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The Warmth of the Good Shepherd

April 15, 2024

When I was a young sailor, I was all about the adventure.
Go new places? Sign me up!
Foreign country? No sweat!
Sleep in cramped berthing at sea with a couple thousand other guys? Yeah, not so much.
But jet noise and sonobuoys and dropping bombs and searching for mines and foreign lands and—well, you get the picture. Simply stated, it was glorious! And when that career ended, I soon found myself running around foreign countries in the middle of the night in the name of “technology development.” That’s what we called it anyway. Then, because I’m a slow learner, I began to realize (at 60) that maybe it was time for something different. Seeking the freedom of others was no longer my calling. It was time to find another line of work.By that time I’d been a Christian for 40 years. Through it all I’d always known I was safe as long as the Good Shepherd thought it best. I always expected and counted on his provision for my safety, but I never took it for granted. What I didn’t expect was that as I grew older, I would grow to value something even more from him, and that was the warmth of the Good Shepherd.
When shepherds gathered their flocks by night into a safe place, the only way in and out was through a door where the shepherd would stand watch. His presence was the door. And Jesus owned that responsibility when he said in John 10:7, “. . . Verily, verily I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.” At times the shepherd would lie down to rest or sit and care for an injured or orphaned lamb who could feel the warmth in his hands. And while the shepherd was guarding the flock, those lying with him could feel the warmth from the shepherd’s lap. At times when a lamb would run off, the shepherd would seek and recover that lamb, then take his shepherd’s rod and smack a front leg of the lamb so it couldn’t walk. Then the shepherd would carry that injured lamb tucked into his garment at his bosom where it could feel the warmth of the shepherd’s heart.
The hands of the shepherd are required for these bovid animals that can find trouble and injury without looking for it. And such is often the case of a Christian. We live in a world that is cruel, ravenous, and destructive. The god of this world is our enemy, a thief who seeks to “. . . steal, and to kill, and to destroy . . .” (John 10:10). Living in America, it feels like I’m in the Promised Land. For the most part, life is easy. But let’s be honest—all of us have taken our share of beatings, right? Oh, but those warm, healing hands of the Good Shepherd tend to our wounds, pour on the healing salve, and then embrace us until we can stand.
As the shepherd sits in the doorway, he’ll take an orphaned lamb and lay the animal across his lap where he’s sitting to comfort and calm the animal. They share intimacy that starts with the heat from the shepherd’s legs. This is the place of his greatest strength. And as the fearful, traumatized lamb warms, it realizes the shepherd is the source of strength and the lamb has none. The warmth of the shepherd teaches the lamb trust. And it learns from the warmth of the shepherd it is safe and that, indeed, everything is going to be okay.
At the ripe young age of 64, this lamb has learned that the best place for me is right near the heart of the Good Shepherd. As a young Christian, I had the rod applied to my legs and God held me close to his heart while I healed. As an old man, I understand that it’s the heart of the Good Shepherd that makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside the still waters.
The adventures of a young man allowed me the opportunity to preach the gospel in places I’d otherwise never have gone or known. I have no regret seeking those adventures, nor would I ever discourage it in others. However, I’ve learned that the greatest adventures emanate from the heart of the Good Shepherd. That the closer I am to his heart the better I can hear and feel his heart, and that it beats for me, directing me for his glory. There is warmth in his heart for the wounded and the warrior. There is warmth in his heart for those who’ve experienced the worst this world can offer. And there is warmth in his heart for the aged who near the promise of heaven and long to see his face.

Ben and his wife, Karen, are founders of Onward for Christ, an organization dedicated to teaching young people how to be soul winners. OFC’s annual Rocky Mountain Outreach 2024 will take place June 1–9 in northwest Colorado. For more information, visit their website They are now accepting applications (Deadline May 19th, 2024) for RMO 2024. Please spread the word!

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