Ever humbled in gratitude and thanksgiving for knowing the Good Shepherd!
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (Psalm 23, KJ21)
The Lord is the Shepherd of my life, He is always good! He satisfies every want before me, fulfilling all yearnings, even those I do not realize I have.
He guides my heart to the peaceful meadows of His presence; He leads me to the quieting comfort the nourishing stream of His steadfast love. Over and over he restores my very soul. He leads me on the pathways that change me into someone who reflects the glory of His righteousness by His faithfulness.
Even though I struggle and stumble when circumstances and pressures darken some of the seasons of my life with aching pain and deep despair, I will not cower and lose faith … because You, O Lord, as my Shepherd are ever with me. O Lord, you direct me ever closer to the truth by the rod of your perfect wisdom and stand ready with your mighty hand upon your staff to ever protect me.
There is no end to the extravagant banquet of your goodness that You, O Lord put before me as a feast so abundant that my very enemies fall back in great astonishment. You anoint my head with the overflowing oil of your favor and your blessings saturate my daily living.
Your goodness fills every moment of my living and your merciful grace freely flows in and through every day and every season until I come into the eternal home I will share with you forever. Thank you, O Lord, for being the Good Shepherd of my life. Thank you!
Paraphrase – S. R. Maas, 2016
The foundation was laid with massive stones hewn from deep in the earth. The walls leading up to the sacred place were straight and true positioned perfectly with white marble. The courtyard was ordered and marked for specific people and access to each designated area was secured only by sacrifice and decree. Beyond the courtyard, the chosen could venture to the soaring edifice with bronze doors that towered to the sky. Through the doors the cleansed and holy leaders came to beckon and petition the Creator and Sustainer of all life for the people. Deeper still, curtains as tall as the cedars of Lebanon separated the holiest of men from the presence of the holiest visitation dwelling of the Most Holy God. This was the temple that glistened so brightly on the peak of Mount Zion that those who gazed upon it had to turn away from its spectacular and stunning brilliance.
Yet this magnificent edifice that shone so brightly glistening in the sunlight was destroyed by the powerful Roman army and all that is left is a mountain of massive foundational stones. The Savior who foretold of second temple’s destruction will someday come with an indescribable brilliance brighter than the sun which He created and with a greater power than all the armies that have ever held power in their hands and efforts.
In the meantime the temple that glistens does not shine from reflective light. The “Temple” of today is where the Risen Christ dwells in us and it glistens from the living presence of the “One” that created all things and reigns over and above all things (Colossians 1, 2) as He imparts His Holy Spirit to guide, comfort, teach and convict us. He is not separated from us by a heavy curtain but has torn it asunder forever that He might be with us always (Matthew 28:20) There is no need for endless sacrifices for sin for our Savior became the sacrifice for all sin for all time for any and all who come to Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Finally He does not withhold His holiness to times and calendars but He covers us with His holiness because of His boundless loving grace that we might not bear condemnation. (Romans 8:1).
Rejoice in the Christ who lives in you through the Holy Spirit and let Him shine through you as you follow Him as Lord each and every day.
Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you and which ye have from God, and that ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, KJ21).
“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them; for I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments (Exodus 20:54-6, KJ21).
There is a peculiar reality about idols; those that worship a particular idol do not find the idol of their worship peculiar. Typically they do not see or question either the faith entrusted to their idol as fallacy or the outcomes of their trusting in a particular idol being subject to real scrutiny. There is blindness in their awareness as to where they have anchored their faith and trust. People around them may see or not see the fallacy of trusting in any idol depending on the cultural significance and acceptance of idols but generally idols can be quite entrenched in individuals and groups.
When God gave Moses the commandment regarding graven images or idols, the cultures of the time created countless representative idols and worshiped them. From various animals to numerous deities in various forms, sexualities, and realms related to life, needs and provisions. We may not worship golden calves or speak of Asherah and we may even scoff and sneer at those that worship a visible and tangible idol while failing to see the idols in our own lives. We can hope and trust in many things that are much more of an illusion of substance than a physical idol.
Idolatry can include the worship of any of countless false gods – whether they are new or old. Idolatry can also be the adoration and obsession of such things as fame, technologies, relationships, books, our appearance, music, ourselves, nature, celebrities, money, materialism, mysticism, self-aggrandizement, power, politics, and countless other things that become gods in our lives thus taking us from the worship of God.
An idol can be anything that we come to love with a deep devotion which leads to worship and comes to fruition as adoration, homage and trust given to anything other than the Almighty Living God. Only God, our precious Savior and the Holy Spirit are worthy of our trust and worship. We must watch out for the idols that might be found in our lives!
For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens (Psalm 96:4-5, KJ21).
Into the woods of dappled light …
Just beyond the meadow of blossoming clover, soft and fair …
Are the woods of dappled light which beckons all to freely come.
We cannot sense the destination only the life around our cares,
Still walk we must, venturing forth adding only to the unknown sum.
For there is much to see and much to note as we seek our way …
Essence in the leaves of days yet undiscovered colored green and bold.
What is all new and laden with dew midst the branches as they sway,
is mingled with ancient wood of legacy giving as much life as it is old.
What will be of us, if we remain in the meadow rolling soft and fair …
and venture not into the unfamiliar woods of nuanced dappled light?
Will we stay or go, following what the dancing rays offer willing to share,
joyfully lit, yet fully challenged of adventure, trial, beauty and delight?
So what becomes of us will always be in the look and the simple choice …
always unknown but time to fill along the winding trail just beyond the glade.
Our faith gently pulls and pushes us forward, giving life and lifting voice,
in what the woods of dappled light will gift us in the journey we have made.
It is easy to remain in the comfortable. It is easy to stay in places of the familiar and friendly. These are always meadows of what we know and what we have. The ease and calm of these places of remaining in the secure and the known can be our undoing. It can also be deadening to our faith.
There is unknown place just beyond the meadows of the comfortable life. It beckons and intrigues us but it is unknown. Most people even as they see edge of this place just beyond do not go forward but remain in what they know and believe. Jesus spoke of the way beyond the way that was. To the “Rich Young Ruler” it was the way of journeying beyond what he had done in comfort to a place of life in the surrender in the unknown. We can stay in places of comfort or we venture forth into the dappled light of faith and find life.
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls (Hebrews 11:39, ESV)
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28, KJV).
There is nothing inherently wrong in the common translation of this major, familiar and meaningful verse but we often miss the deeper insights of faith-giving implications of truth woven into the promises found in this verse.
We often make this verse about “things” when the truth is far more powerful and life changing. We diminish the powerful and incredible direct attention, responsiveness and work that flows gracefully from the extravagant love of our Heavenly Father as Almighty God upon our lives by making this verse about concepts of good feelings, things and outcomes that we as created beings long for.
The truth is much deeper as to the point and purpose of this verse. The greater context of the verse revolves around our purchased and secure relationship as heirs and children of God through the redeeming and interceding work of Jesus Chris as our Savior and the Holy Spirit as the Comforter in all things. Thus the days that make up our lives are really not about good things coming to us or even having faith to perceive things as good. This verse is also nestled directly in thoughts and truths regarding suffering throughout our lives and the unwavering involvement and care of the Holy Spirit in all things including suffering. Suffering is seldom evaluated as good in our fleshly understanding but going deeper in our faith as children of God. We must seek to understand Heavenly Father’s love upon us and His working through and in all things by His Spirit alive in us.
Thus we give Him all our things and all our days that He might do His work in and on our hearts of clay with His masterful hands as the “Potter” who knows all things and crafts us as His masterpiece as we yield to Him.
The truth is and will always be, faith is not about things being good but about knowing and trusting God to be the good in all things. Thus our lives are not about things being good or bad and trying to make sense of them but about living in God’s love and letting Him work in our lives through all things for His purposes. God is in the good in all things because He is good at all times in all things.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28, NIV)
Suggested Reading … Romans 8
“Thou shalt not murder” (Exodus 20:13, NKJV)
Of all the commandments, the commandment to not take a human life is one of the easiest commandments to dismiss. “You shalt not murder” (Exodus 20:13, NKJV) is a more correct and a better translation than “You shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13, KJV). The number of murderers in most societies is quite small. Yet from time to time, murder does take place on occasion. We see systematic brutal slaughters in nationalistic or religious fanaticism and pointless or senseless murder at times in our own culture and cringe, but generally it becomes somewhat easy to dismiss this commandment because it might apply to others in other places but never seems very near to us.
Yet Jesus … takes this commandment from the realm of a general non-applying rule and thrusts it like a burning ember into the lives of all human beings. Thus the commandment that most lends itself to being easily dismissed becomes a cautionary truth about anger which should sear the tendencies of rationalization and non-application in all of His followers (Matthew 5:21-26).
Although most people do not carry out plans for the taking of a life, Jesus identifies the source of all fiery and burning deeds of murder lies in the tinder of anger that leads to the beginnings of any such action. In the Kingdom of God, judgment from Christ comes to those who are unrelenting in their anger, sentencing follows on those who attach contempt to their verdict and severe and lasting condemnation to those who in anger would curse another person.
Jesus desires his followers to understand in deep ways the danger of anger and need for forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption. We can see our need for these actions for our salvation but their application is needed in our daily walk and in every relationship we have in the world around us that we may save ourselves from our own destruction.
Jesus later identifies all sin as coming from the heart (Matthew 15:19) and any strong and unreleased anger in our hearts will bring about many of these sins including the taking of any life. Thus the commandment to not murder is not a commandment without appropriateness in our lives but one of daily application to listen to the Spirit of God to release and even crucify our dangerous contempt and anger so the “Fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23) may grow in our lives.
Suggested Reading … Matthew 5 and Galatians 5
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain (Deuteronomy 5:11, KJV).
How easily the name of God is spoken in off-handed, thoughtless and most casual of ways! How frequently the name of God is used flippantly to emphasize a point or endlessly and randomly inserted almost as punctuation to change the course of a thought or to start or end a sentence or a story. Then there are the bitter and angry sequences that use the name of God as a rebuking and damning condemnation as if the speaker can decide for God judgment on other people.
All of this vain speaking using of the name of God makes genuine believers in God, sad and uncomfortable as they hear it happen or leaves them feeling the sting of guilt if they slip up and fall into an occasion of sinning in this way. It should and must be noted that it is a serious and dangerous thing to take the “Name of God” in vain (Leviticus 24:15-16) as God’s Word proclaims the most serious of judgments as coming to those that practice this sin. Yet the commandment is much broader than most care to consider.
It is a sin to mock Almighty God. It is just as much a sin to appropriate God’s name as a token banner over a personal pursuit that has nothing to do with the will or ways of God. This is blasphemy and although that word is virtually unknown in our language, the false teachers and leaders that are using God’s name in vain are very much in danger of His judgment.
Anything that is spoken or done to diminish God’s place of sovereignty, power, majesty and glory is to use or take His Name in vain. Anything that is spoken or done to diminish the name of Christ as the Savior of the world is to take His Name in vain.
It is an amazing thing to be given life by God’s grace, how can we not realize and be ever grateful for the “Precious Name” by which we have our very breath of life. It is an amazing thing to be redeemed from our sin and our words and deeds should never become vain, disrespectful or voiding in their manner, when only praise is due our God! What God gives us, is precious beyond words and His precious “Name” deserves nothing less than our utmost worship and praise.
“Give unto the Lord, … give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 29:1-2 KJV).
“Don’t desire with obsession the things of your neighbor and do not be consumed with possessing the affections of the spouse of your neighbor,” (Deuteronomy 5:21, Paraphrased).
Why are the things that others around us possess so appealing to our human heart? Why those things seem better and glitter like gold to our eyes as they consume our attention and poison our minds? How is it, that we can be consumed with the beauty, charm or physical attractions of the spouses of our neighbors?
To desire something or someone so strongly that determined and obsessive actions follow with the intent to possess something or someone is deadly because the coveting leads to sin and sin leads to destruction and death. Coveting is the tainted well of the human heart from which comes the poisoned water of obsessive selfish desire that when consumed as sin leaves sickness and death as its consequences. Still, coveting is almost never talked about and is seldom even considered a sin in the lives of most people.
Numerous examples of coveting becoming sin and leaving heartache, pain and even death in its wake are found in Bible from the beginning until the end. Coveting and the greed that comes along with it, leads to manipulation, conniving and stealing with dreadful consequences.
Coveting is not innocent and even if it sneaks into our life in the form of ambition, lust, gain and greed, it can become toxic and deadly. Coveting is dangerous because it takes us beyond desire into sin. The Commandments of Moses leave little doubt about coveting as the clearly state that God’s people should not covet! The opposite of coveting is contentment in the love of God as you rest and live in God’s provision and blessing; trusting Him in all things!
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13, NKJV)
O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8, NLT)
The walk through many of the days of our lives is oft made more problematic and challenging not by the circumstances of the day but by our choices in each particular day. Of course, one must acknowledge challenges and problems can and will come on any given day and those must be dealt with using faith and fortitude but what about the neglected matter of often choosing not to step into the faith we might so righteously claim is so important to our lives.
Faith is not something to be claimed like an award, at various moments in our lives. Faith is the vital dynamic action of believing and stepping into what is around us and what is unknown before us with our hearts and minds anchored in God’s love and truth while trusting God’s ways will be right and His blessing will follow us as we obey.
What is good in our lives always originates from God and yet we neglect Him and His ways with regularity, choosing instead the easily manipulated and malleable foolishness of our own human emotion, self-centered will and aggrandized intellect.
Oh, that we would see the light of God’s truth and stay on His pathways that will always lead to life and blessing. What contentment we abandon in our hearts when we fail to do what is right and just according to His Word. What joy we forfeit when we fail to love and implement mercy and grace in our involvement with those around us. What peace evaporates and vanishes from our lives when pride inflates and escalates our self-importance at the expense of the truth of our real deficiencies and need of God’s saving and redeeming grace.
I leave you with a simple prayer … “Wonderful Heavenly Father, help me to be thankful and rest with full assurance that everything good comes from you! Give me a contented and courageous heart to always do what is right according to your Word and your Spirit. Help me to love the mercy and grace that saves me through Jesus Christ and help me to freely give it to all of those around me. And Dear Father, let me walk, in all my days … forever and truly humble in my need of you and full of praise for your steadfast love in and on my life. Amen.”
Suggested Reading … Micah 6