23 Pt. 13

    “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Psalm 23:5 NIV

     Who is your enemy? I guess that’s not a question we Christians ask very often. I mean “Who is your neighbor?”…sure. “Who are the people I am called to minister to?”…maybe; But “Who is my enemy?”

    Are we even allowed to have enemies? Are we permitted to view other people as enemies? I guess so, because someone is going to be in the group of people watching us chow down at the Shulchan!

     The thing is we don’t choose our enemies. They choose us. As Christians we are counselled not to take revenge, strike back, or even feel hate in our heart towards anybody. That aside we are permitted to be realistic about people who have less than our best interests at heart.

     An enemy in Psalm 23 is pictured as a person who harasses us or rises against us to hinder us from accomplishing our created purpose. I suppose that definition takes things out of the traditional “enemy” realm. I want to pose that sometimes it might be possible to even be friendly with our enemies. How many friends have you had who were “no good” for you? You know it’s the person who keeps you from fully pursuing Jesus but at the same time makes you deliriously happy.

     I suppose some of those friendly enemies will be gathered around our banqueting tables to watch us feast, but forever kept from feasting with us….In light of that fact I find I cannot hate my enemies. Now more than ever I pity them and wish them to become real friends.

As you read who did you find yourself praying for?

23 Pt. 12

     “Thou preparest a table…” Psalm 23:5

     I have always wondered a little bit about Psalm 23 and its shift in verse 5 from outdoors to indoors… from campsite to banqueting table… from the shepherd and his sheep to the king and his court. Then I consider who David was: the shepherd become king, the king become fugitive, the fugitive become king again and it all kind of makes sense. David’s life was an ebb and flow of battles and banquets, poverty and principality. He like me was in constant need of a Savior. God constantly met that need.

     I don’t know if David wrote this Psalm early on in his life or looking back over the years of advance and retreat. If he wrote this while he was a shepherd then these words are heavy with prophetic power. If he wrote looking back over his long and checkered history then they are words pregnant with godly wisdom. Either way they are powerful.

    David writes “Thou preparest a table” . The verb is in the imperfect tense indicating incompletion of the action or an action that is continuous. It’s not “Once God prepared a table for me.”  Nor is it “Someday God will prepare a table for me.” It’s “God is continually preparing or setting a table for me”.

     David understood that while God had blessed and while He was going to bless in the future that was only because He was constantly about the business of blessing in the here and now.

    So it is today that God is in the midst of blessing you right now. I know it may not look like it, but where you stand will turn out for your blessing if you trust Him as your shepherd. For right now God is preparing a table for you. By the way it’s not a card table, or a coffee table. It’s not an end table or even a formica dining table. It is a shulchan, a king’s banquet table. Your situation right now is God setting you a shulchan. Can you see it? Maybe not but just wait the dining room doors haven’t opened yet. Trust Him! Hang on! You will see!


23 Pt.11

     “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,  I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 

     Anyone who wonders about the work of the shepherd needs to read “thefisherlady’s” comment to me in my post “23 Pt. 9.” Her story is so poignant in light of our current discussion.

     As I was meditating on verse 4 a few weeks back, Holy Spirit began to speak to me about His rod and His staff which comfort me in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I could never say I didn’t fear evil if it weren’t for His rod and His staff. Without them all my  positive thinking and focus on the greener pastures would still be obscured by the ever-presence of evil about me. After all it’s not the green pastures that defeat evil. It is the Lord with His rod and His staff that chases my boogeymen away. If all I had were green pastures before me and no God with me in the present circumstance I would still be  afraid, because there would be a very real chance of never making it to the pastures no matter how green they may be.

     Yet the Lord has assured me that because of His rod and His staff “no weapon formed against me will prosper” Isa. 54:17! He can and will defeat every evil force arrayed against me!

     Oh! But it’s even better than that! His rod and His staff are not just for the predators lurking in the dark. His rod and His staff are fashioned to keep me on the path when I lose sight of it in life’s gloom. I am prone to wandering, especially in those moments when life goes a little catywhompus. If I had to depend on my own ability to keep myself on the straight and narrow I would certainly despair. The green pastures would forever be out of reach and I would be lost. But I have a Shepherd who has both Rod and Staff to guide me back onto the path when I take a step away from the Way. Oh surely that is a great comfort! Neither enemies without or within shall keep me from reaching the green pastures. For the Shepherd has made it His job to get me through!

23 Pt. 10

     “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil…” Psalm 23:4 NIV

       In David’s day there existed a narrow mountain pass that led from the young shepherd’s home to the green pastures where his flocks could feed. That pass is still used today by shepherd’s seeking good foraging grounds for hungry sheep. The name of this mountain pass is…you guessed it “the Valley of the Shadow of Death”. Within the confines of its dark sheer walls are many shallow caves perfect for predators: lions, and tigers, and bears oh my! The all-consuming dark produces a Nightmare on Elm Street for poor sheep just trying to get a good breakfast; But the truth  is that the breakfast buffet is on the other side of the Valley.

     We’ve already discussed that God’s job is to make us lie down in green pastures. To do His job He has to take us through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. An alternate road doesn’t present itself. Everyone of us needs to go through our own valley. It’s called life. The shadows and predators are many. Some hoping to circumnavigate the valley have gone well off the path only to find that all roads lead straight into the heart of darkness. Our options are limited. We can’t go back to yesterday and we can’t stand still. We all are faced with the truth that the Valley of Shadow while not our destination is smack dab in the middle of the way to our destination. As one who is well into the Valley now…as one who is well acquainted with the evil inside I have to concur with David, as long as the Lord is with me I won’t fear any of it.

    My eyes aren’t on the darkness. My gaze is fixed on the green pastures that lie straight ahead!

23 Pt. 9

“He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Psalm 23:2

     I love the smell of herbs on a hot summer day. As the heat draws the essential oils of the garden to the surface the lazy air becomes filled with the fragrance of peace: Mint and lavender mix with rose and tansy. Oregano and basil spill their essence into the sultry atmosphere and I am brought to a quiet in my soul that only God’s garden can make. This is the picture God is trying to convey when he says through David “He makes me to lie down in green pastures (or young herbs).”

     Sometimes I get to running for things.Sometimes I get to running away from things. For or away doesn’t matter, it’s the running He wants to stop. He comes to me and says “Peace be still!”. My lungs are filled with the fragrance of His green pastures and I lie down. By His work I am brought to peace.

    I am so grateful that though I always start running again, eventually He brings me to yet another one of His pastures and  a renewal of rest! Tomorrow another race starts but I am confident that He will bring it to its proper end at the next green pasture!

Until tomorrow dear friends! JE

23 Pt. 8

He leads me beside the quiet waters.” Psalm 23:2

     On Tuesday night I went to the office to catch up on my writing. I still had blogging to do, a funeral service to write and I had to finish my Pentateuch class for Wednesday night. I took my glasses off to rub my weary eyes and the next thing I knew I was wiping drool off my chin.Iit was seven o:clock. I had power-napped for a half-hour.

     I’m not in the habit of falling asleep while I am working; So I was a little stymied until I began to add up the hours from the previous two weeks. 137!… Eeek! Granted one shift was an overnight where I got to sleep on the hotel floor…still that’s a lot of hours!

     I am so grateful to have a shepherd who “leads me beside the quiet waters.” The verse actually means “He leads me with care or guides me to a watering station beside waters especially set aside as a resting place.”

     God knows what I need. As my Spirit-guide, it is His job to lead me to the resting place when it is necessary. He promised me a while back that when things got a little too hectic He would sovereignly cancel items off my schedule. I think He does this because He knows I have a weakness in the area of saying no. So He helps me when I get over-committed. True to His promise, on Wednesday I went in for a team meeting at the local VNA and the meeting had been cancelled giving me and extra two hours to rest and catch up. Then yesterday I got an e-mail from my senior pastor telling me I could take some vacation time to just rest if I needed it!

     I have to say Jesus is my quiet water and my resting place.

How does Jesus bring you to rest when you need it?

23 Pt. 7

“He restores my soul” Psalm. 23:3

       In the years between high school and marriage, when I wasn’t attending college, I worked in my father’s restaurant as a short order and prep cook. Dad’s place was well-known for its home cooking. I was an abysmal baker but pretty good with meats; So one of my jobs was to make the sausage. Weekly I would grind, spice and bake-off about a hundred pounds of pork for our breakfast patrons.

     About three weeks before my wedding I began experiencing nervous jitters that resulted in difficulty focusing. Still, I managed to keep things pretty well together, until one afternoon when I was experiencing a particularly potent round of pre-wedding jitters. I forgot the spicing stage in the sausage making. I didn’t realize my mistake until I had completely cooked off sixty pounds of pork loaf. I am assuming most of you have never done this. Let me just say there is absolutely no way you can redeem pork loaf in the restaurant business.  I was quite sure I would never make it to the altar if my father found out (his anger was a thing to behold); So in fear I hid the  pork loaf for four days under a  fifty pound box of lettuce.

     Emotions are powerful things. In their grip many have left the world of reason and have made choices that left the world gaping in disbelief. Meanwhile those caught in the grip of feeling wondered why no one else could understand what they did.

     Our culture puts great stock in being led by feeling. We probably shouldn’t. God made feelings to be a part of our souls. He didn’t make them to be the “be all and end all”. He certainly did not intend for us to be led by our feelings. We are to be spirit led by the voice of God and His revelation to us.

    So part of restoring my soul has been getting my emotions out of the driver’s seat and into the back seat where they can make helpful suggestions without calling the shots.

     I should probably finish by telling you that eventually I had to confess to my father (you can’t hide pork loaf forever). I lived to see my wedding day. My fear reaction turned out to be unfounded.  That wasn’t the last time I let fear rule the roost though. He has worked with me again and again in this area. I am to this day being restored in my emotions.

How has God restored you in the area of emotions?

23 Pt. 6

“He restores my soul” Psalm 23:3

     My soul is an “organ” with three parts: mind, will, and emotion. In order to be fully restored God must restore all three parts. It is not just my mind, my thinking, that is broken. My will, the decision-making part of me is also in disrepair.

     I have to confess that when I converted to Christianity I didn’t suddenly turn into this total God-serving machine. Oh, there was a change. I began to serve God more than I ever did in my pre-Christian state. But I still struggled with my will… I still struggle with my will. There is still this piece of me that doesn’t want to do good. Label it however you want to, it’s a no-good piece of me that works hard to influence my decisions in life. Sometimes ,with my will, I listen to that piece of myself and…you know the end of that story. Yes, my will needs restoring to that place where my ears are tuned only to the commands of Christ. The tuning is a work He does through training and testing. Each time I listen to His voice, in the middle of a test, and choose for Him my will is restored and I am conformed more to His image. The more I am restored the more joyful obedience becomes.

Have you  ever noticed that the more you obey, the more you want to obey?

23 Pt. 5

“He restores my soul.” Psalm 23:3

     God is about the business of saving us! How awesome is that! He has done…is doing…will do all that is required to save me and that is a work I could never accomplish myself.

     Many of you may have read my friend Matt’s replies to the previous posts. While Matt’s comments focus on the work that is already accomplished in eternity, our verse here is focusing on the work that the Lord is currently doing within time.

    “He restores my soul”, that is…my mind, my will and my emotions! Hallelujah! I am so grateful to a God who restores my mind. He is at work within me ridding me of all my “stinkin’ thinkin'” as Joyce Meyers calls it.

    I have been a Christian for thirty some years and in that time God has transformed my thinking progressively on many matters. I present my thinking to Him daily and His Spirit transforms me by the renewing of my mind. Every time I pick up His Word I am challenged and my thinking is changed by increments. I have noticed that as my thinking changes so does the way I behave. As He restores my soul so He repairs my broken behavior!

    So am I already changed or am I being changed? According to the Bible both are true. I guess understanding that is one of the restorations God has to make to my mind! 🙂

23 Pt. 4

“He restores my soul” Psm 23:3 NIV

   Salvation, as I understand it, is a process in three phases:

 1. Justification which is the salvation of the spirit, whereby we are made alive in Christ. “But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.” Rom 8:10

2. Sanctification  which is  the salvation of the soul, whereby we are made perfect in Christ. “But you were washed, you were sanctified” I Cor. 6:11

3. Glorification which is the salvation of our bodies being translated from mortality to immortality. ” in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” I Cor. 15:52

      Psalm 23:3  speaks about the process of sanctification.“He restores my soul.”  The word “restores” means to turn back or to return. Jesus, the Lord, is in the process of returning our souls  to the state they were meant to exist in.  The foundation of this restoration is the path of righteousness. Sin has mucked up the condition of the soul. In order to be restored, the soul must return to righteousness. Now, we are completely powerless to get ourselves back there. Praise God that He is not so powerless. He knows the path of righteousness and can lead us on it. Our only job is to relax, follow, and let Him take care of everything along the path.

What do you think a restored soul looks like?