Monday, May 15, 2017

Amazing Likeness

Amazing Likeness
“The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13 NLT)
What was different about Peter and John that caused them to stand out as special before the religious leaders of the Jews? No special training—just ordinary! No fancy clothes—homespun duds! No special hairstyles—shaggy hair and beards! No fragrant aroma—smelled of fish! What then was the reason for their boldness?
   The key factor is that they were recognized as being with Jesus. What is it about being with Jesus that made Peter and John look different than those around them? What did they have that others did not have? It was the same thing that you will have if you spend time with Jesus. What exactly will these changes look like in your life?
   First, if you spend any amount of time at all with Jesus, there is bound to be a transformation. Everything about you changes. Your attitude! Your mannerisms! Your manner of speech! Your thought life! Your actions! EVERYTHING!
   Second, you will have a new boldness—a valiant spirit. You won’t be ashamed of Christ or the gospel.  You will be willing to put your life on the line for the sake of the good news.
  Third, you will imitate the loving spirit of Christ. You will think kindly, speak kindly, and do kindly, so that others may say of you, “He/she has been with Jesus.”
  Fourth, you will imitate Jesus in his holiness. You will keep your life pure, free of the taint of sin.
   To be “like Jesus” is to be fervent in prayer, submissive to his will, forgiving of your enemies, and persevering in the midst of trials.
   Is “Amazing Likeness” possible? Yes, it is feasible, but only through the grace of God. It all depends upon how much time we are willing to spend with Jesus.

Prayer: Dear Lord, how blessed to hear someone say, “He’s been with Jesus.”

Friday, May 12, 2017

Spiritual Slumps

Spiritual Slumps
“O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? (Psalm 13:1-2)
Have you ever experienced a “spiritual slump”?
   Athletes hate slumps. They’ll try anything and everything to get out of those times when they can’t hit the baseball or make a free throw or catch a pass or get the puck in the net or make a putt.  Baseball players change bats, shave their beards, choke up on the bat. Basketball players change shoes, socks, head bands. Football players change their routine. Golfers change clubs or balls. They’ll try anything to get out of the slump.
   Christians should hate slumps too. We should try anything to eliminate those dry spells when we can’t seem to pray past the ceiling or when reading the Bible seems more frustrating than helpful.
   A spiritual slump can make us feel forsaken by God. We struggle with a joyless attitude. Our hearts become heavy and we feel a weariness that we can’t explain. The bright side to life seems to have vanished. If not remedied, we lose our sense of hope. We get to the place where we feel we are fighting a losing battle.
   As we read the words of David in Psalm 13, we realize that we are not alone. David found himself in just such a predicament. He cries out to God in the midst of his “spiritual slump.” How long, O Lord, is his cry! Will you abandon me forever?
   We need to take heed of David’s words in the remainder of the Psalm. He knew how to work his way out of the slump. First, he appealed to God who is the true source of spiritual refreshment in dry times (vv. 3-4). Second, he trusted in God’s unfailing love (v.5). Third, he sang praises to God, recognizing how important worship is (v. 6).
   If you fall into a “spiritual slump” follow the procedures outlined by David.

Prayer: Dear Lord, we are all susceptible to “spiritual slumps.”  Help me put into practice the advice of David.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Flawless Words

Flawless Words
“And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times.” (Psalm 12:6 NIV)
How reliable are the promises of your neighbors, co-workers, family members or friends? 
   The Scripture is clear when it says, Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore; those who are loyal have vanished from the human race. Everyone lies to their neighbor; they flatter with their lips but harbor deception in their hearts.” (Psalm 12:1-2)
   When was the last time a neighbor or a co-worker borrowed something from you with the promise that they’d return it as soon as they were through with it, but it never returned?
   The Psalmist David must have had such an experience for he said, “The wicked borrow and never repay, but the godly are generous givers.” (Psalm 37:21)
   I have never forgotten a time many years ago when I promised to take my grandson fishing and then reneged on the promise. Not only was my grandson very upset with me, but his mother reminded me of the broken promise. I immediately sought to limit the damage done to his trust by orchestrating an outing to make up for my mistake. It’s not the first time the Lord has used a child to humble me and teach me a valuable lesson.
   People are quick to give their word, but sometimes we can’t rely on what they tell us. It’s very possible that David was having trouble with this issue; otherwise, why did he pen these thoughts in Psalm 12. We don’t know the specific words or circumstances that prompted his remarks, but he must have felt surrounded by untrustworthy people. His lament was: “everyone lies” (v. 2).
   Everyone, that is, except God. His words are “pure and flawless,” like silver that has been through a refiner’s fire seven times (v. 6). We can believe God. His promises stand. He cannot lie.

Prayer: Dear Lord, what a joy to know that your words are forever true and trustworthy.  

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Head for the Hills

Head for the Hills
“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?
What is the first inclination when facing danger of any kind? A man with a gun! Shots fired! A ferocious dog with barring teeth! The cry goes out – run, run for your life! Get away as far as you can. These are all natural or normal reactions when we are threatened or feel our life is in danger.
   People are fleeing today. Husbands are fleeing their families with the intent to get out from under their responsibilities; thus abandoning their children. Others are fleeing to the hills hoping to find peace away from crime or terror. Refugees are fleeing from their homeland because of the fear of death from anarchy or other rebel factions. If you are waiting for good to win out over evil in society, you may be in for a long wait. Things appear to be going from bad to worse. As we look around us today, we see values that used to stand for something being crumbled under foot.  You can’t blame upright honest people from feeling that they have nowhere to turn—that they must escape.
   Psalm 11 was written by David at a time when Israel may have felt that escape was the only viable action. The people feared the attacks of their enemies and sensed that the foundations of justice were crumbling. That’s why some of them were saying to David, “Flee like a bird to your mountain. For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart.” (v. 1-2)
   But escape is not the answer. Elimelech and Naomi tried that back in the book of Ruth and looked what happened to them. What happens when you try to “head for the hills” to get away from your problems-- “your problems go with you?” 
   David gives the solution in verse 4 – “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne. He observes everyone on earth; his eyes examine them.” What is David saying? Keep your focus on God—he is in control. He’s keeping his eyes on things—he will have the final word.
   Don’t “head for the hills,” instead, trust God and keep doing what’s right.

Prayer: Dear Lord, may we always remember, no matter how everything seems you are the one who is in control and makes the final decision. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Time to Move Forward

A Time to Move Forward
Now the LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons.” (1 Samuel 16:1)
Notice in the beginning of this passage that God approves of a time of mourning, but there comes a time when his plan and purpose must move forward. Grieving over a lost loved one is necessary for healing purposes, but if it turns to self-pity God is not pleased. Samuel is deeply grieved by the failure of Saul as king. But God will not permit His servant to be immobilized by grief, as we ourselves sometimes are. Samuel is told to take a flask of olive oil and go and anoint one of the sons of Jesse to be Israel’s future king in place of Saul. At first, Samuel is full of fear. He says, “How can I go? When Saul hears of it, he will kill me.”
   I can relate to that fear. When I received my first preaching assignment in a little church in Stanton, Missouri, I was so scared that my knees were knocking together. Had it not been for the pulpit to hide me, I surely would have collapsed from fright. The Holy Spirit, however, sustained me, and I made it through the service.
   God gave Samuel help and assurance for his fear by telling him to take a sacrifice with him. Taking the Lord at his word, the Scripture says, “So Samuel did what the Lord said,…” (v. 4)
   I have felt like Samuel many times, but God always provided the necessary means and courage to take on the task. In the end, the job was accomplished and God received the glory and the kingdom of God moved forward.
   What do we learn from this? When God gives you a task to accomplish or an open door to go through, trust in the Lord and move forward in his strength. When Israel became “frightened” at the Red Sea, God told Moses, “Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.” (Ex. 14:15) Because of their obedience, the people were able to walk across on dry ground. God will do the same for you.

Prayer: Dear Lord, let me always remember that you are my source of help.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Stand Your Ground

Stand Your Ground
Scripture Reading: Exodus 14:1-14
But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” (Ex. 14:13-14 NLT)
A growling, snarling dog is charging. What should you do? One part of your mind says, stand still, but another part says, let’s get out of here. The dog appears to be in an attack mode, and as fear whelms up in your throat your feet seem to be paralyzed. Standing your ground in the face of threatening circumstances may be the hardest thing you’ll ever be called upon to do. It certainly was for the children of Israel.
     The children of Israel faced such a situation when they came to the Red Sea. The ground was shaking from the rumble of the many chariots racing toward them. They were terrified and complained to Moses. What shall we do? Where can we hide? They were caught between the sea and the advancing army of the Egyptians. They couldn’t go back even if they wanted to and the mountains and sea had them  hemmed in on all sides. All appeared to be lost. Moses called out to God and then commanded them to, “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” I’m sure they must have thought, Are you serious Moses? Don’t you hear the rumble of the chariots? Can’t you feel the shaking of the ground under our feet? Stand still , you say! We are about to be overtaken and slaughtered and you want us to stand still. That’s ridiculous! You’re out of your mind. We want to run and hide except there’s nowhere to go. That’s what fear will do to a person. Fear paralyzes our minds. Only as we exercise faith can we move forward.
     What would you have thought? How would you have responded? The growling, snarling dog is getting closer. Can’t wait much longer! If I decide to stand still, I will have to exercise faith and trust in the Lord. That’s what the children of Israel had to do. The Lord God was testing their faith to see if they would rely completely upon him for their salvation. Finally, the Lord gave the command to move forward. This was another test of their faith.
     Our faith is being tested on a daily basis. How will we handle life’s struggles? Will we try to handle everything in our own strength? Will we rely upon our own abilities to see us through? Or will we be like the children of Israel and be willing to stand still and see how God works things out? Trying circumstances have a way of showing up at our doorstep. When our paycheck doesn’t come! When our child is sick! When we are misunderstood and falsely accused! When we face circumstances that threaten our security, do we reach out by faith and lay hold upon the promises of God, or do we allow fear to immobilize us?

     The Psalmist said, “But you, O Lord, are a shield to me, my glory, and the one who lifts my head high” (Ps. 3:3). Stand fast and trust the one who is fighting for you. The battle is the Lords.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

"My Cup Overflows"

The 23rd Psalm
“My cup overflows” (Psalm 23:5c)
How was it possible for David to include the words “my cup overflows” in this Psalm? Is he thinking only about his experience as the shepherd of a flock of sheep, or was he reminiscing about his life?
   Wasn’t David the one who committed adultery with Bathsheba and then murdered her husband, Uriah? Wasn’t he guilty of a grand cover-up, but was exposed by a “whistle-blower” – God? Who would ever think that Israel’s mighty and powerful king with servants to do his bidding would suffer hard times! Two of his own sons, Absalom and Adonijah, turned against him and tried to steal his throne. One of David’s trusted advisors betrayed him, and his army chief deserted him. Yet in spite of all this turmoil, David sang, “My cup overflows.”
   Surely, David had in mind his job as shepherd of the sheep. Drawing water for the sheep was an ominous task. Wells were deep and the only way to get water was with a long rope with a leather bucket. It’d take a lot of water to quench the thirst of a “mob” of sheep. How many hours would it take? How many buckets of water would be needed?
   This reminds me of Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman by the well outside Sychar. In the course of their conversation about water, Jesus said,
“Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”(Jn 4:14)
   Just think of it! One drink of the life giving water that Jesus possessed provided eternal life – but that’s not all. Through daily faith that life-giving water keeps on coming and continuously overflows with eternal life. The shepherd boy, David, had placed his faith in the right source and as a result he could say without a doubt – “my cup overflows.”
   Is your “cup overflowing?”

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for your sacrifice that keeps my cup overflowing.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

"You anoint my head with oil"

The 23rd Psalm
“You anoint my head with oil…” (Psalm 23:5b)
The hot days of summer are a special challenge to the shepherd. Summer is the time when insects and parasites are the most active and the shepherd must keep a close watch on the sheep. When he sees the sheep rubbing and banging their heads on brush and other objects he knows that the nasal fly has made its appearance. These nasty insects attempt to lay their eggs on the damp nucous membranes of the sheep’s nose. In a few days, if successful, the eggs with hatch to form small, slender, worm-like larvae. Unless the shepherd takes immediate action these larvae will work their way up the sheep’s nasal passage into its head and burrow into the flesh. To free the sheep of this irritation and severe inflammation, the shepherds in the Middle East take a home remedy consisting of olive oil mixed with sulfur and spices and rub it on the sheep’s nose and head.
   In the Christian life, our thoughts, ideas, emotions, choices, impulses, and desires are all shaped and molded through the exposure of our minds to other people, mass media, and other schemes of the evil one. In order to counteract the influences of our worldly tormentors, we need to follow the urging of our Good Shepherd and ask the Heavenly Father for His anointing oil of the Holy Spirit. It is this daily anointing of the Holy Spirit upon my mind that produces the fruit of the Spirit in my life. (Gal. 5:22)
   The summer months are not only noted for the “fly time,” but it is also “scab” time. Once this tiny parasite infects one sheep, it is transmitted to the entire flock by their habit of rubbing heads together. Here again, the solution lies in applying the “linseed” home remedy to the sheep.
   The antidote for the believer against these worldly demonic originated infestations is found in Ph. 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, if there is any excellence, or worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Prayer: Dear Lord, I pray for the continuous anointing of the Holy Spirit.   

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

You Prepare a Table before Me.

The 23rd Psalm
”You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (Ps. 23:5a)
In Western U.S. such as Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming sheep grazing ranges are referred to as “mesas” – the Spanish word for “tables.” It appears that David’s use of a table in Psalm 23:5 is actually a reference to the entire high summer range.
   Sheep are well suited for vegetation management. On the Paonia Ranger District range in Colorado, sheep are used to graze areas of tall larkspur a week or so ahead of the incoming cattle. This prevents the cattle from getting a lethal dose of the poisonous alkaloids that are found in the larkspur plants. It also allows different livestock producers to use the same area of land without the need for fencing.
   Raising sheep is a labor-intensive operation. Early in the season, even before all the snow is melted, the shepherd is surveying the summer range, and preparing the tableland for their arrival. Salt and other minerals are strategically placed around the range to benefit the sheep.
   Can you picture young David walking over the summer range leading his sheep? He keeps a sharp eye out for poisonous plants and pulls them up before the sheep can reach to them. No doubt he has armfuls to get rid of for the safety of his flock.
   In a similar fashion, our Good Shepherd goes ahead of us in every situation, anticipating the danger we may encounter, and praying for us that our faith might not fail. Jesus did this for Peter when Satan wanted to tempt him and sift him like wheat. (Luke 22:31-32)
   The shepherd must also keep a keen eye out for predators. On the Paonia Ranger District in 2001, 171 sheep were killed by coyotes, 110 by bears, and 27 by poisonous plants.
   And again, we take courage in the fact that our Good Shepherd prepares the table for us by protecting us against the wiles, snares, tricks, and treachery of the evil one. Always we are subject to his attacks. Jesus has provided us with the “amour of God” as our protection. Putting on the “amour” is our responsibility (Eph. 6:11-17)

Prayer: Dear Lord, prepare the table before me by keeping me close to you.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Your Rod and Staff Comfort Me

The 23rd Psalm
“Your Rod and your Staff, they Comfort Me” – Ps. 23:4b
When the shepherd moves his flock to the mountain pastures, it is customary to take a minimum of equipment. Of course there is his “caboose” or living quarters, but also two essential items in his arsenal are his “rod and staff.” Without these two pieces of equipment he could not adequately defend and protect his sheep.
   During the hours he is walking in the field he carries only a rifle slung over his shoulder, a rod, and a small knapsack with water, sandwich, and a few first-aid supplies. In the Middle East, the shepherd carries only a rod and a staff.
   The rod is the shepherd’s weapon of power, authority, and defense. He can use it as a club, or throw it with extreme accuracy. You may recall that God used Moses’ rod to demonstrate His power over Egypt and its gods. Therefore, the rod pictures the spoken word and implies the authority of divine power.
   Just as the sheep in David’s day were comforted and consoled in seeing the rod in the shepherds hand, so in our day there is great assurance in knowing that the word of God is invested with power, veracity, and authority.
   The other item in the shepherd’s arsenal was his staff. The staff had a curved crook on one end designed especially for use with the sheep. The staff revealed the concern and compassion the shepherd had for his charges.
   The staff played a significant role in the care of the sheep. First, it was used to bring a newborn lamb close to its mother when hundreds of ewes were lambing together simultaneously. Second, it was used by the shepherd to draw sheep to himself for examination. Third, the staff was used for guiding the sheep.
   In like manner, our Comforter, the Holy Spirit draws us together in closer relationship with the Father, guiding and teaching us the Truth, and aiding us in our prayers. (John 16:13)

   Prayer: Dear Lord, it is a great comfort to know that our Good Shepherd carries the rod and staff for our protection, discipline, and comfort.    

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Walking through the Valley

The 23rd Psalm
“…Even though I walk through the valley of deep darkness, I fear no harm, for You are with me…” (Ps. 23:4a)
Up to this point in the Psalm, the picture is of a sheep standing by a fence and talking to a neighboring sheep, and telling it of the tender care received from the shepherd. Now it turns to address the shepherd directly. Take notice of the inclusion of the personal pronouns I and You. The relationship between the shepherd and his sheep take on a more personal affectionate nature.
      During the times the sheep are pasturing on mountain ranges they are entirely alone with the shepherd. They are in intimate contact with each other and under his personal attention day and night.
   Both in Palestine and on our western sheep ranches dividing pasture lands between summer and winter is a common practice. Shepherds lead the flock up to the mountains in the spring, and bring them back down to the lowlands in the fall.
    A few years ago I was sitting on my porch on Fruitland Mesa in Colorado when a “mob” of sheep (over 500) were being moved down the road from the mountains to their fall/winter grazing.  The shepherds or owners were on horses guiding them along, making sure they stayed on the road. After they had passed, the gravel road was littered with little black pellets causing breath to be held and noses pinched.
   In the Christian life, we speak of mountain top experiences, and sing “Higher Ground.” Like sheep, the only way to get there is by climbing up through the valleys. Notice how the passage is worded: “We walk through the valley of  death” – it doesn’t say I die there or stop there – but rather “I walk through.”
   When adversity comes to the sheep, as it often does, the shepherd’s presence is there to console and protect. Jesus, the Good Shepherd said, “Surely I will be with you always” – yes, even in the valley of darkness. What a comfort and what a delight!

Prayer: Dear Lord, you know the valleys I walk through. Thank you for your presence, comfort, and grace.    

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

"He Guides me..."

The 23rd Psalm
“He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3)
Different kinds of pastures are needed to graze horses, sheep, goats, and cattle. Horses graze by nipping grass with their upper and lower front teeth and chewing. Sheep and goats graze in a similar way. But cattle only have teeth on their lower jaw and use their tongue and teeth in combination. As a result, they need pastures with taller grass so they can wrap their tongue around it and rip it up.
   If left alone without proper supervision by a shepherd, sheep can nip grass in a pasture down to the very roots. The pasture would eventually become a barren field and the grass unable to revive. It is the shepherd’s responsibility to move his flock from one pasture to another so as to avoid overgrazing.  
   Sheep are not only are timid, restless, and stupid, but they are cantankerous and stubborn. Sheep cannot be driven, they must be led and guided by someone they know and trust.
   Is it a mere whim that God refers to us as sheep? Scripture points out that Israel was a stiff-necked, stubborn people. The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold they are a stiff-necked people.” (Ex. 32:9)  We tend to follow our own fancies and turn to our own ways. “All we like sheep have gone astray, each one has turned to his own way…” (Is. 53:6a)
   What changes do I need to make in 2017 to show that I am being guided by the Good Shepherd into paths of righteousness?
1. Instead of insisting on my rights, I will forego them in favor of others.                2. Instead of being “top ram,” I’m willing to be at the bottom of the heap.              3. Instead of finding fault and always asking “Why?” I am willing to accept every    circumstance of life with an attitude of gratitude.                                                  4. Instead of choosing my own way, I’m willing to follow in Christ’s way.           
   What this boils down to is straight forward obedience. It means doing what Christ asks me to do. Jesus said it in the garden, “Not my will, but Yours be done.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me in 2017 to follow Your will and not my own.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

He Restores My Soul

The 23rd Psalm
“He Restores my Soul” (Ps. 23:3a)
As we continue to meditate on the 23rd Psalm, we need to remember that David is writing from the viewpoint of a sheep, who is in the care of the Good Shepherd. This being the case, one might well ask, “What could possibly happen that would warrant the need of “restoration?” In like manner, believers who are secure in the arms of Jesus might ask, “Why the need to “restore my soul?” David himself asked this question in Psalm 42:11, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why have you become disturbed within me…”
   Sheep who are in the care of the shepherd can be in danger of becoming a “cast sheep.” What do we mean by that? A heavy, fat, or long-fleeced sheep will lie down in a little hollow or depression to rest. It might roll over slightly to stretch out its legs. Suddenly the center of gravity shifts and its legs go up in the air. The sheep panics when its feet no longer touch the ground and begins to flail around making matters even worse. It now becomes a “cast sheep” and in grave danger of death unless the shepherd can find it in time.
   Like David, we as believers, though secure in Jesus, find that circumstances, poor decisions, and broken relationships cause us to become “cast sheep.” When that takes place the Good Shepherd comes alongside offering restoration, comfort, assurance, and compassion. Jesus’ restoration of Peter after his terrible tragedy of temptation and denial is a perfect picture of the care and concern of the Good Shepherd.
   In Psalm 56:13, we are given an accurate picture of the Christian’s life, “For you have rescued me from death; you have kept my feet from slipping. So now I can walk in your presence, O God, in your life-giving light.” (NLT)
   Do you feel as if you are “cast down,” forgotten, one of God’s lost sheep? Fear not, for the Good Shepherd is searching for you. He has left the ninety and nine and will not rest until you are “restored” and brought back in to the fold.

Prayer: Dear Lord, be with those today who feel as if they are abandoned of God.

Monday, February 6, 2017

He Leads Me Beside Still Waters

The 23rd Psalm
“He leads me beside still waters” (Ps. 23:2b)
Sheep do well in semi-arid country such as we find around Palestine, but water is a necessity. If there is heavy dew on the grass each morning, the sheep arise before dawn to get enough water to satisfy their thirst. When it’s too hot the shepherd has to lead them to wells, springs, or pure streams to drink. David, who wrote the 23rd Psalm, knew this. That’s why he wrote, “He (the Good Shepherd) leads me beside still waters.” The shepherd knows where the still, quiet, deep, clean, pure water is to be found that can satisfy His sheep and keep them, fit.
   Just as sheep need pure water, so also the human body can survive for three weeks without food, but only three days without water. The Scriptures clearly point out that the human personality, the soul, has a capacity and need for the water of the Spirit of God.
   When sheep are thirsty they become restless and wander away in search of water. If not led by the shepherd to good, pure, clean water, they will end up drinking out of a muddy, polluted pot hole where they pick up parasites as nematodes, liver flukes, or other diseases.
   Christ, our Good Shepherd, makes it perfectly clear in the Bible that thirsty souls can only be satisfied by drawing on Himself. In Matthew 5:6 Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (satisfied).”
   In Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman, he said, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”(John 4:14)
   David knew the secret of spending time with God; “In the morning O Lord, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.” (Psalm 5:3)

Prayer: Dear Lord, every morning I can feed on your word and get refreshed.

Friday, February 3, 2017

He Makes me Lie Down -- Pt. 2

The 23rd Psalm
“He makes me lie down in green pastures” (Ps. 23:2a) Part 2
   A second source of fear that a shepherd has to deal with is tension, rivalry, and cruel competition within the flock.
   There exists within the animal kingdom an order of dominance or status. In a flock of chickens, we call it the “pecking order.” With cattle it is called the “horning order.” Among sheep we speak of the “butting order.”
   In a pen full of chickens, I have witnessed roosters pecking away at hens until they were half dead. I’ve watched the pecking order of turkeys going to roost at night. The older birds get the first choice tree limbs while the younger birds wait on the ground for their turn. With big horn sheep, elk and moose the male butts against rival heads to gain dominance. Stallions will fight other stallions to gain control over the herd of mares. I’m sure other animal groups follow the same practices.
   This is a graphic picture of the struggle for status in human society. In any business workplace whether large or small, the desire for self-assertion and self-recognition takes place. Individuals battle to be “top sheep.” We butt and quarrel and compete to “get ahead.” It even took place among the disciples at the “last supper.” “And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest.” (Lk. 22:24)
   Because of this rivalry, tension, jealousy, and competition for status and self-assertion, there is friction among the flock. The sheep cannot lie down and rest in contentment. They must stand up and defend their “rights.”
   It was the shepherd’s presence that put an end to all rivalry. I have learned that keeping my eyes on my Master, the Shepherd, they are not on those around me. This is the place of peace and contentment.  
Prayer: Dear Lord, as the Good Shepherd, you dispel all my fears.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

The 23rd Psalm -- "He Makes Me Lie Down"

The 23rd Psalm
“He makes me lie down in green pastures” (Ps. 23:2) Part 1
Sheep are fickle, timid, fearful, restless and stupid. It is almost impossible to make them lie down in restful posture unless they are free from fear, tension, aggravations, and hunger. Are we as humans any different?
   The Christian life is full of hazards and troubles. We live in an uncertain troublesome world. Every day brings new problems and challenges. Many of us live either with a sense of anxiety, fear, and foreboding, or in a sense of quiet rest. Which is it for you? What is our tendency when panic sets in, or the unexpected happens? Or when cruel circumstances arise? Or when fear overcomes us? Often our first impulse is simply to get up and run from them. If you have ever experienced these issues, you know the only solution is the presence of the Shepherd.
   When the sheep are fearful and running for their lives the Shepherd comes into their midst and quiets them down. His presence makes all the difference. Suddenly, things aren’t half as bad as they seemed. A calmness of spirit takes over. Fear subsides as we submit to the will of the shepherd. Instead of fear there is hope.
   As I grow older and more mature, the knowledge that my Master, my Friend, my Shepherd has everything under His control, even in the midst of the calamities, brings calm and quietness to my timid heart by pointing me to His word.
   The Apostle Paul’s protégé, Timothy, was a very timid young man. Paul encouraged him by saying, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Tim. 1:7)
   The Psalmist wrote, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8)
   Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep. Put your trust in Him and “He will make you lie down in green pastures.”

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for giving me hope and peace.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The LORD is my shepherd

The entire message of this poem is based upon the first six words – “The Lord is my shepherd.” These words formed the foundation of David’s faith as well as our own. To whom was David referring when he mentions the name LORD?
   When David used the name LORD he was referring to Yahweh. The name Yahweh was so much in awe that the Hebrew people rarely spoke the name, but rather used a lesser name out of respect. Yahweh who inhabits eternity is the God that David calls “my shepherd.”
   David’s use of the name LORD – Yahweh speaks of an unchanging God, an uncaused God, and an ungoverned God. He is creator and master of the universe. He formed mankind out of a piece of clay and breathed into him the breath of life and man became a living soul.
   Yahweh is an uncaused shepherd. No one breathed life into Him. He always was, always is, and always shall be. He is the self-existent one. No act brought him forth. Moses said of him; “Before the mountains were born or you gave birth of the earth and the world, even from everlasting, You are God.” (Ps. 90:2)
   We might also take note of the fact that David used the verb “is” in his description of the LORD. David’s relationship with God as his shepherd was not a past happening or something to look forward to in the future, but a present reality. Each and every day God was a shepherd leading him down the path of life.
   We also see David claiming the LORD as a present possession. The LORD is MY shepherd. This means that David saw himself as one of the sheep dependent upon the leadership of the shepherd.
   As sheep, we are totally dependent upon the shepherd for our daily needs. Our faith is wholly in Jesus Christ as Savior. He is not only the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep (Ps.22), but the Great Shepherd who was resurrected for the sheep (Ps.23), and the Chief Shepherd who rewards his sheep.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I am completely dependent upon you as my shepherd. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Tell All to God

Tell All to God
“The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord will answer my prayer.”                   (Psalm 6:9 NLT)
Have you ever found it difficult to pray? Are you reluctant to tell God everything that is happening in your life? Are you afraid that he will not understand, or doesn’t care, or isn’t interested in your feelings? Perhaps you are fearful of being disrespectful of your heavenly Father.
   A trip through the Psalms will help remove your reluctance to reveal all to God. After all, he knows everything already. Listening to David’s prayer life you will realize that he was not afraid to be completely honest with God.
   As you overhear David crying out in Psalm 6, “O Lord, don’t’ rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your rage.” V.1) “Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak.” (v. 2) “I am sick at heart. How long, O Lord, until you restore me. (v. 3) “O Lord, why do you stand so far away?” (10:1) “Listen to my prayer for mercy as I cry out to you for help.) (28:2) “O Lord, oppose those who oppose me. Fight those who fight against me.” (35:1) “Listen to my prayer, O God. Pay attention to my plea.” (54:2)
   What can we learn from David’s approach to God? Does it sound like he was praying in desperation? Were his prayers expressing the depths of his soul? Was he bold in his requests? Did he pray expecting an answer? What was he really saying to God? “Help me!” “Listen to me!” “Don’t be mad at me!” “Where are you!” “Come to my aid!”
   How do you approach the Lord when you pray? Like David, do you go boldly to the Lord and tell him what’s on your mind or are you reluctant to “Tell all to God.” We are told in Hebrews 4:16, ”So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (NLT)
   You don’t have to be afraid to tell God what you are thinking & feeling. The next time you talk to your heavenly Father – tell it all. He’ll listen! He’ll understand!

Prayer: Dear Lord, forgive me for failing to be totally honest with you in prayer.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Peaceful Repose

Peaceful Repose
“I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me. I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side.”         Psalm 3:5-6
King David was not a stranger to troubles. He experienced painful family issues – wayward sons, disloyalty, rape, and death. People under his rule turned against him and he had to flee for his life. In spite of these threatening difficulties, David continued to place his faith and confidence in the Lord his God. How else could he say, “I lay down and slept?”
   How do you and I respond when our day is filled with one problem after another? Do we allow anxiety to fill us with dread? Do we wring our hands in frustration? Do we get distraught and find it hard to function. Can we lay down our head on the pillow at night and rest?
   Our Lord Jesus faced some terrifying situations during his earthly walk? Satan tempted him three times in the wilderness to sin against God. The people of Nazareth attempted to throw him off a cliff. The Pharisees tried on several occasions to trick him. The religious leaders accused him of blasphemy. His brothers and sisters denied he was God. The Sadducees plotted against him. All of these attempts to discredit Jesus ended up in failure.
   Like David, Jesus was able to lay down and sleep in “Peaceful repose.” It reminds me of his experience with the disciples while on the Sea of Galilee in the midst of a fierce storm, “Jesus himself was in the stern asleep on the cushion…”  (Mark 4:38)
   If we trust the Lord and seek to do his will, He will work on our behalf even while we’re asleep; “He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.” (Psalm 121:3 and 5)

Prayer: Dear Lord, I thank you for the nights rest and your protection over me.   

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Bob Delaney: Jesus -- Our Bodyguard

Bob Delaney: Jesus -- Our Bodyguard: Jesus our bodyguard “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.” (Psalm 3:3) Usually...

Jesus -- Our Bodyguard

Jesus our bodyguard
“But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.” (Psalm 3:3)
Usually only wealthy or prominent people hire bodyguards such as presidents, celebrities, mob bosses, famous athletes, and kings. Most of us can hardly imagine having someone walking by our side every day of the year watching, guarding, and protecting us. Without our even being aware of his presence, we have the Lord Jesus walking beside us as our bodyguard. He has a multitude of guardian angels who are assigned to help to manage our security.
   If only I had known of this protection as a child, what a difference it might have made. I was harassed, bullied, chased, pushed, beaten and berated from the time I stared school until about the age of fourteen. It took a long time for me to build up the courage to say, “Enough is enough” and defend myself.
   David was clearly in the need of a bodyguard. His son, Absalom spent hours and days building up support to overthrow his father, the king. He was handsome, a smooth talker, and a gifted liar who knew how to please the people and steal their hearts. (2 Sam. 15:1-6).
   Why had God allowed this disgraceful uprising? It was part of the consequences of David’s adulterous sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah. God in his grace forgave David when he confessed, but he reaped bitter family problems – death of his son born to Bathsheba and rape of his daughter Tamar and the final death of his sons Ammon, Absalom, and Adonijah.
   Like David, we often suffer hardships of our own making or from the actions of others, but we can say with confidence that God is our shield. David’s faith and dependence was in the Lord. We, too, can cry out to God, like David did, and know that he will answer us. (Ps. 3:4) Our Savior, the Lord Jesus, is our bodyguard and walks beside us through all the storms of life.
   Do you daily trust in Jesus -- your bodyguard?
Prayer: Dear Lord, I need you, Lord Jesus, to be my bodyguard – watch over me.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

God's Son Reigns

God’s Son Reigns
“Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like clay jars.” (Ps. 2:8-90)
In this section of Psalm 2, the Heavenly Father highlights and exalts his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The sonship of Christ is reinforced by the Apostle Paul in Acts 13:33, “that God has fulfilled his promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘You are My Son; today I have begotten You.” The fact of Jesus being the only begotten Son of God is also referenced in John 3:16 and at Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist, “and behold, a voice out of heaven said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
   Here in Psalm 2, the Father promised the Son complete victory over the nations. He will set up His kingdom and rule the peoples of the world with a “rod of iron,” meaning that total righteousness will prevail. Anyone who rebels against the Son’s authority will be dealt with swiftly and justly. In that day, all dissenters will be shattered and smashed down like broken clay jars. Warren Wiersbe in his commentary “Be Worshipful” says, “Before going to battle, ancient eastern kings participated in a ritual of breaking clay jars that symbolized the enemy army and thus guaranteed the help of the gods to defeat them. Jesus needs no such folly; He smashes His enemies completely (Rev. 19:11ff; Dan. 2:42-44.
   Make no mistake! The “futile rebellion” of the nations will bring only laughter from the one who sits enthroned in heaven. God is in full control of all events, seasons, times, people, places, and nations.
   What should be our response in light of these truths? The Psalmist said it best, “Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!
   There it is! He is our refuge, our strength, our delight, and our savior.

Prayer: Dear Lord, in time of trouble there is no one else to go to but you, O Lord.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Bob Delaney: Laughing and Scoffing

Bob Delaney: Laughing and Scoffing: Laughter and Scoffing “He who is enthroned in heaven laughs” (Ps. 2:4) What picture comes to your mind as you envision God sitting o...

Laughing and Scoffing

Laughter and Scoffing
“He who is enthroned in heaven laughs” (Ps. 2:4)
What picture comes to your mind as you envision God sitting on His throne? Do you see Him looking down on earth with a smile of pleasure on His face, or do you visualize Him looking down with a scroll of displeasure? Would it come as a shock and surprise to find out that God laughs?
   I remember the shock the first time I heard someone refer to Jesus as a “party goer” as if it was somehow wrong or irreverent to picture Him in that manner. Jesus loved parties. He was involved along with his mother at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12). He went to Zacchaeus’ house and Simon’s for a celebration. But to hear that God laughs would be a surprise to many. Our concept of God may well depend upon the level of our understanding and relationship to Him.
   The peaceful scene that is described in Psalm 2:4 is a great contrast to the roar and rage pictured on earth. Down here the nations are in rebellion against the God who loved them so much that “He sent his only begotten son to die for their sin,” while in heaven we find God sitting on his throne laughing at their feeble efforts. Little do the nations realize that they have been weighed and found wanting.
   It was God who set David upon his throne, and gave him victory over his enemies. Now in heaven God laughs in mockery and scoffs at the futile rebellion on earth. He speaks to them in his anger and terrifies them in his fury saying, “I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.” Yes, it is Jesus the son of David who is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In that day He will occupy his throne and rule the nations with a rod of iron. (Revelation 19:11-16)
   Are you ready for that day when King Jesus, the Son of David, comes in the clouds to receive His bride and escort her to His heavenly home? Only those who have believed in Jesus as their Savior will qualify to be a part of that great celebration.
   In 2017, all believers need to be looking and listening for that trumpet call.

Prayer: Dear Lord, we are looking for the day when our King, Jesus Christ, returns.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Futile Rebellion

Futile Rebellion
“Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, ‘Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.’” (Psalm 2:1-2)
Several contrasts exist between Psalm 1 and 2. Psalm 1emphasizes the law, while Psalm 2 focuses our attention on prophecy. In Psalm 1, we see the godly versus the ungodly, while in Psalm 2 we see the wicked in rebellion while God sits on his throne and laughs. Psalm 1 is never quoted in the New Testament, while Psalm 2 is quoted directly or alluded to at least seventeen times.
   Psalm 2 begins with a rhetorical question that requires no answer. The question asked is more of an astonishment than a question. After establishing the peoples and nations, after providing for their basic needs, after guiding them and keeping them alive, and after sending a Savior to bring forgiveness and salvation, why would anyone possibly want to rebel and cast off all authority?
   Where did this rebellion get its beginning? In the larger sense, rebellion began in the beginning when Adam and Eve disregarded God’s command by eating of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. It generated into a conspiracy during the Tower of Babel and continued down through history to the Crucifixion of Christ and ends with the Battle of Armageddon.
   This “futile rebellion” has as its goal the defiance of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Son of God as clearly stated in Luke 19:14, “But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’”
   Jesus said that the world hated him and would also hate those who followed him Matthew 24:9, “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name.” The phrase “set themselves” means “get ready for war.”
   We are in a spiritual warfare and must be diligent and on guard to defend the “truth.” Thank God that Psalm 2:4-6 reveals Him still in control.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I can be at peace because you are still on your throne in control.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Useless Chaff

Useless Chaff
“The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away.” (Psalm 1:4-6)
The first half of Psalm 1 describes the godly person and the blessings coming to him, while the last half focuses on the ungodly who will perish. The wicked are pictured in Scripture as “chaff.”
   When grain is harvested and placed in piles on the threshing floor the servants beat it with a rod. The harvesters throw up the beaten grain and the wind blows the chaff away. It is later gathered and thrown into the fire to be burned. In contrast to the righteous, who are like fruitful trees and blessed, the ungodly are dead, rootless, blown about, and destined for the garbage heap. No wonder Jesus used the garbage dump outside Jerusalem (gehenna) as a picture of hell, because that’s where the useless waste ends up in the fire.
   Have you ever seen a garbage dump on fire? It gives off a noxious smell that permeates the air making it hard to breathe. Often times the fire releases toxic fumes that can cause permanent health issues and even death. Such a place is alleged to exist in Bridgeton, Mo. Another is an underground fire in a coal mine in Colorado that has been burning for years.
   John the Baptist used these same images of the tree, fruit, and chaff to warn sinners to repent in Matthew 3; “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will thoroughly clear his threshing floor; and he will gather his wheat into the barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Mt. 3:7b, 12)
   What is the responsibility of the righteous in relation to the wicked? Are we to ignore their plight and stand aside to watch them fall into the fire?
   According to the Psalmist in verses 1-3, the godly are to reach out to the ungodly with the gospel.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I pray that 2017 will provide many opportunities to share Christ.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Fruitful Trees

Fruitful Trees
“That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers.” (Psalm 1:3)  
     Both beauty and blessing are ascribed to trees. The Bartlett pear is known as one of America’s most famous trees. Its blossoms in the spring are a source of beauty and its luscious fruit in the fall are favorites for eating and canning preserves. Also noted for its beautiful blossoms in the spring are the Magnolia and Cherry trees. In the fall, we can enjoy the red, yellow, orange, and purple foliage of the sugar maple, bald cypress, aspen, sassafras, and sweetgum.
   The tree is a familiar image in the Scripture. In the Garden of Eden, God used the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” to test Adam and Eve’s obedience. He used a tree to symbolize Nebuchadnezzar’s downfall and loss of his kingdom due to pride. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus uses the “mustard seed” which becomes a tree to describe the expanse of the kingdom of heaven.
   Like a tree, the Psalmist describes a godly person as alive, beautiful, fruitful, useful and enduring. The most important part of a tree is its hidden root system that draws up water and nourishment from the soil. Without a steady stream of these ingredients the root system would shrivel up and the tree would die.
   The most important part of the believer’s spiritual root system is the Lord Jesus Christ and the word of God. Our spiritual vitality is dependent upon our drawing upon the life giving nutrients from the Lord. These are obtained by our “abiding in Christ,” and feeding upon the Scriptures. (John 15:1-9)
    Two types of flowers can be planted – annuals or perennials. I prefer the perennials that will regenerate themselves year after year. Like perennials, believers who abide in Christ will continue to stay fresh, green, and fruitful all year long. We must remember, a tree or plant doesn’t eat its own fruit – others eat it. Fruit comes from life, the life of God flowing in and through us.

Prayer; Dear Lord, help me continue to feed my “spiritual roots” through the word of God and prayer. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Snorkeler or Diver

 Snorkeler or Diver
“But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.        (Psalm 1:2)
My daughter loves to spend her vacation in areas where there is pure, clear water good for snorkeling. She has snorkeled in Hawaii, Mexico, and next year plans to go to the Bahamas. The snorkeler swims just below the surface along the reefs where there are thousands of multi-colored fish, crustaceans, starfish, and other sea creatures. To go deeper would require a diving suit with attached air hose and weighted shoes. A person would need special training before trying deep diving. It would be advisable to begin with a course on snorkeling before attempting anything more advanced.
   Part of my training for the U.S. Navy was to jump in a pool and see how long I could hold my breath while swimming under water. The average time one can hold their breath is approximately two minutes. We had one sailor who could stay under water for three minutes. He had fantastic lung power and qualified to be a submariner.
   When you apply these facts to the Christian life we find that believers have two choices to make each day. We can approach our daily Bible reading as a snorkeler or as a deep sea diver.
   The snorkeler is identified as the person who stays near the surface, satisfied with nourishment found in the shallows. The Bible speaks of snorkelers as “newborn babies, who crave the pure milk of the word.” (1 Peter 2:2) On the other hand, you may be like the deep sea divers who dig into the “meat of the word.”
   Are you a snorkeler or a deep sea diver when it comes to your daily meditation on the word of God? It’s okay to be a snorkeler once in a while, but to grow in the word we need to follow the example of the Psalmist and study, reflect, and meditate on the law of the Lord “day and night.”

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me move on from being a snorkeler to a deep sea diver in your Word.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Two Ways to Walk

 Two Ways to Walk
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.” (Psalm 1:1)
Several days a week I take my wife, Elaine, over to the mall to join the walkers. Due to a lower back problem I find a chair to sit in and watch. Nothing is more interesting than watching people when they don’t realize you are watching. I see people who are walking at a fast pace with “fit bits” on their arms. Others are slowly plodding along barely able to put one foot in front of the other. Still others are walking either in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. Elaine walks around on one floor and then goes down the escalator to walk on the bottom level. Everyone seems to have the same purpose in mind.
   The Scriptures have a lot to say about walking. In Genesis 5:24 we are told, “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” And in Gen. 6:9 the Bible says, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.” God spoke to Abraham in Gen. 17:1 and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless.” Later on when the Israelites entered the Promise Land, Joshua had them walk around Jericho once each day for six days and seven times on the seventh day before the walls fell down.
   The writer of Psalm 1 presents to us two ways – the way of blessing and the way of judgment. The focus is upon God’s word and upon God’s blessing on those who obey it and meditate on it, and on His ultimate judgment on those who rebel.
   The word “blessed”is asher,” the name of one of Jacob’s sons. It’s in the plural form meaning – “O the happiness! O the blessedness!” The person described in Psalm One met the conditions and therefore God blessed him. If we want God’s blessing, we, too, must meet the conditions.
   Why does God pore out his blessing on us? So that we might become channels of God’s blessing to others. It’s a joy to receive a blessing but an even greater joy to be a blessing. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

Prayer: Dear Lord, make me a blessing to others as the new year approaches.