The Shepherd Series

The Shepherd’s Will-Part 2 His Good Pleasing and Perfect Will


As we continue in our Shepherd series, last week we looked at Romans 12:1-2.  In doing so I spoke briefly to the Apostle Paul writing to the church in Rome; a pagan culture being influenced by a Church made up of Jews and Gentiles.  In the first 11 chapters Paul lays a theological foundation and then beginning in the 12th chapter he helps the believers to live a transformed life.  Paul does so by highlighting 5 key points to knowing God’s will.   

1.    Offer your bodies as living sacrifices

This is Step One to discovering the Shepherd’s will for your life; a life of surrender to God.

2.    Holy and Pleasing to God

A consistent and pleasing life before God is Step Two to discerning God’s will.  

3.    Your spiritual act of worship

Step Three is all about setting the Shepherd first in your life - worship God alone. 

4.    Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world

Step Four requires diligent resistance and non-conformity to worldly values.

5.    Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

This is Step Five to knowing God’s will - a commitment to a renewed mind.   



This leads us to todays sermon - “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Rom 12:2b).  As I mentioned last Sunday, one of the most frequently asked questions I have experienced in pastoring is “what is God’s will for this or that situation.”  The question doesn’t surprise me, but what does surprise me is how many of us want God’s will but with little or no surrender to God.  The five prerequisites above enable us to discern and discover God’s will appropriately.  


As believers in Christ, we all have a longing inside of us to be in God’s will. However there is also the struggle we all face of the flesh or our sinful nature opposing God’s will.  Paul speaks of this in his letter to the Roman Christians; there are times when believers struggle between offering ourselves to God or offering ourselves to sin.  In Rom 8:5, Paul clarifies this life long experience - Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  Once again we have such a great opportunity before us to live in ways that please God.  One of the mature goals of Christian living is that of walking in the Spirit of God daily; this does not necessarily mean perfection but a consistent desire to set one’s mind before God for transformation. 


Test and approve:

Do you remember the “therefore” in the beginning of Romans 12?  Well, after Paul lists these five points of maturity for the Christian seeking to discover God’s will, he “then” speaks of testing and approving God’s will.  Paul is actually encouraging the people of God to test, examine, determine, judge or prove God’s will.  God is not concerned that we seek out his will and discern or discover what it is; that is to say he is completely willing for us to know him fully.  And he is comfortable with followers of Jesus to test his character, his ways and his will.  We discover who God is when the will of God is tested and approved.  The root wording in the Greek language implies someone who has been “tested in battle, who reliable and trustworthy.”  

Believers go through tests in life as well, whether through suffering in its various forms or through persecution.  The same word in the Greek language is found in 1 Peter 1:7 - “These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed”.  God is looking for people who will press into him through all of life’s circumstances and prove the will of God as genuine and glorious.  


As well, I am reminded of Malachi 3:10 where God’s people are exhorted to test God in the area of financial trust in God - Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.  God is big enough and good enough to handle our questions and concerns with life along with its various challenges.   


In the temptation of Jesus, he does say not to put the Lord your God to the test.  But this is in the context of sin and chance.  With God’s will there is no chance involved, there is no means of manipulating God to suit one’s own end.  We are not to test God on the basis of luck.  


We are to test and approve what is true about his character and his good, pleasing and perfect will.  This is a profitable pursuit.  


The Will of God:

One of the challenges of testing and approving the will of God is that of the mystery surrounding who he is.  The will of God has been discussed over the ages by Christians and there are different views that can lead to frustration and even emotional anxiety.  Some believe that as a result of God being sovereign his will cannot be broken.  And yet we know that we make choices all the time that break the commands of God.  We have what is called free-will and we at times wonder how that compares to God’s will.  We see this paradox in: 

  • Prov. 16:9 - In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. 
  • Prov. 19:21 - Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. 


When I read Rom 12:2b it speaks of his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Paul gives three adjectives to describe God’s will; personally I like this trinity and want to use this in describing God’s will for us today.  Good, pleasing and perfect speak to me of our God who is infinite and all-knowing, the transcendent Creator who is not limited by space or time.  


Don Byrt gave me a book entitled The Will of God by Leslie Weatherhead.  In this book he looks at God’s will through three different lenses: Intentional, Circumstantial and Ultimate.  I see this as relating to Paul describing God’s good, pleasing and perfect will.  


  1. God’s intentional will.

God’s Intentional Will can be seen in the Garden of Eden; this was God’s original design.  There was unity between God and mankind.  There was perfect peace and harmony between Adam and Eve, male and female.  Adam and Eve used to walk and fellowship in the garden with God.  There was life and no death.  God provided everything that humanity needed to thrive physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.  God is good and so is his will towards mankind.  It has always been God’s intention for us to know his good will.  The will of God must be seen as good and true according to his character and his original design in creation.  God’s intentional will is for the good of mankind.  This is good news in a bad new world.  

  1. God’s circumstantial will.

The Permissive Will of God is where there is lots of debate and discussion.  When Adam and Eve ate the fruit they were told not to eat, they rejected God’s intentional will for their own. 

Since humanity had rejected God’s intentional will, God now had to interact with them differently. Weatherhead call this God’s “Circumstantial Will”.  It is not what God wanted for us but he had to allow for free will and our own choices.  So when a woman decides to have an abortion, that is not God’s intentional will but it has become God’s permissive will; God had to let her make the choice or she would no longer have free will.                              

This is the case from drunk driving to world wars, people are making choices under God’s permissive will, that is to say, God allowed their choices but it was not his intention for these bad things to happen.

There are times in all of our lives when we walked in God’s circumstantial will.  We made some choice that was contrary to God’s character or truth as revealed in the Scriptures.  This is the struggle we all face daily; obedience or rebellion.  Jesus, alone, modelled what God’s intentional will looks like and he did so perfectly.  In other words, Jesus never disobeyed God’s intended will by crossing over into God’s circumstantial will.  He loved his Father with all his heart, soul, mind and strength and loved his neighbour.  When we put God ahead of our personal desires we are loving God and can find ourselves living well; Matt 6:33 - But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  When we put the needs of our neighbour before our own needs, we are loving our neighbour. This seems so simple and yet so impossible.  Why is this?

Unfortunately, with the fall of mankind into sin our free will comes with ugly selfishness.  If we are going to love the way God loves, we need to have our nature changed.  That is why becoming a Christian is so important - God gives us a new nature in Jesus.  That is what God offers everyone through the unselfish gift of Jesus’ life.

  1. God’s ultimate will

The third will of God is his Ultimate Will and that is the redemption of mankind and the restoration of all things.  God is all-powerful and nothing is too difficult for him.  He is constantly encouraging us to walk in his intentional will instead of his circumstantial will; he longs for the obedience of his children not disobedience.  We see in the Scriptures God’s final purpose is that of bringing us back to his original design.  He will create a new heaven and new earth that I believe will be very similar to the Garden of Eden.  God’s ultimate will is that we spend an eternity with him where there is no more sickness, dying, tears of pain etc… Rev 22:1-5

The end of the Bible has many images of destruction that scares a lot of people; that is the circumstantial will of God - mankind in out-right rebellion.  God’s ultimate will is being fully realized as the King of Kings ushers believers into an eternity of goodness.

God’s ultimate will, seen and unseen, will be fulfilled…  

The mystery of the new heaven and new earth awaits us…

In Conclusion:

God’s will is good, pleasing and perfect.  His will is good in the sense of his original design for mankind was good, all-together-good.  His will is circumstantial in that mankind now makes choices, hopefully to please God and come into his good and intentional will.  Lastly, his will is ultimate with the purpose of fulfilling God’s dreams and plans for mankind.  


This morning I hope you have grown in your understanding as to the will of God.  We all want to discern God’s will and know that we are at peace with him…  Next Sunday we will look at how we can interact with God’s will and bring him glory. 


Let’s pray…  



The Shepherd’s Will—Part 1 Five Points leading to God's Will


The last few weeks we have started a series on the Shepherd and have looked at the shepherd— sheep relationship of the ancient Near East.  I used the “flock” metaphor for the people of God and drew on several passages of Scripture.  Psalm 23 speaks of the Shepherd’s vision to provide, protect and guide his flock.  Isa 40:11 reveals to us the gentle and gracious care of the Shepherd as he gathers the Lambs in his arms.  Then we discovered that hearing the Voice of the Shepherd is foundational to being a sheep in his flock - “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).  Under Jesus, each sheep is known intimately and by name and learns that obedience is essential for responsible discipleship.  Along the journey strange voices abound, therefore we must stay close to the Shepherd and let him rescue those sheep that are lost and defend the flock against evil attacks.


As I was praying and thinking about listening to the voice of God I was reminded of those times in my own life when I desired to “know God’s will”.  I remembered in YWAM when we sought to know the will of God in seeking out an outreach location.  Many times students would say “what is the will of God for my life?”  “Is it God’s will that I marry this person?  Or “is it God’s will that I take on this job opportunity?  Whether family, education, career, marriage, children – people are always desiring to be confident in God’s will for their life.  One of the foundations for knowing the will of God is hearing his voice, in the same way, hearing God’s voice directs us towards his will.  As we continue this series it is important to understand that the Shepherd has a will and a purpose for his flock.  This morning we are going to look at Romans 12:1-2 and talk about the prerequisites to walking confidently as a sheep in his flock. 


Rom 12:1-2

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 


As you know, chapter 12 follows the first eleven chapters in the Letter of Paul to the Romans. And it begins with a significant “therefore” helping us to transition from right thinking to right living.  Chapters 1–11, present a solid foundation for Christian beliefs and now in Romans 12 Paul wants us to know how to live out our beliefs.  “In view of God’s mercy” is one of the highlights of the previous chapters.  God has justified and offered mercy to those who accept his Son as their Saviour.  The doctrine of justification for sinners is foundation of Christian life.  God’s mercy is the beginning to understanding God’s will for his flock.  There are several key points that Paul emphasizes prior to God’s good, pleasing and perfect will.


1.    Offer your bodies as living sacrifices

Sheep were often used as sacrifices in the Old Testament sacrificial system.  Paul speaks of “living sacrifices” identifying New Testament sheep who present or offer or surrender themselves on God’s altar.  The problem with living sacrifices is that they can crawl off the altar.  There are times when following the Shepherd is an easy and joyous experience.  At other times the Good Shepherd is aware of some “not-so-good” stuff in the lives of his sheep.  It is at these moments of testing and conviction that the living bleating sheep are tempted to crawl off of the altar.  

One of the signs of being committed to knowing God’s will is the ability to allow the full measure of conviction to touch our lives.  This is easier said than done. 


This offering of ourselves to God is clarified in Rom 6:13 - Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.  


This is Step One to discovering the Shepherd’s will for your life; a life of surrender and sacrifice to God.


2.    Holy and Pleasing to God

One of the short-comings of believers is that of only receiving mercy to cover our sin.  The challenge Paul presents to us today is to live holy and pleasing before God.  It is God’s grace that empowers us to live godly lives.  I know that both mercy and grace are needed in our Christian life.  But it is possible for the Christian to consistently live holy and pleasing before our Shepherd.  Biblically, we must understand that we can do more than just confess our sins, we can actually live holy lives built on justification by faith alone and acceptance on the basis of the righteousness of Christ alone.  


Eph 5:10 actually encourages us to “find out what pleases the Lord.”  This verse makes it clear to Christ’s follower that finding out what pleases and blesses God is important.  This reminds me of “random acts of kindness” and how significant they can be in someone’s life.  When you do something for the least of people, it is like you are doing it for Jesus (Matt 25:40).  Today you have the opportunity to do something that pleases God.  Sounds like fun to me…  


A consistent and pleasing life before God is Step Two to discerning God’s will.  


3.    Your spiritual act of worship

Worship is so much more than what we do when we gather together to sing our songs of praise to God.  The aim of Rom 12:1-2 is that all of life becomes worship.  The Westminster Catechism (written in 1646 and 47) asks this question “What is the chief end of man?  The Answer. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.”  This speaks to me of a lifestyle of worship.  In other words, the aim of all human life is that God in Christ our Shepherd be displayed as infinitely valuable.  True worship must have no other idols…  Whatever you do in life is done to glorify God.  God begins to shine through you to other people when your life becomes worship-full.


Col 3:23-24 - Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  


Step Three is all about setting the Shepherd first in your life - worship God alone.  No idols, no distractions, only glorifying and enjoying him for ever.  This uncluttered lifestyle helps us to clearly detect the will of our Shepherd.  





4.    Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world

Paul’s urging in verse 1 now becomes a command in verse 2.  If we truly want to know God’s will we must “put off” (Eph 4:22-24) any belief or practice that conforms us to the standards of the world.  Galatians 1:4 tells us that we live in the present evil age.  The reality of this evil age is that there are many “antiChrist” beliefs and practices that trouble mankind.  When we conform, in little or big ways, we will find it difficult to know God’s will.  


This reminds me of the Borg saying in the Star Trek series - “Resistance is futile”.  They sought to assimilate everyone to their collective family and united consciousness.  For the follower of Jesus, resistance is not futile, and we must resist the patterns of the world that do not align with Scripture.  Not conforming does not mean not loving.  We must simply understand that “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and that our life becomes one of worship and is very different from the cultures of the world.  


Step Four requires diligent resistance and non-conformity to worldly values and then keeping away from them; this does not mean staying away from people.  We can know more clearly the will of God when one remains “politically correct” from the standpoint of the Kingdom of God. 


5.    Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

A renewed mind is the reality of being in the Shepherd’s care.  Not conforming to the world without being transformed in the renewing of your mind is religious and self-righteous.  Transformation literally means to be “metamorphosized” just like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.  We are completely and miraculously changed.  This is the Christian life: we are changed from sinner to saint.  So when Paul says, “be renewed”, he doesn’t mean to double your effort to not conform.  He is reminding us that a miracle has happened.   Because we are new creations in Christ, we have been transformed and the result is that our renewed thinking helps us to know God’s will.  


The renewing process is a moment by moment inner practice of the mind.  The mind is the control center of one’s thoughts and attitudes, feelings and actions.  Renewal is the process of setting things right once again. 


This is Step Five to knowing God’s will - a commitment to a renewed mind.  


In Conclusion

Paul appealed for the dedication of one’s whole of life to God.  The mercy of God was the beginning point of the believers journey with God.  The Shepherd’s will is something within reach of the sheep.  Paul highlights five aspects that progressively lead us to knowing God’s will.  Just as sheep are lead to pasture so Paul leads the sheep in Rome to a greater depth of potential.  Knowing the will of the Shepherd is enhanced as the sheep willingly offer themselves to God as his living sacrifices, holy and pleasing, and they are worship-full and not conforming to the world but being renewed in the depths of their minds.    WOW!  


The Shepherd’s will is knowable intellectually and experientially practical.  We have personal homework to put into practice which will help us grow in discovering and developing the will of God for our lives. 

Next week The Shepherd’s Will - Part 2 

Let’s pray.  

The Shepherd’s Voice


Over the last couple of weeks we have looked at the Lord as our Shepherd.  We know that our Shepherd has a purposeful vision for his flock and supplies abundant grace to us to fulfil his dreams.  Psalm 23 so richly describes the relation between the Shepherd and his flock and how he provides, protects and guides.  We know from Isa 40:11 that “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”  The Shepherd of our souls is so kind and gracious.



In my early Christian walk I was introduced to “hearing the voice of God” through various speakers in Youth With A Mission.  Loren Cunningham”s book, Is That Really You God? profoundly impacted my Christian faith.  One of the takeaways for me was this - God wants to speak to his children.  This mornings sermon highlights the topic of God speaking to his flock as seen in the Parable of the Good Shepherd in John 10.  


John 10:1-6

The Apostle John aims to show that Jesus is the Messiah long promised by the prophets.  In John 10:1–5, John describes Jesus as the Good Shepherd while confronting the religious leaders of his day.  The Pharisees were confronted with Jesus healing a man who was blind from birth; this took place on the Sabbath which was taboo to the religious (John 9).  The Pharisees believe that Jesus is saying they are blind and take offence.  The religious leaders assumed they were the true spiritual leaders and the shepherds of God’s people.  However, Jesus recognizes that the Pharisees are like those “shepherds” found in Ezekiel 34, who were more interested in eating the sheep rather than feeding them.  So he carries on this conversation by sharing the parable about the Good Shepherd.


“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.  John 10:1–6.


After this simple parable the Pharisees still did not understand the implications. 

  • There are thieves and robbers who are after the sheep…  This clarifies the context of John 10:10 - “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy…” referring to the religious leaders not to Satan…  The thieves would climb over the wall and not enter the sheep fold through the gate.  There is protocol when caring for God’s flock.  Something to think about…  
  • The true Shepherd enters by the gate; Jesus goes onto to say in John 10:7, 9 - “I am the gate”.  Oftentimes the shepherd would position himself in the gate, or “as the gate” in the sheep pen.  Jesus states this plainly in John 14:6, saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
  • As well, sometimes several flocks would bed down at night in the same fold.  In the morning the shepherds would come to the gate and call to their flock.  The sheep would hear the voice of their shepherd and follow him.
  • There are good shepherds and strange shepherds; John 10:11, 14 - “I am the good shepherd”.  One of the true descriptions of the Good Shepherd is repeated 5 times in John 10 - he lays his life down for his sheep…



There is something beautiful in hearing one speak.  I remember when Kimberly and Tiffany were in Becky’s tummy and I would talk to them.  I know that our girls were blessed when Becky would put them to bed each night by singing to them.  The voice becomes an identifying feature in distinguishing one person from another.  The Voice is an American reality television singing competition broadcast on NBC.  The concept of the series is to find new singing talent… 


I am reading a fantastic book entitled, How Now Shall We Live, by Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey.  In essence the book describes a Christian World View and how we should live.  They describe the “competing voices” that confuse and confute a Christian perspective in life.  They describe the Age of Enlightenment; in his essay “What Is Enlightenment?” (1784), the German philosopher Immanuel Kant summed up the era's motto in the following terms: “Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason!”  Unfortunately, this “daring to know and discover your own reason” was the beginning of relativism as we know it today; the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute.  Then we had Darwinism and the theory of evolution, all the other ism’s that distort the historical and biblical truths of God.  In every aspect of society today, there are voices that deny three basic Christian truths - Creation, The Fall and Redemption.  In order to hear God’s voice clearly these three foundations must be accepted.  We live in a day where many are wanting to “hear” what they want to hear and avoid at all costs the voice of the Good Shepherd.


In the context of John 10, the “Shepherd’s Voice” becomes very important.  In Jesus’ day, many shepherds shared the same pasture and even drove their flocks together into a sheepfold at night. In the morning, each shepherd would stand at the open gate and call for his sheep. The flock would recognize his voice and follow him out.  In fact the Greek word for voice is used five times in the first five verses of John 10, helping us to recognize the main point of this parable.  Jesus is helping the people to understand there are good voices and bad voices that compete for our attention; one voice is that of the Good Shepherd and the other is the voice of strangers, Jesus subtly pointing the finger and the Pharisees.  



The Shepherd’s Voice:

Hearing the Voice of the Shepherd is foundational to being a sheep in his flock - “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).  As mentioned early there are other voices confuse and even confute the voice of God; the voice of self-reason is one, the voices of secular society is another (the wisdom of this world) and the voice of Satan.  The voice of the Good Shepherd rings distinct and true for those who have ears to hear what is being spoken.  What makes the voice of the Shepherd so distinct and appealing?  What characteristics describe Jesus’ voice?


Here are several aspects of the Shepherd’s voice I believe need to be mentioned in this day.  

  • The Shepherd’s voice provides for salvation - (John 10:9).  In Jesus interaction with the religious leaders, they heard his audible voice but did not choose to hear the rhema voice of God providing salvation. We know from the Greek language there are two words translated as “word” in the Bible; “logos” and “rhema”.  Logos refers to an expression or articulation of thought; it is more than the simple name of an object but it is the embodiment of a concept, idea or thought.  On the other hand, rhema refers to the personal, living or life-giving Word of God.  This is the Shepherd’s voice of salvation.  John 12:48 highlights to these two words - “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words (rhema); that very word (logos) which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.”  In other words, we must not reject the spoken rhema word of Jesus which is salvation to us.  The logos or now written words of Jesus confirm salvation and or will condemn in the last day of judgment.  “But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:8-9).  Many want to hear a sound, the audible voice of God, but God wants you to hear his voice. The rhema - a personal word to you! 


  • The Shepherd’s voice provides for an abundant life - John 10:10.  The voice of the shepherd is never stingy or self-serving.  It is the desire of the shepherd for his flock to live up to a quality so abundant that it is beyond the norm.  This reminds me of the verse that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20).  The voice of the Shepherd gives special advantage to his flock, it speaks of the exceptional becoming the norm.  This is in stark contrast to the religious leaders who got rich and gained a reputation off of God’s people.  Oftentimes the voice of the Pharisees was to preserve their religious rules maintaining a firm grip around the necks of the sheep.  Jesus’ abundant life was to impart a rich and exhilarating life.  This abundant life was to affect the fullest experience our Christian faith.  This morning can we hear the voice of the Shepherd speaking abundance over us.


  • The Shepherd’s voice is miraculous - John 10:25.  Over and over in the Scriptures we hear the voice of the Lord speaking and then acting miraculously.  “Let there be light…” (Gen 1:1)  ”I am willing,” he said, “Be clean!” (Matt 8:3)  “Quiet! Be still!” (Mark 4:39).  In the context of John’s gospel, Jesus spoke to the man born blind and gave him a rhema word for healing.  The blind man acted in faith and obedience and received his healing.  There are times in my life I have personally encountered the rhema word of the Jesus leading to a miraculous experience.  I am learning to let my faith be miraculously fed by the spoken rhema of God and not be the logos.  My prayer is that the logos will become the rhema for me and you.  Listening to the rhema word of the Lord can lead to significant miracles as we obey; this is experiencing the gifts of the Spirit.  The Shepherd’s voice is meant to lead his flock on an adventure that is full of the miraculous, big and little miracles revealing God’s love.                       


In Conclusion:

We know that we serve a Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14).  He is a shepherd who provides and protects and guides his flock.  He does so with great love and care.  One of the main experiences between the sheep and shepherd is that of “knowing” the voice.  Sheep will follow the voice of their shepherd, but the voice of strangers they avoid.  It is so important that we take time to listen to God’s voice to know him better.  


We live in a world that is full of competing voices seeking our attention.  The voices will seek to discredit the salvation that is found in Jesus Christ.  Some will say there are many ways to get to heaven, others say that we don’t need salvation because we are essentially good.  

Other voices distort Jesus’ abundant life message and simply pursue materialism.  They seek riches for the sake of selfishness.  That was never Jesus message.  Abundant life was about coming into personal destiny and being able to fully life for God while having our needs wonderfully met.  


The miraculous faith experience of following the Shepherd’s voice is often shut down by religious people.  They seek to control the sheep and hold them back from reaching their full potential.  The strange voices will try to shout out their message of reason and sound wisdom thereby drowning out God’s voice.  Sometimes my lack of miracle-life is due to my own religiousness and trying to please God.  I or we must truly rely on the leading of the Shepherd’s voice bringing passion and surrender back to our lives.  


It is my hope that we are inspired to pursue the Shepherd’s Voice and let him lead us on a wonderful adventure full of salvation, abundance and miracles.  


In Application:

I don’t want to sound repetitive but here are the simply truths to put into practice. 


Learning to hear the Shepherd’s voice takes time in prayer with God’s sheep.


Learning to hear the Shepherd’s voice takes time in His Presence.  


Learning to hear the Shepherd’s voice takes time in His Word.  

The Shepherd's Grace


We are starting a Shepherd Series in the context of the preaching this fall.  As we move forward into another season in Courts of Praise, I believe the Lord led me to consider the life of a shepherd.  Last week we looked at Psalm 23 and without a doubt it is the most quoted of all the Psalms. Many Christians know it by heart and it is often heard at funerals and whispered to people in their hospital beds.  King David wrote it from his own personal experience as a shepherd boy who he was put in charge of tending his father’s flocks.  David knew sheep, their needs and their weaknesses.  And now as the head of a mighty army, King David was reminding himself of those good-ole days.  Although we don’t know the context behind David penning this psalm, some believe he was lonely fugitive dodging the spear of King Saul.  Or more likely he was running to stay alive when Absalom overthrew David’s kingdom.  He drew great comfort in knowing that the Lord was his shepherd and that He would provide, protect and guide him throughout his life.  The shepherd’s gaze was always on his flock.  They were his vision and livelihood.  The Shepherd would do everything to bless and keep his flock safe.  


The same is true for us here at Courts of Praise.  The Shepherd of our souls is looking out for us.  Hallelujah.  He is walking with us as we “become a grace-full, loving, accepting and forgiving community of believers from all nations who celebrate each other.”  This is our flock here and God has great plans and purposes for us to anticipate, especially in light of our 50th Anniversary this coming Oct 30th.  As well, another family of sheep are joining us here at Courts of Praise this December, Pastors Norman and Fanny Doromal.  God is good all the time and all the time God is good…



This morning I will be speaking out of the Book of Isaiah and stay true to the theme of the Shepherd.  The Book of Isaiah is one of my favourite Old Testament writings.  It contains accurate historical events about the nation of Israel.  It is also a significant passage of “prophetic Scripture”.  Isaiah speaks of the depths of Israel’s sin and the heights of God’s glory and His coming kingdom.  The first 39 chapters of Isaiah deal the punishment of God on Israel and its pagan neighbours because their sins we like scarlet (Isa 1:18).  There is a dramatic shift that takes place in Isa 40.  Oftentimes when we think of grace we think New Testament and the coming of Jesus Christ.  However, Isaiah is one of those Old Testament books that highlights the grace and restoration of God on behalf of his people.  This is a great encouragement to us. 


There are many key verses, here are a few of my favourite.  

  • Isa 7:14 - Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
  • Isa 9:6 - For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
  • Isa 26:3 - You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.
  • Isa 40:31 - but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
  • Isa 53:4-5 - Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.  5But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 
  • Isa 61:1 - The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…


Isa 40…

We are not alone as we journey through life, whether in good times or in the hardships and fears that Isaiah addressed in the first 39 chapters.  Have you ever felt like your “circumstances” are a burden?  Have you ever struggled with sin habitually?  Have you ever felt like you have failed God?  That was the experience of the people of God in Isaiah’s day. 


Isaiah 40 rings loud and clear with God’s message of restoration and God’s comfort for his people.  This chapter begins with:

  • Pardon - “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Isa 40:1-2).  
  • Guidance - “A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God”’ (Isa 40:3).
  • Promise - “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isa 40:8). 


The Shepherd of Grace

Each of these encouragements lead us to the key text this morning in keeping with the shepherd’s theme.  It is all about a Shepherd of Grace.  We have a great shepherd who knows us and who has committed himself to us.  Let’s continue to look at the Scripture; turn with me to Isa 40:11 - He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.   This verse is such a wonderful picture of grace and intimacy; the shepherd takes special care of his flock.  In the NKJV it speaks of the shepherd “feeding his flock” and “carrying them in his bosom”.  


The preceding verses speak of “good tidings” or good news.  God was coming to set the nation of Israel free from Babylon and the captives were coming home.  The Good News today is the defeat of sin and Satan by Jesus Christ and the salvation of all who will trust in Him; Isaiah preaches this in chapter 61:1–3.  How does this “good news” take place in our lives today?  It is in the loving arms of a Shepherd who carries his lambs home…


Here are a few of my thoughts regarding this verse:

1.    There are times in our lives when we are in need of spiritual nourishment; the Shepherd tends and feeds his flock…  We must learn to feed daily.  We don’t want fast food any more; listening to snippets of the latest and greatest internet preachers.  Paul warns Timothy of this, minus the internet; 2 Tim 4:3 - For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 

What does true nourishment look like?  It is allowing the Shepherd to feed you.  It is learning to be directed by the Holy Spirit with regards to our spiritual growth.  There is no greater feeding of our spiritual life that when we spend time in the presence of the Shepherd.  This takes time on our part; devotions are foundational to a healthy spiritual diet.  The reward of time spent with the Shepherd is grace.  True nourishment fills our lives with God’s grace:

  • When we are weak, grace strengthens.
  • When we are tempted, grace overcomes.
  • When we are attacked by Satan, grace defeats.
  • When we are sick, grace heals.
  • When we are in “need”, grace supplies.  
  • When we have sinned, grace forgives.
  • When we are anxious, grace calms.


2.    A famous poem describes God’s grace in a profound way - Footprints in the Sand.  

One night I dreamed a dream.

As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.

Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.

For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,

One belonging to me and one to my Lord.


After the last scene of my life flashed before me,

I looked back at the footprints in the sand.

I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,

especially at the very lowest and saddest times,

there was only one set of footprints.


This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.

"Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,

You'd walk with me all the way.

But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,

there was only one set of footprints.

I don't understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me."


He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you

Never, ever, during your trials and testings.

When you saw only one set of footprints,

It was then that I carried you.”


This poem accurately reflects the Shepherd of Grace who “gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart”.    Grace sustains us when we are not able to walk ourselves.  There are times in my own life when I have doubted my own salvation, struggled with fears, been betrayed, given into sin, been gossiped about, felt depressed and so on.  In those times I have felt undone, at times troubled to the point that I feel like I am falling from grace.  Then… my Shepherd… shows up…  His grace carries me.  Not like a sack of grain on his hip or a sack of potatoes slung over his shoulder.  His grace carries me close to his heart.  His grace restores faith in my heart, releases new courage, gives me hope for the future.  Our Shepherd of grace cares for his flock.  This reminds me of Matt 11:28-30 - Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (The Message).  


3.    The Shepherd of grace understands our circumstances and our responsibilities.  Staying in context with the shepherd - “he gently leads those that have young” - this speaks to me of another aspect of grace - gentleness.  We all have responsibilities especially as parents or pastors; in other words, we care for our “little flock.”  There are times when the burden of parenting or pastoring can become heavy, and in those times the Shepherd of grace is gentle.  This is also a word of encouragement to us to be gracious and gentle in our interaction with one another.  One of the thoughts that comes to mind in light of the shepherd and gentleness is his voice.  I can not picture a shepherd shouting or yelling at his flock.  This would scare them and cause them to feel unsafe.  The voice of the Shepherd is gentle and gracious.


In Conclusion:

Isa 40 begins with the prophet speaking “comfort” to the Israelites.  The good news was being proclaimed - “God is here” and the time for restoration has come.  God will come to his people with majestic strength and goodness.  He will care for his people like a shepherd, paying special attention to the weak. 


There is tremendous encouragement in knowing the Shepherd of grace.  The word picture of the shepherd carrying the sheep close to his heart is inspiring and comforting.  I hope that we all find the grace of God as spend time daily and devotionally with our Good Shepherd.  There are times when the struggles of life can overwhelm us, it is in those moments that the Shepherd of grace carries us along. 


This morning “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).


Let’s pray…

The Shepherd’s Vision



This morning we have gathered back together after an enjoyable summer and we are looking forward to the next season of life, both naturally and spiritually.  I was reminded of our mission statement as a focus point for our assembling this fall - “We are becoming a grace-full, loving, accepting and forgiving community of believers from all nations that celebrate each other and who are committed to bringing souls into God’s kingdom.”   There are certain thoughts and Scriptures that pop into my mind as we journey together with God and each other.  I am excited about our 50th Anniversary as a church and the opportunity to celebrate all that God has done.  I am looking forward to this fall and having Pastor Norman and Fanny Doromal join us.  God is doing a good work here in Courts of Praise.  


As I was praying about today I felt the Lord direct me to share about the vision of the church from the perspective of the shepherd.  The shepherd was a common worker in ancient Palestine and is commonly referred to in both the Old and New Testaments.  Beginning with Abel, a keeper of the flocks, down through Abraham, Moses and King David, the shepherd played an important part of Jewish culture.  Over time, because shepherds were the only source of provision and protection over their flocks, the term shepherd became descriptive of leaders both religious and political.  


Jesus stated of himself “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11).  Jesus is called a shepherd as the leader and guard of his people - 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, 21 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 (Heb. 13:20).  One of Jesus’ own parables was about the lost sheep - “Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbours, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue (Luke 15:4-7).  Jesus often spoke of vision in the context of reaching out to people in need.  Personally I am grateful that Jesus rescued me in my early twenties when I was like a little lost sheep.  


Psalm 23 - A psalm of David.

Psalm 23 is a beautiful Psalm describing the relationship between the Shepherd and his sheep.   One of David’s experiences as a young man was that of being a shepherd.  Now later in life King David reflects back on his “pastoral life” (pun intended) as he describes the full vision that the shepherd has for his flock; providing refreshment, guidance, protection and abundance.  Let’s take a brief look at the shepherd’s vision, verse by verse, and discover how we can find Jesus as our Good Shepherd.  


Verse 1 - The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 

In this Psalm King David is speaking from the perspective of a sheep putting trust in God as the Shepherd.  Psalm 23 describes the Shepherds love, care and protection for the sheep of his flock.  I can imagine young David sitting out in the fields at night watching the sheep and gazing into the heavens.  The greatness of God is more that we can imagine and yet he is making himself known to us as our shepherd.  What incredible news!  The creator of the heavens and earth, which David was surrounded by with his flock, was his shepherd.  He responds by saying “I shall not want”.  Some have made this about material possessions but I believe King David was saying “if God is my shepherd, I shall not want any other shepherd.”   I must remind myself that I belong to Christ.  Just as King David said “The Lord is my Shepherd” - his “I shall not want” comes from his total surrender to God.  In other words, I belong to Jesus and can trust him with my life.  There is no other shepherd for me.  From a sheep’s perspective - the vision is the shepherd.  Later on in the Psalm King David speaks of God’s wonderful provisions.  

Verse 2 - He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 

King David settles the foundation for vision being that of the shepherd.  Now in the following verses David begins to reveal the shepherd’s vision for his flock.  The first aspect of vision that David describes is that of providing green pastures and quiet waters.  What a beautiful place to envision.  In the context of sheep there are several things that are required in order for sheep to find that place of nourishment.  Sheep are very communal and like to stay in flocks (most of the time).  In order for a sheep to lie down and or feed in green pastures they must be free from fear.  The pasture must be a safe place, free from any predators.  The sheep must also be free from friction with other sheep in order to find food and drink.  Oftentimes the shepherd would have to separate sheep from this bad habit.  As well, the sheep needed to be free from all the nasty “nose flies” and pests that were so prevalent in the summer months.  

Thirst is something sheep all experience.   Sheep need the still waters to grow and be healthy.  The shepherd would lead the sheep to still waters in the early mornings before the heat of the day occurs.  


Verse 3 - he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 


Another vision of the shepherd is that of restoration.  I have often wondered what “He restores my soul” meant in the context of sheep.  Sheep often end up on their backs; “cast sheep” are those sheep who have ended up on their backs and cannot get back to their feet.  In other words, these helpless sheep need to be restored, they need help to stand again.  Often times the sheep’s wool becomes entangled with debris and weighed down with stuff.  These sheep can find themselves cast down.  Another reason for a sheep being “cast” is that due to fat; so the shepherd puts these sheep on a diet so to speak so that that don’ t become easy picking for the enemy. 


King David goes onto to tell us the Shepherd guides the sheep in paths of righteousness.  This speaks to me of the shepherd’s vision to see his sheep on the right path, so to speak.  Sheep can too easily follow the trails that become ruts that they get lost in.  These trails often lead to a pasture that has already been grazed.  So the shepherd is always leading the sheep to new pastures.  The shepherd knows the sheep of his flock and we are told that the sheep can hear the shepherd’s voice.  The shepherd would discover a lot about his sheep as he led them.  Some sheep are bossy, some sheep butt heads, some sheep are sick or injured.  As the shepherd would led the sheep would learn to follow his voice.  Along the way the rod and staff come in handy for the journey.  


Verse 4 - Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.


The valley of death is the half way point of the Psalm…  The shepherd’s vision has provided, restored and guided the sheep in the good way.  Now the sheep are in the valley of the shadow of death, alone, but with the shepherd.  The higher grounds, the greener pastures, we all long for come through intimacy with the Shepherd but we have to pass through the valley of death.  The same is true in life.  In the valleys of life, we discover that God can lead us through.  The valleys also contain the streams of water that are refreshing for the sheep.  


We don’t have to fear because the vision of the shepherd is to protect his flock in dark times with the rod and staff.  The Shepherd’s rod was a thick piece of wood used to protect the sheep from the enemy when they needed it.  The staff was a longer piece of wood with a hooked end and would be used to “hook” the sheep near when in need.  The staff was used with new born ewes to place the ewe back with its mother so as to not have the smell of the shepherd; sometimes the mother would reject the ewe if it smelled human.  The staff was also used to bring an ewe together with the shepherd.  The staff was also used to guide the sheep gently pushing or pulling this way or that.  Sometimes the staff was used to rescue sheep who had fallen into holes…  Both the rod and the staff are used to see the shepherd’s vision fulfilled.  


Verse 5 - You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 


One of the jobs of a shepherd in the spring time was to prepare the pastureland.  The shepherd would make trips into the country side to “check out the land” and make sure the pastures were prepared.  The shepherds removed the poisonous plants and checked for any dangers from spring run-off and made sure the predators dens were discovered.  In other words, they prepared a pasture in the presence of enemies; they made the land safe.  


As spring turned into summer, the sheep would begin to encounter “flies”, just like we have mosquitoes.    The nose flies caused the sheep serious trouble both physically and mentally; blindness, madness etc. The shepherd would apply the anointing oil to protect their noses from the flies.  The anointing oil was applied daily to protect the sheep.  The summer time was also “scab” time; a disease transferred by contact, often by head butts.  This disease also required an anointing of oil to heal and protect the sheep from illness.  This anointing was liberally applied so that healing was full, complete and quick.  Another aspect of the vision of the shepherd was to maintain the health of the flock.  


Verse 6 - Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. 


One of the strongest visions the Lord our Shepherd has for his flock is that of relationship.  God desires his presence, his goodness and love to follow and surround the lives of his sheep moment by moment.  The Presence of God (the Shepherd of our souls) changes everything.  I know that we live in a broken world and we all have struggles and temptations.  It is in those dark times that King David tells us to find shelter and dwelling in God’s house.  From the perspective of the Shepherd his goodness and mercy are never ending and must simply be received by the sheep.  


In Conclusion

The Lord has vision for his flock.  He is our shepherd and this Psalm encourages us to think about his goodness.  As we gather back together this fall for another season of community, our Shepherd has plans.  Jesus is the good shepherd who gives his life for his sheep by becoming the Lamb of God and who was worthy to take away the sins of mankind.  Sheep are very dependent upon the Shepherd; in other words, they cannot save themselves.  It is the desire of the shepherd to care for the sheep…


The Shepherd does so by providing all that we need for life and godliness - 2 Peter 1:3.  We are told to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things (food, clothing and shelter - life’s basics) will be provided (Matt 6:33).  The shepherd has a vision to restore and set right those sheep who have fallen on their backs.  The shepherd also seeks to protect the sheep from their enemies and from themselves.  The shepherd desires health for his flock.  The shepherd wants the flock to know his voice and to enjoy his presence.


In Application

We have read through Psalm 23 today.  As we have done so, what has the Holy Spirit been speaking to you about?  


Maybe its the first time you thought of Jesus as the Shepherd of your soul…  Today would be a great day to be like the lost sheep coming home.  


For many of us we need to allow the Good Shepherd to “make us lie down” in times of rest and renewal.  


I think the Holy Spirit is talking to some of us about being unruly sheep.  Sometimes we butt heads and cause bumps and bruises among the flock; we need to let Jesus correct us and to let Jesus heal us.  


Maybe you are struggling with the pests of life.  Those little irritants that get under our skin.  Don’t worry about it, just ask Jesus to anoint you with his healing oil.  


Some of us here today maybe under spiritual attack from an unseen enemy.  We need to learn to let Jesus our Shepherd fight our battles for us.  The Scriptures becomes God’s rod – protecting us from the enemy and the things that are contrary to righteousness.  The staff symbolizes the Spirit of God coming alongside to encourage us in the unseen war.  


Dwelling in the house of the Lord forever is about fully engaging and enjoying the Presence of God in all matters of life.  Let’s draw near to God and find rest for our souls.