‘The Shepherd God’: What is it about?

The Lord is my ShepherdYou may well know that ‘The Shepherd God’ is an extended reflection on Psalm 23, but what, precisely, is it about?

The book begins with an introduction relating my own experiences before six main chapters take one part of the Psalm as a starting point. Each chapter is divided into a number of points that help us to better understand the Psalm. Finally, the book concludes with an epilogue which considers how we might find peace, worth and purpose in a busy world.

The main chapters are structured as follows:

Chapter One: The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

Three aspects of a shepherd’s role that help us to understand how God is our shepherd:

  • Faithful provision of basic needs
  • A personal relationship based on trust
  • Protection at any cost.

Chapter Two: He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.

Three ways in which God brings peace to the lives of his people:

  • God makes his people stop and rest
  • God takes away the need for fear
  • God gives his people genuine refreshment

Chapter Three: He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

Five points for following the right path through our lives:

  • God’s will is good, pleasing and perfect
  • We need to renew our minds
  • God’s word illuminates our paths
  • We should submit to God
  • God wants us to display his character to all those around us

Chapter Four: Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.

Three points for understanding – and coping whilst we are in – the ‘darkest valley’:

  • Dark times are inevitable
  • We have a future hope
  • God is with us in our suffering

Chapter Five: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Three ways in which God demonstrates love for all of his people:

  • God desperately wants us to spend time with him
  • God withholds nothing from us
  • God wants us to make peace with our enemies

Chapter Six: Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Three amazing truths relating to God’s endless love for his people:

  • God’s love is unconditional
  • God’s love is eternal
  • God calls on us to build his house.

For more information, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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What does Easter mean to you?

Easter does not get its name from IshtarToday it is Easter Sunday. I wonder what that means to you? For many millions of people Easter is about chocolate, about bunnies and the Asda Chick (you’re better off with Asda). But actually, you’re not better off with the Asda Chick at all. You’re better off with the Christian message of hope that Easter brings.

The myth of Ishtar

This year there has been an attempt to undermine the Christian festival of Easter with a Facebook meme. You’ve probably seen this posted to the Facebook profiles of some of your friends. As is so often the case, however, there is very little truth in

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this particular meme. Easter, we are told, “was originally the celebration of Ishtar, the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility and sex. This is a somewhat dodgy assertion, since the name ‘Easter’ has no connection at all with Ishtar, other than sounding vaguely similar. The name Easter (which is peculiar to the English language) probably comes from ‘Eostre’,who was apparently an Anglo Saxon goddess. I say apparently because there is almost no evidence at all to support this idea. The only reference we have to Eostre is to be found in the writing of the English monk Bede, who writing in the eighth century, commented that during Eosturmonap (the month of April), pagan Anglo Saxons had held feasts in Eostre’s honour, but that this tradition had been replaced by a Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.

So it is

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not a certainty that anyone, Pagan or otherwise, believed in Eostre. It is therefore not the case that a pagan celebration was “changed to represent Easter.” The only connection between the possible pagan festivities and the Christian festival is the timing. It just so happened that in England Christians celebrated Christ’s death and resurrection in a month that retained a pagan name. (Much like, for example, July is named after Julius Caesar, but that doesn’t mean that we celebrate the successes of the legendary Roman during this month).

Constantine and Easter

Constantine is also referred to in this Facebook meme. Apparently after “he decided to Christianise the Empire, Easter was changed to represent Jesus.” This is just plain wrong. Firstly it is unlikely that Constantine, would have known much about Eosturmonap (despite the rather dodgy belief of some that he was born in England), since the name of the month in which the English celebrated the death and resurrection of Jesus was not used widely beyond these shores. Constantine would probably have known the Christian festival by the name Latin name, Pascha. It is also unlikely that he would have had any knowledge of the possible Anglo Saxon goddess Eostre from which the name of the month derives. The idea, therefore, that Constantine sought to change a pagan festival “to represent Jesus” has little truth. What is true is that at the Council of Nicaea, which he summoned in 325, two rules were laid down regarding Easter. The first established the date of the Christian festival independently of the Jewish calendar, which had previously been used by Christians to set the date. The second tried to establish worldwide uniformity of the date, so that Christians all celebrated the date on the same year. These were certainly not about “changing Easter to represent Jesus.”

The roots of Easter

Apparently, at its roots, Easter “is all about celebrating fertility and sex.” Now if that’s how you want to celebrate Easter, be my guest. Don’t think for one minute, though, that you are continuing some ancient tradition. The roots of the Easter festival of today (which perhaps be would be better off referring to by the Latin, Pascha, to avoid confusion), lie in a deserted garden in Jerusalem. In this garden there was a tomb. Jesus, having been crucified and killed on Good Friday was buried in this tomb. Three days later, some of Jesus’ female followers visited the tomb to embalm his body, only to discover that it was not there. In their shock, an angel appeared to the women and told them “do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”

Jesus, having died, rose again, smashing through death and defeating it. Death could not hold him in the ground. Death was not the end. Death was only the beginning. In the same way, for those who follow Jesus, death is not the end but the beginning. Just as Jesus was raised to life by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit will raise to new life all of Jesus’ followers after their bodily deaths.

This is the true root of Easter, that thanks to Jesus death cannot hold us. We do not need to fear death because Christ has defeated it for us.

And today, you’re not better off with Asda. You’re better off with Jesus.

To read more about the Biblical account of Jesus’ resurrection, take a look at my reflection at ReadMarkLearn.com.

“The Shepherd God” now available to buy

The Shepherd GodMy new book, “The Shepherd God:Finding Peace, Worth and Purpose in a Busy World” is now available to buy in both paperback and Kindle format.

Links for both editions in the US and UK Amazon stores are provided below. I hope that you enjoy reading the book and find it a useful and helpful read. If you do, I would be ever so grateful if you could write a review for Amazon!

Amazon Description:

“The sheer busyness of life in the twenty-first century can leave us feeling tired and disconnected, stressed and fed up. We can get to the point where we feel that life is just not worth living. In “The Shepherd God” Simon Lucas reflects on Psalm 23, one of the best-loved of Old Testament texts. He carefully considers the lessons that we might draw from the Psalmist’s powerful words. Alongside a challenging and thought-provoking analysis of the Psalm Simon shares his own powerful testimony of how the Shepherd God helped him to beat his own depression. This inspirational and refreshing book is ideal for both personal reflection or for group study.”

An early review:

“Psalm 23 is one of the most well-known and best loved passages in the Bible. But how often do people stand back and really think about the words?

“What Simon Lucas does in this book is work through the psalm, at each point drawing out some helpful implications for us today. For example, what does it mean to say “the Lord is *my* shepherd”? It was also good to see how Psalm 23 is fulfilled in Jesus Christ – another aspect which many may gloss over.

“The book itself is set within the framework of Simon’s own experience of depression, much of the book is related to his personal experience. As such, I would particularly recommend it for people who are struggling at the moment with hard times.

“Each chapter feels like a sermon (not a criticism!), and at the end of each chapter there are some questions to think about. As such I think the book may be useful for use in home groups or the like as a discussion starter.

“Overall this is a helpful book for thinking through what Psalm 23 means for Christians today, especially Christians who are struggling.”

Links to buy:

Paperback Edition:

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Back to ‘The Shepherd God’ home.