Psalm 23:1, “The __________is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” What is the word for the blank? It is “Lord” of course. Be careful. If you replace the Lord with Trump, if he is your shepherd, you will be disappointed. Perhaps you are disappointed with Trump and how things are ending. Perhaps you are disappointed with how people are treating Trump. If you say “Biden” is my shepherd, you will be sorely disappointed there, too. Or, perhaps you despise Biden. No worries, he is not your shepherd. Neither he nor Trump can satisfy your soul. Also, be careful not to replace the Lord with: Netflix, America, Social Media, Sports, or your I-phone. Make sure you truly mean “The Lord is my shepherd.” When the Lord is our shepherd, and only when the Lord is our shepherd, we shall not be in want. It is He alone that leads us beside still waters and restores our soul. It is only the Lord who leads us through the valley of the shadow of death. Who is your shepherd?
I thought I ruined my bible. There is nothing like a new Bible. It smells good, feels good, and looks good. The pages are perfectly flat and clean. This morning, while reading my Bible, my new Bible, I spilled coffee on it. It is no longer perfect. I thought I ruined it, but Bibles are not meant to be perfect. They are not museum pieces, nor are they meant for the china cabinet. They are tools that grow us closer to God. Tools get dirty, used, and abused. You know how to ruin a Bible? Never use it. Keep it perfect. Make sure the pages are always flat and clean. The best Bibles are broken in, stained, torn and tattered. Don’t be afraid to dirty your Bible. Write in it. Make notes. Spill a little coffee on it. It’s ok.
I am building a fence right now. The fence is not just for privacy, it is for safety, too. The fence is meant to keep my kids and dog safely within the yard. It will also deter the wrong type of person from getting in my yard. Building a fence takes a lot of time, energy, and resources, but it is worth it. Why? My children are worth it. I wonder, are we setting up a fence around our children in other ways? Are we protecting them from the wrong kinds of videos, shows, music, etc.? They are much more likely to be harmed like this than playing in the backyard. Intruders, and the enemy, are after our families every waking moment. What are we doing to protect them? At the least, we must pray. We also must use wisdom and discernment in what are children are exposed to. Shouldn’t we set up a fence around our hearts, too? It takes a lot of time, energy, and resources. But, it’s worth it.
Alright! Alright! Alright! I listened to a podcast recently featuring Matthew McConaughey. He is one of the few actors that doesn’t shy away from mentioning God. In the podcast he even expressed the value of the Bible, especially the Proverbs and teachings of Jesus. One statement really got my attention – he didn’t know what to do with the burning bush. When asked to clarify he said he isn’t sure what to do with the “magic” of the Bible, as he referred to it, such as the burning bush, miracles, etc. I don’t think he was questioning it, he just doesn’t see how it is relevant for every day life. Mr. McConaughey, it is that “magic”, the supernatural that gives life to the Proverbs and teachings of Jesus. It is the supernatural that makes the Bible more than just a book of advice. It is the supernatural that created Heaven and earth and gave Jesus victory over the grave. It is the supernatural that gives us new life, eternal life. Yes, we can appreciate the practical advice from the Bible, but lets not separate it from the supernatural. Alright? Alright! Alright?
Happy Labor Day! I find it odd that most of us don’t work on Labor Day. Why not call it Non-Labor Day? The holiday actually began as a way to recognize the American labor movement and celebrate laborers. The greatest labor day of all happened 2,000 years ago. Jesus labored on the cross and declared “It is finished.” He labored for us, dying for our sins, so we don’t have to work to earn salvation. We could never work hard enough to earn it anyway. So, just as you are enjoying this Labor Day, resting from your work, each day in Jesus we can rest in His work.
I want to be woke. This is not a statement on social justice or politics. I am talking about spiritual wokeness. Apart from Christ we are not just sick in our sins, we are dead. Ephesians 2:1, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” Those without Jesus are dead, not woke. When we follow Jesus, we are fully alive, yet we don’t always live as we need to. We need to wake up. Romans 13:11, “And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” Do you know Jesus? If so, are you awake from your slumber? If you are truly woke, you will view all of life, whether social justice, politics, or COVID-19, in a way that God sees it. You will know that Jesus is the answer. Get woke!
Have you even driven in the fog? I did this morning on the way to church. The distance is fuzzy, but you can see just enough to proceed with caution. Sure enough, in time, you are at your desired location. Following God is sometimes foggy. You cannot see way down the road. You are not sure what God wants from you next week or next year. But, He gives you just enough to proceed with caution. The path becomes clear as you trust Him. Are you in the fog with God? Unsure about a decision? Trust God and obey Him today. As you do this each day, God will make your path straight, Proverbs 3:5-6.
I hit the reset button every Sunday morning. When I pray and review my sermon notes, I think about the previous week. I think about all the good things, and I am thankful. I also think about the times I sinned, and I am grieved. So, right before I preach, I give it all over to God, asking Him to renew and restore me. That’s one reason I love gathering with God’s people. It’s a way to keep me humble and accountable. The good news is that we don’t have to wait till a Sunday for a reset. We get one every day. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” You can have a fresh start each and every day with God. It’s not an excuse to sin, but rather a motivation to run to God after you sin, asking Him to clean and renew you, recommitting your life to follow Him.
Thank You. Two very short, yet powerful words. It only takes a second to utter, yet it can drastically change someone’s day. How do you feel when someone says, “Thank you?” You feel noticed, loved, and appreciated. How do you feel when someone, especially those you often help, never tell you “Thank You?” You feel neglected and taken advantage of. You cannot make others say “Thank You,” but you can make it a practice of your life. Say “Thank You,” for instance, when:
- Your food is handed to you at the drive thru
- Your waitress brings you a refill
- Your spouse washes the dishes, even though she does it every day
- Your husband mows the yard, even though he might enjoy it
- Your mom cooks you a meal
- Your child does his chores
- Someone from church calls to check on you
- God blesses you with another day to live
When you are thankful, not only does it encourage the other person, it encourages you. Having this attitude of gratitude helps you focus on others, not yourself. Who do you need tell “Thank You?”
Has someone ever hurt you? Not physically, but rather emotionally and mentally? Maybe they say something that hurts you, or they spread gossip about you. Perhaps they send you a message that leads to personal grief and pain. Maybe they pretend you just don’t exist, refuse to forgive you, or accuse you of something you never did. What should you do when someone hurts you? I always recall a saying I read years ago, “Hurt people hurt people.” Perhaps the person harming you is hurt themselves, and they don’t know how to deal with it, so they lash out at you. Another thing to remember is not take it personally. This is difficult, but usually they don’t have a problem with you. They have their own personal problem, or they are upset at someone else, and you become collateral damage. Feel the pain, but don’t dwell on it. Take it to God in prayer. He can carry that burden. Pray for the person. Be kind to them, and let love cover a multitude of sins. Remember, people let us down. No one is perfect, besides all of us are a little rattled right now with the Corona crazies! No matter what someone does, you are deeply loved and accepted by God through Jesus Christ.