Hello church family. Tomorrow morning we will be finishing up our look at the most famous Psalm in the world. As I was preparing, I was challenged by one paragraph in particular that I was reading. It is from a book is titled The Lord is My Shepherd and is written by Pastor Robert Morgan. I felt it was too good to keep to myself.
“Dr. Robert McQuilkin, from whose little booklet on the 23rd Psalm I've taken the quotes for the chapter headings, once observed that the difference between victory and defeat is the position of the word but. We tend to say, "the Lord is my shepherd, but…"
I can't pay my bills.
I don't feel well.
I'm worried about this problem.
We should say, "I'm presently having trouble paying my bills, but the Lord is my shepherd. I may not feel well, but the Lord is my shepherd. His goodness follows me all the days of my life."
"The testimony of victory puts the but into the right place," wrote McQuilkin.”
Oh how many times I’ve lived my life speaking words of defeat. May God give each of us strength to live in the testimony of victory and help us put our minds in the right place. In this world we will have troubles, but praise God Almighty, our Good Shepherd has overcome the world!
Are you going through a tough time in life? As I was preparing for this Sunday and thinking about you and the others in our church family, I was hit by how many people are struggling and going through times that are very tough. It feels like a wilderness and I know because I am there too. It’s in times like these that it is hard to know how God will “work all things for our good.”
I was fully ready to talk about Psalm 23:6a, which speaks of the goodness and mercy of God following us everyday of our lives, but I truly believe that we need to hear something else. We need to hear how God wants to use these desert experiences in our lives to prove that He is with us. Bible teacher Ray Vanderlaan says that “As scary and difficult as these deserts may be, they provide the opportunity for us to learn to follow His voice and discover that we can trust and depend on Him completely.” We learn that God is faithful to provide “just enough” for each day.
In John 15 verse 11, Jesus talks about how our joy can be overflowing when we walk side-by-side with Him. This can sometimes be a challenge, especially when we feel that our cup of joy is empty. This Sunday, we will be looking at the part in Psalm 23 that talks about our cup overflowing. My prayer is that God allows us to grasp just how full and deep our joy can be in Him and how it can last through thick and thin.
Dear church family, I want you to know that you have been prayed for. Life is sometimes good and sometimes tough. I am very thankful that this world is not our home. It's hard to admit, but today my struggles aren't with physical enemies, but mental ones. I'm trying hard not to borrow tomorrow's or the next day's or the next week's or even the next month's worries, but I'm not succeeding.
God has promised to give His followers peace that passes all understanding. That means peace from worries, from problems, from challenges...EVERYTHING! He promised to abundantly provide for us even while in the presence of our enemies. And since God's word is true and He keeps His word, that means He will give true peace, He will provide what I need when I need it. My prayer is that I can trust His timing and for me to know His peace in this moment. As I pray for me, I pray also for you.
This Sunday, we will be talking about shepherding equipment, specifically the rod and staff. I guess that I have never really thought much about these tools, but I’ve learned a lot lately. One thing I discovered is that the rod, while used for defense, also was used for correction. When a sheep would wander away from the flock, often looking for something different or new, the rod would be thrown with such skill that it would whiz right past the sheep’s ears and it would come back to its senses and run back to the shepherd. The shepherd knows that it is important for his sheep to be near him because he is their safety, protection, and provision. Sheep can only survive because of a good shepherd’s care.
But the sad thing is that we as smart humans are the very same as sheep! Our Shepherd takes care of our needs, guides us, and protects us, but many times we think we know better than Him and seek to break away and do our own thing. And that is the very thing our enemy - that prowling lion Satan! - wants us to do. Shepherd Philip Keller puts it this way, “At all times we would be wise to walk a little closer to Christ. This is one sure place of safety. It was always the distant sheep, the roamers, the wanderers that were picked off by the predators in an unsuspecting moment.”
Have you ever been in a place where God was trying to get your attention? Did you heed that warning or just keep going your own way? The path away from God leads to destruction, deception, and death. God throws His “rod” near your head, trying to get you to return to your senses and run back to Him. I’m thankful that God does not give up on us. He loves us too much to leave us in our rebellious state. He knows that our only chance of a fulfilled life is in the Good Shepherd’s care.
Since we live in Alaska, we know what darkness feels like. We actually get to deal with darkness for months and months out of the year. Because of this, I always carry a flashlight with me. Before I got my flashlight, I figured I would only use it a few times a week. After I got it, I found that I use it many times a day. I was astonished! I think the reason was because the light gave me peace. It helped me see what was in my way, illuminating not only the things that would cause me to stumble, but also showing the right path to the thing that I was searching for. It became indispensable to me.
Have you ever been in a dark place, not physically but emotionally? It’s sometimes described as feeling that “the walls are closing in on me.” It is during those times when it seems like the shadows of darkness are the most overwhelming. In Psalm 23 verse 4, David wrote about the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I think that’s descriptive enough, but Gerald Wilson in the NIV Application Commentary says that the meaning is better understood as “the shadowiest of all shadows.” And in Young’s literal translation of the Bible, he calls it the valley of “death-shade.” To me, that pictures a bleak predicament that seems to have no chance of escape.
Thankfully, David doesn’t end his poem there. He states that even in those blacker-than-black times, those times where death is bearing down on us, we don’t have to fear evil. Not because evil doesn’t exist or because we have the strength to make it, but because the Good Shepherd is with us. The Good Shepherd is the one that gives peace and causes us to not stumble because He has already gone over every single path that He will lead us on and expertly knows the right way. The Good Shepherd is also the Light of the world. He not only leads the way, but He lights the way too! What He asks us to do is to trust Him and believe that He will take care of us. When we do that, we can agree with David by saying, “I will fear no evil, because You are with me."