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The Third Week in April

We Read…

In our Psalm for today, we read David’s words about God being his ultimate shepherd. For most of us, we haven’t experienced the life of a shepherd, but David has! He grew up taking care of his family’s sheep, spending long nights awake with them, defending them with his slingshot and wit. David knew how a good shepherd acted and how a good shepherd treated his sheep, and David saw that God was doing this for God’s people. God guides, gives rest, travels with, and protects us like a good shepherd would protect their sheep.

And who better to learn the ways of shepherding from than the ultimate shepherd and creator of sheep himself (aka - Jesus)! In John 10, Jesus continues this metaphor of shepherding as he describes himself as our good shepherd. He shows us that he deeply cares for us, so much so that he is willing to lay down his life for us. How does this reveal God’s heart for us? 

Later in 1 John, we’re called to reflect Jesus in this way - by laying down our lives for the sake of others. For most of us, this doesn’t mean we will literally die for the people around us, but it means that we actively choose others’ needs over our own wants. 

• How can we die to ourselves so that Jesus can be glorified around us?

Psalm 23

    The LORD is my shepherd. 

     I lack nothing. 

    2 He lets me rest in grassy meadows; 

     he leads me to restful waters; 

      3 he keeps me  alive. 

    He guides me in proper paths 

     for the sake of his good name. 

    4 Even when I walk 

     through the darkest valley, 

     I fear no danger 

      because you are with me. 

    Your rod and your staff— 

     they protect me. 

    5 You set a table for me 

     right in front of my enemies. 

    You bathe my head in oil; 

     my cup is so full it spills over! 

    6 Yes, goodness and faithful love 

     will pursue me all the days of my life, 

     and I will live in the LORD’s house 

     as long as I live.

Acts 4:5-12

5 The next day the leaders, elders, and legal experts gathered in Jerusalem, 6 along with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and others from the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and asked, “By what power or in what name did you do this?” 

8 Then Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, answered, “Leaders of the people and elders, 9 are we being examined today because something good was done for a sick person, a good deed that healed him? 10 If so, then you and all the people of Israel need to know that this man stands healthy before you because of the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. 11 This Jesus is the stone you builders rejected; he has become the cornerstone! 12 Salvation can be found in no one else. Throughout the whole world, no other name has been given among humans through which we must be saved.”

1 John 3:16-24

16 This is how we know love: Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 But if someone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but refuses to help—how can the love of God dwell in a person like that? 

18 Little children, let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth. 19 This is how we will know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts in God’s presence. 20 Even if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and knows all things. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts don’t condemn us, we have confidence in relationship to God. 22 We receive whatever we ask from him because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 This is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love each other as he commanded us. 24 Those who keep his commandments dwell in God and God dwells in them. This is how we know that he dwells in us, because of the Spirit he has given us.

John 10:11-18

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 When the hired hand sees the wolf coming, he leaves the sheep and runs away. That’s because he isn’t the shepherd; the sheep aren’t really his. So the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them. 13 He’s only a hired hand and the sheep don’t matter to him. 

14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I give up my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that don’t belong to this sheep pen. I must lead them too. They will listen to my voice and there will be one flock, with one shepherd. 

17 “This is why the Father loves me: I give up my life so that I can take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I give it up because I want to. I have the right to give it up, and I have the right to take it up again. I received this commandment from my Father.”

We Think…

• What stands out to you in these verses?

• Does anything confuse you or not make sense?

• How do these verses compare to your own experience in life or in the church? What are you considering?

• What questions come to mind?

• How do you think Jesus’s audience reacted to hearing him refer to himself as our shepherd?

We Feel…

• What emotions are you experiencing today? How are you making space for these feelings?

• Where have you seen God today or this week? What is pointing you to God (maybe it is something in creation, maybe a friend or adult that cares for you)?

• What has God made new in your life? In your heart? 

• How does it make you feel to hear that Jesus knows you deeply?

• Have you felt like you can recognize Jesus’s voice like he says in John 10? Sometimes this means an audible voice, but it might also mean recognizing when something is from Jesus or from our own desires. 

We Believe…

We believe that Jesus laid down his life for us. Sometimes, the details get a little fuzzy between different denominations and church groups, though. 

• What does it mean that he laid down his life?

• What did his death accomplish for us?

• How exactly are we saved through Jesus? 

It can be easy to get caught in the weeds and distracted by the details. We should be asking questions and seeking to know God in deeper ways, but those questions shouldn’t stop us from seeing the bigger picture. God loves us SO much that Jesus came to walk with us and experience life with us and eventually died because humanity chose violence over Jesus’s way of peace and love. Jesus could have left the cross at any point, but he didn’t. Instead, he died a real death. Luckily for us, that isn’t the end of the story. From Jesus’s real death came his real resurrection, which we are now invited into. But before he could conquer death, he had to walk through it. We believe that Jesus won’t abandon us when we go through our darkest valleys or the times that feel like death because we know he has already faced it for us.

We Practice…

This week, try to encounter one of the physical objects or scenes described in Psalm 23. Maybe this looks like going outside to find green grass or a body of water; maybe this looks like walking on a path or pouring oil over your hands. Read the psalm as you experience one of the objects it describes and see if you can picture what David pictured as he wrote these words about God.