“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside still waters. 3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4Yea,though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days if my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23.1-6
I have read this Psalm so many times that I must be careful not to take it for granted. Beside many hospital beds I have read this as a soft prayer and promise to the one in the bed. At funerals, especially at graveside services, this is always appropriate to bring comfort and home to brokenhearted families. There are times when you think you know a verse, because you have memorized its words. But then, the events in your life are such that you begin to experience the reality of this Psalm, this Shepherd, and this Shepherd’s shepherd.
I haven’t written a blog since last Saturday. I was taken into the hospital last Saturday with a fever out of control. I was admitted and later diagnosed with pneumonia. I began to realize experientially “2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside still waters” and I was comforted. I was indeed “beside still waters” and I was comforted. Over the next several days doctor after doctor tried many different antibiotics. Finally one began to work and I was encouraged because “3He restoreth my soul.” And I was comforted. I was not fearful of dying but the promises were there to comfort me and my family if death should occur: “6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days if my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Just wanted to encourage you with the awesome truthfulness of this Psalm. Should God ever lead YOU beside still waters, He will be there LEADING you. You will not be alone. Just my thoughts …
“But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be named among you, as becometh saints; 4Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.” Ephesians 5.3-4
In v. 1 of this chapter in Ephesians we read these words: “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children … ” So we need to keep our thoughts within the context of this truth. In light of Paul’s call for us to be followers of God, he issues some severe warnings. You may read these verses and think to yourself, “He doesn’t need to tell us all these things. We are Christians don’t do those things.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every Christian obeyed the Holy Spirit and abstain from all the things Paul mentioned?
I am saddened to say that many of the practices of the unsaved have crept into the church over the years. We teach our teenagers to protect their bodies against ungodly sexual behavior, but many of them come right back at us with, “Everybody is doing it. If I am a Christian, what difference does it make? I’m going to heaven anyway.”
Stranger still is the Christian husband or wife who jumps off the path of righteous living and when they are discovered, their testimony is destroyed. Each one of us as we look at our husband or wife, needs to see your spouse and the relationship you have should be as unto the Lord. When you see your spouse, look beyond them, and see God standing just over their shoulder. Such a vision will remind you that as you engage in that relationship day after day, looking over their shoulder keeps you mindful that this relationship is unto the Lord first.
Paul’s final phrase is a good reminder: “rather giving of thanks.” When you remember to give thanks for the life God has given you, it will move your focus from the life dominated by the flesh to one that is dominated by the Spirit. Once again, these are just my thoughts …
“13Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 15Whsooever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. ” 1 John 4.13-15
When John uses the word “Hereby …” he is saying, “This is how we know …” How do we KNOW that we dwell in God? The first and most obvious one is that God has given us His Spirit – the Holy Spirit. One who is a true believer will never have to wonder if the Spirit of God dwells in him. There may be some question as to how we respond to this Holy Spirit.
It seems to me that this theme keeps popping up in the verses I use for this blog. It is not intentional on my part, but it is intentional on God’s part. The question is never whether or not we FEEL the Holy Spirit’s presence. The question, as least for me, is am I willing to give him absolute control of my day for today and for all if my days. If the answer is anything else but yes, we say to the God of heaven, “I don’t need your Spirit. I ‘ve got my life under control.”
John establishes an irrefutable fact: “14And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” As a believer we would readily admit to that. Now John gets down to where the rubber meets the road: “15Whsooever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” Can we agree that John is speaking to us about being public with our testimony? “CONFESS that Jesus is the Son of God.” How long has it been for any of us to make a public declaration that Jesus is God’s Son and He is our Savior? Just my thoughts …
“But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again: and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be children of the highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. 36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” Luke 6.35-36
Today I find myself looking once again at some words from the lips of Jesus that are a challenge. Take time to go back and read vs. 20-34. They set the stage for the words of Jesus here. We find ourselves confronted with challenges that we are not capable of accomplishing in the flesh. Perhaps at this point we should ask ourselves: “Do I want to live and act just like the world or am I willing to live the way Jesus tells me to live in these verses?”
Let’s unpack these words: “love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again … ” Jesus is asking us to do something that is diametrically opposed to what our flesh is telling us to do. WHY, we ask ourselves, would anyone want to do that? Jesus doesn’t leave that question unanswered: “… your reward shall be great, and ye shall be children of the highest … ” Here is the secret. He wants us to live like we are HIS children and not children of the world.
How can we learn to do that? “ … for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.” He is asking us to display unconditional love to people who will never give it in return and who will wonder why we are doing it. The answer is because our Heavenly Father asked us to do it.
We will learn this attribute of loving like God loves by watching how He loves others who have nothing to offer Him in return. “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” We know that extending mercy to someone is to give them not what they deserve, but what they do not deserve. How different would our lives be if we would adopt this kind of lifestyle? Just wondering! Just my thoughts …
“But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” 1 John 2.5-6
I have been asked many times over in my 50+ years of ministry a question something like this: “Why do I need to read the Bible? I pretty much know what it says.” Reading the Bible through (something most have never done even once) is not the same as meditating on or studying the Bible. Both of those require a commitment of time.
We find ourselves being challenged on almost every page to DO something that reflects the image of God within. For example: “whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected:” We cannot keep His Word if we have never read it. An occasional glance at God’s Word, or the pastor’s sermon on Sunday taken from God’s Word is not the same as “keeping His Word.”
If it requires us to keep God’s Word in order for the love of God to be perfected (made complete) in us, then failure to do so sets us up to fail big time when we DO NOT read God’s Word. This next short phrase just reinforces the first: “ … hereby know we that we are in him.” HOW do we know that we are in Him? By “keeping His Word.”
Now v. 6 is a challenge to authenticity: “He that SAITH (emphasis mine) he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” So if I grasp the meaning here, I am supposed to walk like Jesus walked as much as that is possible. In order to KNOW how Jesus walked, I must spend time in God’s Word actually studying the life of Jesus. I cannot walk like He walked if I do not KNOW how He walked. I think we need to stop playing at being a Christ-follower and take these verses to heart. Just my thoughts …
“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him.” Colossians 1.16
We don’t hear the word narcissism much, but it is an issue in our world today. What does it mean? Here are the words from the dictionary: “excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance.” In other words, life is all about “them.” What does this have to do with our verse today? The whole premise of the words above literally shatters the concept of narcissism, especially for one who is a Christ follower.
Let’s put all of this in context by looking at the preceding verses: “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us form the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 In whom (his dear Son) we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins 15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:” (Colossians 1.12-15)
So when we read, “by him were all things created”, it is referring to Christ (his dear Son). Paul pretty well covers all his bases with these words: “(things) that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers … ” It doesn’t appear he has left anything out.
So, let’s look at the last phrase: “all things were created by him and for him.” I see no place for the exaltation of self or any other aspect of narcissism. Just about the time you and I get to thinking that God really got a good package when He got us, Paul throws a verse like this one in our path. Not only was I born through the miraculous process of conception, but I was “born again” through the gift of God’s Son. That is amazing and it is very humbling. Just my thoughts …
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4.1-3
Paul has all the right credentials to issue such a challenge to us. He begins with: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord … ” Not only was he the prisoner of the Lord, he was also a prisoner of the Roman government. His challenge to us is in this next phrase: “(I) beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,” Paul is begging (beseech) the Philippian Christians and us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which they had been called. Every believer is called to live a life that brings honor and glory to the Lord who saved them. But Satan has some pretty good tools that will cause us to lose sight of our calling. We will either focus on what Satan is doing in our lives or we will focus on what God wants to do in our lives. It IS our choice.
We are to execute this calling “, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” He wants us to exercise humility (lowliness) and gentleness (meekness) and patience (forbearing one another in love). There is no place in this calling for arrogance, rudeness, or impatience. We are ALL sinners who have been called to “walk worthy of (this) vocation … ”
Can I suggest that the hardest part is found in v. 3? “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Are we EAGER to maintain unity among our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, or are we given to disrupting the unity of the Spirit? Only you can answer that question. And I must answer it for myself. May we give ourselves today to maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. It is a worthy challenge. Just my thoughts …
“A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.” Psalm 68.5
On this special day given to honoring dads, each one of us looks back and remembers the mistakes we made as dads. There are no perfect dads down her on this earth, but we have One in heaven. I can remember some things that my father never taught me. He never taught me how to curse and take God’s name in vain. He never taught me how to drink beer and strong liquor. He never taught me how to smoke cigarettes or do drugs. But he did teach me one thing that is a game changer … he taught me how to love God and love my family. I don’t recall hearing him say “I love you” very many times. But I saw him demonstrate his love for my mom and me in many ways.
Our verse says that God is “A father of the fatherless … ” One can hardly make it through a day without being confronted with the fact that we have many children in our culture who are fatherless. They did not choose that life. But it is a reality every day. God says that He pays special attention to them. For those of us in ministry, I believe that we too should give special attention to those who are fatherless. We can be God’s hands and feet and voice to them.
The second phrase says that God is “a judge of the widows … ” Another translation uses the word protector for judge. I do believe that God pays special attention to those who are widows. In Bible times, a widow did not have government programs to which she could turn for help. We read these words in Jeremiah 49.11: “Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in me.” God cares. The last phrase simple declares that God’s very nature is to care for the fatherless and protect the widows. We express God’s heart when we do the same. Just my thoughts …
“With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” Isaiah 26.9
As believers in this New Testament era, we have a faith that is both historical and experiential. When I think of prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah and the others we find in the Old Testament, I wonder what their experiences with God were like. They were looking forward to the cross, and we are looking back to the cross.
When I read these words from Isaiah’s pen, his longings certainly seem to be a lot like mine. He says: “With my soul have I desired thee in the night … ” There have been numerous times when I have awakened during the night and the longing of my heart is to cry out to God about something that is bearing on me. I know He hears me no matter where I am or what time it is. He is “on duty” 24×7.
And then we hear him say: “with my spirit within me will I seek thee early:” I think Isaiah was an early riser. That was when he met with God. The day was young, his mind was fresh, and his spirit had a longing to speak to this God who wanted to hear from him. I know that there are many whose work prohibits them from rising early. I believe it is not so much the time of day as it is the beginning of OUR day.
This last phrase causes us to reflect on how the world sees this God whom we worship: “for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” Sometimes we hear false teaching that tells us that God is love and He will ultimately take everyone to heaven in the end. That sounds a bit syrupy because it is not true. When this world see God at work in His “judgments” here on earth, some people in the world begin to pay attention to the fact that this is the hand of God and not just a fluke of nature or that something else “just happened.” Where is our place in all this? Let’s seek God with our whole heart and live in such a way that even the vilest sinner will look at us and say, “there’s something different about that person’s life.” Just my thoughts …
“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Luke 6.38
So many of God’s children misunderstand what giving is all about. One of the things I hear most is, “All the preacher talks about is money.” We need to come to grips with the truth that giving is a measure of one’s faith. The words above were spoken by Jesus. He challenges us to exercise our faith by giving first and then the blessings will come. If we cannot trust God with our money, what else can we not trust God with?
Look at the emphasis stated in this first phrase: “Give, and it shall be given unto you … ” These are not empty words spoken to fill part of a page in Luke’s gospel. This is a declaration by the son of God that says, “When you obey, the blessings will come.” To expand on this issue, Jesus says: “ … good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.” What is going to happen when we give? More than we can ever imagine. I am fearful that some will read this and simply conclude, “I will give so I can get more.” In reality we do not give in order to get. We give in order to get so we can give again. The blessings keep coming when we keep giving.
Now let’s look at this last phrase: “For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Here is God’s promise to His children. The measure of blessing that will come back to you will be in proportion to that which you have given. I don’t really think we misunderstand this truth. I think some simply do not think it is true. Remember this – you cannot out give God. Just my thoughts …