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Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 23’

Mercy

May 30th, 2015

“Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ.” 2 John 3 NIV.

Grace adorns us; mercy spares us; and peace abides with and within us.

My thoughts and comments today are about “mercy.”

Who among us has not needed mercy? Everyone messes up sometimes. Our common humanity leaves us vulnerable to errors of both omission and commission, the omission of things we have not done when we should have and the commission of things we have done which we could and should have avoided. “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV. Among God’s many attributes, Paul rejoices that God, “is rich in mercy,” because of His excelling love and exceeding grace. Mercy is needed most and given best when deserved the least.

Everyone loves David’s Psalm, in which he concludes, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6. Be assure that God’s goodness and mercy are your promised companions throughout a lifetime, and beyond. Though an oversimplification, I choose to think of goodness to be, “God giving you what you have not deserved,” and mercy to be, “God sparing you from what you do deserve.”

Without mercy as companion, goodness would be overwhelmed with grief; without goodness as its source, mercy would merely be maudlin sympathy. “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.” 2 John 3 NIV. Grace adorns you; mercy spares you; and peace abides with and within you. Mercy is the essential link between God’s grace and His peace. Read Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV.

Mercy begins with the benevolence of God. Read Psalm 136. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you.” 1 Peter 1:3-4 NIV. But mercy must not end there. God’s mercy continues through you.

Jesus said, “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” Luke 6:36. All who receive mercy are accountable to administer mercy to others as freely as received. Jesus reminded His followers, ”Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Matthew 5:7. Mercy flows to you only to the extent that mercy flows through you. As is true with most of the topics I share, mercy is more sincere in the everyday kindness we show one another than in occasional, grand gestures. Read Matthew 18:23-35. The attributes of mercy are: compassion, empathy, understanding, generosity, and forgiveness – with a healthy measure of forgetfulness. Reflect on Paul’s personal testimony of God’s mercy. 1 Timothy 1:12-17 NIV. If mercy could be given in spite of his history and failings, mercy is available to the worst among us.

Today, I pray for you that mercy will flow from God through your heart and life to others.

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A Thanksgiving Dinner

November 25th, 2014

“[God] prepares a banquet for me . . and fills my cup to the brim.” Psalm 23:5 TEV.

In no situation is God unwilling or unable to provide abundantly.

My thoughts and comments today are about “a thanksgiving dinner.”

I love this time of year. Autumn brings a change of season introducing Thanksgiving Day and leading to the joy-filled celebration of our Savior on Christmas Day. Thanksgiving Day is celebrated with family traditions and traditional foods – roast turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce, giblet gravy, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, candied yams, warm dinner rolls, and of course, pecan and pumpkin pie, all enjoyed at a seasonally decorated and well-appointed table. But first, each family expresses thankfulness to God for His provision and for one another.

David, the Psalmist, enjoyed “a thanksgiving dinner” of sorts, which he describes in the most familiar and beloved of his psalms, Psalm 23. Giving thanks to God, David wrote, “You prepare a banquet for me . .  You welcome me as an honored guest and fill my cup to the brim.” Psalm 23:5 TEV. In unexpected times and places, God prepares and provides for him. David dines with a heart of thanksgiving for the ample provision of God in every situation and circumstance. In no situation is God unwilling or unable to provide abundantly. Our God “. . is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20 NIV.

From the life of Elijah, let me share three examples of “a thanksgiving dinner.” In a severe drought and resulting famine, God sent Elijah where He alone could provide for him. Read 1 Kings 17:1- 7 NKJV. “Hide by the Brook Cherith . . you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded ravens to feed you there.” God provided “a banquet” by natural means delivered in unexplainable ways; scavenger birds brought bread and meat morning and evening. Unusual circumstances don’t matter, when God “prepares a banquet . . and welcomes you as an honored guest.”

In a worsening drought for three years, God redirects Elijah to a widow in Zarephath. Read 1 Kings 17:8-16. Her meager resources exhausted by the famine, she shared with Elijah what little remained, which was then miraculously replenished daily as long as the drought endured. I believe Elijah gave thanks. God provided “a banquet” by a miraculous multiplication of her meager resource. Insufficient resources are irrelevant, when God “prepares a banquet . . and welcomes you as an honored guest.”

And lastly, from an angry queen seeking his death, Elijah “arose and ran for his life.” Read 1 Kings 19:1-8. Running scared and disheartened, Elijah collapses in exhausted sleep until awakened by an angel with fresh bread and water prepared, and “Elijah went in the strength of that food forty days and nights, as far as the mountain of God.” God provided “a banquet” by supernatural provision in desperate circumstances. Debilitating fear and despair disappear, when God “prepares a banquet . . and welcomes you as an honored guest.”

With the Psalmist, I have found this true, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” Psalm 37:23-26 NIV. At this Thanksgiving season, I am grateful that Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” – a prayer He never fails to hear. Whatever the challenge or need of your present situation, you have ample reason to trust God and give Him thanks for His faithful and sufficient provision, today and always.

Today, my prayer for you is that you find reason every day for thanksgiving to God.

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Headed Home

August 20th, 2010

“When I walk through the dark valley of death . . You are close beside me.” Psalm 23:4 NLT

“Death interrupts, intrudes, but is little more than an inconvenient interlude before life forever.”

My thoughts today are about, “headed home.”

It is understandable that the one thing no one can avoid is exactly what you most dread to face. Death is inevitable; preparing to die may seem optional, but is it? I am not morbid as I write this today, but I have said goodbye to too many friends and family across my years of pastoring to ever take death lightly. Death is more than an inconvenient possibility; it is an inescapable reality. See Hebrews 9:27 NIV. The Bible calls death “the last enemy,” so why would anyone want to welcome it with open arms? See 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 NIV. Death interrupts your plans, intrudes upon life, but is little more than an inconvenient interlude before life forever.

People have an aversion to death, or thoughts of it, and there are good reasons that is true. You were created for eternal life not death, made in the image and likeness of God to enjoy life forever with your Creator. “He planted eternity in the human heart.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT. Something in every human heart rebels at any ending of that life. Into a perfect creation, sin intruded into God’s world and “sin brought death, so death spread to very man.” Romans 5:12/18-19 NLT/Genesis 2:15-16 NIV.

This week, I was asked to prepare for and lead a memorial service for a wonderful lady and church member of many years. My thoughts turned to the feelings with which her family would be dealing, and what I would share to honor her life and faith, as well as encourage her family and friends. Just hours later, a dear friend of many years asked to come by the office to speak with me. Knowing that he was coming from an important doctor’s appointment (is any doctor’s appointment unimportant, really?), I presumed he might have received less than encouraging news.

After several years of very difficult and demanding treatment, he and his wife listened as the doctor said the treatments had not accomplished what was hoped, and there was not much more treatment could offer. Of course, the news was disheartening. We talked about a few casual, everyday things as we had on occasions before, but also talked about the road ahead, practical questions to be answered and difficult realities to be faced. I listened as he expressed the concerns he would have. They were not about himself, but about his wife and family, and their needs and care.

And then he talked about his faith – unshaken, maybe even more sure – and we prayed and cried together. There were tears; there was no grief in that room. There was peaceful acceptance, of the love and providence of God; there was no resignation to death. Later, he said to his wife, “I don’t know the bumps ahead on this journey, but I do know it is headed home!” You cannot know all your journey holds, but you can know where the journey takes you – and your Shepherd is taking you home, with Him. “The Lord is my Shepherd . . when I walk through the dark valley of death . . You are close beside me . . protect and comfort me.” Psalm 23:1/4 NLT.

Going home! That journey is not frightening when you know home is where you belong, with people you love, and with the Savior who welcomes you there. See John 14:1-3 NKJV. Do not avoid or leave these most important questions without answers, “Have I put my faith in Jesus Christ alone? Where will I spend eternity?” Please read John 11:25-26 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you live your life with the certain hope of life eternal.

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Still Waters

August 19th, 2010

“He leads me beside the still waters.” Psalm 23:2 NKJV

“God knows what you cannot, does what you could not, and offers love you should not live without.”

My thoughts today are about “still waters.”

Where do you go when life tumbles in on top of you? That’s really important to consider. Think about it for a moment; if your world seemed to be collapsing in ways you never imagined, what trusted name comes to your mind first? When you need to get away from where you are, to see things more clearly the way they are, where do you go?

Some years ago for my 44th birthday, a friend took me white water rafting in Colorado. It was not really something that I had ever wanted to do, but he insisted it “would be fun.” Most of the time, it was – beautiful scenery, cold, crystal-clear mountain water, and shallow, fast moving current.

But occasionally those cold Colorado waters became terrorizing, crashing against huge boulders as the river quickly dropped elevation. Suddenly, our raft would be thrust into minutes of white knuckle, white water experience. Our brief instructions previous to pushing off from shore were to prepare us in the inevitable chaos to listen for the guide’s voice, follow his directions exactly, and paddle fiercely only when instructed to do so. Quite an adrenalin rush!

And then almost as suddenly as it began, we were past that treacherous section and in the calmest of still waters at the river’s edge. Life can be a bit like that. All is well, even routine, and then there’s a severe pain you haven’t felt before; unexpected loss of job with bills and financial obligations you can’t meet, long saved investments worth fractions of what they were days before, a soul-numbing betrayal unanticipated, a cruel and stinging unkindness undeserved, or a doctor’s startling diagnosis unexpected. Suddenly you are in the middle of white knuckle, white-water life. That’s when you need the One who knows what you cannot, who does what you could not, and whose love you should not live without.

The disciples experienced that. Their trip across the lake began simply and safely enough, until a violent storm threatened to turn their world upside down. As the waves stung their cheeks and the wind howled its menacing threats, Jesus stood and “rebuked the winds and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ . . and it was completely calm.” Mark 4:35-41 NIV. Whatever your worries, whatever your fears, whatever the threats and dangers you feel, fear, and face, God knows when and how to lead you to still waters – sometimes far away from the storm and sometimes right in the midst of it! Either way, in His care you are safe, unharmed. See Psalm 46:1-4 TEV/Isaiah 43:2 NIV.

I have read that sheep will not drink from turbulent, fast moving waters. Innately, they are fearful, and rightly so. So a shepherd would find suitable, free flowing waters to refresh the flock and then gather enough stones to redirect the current, forming a shallow pool at water’s edge where the sheep could quench their thirst without need of fear. A good shepherd – and Jesus is a Great Shepherd! (See Hebrews 13:20-21 NLT) – would find a place, or with his own hands create a place, of safety and satisfaction. “The Lord is my Shepherd . . He leads me beside still waters.”

My prayer for you today is that you know the safety of God’s amazing love.

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Who’s In Charge Here?

August 16th, 2010

“The Lord is my Shepherd.” Psalm 23:1

“God is your shepherd, who directs, protects, and provides for those who are His.”

My thoughts today ask, “who’s in charge here?”

After a minor conflict of authority with her preschool teacher, on her way home our oldest granddaughter was sorting out a very important question with her grandmother, Nanna Gayle, about the very practical life question, “Who’s your boss?” She reasoned this way: if her Mom was her boss, and her Dad was her Mom’s boss, and as his mother, Nanna was his boss, and I was Nanna’s boss (though life and relationships are never that clear and linear, as every husband and father knows), then who was my boss? There, she was stumped. I often wish it were that simple, but life does not allow anyone to be the final authority of all things – that’s God’s job! Any person who thinks they can do that better will be very surprised.

The most basic, important issue in life may be the simple matter of where and from whom you will accept leadership – direction and correction. I think most of us are willing to accept direction; it’s that authority to correct that we resist or ignore when we prefer our own direction. However capable you believe yourself to be, everyone needs correction more than you will enjoy. When life gets confusing, where do you look for direction? When life is off track, from whom do you welcome correction? You need a Shepherd – “a boss,” in my granddaughter’s reasoning.

Several years ago, I had a few sheep, just six or seven I think it was. I kept them only a few months because they became more trouble than I expected. I didn’t learn much about them, except for the fact that they needed a lot of attention and showed very little appreciation. I did learn this about being a shepherd; it’s not that easy and not much fun. Whatever time of day, when my car pulled into the driveway, they immediately began bellowing to be fed, insistent on my prompt attention.

Sheep are not very good if left on their own; they don’t fare well. They are pretty much defenseless; they cannot fend for themselves very well; left on their own, they will destroy a pasture by overgrazing; they wander off and get lost easily when separated from the others. Like us, they need a shepherd to protect them, to direct them, and to provide for them.

Life will not work when you insist on being your own shepherd, final authority in all things relating to yourself or others. Have you ever tried that? Of course, you have. Go ahead and admit it; you would always prefer to “be your own boss!” In doing so, you assume the responsibility of a task beyond your experience, wisdom, or abilities. When you are playing God’s role, God cannot be what you most need – a shepherd in your life! Life is too complicated without Him.

Life only works when you finally accept that truth, and welcome the only One who is truly qualified to be that in your life. You cannot even imagine the joy and relief you will find in His care. I want you to personally know the unequalled sufficiency of the One who wants and waits to be your Shepherd. See John 10:1-18 NIV. Life is unlike anything you have ever known when you can truly say from your heart, “The Lord is my Shepherd!” Yes, life really is that simple.

My prayer for you today is that you settle the issue and trust in God’s care.

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