Your Love Never Fails

Here are a few words from a song we sang at church last weekend, “Your Love Never Fails” by Chris McClarney:

I know I still make mistakes
But you have new mercies for me everyday
Your love never fails
And when the oceans rage
I don’t have to be afraid
Because I know that You love me
Your love never fails

As we were singing this song, I began to think about the contrast of how I fail quite often, yet God never fails, and His love never fails.  Normally I am very fearful of failure and try my best to avoid it.  This usually results in being indecisive because I’m so afraid of making the wrong decision.  It’s been my experience that people reject you when you fail, and I dont’ want to be rejected.  The good news is that God is not like people.  He does not reject me or withhold His love from me.  His love never fails.  As I thought about this, I was filled with an overwhelming feeling of safety.  It’s okay if I fail because I’m safe in God’s love.


1 Corinthians 13:8
Romans 8:35-39

Your Rod and Staff, They Comfort Me Pt. 2

In part 2 of “Your Rod and Staff, They Comfort Me” we are talking about the staff – what is it and what does it represent in our relationship with the Good Shepherd.

More than any other piece of equipment, the Staff identifies the Shepherd as a Shepherd.  No one in any other profession carries a staff.  It is used uniquely in the care and management of sheep and will not do for the care of horses, cattle, dogs, or any other animal.  It is designed, shaped and adapted especially to the needs of sheep and is used only for their benefit.

 *The staff is essentially a symbol of the concern and compassion that a shepherd has for his charges.  No other single word can better describe its function on behalf of the flock than that it is for their comfort.  Whereas the rod conveys the concept of authority, of power, of discipline, of defense against danger, the word “staff” speaks of all that is longsuffering and kind.

 As the rod of God is emblematic of the Word of God, the Staff of God is symbolic of the Spirit of God.  In Christ’s dealings with us as individuals there is the essence of the sweetness, the comfort and consolation, the gentle correction brought about by the work of His gracious Spirit.

 3 Areas of Sheep Management that the Staff plays a most significant role

  1.  Drawing sheep together into intimate relationship.  The shepherd will use his staff to gently lift a newborn lamb and bring it to its mother if they become separated.  He does this because he does not wish to have the ewe reject her offspring if it bears the odor of his hands upon it.
  2. 2.The Staff is used by the shepherd to reach out and catch individual sheep, young or old, and draw them close to himself for intimate examination.  The staff is very useful this way for the shy and timid sheep that normally tend to keep at a distance from the shepherd.
  3. The staff is also used for guiding sheep gently into a new path or through some gate or along dangerous, difficult routes.  He does not use it actually to beat the beast.  Rather, the tip of the long slender stick is laid gently against the animal’s side, and the pressure applied guides the sheep in the way the owner wants it to go.  Thus the sheep is reassured of its proper path.

 Interesting sideline – a shepherd will actually hold his staff against the side of some sheep that is a special pet or favorite, simple so that they are “in touch”.  They will walk along this way almost as though it were “hand-in-hand.”  The sheep obviously enjoys this special attention from the shepherd and revels in the close, personal, intimate contact between them.  To be treated in this special way by the shepherd is to know comfort in a deep dimension.

 In our walk with God we are told explicitly by Christ Himself that it would be His Spirit who would be sent to guide us and to lead us into all truth – John 16:13.  This same gracious Spirit takes the truth of God, the Word of God, and makes it plain to our hearts and minds and spiritual understanding.  It is He who gently, tenderly, but persistently says to us, “This is the way-walk in it.”  And as we comply and cooperate with His gentle promptings, as sense of safety, comfort, and well-being envelops us.  It is He, too, who comes quietly but emphatically to make the life of Christ, my Shepherd, real and personal and intimate to me.  Through Him I am “in touch” with Christ.  There steals over me the keen awareness that I am His and He is mine.  The gracious Spirit continually brings home to me the acute consciousness that I am God’s child and He is my Father.  In all of this there is enormous comfort and a sublime sense of “oneness”, of “belonging,” of “being in His care,” and hence the object of His special affection. 

Thank you, Jesus for taking really good care of us!


Your Rod and Staff, They Comfort Me Pt. 1

I am continuing on to the next phrase in our 23rd Psalm series.  We find ourselves looking at the phrase “Your Rod and Staff, they comfort me”.  I am going to break it down in two parts so we can see what the Rod is and represents and then look at the Staff and what it is and represents.  Before we dive in I appreciate many of you praying for Tony and I as we traveled the first of this week to North Carolina for his best friends funeral.  It has been a difficult but emotional week for us we see God’s great demonstration of grace all over this.  While we do not always fully understand things of this nature, we can find much comfort in the love of our Abba Father.  He knows what He is doing and will never allow us to hurt needlessly.  This world is not our home and we eagerly await our Savior who is Christ the Lord to come and get us as He raptures His church – the Bride of Christ!  Take heart…for our Lord is coming soon!  We will not be separated very much longer from our loved ones who have gone on before us so take heart and prepare yourselves, Church!  Now….back to the 23rd Psalm…

What is the Rod:  an extension of the owner’s right arm.  It stood as a symbol of his strength, his power, his authority in any serious situation.  The rod was what he relied on to safeguard both himself and his flock in danger.  And it was, furthermore, the instrument he used to discipline and correct any wayward sheep that insisted on wandering away.

 The sheep asserts that the owner’s rod, his weapon of power, authority, and defense, is a continuous comfort to him.  For with it the manager is able to carry out effective control of his flock in every situation.

 The rod speaks therefore of the spoken word of God – the expressed intent, the extended activity of God’s mind and will in dealing with men.  It implies the authority of divinity.  It carries with it the convicting power and irrefutable impact of “Thus saith the Lord.”

 Just as there was much comfort and consolation in seeing the rod in the shepherd’s skillful hands, so in our day there is great assurance in our own hearts as we contemplate the power, veracity, and potent authority vested in God’s Word.  For in fact, the Scriptures are His rod.  They are the extension of His mind and will and intentions to mortal man.

 *The 2nd Dimension where the Rod was used by the shepherd for the welfare of his sheep was that of Discipline and for this purpose more than any other.  If the shepherd saw a sheep wandering away on its own, or approaching poisonous weeds, or getting too close to danger of one sort or another, the club would go whistling through the air to send the wayward animal scurrying back to the bunch.  It has been said of the Scriptures so often, “This Book will keep you from sin!”  It is the Word of God that comes swiftly to our hearts, that comes with surprising suddenness to correct and reprove us when we go astray.  It is the Spirit of the living God, using the living Word, that convicts our conscience of right conduct.  In this way we are kept under control by Christ who wants us to walk in the ways of righteousness.

*The 3rd Dimension is that the rod was used to examine and count the sheep.  In the terminology of the Old Testament this was referred to as passing “under the rod” (see Ezekiel 20:37).  This meant not only coming under the owner’s control and authority, but also to be subject to his most careful, intimate, and firsthand examination.  A sheep that passed “under the rod” was on which had been counted and looked over with great care to make sure all was well with it.  Psalm 139:23-24

 f we will allow it, if we will submit to it, God by His Word will search us.  There will be no “pulling the wool over His eyes.”  He will get below the surface, behind the front of our old self life and expose things that need to be made right.  This is a process from which we need not shrink.  It is not something to avoid.  It is done in concern and compassion for our welfare.  The Great Shepherd of our souls has our own best interests at heart when he so searches us.  What a comfort this should be to the child of God, who can trust in God’s care.

 Wool in Scripture speaks of the self-life, self –will, self-assertion, self-pride.  God has to get below this and do a deep work in our wills to right the wrongs which are often bothering us beneath the surface.  So often we put on a fine front and brave, bold exterior when really deep down below there needs to be some remedy applied.

 *The 4th Dimension of use for the rod is as an instrument of protection both for himself and his sheep when they are in danger.  It is used both as a defense and a deterrent against anything that would attack.

 The skilled shepherd uses his rod to drive off predators like coyotes, wolves, cougars, and stray dogs.  Often it is used to beat the brush, discouraging snakes and other creatures from disturbing the flock.  In extreme cases, such as David recounted to Saul, the Psalmist no doubt used his rod to attack the lion and the bear that came to raid his flocks.

Your rod…..comfort’s me.”  It was the rod ever ready in the shepherd’s hand used in His own encounter with that Serpent – Satan-during His desert temptation.  It is the same Word of God which we can count on again and again to counter the assaults and attacks Satan.

Wow!  What a Rod we have in the inspired Word of God!


Even Though I Walk Through The Valley…Pt. 2

Hello Friends of NLD,

I am back working on the 23rd Psalm series here on the blog.  Interestingly as I type this Tony and I are on I-85 as we are on our way to Charlotte, North Caroline for the day to visit his best friend since Middle School who is dying with Cancer.  He was diagnosed a year ago with a malignant brain tumor.  He is now down to 4 or 5 weeks left to live and will leave a precious wife and three young children (ages 7, 5, & 3) behind.  We don’t always understand the valley’s we travel.  My Father died at the age of 50 with a malignant brain tumor as well.  Death is overwhelming but praise our kind, good Shepherd who took the curse of sin that was credited to us through the law upon Himself and shed His own blood and presented it in the heavenly temple before God and it satisfied God’s wrath against sin and we have forgiveness, freedom and LIFE! 

This part of the 23rd Psalm has been quite the popular passage to be quoted in those moments when someone is about to pass from this life to the next.  But even here for the child of God, death is not an end but merely the door in to a higher and more exalted life of intimate contact with Christ.  Death is but the dark vale opening out into an eternity of delight with God.  It is not something to fear, but an experience through which one passes on the path to a more perfect life.  But for those of us who remain on earth, there is still a life to live here and now.  So let’s look at some ways our Good Shepherd takes care of us in these “valley’s”

Let’s look at some reasons why the Shepherd takes His sheep up on the mountain ranges and long treks of the spring, summer and early fall.  As with ordinary sheep management, so with God’s people, one only gains higher ground by climbing up through valleys.  And notice it doesn’t say “we die there”, but rather, “I walk through…”.  We will have many “valleys” that we will walk through.  The disappointments, frustrations, discouragements, dilemmas, the dark, and difficult days, though they be shadowed valleys, they need not be disasters.  They can be the road to higher ground in our walk with God.  These thoughts bring me to point number one….

1.  The trek up into the mountains is the easiest route to get us to this “higher ground” with Christ.  We will see this when we receive our trials and adversitys….when we surrender it all over to Him, thanking Him for the dark, difficult days.  We will then see that He is here with us and has never left or forsaken us.  We will see that He is working out all things for our greatest good to the honor and glory of His name.  To come to this conviction in life is to have entered into an attitude of quiet acceptance of every adversity.  It is to have moved onto higher ground with God.  Knowing Him in this new and intimate manner makes life much more bearable than before.

2.  The second reason why sheep are taken to the mountaintops by way of the valleys is that not only is this the way of gentlest grades but, also it is the well-watered route.  Here one finds refreshing water all along the way.  There are rivers, streams, springs and quiet pools in the deep defiles.  During the summer months long drives can be hot and tiresome.  The flocks experience intense thirst.  How glad they are for the frequent watering places along the valley route where they can be refreshed.  Our good Shepherd is Living Water!  He said if we would drink from Him we would never thirst!

As Christians we will sooner or later discover that it is in the valleys of our lives that we find refreshment from God Himself.  It is not until we have walked with Him through some very deep troubles, that we discover He can lead us to find our refreshment in Him right there in the midst of our difficulty.  We are thrilled beyond words when there comes restoration to our souls and spirits from His own gracious Spirit.  Any other “source” we turn to for refreshment will NEVER satisfy and we will remain thirsty. 

Interestingly, the one who can minister to the broken heart best is the one who has experienced a broken heart.  Don’t avoid the valleys….you never know how God might use your experience one day, but know that the refreshment you can find available in Christ will fulfill like nothing you have ever seen!

3.  A third reason why the rancher/Shepherd chooses to take his flock into the high country by way of the valleys is that this is generally where the richest feed and best forage is to be found along the route.  The flock is moved along gently-they are not hurried.  The lambs have never been this way before.  The shepherd wants to be sure there will not only be water but also the best grazing available for the ewes and their lambs.  Generally the choicest meadows are in these valleys along the stream banks.  Here the sheep can feed as they move toward the high country.

Ironically, these grassy glades are often on the floor of steep-walled canyons and gulches.  There may be towering cliffs above them on either side.  The valley floor itself may be in dark shadow with the sun seldom reaching the bottom except for a few hours around noon.  The Shepherd also knows from past experience that predators like coyotes, bears, wolves ,or cougars can take cover in these broken cliffs from their vantage point prey on his flock.  He knows too that these valleys can be subject to sudden storms nad flash floods that send walls of water ramping down the slopes.  There could be rock slides, mud or snow avalanches, and a dozen other natural disasters that would destroy or injure his sheep.  But in spite of such hazards he also knows that this is still the best way to take his flock to the high country.  He spares himself no pains or trouble or time to keep an eye out for any danger that might develop!

Our Shepherd knows all of this when He leads us through the valleys.  He knows where we can find strength and sustenance and gentle grazing despite every threat of disaster about us.  It is  the most reassuring and reinforcing experience to the child of God to discover that there is, even in the dark valley, a source of strength and courage to be found in God.  It is when he can look back over life and see how the Shepherd’s hand has guided and sustained him in the darkest hours that renewed faith is endured.

The person with a powerful confidence in Christ; the one who has proved by past experience that God is with him in adversity; the one who walks through life’s dark valleys without fear, his head held high, is the one who in turn is a tower of strength and a source of inspiration to his companions.  We are going to have some valleys in this life.  “in this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). 

The only question left then is… will you and I face these valleys?  How will we handle them? 

Well, with Christ – we will face them:



and with surety that only with them can I pass through on to higher ground with God.  In this way not only shall I be blessed but in turn I will become a benediction to others around me who may live in fear.

Thank you, Jesus!  You thought of everything we would ever need on this side of eternity!  I’m crazy about you!


Looking for Book Recommendations?

Hey Friends of NLD,

I am planing on getting back to the 23rd Psalm series this week….I promise!  But I have just a quick moment to share with you some things that I am reading and have just finished reading and I would highly recommend these books!

The first is Captivating by John & Stasi Eldredge.  It was fantastic and very much what I needed.  A little excerpt off the back cover says this, “Your heart matters more than anything else in all creation.  The desires you had as a little girl and the longings you still feel as a woman-they are telling you of the life God created you to live.  He offers to come now as the Hero of your story, to rescue your heart and release you to live as a fully alive and feminine woman.  A woman who is truly captivating.”

The second is So Long Insecurity, you’ve been a bad friend to us by Beth Moore.  I am still reading this and I am in chapter 12.  It is a great read as well.  Beth so identifies with the heart of a woman and knows our language.  She communicates tough truths in a way that we can hear and receive them.  Let me share some thoughts from the back cover. 

“You’re considering the book because you saw the word insecurity…and all your buried insecurities surfaced.  You know you’re insecure.  So either you rushed to snatch the book up, not caring who saw, or you casually strolled over, hoping no one would see you as you slyly picked it up.  You know you need help.  (You’re not alone). 

Maybe you’re ok for the most part…but there are those insecurities you could work on.  THings could be better.  You’re wondering, Can I really say, “So long” to my insecurities? (Yes, you can.) 

Or maybe you’re just curious.  You’re fine.  You wonder what on earth there is for so many women to be insecure about.  And has Beth Moore, of all people, struggled with insecurity?  (Yes, she has.)

Whoever you are, this book is for you, because you have it in you to be secure”.

So….if you are looking for some good reading material check these out!  Are you on spring break this week??  Share with us what your family is doing as we are stuck here in the office peering out the window and the wonderful sunshine and warmth!

See you back in the 23rd Psalm in the next post!!


Good Friday

Hello NLD Friends,

Easter is finally here!  It is one of my favorite weekends of the whole year and I think my favorite holiday.  Many who are not Christ followers just do not get this weekend.  We know that we have life eternal and life abundant because of what this weekend means.  Hebrews 9:22 states it clearly as it explains that without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin!  Christ stepped up and offered Himself as the spotless Lamb of God shedding His own blood on our behalf so that we might experience His forgiveness and grace.  We now have life full and free because of what He did. 

I don’t know what you do on Easter weekend or what your traditions are.  Tony is planting several box gardens this year and today he is at home doing his planting!  Apparently, you must have your seeds in the ground by Good Friday.  This is a new thing for us so I can’t say that it will be a new tradition just yet.  I have already received a phone call from him asking me to make a stop on my way home by the local Pharmacy to pick up “cloth band aids!  This is not a good sign!!  I will do my usual long run in the AM with my running buddy, Kay and we will chat it up solving all the worlds problems and then it will be off to cleaning house.  Tony has a gift card for Stoney River so plans have been made for dinner on Saturday night .  But somewhere in this weekend I plan on sitting down and watching The Passion movie.  That is my Easter tradition.  I don’t watch it any other time during the year except on Easter weekend.  See, I need to remember….I need to be reminded that without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin.  I need to remember afresh what it took to purchase my freedom.  Our sweet Lord paid a high price for our freedom and I want to honor that and exalt His name far above any other.  I’m not sure if we will go to the Saturday night service time or the Sunday morning service time but I can’t wait to experience Easter!  Last year I had the most moving experience ever with Easter.  I had finished cleaning and got myself cleaned up and dressed and then I sat down to watch the Passion.  Just as it was ending we had to jump up and head off to church because we were going to the Saturday night Easter service.  Having just come off watching The Passion movie and straight into an Easter service was….well…..I can’t put it into words.  I know I cried so hard during the WHOLE service that my throat hurt by the time it ended.  WOW!  Oh, the lavish and demonstrative love that the Father pours out on us.  I challenge you that if you need to remember or if you need to be reminded…sit down and pop that DVD in and let yourself get lost in the beautiful demonstration of unconditional love that our Abba Father has for us.

I hope you and your family have a great Easter weekend


Why We Worry

Recently, I have been reading Max Lucado’s book, Fearless.  This part really caught my attention, so I wanted to share it with y’all.  It’s really good insight on why we worry and a great example of the conflict & frustration created when we depend on ourselves. 

Seek first the kingdom of wealth, and you’ll worry over every dollar.  Seek first the kingdom of health, and you’ll sweat every blemish and bump.  Seek first the kingdom of popularity, and you’ll relive every conflict.  Seek first the kingdom of safety, and you’ll jump at every crack of the twig.  But seek first his kingdom, and you will find it.  On that, we can depend and never worry.

Matthew 6:25-34

“Even Though I Walk Through the Valley…”

Wow….it has been awhile since I have been in blogger-ville.  No worries…I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth.  Still here!  It has been a crazy month or so with work, normal-everyday life and some trips out-of-town for us.

I am picking back up with the phrases from the 23rd Psalm.  We are looking at “Even Though I Walk Through the Valley…”  You may be wondering what a phrase like this has to do with sheep but there is a very interesting connection.  As we have said that the whole Psalm tracks the entire year-long season of care between sheep and shepherd.  When we come to this phrase we are looking at the halfway point in the year.  One could imagine that the previous phrases were made by the sheep to other less fortunate sheep in the pen next door but with this phrase we make a dramatic turn.  Spring has sprung and the efficient, good Shepherd leads his sheep out to the high country to the summer ranges. Their summer and fall will be spent in close companionship and solitary care of the good shepherd.  The personal pronouns I and You enter the conversation.  It becomes a most intimate discourse of deep affection.

The terrain that would be crossed would be wild mountains, rushing rivers, alpine meadows, and high rangelands.  When Samuel came to anoint David as the next King of Israel David was not home but off climbing the summer ranges leading his sheep.  He knew from first hand experience about all the difficulties and dangers, as well as the delights, of the treks into the high country.  The good shepherd would not take his flock where he had never been but would have gone ahead to look over the country with care (Oh, the sweet care that our Heavenly Father, the good shepherd, takes with us as well).  All the dangers of rampaging rivers in flood, avalanches, rock slides, poisonous plants, the ravages of predators that raid the flock, or the awesome storms of sleet and hail and snow were familiar to him.  He had handled his sheep and managed them with care under all these adverse conditions.  Nothing took him by surprise.  He was fully prepared to safeguard his flock and tend them with skill under every circumstance. 

Just as I was typing that last sentence and reflecting on how good our heavenly Father takes care of us, I suddenly had my stomach “drop out on the floor” so to speak.  I remembered that last night on the way home from the office I realized that I needed gas bad!  I was on a “wing and a prayer” so to speak.  I had already passed all the gas stations and was just a few miles from home and so I prayed all the way home setting in my mind that I would go first thing this morning to get gas.  Well, I forgot to get gas and came straight on to the office.  Out of the clear blue I remember that I did not stop on the way in this morning so I really am on fumes now!  Thankfully, I believe it was the Lord that reminded me and isn’t that just awesome that He takes care of us even in our ignorance!  Lord, we really are like sheep and we need You to be our good Shepherd!

I’ll finish up this portion of the phrase next week!  So stay tuned!


Cease Striving

Cease striving and know that I am God;  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

Psalm 46:10 (NASB)

Last weekend, while at a Casting Crowns concert, God spoke to my heart in a special way.  Near the end of the concert, the question was asked, “Is there anything God wants you to lay down?”  He said to lay down my pursuit.  I thought of the verse above.  God wants me to quit trying so hard to get what I think I need and let Him give me what I need– recognizing that He is God, and I am not.  It wasn’t long before I had an opportunity to practice giving up my pursuit of significance and my pursuit of doing things just right.  A few days later, when I took a lunch break, I found myself very stressed—about feelings of insignificance & unfairness, finding a location for a Bible study, and making decisions about auto insurance.  I realized that my trying to figure things out only made it worse.  I wrote out this prayer “casting my anxiety on Him, because He cares for me.” (1 Peter 5:7)  What relief!  Thank you, Jesus!

God, I give you these concerns, these burdens.  I lay them down, surrender control over to you.  I will let you bear my burdens, and I choose to trust you to do things your way–the best & most loving way.


Forever Connected

But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 

~1 Corinthians 6:17

As we get to know who God is and who we are in Him, we move through three levels of knowledge:

1.  Factual Knowledge–knowing what is true; often referred to as head knowledge
2.  Revelational Knowledge–when the Holy Spirit reveals the meaning of something to us; like an ah-ha moment or a light bulb coming on
3.  Experiential Knowledge–learning something through experience; practical application of the truth; this is when it really sinks in and changes us

Over the past several months, God has spoken to my heart in all 3 ways about being connected.  This is one of those deep internal needs that I find myself struggling with quite often.  I long to feel a close connection with others.  When that is missing in my relationships with friends or family, I feel a painful emptiness and loneliness.  God has been teaching me that this is a God-given need that only He can sufficiently meet. (John 4:13-14; Phil 4:19)  He wants me to come to Him so that He can fill me.  Trying meet this need through connection with other people is like digging my own cistern that can’t hold water. (Jeremiah 2:13)

Reading these scriptures and hearing about this truth through a sermon gave me the factual knowledge.  Then, one day as I was sitting with God and listening to a song, He revealed this truth to me in a special way.  The song talked about how Jesus’ work on the cross was finished/done.  I began to ask God & mull over what that means to me.  He showed me that I am forever forgiven, forever loved, forever accepted, and forever connected.  This was revelational knowledge. 

Several weeks later, I found myself in a social situation where I didn’t feel connected with the people around me.  I felt far away, disconnected, alone.  Even the next day, I couldn’t get this feeling out of my mind.  I tried to analyze why I felt disconnected, wondering what was wrong with me that prevented me from being accepted/connected.  (lies, lies, lies)  I sat down to spend time with God and told Him all of my feelings.  And then, I heard that same song.  I remembered what God had said to me last time:  I am forever forgiven, forever loved, forever accepted, but I couldn’t remember the last one.  I felt compelled (Holy Spirit’s leading) to go find where I had written it down.  The one I had forgotten was “I am forever connected!”  I knew right away that this was God’s answer to my struggle.  I am joined to Him.  I am one spirit with Him.  He lives in me.  I can’t get anymore connected than that.  And that connection is eternal.  Even if I feel disconnected from people at times, I’m still okay because I’m connected to Him.  Then I no longer felt weighed down or bothered;  I felt light & free!  That’s experiential knowledge.  PTL!!