Christmas Week – The Cast: A Shepherd

Why would the starry heavens open

to reveal glory

 

to someone

such as me?

 

I tell you,

I know not why

 

But that is what happened

one unforgettable night

 

just outside of Bethlehem

 

It was a beautiful, clear night

as we watched our flocks closely

 

We live out in the wilderness

away from the town and the people

 

It was just us

and it was just the sheep

 

But God

noticed

us

 

Believe me when I tell you,

He sent angels

 

lit with His glory and light!

 

They were as prisms

radiating pure white color

 

We were overwhelmed

and terrified

and humbled

and awestruck

 

One of them spoke,

“Do not be afraid!”

 

This angel of the Lord

spoke to us!

 

He was bringing us great news

and he said it would bring great joy

 

for ALL PEOPLE!

 

Humble shepherds

told this important news

 

for all the world…

it was more than we could take in

 

But then I thought…

 

about how the Scriptures said

that the Lord is the good Shepherd

 

…The LORD

is the good Shepherd….

 

and I thought that just maybe

He truly cared about lowly shepherds

 

and small sheep….

 

The angel then revealed news

that we could hardly believe

 

He told us that in David’s home town

of Bethlehem

 

the Messiah had actually been born!

The Lord!

 

And he told us how to find Him

 

Imagine,

the Messiah Lord

being born…

 

and he was wrapped in swaddling,

just as a baby should be

 

or a person ready for burial…

 

But just as we wanted to jump up

and find this small King…

 

the entire sky lit up

with the glory of many angels!!

 

So many

we couldn’t count!

 

We shielded our eyes

but we couldn’t look away

 

The most beautiful sight

we had ever seen!

 

They were praising God,

of course they were!

 

And we bowed low

as we struggled to take it all in

 

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.”

 

The most inspiring, true words

I had ever heard

 

When they left we took a breath,

stunned to our very core

 

and we got up and ran into David’s town

to see what the Lord had told us

 

There we found Him,

the infant King just born

 

and the God of promise

solidified His oath

 

to bring us the One to save us,

the people of frail earth

 

And we had to tell all,

for everyone needed to know

 

about love Divine

Messiah small

 

Hope for all the world

 

– Susie Stewart

 

 

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize Him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing Him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

– Luke 2:8-20 (NLT)

 

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    He leads me beside peaceful streams.
  He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to His name.
Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
    forever.

– Psalm 23:1-6 (NLT)

 

 

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

– John 20:11 (NIV)

 

I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,

– John 10:14 (NLT)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voice of Authority

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

– John 10:27 (NLT)

 

When the Holy Spirit speaks, His voice comes with power and authority. It hits you deep. It grips you. Your heart burns. It’s Him. You know it….When God speaks, His voice is noticeable by its resonance, depth, and impact. It pulses with a calm, steady force that makes a clear impression on your soul….you are moved to stillness as you reflect on what you’ve seen and heard….Truly, you can distinguish the voice of God from any other voice by the powerful influence it carries in your soul.
– PriscilIa Shirer

 

 

They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as He talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?”
– Luke 24:32 (NLT)

 

 

Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.

– John 8:47 (ESV)

 

 

But if I say I’ll never mention the Lord
or speak in His name,
His word burns in my heart like a fire.
It’s like a fire in my bones!
I am worn out trying to hold it in!
I can’t do it!
– Jeremiah 20:9 (NLT)

 

 

“Does not my word burn like fire?”
says the Lord.
“Is it not like a mighty hammer
that smashes a rock to pieces?”
– Jeremiah 23:29 (NLT)

 

 

Photo taken by Arik Stewart

 

 

Equip

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13:20,21 (NIV)

 

The God of peace

our promise-keeping

covenant God

Who brought our

Life

out of the grave

 

He will equip us

with everything good

for doing what He intends for us to do

today

 

and work in us to reveal

what pleases Him

 

It is all through Jesus

our Shepherd who leads us

 

Glory to God

 

– Susie Stewart

 

May God, who puts all things together,
makes all things whole,
Who made a lasting mark through the sacrifice of Jesus,
the sacrifice of blood that sealed the eternal covenant,
Who led Jesus, our Great Shepherd,
up and alive from the dead,
Now put you together, provide you
with everything you need to please Him,
Make us into what gives Him most pleasure,
by means of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Messiah.
All glory to Jesus forever and always!
Oh, yes, yes, yes.

– Hebrews 13:20,21 (MSG)

 

Photo taken by Susie Stewart

All I Want

Psalm 23

You brought it to me afresh this morning, Lord.

Your Word is alive, and breathing, and pulsing with light and voice and power.

How many times have I read this passage since I was young?

And the more I know You, Lord, the more precious these words become.

I allow these words to sit, and take root, and fill.

I allow them in deep, and I echo them back to You.

 

My Shepherd, You provide everything I need.  Only You.  May I not want for anything outside of what You desire to give, or outside of Your wise counsel.  I have contentment in You.

 

My Shepherd, You let me rest.  This world knows little of rest.  But in You I rest in green meadows, in my mind, in my heart.  That is where I find you, my God of restoration.

 

My Shepherd, You take my hand and lead me beside the peaceful streams.  The sound and motion are healing to my soul.  You have taken me there because I need it.

 

My Shepherd, You make me strong again when I succumb to weakness.  Just by You being there I feel strengthened for the next leg of the journey.  Your words bring energy.

 

My Shepherd, You guide me along the wise path.  Following Your guidance in doing the right thing brings honor to You, and that is what I want.  Help me not to wander.

 

My Shepherd, there are some very dark times, when I am low, when I am suffering, when death shadows over me.  I need not fear because You never leave my side.  I am comforted and strengthened by Your presence.  You breathe life and light into me.

 

My Shepherd, You carry a rod and a staff.  Even though they are used to guide and discipline me, I am comforted because I know You will keep me safe from consequences and pain.  You are seeking to protect me from having to deal with the aftermath of bad choices.

 

My Shepherd, You are bold and Your parental love for me does not let my enemies gloat over me.  You lift my head and You feed me the best of what You have in the company of those who would harm me.  I am not intimidated by them.

 

My Shepherd, You actually honor me with anointing oil.  I am humbled as You serve me with a gentle and humble heart.  You anoint, and intercede, and bless. A sacred understanding passes between us.

 

My Shepherd, my life and heart overflow with Your graciousness to me.  You never tire of blessing me.  It’s as if I’m holding a cup and You’ve forgotten to stop pouring into it, and all manner of glory flows over the sides and onto the path I am taking.

 

My Shepherd, I know You pursue me with Your goodness and Your love that never fails.  May I always feel the warmth of Your presence behind me, because my pace allows You to catch up with me.  There is not a day that goes by that You are not pursuing me.

 

My Shepherd, You are here with me on earth and You have prepared a place for me in Heaven.  You dwell inside of me here and I will dwell with you there, beautifully for always.

 

And You, My Shepherd, will have lead me on the path, and by way of the meadow, and beside the stream, into eternity.

 

My Shepherd, You are all I want.

– Susie Stewart

____________________________________________________

 

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to His name.
Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for You are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
forever.

(NLT)

The Point

So that was the point.

 

The point of the difficulty.

The point of the suffering.

The point of the disappointment.

The point of the pain.

 

To know You.

 

I miss that sometimes.  I think it’s all about me and what I’m supposed to learn about myself.

But really, it’s not much about me.

It’s about You, God.

It’s all about You.

And the great lengths You go to to draw us near to Your side.

 

My life is to love you with abandon, and to bring You glory.

That includes the pain, the brokenness.

 

Life,

minus the pain,

equals….

 

…not learning of Your closeness to the brokenhearted.

…not hearing your comforting tone.

…not realizing that You are the only true faithful One.

…not knowing that you are the Friend that sticks closer than a brother.

…not experiencing Your timely providence.

…not depending solely on You.

….not following Your gentle lead as Shepherd.

…not knowing the depths of Your love.

…not witnessing Your awesome power.

…not feeling Your arms around me.

…not knowing what it is to be more than a conqueror through You.

…not learning that You are completely trustworthy.

…not having awareness of the joy of obedience.

…not learning of Your unconditional love.

…not experiencing Your healing touch.

…not grabbing Your firm grip.

…not being changed by Your forgiveness.

…not seeing Your Kingdom here on earth.

…not worshiping You with tears.

…not being able to relate to the pain You endured for me.

 

You, my God, took my knowledge of You

and turned it into my experience of You.

 

You took what I knew in my mind,

and filled my heart with it.

 

Job, man of many a trial, battered and bruised from the fight, said after his dark, dark night,

“I had only heard about You before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.”  Job 42:5 (NLT)

 

You will fill every wounded soldier that looks to You.

That wants to know You.

To experience

You.

– Susie Stewart

 

“When God places you in a challenging situation, take it as a signal that He will be glorified – and that you will come to know Him in a deeper way.  Because He’s going into the challenge with you.  And you’ll know Him even better on the other side….To know Him is the grand goal and adventure of life.  Inviting you into more intimate fellowship with Him will always be one of His primary reasons for steering you in one direction or the other.  Don’t just be listening to hear Him.  Be listening to know Him.”  ~Priscilla Shirer

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”  John 17:3 (NIV)