Wednesday, September 30, 2015


I HAVE COMPLETED something that I had relegated to the bottom of my personal Bucket List as an IMPROBABILITY. It suddenly jumped to the level of a POSSIBILITY....then to a PRIORITY when I discussed it with my four sons at my 90th birthday celebration. I anticipated that the road trip to my hometown would not only give me a great deal of joy, but that God had a purpose for it.

I wanted once more to visit the place of my birth, the place of my roots and heritage in Iowa. And touch my remaining relatives and friends and "hug their necks."

My son Cliff volunteered to drive me and be my companion. He more than fulfilled that huge role! He rented a car, made the most comfortable reservations for our accommodations, and carefully watched over my well-being and all the logistics involved. And he was patient and gracious to sit and listen to conversations with our relatives and friends most of whom were strangers to him but memorable to me. We set off on what turned out to be about 2030 miles RT for our week's journey.

Cliff's GPS gadget got a good workout enabling him to readily locate a total of nearly 50 people on my list to hug in one-on-one visits and sometimes at breakfasts, lunches, and dinners to which we were invited. We enjoyed trips to the countryside, farms, and places of nostalgia where I spent the first 18 years of my life and where I was married.

I really thought that I couldn't possibly cover all the list of people I hoped to see in a few brief days. Nevertheless, I prayed and committed myself to God's GPS=God's Precise Selection, and knew I would connect with exactly the people He had planned. The timing turned out to be so accurate, even to the perfect fall weather in the Heartland and the availability of those I wanted to see. I felt that each encounter was meant to be. Those moments for both of us were not random; we touched one another for some purpose God had in mind. There were some surprise extra folks we met which were more than coincidence.

I was aware that on such an emotional experience I would keenly miss my parents and many relatives and friends who have departed this life in past decades. There were poignant moments. Places of my childhood and growing years have changed until some were nearly unrecognizable. Cedar Rapids, Iowa had experienced a 500 year flood a few years ago which drastically changed the landscape.

The beloved family home where I grew up was a rental house now, but the occupants warmly welcomed us for a memory walk through. Many of the “earth suits” (bodies) of the friends and relatives who remain have grown weathered and weary with the years. I visited the hospital and a half dozen assisted living residences to renew friendships with those who now call it "home."

On the final day of our drive home to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, thank God we navigated safely through drenching rain and dense fog especially through the mountains and valleys. We left behind the sunshine of Iowa with its memories of a happy crossing-out of an important-to-me item on my Bucket List.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


An encore blog post by Leona repeated by request

WHY ARE WE IN SUCH A HURRY? We have so many time-saving devices and conveniences compared to people in generations and centuries past that we should have a lot more time left over....for what?

We can waste time, invest time, pass the time away, kill time, find time, be on time, lose time, save time, and measure time. We can be short of time, out of time, there can be a convenient time, an appointed time, an acceptable time, and leisure time. People do time in prison. Some of us are in prime time. And there is a last time, a time of judgment, and a departure time for planes, trains, and people.

According to the Genesis record, our eternal no-time God established time at creation to measure the days with “Evening and morning were the first day....” Since that time, we who live on Planet Earth are subject to space and time. Sometimes we get impatient and think God is too slow to answer our prayers and would like to accelerate time. With King David we cry, “It is time for Thee, O Lord, to work...” God deals with us in our time zone in an orderly way. The Scriptures declare, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every purpose [event] under heaven. There is a time to give birth, a time to die, to plant, to uproot, kill, heal....” Twenty-eight time-events are listed that encompass all of life.

In His incarnate human body, although Jesus was the eternal Son of God, He was aware at certain times that His “time had not yet fully come” and later that “My time is at hand.” The devil was able to transcend time during his temptation of Jesus by showing him “all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.”

Isn't it incredible that God acts in the fulness of time and at the same time tells us to redeem the time? With our finite minds we don't really understand what time is nor do we know what time it is according to God's sovereign time schedule. We can't even use our five senses or apply the scientific method to experience time, yet we are subject to it. Time is invisible and illusive like the wind. We can only see the consequences of time in our face reflected in the mirror or in the world around us.

What is time? In an effort to explain it: Time is a dimension and measure in which events can be ordered from the past through the present into the future, and also the measure of sequence, duration of events, and the intervals between them. Someone has said, "Time is what keeps everything from happening at once." Man differs from animals in that he is created with an awareness of the limited time in each day and in the human life span.

File:Wooden hourglass 3.jpgSince time began, temporal measurements have occupied scientists and philosophers, those who study astronomy, and those who navigate. In an effort to understand time, man studied the apparent motion of the sun across the sky, the phases of the moon, the movement of the stars, the swing of a pendulum, and the beat of a heart. 

From pre-historic times, man has tried to divide the day in many ways: by using oil lamps, marked candles, sun dials, water clocks, sand hour glasses, eventually ingenious astronomical clocks. Mechanical clocks were not invented until as recently as 1275. Not until 1884 was an agreement reached on global time measurement and Greenwich Mean Time was adopted as the international standard. Today we rely on atomic clocks for our most accurate measurements of time. The international unit of time, the second, is defined in terms of radiation emitted by caesium atoms. 

Clocks were originally only for public viewing of time. Eventually, when they were designed smaller, they came into domestic and personal use as pocket watches, then wrist watches—now we tell time on our cell phones. Who knows what kind of time measurement devices lie in the near future.

So finally we are able to measure time accurately. What have we achieved? We can't control time. We are at its mercy—we can't stop the clock, slow it, or reverse it. We were born in time and we age in time. Although we live in time right now, eternity is ahead. There must be such a thing as non-time, a time before it was, and in the book of Revelation we are told that there will be a time when time will no longer be.

Mortal bodies, our "earth suits," are subject to the corruption of earthly time. Our souls (spirits) are not. They are eternal. Our length of time on earth is ordained by God. Our souls are a treasure not subject to time which we are responsible to cultivate for eternity when God will give us spiritual "space suits."

So generously
God gave me a measure
of time for my treasure
a slight slice
from an extended eternity.
If I embrace time selfishly
I lose it eventually.
If I surrender it entirely
to The Great Timekeeper
I find time for all
that is in the perfect will
of God for me.

My times are in Your hands, O Lord.
Each breath I take
each beat of my heart
like the tick of a clock
is a portion of eternity
minutes loaned by God to me
that I might redeem the time.

Fantastic thought!
God has chosen me
for this moment in history
actually destined me
to leave a mark for Him
upon some hearts
on this earth
as I pass through
this span of time
that is called
my generation!

As for me, I trust in Thee, O Lord, I say, 'Thou art my God.
My times are in Thy hand....'”
Psalm 31:14, 15a
For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it;
but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.”
Matthew 16:25

Saturday, September 19, 2015


From time to time I take a peek at my “Bucket List.” By definition that is an actual or imaginary list of what one hopes to do or be or where one hopes to go in one's lifetime. It is ever-changing.

When I was a child, my little toy pail was full of short term childish wishes. In youth, with stars in my eyes, my Bucket List held dreams. In adult life it was full of goals and hopes and plans. In prime of life I began to cross off from the List some concrete achievements and also some things that I had to admit were no longer realistic.

Now in my summit years I examine what remains on my Bucket List. Is my bucket empty because I have been there and done everything? Have I given up on some things that I should have attempted? Should I still press on to accomplish what's left in my bucket?

I should ask myself, “Who put those items on my Bucket List? Did I do it for self-centered reasons? Were they the expectations of others for me?” As a Christian I should ask at any season of my life, “Have I consulted God for the contents of my life Bucket List? Or am I simply on an ego trip? Are there things that should not even be on my Bucket List? Are there important things I have omitted?”

In rural China, I have seen two heavily loaded buckets being carried by one person. A long pole is suspended across the shoulders and two buckets in balance are hung on each end of the pole. It might take two buckets to contain all that some of us would like to accomplish in one lifetime. There is nothing wrong with having personal goals, wishes, desires, dreams, and ambitions. It is good and right to fill up one bucket with that kind of list.

Nevertheless, I should balance it in the other bucket with a list of God’s priorities and purposes for creating me. One bucket may contain worthy temporal desires; the other, eternal values and desires in sync with the will of God. They should not really balance—God's bucket should be the heaviest!

Although there have been many ups and downs and joys and sorrows, the Lord has given me a long lifetime of fulfilled desires of my heart. God’s storehouse of goodness and mercies has overflowed to me. I have traveled the world. I have served the Lord with gladness for many decades. I delight in my relationships, in my many friends, my grown children, my grandchildren, and my great-grandchildren. My cup is running over. I couldn't even count His blessings to me by the bucket full—more like by the barrel!

I shouldn't be concerned with whether I have accomplished all I want to do from my Bucket List. I should rather ask God, “Is there still something remaining in Your Bucket List for my life that would please You? If so, show me how to fulfill it!”

WELL, YES! I found something that I had relegated to the bottom of my personal Bucket List as an improbability. It jumped to the level of a priority, and I think it would give God pleasure. I would like to visit my hometown in Iowa once more and touch my roots.

Yes, I'm keenly aware that I will miss my parents and many relatives and friends who have departed this life. That will tug on my heart. I can expect that my emotions may be poignant on such a nostalgic journey down memory lane. Certainly, places of my childhood and growing years have changed until they are nearly unrecognizable. The warm, beloved, family bungalow of my childhood days is a rental house now. The “earth suits” (bodies) of the friends and relatives who remain have grown weathered and weary with the years. I'll have to squeeze visits between their doctor appointments or in some cases visit them in care facilities.

I realize that in a sense you can never “go back,” so I'm scaling back high expectations. Nevertheless, I feel a need to experience once more the place of my birth ninety years ago. I believe my desire to touch home base is a God-planted wish. The timing for this pilgrimage seems to be right. I feel that it is meant to be. My contacts with people at this moment in both of our lives will not be random; we will touch one another for some purpose.

I'm on my way to that adventure as I set off on a road trip from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to Iowa's heartland!

Monday, September 14, 2015


You may have heard the term "prepper" used to caricature certain people living isolated in the woods, carrying shotguns, growing their own food, and sporting a beard (men, that is). That's the wrong perception! Moreover, a prepper is not to be confused with a “preppy,” a subculture term for a student in an exclusive university-preparatory school. 

In the most positive sense, a prepper is a very normal person who wisely prepares for survival during difficult, uncertain, or catastrophic times.

Preppers are in good biblical company. Among others, Noah was a big time prepper. He spent the greater part of his life being the laughing stock of the populace while building a ship, at God's command, for a torrential flood—at a time when the world had not even experienced the climate phenomenon of rain. He was so obedient to God that perhaps he would have bought flood insurance, if it were offered.

Joseph was a political and economic prepper. His dream from God catapulted him into a high leadership position to stock up grain so Egypt would survive seven years of famine.

Jesus told a parable about the ten wise virgins who prepared extra oil for their lamps while waiting the uncertain time for the arrival of the Bridegroom. These are all commended and taken seriously.
Some people poke fun at preppers stereotyping them as paranoid people or religious extremists who are forever warning, “The sky is falling!” and that the world is about to end soon. These are incorrect representations.

To prepare is not a lack of faith or trust in God's providence. It is exercising the gift of prudence and common sense in cooperation with God.

Most preppers are not crazy or delusional; they are ordinary people with a healthy sense of responsibility who choose to care for and prepare their families for a crisis.
They believe it is their duty to protect their families should their daily lives be suddenly disrupted. They use the skills and knowledge and resources God has given them to gear up for the unexpected.

Although reading the signs of the times, most preppers do not focus on one specific event that might disrupt their comfort zone but keep themselves ready for anything they might face including natural disasters, cosmic or man made events, and other uncontrollable circumstances including earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, wild fires, and economic collapse. Society tends to put a negative spin on what motivates preppers, but there is nothing wrong with accepting the reality that things do not always go the way we have planned. 

Life itself is unpredictable. Man proposes, plans, sets goals, and attempts to order his life. All well and good, but God is the One in control. In his New Testament letter James warns in chapter 4:13-15, “Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.'" Nothing is sure. Change is the only constant.

Preppers are not people who hoard up secret goods for their own pleasure and build bigger barns to hold their surpluses so they themselves can live long in luxury, according to the story which Jesus told about the man with his priorities askew. By being prudently practical, preppers are able to sustain the lives of their family members when weather conditions or other calamities limit their resources or the availability of life-sustaining commodities. They are able to adapt to uncertain situations with safety and security. Preppers are ordinary but wise people who make sure they have sufficient food, water, and supplies to endure if misfortune strikes.

There are countless reasons why people plan ahead and become preppers, one of which is the fact that grocery stores will not have adequate supplies available if a disaster or pandemic occurs. We see it time and again on TV. Once the shelves are empty each person will be responsible for finding his own food and often there is panic and looting. This is a huge problem if you only had forethought to have food in your home to last a few days. Finding clean drinking water will not be easy. It will also be extremely difficult to obtain first aid supplies, medications, and other essential items.

The daily TV news exposes vivid scenes of catastrophes in other countries. We deceive ourselves that it can't/won't happen here. Our government can't always be counted on for emergency assistance; there is no guarantee that aid will reach our families quickly. If the entire country is affected by a crisis, help may not make it to our family at all. Nor may there be any communication system to reunite our family members.

It is no secret that the economy of the United States has become increasingly rocky over the past several years. For many people that is good reason to become a practical prepper and to see that our loved ones have knowledge of basic survival. 

No one wants to be caught off guard. Bad things happen when you least expect them. If we prepare for a worst case scenario and it doesn't happen, thank God. Nothing will be lost; our continuing preparedness will still be the greatest tool we can possess.

There are ample resources available online to help anyone begin even the most basic preparation for coming uncertain times. If you need to begin from scratch, simply Google-search “Basics of Prepping” and select from the practical articles whatever is best for your family. A prepared family could be the difference between life and death.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


It is said that God writes straight with crooked lines. Crooked lines are not bad--an artist draws beautiful works of art with purposeful crooked lines. 

God didn't take Joseph in the Old Testament story directly from being a youthful dreamer to the highest position in a nation by one straight line. There were pit and prison experiences and many other crooked lines before God's process was accomplished for his life, for a nation, for his family's rescue, for the national heritage that God was effecting through Joseph's trials.

No one is without trials, adversities, struggles, and losses. Our lives often look to us like the scribblings of a child who is just learning to write—nothing but crooked lines without meaning. The crooked lines in our lives are the common trials, conflicts, disappointments, and hard knocks that beset all of us at times. We may feel that they beset us all of the time. 

Saint Peter reminds us in his first epistle, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.” I guess we should be surprised if everything in our lives is going too smoothly.

In the midst of such hardships and misfortunes, I desperately want to pull aside the curtain and find out why such things are going on. What did I do to deserve this? What does God have in mind by taking me through such crooked ways? Are they simply random happenings? I admit that I am spiritually nearsighted. I can't see beyond the trials. They are too much with me--I take them personally. That's when trust has to kick in.

I tend to recite so glibly, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). If I really believe that, what seems to me to be so obviously bad or evil must be part of God's process of somehow transforming me into the image of His Son. It is not for punishment but for testing. I need to determine once and for all to trust God's goodness.

I must look upon irritations as invitations to grow, just as sand in the shell of an oyster is working toward a pearl. The obstacles I face must really be hidden opportunities of some sort. When I ask God about them, so often He seems to be silent. That's when I must refuse to trust my human ears and listen to the ears of my heart. God is not noisy when He works, but that doesn't mean He is not working in my life.

Progress in spiritual matters happens through struggle in the same way that a butterfly-in-process needs both time and struggle to achieve the transformation from a worm into a creature of beauty and flight. If I try to cut short that process, I will abort its life. If I resist God's sandpaper work in my life, or insist on hurrying the process before He is finished working in and through me, I will miss the purpose of His process.

Without question, God is up to something in each of our lives through the seemingly crooked lines He is drawing in them. Peter says that the end result is “sharing the sufferings of Christ” and that we are to “keep on rejoicing so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.

The word “exultation” translates into big time celebration, whooping it up, whirling about, dancing in circles, expressing extreme joy and elation.

That's going to take some practice!

Monday, September 7, 2015


I look forward to Monday mornings when my pastor friend Alan in Mt. Uniacke, Nova Scotia (whom I have never met in person, only by heart) emails me the sermon he preached in his church on Sunday. I am always blessed with his insights.  I share today as a Guest Post the message he preached yesterday. Let's relax in green pastures and by quiet waters to take another look at that familiar Psalm.

in Psalm 23 and John 10:1—14

An accountant worked long hours over his accounts crunching numbers on his computer. He found he was not able to sleep at night and he went to see his doctor. The doctor asked him if he had tried counting sheep. The accountant replied, “I do, but if I make a mistake, it takes me hours to find it.”

I will speak about sheep and shepherds today as we look at Psalm 23. The Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament which portrays the Lord Jesus Christ as our Good Shepherd. I invite you to meet your Good Shepherd in Psalm 23.

It is unfortunate that Psalm 23 has become associated with death, often read at funerals and on Remembrance Day. The psalm is actually a song for the living and was written by king David who himself had been a shepherd. He wrote it in celebration of his daily walk with God. The psalm also prefigures Jesus Christ, Son of David and Good Shepherd. There is nothing wrong with using it at funerals, etc. People should certainly feel free to use whatever Scripture they like. But lets realize there is so much more to it. Lets hear the invitation of our Lord to come and dine at the table of His presence. Come to Me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:24

 Obviously, Psalm 23 was written in a time when tending sheep was very much a part of every day life. That's why the Lord drew upon this very familiar image in John 10. Today, people may not tend sheep the same way, although they do in some parts of the world, but the principles remain true for us. We actually have sheep in our area, down Windsor way and over in South Rawdon. I once preached a kids sermon on the llamas being used to shepherd the sheep (no kidding).
In the chapter on the Good Shepherd, Christ contrasts Himself with hired hands and thieves. I worked as a hired hand on a farm for a time, so I can relate. As a hired hand, you put your hours in, then leave. The farmer on the other hand is always near at hand to his animals. The person who owns the animals will see them very differently than a hired hand.
In Bible times, thieves, whether human or animal, often came hunting for sheep. We would use the term rustlers. There are many false shepherds today, e.g. the cults. False religions are false shepherds. The Lord did not come to bring a new religion. He came to bring us into a relationship with our heavenly Father. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” The television can become another false shepherd, luring us to watch hour after hour of programming with cheap values, time which could have been spent on more enriching things. The devil uses all these things to try to steal our souls, but our Lord says, “The thief comes only to kill and steal and destroy,. I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” Jn. 10:10
Lets take a look at how we may meet our Shepherd in Psalm 23.

Note that David uses present tense. He is going to be writing about a very present, ongoing relationship, not something that will happen in the future. Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” v. 11 A shepherd literally had to lay down his life for the sheep. You didn't put your eight hours in, then go home. It was a 24/7 job. If predators attacked, the shepherd was expected to position himself between them and the sheep. David writes of killing the lion and the bear who came against the sheep. At night, when the sheep were safely in the sheepfold, the shepherd lay down across the door, protecting the entrance with his body.
One of God's Hebrew names is suggested here—Jehovah Rohi—the Lord my Shepherd. I love to pray this psalm. “Lord Jesus, thank you for being the shepherd of my soul. Thanks for all you do for me today.”

 When Jesus is our Shepherd, we have need of nothing. We sing a little chorus in our church called Jehovah Jireh—God my Provider. That is another of God's names. It comes from the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis. God asks Abraham to take his only son Isaac and sacrifice him atop Mt. Moriah, site of the Jewish Western Wall in Jerusalem. In obedient faith, Abraham lays out Isaac upon the altar and prepares to plunge the knife into his heart. At the last moment, God calls to him from heaven and shows him a ram in the bush for the sacrifice. God had indeed provided. It was a prophetic moment, pointing to the Messiah who would be crucified for sinners not far from that site.
Time and time again, our church has seen God be our Provider, usually in response to prayer vigils, when people came together in concerted prayer. I spent many years in college and university. I had to raise much of the funding myself. God always opened doors of bountiful supply for me. We can say with the apostle Paul, “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:19 So we can pray, “Lord, you are my Provider. Thank you for meeting all my needs. You are all I need today.”

When a shepherd got up in the morning, his first order of business was to lead the sheep to green pastures as the pasture where they were would have been picked clean. “He (the Good Shepherd) will go in and out and find pasture.” The author Philip Keller was actually a shepherd for eight years. He said that in order for sheep to lie down, four conditions must be met. 1. They must be free from fear. 2. They must be free from friction with other sheep. 3. They must be free from torment by flies and parasites. 4. They must be fed.
What a wonderful picture of what our Good Shepherd does for us. Each day, He is leading us in the best pathway for our life. He quiets our hearts from fear and anxiety. He brings love and fellowship with others. He will not allow us to be tormented by the demonic if we are wearing the armor of God. He feeds us on His presence. “Thank-you Lord for leading me today in the best pathway for my life. I am at peace in You.”
The reasoning mind always wants to know what direction things are going in, how it will all unfold. God says, “You don't get to see that. I will lead you along step by step. Trust me today to lead you into green pastures.” We can relax and say, “I do not know, but I know the One Who Knows.

 Another of the shepherd's tasks was to find a water source for his sheep. Peaceful waters suggest rest which is so sorely needed in our stressed out, driven culture. Our Good Shepherd says, “”I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know Me.” . 14 The word know means to be intimately acquainted with. Think of the rest we enjoy in His presence.
We are at peace with our God and accepted in Christ Jesus. Many people think God must be angry with them, but not true if we have put our trust in His Son. He does not see our flaws and failings. He sees us robed in the radiant glory of Christ. “He has made us accepted in the Beloved.” Eph. 1:6
The rest we partake of is one of stillness. “Be still and know that I am God.” Ever notice how noisy the world has become? The T.V. Is blaring, the radio is chattering away. People are tethered to their cell phones. Cars roar by at high speed.
Many people are rattled by silence. They don't know how to handle it. I have done a number of week long silent retreats and have learned to love the riches of solitude and silence. In the silence, we will hear God's voice and we will be at rest with Him. “Lord, I am resting in your presence today. I will hide myself in You.”

  Life has a way of grinding us down, stressing us out and chewing us up. Another of the shepherd's jobs was to tenderly tend his sheep, especially the lambs, the sick and the weak. This brings to mind another of God's names. He is Jehovah Rophe—the Lord our Healer.
God has many ways of healing us. One way is through confession. When we think of confession, we often think of acknowledging our sins to God and asking His forgiveness. But confession involves much more than our sins. We can confess our anxieties, burdens, shortcomings, limitations, weaknesses, emotions, etc. As we do, our God embraces and restores us. “Lord thank you that you are my healer and my restorer. I am whole in your presence.”

  This has to do with the direction of our lives. A shepherd would try to lead his sheep along the safest, most accessible paths. “He (the Good Shepherd) goes on ahead of them and the sheep follow Him because they know His voice....My sheep know My voice and they follow Me.” 4. 27.
A Spirit filled believer will be led by the Holy Spirit. We are to get to know, listen to and obey the voice of our Shepherd. I could preach a whole sermon on how to hear God's voice. I can share some quick tips. 1. There must be a desire to hear God's voice. 2. We must develop sensitivity to His voice. 3. We must create an atmosphere conducive to hearing from God. 4. We must ask to hear His voice. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives genrously to all without finding fault and it will be given to him.” James 1:5
Note that we are being led in paths of righteousness. Our Shepherd is Jehovah Tsidkenu—the Lord our Righteousness. Through His death upon the cross, Christ became our righteousness. “Lord, today I will listen to Your voice. I will obey You.”

  There is a reason God is leading us in paths of righteousness. He is a holy God who leads us along the highway of holiness. The Hebrew term suggested here is Jehovah M'Kaddesh—God's name is holy. “Thank you, Lord, for being the Promise Keeper who will never break His Word to us.”

  This verse often causes people to associate Psalm 23 with death. For example, in the movie Titanic when the ship begins to sink with one end up, a man slowly walks the deck reading this very verse from the Bible. Jack, the hero, is a man of action who wants to save lives. Frustrated and wanting to get by him, he says, “Could you go a little faster through that valley?”
But David was not speaking of his imminent death. He actually lived a long time after writing Psalm 23. He is speaking of situations that make him feel as if the shadow of death looms over him. The apostle Paul speaks of feeling the same way. “We were under great pressure far beyond our ability to endure so that we despaired even of life.” 2 Cor. 1:8 It's at these times that we discover the God who is present with us, our very present help in time of trouble. He is Jehovah Shamma—the God who is there. “Lord, I know whatever the circumstances I face today, You are with me. With You I can face anything.”

 A shepherd did not carry his shepherd's crook just for looks. Shepherds actually learned to wield them with great skill, fending off predators. I have read that shepherds used their staff so effectively that they were able to disarm swordsmen. Not only did the staff protect, it was used to push, pull and prod the sheep. God trains us in the way we should go. I have experienced His pushing and prodding many times. A child of God can expect to be trained by the Shepherd of his soul. “Lord, thank you for comforting and encouraging me today in the way I should go.”

After the prophet Samuel anointed David king of Israel, he was a marked man. Saul was not about to relinquish his throne gracefully. David became a man on the run. But wherever he hid in the wilderness, he found God preparing the table of His presence for him. The Bible says, “Taste and see the Lord is good.” In Revelation 3:20, Christ, the Lord of the Church said to the Church, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.” What a wonderful invitation to fellowship and intimacy? Jesus Christ himself invites us to His table.
He prepares the table of His presence for us in the midst of our adversities, difficulties, vexing problems, fears and anxieties. We can feast and rejoice no matter what our circumstances happen to be.
A pastor tells the story of being invited to a home for Thanksgiving dinner. He recalls that once his host welcomed him, he never saw her again until it was time to say good-bye. Unfortunately, that is a picture of what happens with many believers. We become so busy doing this and that for the Lord like stressed out Martha, that we have little time for actually lingering in His presence like contemplative Mary. Church work must never replace devotion to the Lord. As Byrn MacPhail puts it, “Jesus has called you first to worship, second to work.”
Lord, I'm coming to the table of your presence today. Thank you for the banquet laid out for me.”

  This is where it gets interesting. In Bible times, a guest invited for dinner was offered water and a towel for his feet upon arrival as the roads were dusty and people wore sandals. He would also be offered olive oil to refresh his face after being in the hot sun. Oil was a sign of fellowship. The Bible tells us there were all kinds of uses for olive oil.
A new king would be dedicated by pouring olive oil out over his head. For example, when the prophet Samuel came to the house of Jesse, he asked to see his sons. But God did not reveal who his next king was. Samuel asked if there was any other son. Jessie said almost as an afterthought that little David, the runt of the family was out tending sheep. Samuel said, “Get him.” and proceeded to anoint him king of Israel.
The priests used olive oil to fuel the lamp in the Holy Place in the Temple, symbolic of the God who was watching over Israel. They also used it to consecrate or set apart items as holy to the Lord. Priests would prepare themselves for ministry by putting olive oil on their bodies.
Olive oil was also used in prayer for healing of the sick. In James chapter five, the apostle calls for the elders of the church to anoint the sick with oil and pray for them. There is nothing magical about the oil. It symbolizes the Holy Spirit who does in us all these things already mentioned.
Shepherds would rub the oil into the face of a sheep to heal cuts, fend off insects and moisturize.
To anoint means to pour out. Spiritually and symbolically, the oil reminds us the Holy Spirit is pouring out His power on us. Some times in a church, you will hear people say, “That preacher or that singer was very anointed today.” What they mean is that the Spirit of God was residing upon them with great power. “Lord, thank you for pouring out your Holy Spirit on me today.”

  David continues his celebration of God's presence. An overflowing cup symbolizes abundance, the God of more than enough. It's the attitude of gratitude. “Lord, my cup overflows with your goodness to me today. “Thanks for all you are doing in my life today.”

 The Christian life is one of progressive maturity in Christ. I don't know about you, but I find it pretty amazing to know God's goodness and mercy will be following along behind me as I keep my eyes on the Good Shepherd. “Lord, thank you for your goodness and mercy which follow me today everywhere I go.”

This is often thought to mean that David is speaking of life after his death. But remember, David was called “a man after God's own heart,” so called because he constantly craved intimacy with God. The Temple was not yet built when Psalm 23 was written, but the Tabernacle was kept in a tent where the faithful went to worship. David loved to go to the house of God every day, to bask in His presence. The New Testament tells us that God's Temple is no longer a building. Believers are the temples of the Spirit.
It's true that we believers will one day live forever in God's house, and our Good Shepherd did say, “In my Father's house are many rooms. I go there to prepare a place for you.” But let's not forget to fellowship with Him daily on the way through life as temples of the Spirit.
Dwelling in the house of the Lord also has to do with cultivating the present moment sense of God's presence. We don't need to wait for next Sunday to worship Him. Lets say you are doing the dishes. What a heaven sent opportunity to spend some time conversing with the Lord as you wash and dry. Every day circumstances present us with many opportunities to practice God's presence, to turn the present moment into a moment of worship. “Lord I will live in your presence moment by moment. I will worship you all day.”

Have you allowed yourself to associate the Shepherd's psalm with gloom and death, never realizing the invitation extends to us to meet Jesus our Good Shepherd? The Shepherd calls to each one of us, inviting us into His presence. “Lord, I am coming. I will sit with You at the table of your presence.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


Am I expected to help people living in cardboard box shelters? Living under bridges? Sleeping on the streets? Well, I just don't have such opportunities. Besides, it might be dangerous these days.

Do I excuse myself because I don't know any such people? The “homeless” might not be who I think. 

They are not always in such impoverished situations. They might be my friends who previously lived in their own comfortable homes and entertained me for lunch. They might have been active in the mainstream of life. Or one of my neighbors. We worshiped together at Church. Perhaps we shopped and laughed together and made warm memories.

Suddenly, or gradually, they suffered losses...perhaps loss of spouse, loss of health, loss of mobility, perhaps loss of memory. Someone else might have made the choice for them to sell their long-lived-in home and move to some form of assisted living. 

Perhaps age forced them to make drastic changes in their lifestyle. Where they are now doesn't feel like home to them. They are no longer in their comfort zone. They feel virtually “homeless.”

They might feel as abandoned as those who do live under bridges and in cardboard boxes. Have I forgotten them? Are they absent from my heart? “Out of sight, out of mind?” Does God allow me to dismiss them and, as it were, “walk on the other side of the road” as in Jesus' parable of the passersby—or am I the Good Samaritan? The Lord expects me to “visit the widow, the orphan, the fatherless, the prisoner.” In some cases our homeless friend in a care facility may be in all of those categories. Although cared for, she might feel like a prisoner taken from her spacious living quarters and freedom and confined to cramped quarters and living among virtual strangers.

I do know such “homeless” people. Yes, they were my friends. Yes, they should remain in my heart, and I must  reach out to them with genuine compassion. I can visit them if they live nearby, write or phone them if they live at a distance. They may be longing for a warm touch and a hug and some small token from me expressing that I remember them and still love them. I can pray that their faith in God will remain constant and they will not feel despondent in their circumstances. I can encourage them in the Lord.

In so doing, I will not only touch them but I will touch Jesus Himself. My “homeless” friend might be well cared for materially but hungry or thirsty for someone to come visit. I was a stranger, and you took Me not in: naked, and you clothed Me not: sick, and in prison, and you visited Me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto You?'” (Matthew 25:43, 44)

I know the answer to His question and what I should be doing about it.