by Dottie Ryan

Through this study we are learning that God loves us.  And this is so necessary for us to know and even experience if we are to follow Him — to fall in love again with Him.  When God called us to Himself, it was just like when He chose the Israelites to be His people; it wasn’t because of anything they had done.  It was in spite of what they had done and for demonstration of His glory.  He showed His faithfulness to tend His sheep and take them the course best suited for them and their safety — albeit long, windy, and difficult at times.  He led them.  They just needed to know He could be trusted that they (and we) would “not want” along the way. His reputation, so to speak, was at stake (for His namesake). As Deuteronomy 7:7-9 (NIV) tells us

The LORD did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath He swore to your forefathers that He brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh King of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands.

He loved Israel and swore to their forefathers that he would bring them out of slavery and into the Promised Land.  And He cared for them each step of the way like sheep, going ahead of them so no danger would befall them and taking them the course where clean water would be found because He knew they were also thirsty.  For His glory.

As I was reading further into Phillip Keller’s A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, I began to be more thankful that He is deliberately guiding you and me through these valleys and winding paths up to greener pastures and being very careful to take you and me on the path necessary to nourish and strengthen our faith, although at times it may not “feel” like it.  He is tenderly nurturing and caring for us as only a good shepherd would do for his flock of sheep.  The following portions of the book struck me as I read them, and led me to more fully see Psalm 63 as more than just words.  Keller writes:

In caring for his sheep, the good shepherd, the careful manager, will from time to time make a careful examination of each individual sheep.  The picture is a very poignant one. As each animal comes out of the corral and through the gate, it is stopped by the shepherd’s outstretched rod.  He opens the fleece with the rod: he runs his skillful hands over the body; he feels for any sign of trouble; he examines the sheep with care to see that all is well. This is a most searching process entailing every intimate detail.  It is, too, a comfort to the sheep, for only in this way can its hidden problems be laid bare before the shepherd.

I’m reminded of the beginning of the study when we prayed Psalm 139 and asked the Lord to search our heart to see if there is any wicked way in us–and lead us to the way of understanding.  Keller, in referring to the examination a good shepherd does to each sheep in his flock, says: “This is what was meant in Psalm 139:23-24.” He says, “If we will allow it, if we will submit to it, God, by His Word will search us…He will get below the surface, behind the front of our old self-life and expose things that need to be made right. This is a process for which we need not shrink.  It is not something to avoid.  It is done in concern and compassion for our welfare. The Great Shepherd of our souls has our best interests at heart when He so searches us.” So I wonder if the Shepherd has been searching you with his rod or his hand to shine light on things/attitudes/wrong beliefs in your life that might be harmful to you.  If so, do you see them as love and tender care? Are you drawing even closer? Or are you shrinking back? Do not fear. He is a tender Shepherd. His rod and His staff…well, they comfort you! Rest in this.


by Angie Thomas

I struggled one morning to make my morning appointment with God.  I stumbled out of bed to my rocking chair and sat half-awake staring at my Bible thinking, “I don’t really want to read this.”  My heart felt hard and my faith was lacking.  As a result, I was feeling weary.  The intimacy and comfort I longed to have with God was not there.  I prayed and confessed my lack of enthusiasm to the Lord and asked Him to revive my heart.

As I began reading Romans 8 as a part of our study, this truth penetrated my heart, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God…” (vv. 14-16). God lovingly showed me in that moment I had slipped back into living as a slave and not a son, dominated by fear and condemnation instead of acceptance and grace.

You see, I am a recovering perfectionist, a performer, a worker, and I had slipped back into my old way of trying to “fix” my sin.  I had been struggling for several days with the conviction of a situation I had not handled in a Christ-like way and also of several other sins I felt the Holy Spirit revealing to me.  Instead of turning to Jesus and confessing my sin and weakness and asking Him to change my heart and help me walk forward in repentance, I had been trying to justify my actions to God and figure out a way to “fix” the problems.  The result… I felt defeated, exhausted, and distant from the Lord.  My way was clearly not working.

While there was a part of me that was so relieved by the reminder that I am nurtured and cared for as God’s child, my pride was wounded at having to confess my dependency and need for God as my Father.  Shouldn’t I be inching closer to being an “adult” Christian, more mature in my walk, able to handle these sins that so easily entangle me? The enemy was whispering, “You’re a failure. You’ll always keep messing up.”

I was confronted with the realization that I was still a disobedient child and a dumb sheep, when I was wanting to be growing as a disciple.

Then the Lord reminded me of a passage in Isaiah 53:7 that describes Jesus as a lamb, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” If Jesus lived His life as a humble sheep, why should I expect to live any differently? Jesus also modeled so beautifully the life of a son/child with His Heavenly Father.  He talked about how He did nothing of His own accord (John 5:19), but only what was the will of His Father (John 6:38).

It is evident that my theology needed adjustment.  I will always be a sheep and a child even as I grow in maturity as an apprentice/learner and as a disciple.   Dependency on Jesus does not mean immaturity or failure.  In fact, it is how we walk by the Spirit.

The “try harder” mentality must be kicked to the curb.  We will never attain righteousness by trying or working in our own strength.  That does not mean we do not apply effort or earnestly seek the Lord, but we must rest in the promise of Philippians 2:12-13: “ Therefore, my beloved…. work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Friends, it is God alone who can work faith and repentance in our hearts as we trust in Him.  The difference may seem like a nuance in your mind, mere semantics, but I can assure you in reality it is not.  It is the difference between walking in freedom and victory over sin and feeling burdened and overwhelmed.

If the difference is still not clear to you, cry out to Him and ask Him to reveal these truths to your heart.  He will show you where you are still performing and rule-keeping instead of walking by His grace and confessing your sin.  I loved this quote from the Sonship Study: “What a joy to know our needs are a window to God, not an obstacle that makes him disgusted with us.”

Let us cling to the truth in Hebrews 4:15-16: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Thistlebend Quiet eMoment

by Laurie Aker

Focus Scripture: Luke 6:12-16 ESV

12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray,
and all night he continued in prayer to God.  
13 And when day came, he called his disciples  
and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: 
14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother,  
and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew,  
15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus,  
and Simon who was called the Zealot,
16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot,  
who became a traitor.

Why don’t you pray?

How did you answer yesterday?
What keeps you from praying as much,
or as diligently as the Lord
would desire, or as much as you
really want to be praying?

Did you answer unbelief?

Might it be unbelief or doubt?

Our faith and our true belief is evidenced,
not in what we think in our minds,
feel in our hearts,
or say with our lips,
but in how we live our lives.

What do your actions say about your belief?

Do you need to confess any sin of unbelief, doubt, or fear?

Charles Spurgeon said:
“Do not dishonor your Lord and Master
by unworthy doubts and fears;
but be strong in faith, giving glory to God.
Show the world that your God is
worth ten thousand worlds to you.”

When you have resolved in your heart that you
want to pray, you may still find yourself not
praying as you would desire.


You must pray.
You must seek the Lord to make a plan.
You must set forth a course and with God’s grace follow it.

You may need to stop doing something, or do something less,
in order to make time to pray.
Less television, less Internet, less talking, less sleeping,
less staying up too late, less shopping,
less worrying, less complaining, less… ?

You may need to start doing something in order to pray.
If you want to pray in a way that is effective and sustainable,
you might need to get a steno notebook or prayer journal and
write out a prayer list for each day of the week.
If appropriate, write next to each name or item
what you need to be praying for.

You might write your prayers on 3×5 cards
if you would want to walk and pray.
One card for each day.

You might need to use a three-ring binder with tabs.

You might even want to
look up Scripture that you would pray for each person.
Then, compile these Scriptures in an orderly fashion.
You might want to write them out in your journal.

Whatever would be best for you,
whatever would keep you faithful and diligent in prayer,
set forth and resolve to do it

James 5:16, KJV
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man  
availeth much.

Make the most of your 5-10 minutes
or your 20-30 minutes of prayer
by being ready and prepared and planned.
Regardless of how you do it, make a plan and do it.
Not in your own strength.
Not lackadaisically.
But diligently and faithfully.

And, once you have sought the Lord
to set forth a course and a plan,
ask the Lord to grant you His grace to follow through.
Ask the Lord for His strength
to resist the devil and draw near to Him.

Look to the Lord and fix your eyes on Him.

Seek to follow Him.


Write out the following verse from Luke 6 and recite it 3 times.
Take it with you throughout the day.

12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray,
and all night he continued in prayer to God.   


Father, please cut through the excuses that we make
to not pray. Draw us into your presence.
And hear our cry.

In His hands for His glory,