• Coming Christmas 2019

Overcoming Bad Days-Psalm 23: Part 2

In his old age, King David looked back over a life filled with the good, the bad and some pretty serious ugly and came to the conclusion of Psalm 23; a song from one shepherd to The Shepherd of his heart and life.

Psalm 23 is the culmination of David’s life. it is the God inspired battle plan for conquering bad days and experiencing fewer bad days even in the midst of great trial and loss.

If God is your Shepherd, if He is my Shepherd, then we can live by this battle plan and be victorious even in the bad days!

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

I don’t think I really believe this, just like a dumb sheep.

When I see a good balance in the bank account and when I see the cupboards full and when I see healthy and satisfied family all around me then I am happy and full of praise and adoration. But in those times, if I am honest, I am confident in me; in what I can accomplish; in what I can produce. I don’t see God’s hand in all that provision and I am not trusting in Him as my Shepherd and I am not living in a spirit of thanksgiving to Him. The truth is, the good days are all about ME!

So, it is no surprise that when the bank balance is getting low or the health fails or the human relationships get dicey that I have bad days, really really bad days. I even get mad at God and blame Him for not answering prayers which may or may not have even been said! If that is not a dumb sheep, I don’t know what is!

“I shall not want.”

King David was the last born son in his family. He was given the worst job a Jewish boy could have, a shepherd of dumb sheep. Then he got the news that he was to be king of all Israel, but He had to wait several decades to finally be king.  In the meantime he was a fugitive on the run, slept in caves, was a leader of the cast offs, experienced hunger and sleepless nights, and faced enemies on every side. And then when he finally was king, it was anything but a bed of roses. Yet, God was David’s Shepherd and this earthly king, this shepherd boy, could in his deepest soul confess that in ALL of his life, he did not want…for anything!

If I am truly going to believe this and live this and rest in this, then I have to believe that David’s Shepherd is also My Shepherd! And I do!! Do you?

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth and and the life; No one comes to the Father but through me.” John 14:6

If you reject this about Jesus, then you cannot call God your Shepherd. He is still The Shepherd, but He is not your Shepherd and you will be wanting; not just on this Earth, but for the eternity that waits for all of us or I should say, the eternity that waits for no one.

If you can believe and can claim John 14:6 and John 3:16 and the host of Scripture pointing to Jesus as Savior, then God is your Shepherd, but you may not always act like it. I know I don’t.

Jesus also said, “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36

The majority of that crowd was mostly lost sheep, they didn’t believe John 14:6. But some in the crowd were Jesus’ sheep but they were acting like sheep without The Shepherd.

As a disciple of Jesus Christ, it is not that He is not my Shepherd on the bad days and therefore I feel wanting; it is that I am acting like a sheep without The Shepherd.

And still, The Shepherd, Jesus, has compassion for me and reaches down and picks up His wayward sheep (me), slings me over His shoulder until the bad day passes. Then He places me back among His fold nudging me with His staff and prodding me with His rod because I am one stubborn and stupid sheep!!

And He does this over and over and over; each time teaching and instructing me while providing in such abundance that I shall not want…for anything!

In Jesus I lack nothing. In Jesus I have all I need. God will not withhold any good thing from me.

That is called GRACE!! And in Part 3 we will see exactly what that wonderful and amazing GRACE looks like!!

 

 

 

Overcoming Bad Days, Psalm 23: Part 3

If there is one biblical hero people turn to for comfort, it is King David! People may not even realize a particular verse was written by David, but if it is a passage about God’s comfort, guidance, strength and faithfulness, then there is a very good chance it was written by David.

Psalm 7, Psalm 18, Psalm 34, Psalm 52, Psalm 56, Psalm 59, Psalm 63, Psalm 142 and our Psalm in this series, Psalm 23, are just nine of the 76 Psalms attributed to King David.

Why do we value David’s Psalms? Why do we gravitate to these songs when we are in trouble and in trials and in pain?

Because David has been where we are and he was real when he wrote about his failings, his sin, his enemies, his family issues,  and his personal doubts. At the same time he was very real about his total dependence on the God of the Bible, The Shepherd. The man after God’s own heart shared deeply about that intimate relationship and we want just a slice of what he enjoyed with his Creator! And we can! That is why God “breathed” the very words into David’s songs so we can come to them again and again for comfort; for teaching; for exhortation…for hope! In Psalm 23, we learn, with David, what God’s GRACE looks like!

Psalm 23

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

“He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters.”

Wow! What great  imagery! I cannot think of a more relaxing, refreshing, satisfying place to be than laying down on a grassy meadow (on a blanket of course since I am not a real sheep) beside a quiet body of water. I’ve actually done this a few times just hanging out in nature away from city chaos. I can say with sincerest honesty that it is a slice of heaven! Very often I am sound asleep within just a few minutes… until a fly buzzes over my head or the ants take over the blanket! (Oh the joys of nature at its best!)

I have also frequented various waterfalls and rapids, like my recent visit to Yellowstone National Park. Wow! Again, such amazing demonstrations of the world God has given us. I was so blessed to stand and be immersed into the heart of nature and all its power. But, I wouldn’t say it was restful. I haven’t found yet a waterfall/rapids area that I would fall sound asleep right next too it. For one, they are super high up and one false “rolling over in my sleep” and that would be the end of said sleep! And two, they aren’t very quiet; deafening is more like it, especially in the spring with snow melts and plentiful rain. You nearly have to shout to be heard by your companions.

It isn’t hard to imagine the difference these two similar (land and water) yet very different locations might affect sheep. Sheep in a grassy meadow and quiet water would be ten times more “at peace” than sheep coming upon a waterfall plummeting thousands of feet below them or the rapids that are at the bottom of that waterfall. Actually, good luck to the person trying to get the sheep near a waterfall. I think they would start bleating and cowering long before they ever got to the falls thanks to the thunderous noise!

And, yet, we as stubborn sheep-like people very often prefer the thrill and danger of waterfalls and rapids over the boring  same old daily routine of a mere meadow and placid water reservoir. I think that is why David uses the terms of “makes me lie down” and “leads me beside”. We are so busy, so overwhelmed with our version of chaos, so burden with life (waterfalls and rapids) that we miss the GRACE, God’s GRACE (green pastures and quiet waters)!

And the very sad thing is, when we miss God’s GRACE we tend to also keep other’s from experiencing GRACE because we haven’t taken our fill of GRACE we cannot possibly extend it to others. So we keep others twirling round and round with us in chaos and burdens and fears and worry and…and…and…

All the while, God has green pastures and quiet waters just waiting for us! GRACE just waiting to embrace us!

David, looked over the years of his life and realized that God, The Shepherd, had to “make” him lie down in green pastures and actually had to lead him to “quiet water”! David did not always willingly go to these most peaceful, refreshing and restful places. He didn’t always see the value in God’s amazing GRACE.  He must have been a Type A personality, like me!

It think it is safe to surmise that God will use whatever method is needed to get us to stay in His pasture, near His refreshing water. It is only there that we can truly experience God’s GRACE! In green pastures and by still waters we are overwhelmed with God’s goodness, His faithfulness, His steadfastness, His mercy…His GRACE! And as others see us living in that GRACE, you know what happens? They want to know where that green pasture is! They want to know how to be refreshed by still waters! All because they see God’s GRACE in us and pouring out of us!

Jesus said…

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” John 4:10

“For of His [Jesus] fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” John 1:16

 

 

Overcoming Bad Days-Psalm 23: Part 1

King David didn’t have just one bad day or several; he had l a lifetime of bad days!

Sometimes these bad days were brought on by his own actions, i.e. his Bathsheba watching brought on quite a few bad days. Sometimes bad days were brought on by work issues, like javelin practice at his head by his employer, King Saul, and or his family being carried off by marauders.

Sometimes bad days happened for King David because of family issues i.e. Absolam plotting to take the throne or his own brothers mocking his motives for service or his wife Michael’s jealousy or…well there a lots of family issues with David and too many to mention here. And then sometimes it was just nature rearing its ugly head that gave David a bad day like when bears and lions decided his sheep looked like a good lunch.

But near the end of his life, the Song Writer could reflect back on all his years, including the bad days, and compose a song so full of Truth that it has become the most quoted passage of the Bible of all time. Psalm 23 is Truth that bores deep into our sadness, our fears, our anxieties…our bad days and reminds us just Who God Is and ALL that He is for us.

Let’s break it down a bit starting with the very first phrase.

“The LORD is my shepherd,”

If this was all David wrote, it would be enough! Just think about what David was saying. The most powerful man of his time, maybe of all time, was admitting that he was a dumb sheep in need of a shepherd. And if anyone knew about dumb sheep, David knew. Once a shepherd boy, always a shepherd boy at heart.

David knew all about vulnerable sheep; defenseless, easily frightened, prone to stray, lacking a sense of direction, cannot care for themselves and weak. He also knew they survive better together in flocks, that they will follow and be loyal to their shepherd, and that they are loving and affectionate and thrive when in the comfort and protection of their shepherd.

David knew what it meant to be the shepherd. He knew how to use the staff to protect the sheep, he knew how to use the rod to discipline the sheep, and he knew how to find a wayward sheep, bring it back to the fold and then take measures to keep it from straying again. He knew about the hardships of keeping the sheep, of fighting off bears and lions and pestilence and thieves.

David also knew that the only way, the absolute only way for a sheep to survive in this hard and dangerous world was willingly to place himself under the protection and obedience of the shepherd.

Knowing all this King David, the shepherd boy, called the King of Kings and Lord of Lords his Shepherd! Not just any shepherd, not some shepherd hired for a night or part-time in his duties. David claimed His Creator as his shepherd.

It was personal. It was intimate. It was relational.

We, the sheep, have bad days and maybe lots of them. But because we know The Shepherd we have all we need to not just survive those bad days but to overcome them and survive. More on that in Part 2!

Know that the LORD Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Psalm 100:3