Archive | October 2016

God’s Lovingkindness: Psalm 23:6a

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For some time I’ve been pondering and praying over these words from Psalm 23:6a*:

“Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,”

David’s psalm begins with the good Shepherd walking in front of His flock, leading the way, but ends with Him following from behind. Why?

It perplexed me for some time. If God is leading me through dark times to a lush, pleasant highland to rest and refresh myself, why is He suddenly walking from behind?

And then I considered this very famous verse from Apostle Paul, Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God,”.

God leads “us in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3b*) The problem is, I don’t always follow Him and wander off the path. Sometimes it’s because of foolishness, or lack of trust in Him, or just simply not knowing what I should be doing. And, I hate to admit it but it’s true, it’s just outright rebellion, thinking I know better than God.

Stupid to think I know better than the omniscient God, isn’t it?

We do have to pay the penalty when we wander off course. Not because God is mean, but consequences teach us to stay on the path. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.”–Galatians 6:7 *

However, God is merciful and loving. What I finally realized is: When I mess up, my merciful Father helps me get back on course. He follows behind, helping me to get out of the hole I’ve dug for myself and to fix the mess I got myself into. He doesn’t kick me when I’m down. There are some things that cannot be reversed, for example an abortion, but He brings healing to the suffering woman who’s had one through godly Christian counseling and friendship.

But God isn’t mean: He doesn’t want us to stay down when we slip up. A common metaphor preachers use is: Like a little child that’s learning how to walk and then falls, God has ahold of my hand and lifts me back up again and helps me walk forward. The Christian life is a process. We’re not instantly perfect when we become born-again; learning to be a godly person is a lifetime task.

I think anyone who knows me would certainly agree that I’m far from perfect.

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, And He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.”–Psalm 37:23-24*

It’s comforting to know that the Lord has “enclosed me behind and before,” (Psalm 139:5*). I’m not alone in trying to clean up the mess I’ve made. My merciful Friend is right with me.

*All quotes from the NASB version of the Bible.

(Also, please note that I’ve been influenced by many godly persons and preachers in my lifetime. Not everything I write is 100% original with me; for instance, the metaphor of a child falling down and being lifted up again by the Heavenly Father. But I certainly couldn’t tell you where I first heard it.)

 

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How to Pray Psalm 23

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It occurred to me, when posting a few minutes ago, that perhaps not everyone reading my posts understands how to pray through a passage of Scripture.  I’ve found a method that our pastor’s wife taught me during Bible study very helpful. I was a Christian for nearly 25 years before I knew this technique.

I highly recommend memorizing Psalm 23; it’s short and you can recite it quickly anyplace you feel comfortable doing so. The below is from the NASB version. I prefer it because it is very poetic and supposedly the best word-for-word translation, but not always the most easily understood.

You recite a portion of Scripture then pray on it. The below is not what I say every time or it’d be a stale, rote prayer. This is just an example to give you an idea of how to do it, not something to recite.

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” Thank you, Lord, that You are leading and guiding me through this day. Thank you that You promise to meet all my needs so that I don’t have to worry. You love me and care about me. May I be wise enough to listen to Your voice and follow You and Your path.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures;” Thank you, Lord, that You will only lead me to green pastures. When I need rest, You force me to lie down and take care of myself. You don’t make me lie down in the mud, but where I’ll be refreshed.

“He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul;” Lord, thank You for providing me with a quiet place to rest. I don’t calm my soul. You take responsibility for restoring and calming my soul. It isn’t something I can grunt out in my own effort. You calm my spirit.

“He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.” Lord, You will never lead me to do evil. I can always count on You to guide me in the right path. When I start to stray, You will warn me and encourage me back onto the path that’s best for my life and Your glory. If I get stubborn and insist on wandering off, You’ll discipline me and get me back where I belong, following You.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me;” Lord, when life sucks, I’m not stuck there. You promise to lead me out to the other side and to be with me the entire journey. I don’t need to fear evil because You’re with me. I’m not traveling this path of life alone.

“Your rod and Your staff, these comfort me.” You are able to guide me back onto the right path with Your staff and You can protect me from my enemies with Your rod. Anyone who wants to harm me has to deal with You.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;” (The table here is a mountaintop of good grass the shepherd leads his sheep to. He prepares the table by pulling out the noxious weeds and anything that’s harmful to the sheep before allowing them to graze.) Lord, You’re leading me to a place of safety and protection. If I follow Your will according to Your Word, it’s going to take me to a good place.

“You’ve anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.” Thank you for this beautiful day, the love of my family, that I can see, hear, taste, feel, etc… (Express thankfulness for your blessings.)

“Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Thank you, Lord, that I don’t need to fear death. There is not a moment You’re not with me and I will dwell with You forever when I leave this life. I can count on You to help me when I mess up and turn it around for good (Romans 8:28) because of Your loving care.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I highly recommend the book, “A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23,” by Phillip Keller to get a better understanding what King David had in mind when he composed the psalm.

Have a glorious day.

 

 

 

Relaxed During The Storm: Ephesians 1:11b

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There’s a lot of anxiety during this election season. One side worries about losing their Constitutional rights and the other about being left out. Mud is being slung from both sides, some of it sticking, some of the darkness still waiting for illumination.

Buddy can rest because he knows he’s loved and being taken care of. He’s even resting on the dragon, the symbol of our great enemy, Satan. It also helps that he doesn’t understand the evening news or read newspapers.

We, too, if we’re in relationship with the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ, can rest in God’s loving care: “Who works all things after the counsel of His will.”–Ephesians 1:11b, NASB

When I get anxious about current events I remind myself that everything that is going on in this world is under His control. It’s hard for me to really wrap my mind around that truth. So much is out of my control and I often feel helpless, a minnow trying to swim against a rising tide of garbage flowing my way. It’s not easy for me to understand God’s awesome power because it’s so out of my own experience. Even, despite my best efforts, Buddy ran off around the Fourth of July holidays and was nearly killed by a van on a nearby street when I was taking a shower. Even what I think is under my control, ultimately, is often an illusion. I’m dependent upon God 24/7 to protect me and my loved ones. In a sense, that’s comforting because it means He’s really been in control all the time.

“In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”–John 16:33, NASB

Jesus reminds me that He is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent; meaning He is all-powerful, all-knowing and everywhere. No evil catches Him by surprise. He’s working all things according to His plan. Sometimes,  to be at peace, I have to LET GO OF MY PLAN and trust that He’s working out HIS PLAN for the world, when His plan seems to be at odds with mine.

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I go from your presence?”–Psalm 139:7, NASB

I highly encourage you to memorize Psalms 23 and 139. When I pray through these Psalms, I find my anxieties melt away as I remind myself of God’s power, faithfulness, and tender care for me.

Preparing For Life’s Storms: Psalm 62:7b-8

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In the Puget Sound area we’ve been warned by the local news media for several days that a dangerous windstorm was coming, perhaps the worst in 10 years with potentially 70mph winds. The last time the land was soaked with rain for several days and then the wind blew furiously, tens of thousands of trees came down. I couldn’t drive to my home after work till the few hundred trees that had come down across the main street in front of the openings to my housing development were cleared.

It was supposed to hit at 3PM. It’s 5:30 and we’re still anticipating it may arrive.

Since it’s so difficult to find a raincoat that fits Buddy, I snapped up a raincoat last month when they were first set out onto the rack at the local Mud Bay pet shop. Buddy is a Silky terrier, which means he has an extra long back like a Corgi, so it’s difficult to find a coat that covers his rear area but isn’t too wide around the waist. This little coat has straps that wind around his legs and snug ties around the waist. You can see from the photo that Buddy is a good-natured dog.

Sometimes, no matter how well we think we are prepared, the storms in life come and catch us off guard. There is no weather service to warn us about the trials or temptations that may arrive in the future to derail us.

“The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.”–Psalm 62:7b-8 NASB

One way God is a refuge for us is when we pour out our hearts to Him. There is no one who understands our situation or knows our mind like God does. There is no one like Him who listens so attentively without condemnation (Romans 8:1) and has the power to lift our spirits and change our circumstances. He is our mighty Counselor (Isaiah 9:6) and Helper (John 14:16).

In the midst of life’s storms, God is your best friend, ready and willing to listen. “Casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.”–1 Peter 5:7

No Greater Love: Luke 23:33-34

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One day I came home from work and was greeted by Buddy, proudly displaying his new prize: my donut. I immediately forgave him and laughed. After all, it was my fault that he snagged the donut as I set it down upon my bed when getting ready for work and then forgot it.

I much admire Jesus’ great love for us. When He was hanging from the Cross, in unbelievable pain and agony, His focus was on the welfare of others:

“When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they do.'”–Luke 23:33-34 NASB

When I’m feeling cranky or stressed, it’s a challenge for me to remember God’s great love and patience for me and that I’m supposed to demonstrate that same love to others. How often I’m tempted to repay evil for evil, or insult for insult, to strike back at someone who’s done evil, forgetting that I once was condemned, deceived and far from God, till I was given a saving knowledge of Christ because of God’s mercy. I was tempted not to pray for a wicked public figure (not a politician in case you’re trying to guess who it is), but God reminded me that He loves everyone and so I prayed for his soul.

After all, to someone as pure as God is, we’re all pretty rotten, yet every day He gives us a beating heart, air to breathe, a lovely day and evening sky, all the blessings of nature, and, in general, a government that maintains law and order. I have no right to be irritated with someone else because we all need God’s mercy.

I’ve been thinking about Judgment Day lately, how those in leadership who think they’re getting away with evil, and refuse to repent, will discover there is no escaping God’s judgment. I feel sorry for them and pray they’ll repent, because it is going to go hard on them. Perhaps this Great Day will not only include a summary of our sins if we’ve not accepted Jesus so that they’ll understand why they’re sinful in God’s eyes, but perhaps also a recitation of all the great love He shows each person every day that they never noticed or acknowledged: Escapes from harm, healing from disease, enablement to make a living, a restraining of wicked impulses that helps them to choose good and maintain their relationships, friends and pets who love them, etc.

And they’ll mourn because they’ll realize they’ve rejected spending eternity with the most loving, generous being Who was, is and will ever exist.

God waits to bring judgment because He is showing remarkable patience, “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”–2 Peter 3:9

I’m very thankful, since I wasn’t saved till I was 28 years old, God was patient with me.