Word, and His Spirit to bring us back to Him.  It’s the LOVE of God that brings people to repentance.

In John 10, Jesus talks extensively about the Shepherd and the sheep.  He says that He goes before the sheep and the sheep follow because they KNOW HIS VOICE.  When He speaks, they hear, they listen.  How does He speak to us today?  Through His Word and His Spirit.  He teaches us to heed His voice only, so that all He has to do is speak and we will listen.  He draws us in through love and trust.  And if the sheep (us) do not listen, if we do stray, we suffer the consequences of our poor decision to leave the safety of our Shepherd’s watch and care.  He doesn’t need to inflict harm on us, we do it to ourselves. And we have an enemy who will take full advantage of our disobedience.

V:10-11 – “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”

He came to GIVE us life, not take it from us.  That’s Satan’s job and for people to lay blame on God for OUR sickness and suffering is blasphemy.  And if God “uses Satan” to teach us lessons (as some teach), then Satan is not a thief because he’s only doing what he is told and given permission to do.  If he has permission, it’s not robbery.

Jesus gave His life.  He took our punishment; the price was already paid for our sins!  If we need to be continually made to suffer punishment for our wrong doings, then there was no reason at all for what Jesus did.  All the scourging and suffering He endured was all for nothing.

God is love.  Love does no harm.

He mends, He does not break.

God bless,

Miranda

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Stage fright

Well, it’s been made official. My book is finally published. It’s taken four years; a lot of time, a lot of laboring and waiting and patience and tears and excitement and panic. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions and thoughts. I certainly could not have done it without my husband. He put as much time into the technical as I did on the creative. Self-publishing has its benefits but be ready to put in a good amount of time and effort, do your research, look at others who’ve done it and learn from their mistakes.

Being self-published it’s not a perfect work. As a matter of fact I found a misprint in the published copy after I ordered 50 books but, hey, I’ve found typos and mistakes in professionally published books so it is bound to happen. This is where I have to bind and gag that task-mastering perfectionist and not allow her to freak out about it.

It’s a little unnerving to put yourself out there creatively, open to the criticisms of the public, even with a fiction novel. When I was younger, poetry was my creative outlet. Poetry to me was intensely personal; it was my inner self poured out into words on paper, my deepest thoughts and fears and emotions manifested into logos. And I was extremely cautious as to whom I let into those places. Not just ANYONE could read those poems. Not just ANYONE would understand. Not just ANYONE was allowed to look past the curtain and into the great beyond. I was always very discerning as to who was allowed to have access to those truths.

And here it is, a book that I’ve written now published, available to anyone who so chooses to pick it up and read it. Yes, it may be fictional, but it is still hugely personal for me on many levels. I wrote it. I spent 4 years of my life pouring myself into this story and these characters, and yes, as a fiction writer you DO put pieces of yourself into it somehow, someway. Maybe some piece of your personality becomes part of a character, you make your own personal experiences one of theirs, some part of your heart and mind and life does wind up in there, so in a sense it is still poetic, it is still you in there somewhere.

There’s also the story itself. It’s not a typical story. My husband asked me when I first started writing this book, “So, how would you categorize it?” I said, “Babe, I don’t think a book like this has been written.” (No, I haven’t read every book in existence, but this was how I felt about the story.) After he read it, he agreed with me. The entire time I wrote that book, I was thrilled about the story and couldn’t wait for it to be published. That being said, when it came time to put it out there, I would wake up in the middle of the night in panic about the story and the plot to the point where the thoughts came to just cancel the whole thing and not publish it (the enemy loves to come in like a thief in the night to steal your sleep and peace).

I got worked up into an anxious lather about all the ways people would pick it apart and hate it, that people who supported me would be disappointed once they read it. I started to believe that I was going to let people down. Thank You Jesus for the people in my life who reminded me that this was all inspired by God and it has a purpose and that these were just lies of the enemy because he knows that this story is going to touch SOMEONE, somewhere, sometime.

Is it a perfect work? Nope. Is it purposeful? Yes. And the only person that I have to be accountable to is God. I know that not everyone will love it, some may even hate it, and that’s okay. God will take it where it needs to go and His purpose will play out for a greater good. It’s not about me. Yes, I am ecstatic and grateful that He made my lifelong dream of being a published author come true and I will enjoy all that goes with that. I have my first book signing this Saturday and while I am a little nervous, I am excited and I have so many people around me who are excited for me. But it’s more than that. It’s an opportunity to share the love and truths of God in another way. And THAT’S what matters.
All for His glory, not mine.

God bless,
Miranda
http://www.hiselectnovel.com

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Go ye, therefore…

I was talking to someone yesterday about the heavily charged atmosphere of these current times, especially when you look at what’s happening in the political spectrum.  We also talked about how “churches” have changed, how they’ve “let go” and now follow after their own wishes and created doctrines, changing their beliefs based on what the world says is acceptable.

So, in this conversation I said, “I feel like there’s a winnowing going on right now in the church.”  The person I was talking to felt the same way.  This is where the chaff and the grain gets separated.  The divide between those who truly stand for Christ and those who only think they do is growing larger and more obvious.

Jesus said you’ll know His people by His fruit.  But it seems that the church has been so diluted in the world’s ways and philosophies that they have no idea what that means or what His fruit is supposed to look like, therefore they cannot make good sound judgments on whose fruit looks like what, least of all their own.  Why is that?

Because they go to church.

Well, you may be asking, isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?  No, actually, it’s not.  See, if you study out the word  for “church” in the Greek, it’s the word ekklesia and it means “called out from.”  It’s speaking about usWE’VE been called out.  Called out of darkness into light, from death to life, from the world system to God’s kingdom, from sinners to saints, from old creatures to new.  Church is not a building, it’s not somewhere you GO, it’s who you ARE.

You’re not supposed to go to church, you’re supposed to BE the church.

Living stones in the temple of God.  A walking sanctuary.  Carriers of God’s presence.  As the Church, you are supposed to be a meeting place where people can come face to face with Jesus.  We are supposed to be imitators of God.  Ministers of reconciliation. What is the Great Commission?  For us to go out and do all that Jesus did, to introduce people to Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit.

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”  (Matthew 18:18-20)  And if you read the Gospel of Mark, it says exactly what it is we’re supposed to do as His church (Mark 16:15-20).

It’s so much more than what people think it is or experience it to be.  And they are missing out on a truth that could not only change their lives, but the lives of countless others that need Jesus so desperately.   But that means sacrificing the flesh and all the things that people think they love and need in their lives and that they’d be “missing out.”

Really?  How sad that the gospel has been so watered down and diluted that it’s only about keeping people out of hell.  You know what it’s really about?  Getting heaven into you!

But let me ask you: isn’t He worth the sacrifice?

I hear “Christians” complain all the time about the state of the world and how awful it is….and we the church are supposed to be the change.  We’ve been given the kingdom of Heaven itself and most don’t even know it.

Who will you be?

A church-goer?  Or the Church itself?

“Is what you’re living for worth Christ dying for?”  Leonard Ravenhill

 

God bless,

Miranda

 

 

 

Thorns and Thistles

Yesterday was a “weedy” day.

Whatever do you mean, you may be asking.  In my last (and first) entry I spoke about the thought-life and I likened it to a garden.  Bad/negative thoughts = WEEDS.  So, yes, my “garden” was on the tipping point of being overrun by those dastardly, prickly, blood-letting suckers.

NO GOOD.

To be quite honest, there are sometimes that it definitely feels like an uncontrollable thing.  At one point you may ask yourself, “How did it get so bad?”  Sneaky weeds.  Thanks to the curse, they have NO problem growing at an exponential rate, am I right?  Just ask anyone who gardens.

So, let’s go back to the beginning and look at man in the original garden.  Can we find a parallel there?

First, it says that God gave man dominion over the earth and all things in it.  Dominion = authority.  Remember that.  Genesis 2:15 says: “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.”  If we look at what the words in the original language mean, you can gain more insight.  First of all, Eden means “pleasure.”  The word “dress” means to work (it) and the word “keep” means to hedge about, protect, attend to.  Ok so protect this garden (a place of pleasure and delight) from what?  From the enemy.  From the one who prowls about seeing whom he MAY devour.  The one who watched man in the garden, seeking out a way to undermine and steal from man the authority and dominion that he himself wanted and tried to overthrow the throne of God to obtain.

Unfortunately, he succeeded.  And how did he do it?  Their thought-life.  Their “mind-garden” so to speak.  He implanted doubts into their minds as to God’s goodness and also to who they were and what they had.  Does that sound familiar?  What should’ve happened was Adam looking at Satan, pointing a finger in his face and telling him to get the you-know-what out of there because he was trespassing.  Adam had the authority to do that and Satan would’ve had to obey.  But because they allowed those “weeds” of doubt and lies to come in and take root, they lost it all and Satan illegally obtained authority over our earth.

And in the process they lost their true pleasure and delight: being at peace and in intimate fellowship with God Himself.  Paradise lost?  More like given away.

Jesus came as the Second Adam and did all that the first Adam should have so that our authority and dominion could be restored through Him.  Thank You Lord.  He was our example in how to deal with the lies and deceit of the enemy: wield the Word with authority and faith, no compromise, no discussion.  But the Word only becomes a weapon when it becomes completely settled in our hearts that it is absolutely true.  Faith sharpens it’s edges and only then we can cut through the thorny, weedy lies of the enemy like a sharp knife through soft butter.

And yesterday, my sword certainly wasn’t as sharp as it could’ve been.  Our enemy is relentless and sneaky and wicked and cruel, yes, but remember that “greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world.”  Sometimes I think we are guilty of putting faith in our faith instead of the One who has given us the gift of faith.  We try to work ourselves up into having more faith instead of seeking the One whom we should have faith in.

So, remember Adam and Eve and their failure to keep and protect their “garden” and be vigilant and persistent in keeping yours.  Don’t let the enemy steal your peace or truth.  Sharpen your sword, seek His face, pull up those God-forsaken lies and remember Philippians 4:6-8.

God bless,

Miranda

Genesis 3:17B-18: “….cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee……”