Lacking Nothing

I have several passages of Scripture that I consider to be favorites.  Psalm 23 is one of these.  The first verse reads:  The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want (KJV).  Another version offers a different translation:  The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing (NIV).  The truth contained in the second half of both translations is contingent upon the Shepherd/sheep relationship in the first half of the verse.

When we embrace and nurture this relationship, true contentment is ours for the taking.  Contentment, however,  proves elusive when a person lives a merry-go-round existence of worldly endeavors.  This kind of life might be enjoyable for a while, but it offers nothing you can take with you.   Solomon confirms this in Ecclesiastes:  Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands (5:15).

Why is it that we spend too much energy on what can’t be captured and too little on what is ours to claim in Christ?  Jesus said:  Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions (Luke 12:15).

Pursuing the abundance of the world is like a drunk trying to satisfy his thirst.  He can drink from the rising to the setting of the sun and still not quench it.  He will still be wanting something else or something more.  He will never find contentment in the contents of a container.

True contentment is born out of a genuine relationship with the Lord who is our Shepherd.  Paul echoed this principle when he said:   Godliness with contentment is great gain (I Timothy 6:6).

If you find your life to be empty, hollow, and wanting, it may be time to let Jesus shepherd your life.

The Ugly Side of Humanity

Most every one of us know a little something about Abraham Lincoln.  We know he was our 16th president; he was assassinated; and, he opposed slavery.

A person who you may not know as much about is William Wilberforce.  This British politician was every bit as dedicated to eliminating slavery as was Lincoln.

People generally associate the end of slavery with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation that he issued on January 1, 1863.  The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”

While that form of slavery has ended within the territories of the United States, another form of this evil, sex trafficking,  has reared its ugly head.   The following quote will shed some light on this dark and ugly side of humanity:  Regardless of nationality, victims are systematically stripped of their identity, battered into gruesome submission and made to perform humiliating sexual acts with up to 40 strangers every night.  Held against their will, most are forced to take illegal drugs and are kept under constant surveillance.  On average, victims are thrown into such ghastly oppression at age 13 (Benjamin Nolot, Nefarious).

Let me share a few statistics with you:

  • There are 27 million enslaved people around the world.
  • Human trafficking is a 32 billion dollar a year industry
  • 80% of the trafficking victims are women and children who have been forced into the commercial sex trade
  • In the United States, the average age of entry into commercial sex slavery is 13.

It is one thing to be ignorant of this atrocity and do nothing.  It is something altogether different to have knowledge of this form of exploitation and then do nothing.

Now that you know, what will you do?  I encourage you to read what Sweden and Israel are doing to address this horrible crime against humanity (click here).  After reading the article, please contact your legislator and ask him to support any legislation that is similar to that which has been enacted in Sweden and Israel.

Get your feet off the floor because I am about to step on them.  Any time any one watches any form of pornography, that person is supporting and helping to fund this ugly side of humanity.

Here is a thought to keep you thinking.  What if it your daughter or granddaughter was forced into sexual slavery?  What would you do then?

Manager or a Man-ager?

In my last post, I mentioned a trip to Tennessee.  The purpose of the trip was work not pleasure, and I went there to attend a workshop.

On the first day of class a fellow student made a comment about age, and I asked him:  “Well how old are you?”  His reply was:  “I’m older than I look, and I bet we are the same age.”  I should have taken the bet.  He is 43 and was shocked to learn that I am 59.

That conversation caused me to think about how a person manages his life.  Over the years I have seen many people who “age gracefully” and others who are “fully-aged.”

Good examples of this are Dick Clark and Naomi from the book of Ruth.  Clark died earlier this week and was known as the “world’s oldest teenager,”  Until he had a stroke a few years ago, Clark looked incredibly young for his age.  I’m certain that his DNA had a lot to do with this, but I am just as certain that he was a good manager of his life.

The second example may be one that is less familiar to you, so I will point you to the book of Ruth.  When Ruth and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”  “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter (Ruth 1:19-20).

Naomi is a Hebrew name that means pleasantness.  Naomi’s life had been anything but pleasant.  She and her family had left Israel when a famine came; her husband had died; and, a few years later both sons died.  With no one left to support her, Naomi decided to return to her hometown.  When she arrived her family and friends were perplexed and asked:  “Can this be Naomi?”

The once young and pretty girl with a smile on her face had returned home, but the smile was gone.  The smooth skin was wrinkled, and the nimble girl was now bent over and fully-aged.  People could not believe what they saw.

Naomi had failed to manage her life.  Instead of managing her emotions and desires, they had managed her.  The result was a broken body and a crushed spirit.

In I Timothy 6:6, Paul said:  Godliness with contentment is great gain.  The problem with Naomi and many people people today is this:  In a quest for great gain, godliness can become an unwelcome guest.

Here’s a thought to keep you thinking:  Does the content of your life give you contentment?  If it does, there is a good chance that godliness is at the center of your life.  If there is a void and a lack 0f contentment, you may want to check your level of godliness.

Going Home

When I was a kid I raised pigeons, and I was always amazed at their ability to find their way home.  I would ask a friend or an uncle to take my pigeons and release them when they were a distance from El Dorado.  For the rest of the day, I would keep my eye on the coop to see when they returned.

The innate ability of a pigeon to find its way home has been researched at both Cornell and the University of Pittsburgh.   The researchers concluded that pigeons may use multiple facilities to help them determine the correct direction of home.  The sun is used as the primary orientation, but pigeons may be able to perceive the earth’s magnetic field and use it to guide them home.

I thought about my pigeons on a recent trip to Tennessee.  I had carefully plotted my route on Google Maps, and used the Sync-GPS in my vehicle.  I would have had better results if I could have released a pigeon and followed it.

The voice recognition feature of the Sync-GPS interpreted Jackson, Tennessee as Derby, Kansas and tried to send me back to Kansas.  As I reflected on this I thought of the words of Jesus:  My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me.

Regardless of where we are in this world, Jesus knows our location.  If you find yourself lost in a spiritual wilderness, you can find comfort in His promise:  I will never leave you or forsake you.



Last night, I listened to 17 year old Holly Cavanaugh sing on American Idol.  She sang a song called Perfect.  The judges told her that  her rendition of the song was not perfect.

Regardless of how hard we try, perfection is elusive.  The Bible declares “there is none righteous; no, not one (Romans 3:10).”

While there are times that I question the judges on American Idol, I never question the divine decrees of the righteous Judge who is the King of kings and Lord of lords.  There is something wonderful about His assessment of us:  We don’t have to be perfect!

The reason we don’t have to be perfect, is because Jesus was perfect for us.  We find Paul’s teaching on this in The Message:  When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross (Colossians 2).

The Perfect Christ died for imperfect man–He loves us warts and all!  Think about it!

A Unique Book

By now the last Easter egg has been found and eaten, and the kids are coming down from their sugar high.  What remains?  I hope it is more than a few extra pounds that were added by way of the calorie-packed candy, and other Easter delights. 

One thing that always remains is God’s Word, and it is a unique book.  I say this for several reasons, and I will share a couple of these reasons with you. 

The uniqueness of the Bible is seen in its unity. This book is a collection of 66 ancient documents that were originally written in 3 languages: Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Even though some 40 different authors, wrote over a span of 1,500 years the theme and message remained consistent. 

In my Easter sermon last sunday, I emphasized another unique feature of the Bible which is fulfilled prophecy.  Long before Jesus was born, the predicted that He would be flogged, die with the wicked, and buried like a rich man.  I also mentioned Pslam 22 which predicted that Jesus would be crucified, but none of His bones would be broken.

To support my view of the uniqueness of the bible, let me share a couple more prophecies that have been fulfilled:

  • Messiah would be from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10)
  • He would be from the line of King David (2 Samuel 7:12-13)
  • He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
  • 700 years before Jesus was born, the Prophet Isaiah predicted in graphic detail the manner in which Jesus would die (Is. 53).

The Bible has stood the test of time; and, when it comes time for you to be tested, it will stand with you.

The Next Day

If today was the day of 33 AD, these exclamations would be your appraisal of the events of that historic Friday:   Finished!  Epic life ended!  Last chapter of a miraculous life has closed with a tragedy!

The Messiah you had been following had been nothing more than a grandiose dreamer and your dream had ended in a nightmare.  In stunned silence and in a state of shock, you would have wondered:  What now?  How could all of this happen?  How could so many people have believed a lie?

A cloud of despair was hanging heavily on the hearts of those who had believed.  Friday had been an arduous day, but at least there had been a lot of activity.  When they woke up Saturday morning, they hoped that yesterday was just a bad dream.  When they looked into the sunken eyes of the other disciples, reality hit them hard in the face:  Their Hope had been crucified, and He was dead; and, Saturday seemed like it would never end.

From the today of those disciples to the present hour, there is a perceptional gap that is every bit as deep as it is wide in years.  Because we have the benefit of history, we look forward to Sunday and Easter with eager anticipation.  All they had was a form of spiritual PTSD and the stench of death.

On the next day there was a dramatic change. There was an encore to what they thought had been the final Act, and it was announced to those few devoted women who went to the tomb:  He is not here; He has risen!

The fact of the resurrection turned men of cowardly hearts into courageous soldiers of the cross, and in a few short years the infant church shook Rome.  This is the power of hope.

Tomorrow is the next day, and it is a day of hope; and, every next day is a day of hope when it is a day full of the presence of God.

The Hope of Easter

Yesterday I met with a heart-broken family that has endured the tragic loss of an 18 month old child.  Today, the family and I will gather with many of their friends to say goodbye to little Jayla.

Today is Good Friday.  It is the day that we pause to remember the death of Jesus Christ on the cruel cross of Calvary.  If it were not for the death of Jesus and His resurrection a few days later, I would be left speechless.  I would have no words of hope or comfort to share with this family.

The hope that is ours today, and the hope that comforts people who experience their own personal tragedies is found in one of the early church documents.   The message of the Nicene Creed is this . . . For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

As you read that quote from the Nicene Creed, I hope you felt the impact of the first three words:  For our Sake.  Jesus suffered, bled, and died for our benefit. 

As we gather at the graveside today, the atmosphere will be heavy with sorrow.  Something else will be present too–the refreshing breeze of hope will be there.  In the 4th chapter of I Thessalonians, Paul says that the believer sorrows not as others who have no hope.

As you go about your business today, pause to say a prayer for the family of Jayla.  Do something else:  Pause another second, and thank God for the hope we have in His Son.


When Less is More

A common practice of mine is to read several different Bible translations when I’m studying a passage of Scripture.  Even though I am well-acquainted with the Sermon on the Mount, I decided to read it again.  Today, I read it from The Message.

I like this interpretation of Matthew 5:3:  You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

I think many of a person’s problems can be explained by this verse:  There is too much ME and not enough of THEE.  One of the underlying principles of Paul’s theology is the old nature is to be crucified daily, so Christ can rule.

When Christ rules in our lives, multiple blessings are ours to claim.  One of these blessings is the extraordinary love of God.  According to I John 4:11,  the love of God dwells in us deeply.

John writes about the result of Christ’s loving presence:  God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love (4:17-18).

Everything that Jesus did, He did out of love.  He lived the sinless life that we could not live, and He died the death that only He could die.  And, He did all of this when the time was just right.

Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him (Romans 5:6-8).

Here’s a thought to keep you thinking:  When a person comes to the end of his rope, is he to struggle in his own strength, or is he to let go and let God get going?