A Healing Balm

I just read a blog post that was published today that was quite refreshing. It’s titled, Redeeming the Time,” and you can read it by clicking here. It’s based off of the King James Version (KJV and also NKJV) of Ephesians 5:16“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Here is a quote from that blog post:

“Redeeming” is like having a free ticket to a carnival. It is like winning the golden ticket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We redeem points, we redeem a coupon. We redeem the time because it is a gift we’ve been given and granted dominion over. When Christ “redeemed us,” He was claiming what was His, and cashing in.

“…Because the days are evil,” redeem the gift you’ve been given! So break out the good silver, wear your best dress, and stop saving everything for a rainy day. It’s raining now. Don’t focus on all the evil, redeem what you have been granted, time yes, but time spent in His presence, His peace, His joy…. (Quote source here).

Reading that was like applying a balm to my soul. “Balm” in the Bible is described as the Balm of Gilead–a rare perfume used medicinally, that was mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, and named for the region of Gilead, where it was produced. The expression stems from William Tyndale’s language in the King James Bible of 1611, and has come to signify a universal cure in figurative speech” (quote source here).

A universal cure….

In an article published on March 15, 2021, titled What is the Balm of Gilead According to the Bible?” by Tammy Kennington, author, speaker, and contributor on Crosswalk.com, she writes about the three times in the Bible that the “Balm of Gilead” is mentioned, and their significance and meaning to each other (her article is available at this link). At the end of her article she answers the question, Why is the Balm of Gilead so important for Christians?:

The Balm of Gilead is a powerful symbol of Christ’s power in the life of a believer beginning with the initial covenant established in the book of Genesis. Like Laban with Jacob, we have an enemy who “seeks to steal, kill, and destroy,” [see John 10:10] but once Christ is our Lord the covenant is sealed. There is a testimony that stands as an agreement between heaven and hell. Satan knows He has no power over those who belong to God.

This was made possible because the Balm of Gilead, the Great Physician, was pierced like the tender root of the balsam plant. In the same way that the leaves of the plant were thrust through to extract the resin, Jesus was broken that we might benefit from His wounds. We received new life through the one tree—the cross upon which Jesus died. (Quote source here.)

In a book published in 2015 titled, Let God Fight Your Battles: Being Peaceful in the Storm,” by Joyce Meyer, one of the world’s leading practical Bible teachers, a New York Times bestselling author, and President of Joyce Meyer Ministries, there is a chapter titled, “God Will Provide” (Chapter 11), with a subsection titled “The Enemy Steals, God Provides” on pages 107-109. In that section, she writes the following regarding the scripture reference mentioned above (John 10:10):

The Old Testament includes many stories about the enemies of Israel and Judah, enemies who wanted to destroy God’s people. Likewise, you and I have an enemy, Satan. He has a plan to destroy us. He is working on that plan, and part of the way he does it is to steal from us and bring loss into our lives. But God has a plan to surprise him and bring us victory. We can be confident of this, and this is why we can worship God in faith when we find ourselves in the battles of life.

A good friend of mine who is a Greek scholar once shared with me a paraphrase of John 10:10. It gives us a clear idea of just how determined the enemy is to kill, steal, and destroy, but it also show us that Jesus has something else altogether in mind.

The thief wants to get his hands into every good thing in your life. In fact, this pickpocket is looking for any opportunity to wiggle his way so deeply into your personal affairs that he can walk off with everything you hold precious and dear. And that’s not all–when he’s finished stealing all your goods and possessions, he’ll take his plan to rob you blind to the next level. He’ll create conditions and situations so horrible that you’ll see no way to solve the problem except to sacrifice everything that remains from his previous attacks. The goal of this thief is to totally waste and devastate your life. If nothing stops him, he’ll leave you insolvent, flat broke, and cleaned out in every area of your life. You’ll end up feeling as if you are finished and out of business! Make no mistake–the enemy’s ultimate aim is to obliterate you!

But I came that they might have, keep, and constantly retain a vitality, gusto, vigor, and zest for living that springs up from deep down inside. I came that they might embrace this unrivaled, unequaled, matchless, incomparable, richly-loaded and overflowing life to the ultimate maximum! (Quote source: Rick Renner, Sparkling Gems, p. 548 and at this link.)

I am so glad for the words, “But I have come,” spoken by Jesus Himself. He is always able to interrupt the enemy’s plan and to bring victory. As I said earlier, no one gets through life without battles. But those battles belong to the Lord, and if we worship Him through them, He will bring us to victory. (Quote source: “Let God Fight Your Battles: Being Peaceful in the Storm,” pp. 107-109).

Our healing balm for everything including the things mentioned in John 10:10 above and in all of life is found in Jesus Christ.

In a book published in 2019 titled, Unfailing: Standing Strong on God’s Promises in the Uncertainties of Life,” by Rob Renfroe, Loft Lead Pastor at The Woodlands Methodist Church, and President and Publisher of Good News, there is a chapter titled “The Promise of New Purpose” (Chapter 3) with a subsection titled, “Come to Me.” On pages 39-40 in that subsection, he writes:

Jesus begins here [see Matthew 11:28-30] because nothing is more important. Real peace, inner strength, and an abundant life–they all begin when we come to Jesus.

We look to all kinds of things outside of ourselves to bring us life and give us peace–a drink, a drug, a promotion, money, success, the admiration of others, a more attractive spouse. But our problem is not an outside problem; it’s an inside problem. It’s a soul problem, a spiritual problem. And there’s only one reality that can satisfy what our souls long for–a relationship with the One who created us to know him.

Fifth-century theologian and philosopher Augustine, who converted to Christianity after giving in to all the desires of the flesh, wrote in his autobiography, speaking to God: “For Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee.” Twelve hundred years later, Blaise Pascal wrote about the same reality, which he described as an “infinite abyss [which] cannot be filled but by an infinite and immutable object, that is, but by God himself.” In the early twentieth century, the Indian Christian missionary Sundar Singh describes in a beautiful way the yearning of the soul and our need for a relationship with God. “In comparison with this big world, the human heart is only a small thing. Though the world is so large, it is utterly unable to satisfy this tiny heart…. Its capacities can only be satisfied in the infinite God. As water is restless until it reaches its level, so the soul has not peace until it rests in God.” 

There is a reason the things of this world cannot put our souls at peace or bring our spirits alive. In Ecclesiastes we are told that God has placed eternity within the human heart (3:11). Within each of us there is a desire to be connected to what is real and true and lasting and to live for a cause that will make a difference in this world and in the world to come.

It’s no surprise that trying to live by the rules does not bring rest to our souls. It’s no wonder that a religion of striving to reform ourselves never satisfies our desire for an abundant life. Neither do professional success or the pleasures of the flesh make us complete or fill the emptiness within our hearts.

We are human beings made in the image of God. We have a spiritual nature. Whether we recognize it or not, the restlessness within us–the “in-here” longing we try to fulfill with an “out-there” solution–is the cry of our souls not for something, but for Someone.

One of the beauties of the Christian faith is the truth that the universe is inherently relational. Before physical reality existed, there was one God in three persons–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit–sharing life together. Being made in the image of God, at the heart of who you are, there is a relational need greater than any earthly pleasure or achievement can fulfill. So, Jesus calls us to a relationship. He says, “If you want rest for your soul, first you must come to me.” (Quote source: “Unfailing: Standing Strong on God’s Promises in the Uncertainties of Life,” pp. 39-40.)

And this brings us back to the original topic that started this blog post–redeeming the time. Let’s take a closer look at what that means. GotQuestions.org provides us with the following information:

Ephesians 5:15–16 in the King James Version says, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” The phrase redeeming the time is also found in Colossians 4:5: “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time” (KJV). In both passages, redeeming the time is related to wisdom in how we “walk,” that is, in how we live.

To redeem something means to buy it back, to regain possession of it. Time is a gift from God, and none of us know how much of it we are allotted. Only God knows how much time each of us has on this earth to make decisions that will impact eternity (Psalm 139:16). When God says we should be “redeeming the time,” He wants us to live in constant awareness of that ticking clock and make the most of the time we have. In fact, the NIV’s translation of Ephesians 5:16 uses the phrase making the most of every opportunity instead of redeeming the time. Rather than waste our days on frivolous pursuits that leave no lasting imprint, Scripture instructs us to be diligent about doing good (Titus 3:8).

The context of the command to redeem the time helps us understand what redeeming the time looks like and why it’s important: “Be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life” (Ephesians 5:15–18, NLT). Redeeming the time means that we are careful in how we live. We seek out and employ wisdom (see Proverbs 2:1–15). We seize every opportunity and use it for God’s glory. We think through our plans and make sure they align with God’s will. And we avoid empty, harmful activities such as getting drunk. Why are we to live this way? “Because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). We must overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

Jesus taught His disciples the necessity of redeeming the time: “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4). Jesus was diligent about keeping to His mission. Distractions were as prevalent then as they are now, but He let none of them deter Him from preaching and teaching God’s Word. That was why He had come (Luke 4:43). Though He spent only 33 years on this earth, Jesus changed the world forever because He redeemed the time.

We can learn to redeem the time by becoming conscious of the fact that we may not have another day. The song “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw is about redeeming the time. While its focus is on pursuing earthly passions in the time we have left, the lyrics make an important point. They conclude with this thought: “Someday I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dying.” As Christians, we should live like we were dying and pursue all God has given us to do while we have time. Everything done for Christ on earth earns eternal rewards (Mark 9:41). That which was done for selfish, carnal reasons will burn up and blow away (1 Corinthians 3:12–15).

Another way we can learn to redeem the time is by asking God to help us. We should start every morning by committing our day to the Lord and asking Him to help us do something that day that has eternal significance. By beginning our day with eternity in mind, we become more aware of spiritual nudges in our hearts. We look for ways we can honor the Lord, help someone else, or utilize our time in productive ways. Sitting at a red light, we can pray for our neighbor. Mopping the floor, we can worship in song. At a restaurant, we can leave an extra big tip along with a gospel tract or a card inviting the waiter to church. We can evaluate our gifts and interests and find ways to invest them for God’s kingdom. Volunteering, serving at church, leading a ministry, taking Bible studies to the jails and prisons, and studying to show ourselves “approved unto God” are all ways we can redeem the time (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV).

James 4:14 reminds us that our earthly lives are no more than a fog that appears and then quickly evaporates. Our money and possessions will be given to someone else. Our jobs will be filled by others. Our families may remember us with fondness but will move on with lives that don’t include us. All that remains of our lives on earth is that which was invested in eternity. In the end, all that matters is what we did or did not do to redeem the time (Psalm 102:3144:4). (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words from a plague that hung on my bedroom wall when I was a little girl. It was written by a British missionary named C. T. Studd (1860-1931), and on that plaque were these words–Only one life ’twill soon be past…

Only what is done . . .

For Christ . . .

Will last . . .

YouTube Video: “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw:

YouTube Video: “God Turn It Around” by Jon Reddick:

YouTube Video: “Yes He Can” by Cain:

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Skills of The Shepherd

One of the most beloved psalms of all times is Psalm 23, composed by David, and found in the Old Testament Book of Psalms. Here is Psalm 23 from the NKJV:

The Lord the Shepherd of His People

A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down
in green pastures;

He leads me beside
the still waters.

He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths
of righteousness

For His name’s sake.

Yea, 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.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me

All the days of my life;
And I will dwell
in the house of the Lord

Forever.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want….” Have you ever thought about all the things a shepherd has to do in taking care of his or her sheep? As I was seeking information online regarding shepherding, I came across an article written by a woman who has been a shepherd at Vermont Grand View Farm in Vermont for many years. The article was published on September 24, 2019, and titled, Skills of a Shepherd,” by Kim Goodling, a shepherd, and in the article she lists the skills that make a good shepherd:

Our farmstay guests often seem to have a romantic view of what I do as a shepherd. I have come to realize that they really have very little knowledge behind the skills of a shepherd. It’s as if they are looking through mist, only getting half of the picture of the life of a shepherd. They can see the general forms and shape of my work but not the day to day details. If I were to write an ad for a shepherd position, here is a list of skills and attributes that would make a fine shepherd:

Skills of a Shepherd

    1. Must be tough at heart. Shepherding is not just about sweet lambs and bucolic pastures with sheep grazing. It is about the survival of the fittest. It is about making life and death decisions that will tear your heart apart.
    2. Must be willing to do hard work. Shepherding does not just require hard physical labor of moving fences, moving sheep, and handling 40 pound bales of hay. It is about heart work. It is having to do hard things and making hard decisions. It is about learning to go with your instincts and let your gut be your guide.
    3. Must be willing to be humbled daily. Proud people need not apply. If there is any one thing that can bring you to your knees, it is shepherding. There will be days when you make the wrong decision, when you overlook the obvious, when the not so obvious will attack and leave you on your knees. If ever you thought you knew it all, forget it! There will always be days when you realize there is much yet to learn.
    4. Must not be afraid to learn new things. On a regular basis, you will be required to learn a new skill, a new task, a new way of doing things. An experienced shepherd once told me as she was coaching me over the phone on how to do an internal exam on a laboring ewe, “if you don’t want to do it, then you should not be a shepherd.” Shepherding will take you out of your comfort zone at times and you have to be willing to step forward.
    5. Must have great endurance. Shepherds must be willing to work in all adverse weather conditions-rain, sleet, snow, subzero degree temperatures, extreme heat, and humidity AND they must be able to keep sheep alive in such adverse conditions. They must be able to work with little sleep, lift with little strength, study with weak knees.
    6. Must exhibit ability to observe. One time my husband found me just standing in our paddock area with the sheep. He asked me what I was doing. I responded, “getting to know my sheep.” It takes great observation and getting to know what normal looks like to identify what is NOT normal.
    7. Must have the patience of a saint. Sheep will test you and you must be able to outlast them and outsmart them. Once you think you have them figured out, they are at it again…. (Quote source here.)

It’s not easy being a shepherd of sheep, yet that is how Jesus describes himself as “the Good Shepherd,” in John 10. In answer to the question, What did Jesus mean when he said, ‘I am the good Shepherd’?” GotQuestions.org provides this answer:

“I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11) is the fourth of seven “I am” declarations of Jesus recorded only in John’s Gospel. These “I am” proclamations point to His unique, divine identity and purpose. Immediately after declaring that He is “the door” in John 10:7, Jesus declares “I am the good shepherd.” He describes Himself as not only “the shepherd” but the “good shepherd.” What does this mean?

It should be understood that Jesus is “the” good shepherd, not simply “a” good shepherd, as others may be, but He is unique in character (Psalm 23Zechariah 13:7Hebrews 13:201 Peter 2:251 Peter 5:4). The Greek word kalos, translated “good,” describes that which is noble, wholesome, good, and beautiful, in contrast to that which is wicked, mean, foul, and unlovely. It signifies not only that which is good inwardly—character—but also that which is attractive outwardly. It is an innate goodness. Therefore, in using the phrase “the good shepherd,” Jesus is referencing His inherent goodness, His righteousness, and His beauty. As shepherd of the sheep, He is the one who protects, guides, and nurtures His flock.

As He did in declaring that He is “the door of the sheep” in John 10:7, Jesus is making a contrast between Himself and the religious leaders, the Pharisees (John 10:12–13). He compares them to a “hireling” or “hired hand” who doesn’t really care about the sheep. In John 10:9, Jesus speaks of thieves and robbers who sought to enter the sheepfold stealthily. In that passage the Jewish leaders (Pharisees) are contrasted with Christ, who is the Door. Here, in John 10:12, the hireling is contrasted with the true or faithful shepherd who willingly gives up his life for the sheep. He who is a “hireling” works for wages, which are his main consideration. His concern is not for the sheep but for himself. Interestingly enough, the shepherds of ancient times were not usually the owners of the flock. Nevertheless, they were expected to exercise the same care and concern the owners would. This was characteristic of a true shepherd. However, some of the hirelings thought only of themselves. As a result, when a wolf appeared—the most common threat to sheep in that day—the hireling abandoned the flock and fled, leaving the sheep to be scattered or killed (John 10:12–13).

First, to better understand the purpose of a shepherd during the times of Jesus, it is helpful to realize that sheep are utterly defenseless and totally dependent upon the shepherd. Sheep are always subject to danger and must always be under the watchful eye of the shepherd as they graze. Rushing walls of water down the valleys from sudden, heavy rainfalls may sweep them away, robbers may steal them, and wolves may attack the flock. David tells how he killed a lion and a bear while defending his father’s flock as a shepherd boy (1 Samuel 17:36). Driving snow in winter, blinding dust and burning sands in summer, long, lonely hours each day—all these the shepherd patiently endures for the welfare of the flock. In fact, shepherds were frequently subjected to grave danger, sometimes even giving their lives to protect their sheep.

Likewise, Jesus gave His life on the cross as “the Good Shepherd” for his own. He who would save others, though He had the power, did not choose to save Himself. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Through His willing sacrifice, the Lord made salvation possible for all who come to Him in faith. In proclaiming that He is the Good Shepherd, Jesus speaks of “laying down” His life for His sheep (John 10:1517–18).

Jesus’ death was divinely appointed. It is only through Him that we receive salvation. “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own” (John 10:14). Furthermore, Jesus makes it clear that it wasn’t just for the Jews that he laid down His life, but also for the “other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16). The “other sheep” clearly refers to the Gentiles. As a result, Jesus is the Good Shepherd over all, both Jew and Gentile, who come to believe upon Him (John 3:16). (Quote source here.)

So the sheep are both Jews and Gentiles who come to believe in Jesus. GotQuestions.org gives us the significance of sheep in the Bible:

God first compared the Israelites to sheep and later applied that label to all who are called by His name (Ezekiel 34Matthew 10:615:24). God’s people are compared to sheep for several reasons (Psalm 79:13100:3). First of all, sheep are one of the few animals that do not have a defense system. Sheep are helpless without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36Numbers 27:17). The first line of Psalm 23 reflects the wonderful truth that God Himself is our Defender: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing.” Without the Lord our Shepherd, we are helpless when our enemy Satan attacks (2 Thessalonians 3:3).

Second, sheep are notorious for following the leader, regardless of how dangerous or foolish that may be. Like sheep, human beings are extremely gullible when an attractive or charismatic leader promises a shiny new idea. History is replete with tragic illustrations of the “herd mentality” in action (Acts 13:5019:34Numbers 16:2). That sheep-like mentality was in evidence when Pilate brought Jesus before the people to ask what should be done with Him. Only days before, Jesus had been the popular Teacher who healed, forgave, and taught about God. People eagerly followed Him. But, less than a week later, “the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead” (Mark 15:11). Within moments, the very crowd that had witnessed His miracles was shouting, “Crucify Him!”

A third reason human beings are compared to sheep in the Bible is that sheep are prone to wander away from the flock (Isaiah 53:6). A sheep’s only chance of survival is with the flock under the care of a competent shepherd. Yet sheep become overconfident, rebellious, or distracted, and they wander away. They spy greener grass in the other direction or fail to notice when the flock moves away. Peter had this tendency in mind when he warned the church to be on the alert because the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). A lion does not attack the flock. It waits until a solitary lamb wanders too far from the shepherd. One of Jesus’ most famous parables is about a lamb that strayed so far it became lost. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, left the ninety-nine sheep in the fold and went in search of the one lost lamb (Luke 15:2–17).

Sheep were the first creatures to witness a sky filled with angels as their shepherds heard the good news of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:8–15). God could have sent the news of the newborn King to the palace or the temple. Instead, He announced the arrival of the Lamb to a field full of sheep. Jesus is often compared to a lamb because He was meek and non-threatening (John 1:2936Isaiah 53:7). Even in heaven, when the Day of the Lord arrives, Jesus is still called the Lamb (Revelation 5:1213:8). But in an ironic twist, the One called the Lamb pours out His wrath like a lion to destroy all those who continue to oppose Him (Revelation 6:1614:9–11).

Sheep are significant throughout the Bible. We can learn a lot about God and His dealings with humanity by understanding their nature. They teach us about ourselves and our helplessness without Christ. They remind us about sin’s shocking consequences when innocence is sacrificed to atone for the guilty. But they also teach us about God and His desire to deal tenderly with us: “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” (Isaiah 40:11). When we study the ways sheep are used as teaching tools in the Bible, it helps us better understand ourselves in relation to our Good Shepherd. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words of Jesus from John 10:27-30 (NIV)–My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand….

I and . . .

The Father . . .

Are one . . . .

YouTube Video: “Come What May” by We Are Messengers:

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