Avoiding the Legos

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Walking in a dark room can be a dangerous undertaking, especially in my home; one filled with toys from a 2 year old and an 8 month old. I have learned the hard lesson to never take for granted safe passage through our dark living room. I either use my smart phone or activate the screen on my Fitbit to cast just enough light to guide my path.

[In case you’re wondering why I don’t turn a lamp on – my little girl’s room is right off the living room with only French doors and a curtain to keep the light out]

And to travel through this dark world without the light of God’s Word is also a dangerous undertaking; but for far worse reasons than simply stubbing your toe or stepping on a Lego. God’s Word lights the path of righteousness that we are to walk .

“You lead me in paths of righteousness for Your name’s sake”
(Psalm 23:3)

For when darkness descends upon us, Satan is going to be quick to be a false guide to lead you away, or worse yet ~ Your adversary, the Devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour(1 Peter 5:8) It’s only the light of God’s Words that is going to reveal Satan’s evil schemes to deceive you (or devour you).

I can think of a few times in my life when darkness descended upon me but the Spirit led me to the light of God’s Word:
~ After our failed adoption I was lead to the Psalms (lament and praise)
~ After the Charleston shooting last week I was lead to 1 Corinthians 15:54-57.
~ After a rough morning with my 2 year old I was lead to Matthew 4.

God’s Word was indeed a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
God’s Word shined a light on the prowling lion waiting to devour me.
God’s Word shined a light to keep me on the right path when the path of bitterness seemed like a good way.
God’s Word shined a light on the righteousness won for me through Jesus.
God’s Word shined brightly in the darkness to cast away my fears.

So never think you know how to navigate dark times. Just because you may have been there before, never take for granted that you know the path. It’s in that complacency that you will step on the proverbial Lego and turn away. Activate the light of God’s Word in your life to avoid stepping on those Legos as you follow the path of righteousness no matter how scary the path may look; trusting God’s Word and not your fears.

Holy God, I am in awe that you would give us Your holy Word. May we use the light of Your Word to guide our way and trust the path that is revealed. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Panting and Longing (Psalm 42:1-2)

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Oh God, this world makes me weary and tired;
physically
emotionally
mentally
spiritually
And when I feel like I am just scraping by I long for something to quench that which is lacking in me.

I long to be satisfied.
I long to be quenched.
I long for You.

But why only then? Why not when I feel full and satisfied and charged? Why not then, oh God, why not then? I loathe the fact that my sinful self leads me to complacency when I feel full.

But then there are times when I am lacking that,
I seek other waters
I seek other streams
I seek other wells
and they fail to do what they promise.

Oh how foolish I am.

But You, oh God, do not fail in what You promise. You are a faithful God. You are a faithful God to give to Your children as they need. When we are lacking, you provide.

May my heart pant for you as a deer pants for flowing streams.
May my heart thirst for You.
May my soul wait for You.
May I live for You.

Oh God, this world makes me weary and tired; through my faith in Jesus Christ, when shall I come and appear before You? When shall I lie down in those green pastures and walk beside those still waters? When shall my soul be restored? When shall my cup runth over and over and over and over…

When shall I dwell in Your house forever and ever.

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so my soul pants for You.

Father God,
sustain this holy longing in me for You;
sustain my thirst for You alone;
sustain my faith and trust in You. Amen.

[pant, pant, pant…]

The Pastor -|—

Evening prayer ~ The Good Shepherd

Oh God, my Good Shepherd, as I wind my body down and reflect on my day, I can’t help but echo the sentiment of the beloved psalmist:

Oh Lord my Lord, you are my Shepherd and therefore I do not want; for You make me lie down in green pastures and You lead me beside still waters.

You restore my soul.

You lead me in paths of righteousness for Your name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, (and this I do every day), I fear no evil, for you are with me (what a wonderful feeling that is). Your rod and your staff? They comfort me for I know that my life is in Your hands.

Oh Lord my Shepherd, You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies and you anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows and overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy and love and compassion and grace shall follow me all the days of my life, and because of Jesus, I shall dwell in Your mansion forever.

Thank You, Shepherd God, that through faith in Jesus I can confidently pray this prayer.

So if it be Your will, bring my life through this night and protect me from the evil one, and awaken me to a new day filled with Your abundant blessings. 

All praise to You, oh God, the great Shepherd of the sheep. In Jesus name I pray,

Amen!

The Pastor -|—

Praying scripture

The following is a prayer based on Psalm 23 that I wrote for a funeral; a prayer I prayed before preaching the message:

O Lord, you are our shepherd, therefore we shall never be in want; for you make us lie down in green pastures, you lead us beside quiet waters and you restore our souls. Thank you, Oh God. We ask now that you may guide us in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake; for we want to give you praise and glory.

But during this time of mourning, Oh Lord, it feels as if we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death.  We ask that you may comfort us with your presence, keep us from fear and protect us from the evil one.

May we feast at your table in complete peace and comfort and security as You anoint us and fill our cups to overflowing.

Oh Lord our God, thank you, for your goodness and love follows us all the days of our lives, and through faith in Jesus Christ we are confident that we will dwell in Your house forever.

Amen.

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Don’t get me wrong here.  I am not trying to re-write scripture.  I just enjoy praying through scripture and using scripture to give my prayer a voice…and what better place to do this than in the Psalter.

When my wife and I were freshly grieving our failed adoption I immediately started reading in the book of Psalms.  I found those places where the psalmist was crying out to God; asking how long; wondering where God was at.  I was thankful that the psalmist gave me words to pray as I “borrowed” his words.  I was also thankful for the reminder that God is faithful. The psalmist may have been crying out to God but he usually ended with words of praise for God. I need those words too…so I “borrowed” them as well.

What a great diversity in the book of Psalms. No wonder Martin Luther called the Psalter a “little Bible”.

So…if you need some words for your prayer today…try the book of Psalms. If you don’t needs words right now…go to the Psalms anyway. You will need them eventually.

Praise be to God!

The pastor -|—

Just shut up and follow

I have been doing some pondering this week about what it means to be called.  The Gospel text for this Sunday (Jan 22) is Mark 1:14-20.  Here Jesus is walking along; encounters some guys and simply says “Come, follow me”.  And these rabbi school rejects drop everything to follow Jesus.

They leave behind a somewhat stable income.
They leave behind a place to live.
They leave behind family and friends.
They leave behind their careers.
They leave behind their comfort zones.

Just like that they go and follow Jesus.  No argument. No negotiating.  They go and follow Jesus.  At least some of those characters in Old Testament tried to object:

I’m too young. (Jeremiah)
I’m a man of unclean lips. (Isaiah)
I don’t speak so well. (Moses)
We’re too old. (Abraham and Sarah)

That sounds more like me.

But God has a response for those excuses and so they follow…and God is faithful…and God accomplishes what God set out to do through them.  As if there should have been any doubt.  God is awesome and God knows what he is doing.

If that be the case (and it is) why do I think I can offer up an excuse for why I can’t or shouldn’t follow?  Do I really believe I can convince God that He made the wrong choice?  Do I really think I can talk God out of what God has in mind for me?  Do I really think that God doesn’t know me better than I know myself?

Silly man!

So whatever excuse you have used to not follow God…throw them out the window.  They’re no good.  When God says “Follow” simply recall to mind Psalm 23 “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” .

Think also of Jesus’ promise from Matthew 28 “…and lo, I am with you even to the very end of the age.”

When God commands you to follow, God is not going to leave you stranded.
When God commands you to follow, God will not leave you orphaned.
When God commands you to follow, God WILL do amazing things through you.

So just follow.
Stop the arguing.
Repent and preach the Good News of Jesus Christ died and risen FOR YOU.
And then…watch the fireworks…praising God always and forever.

Amen!

edh -|—

Sheep and THE Shepherd

The Gospel text for Sunday seems like a piece meal deal that cuts out a major story (The Feeding of the 5000).  But before we get too excited, the Feeding of the 5000 account is picked up next week when we begin a 6 week stretch in the Gospel of John.  This stretch in John starts with the feeding story and then a series or texts that talk about Jesus as the Bread of Life.  We will deal with that more in the coming weeks…but back to sheep and the Shepherd.

This Sunday, Jeremiah mentions the shepherds who have scattered God’s sheep and God’s response to their irresponsibility.  The Psalm is Psalm 23…”The Lord is my shepherd…“.  The second lesson is from Ephesians 2.  It doesn’t talk about sheep and shepherds specifically, but some correlations can be drawn.  The key verse that jumps out to me here is 2:19 “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, with Jesus Christ himself as the chief cornerstone.”  And then the Mark text from chapter 6 has people flocking to Jesus.  And even though he and the disciples are trying to get some R & R, Jesus has compassion on the people “because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  So he began teaching them many things.”  Lots to deal with here.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I still haven’t totally figured out what I am preaching on yet (actually I should say that the Holy Spirit hasn’t revealed it to me yet).  But here are some thoughts I am pondering (at least until further notice):

(1) “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” (Jer. 23:1)
–As people who know the truth of God through Jesus Christ, we have an amazing responsibility.
–God WILL bring all his sheep back under one righteous King (referring to Jesus).
–God has a heart for “sheep”.

(2) Psalm 23…”and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  Picking up where Jeremiah left off.

(3) Ephesians…God’s gift of salvation is for ALL people through Jesus Christ.

(4) As “sheep” we all need a shepherd.  But as we see from Jeremiah, we need to be aware of what shepherd we are following.  There is only one GOOD Shepherd.

Those are just a few things I am pondering and I am sure others will pop up today.  So with that I ask you:
What preachable moments are you seeing in the texts?
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 23
Ephesians 2:11-22
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

As a lay person sitting in the pew (and I know there are a number of you out there reading this…and many who are here in Jackson) what do you need to hear…right now…in this place?

What does it mean for you to be considered “sheep” and that Jesus is our “Shepherd”?

Until next time, happy scripture reading and have a blessed “sheepish” day following our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

Praise be to God!

-edh-