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Showing posts from July, 2016

No Fear

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In 1921, the Women’s Missionary Society of his church presented my father with a devotional book. In his later years he read from it every day. The reading for September 26, the day in 1991 when my dad died, the Scripture verse on which the devotional was based was Psalm 23:4:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

My father was alone in a hospital bed when he died—at least that was the regret I felt when I first learned the details of his passing. But later, after being divinely directed to check the devotional book dad always read, I was reminded again that, though no human being might have been with him, the Great Shepherd had been there to personally escort him through the valley.

It was a huge comfort to me to remember that Truth.

Whether the valleys of our lives be those of hardship, sorrow, illness, danger, or even death itself, what a wonderful blessing it is to know that our Shepherd is always there.

Jesus remind…

It's In the Name

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It’s all about the Shepherd.

He guides us. The direction He takes us leads to transforming us into people who look like Him. He has a mission in mind that becomes a goal in this transformation.

When Jesus was about to return to His Father after His resurrection, He commissioned His followers with these words: “…go and make disciples of all nations...” (Matthew 28:19).

The scope of the task was somewhat new to the disciples, but the message and the mission were not. Followers of Jesus had been engaged in spreading the Gospel from the beginning of His ministry (i.e. Matthew 10).

In fact, people of God having an impact for God on the unbelievers around them had been God’s mission as far back as Abraham. God formed a nation of witnesses, of believers, whose words and actions were designed to showcase Him before the nations.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3)

The paths of righteousness that He leads us on are meant to bring glory to His name through the …

THE GUIDE

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If it were left up to the sheep, they’d stick to the same paths, the same pastures, the same watering holes. And eventually, the pastures would be eaten away to nothingness and the waters polluted to the point of contamination.

The shepherd needs to guide them to fresh pastures and new streams.

"The Lord is my shepherd…he guides me…” Psalm 23:3.

When was the last time you found something fresh and new in the Scriptures?

It’s an old book that is always new.

I’ve been attached to church since I was born, and a follower of Jesus for fifty-five years. I’ve been a student of the Word of God for a long time, more so in recent years. And I can say without a word of a lie that I discover new things constantly as I explore the Book.

The truth isn’t new—it’s always been there. It’s just that I didn’t see it before. My fault. I either wasn’t ready for it, or not paying attention. But the Spirit of God guides us to, I guess you’d call it, “old truth made new.”

What’s the purpose of the truth to…

SOUL FOOD

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The Lord is my shepherd…he restores my soul

A “cast” sheep is one that has fallen over onto its back and can’t get back up onto its feet. Without intervention it will die.

The psalmist describes what a “cast” soul is like in Psalm 42:5, 6: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?…My soul is downcast within me.

Did you think that depression, despair, sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, loneliness, fear, and worthlessness were modern day phenomena? They aren’t.

Sleepless nights, lack of appetite, uncontrolled anger followed by guilt, a sense that God has walked away—if He was ever there at all, and the very real sense that life is over, are nothing new.

Watching my mother suffer from chronic depression for many years always reminds me of just how real being “cast” is.

Don Baker sums it up much better than I ever could. He writes:

“OUR LORD IS THE SOUL DOCTOR. He is the only one trained and experienced in the healing of the soul—the only one qualified to determine just …

Quiet Waters

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The Lord is my shepherd…he leads me beside quiet waters…” (Psalm 23:2

 About a year ago, some friends and I were touring Alberta. We visited Athabasca Falls. The sound of the water is so loud you have to shout to make yourself heard. The speed of the water racing through the rocks down into the gorge is terrifying. At the top of the falls, just near the edge of those rushing, roaring waters, is a bench. On the bench is a small plaque. The plaque says that the bench is dedicated to the memory of a young man who got too near the edge. He fell and was swept over the falls and carried onto the rocks and down the gorge. The current was far too swift, the fall much too far, the rocks much too sharp for him to have a chance of survival.

This is not the place a shepherd would take his sheep. The sound and the fury would scatter them in all directions. They won’t drink if the water is flowing too quickly. Sheep need quiet water. So a good shepherd looks for quiet streams, “still waters

Full Stop

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If you are like me you would recite Psalm 23:2 this way: “He makes me lie down in green pastures.”

Not yet.

Here’s where we need to stop: “He makes me lie down….

Don Baker writes: “Sheep are totally ignorant of their own limitations” (The Way of the Shepherd) and then goes on to say that sometimes the shepherd has to force his sheep to rest because they don't know know enough to do it on their own.

If we apply this particular characteristic of our divine Shepherd to our human shepherds, or pastors, I don’t recall too many of them who have ever actually told their “sheep” to rest. More likely they are constantly encouraging their congregants to get involved, work harder, volunteer, get busy with kingdom business.

What a novel idea to be told to rest, even forced to rest!

Now I am not suggesting that all of us “sheep” should put up our hooves and lounge around on the grassy slopes of our favourite sheep spas. But some of us need to learn the lesson of the shepherd of Psalm 23—lyin…

SHEPHERD

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The Lord is my SHEPHERD.

In Spanish this phrase is translated: “El Señor es mi pastor.”

As in all things, we are to model our Lord (1 Peter 2:21). So, as He is the Great Shepherd, the quintessential Shepherd, those who claim the title of shepherd or pastor are to model Him.

There are many who use the title of shepherd or pastor who are not pastors. They may be CEOs, or supervisors, or coordinators, or bosses, or leaders, but they are not pastors. They may meet the criteria mentioned in Paul’s epistles and be the husbands of one wife, manage their families, not be given to hungering after money, be well-behaved, and be able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2). But those things alone don't make them pastors.

A person who exercises his duties through manipulation, intimidation, or isolation is not a pastor.

A person who will not disturb his lunch to come and offer a prayer or a shred of comfort to a parishioner at the point of death, is not a pastor.

These may be described in other ways, and t…

MINE!

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The Lord is MY Shepherd

Self-absorption is characteristic of present day civilization. There was a time when it was more common among young children to whom everything was “mine,” but in a world of selfies and personal rights, it seems like even adults consider everything “mine.”

That makes Psalm 23:1 something that should appeal to a self-absorbed world: “The Lord is MY shepherd.”

He is not A shepherd, one of many.

He is not THE shepherd, an impersonal one.

He is MY shepherd.

In a self-absorbed world we often picture this as us standing up to our enemies, our troubles, our needs with “big brother” standing behind us to support us. We are the centre of our universe, the core around which everything swirls and He hangs around to back up our play. We are the “knights in shining armour” while He plays the squire holding the weaponry.

But the psalmist isn’t puffing out his chest and warning his enemies off because he’s got a secret weapon at his disposal. David is not self-absorbed here.

He is…

The Great Shepherd God

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The LORD is my Shepherd

Of all the occupations to choose as a way to illustrate His character, God chose to be likened to a shepherd.

Shepherds were not exactly the upper crust of society. In fact, they were pretty much the lowest of the low.

Remember the story of Israel (aka Jacob) coming to live in Egypt? Joseph told his father that when the Pharaoh asked him what he did to sustain life he was to emphasize that they were shepherds. That was a guarantee that Pharaoh would settle them as far away from the Egyptians as possible. The Egyptians despised shepherds.

But the Highest of the high chose to be named as a shepherd. The God of the universe walks the earth with staff in hand to look after the interests of His band of sheep. But He relinquishes nothing in this move to the lowliest of occupations.

He is always God. His is always all-powerful, always all-knowing, always present everywhere. He doesn’t need naps, or lunch breaks, or vacations, or assistance. And He never quits. He is the…

THE Lord is My Shepherd

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This photo is so interesting. It appears that the shepherd is wearing a gold ring. If you look closely you may see what looks like a cataract covering one of his eyes. Those two things together, particularly the ring, seem somehow contradictory on an old man wrapped in a burlap bag.

What I love about the photo is the lamb in the arms of the shepherd. The little thing knows where he is and just how good it is to be there.

He is not like those poor sheep from Matthew 9 who are “…harassed and helpless.” Helpless this little lamb is, but he’s safe in the arms of the shepherd. Harassed he certainly isn’t because he is safe in the arms of someone a lot bigger and stronger than anything that might be bent on harassing him.

And, from his posture in the picture, that little lamb knows just how safe and secure he is! He knows HIS shepherd.

But when I look at the first few lines of Psalm 23, there are no contradictions.

The Lord is my shepherd…

Don Baker writes about the uniqueness of our Shephe…

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE SHEPHERD

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It’s all about the shepherd.

Matthew 9:35-38 says: “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’

I was struck by the phrase, “…harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

It wasn’t that the people of Israel didn’t have leaders—there was an overabundance of those, military, political and spiritual. What they didn’t have were shepherds. As a result the people were “…harassed and helpless,” left to the wolves.

Dare I say that the same thing is true today? We have many leaders but few shepherds.

Jesus called for prayer. We often pray for young people to respond to the call to serve God…