Psalm 78: 70-71 ” He chose David His servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep He brought him to be the shepherd of His people…”

They are bringing the sheep down from the mountains now to their Winter pastures. I was able to observe a large flock over the weekend in temporary grazing. A single stretch of electric wire around the perimeter, several dogs, and a lone shepherd kept watch over 300 sheep. I was amazed at how calm and peaceful the animals were. They seemed to feel very secure within the boundaries knowing the shepherd was there to protect them. God knew David would lead His people with the same integrity and wisdom as he had shown up in the mountains with his own flock. And in turn Israel would know peace.

Romans 5:3 “…but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

When the troubles of the world are crushing us under their weight, our typical reaction is not that of joy and gladness in the moment. Rather, we moan, complain, and cry about the injustices of life. But if we would step back for a moment and try to see the big picture…The God Picture, things might take on a more eternal view. The affliction or distress creates in us patience as we wait on the Lord. That patience is proof that our character is being changed for the good. And finally, with a more God-like character, we can view our sufferings through His eyes with expectation and confidence, knowing He loves us.

Lamentations 3: 31-33 ” For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. For He does not willingly bring afflication or grief to the children of men.”

The term “willingly” comes from two Hebrew words which mean- from His heart. God doesn’t want to bring hardships into our lives, but He may do so in order to teach, convict, and bring us into a right relationship with Himself. We, unfortunately, have to live with the circumstances of wrong choices we’ve made. But the wonderful news is that despite how much we mess up, the Lord’s great love for us never ends…it is new every morning!

II Kings 4:1 ” The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, ‘ Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.’ “

The widow had come to Elisha for help. Elisha looked at her and replied,”How can I help you?” In other words, “I don’t have any money!” Elisha had relied on the Lord for all his needs. Thus his next question showed his faith was not deterred by his lack of funds. “Tell me, what do you have in the house?” Answering from her “lack of” mindset the widow replied, “Your servant has nothing there at all…except for a little oil.” Elisha then said, ” Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars.” Elisha was asking the widow to stretch her faith in what little she thought she had, to what God could do with it. He was urging her not to limit God. Just like her, how many times do we limit God by looking at our lack rather than at the limitless possibilities at our Lord’s disposal?

Psalm 20:4 ” May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”

My son and his wife were looking for a horse several years ago for their young daughter, Natalie. This tiny cowgirl had definite ideas of what the horse should look like…right down to the name, which had us all baffled as to where this 4-year-old came up with the name ” Swirl”. On a visit here they went to look at a horse that sounded promising. From the start the horse was the color and pattern Natalie had said she wanted. It’s work history was very solid as to comfortably put a 4-year-old up in the saddle. Finally, my Daughter In Law jumped up on it and rode off bare back. While standing there, Mike asked the owner what the horse’s name was. The man smiled sheepishly and said the kids had named it Swirl. At that moment Mike knew this was Natalie’s horse. So I ask you, if God would give a little girl the desires of her heart, why wouldn’t He give them to you? He wants to fulfill them…just ask.

Matthew 9:17 ” Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out, and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Old wineskins are rigid and unyielding. On the other hand, new wineskins are flexible, and able to receive the newly pressed wine. The wineskin changes as the fermentation process happens…they expand as the wine ferments, stopping when the wine inside is perfect. We must never stop growing until the God-given purpose inside of us is perfected. Just as at the Wedding in Cana, Jesus has saved the best wine for last and He’s looking for new wineskins to put it in. He can’t use that which is old…He’s looking for new vessels to contain His new works. Are you willing to be that new wineskin?

John 8:3 ” The Teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in Adultery.”

The Jewish leaders wanted Jesus to tell them what He would do with this woman, but instead, He bent down and started writing on the ground with His finger. For whom and what was He writing? Not for the Jewish leaders, they were too busy addressing the crowd with their pompous speeches. Not the crowd, they were mesmerized by the spectacle playing out in front of them. The only one staring at the ground was the woman standing in front of Him. So what could He be writing? The one word we all desire most to hear or see is our name. Jesus wrote her name to show that she was not just a nameless person facing Him, but a precious soul who He knew every intimate detail about. The Greek word for “wrote” means that God can not forget because our names are written down in Heaven. Jesus wrote her name in the dirt…but it was being inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Daniel 6:10 ” Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened towards Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”

Unwilling to compromise his faith in God, Daniel sought the Lord as he had done before. His daily prayer time had become an integral and structured part of his life, and any decree threatening the lion’s den held out no fear to him. Daniel knew where his strength was drawn from. What unwavering faith in the face of death he had. Daniel chose God over man, and I pray that same kind of steadfast faith for you today.

Proverbs 11:22 “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.”

This has to be one of my favorite Proverbs…maybe because I was raised on a farm in central Illinois, and the visual picture of a sow with fancy jewelry on wallowing in the mud is hilarious. But beyond this funny picture is the sad reality of how a beautiful woman can look just as absurd when she leaves her good sense and sound judgement behind.

Acts 4:31 ” When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled,ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”

The Jewish Leaders were taken back by the Apostle’s confidence and boldness in speaking of the risen Jesus. Their outward appearance was that of unskilled laborers, but the Jewish Leaders quickly realized that these were no ordinary men. It says that. . “they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” That word “with” holds so much more meaning than just hanging out with the Lord…it means relationship, and companionship. Peter and John had a deep abiding relationship with Jesus and it showed in how they spoke and conducted themselves. What would men say about you…have you been with Jesus?

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