Pastor Robert Morgan writes in his book The Lord is My Shepherd that “now more than ever, we Christians need the peace and power of Psalm 23. Many of us are far too busy. The stresses of life are wearing us down, little by little, and the noise around us can be an unending cacophony of confusion. Our lives – with all our electronic tethers, emotional entanglements, and financial pressures – are more demanding than ever. We are simply not resting, not managing our clocks and calendars as we'd like, and as a result, we are often anxious and angry, even when we don't realize it. We are pulled in so many directions, as if we were twistable toys in the hands of a toddler.”
Do you feel the same? I sure do. Tomorrow morning we will be looking at the phrase “I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” My hope is that God will use our time together to help us see how as the Shepherd He is at work in our lives, continually providing and restoring us.
Psalm 23 is one of the most well known chapters in the Bible. Yet, even so, do we really understand what it means? A fresh look at this very familiar passage might be just what we need to hear as a church. Author Harold Kushner in The Lord is My Shepherd summarizes Psalm 23 like this, "In just a few lines, it conveys the distilled wisdom of generations, offering us a way of seeing the world that renders it less frightening, teaching us to deal with the loss of people we love and with conflict with people who don't like us or who treat us badly. It shows us how to recognize the presence of God at times and in places where we might think God was absent or when we might be so distracted by our own concerns that we would overlook God’s presence. It has the power to teach us to think differently and, as a result, to act differently."
For about 6 months, I was struggling with hearing from God as to what He was leading us to learn about Him this summer. After praying and seeking counsel, God helped me realize He was guiding to Psalm 23, a chapter I was continually drawn to during this time of seeking. Now that several weeks have passed since this decision, He has confirmed it over and over again. My prayer is that God will use this summer’s messages to encourage and restore you as we look at how our Good Shepherd cares for us.
Can you believe that we have just gone through the entire Bible?! We began in September and are wrapping up this week. My prayer is that you have grown greatly in your relationship with God over this past year. If so, our joy has been made complete! In trying to compose a final wrap-up email regarding God’s Story, I realized that I cannot do better than the Epilogue of our book, The Story.
“And now God’s triumphant Word has found its way to you. You’ve read The Story. You’ve heard the truth. You’ve come face to face with the most important message you will ever hear: Jesus, God’s Son, came, lived, died and rose again. So now the question remains … What will you do with The Story? Will you turn away and dismiss it as an interesting tale? Will you block out the light that shines so brightly? Or will you take a step down the narrow path that leads to unimaginable glory? Jesus tells us, ‘Enter through the narrow gate … small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’ Will you be one of the few?”
Our relationship with God is an individual one. We each have to make a life-altering choice as to whether Jesus is Lord of all our life or if He is even Lord at all. What is your decision?
Last Saturday, I went with my family to the Denver Zoo. It was a nice zoo and we had a good time. Of course, there were all types of animals, including “brown bears.” (They were a good size, but not Alaska-sized!) But, one part of the zoo caught my attention more than the others. We went to the primates area and saw a big gorilla. As he was walking, he noticed some food on the ground, probably kernels of corn, and picked them up exactly like we would with our forefinger and thumb. I was impressed seeing this dexterity in an animal.
This got me thinking. Humans have always wanted to know why we are here on this earth. We are always curious about how we came to be and what will happen to us. But because our hearts are sinful and full of the curse, we will always try to deny God or the supernatural. So we end up looking to the gorilla for answers. They look like us, they act like us, surely we must be related. We try to find the missing links and fill in the gaps with “logic” so that nothing supernatural and unknown could have happened. We believe anything, as long it’s not God.
God created us to have fellowship with Him which is why we have a God-shaped hole in us. He puts His handiwork all around us, but we try to fill the hole with anything but Him and are incidentally never satisfied. It’s no surprise because our hearts are wicked. We follow the god of this age and he is hell-bent against anything that points to the True source of Creation and Truth. He does not want us to know that we will only be truly satisfied when we know why we were created and what our destiny is.
Tomorrow, we reach the conclusion of The Story, the book of Revelation. This book of the Bible comes with a lot of 21st century baggage, but there are some very important points we can glean from an overview. God has always loved us and reaches out continually throughout time, but there is a limit to His patience. There will be a judgment. And Satan knows this. Satan has always wanted to be God, so through deception and lies he has been trying to drag as many people away from God before the final judgment. But since before time began, before angels or the earth or people were even created, God was in control. He is on the throne - He was, He is, and always will be!
You know how it all started...do you know how it ends?
Reading Revelation is always a challenge for me, maybe that's the reason I don't read it often. There are a lot of 'weird' descriptions of things in the adult book and the older kids get some of it too. Imagine having to sit down and write a journal entry for something you just experienced that nobody, not even you, has ever experienced before. How would you describe things you'd never seen? You use the things you are familiar with to explain the things you aren't. Obviously John lived at a different time than we do so he relies on things we are probably not familiar with. Don't get hung up in all this stuff or try to figure it all out. That is not the reason we are looking at this book. God is a mighty God and He deserves to be worshiped, honored and praised. It appears there are beings who do just that. But they do not take our place. We need to personally worship, honor and praise God ourselves.
I like a paragraph I read in The Story for Kids...the older elementary book. It says, "The things John saw were meant to show how powerful and mighty God is, not to scare us. When we get to heaven, we'll be very happy and safe there. The best things on earth will be even better than we can imagine." If you have that book in your home, you will find that on page 257.
God spent 6 days at the beginning of The Story building this planet and the heavens around it. God made it a wonderful place and then created a very special garden where he created Man and Woman. God walked with them and enjoyed their companionship in the garden. Then sin entered the world and everything changed. Not only were Adam and Eve separated from God, but the whole system started dying. It is still dying today; you can see the pollution, the evil, everywhere you go. But one day there will be a new earth and a new heaven for those who believe Jesus saved them from their sins when he died on the cross for them. Once again God will live with his creation and walk with us in a beautiful garden.
For the longest time growing up and even after I became a believer, I thought heaven would be a place where I wore a white robe and sang songs 24/7 forever. Honestly...that does not appeal to me. But walking through a beautiful flower garden or a huge forest, or even across mountain tops with The Creator...now that is something I can look forward to!
Thank you God!!!!!
ps...We have 2 Sundays left for the Story. This will be the last week with a Parent's Page. Our last week (May 28) will be a wrap up of the last 31 chapters. The preschool and elementary school kids will have a trivia game to wrap things up.
This week’s chapter in The Story talks about the final few years of Paul’s life. Basically, it shows how he ended strong. He endured beatings and mocking, prison and a shipwreck, and so many other things. In one of those times, when he was locked away in Rome under house arrest, he used his time to write to believers throughout the world. Surprisingly, his letters weren’t all woe-is-me, but were about how to have joy in the moment God has placed you. Randy Frazee asks, “How could anyone in jail write from such a positive perspective? Paul could, because he had been chiseled to look like Christ Jesus.”
Though I am a complete novice, I have done some wood-working and I know that when I chisel something, I have to remove pieces from the object that are unneeded or in the way with what my final goal is. When we become Christians, we submit our lives to God, saying “God, make me into the person that you want me to be.” When He begins to chisel away at some of the rough or problem areas in our lives, it hurts. When we start to look more like Jesus, it can get uncomfortable. In a SkitGuys skit called “God’s Masterpiece,” they say it this way:
God had worked in Paul’s life, chiseling him to look more like Christ so that when hard times came, he would be able to stand strong knowing that God would work it out for His glory. For Paul, his anchor was firmly secured on the Rock of his salvation, the Messiah Jesus Christ. “In Christ, our circumstances do not dictate our joy; our relationship with and hope in Christ do. In fact, it is often how we live when our circumstances are at their worst that either attracts or repels others” (Randy Frazee). Paul’s example spurs us on to fully realize that as God continues to chisel us and guide us, we can rest firmly in Him, knowing that in every high and stormy gale, our anchor holds within the veil.
If you would like to see the whole skit, it can be found here.