Sunday, September 25, 2022

The Lord is My Shepherd

We are going to be in Psalm 23 today.

Psalm 23 was written by David. He was most likely reminiscing of his days as a shepherd boy. This was most likely before he became king. David is realizing that what David was to his sheep, God had been to him throughout his life. What seemed to be a minuscule task that fell into the lap of the youngest son, David, turned out to be the very thing that God would use to illustrate the love He has for His people; including David.

Through out the Bible, God chose to reveal Himself to us as:

-    Creator

-    Judge

-    Father

-    Shepherd

Unless you grew up around livestock, you may not have a good reference of what a shepherd is. In order to comprehend the importance of God being a shepherd to us, we must understand sheep. Here are some interesting things about sheep:

-    Social animals: They bond closely with other sheep especially those that are related

-    Prey species: defenseless against enemy predators

-    Sheep stray away from the flock and get lost. They can easily get stressed and panic when they realize they have wandered away.

-    Sheep do not always know what is best for themselves.

-    Sheep need shepherding

As you can tell, we too are like sheep.

-    We think we know what is best for ourselves

-    We too have a tendency to stray away from the flock at times

-    Like sheep we get lost at times and find ourselves open to the attack of the enemy

-    Alone, we are defenseless against the enemy

-    Like sheep, we too need a shepherd

Understanding these things, let us dive in to Psalm 23.

God is a Personal Shepherd

v1 - “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want."

It says the Lord “is” my shepherd. God is a “present” shepherd. He is my shepherd “right now!” We don’t need a shepherd later, we need a shepherd now!

While God is a “present” shepherd, He is also a “personal” shepherd.

God is not only “a” shepherd, but He is “MY” shepherd. Just as God watches over the flock, God watches over me. He is our personal shepherd. A good shepherd knows his flock and each sheep individually. God knows His flock and He also knows you. A shepherd values his flock and values each one individually. God values you! If He is a shepherd to no one else, He is a shepherd to you. A shepherd loves and cares for his flock. In the same way he cares for his sheep, God cares for you.

David understood that a shepherd knows his sheep and sheep know their shepherd.

A shepherd was considered the lowest of all work. It was something that was handed down to the youngest of the family to be sure that it got done. Nevertheless, God calls Himself our shepherd. He watches over us and protects us. What the world considers worthless is what God considers to be valuable. God values being our great shepherd.

A sheep cannot survive on its own, regardless of what he thinks. We all need a shepherd. We need for God to watch over us and protect us and provide for us. Humility tells us that we need God. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” - Matthew 5:3

It also says that because the Lord is my shepherd, I “shall not want.” This implies that the shepherd supplies all of my needs. God knows my needs. God provides. Because He will provide my needs, I will not desire more than what He provides. God gives us what we need. The Lord hears our prayer. And the Lord knows what is best. We can trust in God as our personal shepherd.

God is a Peaceful Shepherd

v.2 - "He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters… He restores my soul.”

God knows what is best for us. He leads us to safe, quiet places for us to rest. God will provide peace, comfort, food, and water to drink. He will restore us.

It says that He restores my soul. God is in the business of restoration. Life can be draining at times. Financially, relationally, emotionally, mentally. Whether it be family related, work related, etc. Life at times can drain us. God wants to restore us. He leads us to quiet places where we can rest and trust in Him.

We must bring our needs to him in prayer.

God is a Guiding Shepherd

v.3 - “… He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake."

A shepherd is also a guide for the flock. He leads them down the proper path that goes in the right direction.

We are very familiar with this Scripture here. We have things called Google Maps! (or Apple Maps) We also have MapQuest. We also have the old handy dandy, can’t go wrong with, hope I know what I’m doing paper map!

Regardless of what you use, it’s a reminder that we need a guide in our life. We need someone who knows where they are going and how to get us there. God is our navigator. He is our GPS. He will help us reach our destination. That destination is righteousness, fruit. We may have to go through places we don’t want to go through in order to reach it, but we will reach our destination.

In no way am I saying that God makes us go through hardship. That is not true, that is false teaching. That is a lie. God does not make us go through hardship, but He does navigate us through it. He is taking what the devil meant for harm and is turning it into good for us.

God is your navigator!

In the same way, God guides us down the proper path in life. He is leading us down the correct road. It is one that produces righteousness in our life. We can trust in our guiding shepherd to lead us and guide us down the right path in life. Even when it doesn’t seem comfortable, God knows what He is doing. We can and we must trust God to lead us in the right direction. 

God is a Protecting Shepherd

v.4 - “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."

There are many things to be concerned about:

My job
My home
My health

My family
My circumstance

This is why it is called a valley; a low place. Have you ever been in a low place? Maybe you are in a low place right now.

The truth is that we all love the high place! We love the mountain top experience. We love it when things are good. But the problem is that we can’t go from mountain top to mountain top, we cannot go from high place to high place. It does not work that way. We must go “through” the valley to get to the mountain top. We may say, why can’t I just stay here where it’s nice and good? It is because there is something better. Life is good, life is also difficult and hard, but life also gets better. In order to reach the better, we must go through the valley.

Now, there is a good thing to know about the valley.

If we are in the valley, that means a mountain top is coming. What does that mean, that means things are going to get better. Nevertheless, we have to walk “through” it.

Shadow - A sheep would be afraid of a shadow in a valley because the sun would cast a shadow and the sheep would think it was night time. Because of this the sheep would not walk through. Nevertheless, it didn’t realize that it was only a shadow.

We too must know that our circumstance in only a shadow. It may look dark, but that is only because the Son is casting a shadow. Because God is bigger, stronger, and higher than what you are facing.

With me - Also, you are not walking through your situation alone; God is with you. David says that he need not fear because God was with him. God is with you in the low place. He has not left you and He will not leave you alone. He is walking along with you and guiding you one step at a time. God knows where he is going. He knows what He is doing. It may be difficult, but your shepherd will not leave your side. He will help you along the way. Therefore, we must focus on the shepherd. We must not lose sight of God in the middle of the situation. He will guide you through it.

A rod and staff were a shepherd’s weapon and tool. A staff was used to guide and help the sheep along their journey. He would use it to pull the sheep out of a ditch if they get stuck. A rod was different. It was a weapon. It was used to fight off an enemy animals to protect them. It was used to knock something over the head. This brought comfort to the flock as well as it brought comfort to David.

Similarly, God is protecting, guiding, and helping us along the journey, especially when we walk through the valley. Let it be a comfort to you that God is protecting you and helping you along the way. If you slip and fall, He is there to pick you back up, dust you off, and continue to guide you to the other side. Let your heart be comforted knowing that He is with you along the way. The rod and the staff let the sheep know that everything was going to be okay. Similarly, with God as your shepherd, everything is going to be okay. God is taking the situation, reworking it, and turning it into good on your behalf.

God is a Providing Shepherd

v.5 - “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

As David continues in the same vein of being in the dark valley, he paints the picture of the shepherd becoming a perfect host. He prepares a table for David for him to feast to his fill. This is not in the previous setting of green pastures and quiet still waters. This is still in the dark shadow of death. Even in the dark times, God is not alarmed. He is not concerned nor is He rushed. He prepares for us provision that is more than enough for us in the moment and for the journey ahead.

If a table being prepared in a dark valley was not enough, this is also in the presence of his enemies. As the devil seeks to destroy our life, God protects, preserves and repairs our life. God is not concerned or bothered by the enemies that encamp around you. They have no power over you as long as your shepherd is with you. They may cast threats, but their bite has no sting. You are safe and provided for in the presence of God your shepherd. God is filling your cup up to more than enough.

God is a Good Shepherd

v.6 - “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

The first word used here is very important. He doesn’t say “hopefully.” He doesn’t say “maybe.” He says, “fo sho!” He says SURELY! We can count on God doing His part. When the shepherd is involved in our life, “surely” goodness and mercy will follow me. Goodness and mercy are there to make sure I continue to follow the shepherd. They are guardrails to ensure that I don’t fall off the path. God’s goodness (blessing, favor, and kindness) and His mercy (forgiveness, love) will keep me close to the shepherd at all times.

Is the Lord your shepherd?

If he is your shepherd, are you following Him today?


I.         The Lord is your personal shepherd

II.        The Lord is your peaceful shepherd

III.      The Lord is your guiding shepherd

IV.     The Lord is your protecting shepherd

V.       The Lord is your providing shepherd

VI.     The Lord is your good shepherd


Have you made God your shepherd?

If you have not, you can do that today with a simple prayer.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Important Lessons from Mary & Martha

                         Today we are going to to be in the book of Luke chapter 10.

To give us some perspective of where we are in the life of Christ, we are about 5-6 months out from the crucifixion. Jesus has just finished his ministry in Galilee for the last time. Toward the end of chapter 9 and through chapter 10, Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem and is traveling down through Samaria, continuing His ministry. (cleansing of the 10 lepers, seventy-two sent out for ministry, parable of the good Samaritan, etc)

As they enter into Judea, where Jerusalem resided, Jesus and His followers stop in Bethany to visit the home of Mary and Martha. This is where we will pick up.

v38 - As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.

Mary, Martha, along with their brother Lazarus all were close friends with Jesus.  Jesus loved them and they loved Jesus. (John 11:3,5,36)

It seems that Jesus visited their home often. One could imagine Martha wanting everything to be perfect when He arrived.

Anytime Jesus showed up to their place, he most likely arrived with his disciples. That could have been anywhere from 12-72 people! (Jesus sent out seventy two disciples while in Samaria on their way to Bethany)

The village they lived in was a town called Bethany, which was a little less than 2 miles away from Jerusalem, where Jesus would go next.

v39 - She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lords feet listening to what he said.

Mary often spent time at Jesus’ feet. This was a posture of a student with their rabbi. A student would sit at their feet in a posture of humility and listen to every word.


While Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet, Martha was busy making all the preparations for Jesus and his entourage. The text gives no indication that Mary was being lazy or irresponsible of some sort. The opposite is more likely. Mary, more than likely, helped Martha with getting the preparations ready before Jesus arrived.


Nevertheless, what Mary valued in that moment versus what Martha valued seemed to be completely different. Mary valued spending time with Jesus, listening to His every word. All her thoughts and actions were in Jesus and what He said. She simply wanted to be with Him.

v40 - But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, Lord, dont you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”


Martha on the other hand spent all her time getting things ready for Jesus and His followers. Now, to be fair, this is exactly what Jesus asked for. Jesus most likely sent one of his disciples ahead to let them know He was coming so they could be prepared.


Nevertheless, the scriptures specifically say that Martha was “distracted” by all of the preparations. This means that her work and preparation got in the way of what was important.


Martha valued what she could do for Jesus. She wanted to please Jesus with how hard she was working for Him. All of her thoughts and actions were busy trying to earn the approval of Jesus.


However, it got to the point to where she was wanting Jesus to condemn her sister Mary for not helping Martha “do" what she was doing.


A moment that was about Jesus being in her home quickly became all about Martha and all the work she had put in, along with what Mary was not doing. It became about Mary not valuing the same thing that Martha valued.


What would make Martha go up to Jesus and get Him to tell Mary what to do?

Frustration? Anger? Resentment?

What would cause her to have these feelings?

Why didn’t Mary have these feelings?

Why didn’t Mary have these thoughts?


One reason could be their temperaments. Martha could have had a temperament that caused her to worry a lot.


On the contrary, it could have been deeper. Maybe this was more about where she drew her value. It is possible that Martha drew her value from what she could do for Jesus (performance) while Mary drew her value from Jesus Himself (grace).


Mary’s value was tied to Jesus himself and every word that came from His mouth. Where Jesus was, she was. Mary understood that her value was “in” Christ. Her value, significance, security, acceptance, approval, joy were all wrapped up in Jesus. In other words, her identity was “in” Christ.


You may have heard this term before, “in Christ.”

Paul uses it often when describing the position we hold through our salvation.


2 Corinthians 5:17 - “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”


Romans 3:24 - “[We] are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus


Romans 8:1 - “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.


Romans 6:11 - “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.


What does it mean to be in Christ?


In Christ means to be “hidden” in Jesus.


Galatians 2 explains it well:


Galatians 2:20 - “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”


In other words, our life and “who we are” is placed inside of Christ. We are hidden from the world’s way of doing things and the world’s way of thinking. The world is out there and we are here in Christ. Our former way of life is out there and our new way of life is here in Christ. Out there, we are exposed and subject to God’s wrath toward sin. In here, we are covered by the blood of Jesus and by the grace of God. In Him we are justified as if we never sinned. In Him we are new creatures.


Our new life is hidden in Christ, along with our identity. Before Christ, our identity was found in what we do, family expectations, our performance at work, etc. Nevertheless, in Christ, our identity is not in these things, but from the work He did on the cross.


In Christ we are:

     New - We are no longer defined by our past but by our future in Christ

     Forgiven - It’s no longer about what we did but what He did

     Loved - Not for what we do but for who we are

     Chosen - Not due to our accomplishments but what He accomplished

     Secure - Not because of our position in life but our position in Christ

     Significant - Not for how important we are but how important Christ is

     Accepted - Not because of what we can do but what He did

     Valued - Not for what we bring to Christ but what for what Christ brings


Our identity can never be wrapped up in what we do but rather who we are.


If our value is tied to our performance then we will always find ourselves frustrated and upset as Martha was. Why? Because we will always fall short. Nevertheless, if our value is found in Christ then our confidence can never be shaken. Why? Because our position in Him will never change.


Performance based identity is about perfection, which is impossible. We can never be perfect enough, therefore we will always fall short. Our confidence will fall short, security will fall short, significance, etc, we will always fall short.


Grace based identity is about being perfected in Christ. It’s not about doing, rather what is already done. It’s not about who you can become, rather who you are. Grace is the unmerited favor of God, meaning that we don’t deserve it. It is the gift of God. In the same way we cannot earn our salvation, we cannot earn our value.


While Martha was working to earn her validation, I believe Mary worked from a place of validation (was already validated). While Martha worked to be valuable, Mary worked understanding her value. As we serve Jesus, we must do so understanding that we have already been validated. Our value is not determined by what we do or lack thereof. Rather our value is found in Christ and His finished work on the cross. Our value is found in the gospel!


The gospel is not only for tomorrow but also for today.

The gospel is not only for our future day but also for our current day.


How do we walk in our true identity in Christ?


v41-42 - Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”


Abiding in Christ.

John 15:4-5

“4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Abide = To Stay


It means to live; to continue in. It means to keep on keeping on. To remain unchanged. Other translations also use the words remain, which has the same idea.


Mary stayed at Jesus’ feet. She remained there. She continued to stay with Jesus. Mary abided in Jesus. In other words, she spent time with Jesus.


Just as Mary did, we must spend time with Jesus. We must carve out time and invite Jesus into our home. We must sit at His feet and glean from Him through His word. Serving is good, and it is what Jesus wants us to do. In fact, Jesus expects us to do so. Jesus sent word that He was coming to their home, which gives the idea that He expected Mary to help get things ready. Nevertheless, when Jesus walked into her home and began to speak, Mary sat at His feet and allowed herself to be filled up. In the same way, we too must be careful not serve God in place of spending time with Him. Nothing can take the place of spending time with Jesus.




1.      Your identity is found in Christ

2.      Jesus gives grace in your lowest moments

3.      Nothing else takes the place of spending time with Jesus


Monday, September 19, 2022

Living Worthy of the Gospel

 Today we will be in Philippians chapter 1.

The book of Philippians has its name as such because it was a letter that was written to the Christian church in Philippi. For those that it may interest, the city of Philippi was named after King Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. It was a prosperous Roman colony, meaning that the citizens of Philippi were also citizens of Rome. It was also served as a Roman military outpost, therefore many of the Philippians were retired military men who served as military presence for the city. This may be a reason why there were not enough Jews to permit the establishment of a synagogue in the city (needed at least 10 Jewish men in order to institute). The earliest mention of Philippi is found in Acts 16. I encourage you to take some time to read it.

If you found Philippians 1, let’s begin reading in verse 27:

Philippians 1:27-29 NLT

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. Dont be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.”

This letter was written to the church in Philippi, to believers who Paul clearly was in close relationship with. These were faithful Christians who loved Jesus. Nevertheless, they were also the targets of people who opposed the gospel.

Paul encouraged the Philippian believers to live in a “manner worthy of the good news,” In other words, he was encouraging them to live their life in such a way that unbelievers would see God’s love through them. Not to allow the culture and customs of the current day to creep into their life and give reason for those outside of the faith to discredit them in any way. Instead, he encourages them to be obedient to the word of God and walk out their faith in Christ.

Similarly, we too should live our lives in a way that is worthy of the cross. People should look at us and see the love of Jesus. Let us work hard not to allow ourselves to fall back into our former ways of life, but do our best to please God. The only way to do that is through Jesus! We must rely on Him.

As Paul encouraged the church, he understood that this was not going to be without consequence. There were those who opposed the gospel and made it their mission to bring about trouble for the church in any way possible. There were false teachers who desired to cause division within the church. This is one reason Paul encourages them to “stand together with one spirit and one purpose,” and to “fight together for the faith, which is the good news.” Division was trying to break up the church, but Paul encouraged them to stand strong together.

It is no different today. The devil is still trying to cause division in the local church. It is not worth hurting someone or breaking fellowship with other believers just to be right. Our political opinions have no place when it comes to unity. Let us put our disagreements aside and focus on what truly matters!

Paul kept their focus on what was important: living a life that was pleasing to God. Nevertheless, this did not come without cost. It was a rare occurrence for someone to not be persecuted for choosing to follow Christ. Deciding to follow Jesus meant you were rejecting the culture, customs, and any gods associated of that day. Knowing this, Paul encourages them to not be “intimidated in any way by their enemies.”

He encouraged them not to be afraid of the opposition. The truth is that the early church in that time did indeed face hardship for following Christ. What kind of hardship did they face?

-      In Acts 16: Paul and Silas were scolded, criminalized, beaten, flogged, and falsely imprisoned. This is how the church in Philippi began.

-      The Philippians were also persecuted by unbelievers outside of the church. In Acts 17, Paul and Silas ran out of the neighboring town of Thessalonica by angry Jewish zealots. They pursued Paul even as far as Berea which was approximately 45 miles (Acts 17:10-13). Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that these same Jews, or others like them, also caused trouble for the church in Philippi, possibly even pitting the local government against them as well.

-      Also, any and every believer was subject to being criminalized, scolded, arrested, beaten, imprisoned, and possibly even killed for their faith. This was a pattern we see in the book of Acts with Paul, the apostles, and other men of faith who shared their faith publicly.

While all of this was a reality for Christians a little under 2000 years ago, it is still a reality for believers across the world today. In places like India, Nepal, China, and others, Christians experience hardship of many kinds. According to Open Doors USA’s 2022 World Watch List report, in the last year:

-      Over 360 million Christians live in places where they experience high levels of persecution and discrimination.

-      5,898 Christians were killed for their faith

-      5,110 churches and other Christian buildings were attacked

-      4,765 believers were detained without trial, were arrested, sentenced or imprisoned.

This is today! These are brothers and sisters in Christ who believe in the same God. What was a reality a little under 2000 years ago is still a reality today.

Now, if believers in many parts in the rest of the world are facing this kind of hardship today, what kind of hardship do we as the church in America face? In the grand scheme of things, we MAY:

-      Be opposed by unbelievers

-      Not be accepted by certain people or family

-      …That’s about it!

While we are not persecuted for our faith in America:

-      We do have freedoms that Christians in other countries do not.

-      We do have resources that Christians in other countries do not.

-      We do have opportunities to make a difference for the kingdom that Christians in other countries do not.

In other words, we as American Christians have been strategically positioned by God.

We must realize that we are fighting the same battle as those being persecuted on the front lines. We are just as important.

If God can get His people to live in a manner that is worthy of the gospel, to stand together with believers all around the world to fight the good fight of faith, and play our role in God’s kingdom, He can do even more with the gospel around the world. He can:

-      Build more churches

-      Raise up more pastors & preachers

-      Raise up more orphanages

-      Provide more food and clean water

-      Etc

All of this for the sake of the good news!

So, how should we receive and apply this message for today?

1.        Conduct Yourself in a Manner Worthy of the Gospel

a.        Conduct = To live as a citizen

b.        In other words, Paul was encouraging the Philippians to live as good citizens of the kingdom of God while living here on earth.

c.         Let us live in a way that people may see God’s love through us

2.        Realize Your Position in the Battle

a.        Do not lose perspective

b.        Be thankful for the role you play

c. Remain vigilant

3.        Embrace Your Freedom as Opportunity

a.        Utilize your freedom to make a difference

b.        With much freedom comes much responsibility (Luke 12:48)

4.        Stand Strong with Believers on the Front Lines

a.        Pray for the believers around the world facing hardship & persecution