A re-post from 2009 since my Psalm for the week is once again Psalm 23. Enjoy!
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd” in John 10:11. As I read Psalm 23 in the New Living translation, I personalized each line which led to some useful meditation. Maybe some will find it helpful.
The LORD is my shepherd
YOU are my shepherd
I have all that I need
I have all that I need
He lets me rest in green meadows
YOU let me rest
He leads me besides peaceful streams
YOU lead me
He renews my strength
YOU renew my strength
He guides me along right paths
YOU guide me
bringing honor to his name
YOU allow me to bring honor to YOUR name
Even when I walk thru the darkest valley, I will not be afraid
I will not be afraid
for you are close beside me
YOU are close beside me
Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me
YOU protect and comfort me
You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies
YOU prepare a feast for me
You honor me by anointing my head with oil
YOU honor me
My cup overflows with blessings
I overflow with blessings
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life
YOUR goodness and unfailing love pursue me
I will live in the house of the LORD forever
I will live with YOU forever
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd” in Jn 10:11. When taken with 1 Pet 2:24 and 5:4, it seems appropriate to pray this Psalm this holy week. Thanks to Peter C. Craige.
I think it is safe to say that Jesus would never have imagined much less dreamed about how his name is being marketed today!
I love Jesus but I enjoy spending time with Paul, even though I have never met Paul personally! Jesus, oh yes, we have met personally and do so often! Of course since Paul points the way to Jesus, I greatly appreciate–value, treasure, even memorize what he has to say!
I don’t remember ever having had a crisis about Jesus versus Paul. Note: I have had many crises unrelated to theological issues! Admittedly, I was more Pauline in my early days as a Christian in a Bible Church and definitely I have become more Jesus centered in the last decade. I value my friends who have kept me focused on the gospel, the good news about Jesus that Paul so clearly explains in 1 Cor 15. Staying focused on the gospel helps all of us to remain centered in what is truly the good news! Kingdom focused–yes! Justification by faith–yes! Scott McKnight in a CT article, Jesus vs. Paul summarizes well some tricky theological issues most of us may have missed. Following are two paragraphs towards the end that sum up what he is trying to say:
There is something here that courses through the pages of the Gospels: Jesus and John see themselves as the ones who complete Israel’s story, and their story is the saving story. This is exactly what Paul said the gospel was. Jesus may have spoken of kingdom, and Paul may have spoken of justification, but underneath both kingdom and justification is Christology: It is the story about Jesus, who is Messiah and Lord and who brings the kingdom and justifies sinners by faith
But if we begin with gospel, and if we understand gospel as Paul does in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, then we will find what unifies Jesus and Paul—that both witness to Jesus as the center of God’s story. The gospel is the core of the Bible, and the gospel is the story of Jesus. Every time we talk about Jesus, we are gospeling. Telling others about Jesus leads to both the kingdom and justification—but only if we begin with Jesus
Imagine the scene in Mark 4:35-41
The disciples are in the boat trying not to lose their boat and avoid drowning and Jesus is asleep in the back. When they wake him up, they ask, “Don’t you care that we are perishing”?
Jesus response is not what I would expect. “Why are you acting so cowardly? Where is your faith?”
Is it cowardly to be afraid you are about to die?
I think of being a coward as running away from something; not doing something out of fear of the consequences.
What the disciples (and I) don’t get is that when Jesus is in our boat, when he is with us, we are safe and there is no need to fear the consequences. Big waves, fierce wind, feeling unproductive, unfulfilled, frustrated, angry–trust me says Jesus.
I find it interesting that after Jesus stops the storm, the disciples became fearful–actually, they were caused to fear (passive) with a great fear.
Why? Because of the awesome display of the power of God.
I love what comes next, “Who is this guy?” Even the wind and waves obey him!
Seems like there are two kinds of fear here–a self-centered fear and a God-centered fear. In the storm they were afraid to die, afraid they were being left alone to make it with out any help. Faced with self-centered fear, they might have done anything to get out of the situation–including insulting their teacher, “don’t you care?”
But the other kind of fear is a God-centered fear, the kind that causes you to fall down and say, “ok God, I surrender, I give up.” A fear that produces reverence and awe. A safe yet holy fear. I want to have a God-centered fear but tend to have a self-centered fear.
Does a self-centered fear lead us to doubt that God really cares?
What do you fear today?
I do not lack.
I will not fear.
When Jesus is my shepherd these two phrases from Psalm 23 become possible.
After reading in Psalm 23 this morning, I tried to enjoy simply being with the Shepherd. While doing so, I let our two dogs in my lap. After much love and many licks, rather than settling down and being content to be with me, they wanted to get down and go do something else. How often I am like that!
Well, I didn’t try to control the dogs and make them stay in my lap because I was enjoying them–I let them go to do whatever dogs do! Reminds me of the picture here. As my shepherd, Jesus has his hand on me, loves me as a child and yet respects me as an adult and allows me to get down and run around when I think I need to do so.
As a child, I experienced issues of abandonment, abuse and co-dependence. But, reflecting on Psalm 23, Jesus meets into the deepest of these needs.
You don’t reject me
You don’t harm me or want to harm me
You don’t make me do the things I don’t want to do or should not do
You protect me
You love me
You bless me
I am full
I do not fear
I do not lack
Yahweh is my shepherd
Second post from John, writing the day before his wife died. Deeply moving.
L is resting more comfortably. She’s quiet, no longer speaking. The finish line is in sight and she’s fading from this life, preparing for the next. Her heavenly Father is standing at the finish line with open arms, the Holy Spirit is filling her with courage and the heart to complete the race well, Jesus is holding her hand leading her on cheering, “I am with you always.” He’s looking over His shoulder and has assured me that “I am with you always too!” There’s a comfort in my soul knowing He alone can heal my wounded heart and be the joy, love and courage I need for this last season of the race. The world feels like it is shaking and shifting. Be still my soul, take courage – your heart is anchored in the holy of holies in the presence of the Father, held safe and sure by Jesus.
Even if you do not consider yourself a leader, I think this one is for you. If you follow Jesus!
To be honest, I don’t think I handle criticism very well. As I have learned to let go of my need for control, I am better but I still have a long way to go. And according to Don Miller, if I am a leader, I better learn how to love my enemies because criticism is unavoidable. Miller writes
People who lead get criticized, period. You are being criticized because you have not been silent and you have not been passive and that’s a good thing. When somebody criticizes you, it’s a compliment of sorts. Passive people avoid criticism.
When you get criticized you are given the opportunity to show kindness in return, which is a character trait of some of the greatest leaders in the history of the world.
Here are a couple of passages which do not appear to be exclusively written for leaders!
- Matt. 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
- Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
Luke 6:35 But clove your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil
His post includes a cute little video on loving your enemy as well as a sermon by John Piper on loving our enemies.
Finished up Gary Moon’s Apprenticeship with Jesus: Learning to Live Like the Master. He has exercises at the end of each chapter and it is designed to be done in 30 days. I read through it but did not do all the exercises. Would be a useful tool to use with someone else. I enjoyed Moon’s concluding remarks. (bold print is mine). Moon is quite a fan of Dallas Willard and after reading his book, I want to go back and re-read some of Willard’s books.
The practice of an apprenticeship with Jesus means waking up each morning with the primary purpose of being with Christ while learning to be like him. It is learning to live more and more moments in awareness of the Trinitarian reality the kingdom of God all around.
But the main thing is not what to do but what not to do. We should not make entering into apprenticeship with Jesus complicated. . . how does a person become an apprentice of Jesus? By doing the next right thing with him, until eventually you observe him doing the next right thing through you.
When we are dangerously thirsty, we are vulnerable to any number of soul numbing temptations.
For what do we/I thirst?
What stimulates thirst?
Where do I go or what do I do when nothing quenches my thirst?
- Bury myself in work
- Distract myself with television/movies/internet/books
- Exhaust myself with exercise
- Stimulate myself with any number of adrenalin inducing activities
- Feel good about myself by helping others
- Forget about myself by sleeping
- Others—beauty, friendships, music, worship activity
Jesus said that our thirst can be quenched:
- “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. . . Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” John 7:37.
- “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall never thirst John” 6:35.
- “Where freedom is near, the chains begin to hurt.” Jurgen Moltmann
- “When we unashamedly preach true, holy and God honoring pleasure, the sordidness of sin, the foolishness of spiritual rebellion and the agony of addictions become shockingly apparent.” Gary Thomas
- “Hope in God for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 42
Question: How or why do we allow ourselves to get so thirsty that we are willing to drink poisoned water to quench our thirst?”
What do you like to drink on a hot humid day when you have been drinking outside?
Coke, water, iced tea, beer?
Which of these is best? Which is best to quench our thirst?
Why do we not drink salt water? Because it makes us thirstier!
When you are hungry, for what do you crave?
Ice cream? Pizza? Hamburger? Steak? Salad?
When you are hungry, you want something that fills you up, something that will not leave you hungry or that will not just stimulate your appetite for more (as I understand happens with sugar).
So what quenches your thirst for that “something more”? What fills you up when you are hungry for spiritual realities?
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. . . Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” John 7:37
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall never thirst John” 6:35.
Let us live “the glory of a truly soul-satisfying life instead of sounding obsessed about the dangers of a life lived foolishly” (Gary Thomas)
Why drink salt water or eat poison?
“. . . one of the fundamental spiritual facts of the universe, all of life happens in the present moment.” Gary Moon, Apprenticeship with Jesus 210
Amazed this morning by the statements about following Jesus in Luke 9:57-62. The first man says “I will follow you,” Jesus tells the second man, “Follow me” and finally the third man says, I will follow you.”
Passages opens up to me as follows:
Be prepared to follow Jesus 57-58
Don’t make excuses for not following Jesus 59-60
Don’t get distracted once you start following Jesus 61-62
Be prepared to follow Jesus 57-58
I love what the first man says, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Reminds me of an OMF book in which the author says we are to follow Jesus “wherever, whenever, however.” Interesting what Jesus says to the man, “Foxes have holes . . .” Is Jesus saying here to the man, “That is great but I want you to know that it is going to be hard. I want you to count the cost. It will be lonely and you may be isolated. Jesus spoke about counting the cost in a parallel passage about following him in Luke 14:28-32. Jesus tells us, “You don’t want to start to build a tower and not be able to finish or to go to war and not be able to win.”
Don’t make excuses for not following Jesus 59-60
I don’t fully understand what is going on about the burying the dead—have read a number of possibilities which are interesting. But, the bottom line, Jesus is saying, “Don’t make excuses for not following me.” Excuses abound. Here are just a few of the excuses I have heard about why people are not a missionary. Perhaps a better way to say this—why people are not living a missional life. I could never do that. I am not called. I don’t want to raise support. Maybe I will be a missionary when I retire, when my kids are out of college, when I get married. Bottom line: we will never be ready. Seems like it contradicts the first point doesn’t it? Sorry, I can’t help you with that. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think everyone should be a missionary. But we all should live missionally. Each of us needs to follow Jesus in the unique way he has gifted and called us. Jesus made it pretty simple in verse 59, “Go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Don’t get distracted once you start following Jesus 61-62
I really don’t like that little word “fit” in verse 62. It is the greek word euthetos, which means “suitable” or “useful.” It is only used three times, here and in Luke 14:35 and in Hebrews 6:7. When we are distracted, it renders us not useful for the kingdom—ouch! There are so many distractions that arise as we begin to follow Jesus. Some of the hardest words Jesus gives are related to our relationships with family members if we are going to follow him—see Mtt 19:29, Mk 10:29,30; Lk 14:26, Luke 21:16). Being back in America it seems a lot of distractions seem to revolve around money and work– retirement, job security, career advancement and family issues. I am not immune to these and a myriad of other distractions and am affected and convicted by these verses. To be honest, each time I am back in the U.S. for a length of time, I have a crisis in which God shows me how I am being distracted by stuff here and give me the grace to say, I don’t need it. Depending on Him to do that once again.
Which of the statements above speaks to you today?
What do we need to enjoy a rich, full life that is complete? Jesus said that those who are full and completely satisfied (Blessed) are those who have nothing, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven” (Mtt 5:2) As our Pastor Brian Fisher said in his sermon on this passage, it is the destitute, those who recognize that they have nothing who were (and are) attracted to Jesus.
Jesus was drawn to those who had nothing. “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Is 66:2). “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mk 2:17).
And so we come to God with empty hands, crying eyes (“Blessed are those who mourn,” mourn over what God mourns over), controlled power (“Blessed are the meek”, meekness being a strength that has been restrained for a greater good) and and and empty stomachs (“Blessed are those who hunger”). As Brian said, “Jesus did not go to the cross because he was powerless. He was meek and lowly, NOT weak and passive.”
But it all begins with a sense of desperation. Here is the first of the twelve confessions that Gary Moon mentions in Apprenticeship with Jesus. “I admit that I am powerless to fix the brokenness of my life on my own. My life has become unmanageable.” Yep, he has modified the twelve steps of AA.
Reading in Psalm 40 this week which made me think about this again. “As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, Oh my God” (Psalm 40:17)
To be continued
Reflections on Mark 1:21-28.
How is it possible
that the religious saw Jesus teach with authority
but failed to see his holiness?
When the unclean spirit
and obeyed the Holy One of God?
Why did Jesus become famous
in the countryside
when the miracle happened in the synagogue?
Was he not as much of a threat
to the religious
as he was to the unclean spirit?
And if the Holy One of God is present today,
why do I not see him
and keep silent in my obedience?
If you want to read more about the year and the day Jesus was born and about some of the historical events of that time, you may want to read Daniel B. Wallace’s article, The Birth of Jesus Christ on Bible.org. If you are not familiar with this site, it is one that could be quite useful. The folks at this site developed the NET Bible which I have used since it first came out. The NET Bible is a great study Bible. See for yourself. You can download it free here, can search online and download to your kindle and other bible software programs for a minimal price. Here is what they say about this Bible.
The NET Bible project was commissioned to create a faithful Bible translation that could be placed on the Internet, downloaded for free, and used around the world for ministry.
I like this post from Ray Ortlund about Mary pondering the message of the angels to the shepherds about her baby son in Luke 2:19
Following are a few reflections on John 9 as I thought about it over a few weeks. Nothing profound here but maybe it will stimulate something in some of you?
One of the first thing I noticed was that this guy is known as “the blind beggar.” No name is given, he is just the blind guy who sits and begs. That was his identity, just as I might talk about the “crazy guy” in our neighborhood, the “guy who lives under the bridge”, the “person who always borrows money” or the “needy ones.” There is a lot of discussion about his identity. Even his neighbors and friends can’t imagine that the man who now sees is the same person. “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg? . . No he only looks like him.” (9:8-9) The people seem to be in denial. In verse 9, the man tries to convince them, “I am the same man.” Well, not really—he is not really the same man since he has been healed but . . . So what do I take away from this. Our history is important but we are not defined or limited by our history.
Second point: Everyone wants to know the answer to a logical question—“who healed you?” They want to know what happened. Well, the man can only say that it was the man “they call Jesus.” Why is there no mention of rejoicing by the friends and neighbors? Are they also self-righteous and so take him to the Pharisees (9:9) since this act was done on the Sabbath? When he responds to the logical, “What happened?” of the Pharisees, they can only say (I imagine with a sneer on their faces), “This man Jesus is not from God” (9:16); he is “a sinner” (9:24) and he is someone without a heritage (9:29). Again no mention about praising God for the miracle that has just happened.
I can imagine today people saying that someone must not be from God. Not because they worked on the Sabbath but because they drank alcohol, went to the movies, have lots of non-Christian friends, like to dance, is known to sin, don’t read their bible, don’t like to go to church, use bad language, have tattoos . . . etc.
More thoughts from this passage: Christians would never stop going to church, take anti-depressants, see a counselor, be a P type of personality, be democrats, swear, enjoy sex, be competitive, not feel spiritual, not want to attend a prayer meeting, spend too much money, have too much money, make too much money, disagree with church leadership, listen to rock music, read Bibles other than the KJV, wear shorts to church, smoke, chew or go with girls who do, have addictions.
How could “a sinner have done such a thing? Well, today, we might say, “How could someone do a miracle that
- Is not one from our church?
- Has no degree?
- Is not ordained?
- Has no qualifications?
- Is too young?
- Is inexperienced?
There was a deep division here. They were looking for any indicators that would prove that God was not in this. In 9:17, they question the man and ask him his opinion about Jesus? When he says, “a prophet?” they attack his credibility. Then, they refuse to believe him. They confuse the facts. This story does not fit our paradigm. There must be a logical explanation. There must be some reason other than God has done a miracle. They were AFRAID, they feared the implications of the event and were ashamed and embarrassed. They were threatened.
When the parents were grilled by the Pharisees, it seems that they feared the anger of the Pharisees and the corresponding threat of expulsion from the community of faith. And so, fear seems to have overcome love.
When they interview the man for the second time, the Pharisees say that they want God to get the glory since technically a miracle did happen. But, they are thinking that there is no way Jesus did this. Sounds like they are projecting onto Jesus their issues. They accuse Jesus of taking credit for what only God can do. They attack the person when they call Jesus a sinner.
Most hilarious statement in the passage is in 9:27 when the man asks them, “Do you also want to be his disciple?” But then the pride breaks out! “We are the disciples of Moses.” They try to destroy the credibility of the man of Jesus by calling him a sinner.
Well, the sad truth comes out in 9:41, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty but you remain guilty because you claim to see.” The roles have been reversed—the Pharisees turn out to be the blind ones and the blind one is the one who is able to see.
In this first week of advent, we were challenged yesterday to come to Jesus for healing as we looked at Mark 1:40-45 and the story of Jesus healing the leper. Pastor Steve Ruetschle of Union Church of Manila led us through the passage, pointing to four ways the leper teaches us to approach Jesus. As soon as they upload the file, you can listen to the sermon if you are interested.
First, bring our brokenness to Jesus. “He came to him.” Imagine all the rejection the leper had experienced in his life! Lepers were to be avoided and the religious establishment led the way in rejecting them. As Pastor Steve pointed out, often rejection leads us to have a hardened heart? Yet this leper came to Jesus! How did he know that Jesus would show compassion on him. So, the first thing I need to do is to come to Jesus with my brokenness!
Second, the leper provides us with a model for faith. “If you are willing.” Unlike so many of us, the leper does not demand Jesus to heal him. Instead, he recognizes Jesus as Lord when he asks him if he is willing; he recognizes that Jesus is God, not us. Maybe this is one reason why does Jesus not always heal?
Third, the leper knew who Jesus was. “You can.” He recognized the power and energy of Jesus; he knew that healing power available in Jesus and was not afraid to ask. As Pastor Steve said, “Do we really believe this? Do we believe that Jesus has power and authority to heal today?”
Fourth, the leper came as a worshipper of Jesus. “He begged him on his knees.” As Pastor Steve said, “We often come to worship because of what it does for us,” as opposed to remembering that it is really all about Jesus.
The second part of the sermon focused on the response of Jesus to the leper. As Pastor Steve said, the fundamental response of Jesus was one of compassion in verse 41. It is that wonderful greek word, splagchnizomai. It is used 12 times in the NT (all in the synoptic), 8 of them describing the emotions Jesus felt that moved him into a healing ministry. The word was also used to describe how the father of the prodigal son felt when he saw him coming home and to describe how the Samaritan felt toward the wounded traveler by the road. Two things Jesus did.
First, he touched the man. Apparently in the context of the time of Jesus, this was an inconceivable act. Perhaps the aversion that many have to touching an AIDS patient would be somewhat similar although it seems the lepers had it far worse than do AIDS patients today. Mark is very deliberate here, “Jesus stretches out his hand and touches him. Another interesting verb here, hapto. Hapto is used of Jesus about 30 of the 37 times it is found in the NT. Jesus touches those who are unclean right and left, touches lepers several times, touched a woman bleeding, touched eyes, touched a tongue, touched an ear, touched a blind man, touched babies and children, touched a dead man and many touched him since, “All who touched him were healed.” (Mtt 14:36)
As Pastor Steve pointed out, Jesus risked his own health, his own reputation, risked being rejected by all because he would also be considered unclean according to the law. Of course, he touched the man before he was made clean. The question for us here is, “Do you believe that Jesus fastens (the word Pastor Steve used to translate the touch of Jesus) himself to you before you are clean?”
Second, Jesus restores social community. By giving the man a stern warning to present himself to the priest, Jesus was seeking to allow the healing to impact the community. Suggested passage to read is Levit 14. As Pastor Steve said, “Our healing affects the lives of others in our community.”
Finally, there is a picture here of the gospel according to Pastor Steve. Instead of the man roaming around in lonely places, the story ends with Jesus staying outside the camp in lonely places. Jesus became unclean so the man could become clean. Jesus takes on his rejection, his lonely places so that the man could be free and in community. The challenge for all of yesterday, for me and perhaps for some of you reading this, “Will you throw yourself on the compassion of Jesus?” And then, to complete the sentence, “Jesus, if you are willing, you can . . .”
May this encourage us all as we begin Advent! Thanks Pastor Steve!
Tongue in cheek reflections on the birth of Jesus, why we unwrap Christmas presents and why Santa Claus is so adored, from Malcolm Gladwell at Vanity Fair.
Maybe you have heard this before like me but it still is worth a listen if you need pumping up
As I read in Luke 22:40-44 and then in Matthew 12:46-50, I have tried to imagine how the words Jesus spoke sounded and how he looked! In Luke 22, he comes upon the disciples sleeping (exhausted from grief Luke tells us) after telling them to pray so that “they might not give into temptation.” He says in verse 46, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation.” Was he angry or frustrated? Trying to make them feel guilty or shame them? I don’t think so and I suspect the fact that I go there first reveals more about my failure to understand the love of God than anything else. I need help in understanding how Jesus may have responded to the sleeping disciples.
Second scene, Jesus is speaking and his mother and brothers want to speak to him in Matthew 12:46-50. This is relayed to Jesus in some way and his response is, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Again, I am trying to imagine the response of Jesus here to the crowd. There is no way that he was insulting or disrespectful towards his family. I think He was teaching that obedience brings an intimacy of relationship with God and others that often exceeds that of flesh and blood relationships. But, how did he say it? What did he look like?
I guess you could say that if it was important that Luke or Matthew would have told us. But, it is important to me. Jesus reveals what God, our Father in heaven is like to us. I want to relate deeply to the Jesus of the Bible, the Jesus who is alive today, and to my heavenly Father who cares for me. Sometimes past baggage seems to prevent that and that is why I need the input of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Thanks in advance.