THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD – PART 2

PS.23:3,4 – He restores my soul;

He leads me in the paths of righteousness

For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;

For You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me

The Lord is my Shepherd and my best friend. He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me besides the still waters of rest. This is the place of renewal and restoration for my soul. Life can be quite exhausting. Walking in this intimate friendship and learning to rest and abide in Him brings me to a place of renewal and restoration. We don’t have to wait until we are in a state of exhaustion to come to these waters of renewal, if the Lord is my Shepherd, renewal becomes my way of life.

The Shepherd leads us into His paths of righteousness. We are no longer walking in lock step with the culture of the world. We have entered into a new way of life, walking in the steps of our Shepherd. Here are some thoughts from the Passion Translation notes on this verse. “Or “circular paths of righteousness.” It is a common trait for sheep on the hillsides of Israel to circle their way up higher. They eventually form a path that keeps leading them higher. This is what David is referring to here. Each step we take following our Shepherd will lead us higher, even though it may seem we are going in circles.” We are walking in this new way of life, this life becomes our testimony or the testimony of Jesus living in us. Our new life is for “His name’s sake”, it is no longer us but Christ living His new life in us.

Even when this path of following Jesus leads us into difficult times, we are not afraid. He is with us when walking into death’s shadows. His rod and His staff remind me of His authority and His protection. Following His leadership is my place of safety and protection. I may not always understand why He leads me in a certain direction, but I trust my friend. Wherever He leads me, He protects and takes care of me. Why Should I fear any kind of evil? If the Lord who died for me is my Shepherd, no enemy can touch me.

TO KNOW HIM

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.

Do you know Jesus? That is a common phrase heard amongst evangelical believers. The problem with this is it is easily misunderstood. What does it mean to know Jesus? Does it mean have you answered an altar call, or prayed the prayer ? Or does it mean you have answered the question right when you are asked are you going to heaven when you die? Paul talked about “knowing” Jesus in today’s verse. For Him it wasn’t a casual statement or something that happened once upon a time, it was a deep, intimate relationship with the Lord that was increasing throughout his life. It wasn’t an add on in his life, for Paul knowing Christ was his life. Paul said that to know Christ was the most valuable possession that he owned and the very pursuit of all his energy. His ministry seemed to be an overflow of his pursuit. Here is how Steven Fry describes Paul’s statement.

“From a prison cell in Rome, Paul pens this personal letter in which he comes to terms with an accomplished past and a confining present. After his past as a persecutor of God’s people and through his “superior” religious activities as a Pharisee, Paul came to the liberating conclusion that all is rubbish compared to knowing the Lord! Freed from the stagnation of yesterday’s victories and the emotional paralysis of yesterday’s mistakes, Paul knew that the only thing that ultimately counted was knowing the Lord and being obedient to His will. Not only was his past subsumed by this singular passion, his present imprisonment could not snatch from him the joy of knowing Christ. Prison chains could not keep him from pursuing God, nor dull his effectiveness in ministry. Paul’s desire to know Christ sprang from no other motive but to enjoy Him. He wanted Christ for Christ’s sake, not his own. He was a lover of God, not a user of God.”

I love that statement, He wanted Christ for Christ’s sake. So let me ask that question once again, do you know Jesus? Do you know Him as your passion, your goal in life and your friend? Answering this question is where life begins.

DO I HAVE A FREE WILL ?

Rom.8:6,7 – For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.

How free is your will anyway? Do you always get to decide everything that your “will” wants? I know children have to have their will subjugated to their parents or really bad things would happen. Everything from eating way to much sugar to falling off the house and breaking a leg comes from bad choices from an unrestrained will. I remember watching a young boy at a restaurant eat an entire bowl of butter without a correcting word from his parents. His will needed to be reigned in. Maybe you don’t eat bowls of butter but without the intervention of Christ our fallen will seems to make many bad choices in life. Actually, the main result of the fall of man has to do with his free will. What happened? Our wills became ensnared by the fall; the result? We no longer had the moral capacity to make good spiritual choices. We were hopelessly separated from our Creator with unspeakable ramifications. Here are some thoughts from R. C. Sproul on our fallen will.

“When John Calvin was engaged in a dispute over free will with his opponent Pelagius in the sixteenth century, part of the debate concerned the nature of the human will. Calvin agreed with a definition of free will which holds that even in our sinful condition we have the power and ability to choose what we want. He did not agree with the definition of free will as the ability to choose from indifference, because we are all held captive by the propensity to sin. Calvin agreed that we do have free will in the sense that we have the ability to choose what we want, but that ability to choose is not only mildly influenced but is radically conditioned by the human corruption of our hearts, out of which flow the choices we make. In other words, we make evil choices not from indifference but from a prior inclination to wickedness.”

So what do we do about that “prior inclination to wickedness”? The will is obviously effected deeply by the things we love and enjoy. This is where the secret to freeing that will lies. What we love and desire in life has to change. That’s where grace comes in. The incredible attraction of the love of God is what brings us freedom from enslavement. What do I mean? When Christ comes into our lives we start loving different things. We love the Bible, and Church and worship. The foolish pleasures that had us ensnared suddenly lose their attraction.

FALLING SHORT

Rom. 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

What is your definition of sin? For some people everything goes unless you hurt someone else. For others, it’s some kind of religious list. I’ll never forget what I found in the pulpit in our first church. It was some kind of list of rules that was concocted by the church who had used the building before us. There were things in there about swimming with members of the opposite sex and certain clothing that shouldn’t be worn. Then there was the Hindu book called Nectar of Devotion that was some sort of list of Hindu rules. The ones that got me were the ones about women not going to the temple when they were “at that time of the month” or the other one that forbade passing gas in the temple. Religion can get really complicated. Here is my definition of sin; sin is what you do when God Himself is not enough for you. Here is how John Piper describes it.

“It also follows that sin is the suicidal exchange of the glory of God for the broken cisterns of created things. Paul said, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom.3:23). Sinning is a “falling short” of the glory of God. But the Greek word for “falling short” (husterountai) means “lack.” The idea is not that you shot an arrow at God’s glory and the arrow fell short, but that you could have had it as a treasure, but you don’t. You have chosen something else instead. This is confirmed in Romans 1:23 where people “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image.” That is the deepest problem with sin: it is a suicidal exchange of infinite value and beauty for some fleeting, inferior substitute. This is the great insult.”

So what have you replaced God with? Is it like the woman at the well that tried to find her satisfaction in another man’s arms? Or is it like the Pharisees that found their joy from the respect of other men? Maybe politics is your thing, like Simon the Zealot who wanted power in the political realm. Then there is the rich young ruler, his joy was caught up in his possessions. The bottom line is this, only when you taste the sweetest of all joys will you be able to be freed from the foolish pleasures and attractions of this world. Then you will not “fall short”, you will be right in the middle of His glory.

THE DAY THE CONVERSATION CHANGED

Acts 2:22 – Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know —

“Can you please keep those kids quiet!” Peter was trying to grab just a few more minutes of shut eye before he was back on that boat again. He had been going out at night fishing for years on the Sea of Galilee, tonight would be like hundreds of other nights; or would it? He had memories of fishing with his dad, now it was more serious. Peter and his fishing partners had bills to pay and food to put on the table. He was hoping for a better night tonight, he couldn’t afford too many more like last night; fishing all night and no fish. Something just had to give.

Have you ever known a fisherman? If so you already know Peter. His conversation was about tides and bait and nets and boats. His words were predictable and understandable because he knew about fish. People talk about what they know. That was about to change for Peter. After another long night of no fish an unexpected interruption changed everything. An itinerant preacher wanted to borrow Peter’s boat, reluctantly Peter agreed. Maybe he thought it might change his luck. Was that ever an understatement. After the preaching was over Peter heard the words that would change his life and his conversation forever, “launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch”. Reluctantly Peter followed the instructions and what happened next was over the top. Fish began filling the nets, so many fish that the nets began to break and the boat began to sink. Somehow they got those fish to the shore and that’s when the conversation changed, “follow Me and I will make you a fisher of men”. It’s funny, you would think the fishermen would be talking fish stories after a catch like that. How could they? Jesus had stepped onto their boat.

Peter began to speak a new language that day. How could he just talk about fish after Jesus had disrupted everything? From that day Jesus was at the center of his conversation, how could he really talk about anything else?

That brings us to us. We all talk about the things we know. Motorcycle guys talk motorcycles, guitar guys talk guitars, and golfers talk golf. You catch the drift. What could change any of that? The conversation changes when Jesus steps onto your boat. Suddenly, guitars and boats and football games aren’t that important. The conversation has changed. From now on you will be fishing for men.

TAKING KINGDOM MATTERS INTO OUR OWN HANDS

JN. 18:10:11 – Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malchus. So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?”

You would have to admit, Peter would be classified as ‘on fire’. A band of soldiers is coming to arrest Christ led by the traitor Judas, taking matters into his own hands Peter actually cuts off someone’s ear (I hardly think Peter was aiming at an ear). Jesus response, like always, goes right to the heart of the matter, Jesus says to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?”

Of course the cup Jesus is speaking of was the cup of redemption, Peter was making a last ditch effort to avoid the cross. There are two basic issues here that are very important and go into our everyday serving the Lord. First, like all of us do, Peter was trying to do the will of God with human effort. His heart was in the right place but confidence in our selves can never accomplish the things of the kingdom. How do these things show themselves in our modern world? Actually they are all around us. Studying marketing strategies, rather than the word of God, trying to provide ministries to accommodate every human whim rather than focusing on the Lord Himself, trying to build ministries rather than ministering to hurting people. A lot of the activity may look the same on the outside, but often our hearts become cold and calculating. At the end of the day the numbers are for our on ego rather than the glory of God.

Secondly, Peter was avoiding the cross. His eyes were still on an earthly kingdom. Remember the crowd after the miracle of the loaves and bread, they wanted to make Jesus an earthly king. Judas had fallen into the same lie, he wasn’t interested in a cross, he wanted power and influence. Today we easily slip into the same mess, we look to the size of the crowds and the income or success of our business or any earthly efforts and miss the whole point, His kingdom is not of this world. So what is the answer? Slow down, look to the Lord. Follow His lead rather than asking Him to follow ours.

GREEN PASTURES

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He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still water.
Psa. 23:2

Once you see it, it becomes a major part of your every day life. What am I talking about? Why, its right there in today’s verse. The green pastures are the daily provision for sheep. It’s what they live on. What is our provision for daily survival? Of course it is the written word of God. The Bible is our daily food. It is the nutrition we need for our spiritual health. The Shepherd leads us into life itself by constantly directing us to His book. This is where we find salvation, spiritual cleansing, wisdom, equipping for ministry, and it is the weapon to put our enemy on the run. Remember how the Shepherd Himself dealt with the deceiver, “It is written” is all He had to say. Check out Charles Spugeon’s thoughts on the green pastures.

“What are these “green pastures” but the Scriptures of truth—always fresh, always rich, and never exhausted? There is no fear of biting the bare ground where the grass is long enough for the flock to lie down in it. Sweet and full are the doctrines of the gospel; fit food for souls, as tender grass is natural nutriment for sheep. When by faith we are enabled to find rest in the promises, we are like the sheep that lie down in the midst of the pasture; we find at the same moment both provender and peace, rest and refreshment, serenity and satisfaction. But observe: “He maketh me to lie down.” It is the Lord who graciously enables us to perceive the preciousness of his truth, and to feed upon it. How grateful ought we to be for the power to appropriate the promises!.”

Remember what Jesus told His disciples in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”. Shepherds in Bible days had some kind of relationship with their sheep, they talked to them and even sometimes called them by name. This is what happens to us when we begin to spend time reading the Bible. We become accustomed to His word and begin to hear His voice speaking to us. He will take the scripture and breath on it and make it personal to us. We hear His voice and recognize He is speaking directly to us.

THE UNIVERSITY OF HOLINESS

THESE ARE THE ONES WHO FOLLOW THE LAMB WHEREVER HE GOES: REV.14:4

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS BAILEY-

Frank has been teaching on the book of Revelation for the mid-week service for a few weeks now. You cannot but think about the future and what’s in store. I got stuck on this scripture and decided to do some further study. Christianity is a constant journey of following the LAMB OF GOD. Have I put him in my quest? Is He my aim and ultimate goal in life or is He just an after thought? Like the genie that I rub to come and then go back into bottle. The Revival Bible says “we are to be moved through the Spirit of God not to set for Him limits of goal, time, or measure, but in all things to diligently pay attention to His IMPULSE and INSPIRATION. (CONRAD GREBEL) Have I felt HIS PRESENCE LATELY? Learning to get quiet enough to follow the Lamb as in the Song of Solomon when she asks- “Can you tell me where he feeds at Noonday?”
This reminds me of of the scripture that says to “drink thou waters out of thine own cistern, and be thou always ravished with his love.” Who is our Lord, thy husband, thy hope, thy joy, thine all!
As today is LUNDI GRAS we cannot help to think about what Spurgeon says when he says,
“Are you afraid to hear the midnight cry? Happy are those souls who live habitually with Jesus, who have given themselves up completely to the power of his indwelling Spirit – who follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. “They shall walk with him in white for they are worthy.” Wise are they who live habitually beneath the influence of the Second Advent, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the Son of God. We would have our window opened towards Jerusalem; we would sit as upon our watch-tower whole nights; we would be ready girt to go out of this Egypt at a moment’s warning. We would be of that host of God who shall go out harnessed, in the time appointed, when the signal is given. God grant us grace to be found in that number in the day of his appearing; but, “Let us not sleep, as do others.” I might say, let us not sleep as we have done ourselves. God forgive us and arouse us from this good hour.”
My encouragement to you is that the LORD IS OUR SHEPHERD and he goes before us! He leads us to drink of Him always and out of our thirst WE WILL FOLLOW HIM ALL OUR DAYS! I close with this Spurgeon comment- “The education which the Lord provides is complete in all its branches, mind, and life, and heart are all under the divine tuition. This is no pauper school, or merely preparatory seminary: the text describes a high school of holiness, a grammar school of grace, a University of holiness. In this place of sacred instruction you may take high degrees if you will, and become teachers of others also. He who forgave you provides for you everything that you can need to make you a disciple indeed, a learner who in the ages to come shall make known to angels and principalities and powers the manifold wisdom of God. Who would not be a scholar in such a University as this?”
LORD KEEP ME AS THE APPLE OF YOUR EYE!

WHAT GOT YOU OUT OF BED?

CHRIST OUR LIFE

Col. 3:4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

What is the motivating force behind all of our actions? What is it that causes us to crawl out of bed every morning and begin another day? For the businessman, it may be the pursuit of another deal. The athlete is in pursuit of a crown. For the mom, it may be the joy that comes from the maturing and advancement of her child. The addict rises looking for his drug of choice trying to make it through another day. The student hits the ground running, hoping for that elusive grade that holds promise for the future. What is it that causes you to press on for another day? Is it just the pursuit of natural provision or accomplishment? If you are disillusioned even when you are able to snatch your goals in life then keep reading, I have some good news for you. Today’s scripture verse gives us a glimpse into this other motivating force, this other source and goal of life available to us in Christ. There is a tangible life, the RESURRECTION power of Jesus Christ that can become the source of our life, our joy, and all our actions. This is not a philosophy of man or an old wive’s tale. His power is tangible, available, and way more than any of us have ever imagined. It is the source behind world evangelism, the missionary serving in a strange land, the pastor in a sin hardened city, and the virgin keeping himself for his future spouse. Christ is our life. Here is a short quote by Charles Spurgeon on Christ our life.

“Paul’s marvelously rich expression indicates, that Christ is the source of our life. You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins. That same voice which brought Lazarus out of the tomb raised us to newness of life. He is now the substance of our spiritual life. It is by his life that we live; he is in us, the hope of glory, the spring of our actions, the central thought which moves every other thought. Christ is the sustenance of our life.”

So what drug you out of bed this morning? Was it fear, just hoping to keep your head above water, was it the pursuit of happiness in some earthly adventure, or have you found the spring of all life in the Lord? When we find Christ as our life, the pieces of our world begin to come together. We are no longer conflicted, having the different compartments of life; our work part, our family part, our religious part, and our fun part. Christ has become our life! He is our goal, our purpose, our message, our joy, our work, our rest, and our hope! We have found why we are alive, we have found our joy. Like Spurgeon said, He becomes the spring of all of our actions. So what or who got you out of bed this morning?

WHERE WOULD I GO?

Where Would I Go?

Psa. 80:18 Then we shall not turn back from You;
Revive us, and we will call upon Your name.

Have yo ever considered walking away from The Lord? Unthinkable! I guess that has been one of the hardest things for me to understand; how could anyone walk away from Jesus? What is there to turn to? To turn my back on my Savior for the momentary pleasures of sin, unfathomable!!! It’s not so much the fear of the consequences of living a sinful life (and believe me; THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES), its the pain of walking away from my Faithful Friend that I couldn’t endure. Jesus asked his disciples if they were going to forsake Him when many others were turning away from The Lord. They replied, “Where would we go? You have the words of eternal life. Check out what Charles Spurgeon had to say about this passage.

“We will not forswear the sun till we find a better light, nor leave our Lord until a brighter lover shall appear; and, since this can never be, we will hold him with a grasp immortal, and bind his name as a seal upon our arm. As for the future, can you suggest anything which can arise that shall render it necessary for you to mutiny, or desert the old flag to serve under another captain? We think not. If life be long-he changes not. If we are poor, what better than to have Christ who can make us rich? When we are sick, what more do we want than Jesus to make our bed in our sickness? When we die, is it not written that neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

There are two reasons I could never walk away. First, the world has nothing to offer. All the pleasures that sin promises us are temporary and have consequences. Alcohol often brings about problems in other areas of our lives. Jobs, marriages, families, and health often pay the price when we go down that path. What about immorality? Again, the momentary pleasures are not worth the price of broken relationships, destroyed families, and the health risks involved with promiscuity.
The second reason is because of the void in my life if I walked away from my Lord. The intimate relationship with Christ not only satisfies our hungry hearts, He also enhances all of our other relationships in life. Our marriages are more rewarding, our friendships more meaningful, and our purpose for living is made clear. With Christ in our lives our jobs become more valuable to us and thus we become better employees and employers. We are not just working to survive or to pay our bills, we actually see our work as unto The Lord (especially if you are a tither). No, backsliding is not an option. Jesus is too good and sin is too painful. As for me, I think i’ll just follow Jesus.