Psalm 23, Understood

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Psalm 23, an annotated version:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.– That’s relationship

    He makes me lie down in green pastures.– That’s rest
He leads me beside still waters.– That’s  refreshment
    He restores my soul.– That’s healing
He leads me in paths of righteousness– That’s guidance
    for his name’s sake.– That’s purpose

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,– That’s testing
    I will fear no evil,– That’s protection
for you are with me;– That’s faithfulness
    your rod and your staff,  they comfort me.– That’s discipline

You prepare a table before me– That’s hope
    in the presence of my enemies;– That’s witness
you anoint my head with oil;– That’s consecration
    my cup overflows.– That’s abundance
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,– That’s blessing
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord– That’s security
    forever.– That’s eternity

Psalm 23, ESV

Jesus-Good-Shepherd-04We really do live in a world of uncertainty. Anything can happen (and often does) and at times we will struggle. Psalm 23 is something stable that we can latch on. It is a psalm of unparalleled comfort for the turmoil.

It is especially good to those of us who struggle with a suffering or illness. It is a tether for us that holds us in place. For those who fear death it promises us life– forever.

If you’re a broken believer who has issues, I encourage you to memorize this psalm.  As you commit it to memory it will instinctively draw you to reality. It will be something the Holy Spirit will use over and over in your life. I have been crippled with fear many times, and this psalm has protected me.

I love the Shepherd of Psalm 23.

 

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Has God Given Up on You?

 

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13 “If we are unfaithful,
    he remains faithful,
    for he cannot deny who he is.” 

2 Timothy 2:13, NLT

There can be times of a great despair; when sin or sickness is definitely in the spotlight. Losing hope is an easy response for mere mortals like us. There can be a place where the darkness won’t lift; and it’s at that point you realize that you’re simply in over your head.

I know that feeling quite well. I have bipolar disorder and I tend to camp out at the margins where it seems like the grace of God evaporates in the heat of the moment. Whether it is my sin or circumstances, I occasionally feel pretty much abandoned, and it usually is something self-inflicted. We have this glaring tendency to put ourselves in where we should not have been. And condemnation means no comfort can get through to us.

We wonder if God has finally given up on us, throwing us on the trash heap of lost souls. We might feel that is what we deserve.

“Many are saying about me, “God won’t rescue him.” 

Psalm 3:2

In Psalm 3, David has come to the realization that his sins have “tainted” him. He talks of many enemies that have suddenly gathered, and they are claiming that David was now outside of God’s grace and favor. The theology of this seemed logical. David had sinned greatly. And just perhaps he had. David’s sin of adultery and murder was heinous and depraved. His enemies suggested that God would now abandon him.

Our own sin may be excessive, but God’s faithfulness is extreme.

”Lord, your love reaches to the heavens, your loyalty to the skies.’

Psalm 36:5

The grace of God is limitless. It is beyond human comprehension or reasoning. When he committed himself it was for forever. King David understood this, and would survive the devastating fall-out from his sins. Indeed he would reap all that he sowed (Gal. 6:7-8).

You see, Jesus has taken all your sin upon himself,  and that includes your faithlessness. He has done this astonishing thing out of the deep depths of His love and mercy. We don’t deserve it and we can’t pretend it is something else. A heart welded to His knows this. We are “saved by grace through faith.”

Do you still feel God has abandoned you forever? Dear one, there is an unholy war on the saints that Satan is waging. He hates your simple trust in God and will shake it anyway he can. He blisters believers hoping to discourage them. And he doesn’t fight fair.

“The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:“I have  loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

Jeremiah 31:3

Christ will always accept the faith that puts its trust in Him. You must only rest in His kindness and love.  He will not abandon anyone who puts even a feeble trust in Him. When we turn from our sin, God will always turn to us. Always believe it, for it is true.

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THE SNARE OF THE FOWLER, [Warfare]

Peter Bruegel, "The Bird Snare"

Peter Bruegel, “The Bird Snare”

“Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.

You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.”

Psalm 91:3-6, NKJV

“There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.”

C.S. Lewis

I believe that there is a great opposition to living free. Satan contests every square inch. His ‘modus operandi’ parallels the predator. He likes to hunt human beings. I’m being quite careful not to be melodramatic or manipulative when I say this, but Satan has a terrible plan for your life. He often uses human ‘lackies’ to carry out his wishes.They will use deception, lies and foolishness to snare people’s souls. They [he] will even resort to brute force. Many believers are being persecuted for their faith.

Some Old Testament thoughts:
14 “David now stayed in the strongholds of the wilderness and in the hill country of Ziph. Saul hunted him day after day, but God didn’t let Saul find him.”
1 Samuel 23:14, NLT
5 “My future is in your hands.  Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.”
Psalm 31:15
7 “We escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap. The trap is broken, and we are free!”
Psalm 124:7

And there is plenty more where this come from. And we haven’t even got to the New Testament yet, where there are substantial references to this kind of attack. The doctrine of Satan is developed further there. Perhaps it is because we encounter the person of Jesus Christ and the act of personal redemption He made for each of us. Through this we discover that we have an enemy that we were never really aware before. And guess what— he hates us!

Some New Testament thoughts:
31 “The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out.”
John 12:31
4 “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News.”
2 Corinthians 4:4
12 “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
Ephesians 6:12

Just as we have in Jesus a personal savior, we find we also have an anagonist and a sworn enemy that is set on going to war on us. You didn’t ask for it, and it would be really swell if he didn’t exist at all. But the evil around us has a source and we dare not minimize it.

“To admire Satan [in Paradise Lost] is to give one’s vote not only for a world of misery, but also for a world of lies and propaganda, of wishful thinking, of incessant autobiography.”

C.S. Lewis, “A Preface to ‘Paradise Lost'”

Our fealty to Jesus becomes critical at times like this. The warfare has an ebb and a flow, sometimes the battles can be intense, and at other times less so. But we cannot do nothing at all. We must defend ourselves, or become a casualty.

  1. We can pray.
  2. We can read truth (the Bible).
  3. We can praise and worship.
  4. We can put on “the armor of God’ (Ephesians 6:11).
  5. We can “submit to God” (James 4:7).
  6. We can resist Satan and be firm in our faith, (1 Peter 5:9).
  7. We can “plead the blood of Jesus” over our lives, and over our loved ones, (Exodus 12:13)

Probably the capstone is the following verse. I pretty much sums up this ‘act of resistance’ we are all called to do. I wanted to emphasize it because it is critical:

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

1 Peter 5:8

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