THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD – Part 1

Ps.23:1-2 – The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.

This may be the most known passage in all scripture, Psalm 23. This is the passage Jesus was referring to in John 10 when He refered to Himself as the Good Shepherd. Today I want to take another look and drink deeply from this Psalm.

The Lord is my Shepherd. The Passion Bible has an interesting observation in this first verse. It says that the Lord is my Shepherd and my best friend. This is a footnote from the Passion Translation, “The word most commonly used for “shepherd” is taken from the root word ra‘ah, which is also the Hebrew word for “best friend.” So what is David’s point in the beginning of His famous Shepherd’s Psalm? Knowing Christ intimately is everything. This is the beginning of our Christian life. The Lord is my Shepherd and my closest friend. I am one of His sheep and I hear His voice.

The results of this friendship? I shall not want. He not only provides for my daily needs, He also satisfies the longing of my heart. He is my greatest need. He is my treasure and my portion in life. This is the key to freedom from addictions and sinful behavior; the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.

Next David says He makes me to lie down. When the Lord is my Shepherd I can begin to enter into a place of rest. Rather than always doing, I begin to practice a lifestyle of receiving. If the Lord is my best friend and Shepherd, I can rest in Him, He has me covered. This resting is connected to two powerful provisions. First, He makes me lie down in green pastures. What are these pastures for a sheep? Green grass, all I could ever eat. For the Christian this grass is the written word of God. We can take our daily rest feasting on the green grass of God’s promises, this is rest for our soul. Next, He leads me beside still waters. These are the waters of rest and peace, the living water of the Holy Spirit. I can lay me down in His presence and find rest and renewal for my soul. This is our place of renewal, this is my place of rest.

WASHED AND RENEWED

Titus 3:5 – not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,

I love the word renewal. This is the work of the Lord that is continuous. He finds us one way and then continues to work on us throughout our whole life making us totally different. This beautiful work associated with redemption is a cooperation of the Word and the Spirit in our heart and mind. David spoke about renewal in his prayer of repentance in Ps.51:10. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

He wanted his heart to be not only washed and forgiven but transformed. That is the beauty of today’s verse. The Lord washes us from our sins and then begins renewal in us so that we will not fall back into sin. Paul called it the washing and renewing of the Holy Spirit. Here is a definition from Dick Mills on renewal.

“renewing, anakainosis – A combination of ana, “again,” and kainos, “new.” The word suggests a renovation, restoration, transformation, and a change of heart and life. In Rom. 12:2, it indicates a complete change for the better, an adjustment of one’s moral and spiritual vision. Here it stresses the work of the Holy Spirit in transforming the life.”

In Psalms David says that our inner strength is effected by renewal. Ps.103:5 -“Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” We can lean on this promise to stand strong in times of temptation and also when we need strength to endure the challenges of life. He is daily renewing my inner strength like an eagle.

Psalms also describes the creative power of the Lord involved in renewing His creation.

Ps.104:30 – “You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the earth.”

Think about it, the Lord didn’t just create everything and then back off and become uninvolved. He is daily involved with His creation, renewing the face of the earth. If He is involved it’s eagles, badgers, waterfalls, and arctic formations; He is surely involved on a daily basis in the lives of His children. Renewal is happening everyday. What is my part? Step in to His flow and allow Him to work His beautiful work of renewal in me.

THE NEW JERUSALEM

Rev. 19:7,8 – Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure.

John’s description of the church is quite a contrast to the Babylonian harlot, the one world church. The church on earth has bought in totally to the spirit of the world, the spirit of antichrist. They act like the world, think like the world, talk like the world; all because the spirit of the world is in them. This weekend Egon Falk, a Danish Evangelist who ministers in Tanzania, told me about the spiritual condition of the church in Europe. He said that many European Christians are socialist in their belief system and have no problem with abortion. Our country is speeding down the same path being led by the broken academic world; our schools and colleges are swallowing up the path toward socialism. This big government approach is paving the way for a last day universal government that tries to run our whole society. Man is arrogantly trying to build a utopia without the Lord in it. The judgement of the antichrist, the false prophet, the one world government, and the false church are all imminent. Christ will return Here are some thoughts from Matthew Henry on today’s passage.

“The occasion of this song; and that is the reign and dominion of that omnipotent God who has redeemed his church by his own blood, and is now in a more public manner betrothing her to himself: The marriage of the Lamb has come…..You have here a description of the bride, how she appeared; not in the gay and gaudy dress of the mother of harlots, but in fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousness of saints; in the robes of Christ’s righteousness, both imputed for justification and imparted for sanctification—the stola, the white robe of absolution, adoption, and enfranchisement, and the white robe of purity and universal holiness. She had washed her robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; and these her nuptial ornaments she did not purchase by any price of her own, but received them as the gift and grant of her blessed Lord.”

The rejoicing in heaven was spontaneous. The world system was finally being judged and Christ was about to return. I think all of us become distant and lukewarm, the time for repentance and renewal has come.

RENEWAL AND REFRESHING

Acts 3:19 – Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;

This promise became from precious to me during an unusually difficult season in my life. I had been pastoring Victory Fellowship for a number of years and had experienced favor and blessing on everything from family to church and in my personal spiritual experience. The body of Christ went through a season of very unusual difficult times in the late 1980’s and the blowback from that was effecting every part of my life. I was feeling it with family drama, financial and ministry problems, and my spiritual condition was not the best. These problems brought me to a place of spiritual hunger and thirst, times of refreshing began to break out in my life. I love the Amplified Bible’s rendition of this verse. “So repent (change your mind and purpose); turn around and return [to God], that your sins may be erased (blotted out, wiped clean), that times of refreshing (of recovering from the effects of heat, of reviving with fresh air) may come from the presence of the Lord”. Here are some thoughts from the Life in the Spirit Commentary.

“To urge them to turn from sin to faith in Christ, Peter said that “Times of refreshing [will] come from the Lord.” For years the Jews have been expecting the messianic age, the golden age of blessings. The prophets themselves spoke about the coming of spiritual strength and blessings. This new age has dawned with the coming of Christ. Peter’s “times of refreshing” is one way of speaking about the baptism in the Spirit. The people can now experience the renewal or “refreshing” of their souls through the joys and the power of the Holy Spirit. As a result of their repentance, not only will their sin be forgiven and they will receive relief from their guilt, but they will also experience spiritual renewal through the Holy Spirit.”

So maybe you are feeling a little exhausted and out of breath by the adversity that we all face in this life. Living in this world guarantees resistance and exhaustion. We can take courage from this incredible promise, the Lord send times of refreshing again and again from the presence of the Lord. The Lord is faithful to His people, spiritual hunger and thirst is a sure sign that renewal is well on the way.

THE WORKING OF THE SPIRIT

Titus 3:5,6 – But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

The Christian life is basically the life of the Holy Spirit expressed through His sons and daughters. Christianity is not a creed or a set of beliefs, it is the life of the Spirit expressed in and through us. This is why I need continual renewal, the Christian life is just not something we can do or perform. This new life is started when we are born again (regeneration) and is empowered and maintained by the renewing of the Holy Spirit on a consistent basis. The Holy Spirit gives us moral strength, freedom from addictive or compulsive lifestyles, spiritual hunger, spiritual understanding, giftings, and power for ministry. Paul said I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. That must mean I can do nothing of value without Him. Here are some thoughts from Matthew Henry on today’s passage.

“Here is the principal efficient, namely, the Spirit of God; it is the renewing of the Holy Ghost… We are said to be born of the Spirit, to be quickened and sanctified by the Spirit, to be led and guided, strengthened and helped, by the Spirit. Through him we mortify sin, perform duty, walk in God’s ways; all the acts and operations of the divine life in us, the works and fruits of righteousness without us, all are through this blessed and Holy Spirit, who is therefore called the Spirit of life, and of grace and holiness; all grace is from him. Earnestly therefore is he to be sought, and greatly to be heeded by us, that we quench not his holy motions, nor resist and oppose him in his workings.”

It is by the help of the Holy Spirit that we can pray, preach, and understand the scripture. He is the One Who awakens us and continues to draw us by giving us a spiritual hunger. I have come to the conclusion that I need Him continually in my life. Renewal is not the optional cherry on top that happens occasionally, it is an absolute necessity in my life. Let Jeremiah’s prayer be our prayer

Lam.5:21 – “Restore us to You, O LORD, that we may be restored; Renew our days as of old.”

BRAND NEW

Rev.21:5 – Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new. And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

The Word of God is quite amazing to me. No matter how much you study it you can never master it. Like God Himself, His Word is limitless. Today’s verse is a great example. In this one verse of scripture are two words that are absolute game changers. The first word is poeio translated as ‘make’. This word is where our word poetry comes from. This is describing the creative power of God. It is used as a continuous action verb describing the constant working of God. The second word is kainos which is our word for ‘new’. Kainos means new in species, better, renovated, or higher excellence. You take these words together and it says that the Lord is continually making our lives new and better by His creative power working in us. This is how Jonathan Edwards describes this verse.

“Hence this new state of things is called a new heaven and a new earth. Christ came to restore all things with respect to the elect that, whatever there is of the ruinous effects of the fall through the whole universe, all might be fully and perfectly healed in Christ; that old things might pass away and all things become new; that man himself might be a new creature, both in his soul by conversion and sanctification, and in his body by the resurrection, and the world as to him might become a new creation; and so not only himself created anew in Christ Jesus, but everything created anew as to him fully and perfectly. Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I make all things new.” Hence the end of the world, when this shall be perfected, is called the “times of refreshing” and the “times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3:19–21).”

As John’s prophesy in the book of Revelations is coming to an end He is showing His work of renewal and redemption and how it is eradicating the results of the fall in His sons and daughters. No matter how difficult your life has been, no matter how far you have wandered from Him, His power of redemption and renewal is greater. He is continually making all things new in my life and in your life. His renewing love never ceases. Embrace His renewing power today.

OFFENDED BY GOD

Matt.18:7 – Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!

Every move of the Spirit of God throughout history has been opposed. One example was the extreme resistance to the Azusa Street revival and its practice of speaking in tongues. It was called by one renowned evangelical leader “the last vomit of Satan”. The laughing, crying, shouting, and trances were also hot button topics. People falling in the Spirit and rolling on the floor at Azusa gave birth to the name “holy rollers”. Jesus was criticized for hanging around with people of ill repute, John the Baptist scorned for his “tee-totaling” ways. The Wesleys and Whitefield were criticized for their outdoor meetings. I guess many people would rather have a dead service so that can catch up on their sleep.

When Revival fell on us in 1994 we had our fair share of critics. One of my fans said that we were having daily meetings because I didn’t have a life and didn’t want to be with my family. Another special person criticized me for calling out in service “It’s raining”. They actually accused me of public urination (in a spiritual way), I still laugh every time I remember it. Jonathan Edwards spoke about one of the dangers of criticizing the messy move of God, you keep waiting and totally miss out. Here is how Edwards put it.

“Tis probable that many of those that are thus waiting, know not what they are waiting for: if they wait to see a work of God without difficulties and stumbling blocks, that will be like the fool’s waiting at the riverside to have the water all run by. A work of God without stumbling blocks is never to be expected: “It must needs be that offenses come”. There never yet was any great manifestation that God made of himself to the world, without many difficulties attending it. It is with the works of God as ’tis with the Word of God; they are full of those things that seem strange and inconsistent and difficult to the carnal things that seem strange and inconsistent and difficult to the carnal unbelieving hearts of men. Christ and his work always was, and always will be a stone of stumbling, and rock of offense; a gin and a snare to many.”

So don’t be like the fool Edwards cited, waiting by the river for all the water to pass. When a move of God breaks out go ahead and jump in. You might be pleasantly surprised.

WHEN YOU WALK INTO THE ROOM

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS

“When the LORD brought back the captive ones of Zion, We were like those who dream”

Ps. 126:1

August is so historical for Frank and I, it sweeps us up every year because that is the month when everything changed for us. Now some forty five years ago at the sweet age of 16, Christ found me at the bottom of the heap and put a new song into my mouth. That old song had done run its course! Thank God! Frank and I were married soon and swept up into a course of redemption that has never let us go. We have lived a somewhat unbelievable life. If there were ever two losers never to go anywhere in life, we would have been the poster children. When Christ walks into the room everything changes.

Bryon and Katie Torwalt sing it this way-

“When you walk into the room

Everything changes

Darkness starts to tremble

At the light that You bring

And when You walk into the room

Every heart starts burning

And nothing matters more

Than just to sit here at Your feet”

Then 1994 God just outdid himself by bringing us a fresh touch from heaven. He got tired of our dry, sorrowful services and came down with holy ghost power! Jonathan Edwards writes about the Surprising work of God that happen to his city in North Hampton. He puts it this way.

“The daily conversation of virtually everyone was the revival – “Other discourse than of the things of religion would scarcely be tolerated in any company. The minds of people were wonderfully taken off from the world, it was treated amongst us as a thing of very little consequence. They seemed to follow their worldly business, more as a part of their duty, than from any disposition they had to it; the temptation now seemed to lie on that hand, to neglect worldly affairs too much, and to spend too much time in the immediate exercise of religion. The only thing in their view was to get the kingdom of heaven, and every one appeared pressing into it. The engagedness of their hearts in this great concern could not be hid, it appeared in their very countenances. There was scarcely a single person in the town, old or young, left unconcerned about the great things of the eternal world.”

Will you allow Christ to invade your lives like never before? Your worship will change, your outlook will be transformed, even your dog will love you! Your focus will shift from the natural world to Christ world-his eternal world, the world of love.

When the veil is removed!

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS

”But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away!”

2 Cor. 3:16

Years ago while attending a church growth conference in Maui, Frank and I had an unexpected encounter with the Holy Spirit. We were battle-torn from raising kids, growing churches and dealing with unhappy church folk. We had gone from being at the top of the wave of church growth to crashing and couldn’t find our footing. Faking it was unbearable and on that trip Frank spoke of resigning the church. On the last day of the conference we attended a large AG church that we knew and the head pastor introduced us to Rick and Donna Shelton who were pastors in St Louis, Missouri. I wasn’t really paying much attention to them and to be honest didn’t care to meet another pastor the rest of my life. But the conversation got strange really quick when Ps.Rick said; “Jesus had changed his life”. Donna his wife, had such an angelic look upon her face that got my attention. It was if the Holy Spirit was looking at me through her eyes saying; “I was naked and in need of him”. The Apostle Paul speaks of the veil on our hearts being taken away. Somewhere along the lines of life I lost my first love and couldn’t seem to find my way back. That precious day on that Sunday morning the veil was removed and the process back to him began. It was if I were like those in a dream.

MCClaren says, “They who behold Christ have Christ formed in them and that will be the inevitable result of all true possession of the glory of Christ. Why, if you look closely enough into a man’s eye, you will see in it little pictures of what he beholds at the moment; and if our hearts are beholding Christ, Christ will be mirrored and manifested on our hearts. Our characters will show what we are looking at, and ought, in the case of Christian people, to bear His image so plainly, that men cannot but take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus. Are our characters like those transparent clocks, where you can see not only the figures and hands, but the wheels and works? The convictions which we hold, the emotions that are dominant in our hearts, will mould and shape our lives. If we have any deep, living perception of Christ, bystanders looking into our faces will be able to tell what it is up yonder that is making them like the faces of the angels-even vision of the opened heavens and of the exalted Lord.”

That was 24 years ago. And believe it or not, I am still in search of the one who touched me. Oh it’s not a futile search of ever reaching and never quenching but one of ever receiving and forever drinking. He too can remove the veil of hurt pain or offense that has caused you to lose sight of your first love. Allow him to remove the veil that has been placed upon your heart, he will restore the years of the canker worm that has eaten away at your joy and life. Turn to him!

SEEING THE BEAUTY OF CHRIST 

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MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS

“But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.…” Matt 13:15

We all do it, not catch the beauty of the moment. We spend too much of our lives looking down that we can’t see the upside of beauty. This week was Summer Saturation and I just love putting aside life and camping out all week in church meetings and worship till the cows come home. In doing so, things begin to surface inside to come up and out. By the end of the week I usually “get it sorted out” feeling like I’ve had the most amazing shower ever! All the crud of the world pale in comparison to his presence! One of those mornings in camp meeting Frank and I were able to jump on our road bikes and go for a long ride along the lakefront of New Orleans and into City Park and back. After saturating all week it felt good to get some exercise in. I loved feeling the morning breeze along the lakefront, seeing the waves lapping at the mossy steps, loved riding under the cool shade of the oaks in City Park. Everything was lush, verdant from the monsoon rains we have been having. It dawned on me that all of creation is shouting yes back to their creator.
Jesus tells us “blessed are ye that see, and your ears that hear, because the prophets of old longed to see what we see and to hear what we hear”. The beauty of Christ in us is a never ending journey into the miraculous of redemption and the mystery of his love. While in worship I began to see vast rooms of treasuries; Christ seemed to be walking with me saying “all that I have is here before you”. There were silhouettes dancing all around me in the rooms of Christ’s treasures and I realized it was people that the Lord has given for his kingdom. Yes the beauty of Christ is all around us. In the book of Revelation Chapter three, Christ says we need to be anointed with eye salve so we can see; to see the world of his beauty and his love, to see the needs of the hurting around us, to see we are but extensions of his hand.
HELEN KELLER said, “The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight but no vision. The seeing see very little. The panorama of color and action which fills the world is taken for granted. It is human, perhaps, to appreciate little that which we have and to long for that which we have not, but it is a great pity that in the world of light the gift of sight is used only as a mere convenience rather than as a means of adding fullness to life.”