Posts Tagged faith

The Good Shepherd

Psalm 23: 4

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

This is many people’s favorite psalm. What is it that folks like about it? Is it knowing we have a shepherd who cares for us? Verse 1 from the Passion Translation reads, “The Lord is my best friend and my shepherd. I always have more than enough.” If this is your favorite psalm, do yourself a favor and read it from the Passion Translation. You are really going to love it. If you don’t own a Passion Translation just go to Biblegateway.com.

It wasn’t easy choosing one verse from this psalm but this one seemed louder than the others and thinking about it I realized you and I walk through the valley of the shadow of death almost daily. One of the points which has resonated with me over the years about this passage is that David was walking through the valley. He didn’t set up his tent and camp there. He kept moving forward, out of danger, through the challenge to glory and victory.

We recognize there are times when we must go through a troubling situation. There is no way around it, you just have to go through. We generally encourage one another that Jesus is with us even through those tremulous times. David takes it up a notch though. He says that even though he must walk through this foreboding valley, he shall not fear. David knew God was with him and being a shepherd boy himself, he recognized the devotion and care of the good shepherd. David killed both lions and bears to protect his flock (1 Samuel 17: 36). He knew God to be an even better shepherd than he. He trusted God to proactively deliver him from any evil that threatened him.

David said he was comforted by the Great Shepherd’s rod and staff. Here is where our image of God may depart from David’s. David saw the rod as comfort whereas some teachings cause people to fear God. Yahweh does not wield a rod to beat the sheep into submission. That is the image some people carry of God. We must put in the forefront of our thinking that our God is the good shepherd. He cares for the sheep as did David. If David was willing to face a lion and a bear to protect those in his care, won’t our Father do the same for us? Could David be a better shepherd than the Lord?

The rod and staff were for protecting and guiding the sheep. With the staff the shepherd could gently lead the sheep. When they went the wrong way, he could redirect their path. It could also be used to defend the sheep. David understood this and because of his understanding and his trust in the Lord, he could walk through the valley where death’s shadow looms without harm and without fear.

Fear is a crippling disease. In its grip we don’t walk through the valley. We don’t valiantly and confidently march through. The message of this psalm is that the good shepherd is with us and taking care of us. Therefore, we can lift our heads, throw back our shoulders and march through whatever peril appears on the horizon. There is no occasion for fear because the Lord God is your guide and your guard, and you couldn’t have better. You know that, but fear is an tricky thing. Our challenge is to live our life fearless and we can when we know our Father is with us. When we have true awareness of His presence with us and His guiding hand on us, then we, too, will walk through the valley and have no fear of evil befalling us.

Trusted One

Psalm 22: 4 – 5              God’s Word

Our ancestors trusted you. They trusted, and you rescued them. They cried to you and were saved. They trusted you and were never disappointed.

There are a couple of things you should know about this psalm. First, it is prophetic. Read it in its entirety, read it from several versions. I particularly like the God’s Word translation for seeing the prophetic nature of this passage. David was in the Spirit and though this speaks to his own situation, you will see that it parallels Jesus’. I strongly encourage you to spend some time with this psalm. It shows how someone can be led by the Spirit in their prayers and in their words. David vocalized Jesus’ sentiments and experiences long before Jesus was born.

The other thing to know in understanding this psalm is that it begins in anguish and ends in faith. That is classical David form. We’ve discussed David’s relationship with Yahweh and how they evidence a shared trust relationship. We have witnessed David’s emotions and his relationship with the Father. We have seen the trust David evinced in God and even queried how he was brought to that place of radical trust. Once you have experience of God coming through for you, it is easier to trust again. How do you learn to trust that first time, though?

When you read this psalm in total, you will see some of the answers for yourself. The big convincer for David was that he was able to learn from the experiences of others. He had the record which we have in the Bible. He heard and knew the old stories. Most importantly, he apparently believed them. He knew that what God had done for his ancestors, He would do also for him.

David was in serious turmoil. In verse fourteen he describes himself this way, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within me.” Yet, within a few verses he turns to praise. Nothing changed in his circumstances. He was still empty, beaten up and weary. Yet, his voice turned to praise. How can that be?

I believe this is one of David’s greatest characteristics and ultimately a powerful weapon in his hands. He boasted in the name of God. He declared the faithfulness and greatness of the Lord. Despite all indications of disaster, he boldly proclaimed his trust in the Lord, his God. He stood on the evidence of the past and stated his belief in the faithfulness, the trustworthiness of God.

How many times and in how many ways does God have to prove Himself to us? When will I throw my heart into radical trust? Do you, like me, want to walk on the water? It might be obvious, but we’ve gotta jump out of the boat and that is not just an act of faith. It is an act of trust. I don’t know how much faith Peter had but I do know that he trusted Jesus. He wouldn’t have gotten out of that boat except that he was going to Jesus. The same is so true for us. It is more than a metaphor for a faith walk. This is “the way.” We have the same opportunity to live a “faith full” life. But faith, truly, is born of two things: trust and obedience. We need only go where Jesus is leading. He isn’t asking us to jump out of the boat and walk on the water by ourselves. He is simply saying, “Come to me. I’ve got you.” We can do that – if we believe, if we really trust our Jesus.

Can you stretch with me today? Just lean towards him a bit more than you did yesterday. Remember how he came through for David? Recall that David wasn’t even redeemed by the blood. How much more is our trust in Jesus justified? Can we learn from the many Bible stories, like Gideon’s story, that God is looking after His kids? We will not be disappointed. Trust wins the day.

If you don’t have your own success stories with God yet, borrow Moses’, use David’s. They trusted Him and were never disappointed.

Plea for Mercy

Psalm 6: 2 – 4              (TPT)

Please deal gently with me; show me mercy, for I’m sick and frail. I’m fading away with weakness. Heal me, for I’m falling apart. How long until you take away this pain in my body and in my soul? Lord, I’m trembling in fear! Turn to me and deliver my life because I know you love and desire to have me as your very own.

A friend of mine turned me on to the Passion Translation and I am so glad she did. I really love to read the psalms from it. I think you may be able to see why.

Have you ever felt like this, felt like you were falling apart both body and soul? I have and so I can relate to David’s cry for help. David had something many of us have not fully realized. He knew that God wanted him as His very own. Isn’t that a heartwarming thought? Can you truthfully say the same thing about yourself? I know it is true. God treasures you, but do you know it?

If you know that God loves you and desires to have you as His very own, does that give you greater confidence that He will answer your prayers? David was confident. Verses nine and ten from the God’s Word translation demonstrate this, “The Lord has heard my plea for mercy. The Lord accepts my prayer. All my enemies will be put to shame and deeply shaken with terror. In a moment they will retreat and be put to shame.” He really did trust that the Lord would meet whatever need presented itself. I can imagine David standing before his enemies saying, “In a moment you will retreat and be put to shame!” I think he believed it that strongly.

What will you say? What will you declare when you look into the mirror this morning? Do you believe the Lord will restore your soul? Is He going to heal your body? Will your enemies turn and flee in terror? Your declaration determines whether these are truths in your life or simply wishes. What is God’s role in your life? Is He a partner or a spectator?

Get excited about the God of your life. Meditate on His love and desire for you. Let that thought fill you. He will hear your plea for mercy and help and rush to your aid. That is the Father, your real father, the one who created you before the beginning of time.

Shield of Faith

Psalm 3: 3 – 4

But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head. I was crying to the Lord with my voice, and He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah.

In verses one and two David decries the number and aggressiveness of his enemies. This psalm was written when David’s son was chasing him. How forlorn David must have been. His own son had turned against him in a grab for power. Though David spent the first two verses lamenting his dire situation, by verse three his spirit arose to declare the goodness and faithfulness of God.

He recognized Yahweh as a shield which surrounded him, guarding him from the menace of his many enemies. Though he must have gone around for some time with his head hanging low, God embraced him and held his head high. There is no shame because our God is our Father. He causes us to hold up our head when others would be bowed low.

The Passion translation of verse 4 is beautiful, “I have cried out to you, Yahweh, from your holy presence. You send me a Father’s help. Pause in his presence.” This is a good place to pause and consider. David had real trouble, real enemies. His problems eclipse most of ours. At least most of us don’t have people pursuing us to kill us. Despite his troubles, and in the very depth of them, he recognized the voice and hand of a loving Father. My point is that if David can receive the love of God in the midst of his dangerous circumstances, then we can too.

David triumphed over his enemies time and time again because he recognized that God was his hero. He trusted in God as his shield and that brought him the victory. Though he may have spent a little time mourning his situation, he never remained in that pitiful state. He would always put his mouth to work declaring God’s goodness. In the end, it was his belief in God’s faithfulness that delivered him. It will work for us too.

Tired and Weary

Galatians 6: 9

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

It is easy to get tired; tired of trying, tired of standing in faith, just plain old weary. How long am I supposed to stand anyway? Do you ever feel that way? Sure. We all do, but the Lord tells us not to give up. Don’t lose heart. If we will but stand, God promises that we will reap.

Have you been believing God for something for a long time? Maybe it has even been many years that you have stood on a promise of God without seeing your answer. Well, don’t faint. Don’t lose heart. There is still a harvest awaiting you. All we need to do is figure out how to appropriate that which God has already approved.

Truth be told, we do faint. We get tired of believing, praying and confessing and we give in. We don’t mean to but the next thing you know, we have let that goal or dream slip away a little bit. Believe it or not, that is fainting. We have to learn to be people of stone, rocks to our God. People who cannot be moved, who don’t grow faint. People who are firm and resolute. You might need to write out a one sentence or even one phrase statement of faith that you speak at least once a day. Make a recording on your phone and listen to it while you drive to work. Stir yourself up. Listen to Christian teachers who will inspire you daily.

Become firm, strong, resolute. Determine to stand strong until you receive that which you desire. Be stubborn, tenacious. If you really believe God has made you a promise, then don’t back off of it. The trouble is, we don’t really believe. We play at Christianity rather than live it. We aren’t living and believing it right down to our core. Mentally we understand what the Word promises but in our hearts, we harbor resistance, reluctance and even doubt. What do you truly believe? And what do you honestly think God will do with a devout believer? If you imagine a person who is determined in their faith, what do you think their outcome will be? Do you think God will honor their belief but in your own heart know that you are not that person? Do you doubt your own faith and belief? Sometimes it is worth questioning.

We have something to say in this however. We get to choose who we will be. It is up to us. Shall we become faithful believers? Do we dare commit ourselves to a life of passionate Christian faith? What does that mean and how would it manifest in our lives? Let’s rally ourselves as the chosen people of the Almighty. Let us join our faith together for you are stronger and I am stronger when we join hands. What if we started using this daily devotional as a place to encourage one another.

The Word of the Day is formatted in such a way that you can add your own post to it. Others can add to yours and we can reach around the world, literally, with our faith – hand in hand, faith to faith. If you encourage someone else, perhaps you will be encouraged. Maybe you can keep someone else from growing weary and fainting. We are all trying to stand as individuals and we are failing. That is not the way the Father created us. We need to encourage and support each other. Let us join hands today. Stand up tall, stand up proud. Renew your dreams. Revive your waning beliefs and desires. Put those prayers back on the alter and pour the oil of anointing over them and use the anointing and faith of others to breathe life back into them. Come on believers! Believe with me! Arise mighty church of the living God! Arise and believe and in your believing, receive all the greatness of our God. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Trust Commitment

Psalm 37: 5

Commit your way to the lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it.

Learning to trust God is a continual work. We need to become as little children and trust him wholly and completely. You have seen a small child jump off of a height into a waiting parent’s arms. Their trust is complete and fear non-existent. Unfortunately, as we grow, the world teaches us to trust in ourselves and no one else. We learn distrust instead of maintaining that attitude of complete trust. We learn fear. As adults, and yet children of God, we need to learn to go back to what I call radical trust. It is the trust of a small child. We need to unlearn what we have learned of the world and go back to our simpler days, the days of our youth. Do you know why children are able to trust so completely? It is love. Their world is love. That is all they know in the beginning of their lives. They have not learned of the ugliness of the world because they are still in the cocoon of love. 1 John 4: 18 says that perfect love casts out fear. So, there is no fear in them.

As you grew older, the world invaded your world and taught you the things outside of love. And many of us learned those lessons so well that we let go of what love taught. We actually, then, become creatures of the world instead of children of love. But, as sentient beings we have the ability to choose. You can turn yourself away from a life of fear and skepticism and go back to a world of faith, love and trust. In the Lord is complete safety and love. I wish I could trust Him for you. I wish I could give you my trust but you must see for yourself. It begins with one small trust step for most of us. Then we see God’s faithfulness and the next time we are able to trust Him a bit more. Then more, and more. Finally, one day we will abide in radical trust of the Lord. That is where I want to be because it is a life of no worry, no stress and no fear. You won’t sweat the stuff that is driving other people crazy because you will have such complete trust in the Lord’s faithfulness towards you.

Commit your ways completely and totally to the Lord and let Him show you what He will do for you.

Battle Plan

2 Chronicles 20: 15, 17, 20

Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s. You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf. Put your trust in the Lord your God and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed.

This is just one of my favorite stories in the Bible. I wish for you to go to the 20th chapter of Chronicles and read the entire story for yourself so you can receive the richness of this event and its telling. Jehoshaphat, King of Judah was faced with the invading armies of three nations: the Moabites, the Ammonites and the Meunites. It was reported to him that a “great multitude” was coming against him. He sought God in this crisis and God answered him telling him, through the prophet Jahaziel, to stand and watch his enemies destroyed before his eyes. Jehoshaphat set those who sang to the Lord and those who praised Him before the army. The text then reads, “And when they began singing and praising, the Lord set ambushes against the sons of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; so they were routed.” Jehoshaphat’s army never lifted a finger. The enemy was completely and thoroughly routed on their behalf by the might hand of the Lord.

This is the same power that is at work for you today. You don’t even have to lift a finger. You spend your time serving the Lord and let him fight your battles for you. The mightiest warrior of Judah that day did not even draw his sword. Jehoshaphat’s battle plan ended up being singing and praising the Lord. Wow! Can you imagine today a general directing his forces to stand with their weapons sheathed but their voices lifted to God? People would think he was crazy, at least until the battle was over. About the enemy of Judah that day the Bible says, “no one had escaped.” There was no loss of life on Judah’s side. What a wonderful report that would be to give to the people. Before hand, though, the general would look like a complete idiot. The moral of this story might be that sometimes you might appear crazy when you stand in faith but the results just cannot be beaten.

The lesson of the story is to let God fight for you. Stand firm and watch him deliver the enemy into your hands. How do you stand? Just stay resolute in faith and in speaking words of faith instead of words of doubt and struggle. Do what you are called to do and don’t be distracted by the attacks of the enemy because that is exactly what the enemy is trying to do, distract you. Let God handle the battles as you go about God’s work and you sing praises to the Holy One.