More Than A Might Be Deity.

faithOne of the best-known and well-liked chapters in the Bible, is Psalm 23.  In times of heartache, people contemplate its principles and find solace in its truths.

This past week, I was offering comfort to a daughter as she said her final goodbye to her mother and father.  I called her attention to the word “is” in the first verse of the psalm:  The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.

God is an is God; He isn’t a has been or a might be Deity. This is the difference between the pain of the world and the promise of heaven. It’s more than a wish; it’s God’s centuries old pledge: The Lord is my shepherd.

The Lord is also:

The list above compliments the shepherd-sheep relationship woven within the verses of Psalm 23. I encourage you to refer to this list throughout the week so you can deepen your relationship with the good Shepherd.

Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire!

imageWhen you were a kid your integrity may have been assaulted with a blazing childhood rant: Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire!

Lying, however, isn’t in the repertoire of God—He’s the epitome of truthfulness and faithfulness:  God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent (Numbers 23:19).

The Psalms are replete with verses that testify of the faithfulness of God:

  • 15:4: He makes firm commitments and does not renege on his promise.
  • 18:30: The Lord’s promise is reliable; he is a shield to all who take shelter in him.
  • 25:30: The Lord always proves faithful and reliable to those who follow the demands of his covenant.
  • 100:5: For the Lord is good. His loyal love endures, and he is faithful through all generations.

God’s faithfulness is more than just the subject of polite conversation, it’s a concept that sustains us in those where-the-rubber-meets-the-road moments of life:

  • The grief-stricken need to know they can trust God when he says: “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30:5).”
  • To the lonely and downcast, God promises that “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you (Isaiah 43:2).”
  • The weak are energized by the potential of Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
  • The overwhelmed often find comfort in the opening words of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd . . .”

God is not wishy-washy, He’s reliable and His, “word is firmly fixed in the heavens, and His faithfulness endures to all generations (Psalm 119:89-90).”

Regardless of your circumstances in life, remember this: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).”

The Power of Green

Video_Landing-Page_0007_20131227_093457Before last week, there is a good chance that your roof was not at the top of your list of major concerns.  If it was pelted by hail during the recent storm, your roof may have become a source of worry. Because of the massive damage in the short-lived storm, Butler County has been swarmed by colonies of contractors hoping to make a buck off of you.

Unless you are a roofer by trade, you may given little thought to the decking, shingles, and the other components that are used to build a roof.  A movement underway to change the constitution of roofs, may change that.

Facebook, the social media giant, installed a 9-acre green roof at its office in Menlo Park, California.  “Green roofs can reduce the retention of heat in urban areas, help to cool down buildings and thereby lower their energy use, and even pull some carbon dioxide from the air and feed it back into plant growth (The Washington Post).”

In the June edition of the Journal of Environmental Psychology, a report focuses on the psychological benefit of green roofs: 40-second Green Roof Views Sustain Attention: The Role of Micro-Breaks in Attention Restoration.

Kate Lee, the lead researcher of the study (University of Melbourne) has concluded that “Modern work drains attention throughout the day, so providing boosted ‘green micro-breaks’ may provide mental top-ups to offset declining attention.” If a person can look outside his office window and see a flowering meadow green roof instead of a bare concrete roof, he will experience cognitive benefits.

This new research, reminds me of a very old peace in the Bible.  This piece of peace is found in Psalm 23 where David spoke of God leading him to the “green pastures” and “still waters” to “restore his soul.”

To help you have a “green” moment, take just a second or two to read Psalm 23 from  The Message:

God, my shepherd!

    I don’t need a thing.

You have bedded me down in lush meadows,

    you find me quiet pools to drink from.

True to your word,

    you let me catch my breath

    and send me in the right direction.

Whatever your concern might be today, remember God is able!

What’s Following You?

On Tuesday of this week, I walked the hallway of three different hospitals. My first stop took me to the room of a man who is ravaged by cancer.  I saluted him earlier this year when he was the Parade Marshall of the Celebration of Freedom Parade.  Will’s heroic deeds during World War II helped to pay for the freedoms I enjoy today.

My second stop took me to the room of a man I’ve know all of my life. I’ll always be grateful for his friendship and his help.  Johnny was one of the first people to come to my house when I was a 12 year old boy and my dad had just been killed in an oil field accident.

My third stop was the most difficult because it took me to the room of a blonde-haired and blue-eyed little girl.  At the age of 2 1/2 years she is fighting an inoperable case of cancer, a neuroblastoma.

Yesterday, I conducted the funeral of a man, I worked with my last two summers of high school.  Ralph’s face was usually marked with an ear to ear grin, and I will remember the mischievous sparkle that colored his eyes.

The sadness that has filled the lives of each of these people and their families can only be tempered by the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.  A foreshadow of that hope is see in the verses of Psalm 23.

If you feel like you are living under a cloud of despair, and walking a path full of worries and problems, you might find some comfort in the words of this Psalm and the declaration of David: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life (23:6).

I think it is important to note that David did not say that every waking moment of your life will be filled with good times and happy days.  He did say the goodness of God and His mercy are resources that are available when needed.

Unless you have given some consideration to the meaning of mercy and its close cousin, grace (goodness), you may think they are synonymous.  To help you distinguish one from the other, let me define them:

  • Grace is when God gives you something you do not deserve.  Salvation is a good example of this.  I do not know of anyone who really deserves it.
  • Mercy is when God does not give a you what you deserve.  When a righteous God judges sinful man, He can either punish him or extend His goodness and mercy.

I’ve heard people say:  I just want what I deserve and what I have coming to me.  Not me, I want the mercy of God.

David said the mercy of God is a given, and we see this in the word surely.  It isn’t a hope so or maybe so proposition: It’s a guarantee from God.  In the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the prophet said:  It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed; they are new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness!

In the shepherd/sheep analogy of Psalm 23, we have the Good Shepherd who leads us, and guarding the back of the flock are His two sheep dogs.   One is named Goodness and the other is called Mercy.

Remember the promise of this Psalm:  Surely goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life.  Think of Goodness and Mercy as your lap-dogs who are just a whistle away.

Grace For The Moment

mercy-and-graceWhat picture comes to your mind when you think of Psalm 23? Is it a shepherd tending his flock? Do you have a vivid image of luscious green pastures where sheep are feeding? Perhaps your mind is fixed on the image of a stream of crystal clear water—water that quenches your thirst and refreshes your tired and weary body.

Whenever I read this Psalm, I think of three words that form a phrase that appears twice: “He leads me.” Shepherds are to lead sheep and sheep are to follow the shepherd.

When you follow the lead of the Good Shepherd, you will experience His grace for each moment of your life. This is an important truth—God does not give grace for the future. Just as the Israelites could not collect manna for a future day, but only the present, you cannot collect and hoard grace for a future need.

God’s grace is sufficient for your every need and for every breath of your life. This truth is proclaimed in Hebrews 4:16: “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with fullest confidence, that we may receive mercy for our failures and grace to help in the hour of need.”

Here are the key points of the verse above:
• As one of God’s children, you have a family right of access to the throne of grace.
• It is the throne of GRACE, not philosophy.
• You can approach the throne of grace with confidence.
• You can have the expectation of receiving the mercy and grace you need for the moment.
• The mercy is designed to help with your “failures.”
• The grace is focused on providing “help.”
• All of this is for the exact moment you need it—“in the hour” of your need.

The key to all of this is found in the three words of Psalm 23: “He leads me.” When David followed the Good Shepherd he was blessed. When he strayed from the path of the Shepherd, he failed. In each case the mercy and grace of the Shepherd was present in his hour of need, and both are present for you as well.

He-Man Principles

Have you ever heard of Samson? How about Hercules or Arnold Schwarzenegger? Amazing strength, bulging biceps, and a powerful He-man” physique come to mind when I think of these men.

All three of these men are wimps in comparison to the God of Psalm 23. Pay attention to the four uses of the word “He in the verses below:
• He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
• He leads me beside the still waters.
• He restores my soul;
• He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake

Notice the position of God in the second and fourth points above: “He leads me.” He isn’t pushing you from behind, and He isn’t ridiculing from the sideline. He already sees what you’re seeking, and He already knows what you’re wondering. He is out in front and leading the way.

As I was thinking about these verses from Psalm 23, I remembered an old Gospel hymn called He Leadeth Me. I encourage you to listen to it by clicking here.

The ISM Prism

prismThe answer to the question is Psalm 23. More often than not, when I ask a family what Scripture they would like read at the funeral of their loved one, they reply: “Psalms 23.”

While this Psalm is very poetic, it is much more than that—it is also jam-packed full of promises! The six verses of this Psalm is vivid imagery that presents God in the language of a caring and loving shepherd, and it offers hope to God’s struggling sheep in their darkest hours.

The first three words speak of God’s eternal presence: “The Lord is.” The word “is” is present tense. The verse does not say the Lord “was,” or the Lord “has been,” or “might possible be.” It tells us that the desire of God is to be your personal Shepherd at this exact moment and in every future second, minute, hour, and day of your life.

God is present now and with Him is the essence of His attributes. He is present with His empowering grace, abundant mercy, and His loving-kindness. He is present in His awesome greatness, His truth, and in His almighty strength.

Because sheep have a tendency wander off and get lost, He is also present to light the path you walk and to shine as a lamp to your feet. He is the ever-ready, ever present, power-packed God.

Whatever your task might be for today and whatever the trial may be, remember these three words: The Lord is. To really embrace the truth of this, drop the “the” and replace it with “my.” Say it now: “My Lord is.”

When you get a chance, put a smile on your Shepherd’s face, and shout it out: “My Lord is!” This “ism” is a beautiful prism that opens new possibilities to enhance your relationship with your Shepherd.