The Shepherd’s Oil

In our summer Bible study this week, the theme was Anointing. We looked at how David was chosen by God for a specific task – king over His people. This was an anointing or CALL for service.

Just like David was anointed for a higher purpose, we are anointed by God’s Spirit to fulfill our call as Christ-followers on the earth.

THIS is what the Christian life is all about!

I love to get excited and dream big with God about who He’s calling me to BE . . . I hope you do too.

However, I realize that the excitement is hard to hold onto in the ordinariness of our day-to-day living. There is much waiting and wondering that goes along with it.

For all the ordinary days of your life, here’s another picture of anointing. David knew this very well, and he wrote about it in Psalm 23 – the Shepherd’s Psalm.

In this psalm, God is the Shepherd and we are His sheep, so when verse 5 says – “he anoints my head with oil” – David is reminding us of what a shepherd does for his sheep. This is different than the anointing that David received as king. This is daily; this is ordinary.

There are 3 reasons for a sheep to receive daily anointing of oil.

1. Bugs. Sheep are particularly susceptible to flies landing on their noses. These flies travel up the sheep’s nose and lay eggs which turn into worms that can burrow into the animal’s brain. Then the sheep will bang their heads, trying to get rid of the irritation. They can die from this. So, each day the shepherd pours oil on the sheep’s nose, and the flies slide out instead of flying in.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly have a lot of daily irritations buzzing around my head – rude actions, bothersome comments, pesky mishaps. Some of those get in my head and cause negative thoughts – angry, fearful, sinful thoughts. And if I allow them to burrow deeper into my mind, they become part of my life and can destroy me.

But I have a Good Shepherd, and He promises if I come to Him every day, He will anoint my head with oil. I can come back to him many times a day – and I do! In prayer, I bring the Shepherd all the little irritations and bothersome thoughts that cause me discomfort before they can gain a foothold in my mind.

2. Butts. As in butting heads. Sheep will butt heads with one another to gain position and assert authority. Male sheep especially like to butt heads, but in people, we all do that, don’t we?

A shepherd knows his sheep will clash sometimes and he can’t prevent it, so he puts oil or grease on their heads. When they clash, their heads glance off without doing much harm to one another.

Our Good Shepherd knows we can’t always avoid disagreements . . . but praying with and for one another is one way we can keep from harming each other when we butt heads.

3. Cuts. Sheep live outdoors – with barbed fences, thistles, rocks, sticks, predators. It’s not a kind, gentle setting. Even the greenest pastures have hazards. So, shepherds check their sheep each day, sometimes morning and evening, to look for wounds that need attention. Adding oil to the wound brings healing.

We live in a dangerous world too. And we get wounded – sometimes daily. One of the worst sayings from childhood is “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Well, that’s just not true; words CAN and DO hurt us. They cause wounds that can go much deeper than sticks and stones. Wounds that only the Good Shepherd can heal.

Each of us is wounded by all kinds of things. And Jesus is attentive to all our wounds – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Daily, honest communication with Jesus is the best way to find healing.

If we want to live in the power of the anointing of the Holy Spirit, we must recognize the tender, daily provision our Good Shepherd offers us as His sheep. It reminds me that I need Him every hour of every day.

Clay and the Potter

A question of fairness came up in our summer Bible study this week.  Specifically, why does God choose some to follow Him while others live and die on earth without ever knowing Jesus as their Savior? (John 15:16, Ephesians 1:4-5, 1 Peter1:1-2, Colossians 3:12)

Good question.

I can add it to the list of other questions for God:

  •           Why do good people suffer?
  •           Why do godly people seem to suffer even more than good ones?

Answers won’t come to us until our face-to-face with Jesus in heaven.  But until then, I enjoy unraveling the mystery of who God is.

Throughout His Word God illustrates Himself as a skillful pottery maker, molding and shaping useful earthenware from the stuff of earth.

“O LORD, you are our Father.  We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

Think about that lump of clay.  What control or understanding does it have about what it will become?

Think about the HUGE gap between the ability of the clay to become anything without the potter’s creativity . . . without the potter’s plan  . . . without the potter’s hand.

We are that clay, God says.  Our ability (or inability) to understand God’s choosing of a person to be His child shows a HUGE gap between what we know about our lives and what God knows.

So the question really is . . . do we trust God’s hand on our lives?

Do we trust His creativity, His plan?

Jeremiah 18:3-4 gives us another picture:

“So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel.  But the pot he was shaping from clay was marred in his hands, so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him”

In Vs. 6 God goes on to explain,

“ like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand.”

Pause for Reflection …

Do you trust that God is shaping YOU as seems best to him?

Do you place value on the fact that you are held in the hand of the Master Potter?

If so, is your idea of fairness worth holding onto?

A Runner’s Heart

I have a reoccurring dream … not the kind that shows up when I’m asleep, but the kind of dream my heart whispers to be true. The whisper says …”you can run”.

I’ve heard that dream whisper many times over the years and when it does, I have always taken up the challenge to exercise my legs, to BE a runner.

My efforts to be a runner have been less than impressive. The heart of a runner met the disappointing reality that my body was weak. After a failed knee surgery back when I was still in my 20’s, I gave up the dream of running.

Until …a few years ago when I started walking out on the open road by my house. As I walked, I heard the whisper, “you can run”. So I tried it; short little jogs along my route got longer each time. I was also reading “The Resilient Life” by Gordon MacDonald which uses the metaphor of a runner. I could sense that the whole running thing was coming together for me.

Finally, on a warm February day, I did, in fact begin to run again. It felt great! In the wide open freedom of running on the road, I enjoyed a praise service that day!
“Thank you, God, for fulfilling the dream of my heart”.

I was certain that in my 2nd half of life my runner’s heart would soar in a runner’s body. This was now my “thing”. I could buy new running shoes, I could get a few running outfits … perhaps enter a local fun run next year. I was dreaming BIG!

That same afternoon my back began to feel a little tight – by supper time I was flat on my back in pain with spasms which lasted all night. All I could do was pray that the pain would go away. I was scared, angry and very disappointed.

When I went to the doctor the next day, he confirmed that those muscle spasms were caused by some sort of lower back issue. I was pretty sure a new pair of running shoes – maybe with the shocks – would be the answer. Instead, he pulled out a booklet of exercises … on a giant rubber ball.

My runner’s heart screamed – “I’m a runner, not a roller!”

You see, even though I have a runner’s heart, and even though my legs can run, at the core I am weak. All the muscles in the middle need to be strengthened before my body is ready to be a runner.

God taught me 2 important lessons with the “ball incident”
1. God’s given me a runner’s heart to motivate my spirit, not my body.

1 Timothy 6:11-12 says … “But you, (Shereen), (woman) of God: …Pursue a righteous life – a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to …”

Silly me, I thought a runner’s heart was only for running … it’s for persisting in prayer when our dreams don’t match our reality. It’s for straining up the hills of doubt as well as for coasting with the wind of faith at our back.

2. In order to run hard and fast in the faith, I need a strong spiritual core.

Even when my big dreams meet with big disappointments, I can trust God. I can trust Him because I know Him. I know Him because I’ve been in the Word learning who He is … I’ve worshipped, studied … then connected with Him in prayer.

Pause for Reflection:
What are some disappointments you’ve experienced lately?

How have you responded?

What does your response show about your spiritual core strength?

How would God like you to “run hard and fast in the faith” this summer?