He Leads Me Beside Quiet Waters

Well, we have made our way in the 23rd Psalm to the phrase, “He Leads Me Beside Quiet Waters”.  It is a pleasant phrase to have roll off the tongue but it is also one of dire importance.  For each of us to survive we must have adequate water supplies.  A sheep’s survival is also dependent on adequate water supplies, even though they thrive in dry, semi-arid climates.

One main key that I want us to see with this phrase is this:  once again, it is the responsibility of the shepherd to provide adequate water for the sheep.  In case you have not caught on just yet….It seems that the responsibilities of the shepherd are endless and the responsibilities of the sheep are simply to follow the shepherd.  The shepherd is the care taker, provider, protector, and leader and the sheep simply live in dependency on him and follow him.  Correspondingly, We worry and fret over to many things that are of no concern to us, only to the shepherd.  Worry, stress and anxiety kill because we are taking on responsibility that was never meant to be ours to begin with.  We were made to rest in, trust in, depend on, and follow the Good Shepherd of our souls, the One Jesus Christ.

It is the shepherd who knows where the sheep can find adequate water.  In fact, very often he is the one who with much effort and industry has provided the watering places.  And it is to the these spots that he leads the flock.  When sheep are thirsty they become restless and set out in search of water.  If not led to the good water supplies of clean, pure water, they will often end up drinking from the polluted pot holes where they pick up such internal parasites as nematodes, liver flukes, or other disease germs.

In the same since, Christ, our Good Shepherd, made it clear that thirsty souls of men and women can only be fully satisfied when their capacity and thirst for spiritual life is fully quenched by drawing on Himself.  Matthew 5:6 He said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst, let him come to me and drink.” 

So what does it mean “to drink” of Christ Himself?  In spiritual terminology it means “to take in” or “to accept” or “to believe”.  That is to say it implies that a person accepts and assimilates the very life of God in Christ to the point where it becomes a part of Him.  Sometimes men and women who are thirsty for God, meaning they have a deep inner sense of searching and seeking; who are in quest of that which will completely satisfy, often are unsure of where to look or really what they are looking for.  Their inner spiritual capacity for God and divine life is desiccated, and in their dilemma they will drink from any dirty pool to try and satisfy their thirst for fulfillment.

Saint Augustine of Africa summed it up so well when he wrote, “O God! Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our souls are restless, searching ’til they find their rest in Thee.”  Only God, the Good Shepherd knows where the still, quiet, deep, clean, pure water is to be found that can satisfy His sheep and keep them fit. 

One of the main sources of water for sheep is the dew on the grass.  Most are not aware of the fact that sheep can go for months on end, especially if the weather is not too hot, without actually drinking, if there is heavy dew on the grass each morning.  Sheep by habit, rise just before dawn and start to feed.  Or if there is bright moonlight they will graze at night.  The early hours are when the vegetation is drenched with dew, and sheep can keep fit on the amount of water taken in with their forage when they graze just before and after dawn.

Interestingly, in the Christian life it is of more than passing significance to observe that those who are often the most serene, most confident, and able to cope with life’s complexities are those who rise early each day to feed on God’s Word.  It is in the quiet, early hours of the morning that they are led beside the quiet, still waters where they imbibe the very life of Christ for the day.  This is more than a mere figure of speech.  It is a practical reality.  The biographies of the great men and women of God repeatedly point out how the secret of the success in their spiritual life was attributed to the “quiet time” of each morning.  There, alone, still, waiting for the Master’s voice, one is led gently to the place where God and man can commune together.  This one is able to come away from this time refreshed in mind and spirit.  The thirst is quenched and the heart is satisfied and ready to face the day.

When sheep are able to graze like this they can fed heavily and contentedly.  As the sun rises and its heat burns the dewdrops from the leaves, the flock can retire to find shade.  There, fully satisfied and happily refreshed, they can lie down to rest and ruminate through the day.  From things that I have read about shepherds is that for the responsible, good shepherd this is the site that he works so hard to see.  Nothing pleases him more than to see his flock lying down, contented and restful. 

This must be the same reaction of our good Shepherd when we chose to meet the day like this with Him.  He loves to see me contented, quiet, at rest, and relaxed.  He delights to know my soul and spirit have been refreshed and satisfied.

Sadly, this is not true for most Christians.  They often pursue almost every other sort of substitute to satisfy their thirst.  Many pursue knowledge, career, money, possessions, culture, music, prestige, hobbies, athletics, relationships, sex, and on and on the pursuit goes.  All of their pursuing just leads to more frustration, conflict and just a general sense of being miserable after their fascinations wear off.  That is the thing with the world….nothing lasts!    After the pursuit of all these other things, one is still left with the haunting, hollow, empty, unfilled thirst within.  I am reminded of what the prophet Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 2:13 “For my people have done two evil things:  They have forsaken me-the fountain of living water.  And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!”  It is a compelling picture.  It is an accurate portrayal of broken lives-of shattered hopes-of barren souls that are dried up and parched and full of the dust of despair. 

Christ invites us to follow Him.  He invites us to put our confidence in Him.  For He is the One who best knows how we can be satisfied.  He knows best that the human heart, the human personality, the human soul with its amazing capacity for God can never be satisfied with a substitute.  Only the Spirit and life of Christ Himself will satisfy the thirsting soul.

The other two sources of water for the sheep are deep wells and spring or streams.  In his book, “A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm” Phillip Keller tells of one incident in Africa while tending sheep.  He was watching the native herds being led to their owner’s water wells.  Some of these were enormous, hand-hewn caverns cut from the sandstone formation along the sandy rivers.  They were like great rooms chiseled out of the rocks with ramps running down to the water trough at the bottom.  The herds and flocks were led down into these deep cisterns where cool, clear water awaited them.  But down in the well, stripped naked, was the owner bailing water to satisfy the flock.  It was hard, heavy, hot work.  Perspiration poured off the body of the bailer, whose skin glistened under the strain and heat of his labor.  Keller says as he stood there watching the animals quench their thirst at the still waters he was again immensely impressed by the fact that everything hinged and depended upon the diligence of the owner, the shepherd.  Only through his energy, his efforts, his sweat, his strength could the sheep be satisfied.  He goes on to remind the reader that the Christian life the exact same applies here.  Many of the places we may be led into will appear to us as dark, deep, dangerous, and somewhat disagreeable.  But it simply must be remembered that He is there with us in it.  He is very much at work in the situation.  It is His energy, effort, and strength expended on my behalf that even in this deep, dark place is bound to produce a benefit for me.

Isn’t our Abba Father just amazing!


He Makes Me Lie Down In Green Pastures

Well….you may be like me and wondering what in the world does this have to do with us as humans.  Those were my exact sentiments.  I think you will be just as amazed as I was when you see the deeper meaning here.

In order for sheep to lie down and rest, four requirements must be met.  The unique aspect of the picture is that it is only the sheepman (shepherd) who can provide for these requirements.  The health, stability and survival of the entire flock all depends on the shepherd.  It is actually he who makes it possible for them to lie down, to rest, to relax, to be content and quiet and flourishing.  Let’s look at these requirements one by one.

1.  Owing to their timidity they refuse to lie down unless they are free of all fear.  You may not know that sheep are very timid and panicky.  Just one site of the smallest unexpected creature popping out and the entire herd will stampede.  When one startled sheep runs in fright a dozen others will bolt with it in blind fear, not waiting to see what frightened them.  In Phillip Keller’s book, A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm, he tells of his horrifying experience as a shepherd when he awoke and went out to check on his flock and found nine of his choicest ewes, all soon to lamb, lying dead in the field where a cougar had harried the flock during the night.  He says after that experience he slept with a .303 rifle and flashlight by his bed and at the least sound of the flock being disturbed he would jump out of bed calling his faithful collie and rush out to protect his sheep.  One of the things that he soon learned through his experiences was that nothing so quieted and reassured the sheep as to see him in the field.  WOW!!  That is incredible.  The presence of their master and owner and protector put them at ease as nothing else could do, and this applied day and night.  In the Christian’s life there is no substitute for the keen awareness that my shepherd is nearby.  There is nothing that dispels the fear, the panic, the terror of the unknown.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit that makes known to us the presence of our Good Shepherd.  He comes quietly to reassure us that Christ Himself is aware of our dilemma and deeply involved in it with us.

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”

2.  Because of the social behavior within the flock, sheep will not lie down unless they are free from friction with other of their kind.  Believe it or not there in the fold lies tension, rivalry, and cruel competition.  Just as there is the “pecking order” among chickens and the “horning order” among cattle, there is a “butting order” among sheep.  It is usually the arrogant, cunning, and domineering old ewe that will be the boss in the flock.  This ewe will maintain position of prestige by butting and driving other ewe’s or lambs away from the best grazing or favorite bedgrounds.  Succeeding this one in precise order the other sheep all establish and maintain their exact position in the flock by using the same tactics of butting and thrusting at those below and around them.  Because of this rivalry, tension and competition for status and self-assertion, there is friction in the flock.  The sheep cannot lie down and rest in contentment.  Always they must stand up and defend their rights and contest the challenge of the intruder.  Again, it is the presence of the Shepherd that will attract the attention of the sheep and they will forget their foolish rivalries and stop their fighting.  Occasionally the shepherd must use his staff and discipline the older ewes and we will see more of that in the phrase, “His rod and staff, they comfort me.”

We are just as these sheep.  The struggle for self-assertion and self-recognition goes on and on.  Most of us fight to be “top sheep”.  We butt and quarrel and compete to “get ahead” and in the process we hurt ourselves and others.  I’m remembering what James said in chapter 4 verses 1-3

“What is causing the quarrels and fights among you?  Isn’t it the whole army of evil desires at war within you?  You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it.  You are jealous for what others have, and you can’t possess it, so you fight and quarrel to take it away from them.  And yet the reason you don’t have what you want is that you don’t ask God for it.  And when you do ask, you don’t get it because your whole motive is wrong – you want only what will give you pleasure. (NLT)

We must remember that when our eyes are on our Master they are not on those around us.  This is a place of peace.  In the end it is he who will decide and judge what my status really is.  After all, it is His estimation of me that is of consequence.  Any human measurement at best is bound to be pretty unpredictable, unreliable, and far from final.  So, to be close to Him, conscious of His abiding Presence, made real in my mind, emotions, and will by the indwelling gracious Spirit, is to be set free from fear of my fellow-man and whatever he might think of me.  I would much rather have the affection of the Good Shepherd than occupy a place of prominence in society….especially if I had attained it by fighting, quarreling, and bitter rivalry with my fellow human beings.

“Blessed [happy, to be envied] are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”.  Matt. 5:7

3.  If tormented by flies or parasites, sheep will not lie down.  This is essential to the contentment of sheep.  As we know it is in the summertime that flies are at their worst.  During this time sheep can be driven to absolute frustration by nasal flies, bot flies, warble flies and ticks.  They can not rest when tormented with these pests.  They are up on their feet stomping their legs, shaking their heads, ready to rush off into the bush for relief from their pests.  Again, we see that it is the diligent care of the shepherd who must keep a constant look out over his flock to know when they are being harassed.  A good shepherd will take swift action and use the application of insect repellents on the sheep.  He will also see that they are dipped to clear their fleeces of ticks.  He will also make sure that there are shelter belts of trees and bush available where they can find refuge and release from their tormentors.  All of this entails extra care and expense on the part of the shepherd.  The primary purpose in the shepherd’s mind is the aim of keeping his flock quiet, contented, and at peace.

Similarly in the Christian life there are bound to be many small irritations.  There are the annoyances of petty frustrations and ever-recurring disagreeable experiences.  What is the antidote?  Can any of us come into quietness and contentment despite them?

The answer for the Christian is “YES”!  This is one of the main functions of the Holy Spirit.  In Scripture, the Holy Spirit is often symbolized by oil-by that which brings healing and comfort and relief from the harsh and abrasive aspects of life.  The gracious Holy Spirit makes real in me the very presence of Christ.  He brings quietness, serenity, strength, and calmness in the face of frustrations and futility.  When I turn to Him and expose the problem to Him, allowing Him to see that I have a dilemma, a difficulty beyond my control, He comes to assist.  Often a helpful approach is simply to voice aloud, “Master, this is beyond me-I can’t cope with it-it’s bugging me-I can’t rest-please take over!”  He does in His own wonderful way.  He applies the healing, soothing, effective antidote of His own person and presence to my particular problem.  There immediately comes into my consciousness the awareness of His dealing with the difficulty in a way I had not anticipated.  And because of the assurance that He has become active on my behalf, there steals over me a sense of quiet contentment.  I am then able to lie down in peace and rest.  ALL BECAUSE OF WHAT HE DOES!  If you notice here….there are no “three points and a poem”.  There is nothing that you do other than call out to Him and He does the rest.  He is a Good Shepherd!

4.  The fourth and final requirement that must be met for sheep to lie down and rest is they must be free from a feeling of hunger.  In the areas of the country that are known as great sheep countries of the world there is a dry, semi-arid climate.  This happens to be the very best climate for sheep to flourish.  They are susceptible to fewer hazards of health or parasites where the climate is dry.  But it is very interesting that these regions are not natural places to find lush, green pastures.  David kept his sheep near Bethlehem which is a dry, brown, sun-burned wasteland.

These green pastures that the sheep so desperately need did not just happen by chance,  Green pastures were the product of tremendous labor, time, and skill in land use.  In order for green pastures to be made the shepherd must go in ahead of time and clear rough, rocky land, tear out brush and roots and stumps; he must plow deep and carefully develope the soil and make it ready for seeding and planting special grains and legumes.  Then there is also the matter of irrigating with water with careful, watch of the crops of forage that would feed the flocks.  To top it off he must also have several pastures prepared for his sheep. 

 All of this represents tremendous toil and skill and time for the careful shepherd.  If his sheep were going to enjoy green pastures amid the brown, barren hills, it meant he had a tremendous job to do.  But these pastures are essential to the welfare of the sheep.  Even when lambs are maturing and the ewes need green, succulent feed for a heavy mild flow, there is no substitute for good pasturage.  Incidently…no sight so satisfies the shepherd as to see his flock well and quietly fed to repletion on rich green forage, able to lie down to rest, ruminate, and gain.

Now, a hungry, ill-fed sheep is ever on its feet, on the move, searching for another scanty mouthful of forage to try and satisfy its gnawing hunger.  These sheep are not contented, they do not thrive, they are of no use to themselves nor to their owners.  One shepherd described it as, “…they languish and lack vigor and vitality.” 

What is the application for us as Christians here?  Well, focus now your attention on the “Promised Land” that God mentioned in Scripture.  This is the land that God worked so hard to lead Israel to from Egypt.  This land was described to the children of Israel as a land “flowing with milk and honey.”  When studying the scientific technology involved in agriculture you will find that this term “a land flowing with mild and honey” is not only figurative language but also scientific terminology.  In agricultural terms they speak of a “milk flow” and “honey flow”.  By this they mean the peak season of spring and summer when pastures are at their most productive stages.  The livestock that feed on the forage and the bees that visit the blossoms are said to be producing a corresponding “flow” of milk or honey.  So a land flowing with milk and honey is a land of rich, green luxuriant pastures.

When God spoke of such a land for Israel He also foresaw such an abundant life of joy and victory and contentment for His people.  For the child of God, the Old Testament account of Israel moving from Egypt into the Promised Land is a picture of us moving from sin into the life of overcoming victory.  We are promised such a life.  It has been provided for us and is made possible by the unrelenting effort of Christ on our behalf.

Picture this…He works to clear the life of rocks of stony unbelief.  How He tries to tear out the roots of bitterness.  He attempts to break up the hard, proud human heart that is set like sun-dried clay.  He then sows the seed of His own precious Word, which, if given half a chance to grow, will produce rich crops of contentment and peace.  He waters this with the dews and rain of His own presence by the Holy Spirit.  He tends and cares and cultivates the life, longing to see it become rich and green and productive.  All of this shows the unrelenting energy and industry of an owner who wishes to see his sheep satisfied and well fed.  It really shows that my Shepherd’s desire is to see my best interests served.  His concern for my care is beyond my comprehension, really.  At best all I can do is to enjoy and revel in what He has brought into effect.

Now, this life of quiet overcoming, of happy repose, of rest in His presence, of confidence in His management is something few Christians ever fully enjoy.  Why?  I think it is because of our own stubbornness and perverseness we often prefer to feed on the barren ground of the world around us.  We don’t want to take the time to open ourselves up to our Good Shepherd and let Him do the work in our hearts to bring this about so we go off on our own looking for spiritual forage to satisfy our deep inner longings.  For those who do long for those pastures, there they will find peace and plenty.

Psalm 63:1-8  

“O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you.  My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. 

I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory.  Your unfailing love is better to me than life itself; how I praise you! 

I will honor you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer.  You SATISFY me more than the richest of foods.  I will praise you with songs of joy. 

I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night.  I think how much you have helped me; I sing for joy in the shadow of your protecting wings.  I follow close behind you; your strong right hand holds me securely.”  

Thank you, my Abba Father!


I Shall Not Want

In the 23rd Psalm, the Phrase, “I Shall Not Want”….. have you ever given that phrase much thought?  I must admit that I have thought about it some but maybe not to the degree that I should have.  In my study on the 23rd Psalm I have found some intriguing things that I would like to share with you.  The Lord used a great source to help me understand these things and I would highly recommend you checking it out.  It is a book by Phillip Keller entitled “A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm”.  It is an excellent book and one that will grab your attention and you will not be able to put it down.  All of the posts on the 23rd Psalm will deal with information discovered by Keller in his work as a literal shepherd with sheep.

The Word “want” here actually has a broader meaning than one might imagine.  No doubt the main concept is that of not lacking but can we really know what David was referring to here as he was a shepherd of sheep for many years as well.  It was discovered here that a broader meaning is that of being utterly contented in the Good Shepherd’s care and consequently not craving or desiring anything more.

We can be sure that David was not really speaking of a materialistic or financial means because we find him experiencing extreme, intense personal poverty and acute hardship and adversity at times in his life.  One would recall as David was on the run from Saul in his early years and again as being estranged and on the run from his own son Absalom.  Just recently in the Ladies Bible study that I teach on Wednesday mornings we looked at the passage in Revelation 3.  We focused in on Rev. 3:17 that states, “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’  But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”  Wow…there is it in Scripture that we can posses all that this world affords us physically, materialistically, socially, and relational and I can still be wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked in a spiritual sense.  When these attributes characterize my spiritual life, my fascination and excitement with these earthly things will fail me and I will not be able to find peace and contentment deep within me even though all manner of things that this world can give me are scattered about in front of me.

So what exactly does he mean here?  I think David could be saying here, “I shall not want or lack the expert care and management of my Master.”  Who is your master?  Jesus himself even said that it is impossible to serve two master’s.  We will hate one and love the other.  It is important to understand who our master is and the significance of belonging to that master or shepherd.  One is a Good Shepherd and the other is an imposter.  The imposter cares nothing for his flock.  Because he doesn’t love and care for the sheep, they are weak, thin, impoverished, malnourished and sickly.  They are riddled with ticks, parasites, disease, and filth.  The imposter abandon’s them and leaves them to fend for themselves.  The imposter that I am speaking of here is our enemy Satan.  You know you belong to either him or Christ.  We are either children of darkness or children of Light, children of a scandalous imposter or children of the King….and the only thing scandalous about our King is His great affection and love for us.  There are no boundaries that will prevent Him from being all that a Good Shepherd is for us.  The Sheep under His care and management will never want or lack any good thing.

If you and I can entrust ourselves to Christ’s control and management we will find there a radiant, serene and joyous confidence and quiet joy that surmounts all the tragedies of our time.  We will find that contentment we long so for.  Which, incidently….Contentment should be the hallmark of the man or woman who has put his or her affairs in the hands of God.  The paradox we see though in our society is the intense fever of discontent among people who are ever speaking of security.  The very thing that they pursue with all their might believing that it will be the thing that provides security for them is the very thing that can be sucked right out from underneath them in a heartbeat.  My friend, Christ – the Good Shepherd is the only sure foundation upon which to build ones life.  Spend your energies, time, and resources pursing Him and He will fill you and you will never want again.

John 4:13-14 “Jesus replied, “People soon become thirsty again after drinking this water.  But the water I give them takes away thirst altogether.  It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life.” NLT

The LORD Is My Shepherd

Who is your LORD?  Who do you worship or serve?  Do you know Him personally?  Do you fellowship with Him often?  How do you perceive Him?  Do you know anything about His character, His attributes, His Ways?  My LORD is Jesus Christ.  He is my Shepherd and a very good one too! 

Sometimes our view of Jesus is often too small, too cramped, too provincial, too human.  And because it is, we feel unwilling to allow Him to have authority or control – much less outright ownership of our lives.  We lack in trusting Him and being able to experience a walk of faith that we are called to because we don’t know who He is.  When looking at sheep management, the lot in life of any particular sheep depended on the type of man who owned it.  Some were gentle, kind intelligent, brave, and selfless in their devotion to their stock.  Under one management sheep would struggle, starve, and suffer endless hardship.  In another’s care they would flourish and thrive contentedly.  Under God’s care He invites me to consider myself His sheep – His special object of affection and attention. 

The relationships given to us to communicate how we are to relate to our Heavenly Father are that of a father and his children and of a Shepherd and his sheep.  These concepts were first conceived in the mind of God our Father.  They were made possible and practical through the work of Christ.  They are confirmed and made real in me and you through the agency of the Holy Spirit.

You and I were bought with a high price.  Not only did He create me but He bought me again at the incredible price of His own laid down life and shed blood.  Therefore He was entitled to say, “I am the good Shepherd.  The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”  I belong to Him simple because He deliberately chose to create me as in the object of his own affection.  he literally lays Himself out for us continually.  He is ever interceeding for us; He is ever guiding us by His gracious Spirit; He is ever working on our behalf to ensure that we will benefit from His care.

An interesting mark of sheep is that they don’t “just take care of themselves” as some might suppose.  They require, more than any other class of livestock, endless attention and meticulous care.  It is no accident that God has chosen to call us sheep.  The behavior of sheep and human beings is similar in many ways.  Our mass mind or mob instincts, our fears and timidity, our stubbornness and stupidity, our perverse habits are all parallels of profound importance.  Yet despite these adverse characteristics Christ chooses us, buys us, calls us by name, makes us His own, and delights in caring for us.

If you know anything about real, live sheep management, you know that each shepherd has his own distinctive earmark which he cuts into one of the ears of his sheep.  In this way, even at a distance, it is easy to determine to whom the sheep belongs.  It is not the most pleasant procedure to catch each ewe in turn and lay her ear on a wooden block, then notch it deeply with the razor-sharp edge of the knife.  There was pain for both sheep and shepherd.  But from the mutual suffering an indelible lifelong mark of ownership was made that could never be erased.  And from then on every sheep that comes into that shepherd’s possession would bear that shepherd’s mark. 

There is an exciting parallel to this in the Old Testament.  When a slave in any Hebrew household chose, of his own free will, to become a lifetime member of that home, he was subjected to a certain ritual.  His master and owner would take him to his door, put his ear lobe against the door post and with an awl puncture a hole through the ear.  For then on he was a man marked for life as belonging to that house.  For the man or woman who recognizes the claim of Christ and gives allegiance to His absolute ownership, there comes the question of bearing His mark.  The mark of the cross is that which should identify us with Him for all time.  The question is – does it?

Jesus made it clear when he stated emphatically, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  Basically, A person exchanges the fickle fortunes of living life by sheer whimsy for the more productive and satisfying adventure of being guided by God.

Can you say as David did, “The Lord is my Shepherd!”  Are you thrilled to belong to Him?  It is then that we flourish and thrive no matter what life my bring to us.  Get to know your Good Shepherd!


Proving Myself

For many years, I have believed the lie that  in order to be accepted, I must prove my value/worth to others by my performance/achievements/success .  Entangled with this lie was another lie, that other people must accept me in order for me to accept myself.  God spoke the truth to me recently in a very special way:  I don’t have to prove my worth because God has already created me valuable.  He is the judge, not other people.  Therefore, if God accepts me (which He does with open arms), then I can accept myself.

This morning, God gave me an opportunity to practice this newly revealed truth.  I got up late, had barely enough time to shower & dress, grabbed a frozen dinner for lunch, and ran out the door without any breakfast.  The road I normally take to work is closed this week for construction, but I forgot that, and out of habit headed that way.  When I realized what I’d done, I had to take a roundabout way to work.  I just knew I would be late, and I was stressed.  Then I remembered what God said, “You don’t have to prove anything.”  I didn’t have to prove that I was good by being on time to work.  I began to relax and slow down.  The pressure was gone.  I was believing God.  I arrived at work with 2 minutes to spare and a whole lot less stress.  Thank you, Jesus!!!!

“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;”           ~Psalm 139:14

“to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. “            ~Ephesians 1:6

Lessons Learned On The Journey To 26.2

Have you ever analyzed or studied something to death and had it worked out in your mind as to how you thought it should happen?  Well, I sure did when it came down to the Marathon.  On one of our particular training runs we ran 22 miles and those 22 miles were done at our goal pace which would have put me finishing at 4 hours and 9 minutes!  I was so excited.  That was the fastest I had ever run 22 miles before and I had felt good during the run so I was very optimistic about race day!  Well….as you have seen from the previous posts about the marathon that is not what happened!  I was incredibily discouraged later thinking about it and my thoughts immediatly turned toward my relationship with God. 

Often times we have something worked out in our head and think we know how it should all come about and we pray and pray and pray….yet, things just seem to come apart at the seams!  What do we do when things don’t turn out the way we want them to?  What then?  Maybe we thought we were walking in God’s will – maybe we thought we had heard clear direction from God…..what do we do now?  Have you ever felt that discouragement that comes in these times?  Have you ever felt hurt with God during times like these?  You may not care to admit it out loud but my guess would be that we all have encountered those same old feelings when things just don’t work out the way we planned or hoped that they would. 

One of the reasons why so many Jews in Jesus’ day missed seeing who He really is was that many of them had it built it up in their own minds that He was going to be a present day radicalist and overthrow the Roman Government  which they ovbiously opposed.  We tend to get just a little bit of information about God and then mix it with the influences in our lives and then put our own twist and ideas on it and that becomes our concept of who God is and how God should move and act in the affairs of life and the world.  When we do this we will miss Him by a country mile just as many of the Jews did in the gospel writtings.

I want to share with you some very special verses that I encountered for the very first time when my father passed away in March of 1992.  You may find it interesting to know that the first time I heard these verses it was not from a preacher, teacher or from my own Bible readings but from God himself.  I had been reading the night before and my load of grief blurred my understanding of what I was reading and I found myself in the midst of my own anger over the grief that I felt.  I just did not understand why God would not have chosen to heal my father when he had loved and served Him and we had prayed in faith.  I had several doctor appointments scheduled the next morning while I was still home and the second visit was at the eye doctor’s office.  I knew I would be waiting for awhile and as I began to wait Father invited me into a dialogue with Him.  As I poured out my questions He spoke truth into my heart and peace has been the result ever since.  Part of what He shared with me I later found out was taken straight out of Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thought are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” declares the Lord.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

On this side of eternity we are never going to understand some of the ways in which God moves and some of the decisions that He makes for we think with earthly minds that are finite and our God is so infinite!  He is beyond our understanding and comprehension while we have to function with the limitations of these earthly minds and bodies; but isn’t it wonderful that He still desires relationship with us and loves us unconditionally?  Wow….He amazes me – daily!  Just another reason that shows why He is God and I am not.


Forever & Constant Love

I have recently been asking God to open my eyes to His love.  He is doing just that, a little bit at a time.  This morning I found myself singing a song that I learned a long time ago.  It just popped into my head.  That led me to this scripture, which the song is taken from.  I hope it will encourage you as it did me this morning.  God’s love is forever and constant; it never ends!

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:19-24 (ESV)


Honest With God

God has been growing me in the area of honesty.  (Psalm 62:8)  I have often felt like a “good Christian” should never doubt God or question anything He says.  So, in an effort to appear “good” (because I thought that’s what would earn love and acceptance), I have rarely voiced my doubts or questions, especially to God.  The funny thing is God already knows all my doubts and questions.  Nothing is hidden from Him.  (Hebrews 4:13)  Through a conversation with Him the other day, I saw that my being honest with Him allowed Him to come in and heal me.  The conversation (not audible, but in my heart & mind) went something like this:

Me:  I can’t be good all the time.  I try so hard, but I just can’t.  I’ll never be good enough.

God:  It’s okay.  I love you even when you mess up.

Me:  That doesn’t make any sense!  Other people get mad at me when I mess up.  I get mad at other people when they do something wrong.  How can you love me and not be angry at me when I fail?

God:  I’m not like you.  I love you even when you’re bad.  I can watch you do things wrong and not be mad at you.  I’m just different.  I give you the freedom to fail.

Me:  But, how can you do that?  I don’t deserve to be loved!

God:  I am GOD.  I AM love.  That’s just what I do.

Close to God

Do you ever think, “I feel so far away from God.  I want to be close to God again.  What do I have to do to get closer to God?”  I have had these same thoughts over and over again.  For many years, I depended on these feelings, and my relationship with God seemed up and down and up and down.  I couldn’t maintain any consistency because I was depending on my efforts/performance (reading my Bible, praying, going to church events & conferences, being Christ-like, attending Bible studies, etc.) to attain closeness with God.  If I missed a quiet time, I felt far away from God.  If I messed up, I thought God was punishing me by being distant.  If I didn’t feel God’s presence, then I thought He didn’t care.  If I didn’t finish all my tasks or do something the right way, then I felt like God was distant and didn’t hear my prayers.  If I didn’t feel close to God when I prayed, then I thought He wasn’t listening. 

Then God opened my eyes to the truth that as a believer, I can’t get any closer to God than I already am.  He’s inside me–how can I get any closer than that?.  I don’t have to do anything to get closer to God.    Do I always feel his presence?  No, but that doesn’t mean He’s not there.  His presence in my life has nothing to do with my Christian performance, but everything to do with the cross of Jesus Christ.  So now, when those feelings of distance come, I have a choice–believe the feelings or believe the truth, the promises of God:

“But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him”  (1 Cor 6:17)

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”  (1 Corinthians 6:19)

“In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,”  (Ephesians 1:13)

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  (2 Corinthians 5:21)

“for He Himself has said, ‘I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,'” (Hebrews 13:5)

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.  If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.”  (Psalm 139:7-10)


Dental Anxiety

Yesterday I had to go to the dentist.  That’s not something I enjoy.  In fact, it’s something I dread.  I have TMJ problems, so holding my mouth open for a cleaning is a challenge and quite painful.  I usually have a massive headache afterwards.  Well, yesterday I already had that headache before I even went, so I was especially anxious.  I imagined horrible pain for the rest of the day.  As I sat in the waiting room, I could feel my heartbeat getting faster. 

In the book I was reading, the main character, Mack, was having a conversation with Jesus.  Jesus asked him, “Where do you spend most of your time in your mind, in your imagination, in the present, in the past, or in the future?”  I recognized immediately that I mostly live in the future, looking forward to and planning for what’s next.  I believe this is why I struggle with anxiety a majority of the time.  Later in the conversation, Jesus said, “Mack, do you realize that your imagination of the future, which is almost always dictated by fear of some kind, rarely, if ever, pictures me there with you?”  That got me thinking about the “future” that I was currently anxious about.  I was thinking all about the inevitable pain while sitting in the dentist chair and the remainder of the evening, not at all about Jesus being with me.  I thought to myself, “I don’t have to be all anxious about what’s going to happen over the next several hours because Jesus is going to be with me.  I can just sit here and read this book and enjoy Jesus being with me NOW as I read.”  With that change of mindset, the anxiety began to dissipate.  WOW!  God is GREAT!!