Shepherding Talk: My New Website and Podcast

You all have been such a blessing and encouragement to me since Men’s Daily Briefing began in 2016. It began as a focused way to encourage men, but evolved into daily encouragement to a general audience. The feedback and support has been awesome! There have been times life dealt me a blow or two and others willingly carried the ball for awhile (Shane Blackmer, Andy Harrison etc.). I’m so blessed to have such great friends!

During the past few months, I’ve been working on a new website called Shepherding Talk. This website, blog and podcast are all devoted to teaching leadership through the Biblical lens of a shepherd with his sheep. The Bible is full of this imagery and that is how God relates to us, as a Shepherd with His sheep (Psalm 23, John 10).

At this point there are 40 plus articles on the website. Many articles from Men’s Daily Briefing will eventually be migrated over there.

Shepherding Talk

The Shepherding Talk Podcast will be a weekly interview with various leaders sharing their perspectives on Biblical leadership. Right now, there are 7 podcast interviews on the website. I’ve interviewed church leaders like Max Dawson, Roger Shouse and Benjamin Lee about various aspects of leadership. More interviews are coming, Lord willing!

The Shepherding Talk Podcast is available on platforms like Apple, Spotify, IHeartRadio, etc.

We will spend a lot of time on church leadership, but we will also talk about other ways we are shepherd leaders: in our families, marriages and communities. Everyone is a leader, and everyone can have a shepherd’s heart.

We will talk about the attitudes of leadership. For example, see Episode 7 where Benjamin Lee shares his passion for a positive “I Can Do” attitude.

We also will deal with current events like Racism. The next podcast to post tonight is Part 1 of a conversation about racism with Benjamin Lee.

Please subscribe to our weekly newsletter! Instead of a daily newsletter, we will post an article and podcast every week.

If you like it, please recommend it to your friends!

Men’s Daily Briefing. I’ve chosen not to continue the Men’s Daily Briefing website for practical reasons. I don’t want to focus on two websites at once! Again, thanks so much for the great encouragement!

My personal goal is to take the articles from both websites and turn them into books soon. Please pray for me in this effort. Thank you!

A special thanks to Benjamin Lee for being such a spark of energy and encouragement to get the Shepherding Talk website going. Also thanks to Roger Shouse and Max Dawson and Jason Hardin for helping me get the podcast off to a great start!

Extreme Ownership

I want to send out a book recommendation today. This is an awesome book on leadership written by two Navy Seals who led successful Seal operations in the battle of Ramadi in Iraq. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin developed some incredible insights on leadership of successful teams during some of the most bloody and intense combat situations in Iraq.

As I listened to this book on Audible, I saw so many parallels to Biblical concepts of leadership. It’s a must read in my opinion.

I’m on my second time through this book, and I highly recommend it.

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals LEAD and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

 

God made Ezekiel hard-headed

Behold, I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads. Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house.”
(Ezekiel 3:8-9)

God made Ezekiel hard-headed. That’s what the verse says. Not that Ezekiel was never to listen to people, nor was he to be a stubborn person. But look at the job he was called to do. The people to whom he was sent to prophesy were a stubborn, hard-hearted rebellious people. Ezekiel was sent to preach “whether they hear or whether they refuse” (Ezekiel 3:11). What was necessary for Ezekiel to endure this calling? God had to make his head hard, just like theirs.

He is told two things here that required hardness, and a steely-eyed determination:

  • Don’t be afraid of them.
  • Don’t be dismayed by their looks.

These guys could be vicious. They have killed prophets and imprisoned others. It was easy to be intimidated in their presence. The way they looked at Ezekiel when he tried to preach must have been scary. God said, stiffen up, have a hard head, and speak My message. The Lord isn’t telling him to be mean, or arrogant, just to be hardened against the coming attacks. Preach the word.

Think of how many of God’s ministers struggled with fear as they were called to preach or carry out His messages? Timothy, Ananias, Moses, Gideon, Joshua, Paul, Jeremiah. The list goes on…

God has to stiffen us up sometimes and help us to have that firm resolve and that hard head so that we can speak truth. Pray for a soft heart, a kind tongue and a hard head.

So the king did not listen to the people

The picture attached to this post is one that is very encouraging, and there are many examples of this going around in the country. Police officers are kneeling, praying and marching with protestors to show that they hear and understand the cries of racial injustice. That’s what we need.

Here is a contrast in Scripture to that positive example. The following is what NOT to do when you are in positions of authority.

In the Scripture below, we see that there was a time in Israel when people came to the leadership and cried out about oppression. The people came to King Rehoboam, son of King Solomon, and presented their case.

Their “yoke” was heavy. Solomon apparently had really taxed the people to the point of oppression, and the people wanted relief. They peacefully came to the King to ask for change.

The King, Rehoboam, had two sets of advisors. One group counseled the king to be a servant to the people and be kind to them. Hear their requests and serve them, and they will serve you forever. The other group of counselors advised the King to be even tougher than Solomon. Bring the hammer down on the people, they said.

So, the king listened to the second group, threatened the people, punished them for speaking up and pushed them away. This led to the nation literally dividing (as God had prophesied would happen).

“So the king did not listen to the people…”

What does God want from his leaders? People who listen. Those who hear the cries of the hurting. It’s one thing for those in authority to say they aren’t racist, it is entirely another when a police officer lays down his baton, takes off his helmet and hugs those in the crowd who are hurting and afraid.

Rehoboam had the opportunity to sit down and listen to the request of his people. He had been offered an olive branch to peacefully bring a resolution to what was hurting the nation. However, in his arrogance and in his thirst to assert his authority and dominance, he drove most of the nation away from him.

That is our choice as leaders. As parents. As spouses. As church leaders. As leaders in business. As leaders in the community. When those under our leadership cry out from broken hearts because of how they are being treated, how will we respond?

Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king. And as soon as Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it (for he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), then Jeroboam returned from Egypt. And they sent and called him, and Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel came and said to Rehoboam, “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you.” He said to them, “Go away for three days, then come again to me.” So the people went away. Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, “How do you advise me to answer this people?” And they said to him, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.” But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him. And he said to them, “What do you advise that we answer this people who have said to me, ‘Lighten the yoke that your father put on us’?” And the young men who had grown up with him said to him, “Thus shall you speak to this people who said to you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you lighten it for us,’ thus shall you say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s thighs. And now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’” So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king said, “Come to me again the third day.” And the king answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel that the old men had given him, he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the LORD that he might fulfill his word, which the LORD spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
(1 Kings 12:1-15)

What is Jealousy?

What is jealousy anyway?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines jealous as “Hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage.” It also adds that jealousy is “intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness,” and “disposed to suspect rivalry or unfaithfulness.”

There are a couple of things to note from that definition: Hostile toward a rival and hostile toward one believed to enjoy an advantage. How do you handle a rival? What if someone comes along and threatens your authority? How do you respond when others around you just seem way more talented, positive and popular? When others have things (not just possessions) that you do not have, how does that make you feel? Does it affect how you view others, how you treat them and how you talk about them?

Yesterday we looked at the fact that jealousy is behind a lot of strife in all kinds of relationships. How was jealousy part of the equation?

  • What did Paul and his companions have that the Jews in Galatia / Thessalonica didn’t? The people, both Jews and Gentiles, were flocking to hear Paul preach the gospel. Many were hanging on every word and begging to hear those same words again the next week (Acts 13,17).
  • What did Jesus have that the Jewish leaders didn’t? Again, it was that the people (from nobility to the harlots) ran to Jesus en masse to hear His teachings, be healed by Him, and to find forgiveness and grace. The Jewish leaders just couldn’t stand it that Jesus had that much popularity (Luke 15:1-2).
  • What did Abel have that Cain didn’t? Abel’s works were righteous, Cain’s works were evil. Cain saw Abel as a rival and a threat, not as a brother and an inspiration to draw closer to God (1 John 3:12).
  • What did Joseph have that his brothers did not have? Joseph was the favorite of their father, Jacob. He enjoyed advantages and privileges that the others did not (Genesis 37).

We’ll develop this more tomorrow, Lord willing, but for now think about this. If jealousy is at the root of a lot of relationship problems, shouldn’t you and I be open to the possibility that we might be jealous of others? We might not want to think of ourselves as jealous people, but God is saying that we are and it is the building block for fights. Let’s get at the root of this problem.

Saul was a King, David was a Leader

1 Chronicles 11:1-3 Then all Israel gathered together to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh. In times past, even when Saul was king, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the LORD your God said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over my people Israel.'” So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD. And they anointed David king over Israel, according to the word of the LORD by Samuel.

Look at what Israel said to David!

Even when Saul was king, it was you (David) who led out and brought in Israel.

Who was the king? Saul. Who was the real leader in Israel? David.

To whom did the people go to for leadership? David. Who was the person who understood the real enemy of Israel? David. Who was the one who had the courage to face the giant with God’s help? David. Who was the one who encouraged the hearts of Israel to trust God and take on the enemy? David. Who was the one who walked among the people and knew the people? David.

What was Saul doing? Hiding. Doubting. Cowering. His focus was his power, his image and keeping his throne. He was incredibly fearful and jealous of David and anyone who supported him. He devoted the rest of his life to chasing David all over Israel to eliminate him because he was a threat to Saul’s power. In fact, you can see that Saul lost focus of the real enemy, the Philistines, until they had completely surrounded him and it was too late.

You see, the people of Israel were smart enough to know who the real leader was. That is still true today. It is evident in churches, homes, businesses, sports teams, politics, etc. The people in charge are not necessarily the ones who are really leading. Sometimes it is a husband who likes to assert his authority all the time, while the wife and mother is the one really leading the kids. It might be in a sports team where the “captain” of the team is just bossy but another player is the one who inspires the team. We see it in businesses, where the CEO is a controlling, micro-managing type, and there are a few others who really make that business what it is.

So, what about you? Are you a boss, or a leader? Are you an elder, or a leader? Are you the “head of the home” or a leader? Leaders inspire, set examples, communicate and build relationships. There is an atmosphere of welcoming and safety around a leader. Leaders don’t have to go around asserting their authority all the time to do so. Look around, are people following you because they respect you or because you are in charge? Also take a look, are people continually going to someone else instead of you? It might be that you have asserted your authority way too much and they don’t feel safe coming to you. How do you respond when others get the praise and recognition, yet you are in charge? Do you encourage and welcome that or are you intimidated by that?

God’s encouragement for you today is to be a leader like David, not a king like Saul.

The Work Is Great

1 Chronicles 29:1-2
And David the king said to all the assembly, “Solomon my son, whom alone God has chosen, is young and inexperienced, and the work is great, for the palace will not be for man but for the LORD God. So I have provided for the house of my God, so far as I was able, the gold for the things of gold, the silver for the things of silver, and the bronze for the things of bronze, the iron for the things of iron, and wood for the things of wood, besides great quantities of onyx and stones for setting, antimony, colored stones, all sorts of precious stones and marble.

David saw the building of the temple as God’s “great work.”

  • Just because David couldn’t directly oversee the building of the temple, this work did not lose any value or importance in his eyes. David got even more involved because what was important was the glory of God’s house, not who got to be in charge. God’s work is great, the workers are only great if they are humbly seeking God’s glory as servants. We are only servants. Greatness is not in being in charge, it is doing what is best for the great work of God.
  • David recognized the immense need to prepare the next generation for leadership in God’s great work. King David didn’t live at the end of his nose; he looked down the road and planned for future leadership of God’s people. He organized the priesthood, prepared his own son as king, arranged all the workers to build the temple, put the military in order, arranged the finances, etc. Sometimes leaders just find themselves reacting to current problems instead looking to the future and preparing.
  • He gave his all for this great work. At first, David thought his “great work” was to build a temple for God (1 Chronicles 22). But God wanted Solomon to build the temple. So, David’s “great work” was to prepare Solomon and all Israel to build the temple. Look at 1 Chronicles 17-22! Look at all the work David did to prepare for the building of the temple. His great work was to prepare the next generation, and he spent every ounce of his energy doing it!

Could This Thing Be?

But Elisha said, “Hear the word of the LORD: thus says the LORD, Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.” Then the captain on whose hand the king leaned said to the man of God, “If the LORD himself should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?” But he said, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it.”
(2 Kings 7:1-2)

In the days of Elisha, things got bad, really bad in Israel. The nation of Israel was rebelling against God, the king was a wicked son of the wicked king Ahab. Syria (Aram) came against Israel and besieged them. Look at how bad things were economically in Israel:

Afterward Ben-hadad king of Syria mustered his entire army and went up and besieged Samaria. And there was a great famine in Samaria, as they besieged it, until a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and the fourth part of a kab of dove’s dung for five shekels of silver.
(2 Kings 6:24-25)

We think we’ve got it bad that there is no toilet paper on the shelf? They were paying a high price to eat donkey brains and bird poop! Yuck! It even got so bad that some moms agreed to eat each other’s children (2 Kings 6:26-29). It’s sad that even in this destitute condition people were not turning back to God. Even worse, the king of Israel was blaming God. God was the problem, how could He be part of the solution?

And he said, “If the LORD will not help you, how shall I help you? From the threshing floor, or from the winepress?”
(2 Kings 6:27)

And while he was still speaking with them, the (King’s) messenger came down to him and said, “This trouble is from the LORD! Why should I wait for the LORD any longer?”
(2 Kings 6:33)

That’s what brings us to the beginning of chapter 7 when Elisha through the Spirit promises that the change and recovery will happen overnight. They were paying high prices for donkey brains and bird poop, but by tomorrow they will be paying cheap prices for barley and flour. Would you believe that if a prophet of God said that to you? Would I believe it as I am eating donkey brain soup? We can see in verse 1 of chapter 7 that a captain who was very close to the king didn’t believe it. He said,

“If the LORD himself should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?”

God has made windows in heaven. Remember the flood in Noah’s day? It is clear that the captain here did not believe that (1) God had the power to make such a quick change, nor (2) could God make such a change happen overnight.

Elisha said, “Oh it will happen. You just won’t be able to enjoy any of the blessings of it.” What happened is that as the people were rushing out to get the food and supplies, the captain was trampled by the crowds (2 Kings 7:17). This leader could not see nor believe that God was able and willing to restore goodness to His people.

But God did make windows in heaven, and God did care, and God did make immediate changes to care for His people. God is good, and God is all-powerful.

Sometimes things are so bad we have a very difficult time hoping that there will be any improvement. But this passage reminds us that we serve an awesome and loving God, and that even when things are at their darkest, God can make incredible changes in a hurry!

Some Thoughts on Gossip

2 Corinthians 12:20
For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish–that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.

Proverbs 20:19
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.

There is a time to talk about a situation or about another person. David told Samuel all that Saul had done to him (1 Samuel 19:18). Paul and John exposed the sinful behavior of specific brethren in their letters. But we find ourselves justifying talking about people and situations way too much.

The Oxford Dictionary defines gossip as “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.”

What are some thoughts from the Scripture that will help us define what gossip is?

Gossip is talking about people and situations without seeking a solution.

Proverbs 18:2
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

Proverbs 29:11
A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.

Romans 12:3
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

Are we just venting to others? Are we just telling our side of the story? Is our purpose to find a solution and seek reconciliation, or is it just to tell others how right we are and how wrong others are? Gossip comes from pride, we simply think too much of our own opinion that includes our opinions and conclusions of others.

Gossip is imagining the worst motives about a person and repeating that to others.

Psalms 41:7
All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me.

If our tone and our words are simply running somebody down, then what’s the point of that? If we keep thinking the worst of others, and we keep finding out that those things aren’t true, shouldn’t we look in the mirror and see that we are maligning others? God wants us to believe all things and hope all things, but if we are creating the worst possible scenario on people’s actions, words and motives, then we are not living in love.

Malign, according to Oxford Dictionary, means “to speak about (someone) in a spitefully critical manner.”

James 4:11
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

Gossip is going “house to house” and repeating the story to person after person.

1 Timothy 5:13
Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.

Just as the gospel is spread “house to house” (Acts 20:20), so is gossip. Are we spreading the gospel or spreading gossip from house to house? We have to look in the mirror and ask if we are talking about a situation to too many people.

Leviticus 19:16
You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD.

2 Thessalonians 3:11-12
For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.

Gossip is uncovering what should be covered.

Proverbs 10:12
Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.

1 Peter 4:8
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

Proverbs 17:9
Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.

My words have great power, including the ability to separate close friends. Maybe we need to be more like Noah’s sons, who walked backward to cover their father’s nakedness (Genesis 9). There are times to expose the sin, and the Bible is full of those examples. We especially need to expose those who are stirring up discord among God’s people. But as we are talking with others, let’s prayerfully consider whether we are seeking to cover sins or to make others look shameful before others.

Gossip must be stopped and silenced.

One of the jobs of shepherds in the church is to “stop the mouths” of those who are causing trouble. Gossip is one of the 7 things God hates. Shouldn’t we as God’s people seek to stop what God hates? The apostle John was going to personally stop the mouth of Diotrephes (3 John 9-10). Paul told Titus that the brethren’s idle mouths at Crete needed to be stopped (Titus 1:10-13). Paul knew that some people’s idle babble will spread like a cancer (2 Timothy 2:16-17). There was a time that Paul “delivered” certain brethren to Satan so they would learn to better use their mouths (1 Timothy 1:20).

Proverbs 6:16-19
There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

Titus 1:10-13
For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,

We stop gossip by:
  • Not repeating it. Gossip is like a chocolate cupcake, it sure tastes good to hear and really makes a great story to repeat. But God says this is sinful (Proverbs 11:13; 18:8; 26:20-22). Where there is no wood, the fire goes out. Stop adding fuel!
  • Not listening to it. The Bible says not to “associate” with a gossip (1 Corinthians 5:11; Proverbs 20:19; Romans 16:17-18). It amazes me that sometimes brethren are more concerned about disciplining a brother who has stopped attending church rather than stopping the gossip that is destroying the church. Gossips don’t make good friends. They just bring you down and you become like them. Proverbs says not to make friendship with an angry man lest you learn his ways and it be a snare to your soul (Proverbs 22:24). Gossip comes from angry hearts. Don’t hang around that kind of behavior.
  • Understanding that there are two sides. Love the other person who is being gossiped about. Love them enough to consider that you haven’t heard from him. Love him enough to go and hear from him. The Proverbs says that “the first one to plead his case seems right until his neighbor comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). Have you ever had someone gossip about you, and then that other person swallows that stuff hook, line and sinker without even coming to you? That hurts doesn’t it?
  • Following Jesus’ simple guidelines for resolving conflict (Matthew 18:15-17). Jesus told us, no he commanded us what to do. Are we smarter than God? Do we think we have a better way to resolve conflict? As Dr. Phil may ask, “How’s that working for you?” Is our way working?

Jesus will stop all idle mouths one day. The passage below is Jesus saying that we will give an account of those idle words one day. We will give account for every one of those idle words…not to my friends, not to the church, not to my boss, but to Jesus.

Matthew 12:33-37
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Here are a few questions a shepherd gave me that he has used to ask others:

  • Did they tell you about this matter because they wanted you to go with them to try and reconcile the situation?
  • Did they tell you about this matter because they wanted your thoughts on how they could best approach them?
  • Did they tell you about this matter because they wanted you to pray for them?

James 3:5-18
So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Knowing Your Flocks and Herds

Proverbs 27:23-27
Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations? When the grass is gone and the new growth appears and the vegetation of the mountains is gathered, the lambs will provide your clothing, and the goats the price of a field. There will be enough goats’ milk for your food, for the food of your household and maintenance for your girls.

You can’t manage effectively when you don’t have accurate information. This applies to goats and sheep, as the Proverb above says, but we can expand that to our finances, businesses, families, organizations and to our churches. Pay attention to your flock, and it will grow, and it will sustain you and others.

Shepherds live among the sheep. As Dr. Lynn Anderson put it, “They Smell Like Sheep.” Shepherds become intimately involved with each sheep, they learn each sheep’s personality. A shepherd knows the strengths and weaknesses of sheep. He can see when one is sick or needs special attention. He can look ahead and see the needs coming up, such as a need for green pastures with fresh grass or a better place for water. His eyes are always open for threats to the health and safety of his sheep. He takes this personally! It’s his life. The sheep are his life. Those sheep become comfortable and learn to be safe with that shepherd. As Jesus said, the sheep will learn to recognize the unique voice and call of their shepherd (John 10). That takes time, and a lot of patient consistent effort on the part of the shepherd.

I remember one time we had a really skiddish sheep. Snickers the sheep (see attached picture). He was young, and we had just brought him home. He would not come to anybody. My wife, Anna, took a chair out to his pen and sat there with animal crackers in her hand. She didn’t force him and she didn’t yell at him and command the sheep to come. She just sat there patiently and consistently with an animal cracker in her hand. This sheep would at first run around his shelter several times, then pause from behind the shelter and peek out to see Anna. Then he would step out a little closer to Anna as he felt safer. It wasn’t very long and he was eating out of her hand. And it wasn’t much longer after that when Anna was petting him and scratching behind his ears. He loved Anna, and was the most affectionate sheep. Anna knew her sheep and what he needed.

Can you imagine if Anna would have chased that sheep around with a stick, barking out orders to him? What about if she would have put a leash on him and forced him to come to her side? That would have changed the relationship, wouldn’t it? What if she would have quit in frustration, slammed the animal crackers box down on the ground and left before the sheep was really comfortable with her?

Question, why did so many “flock” to Jesus during His day (Luke 15:1-2)? Yes, many came for miracles or because they heard about the miracles, but there’s so much more to it than that. Let me ask another question, why were they not going to the Pharisees and Sadducees? You don’t see the people racing to their side for comfort, wisdom and direction, do you? Why not? They put heavy burdens on people, they were hard-nosed, they were distant and aloof, and they were very hypocritical.

Another question, do people feel safe coming to you? Sometimes we may look around and realize that people are not coming to us for wisdom. What do we do at that point? Do we blame everyone else? Do we throw rocks at the sheep who are not coming to us? Or do we look in the mirror and do some serious reflection? Maybe I don’t really know my sheep, and maybe I haven’t been truly invested in knowing the sheep. And even more than that, maybe I’m scary to the sheep. I walk in and they run for safety. If that’s the case, go get a chair and some animal crackers and learn to create a safe environment.

If you want to know your sheep, then you have to create an environment where sheep are safe around you.

Isaiah 40:11
He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.