Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Psalm 23 The Source

Take a minute and read psalm 23.  Then consider what it says, ponder the words and read it again.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:1-6 ESV)

This is a great passage used often to comfort people in times of loss.  That is such a great use of Scripture, I highly recommend that we all practice using Gods Word to comfort others.  Yet today I want us to be reminded about the Source.  It is The Lord who is the Shepherd, the one who " makes", the one who "leads", the one who "restores", the one who is "with me", who's Rod and staff bring "comfort".  It is the Lord who brings a sense of power and authority to overcome enemies and who brings blessing to those He leads.  The Lord Jesus is the Source in this wonderful text.

As the Source, the Lord is the focus.  The follower experiences what the Source does for them but the follower is not the focus.  The opening line of this Psalm has a lot of depth.  The Lord is proclaimed to be the Shepherd, the one who leads, guides, cares for, feeds and protects the sheep.  This opening continues with the words "I shall not want".  This declares that the more you understand that the Lord God is your Shepherd then you will not be in want.  This does not mean you will not have needs, the rest of the Psalm talks of the Shepherd meeting many needs, so this is different.  To not be in want, means that the follower trusts the Shepherd to meet their true needs and that other wants or desires will not be part of their focus.  Let me paraphrase the line to help us understand this.  

The Lord Jesus is my Shepherd; I will find my true needs met in Him, I will cast off my own selfish desires and wants because I am not the focus, I am not the source, and so I state with commitment and conviction that I will not be found wanting, I shall not want.

There is no guarantee for an easy life with every blessing that you want.  No to the contrary it is about the Shepherd knowing what you really need and never leaving you to fend for yourself.  It is not all green pastures and still waters, it is also about righteousness, the shadow of death, evil and enemies and how regardless of the difficulty of life the Shepherd is with you through it all.

So today as you pray, remember the Source, the Good Shepherd, Jesus.  Be reminded that He is the focus and our wants are not the focus.

Pastor Bruce

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Prayer during challenging times

It does not take much to see that we are in challenging times.  The whole world seems to be in some form of chaos.  Wars, terror, crime, abuse, human rights violations, oppression, hunger, racism, and corruption seem to be rampant problems.  So how do we pray?  When faced with so many problems how do we pray? Here are a few reminders that I have received lately regarding prayer that have helped and encouraged me.

Prayer is always a time of communion, conversation & commitment with God.  As you Pray be reminded of this even in the midst of horrid situations.

  • Communion - The deep reality that prayer is relationship based.  It is a key part of your relationship with God, in fact it is essential.  To take time to spend with the One who is the most important relationship you have is essential to your Faith.  This should include taking time to praise God for who He is as well as what He has done and will do.  This is also a great opportunity to ponder some Scripture like a Psalm and spend time in quiet reflection as you "listen" for what God has to say to you.  Some people may think that this idea about prayer is too "mystical" or "over-spiritual" but I believe it is important because our prayer time is not about us, our problems, our fears, our issues or our agenda, instead it is about drawing near to God and taking time with Him as He draws near to you.
  • Conversation - Part of prayer is the conversation.  This is where you interact with God about what is on your heart.  This is where you confess things that the Holy Spirit is convicting you of.  This is where you express your hopes, fears, concerns, desires, needs to the Almighty God who is the One who holds the answers.  This should also be a time where the concepts of communion continue, praise God as you express these things.  Take time to wait and listen between expressing your heart.  Fill your mind with the Scriptures as you meditate on what God is saying and doing in your life.
  • Commitment - You might find it odd that I have included commitment in this note about prayer.  Yet I believe that it is often overlooked in modern prayer.  Sure we talk a lot about commitment when someone is praying to receive Christ or become a Christian.  But as a disciple of Jesus, as a follower of His, we are to be ever growing and repenting so that we are conformed to His image.  Part of that is found in our response.  As you Commune and Converse with God then Commit, make Commitments regarding the things that are being understood.  It could be in regards to a change you need to make in relation to sin.  It could be a need to improve in an area of how you live your faith, like loving others or sharing the Gospel.  It could be a Commitment about a lot of things but do not run from the Commitments you know you should be making.

There are many other elements that we could look at that can help your prayer life but I just wanted to share these three that have been used in my life lately.  So Commune, Conversation & Commitment.  You need not ignore the chaos that surrounds us but it was never intended to become our primary prayer focus.

Draw Near to God - Seek Him and you will find Him.

Pastor Bruce

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Olympic Motivation?

We are well into the Winter Olympics as I write this.  I find myself pondering the reality of the life of many of these great athletes and how much they focus and train as well as the amount that they compete.  I find myself being challenged by this concept of their lifestyle.

Don't worry, sure I try to exercise and eat right but I am not going to be writing today about some new training kick I am on to become a great athlete.  Instead I have found myself being challenged about how we as Christians are to be like those athletes in our Faith.

We are to be training and equipping ourselves and one another to be able to walk well in our lives.  We are to receive strong Biblical instruction so that our minds are renewed and we are prepared to share the Truth of the Gospel to those we encounter.  We need to practice these things with others in the Church, fellowshipping well in the Love of Christ, sharing testimony of how the Gospel has changed us, praying with and for eachother.  We are also to compete, not against each other but with each other, it is a team event.  We compete together as we put this all into practice seeking to intentionally give the Gospel to the lost around us.  This means we need to apply our lives to this endeavor, it is not a simple religion or a one day a week go to church type of idea.  Instead this is a life commitment to be an active and radical disciple of Jesus.  

So I urge you to be one who truly loves Jesus as the Lord of your life, displaying that love in your obedience to Him and His Word.  Hold fast to the community of Faith, the local Church and serve the Lord together, not in a ritualistic and empty way, not in traditions that no longer have effect, but with a fresh view to engage the culture around us with the living Truth of the Gospel as taught in the Bible.  May we actively love others and serve one another as a display of what the Gospel does in our lives.  If Jesus died for your sins and mine, if we have repented of our sin and received forgiveness through His name and placed all our faith and trust in Him, then we are to live in thankful response to this great gift by following Him and His teaching.  Do what He says, read the Bible and go to a Bible teaching Church that holds to the True Gospel as its core.  Be a part of serving Him.  

For those who have made up their minds that they do not need to be a part of a local Bible believing Church and that they do not need to actively serve Jesus or talk about the Gospel.  Read John 14 and ask yourself "If Jesus said that those who love me will do as I have commanded" then do I really Love Jesus if I refuse to follow what He has said about His Church?  About His Mission for us to make Disciples to follow Him?  

May we take seriously the life we have been given and not loose heart but apply ourselves diligently to the task we have received.


Pastor Bruce