rePost – Shepherds

shepherd-edit
A shepherd pic I took from our bus when I was in Israel.

OK – What are shepherds? Well, they’re the guys who watched the sheep. Many times in ancient Jewish culture they were young boys, but sometimes older guys did it too. They were responsible for moving the sheep from one field to the next so they could get plenty to eat and safe water to drink. They also protected the sheep from predators and would leave the group in order to search for a lost sheep. The sheep knew the shepherd’s voice. With a few shepherds and their sheep all intermingled, the shepherd could call his sheep and only those who were his would follow. Shepherds led a humble life – probably a bit of a lonely life too out in the fields with nothing but sheep (and God) to talk to all day. This sets the scene for what we’re about to read. A group of shepherds were out in a field near Bethlehem one night when according the Message paraphrase of Luke 2:8-20:

They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master.  This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:

Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.”

They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed. Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!

Now consider this: These particular shepherds are famous. Think about it: Shepherds were humble nobodys and social outcasts in their own culture, but here we are talking about them 2000 years later. What did they do that made them different?

1. They listened to God. (vs 15)

When the angel appeared that night in the field, there were lots of voices competing for their attention: 1) The voice of Doubt saying “You must be hallucinating. It was something you ate.” 2) The voice of Duty “You can’t go into Bethlehem. You’re responsible for these sheep.” 3) The voice of Laziness “You’re tired. It’s been a long day. Just stay here and rest.”

2. They ran to Jesus. (vs 16)

Once they decided they were going to listen to God, they had a sense of urgency. They didn’t waste time. They allowed their own Godly curiosity to dictate their pace. (When I’ve preached this message, I use the scene from “When Harry Met Sally” where Harry runs to the Christmas Party to talk to Sally. At one point he uses the line ” When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” I think that quote is appropriate for the shepherds too.)

3. They told everyone about Jesus. (vs 17-18)

When they had seen Jesus, they didn’t keep it to themselves. News spread quickly ’cause they were so excited. Matthew 12:34 says “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” The shepherds couldn’t contain themselves. Much like the news of a woman’s engagement. Sometimes she doesn’t even get to tell everyone, ’cause the news spreads so fast that people hear before she can get to them. Also, Remember, the angel had told them that this news was for “all people,” and so they were just doing their part.

4. They worshiped Jesus. (vs 20)

The shepherds worshiped with their mouths, but also with their lives as they told others and spread the news of Jesus.

I don’t know if it’s important to have people talking about us 2000 years later, but these shepherds stand out among all the other shepherds of the world because they reacted to Jesus in these ways. How would our lives be different if we did too? Would we stand out from the rest of the world if we truly listened to God, felt an urgency to be with Him, told others about Him, and worshiped Him? I think so and I pray that my life will reflect the attitudes and actions of these shepherd nobodys.

Other interesting Stuff:

It is very possible that these Bethlehem shepherds were watching over the temple flock – taking care of the sacrificial lambs. I think it’s cool that some of the first to see the true Lamb of God were the humble folks who took care of the sacrificial lambs from the temple.

Note that when angels appear, they aren’t greeted as if they are cute little flying cupids. They are feared. The first thing out of an angel’s mouth is almost always, “Do not be afraid.”

The fact that God chose to send the angel to the shepherds spoke volumes. Shepherds were regarded as unreliable and were not allowed to give testimony in courts (Morris), and so God chose to use them in spite of that reputation. Notice in verse 18 that when the people heard what they had to say, they were amazed. I think it’s interesting that they believed these unreliable shepherds enough to be amazed!

Notice the angelic glory in comparison the the humble Jesus who created the angels.

In ancient Jewish culture, when a boy was born, local musicians congregated at his home to greet him with music. (Daily Study Bible) Since Jesus was born in a stable, the angelic choir had to take the place of the local musicians.

The swaddling clothes was normal, but if the angel hadn’t told them to look for Jesus in a manger (feeding trough) they would never have believed it. Calvin said, “This was a revolting sight, and was sufficient of itself to produce an aversion to Christ. For what could be more improbable than to believe that he was the King of the whole people, who was deemed unworthy to be ranked with the lowest of the multitude?”

Check out what Calvin says about the shepherds “glorifying and praising God” in verse 20. “If the cradle of Christ had such an effect upon them, as to make them rise from the stable and the manger to heaven, how much more powerful ought the death and resurrection of Christ to be in raising us to God?”

 

Misconceptions:

Most scholars agree that the time of Jesus’ birth was probably not Dec 25th. In his commentary, Adam Clarke suggests a fall time frame due to the fact that the sheep were in the fields at night.

Shepherds fields in Israel are much more rocky than Most Americans imagine. Notice the shepherd and sheep in this pic.
Shepherds fields in Israel are much more rocky than Most Americans imagine. Notice the shepherd and sheep in this pic.
shepherds-field-with-shepherd
Shepherds fields in Israel are much more rocky than Most Americans imagine. Notice the shepherd and sheep in this pic.
A Manger was a stone feeding trough for animals, rather than the wood/hay centerpiece in most Nativity scenes.
A Manger was a stone feeding trough for animals, rather than the wood/hay centerpiece in most Nativity scenes.

36″

I wore a pair of shorts with a 36 waist yesterday!! I can remember exactly, but it’s probably been at least 10 years since I was in a 36. Right before we left for our vacation last week, I went to get some more shorts. The first 36s that I tried on fit great!! I was excited. Too bad the next pair I had to go back to my regular 38s. Oh well – at least I’m moving in the right direction. It’s now week 14 of this lifestyle change and the scale said I weighed 229lbs this morning. When I started, I was 240lbs and my goal is 190lbs. I’ve still got a long way to go, but according to Andy Stanley, it’s “direction that determines destination” and I’m moving in the right direction. In all honesty, I figured I would have weighed much more this morning, ’cause last week was vacation. I ate all kinds of “bad” (and good) things and I didn’t get the exercise in that has become my routine.  I was happy with 229lbs.

Another milestone occurred during this vacation. I actually showed up at the beach and got in the water with no shirt. I have worn a shirt for years when I swim ’cause I’ve always been too ashamed of my big belly. (And it always feels awkward to have my shirt off when I’m doing youth ministry stuff around pools, etc.) I think I’ll still wear a shirt for youth stuff, but I crossed some sort of line this past week that I think is notable. Of course, I still don’t look all that different than I did when I started, so maybe this has more to do with me not caring what other people think anymore – of course the fact that there were other guys on the beach who were fatter than I helped too.

Here are the pics this week:

Week 1 - 240lbs - Yuck!
Week 1 - 240lbs - Yuck!
Week 14 - 229lbs
Week 14 - 229lbs

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A Bump in the Road

I’m 9 Weeks into this whole weight loss/exercise/diet thing and I guess I hit a bump in the road. Last week I weighed 227.5lbs and this week I was back @ 230lbs. I don’t really think I gained 2.5 lbs. I think it has to do with when I weigh myself. I didn’t eat as well this past week (and I have no excuses – well, maybe I could blame Shana’s visit for one meal, but. . .well. . . that’s just me playing the “blame game” that I learned from my ancestors back in Genesis.) Anyway, I think there are probably gonna be weeks where I feel like I’m getting nowhere. This is one of them, but regardless of what the scales say, I can still say I feel better. I feel like I’m really doing well. I’ve been on the cholesterol medication for just over a month now and taking “fish oil” for about as long. The lifestyle change that I’m really seeking is well underway and it really hasn’t been as difficult as I had imagined. If I can just make my feet hit the floor in the mornings, then after that, the exercise part comes easy. Eating better will always be difficult, but I’m finding more things that I enjoy that are “healthy.” (By the way, Miranda made some great pork chops last night!)

Here are the pics:

Week 9 - 230lbs
Week 9 - 230lbs

Week 1 - 240lbs - Yuck!
Week 1 - 240lbs - Yuck!

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Seven Pounds

burger
A 60lb Burger!!

Here’s another pic of what I’ve gotta lose. This burger is 60 lbs. So far, so good.

This week I weighed in at 233! I lost 7 pounds in my first week with this new lifestyle of exercise and better eating.

I also have an appointment to see my doctor this coming Thursday. I’m sure he’s gonna tell me I gotta eat more vegetables and salads and rabbit food, but he’ll probably also want to check my cholesterol again. (It was actually too high to measure the last time.) This time, I’m gonna request the pills to get it down though.

Anyway, keep prayin’ and encouraging me. This is not easy. I’m constantly hungry. And every time my stomach growls, I’m tempted to have a chicken fried steak! My body is simply not used to surviving on “just enough.” It’s used to having all kinds of extra fuel in the tank – and to be more accurate, I probably shouldn’t even call it “fuel” – the junk I’m used to eating, is really more garbage than fuel. (Tasty garbage, but garbage nonetheless.) A sidenote: I’ve noticed that when I exercise, it benefits me spiritually and emotionally too – the sermon podcasts I listen to on the ipod help me to grow in tons of different ways too. I’ll do a post with some of my favorite podcasts later. Here are my pics for this week.

Week 1 - 240 Lbs - Yuck!!
Week 1 - 240 Lbs - Yuck!!
Week 2 - 233lbs
Week 2 - 233lbs

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Lost Kid

60 Lb KidThe kid in the picture weighs 60lbs. That’s how much I’ve got to lose.

Right now I weigh 240lbs and according to some website that Miranda got on, at my age and height, I should be 178 to be healthy. That means I’ve gotta lose that kid and a couple more pounds.

I decided that if I blogged about my progress – my ups and downs – I might be more motivated to actually stick to this whole lifestyle change. If I know you guys are watching me and I have to update you every week, then I’ll feel a little positive peer pressure to do well. So. . .I guess this is the beginning of a weekly series of blogs where I’ll update you on my progress. Also thought I’d post a picture each week. (Maybe I’ll actually see the difference and be motivated too. – Of course that could work against me too, but. . .well, I’m gonna give it a shot.)

240 Lbs - Yuck!!
240 Lbs - Yuck!!

The good news is that Miranda is doing this with me, but she doesn’t want to be quite so public with it all.

I’m already an “old dad,” and I’m not willing to risk being a “dead dad” so I’ve got to do this. I want to be a part of my kids lives and well. . .I haven’t been so motivated before.

So the plan is – eat more healthy, exercise regularly, and enjoy life. (Oh – I’m also using a cpap now and hopefully sleeping better.) My goal this week is simply to get up and exercise, eat better, and make an appointment with the doctor. I’ll let you know how it goes.

So there’s my first pic. 240 lbs. Yuck!!
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