Friday, April 25, 2014

The Seven Wonders of Psalm 23: Part One

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s same.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,  For you are with me;
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare before me a table in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23

This passage has comforted broken hearts.

Soothed frazzled nerves.

Calmed panicked thoughts.

Given hope to the grieving.

It is David’s “Lord’s prayer.”

Many of us can quote it.

Perhaps we’ve read it a thousand times.

Do we experience its richness?

Have we ever feel the wonder David must have felt as he prayed these words?  
Psalm 23 is a description of David's close relationship with the Lord, and it expresses the choices he made to yield his life to Him.
David's walk with the Lord wasn't an accident, it was a walk full of choices. 
If we want an intimate relationship with God, we must make the same choices.   

This is the first of seven posts on this psalm of blessing - and the choices that bring us this blessing.

When has this psalm been a comfort to you?


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fair-weather Parking Lots

"But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. John 16:32

Ever heard of a fair-weather parking lot?

We've heard of fair-weather friends

You spend lots of time together…Then hard times come: your health, family problems, difficulties happen -  and they’re nowhere to be found.

We know about fair-weather fans.

I can remember umpteen years ago when the Houston Rockets were a brand new team. To be polite, they were bad. But we hung in there, die-hard fans.

Over a few years, they steadily improved. The first time they made to the layoffs, guess what? Fans came out of the woodwork. People who couldn't tell you a single team member’s name went crazy.

But, back to the fair-weather parking lots.

I walk my greyhound, Ruby, almost every day. She’s a retired racer and I’m-uh-plump. We both need the exercise. The weather has to be pretty bad before I throw in the towel.

So here we are, she’s dragging me around the park. It’s cold, or it’s hot, or the wind’s blowing my hair dang near off. And we’re alone. The parking lot is empty. Nobody there but us.

Then comes a nice day and the whole neighborhood hits the park. 

The parking lot's packed.

Yesterday was one of those days–walkers and joggers and baby carriages everywhere.

I wonder, “Where will y’all be when the weather’s unpleasant?”

Did Jesus think that?
“Where will you be when things get hard?”

Jesus knew the crisis was coming. Soon He would be arrested, scourged, crucified; He would die on a cross.

Jesus knew that the disciples were fair-weather followers. They were with Him day in and day out. They learned from Him and marveled at His miracles. They believed in Him, at least as far as their limited understanding allowed them.

But when time came to stand by Him, to risk their lives for Him, they ran.

Then the horrible day came.

Jesus hung on a cross and the disciples fled.

Fled out of fear that they would be killed as well.

Hid so no one would find them.

Am I any different? Are we any different?

  • When things are going well, I’m full of praise.
  • As soon as things go wrong, I’m full of doubts.
  • When it’s uncomfortable to stand for God’s standards, I compromise.
  • When I have an opportunity to talk about my faith, I keep my mouth shut.

But listen to Jesus’ words:

Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Luke 23:34

He knows our hearts and He bathes us with forgiveness. He offers us strength to stand for Him.

When He appeared to them after His resurrection, there was no chastisement.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" John 20:19

He knows we cower in fear and doubt. He covers us with His love and grace and says, “Peace be with you.”

When has Jesus flooded you with love and peace when you struggled to be faithful to Him?

Monday, April 14, 2014

What's Your View of Jesus?

Courtesy Madllen

They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna! " "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Blessed is the King of Israel!" John 12:13

In the message on Palm Sunday, my pastor said something I’d not thought of before: The same people who shouted “Hosanna to the King of Israel” were shouting “Crucify him” a few days later.

Hmmm…I’m afraid I recognize myself in the crowd.

You see, the crowd had a vision of what Jesus should be. He was a king who was coming into Jerusalem to deliver them. Drive out the Romans, deliver them from the oppression of Rome, and restore Israel to the glory it had known in the time of their greatest king, David.

It quickly became apparent to them that Jesus wasn't who they thought he was. He didn't plan to deliver them from Rome. He didn't plan to restore Israel.

Kings don’t allow themselves to be arrested. Kings overthrow Roman rule instead of submitting to their scourging and mocking. Jesus didn't meet their expectations so they were angry to the point of wanting him dead!

What is your vision of Jesus?

I admit that I want a Jesus who does what I want.

  • He meets all my expectations.
  • He delivers me from any hardship that comes along.
  • He overthrows those who try to defeat me.
  • He rules in glory and restores me to joyful life I've always wanted.

I’ll sing his praises at the top of my voice:

"Hosanna! " "Blessed is he who has saved me and promises me a wonderful life!" "Blessed is the King of my heart!"

And then something happens.

  • My heart breaks when a family relationship is strained.
  • I panic when an unexpected bill comes in.
  • I’m stunned when I lose my job.
  • I’m overwhelmed by a tragedy: a sudden death, an unfaithful husband…

Wait! Where’s my Jesus?!

  • He can snap His fingers and everything will be perfect again!
  • He can show that family member that he’s wrong.
  • He can drop a pile of money in my lap.
  • He can protect my job
  • He can protect my loved one and my marriage.

He’s not what I thought He would be. He’s let me down.

Anger, disappointment, even blame.

Am I so different that that crowd who shouted, “Crucify him!”

Praise the Lord! Jesus is beyond all that I can want or imagine.

He’s purpose isn't to give me a happy life.

His purpose is to yield to mockery and scourging.

His desire is to be obedient-even to death on the cross.

Hid goal is to free me from the grip of sin and to spend eternity with me.

My expectations fade from sight and all I can do is shout “Hosanna!”

How has Jesus exceeded your expectations?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Afraid of the Dark?

It's dark!
There are monsters in the closet, I know there are.
My Dad looked inside and told me the closet was empty.
But I know they're there. They're magical and their invisible to grown-ups.
When I was a child, I hid under the covers on my bed and clinched a flashlight in my hands, trusting its weak glow to keep evil at bay.

I'm all grown-up now, but I'm still afraid of the dark: fear, anger, frustration, all lurk in the shadows.  Childhood flashlights don't work...but what will?

Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105

That's easy, I thought.

So I sat in the mornings with my Bible in my lap; my eyes rolled over words my brain didn't see. I mentally raced through a few verses I remembered from Bible Drill. Then I leaped up and headed out the door.

But darkness still came:  disappointment, insecurity, impatience. Perplexed, I read those words again. My eyes focused on the word lamp. A lamp sits on a table and you turn it on and off, right?
Wait, turn it on and off. For a lamp to shine light on my fear and anger, I have to chose to turn it on.

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Chose to read God's Word,
not just scan it.
Chose to store it's truths
in my mind.
Chose to call on His truth  
to shed light on my thoughts and dispel disappointment and insecurity. 
Your Word is a lamp... If I want light to shine around my feet as I walk, I have carry His Word with me.  If I hold onto His truths, my feet won't stumble on the rocks in my path.


How has God's Word brightened your path? 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Ever Regifted? Don't Lie to Me!

Shame on you – I can hear you shaking your head.

“I’ve never done that!” you say.

And look! You didn't even bother to rewrap it - you just stuck a couple bows on it!

Get real - We've all done it.
Someone gives us a perfectly wonderful gift –
  • We already have two of them.
  • We have no use for one.
  • And the secret reason: it’s ugly!

I can honestly say I’ve never regifted – to a person.

I pack mine up and take it to Goodwill.

Regifting to the greater good, so to speak.

We've been given gifts so great it’s impossible to fathom:

  • Jesus gave His life to give us the gift of forgiveness.
  • Jesus’ resurrection gives us freedom from Satan’s power.
  • Jesus is alive and He offers us eternal life, to live with Him forever.

We never get enough of this.

We certainly have use for them.

These are things we should regift with joy and love.

And how can they hear if nobody tells them? Romans 10:14 (MSG)

Don't worry, you don't have to run around spouting the plan of salvation to everyone you meet.

Just refer to God when it naturally fits into the conversation.

"No, I didn't see the game, I was in church."
"I'll pray for you."

Even more gifts - God gives us Himself:

  • He is Love.
  • He is Peace.
  • He is Faithful.
  • He is Strength.
  • He is Comfort.

But, how can we regift God?
Can we offer His gifts to others?

We can:

  • Be loving to those around us – even if they don’t deserve it.
  • Be a peacemaker when there is unrest.
  • Be faithful to someone who needs you.
  • Be strength to someone who is weak.
  • Be comforting to someone struggling.

The BEST part about regifting God is that we still have it!

We don't give it away.

We don't lose it.

Every time we "regift" God, He fills us with even more!
When have you regifted God?
When has someone given Him to you?