The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

   

Psalm 23  King James Version

   1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 

   2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 

  3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
  4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
  5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
   6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

THE LORD is my abba, Father, my dada, my daddy.  I can depend on Him.  I depend on Him like a child depends on his earthly father.  I can put all things in His hands.  
He likes me.  

Not just anyone is my shepherd, The LORD is my Shepherd.  He knows everything.  He has the character to always do what is right and best for me regardless of what it costs Him.  He is in charge, He is the one I belong to.  I want to follow Him and suffer for Him if I must because I know that in the end it will be best for others and for me and I will develop a fellowship with Jesus that I can’t develop any other way. Jesus will direct my steps… by obeying Him I will not be in want.

The Lord is my shepherd.  He will take care of me.  He will take care of my necessities.  He will guide me and he knows the way.  He is the Good Shepherd, He suffers condemnation so that His sheep will not have to suffer condemnation.

I will never lack any good thing.  I am like a tree planted by streams of water, whose leaf does not wither in drought.  God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, promise to give me everything I need.  I do not need to fear lacking anything at any time.  If I put God first, if I obey Him, all things I need will be given to me as well.  My primary source of worry – lack – has been taken care of by Jesus.

The Father is my Shepherd.  Shepherds love their sheep, at least this one does.  He loves and cares for me even when I am unaware of His work on my behalf.  He loves me when I am ungrateful, and when I thank Him.  Father, Thank you for sending Jesus to die for me when I did not deserve it.  Help me to love like You.  For the need of the other person.  Not just when I have loving feelings.

Lord, I love some people but I don’t like them.  How do you do it?  Do you love in the hope of someday the other person loving You back?  Is that what it means to dig around the plant and give it fertilizer and if it still doesn’t produce fruit then you cut it down?  Or do you have warm feelings toward those who seemingly reject Your love?

How can I be a better father to my sons?  What does it mean to be a better husband?  I want to be a husband like the husband in Alex Kendrick’s “Fireproof.”  I want to pursue my wife with my whole heart.  I want to take the “Love Dare”.  I want to be a father like Alex Kendrick portrayed in “Courageous” – not a “good-enough” father but wholeheartedly devoted to You and and my wife and my children  Oh Lord, light a fire in me that burns in devotion for You, my wife and my children.  Lord, I want to take this “Resolution” from the movie “Courageous” seriously.  You are my Rock, I have none other but You.  Fill me anew with your Spirit, make me fully alive.  Would You be the focus of all my thoughts, all my dreams and all my aspirations.  Lord, I want to Love You, but I don’t know how.  I want my heart and thoughts to be with You.  I want to have special conversations with You.  Would You speak with me the way You do with Dr. Charles Stanley of In Touch Ministries?

Lord, I am proud.  Help me to humble myself before You.

Lord, I want to be willing to do anything for You.

Leading by following? through Prayer?

1 It happened after this that the people of Moab with the people of Ammon, and others with them besides the Ammonites, came to battle against Jehoshaphat. …   3 And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.  4 So Judah gathered together to ask help from the LORD … [Jehoshaphat prayed,] 12 “O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” 13 Now all Judah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children, stood before the LORD. 14 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel … in the midst of the assembly.  15And he said, … “Thus says the LORD to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.  16 Tomorrow go down against them. …17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, 19 Then the Levites … stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel with voices loud and high. … Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Believe in the LORD your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.”  21… He appointed those who should sing to the LORD, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: “Praise the LORD, For His mercy endures forever.” 22 Now when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated.  23 For the people of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir to utterly kill and destroy them. And when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another. … No one had escaped.  2 Chronicles 20:1 … 24 (NKJV) 

But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.  Nehemiah 4:9, (NIV)

Jehoshaphat and Nehemiah depended upon on God through prayer to lead God’s people through possible life threatening disaster. Jehoshaphat obeyed God by not fighting but setting the singers ahead of the army praising God.  Nehemiah did what God said by continuing God’s work but posting a guard and being ready to fight.  It is important to remember that both of these leaders talked to and listened to God first before they led.  We lead by listening to and following God.  We listen by reading and meditating on Scripture and investing unhurried time in prayer. God is the leader, we are the followers.  Remember, you can’t take anyone else any farther than you have allowed God to take you.

God’s subtle tones of the sky by Jeremy McNaughton

How is it that giving money to those who need it makes me the happiest?

Where to run when there’s a storm by my son Jeremy McNaughton

In 2009 the internet took my job away at the local newspaper where I worked.  God used this time to show me that my god was money, not Him.  I trusted money.  I could tell my money what I wanted it to do for me.  But I was not aware that money was my master.  I made my decisions based on money, not God’s will.  I determined my limits by how much money I had, not by what God promised to supply.  But when neither my wife or I had a job, we were forced to depend on God.


And eventually, I felt free.

I trusted the One who provided for me because He loves me.  Money never made me feel loved.  When I trusted God to provide for my needs I felt like I had enough and if I didn’t have enough I asked Him for what I needed and He always provided.  With money as my god I always wanted more and never felt I had enough.
What got us through the time without jobs, what gave us confidence that we could depend on God to supply our needs, was we were obeying God and depending on His promises.  

Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things (food, clothing and shelter) will be added unto you. – Jesus, Matthew 6:33

Jesus is the King of the kingdom.  We get our righteousness from Him as our Savior.  If we have Jesus as our Lord and Savior He says in the Bible that He will provide for our needs.  We believed that and Jesus back up His promise and kept us supplied with the money we needed.  We gave God back 10% of everything we earned at that time and we continued to support the people and programs we donated to before.

But beware!  If you give to get you will never be satisfied, it’s just another form of greed.  But if you give money because you love the other person, you will be filled with joy and God will refill your empty hand so that you can give again.  That is fun!

And consider the additional blessings of considering the poor.

Blessed is he who considers the poor;
The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive,
The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.
And he will be blessed on the earth;
You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies.
The Lord will strengthen him on his bed of illness;
You will sustain him on his sickbed.  Psalms 41:1 – 3 (NKJV)


Will God really do all this?  Why don’t you try Him and find out?

Did Jesus love His enemies?

In Jesus’ day the Pharisees were politically powerful religious leaders.  Jesus called them hypocrites.  I don’t think they liked that.  I used to think that the Pharisees were the Bad Guys, and that I was like Jesus, one of the Good Guys.  I also thought Jesus and I were against the Bad Guys.  (Later I learned that I was one of the Bad Guys, I was just like the Pharisees but didn’t know it).  And I didn’t know that Jesus is against “sin”, not people.

Jesus cared about the Pharisees and told them He was the Christ, the Promised One they were waiting for.  He told them this while He hung from the cross, dying (and the Pharisees were mocking Him).  Jesus quoted the first line of Psalm 22, a Scripture that the Pharisees, who prided themselves on knowing the Scripture, would be familiar with. 

Matthew wrote:

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lamasabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46, NKJV).

Psalm 22, that Jesus was quoting, starts with:

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?  Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning? (Psalm 22:1, NKJV).

Hundreds of years before it happened, Psalm 22 also described exactly what the Pharisees would do to Jesus and say about Him.  King David wrote:

They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots. (Psalm 22:18 NKJV).

But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people.  All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, “He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!” (Psalm 22:6-8 NKJV)

Then Luke recorded what the Pharisees and Roman guards did to Jesus hundreds of years after Psalm 22 predicted their actions:

And they divided His garments and cast lots.  And the people stood looking on.  But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.” (Luke 23:32-35, NKJV)

Jesus cared enough about the people who were torturing Him and killing Him to reach out to them in a way they would understand.  He let them know “their Scripture” was being fulfilled before their very eyes.  He did this even though He knew that not many Pharisees would believe Him.

This was predicted in Habakkuk 1:5, NKJV:

“Look among the nations and watch – Be utterly astounded!  For I will work a work in your days, Which you would not believe, though it were told you.”

And in Acts 13:41, NKJV it was reiterated:

“Behold, you despisers, Marvel and perish!  For I work a work in your days,  A work which you will by no means believe, Though one were to declare it to you.”

(The Bible records that at least one Pharisee, Nicodemus, believed Jesus.  Nicodemus helped take Jesus down from the cross and bury Him after He died).

Jesus gave all that He is and proved that He loves everyone.  And that includes you.  The only question that remains is… what are you going to do with His love and forgiveness for you?

You can actively reject Him.  In which case you will die in your sins.  And then you will face Jesus, whose love and forgiveness you rejected, and He will, with His nail scarred hand, point you to the only place left for you… the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his demons.

You could ignore Him, make no decision for Him, and live your life independent of Him.  The problem with that plan is that “no answer” is the “answer no”.  This would be passively rejecting Him.

You could claim you didn’t know what to do.  But you’ve read too much to claim that.

Or, you could accept His love and forgiveness, give Him rightful control of your life every day and start a relationship and an adventure with the One Who loves you unconditionally and completely.  There will be opposition from satan and other people, to be sure.  But, Jesus has overcome the world, and you and the family of believers (the Church) will face every obstacle with Jesus by our side, and Jesus will be fighting for us.

God gives each of us the choice – to reject, ignore or accept – His free offer of eternal life with Him.  What will you choose?

Are the bad guys winning?

13 “You have said harsh things against me,” says the LORD. “Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’
14 “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty?
15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.’”
16 Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.
17 “They will be mine, ” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him.  

18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not. (Malachi 3:13-18 NIV84)

Do you ever feel like the bad guys are winning?  That you try to do what God says to do and things only get harder while the people that curse God seem to have all the money, all the luck, all the fun?  Take heart!  The story of history has not yet been completed.

God says that “you will again see the distinction… between those who serve God and those who do not.”  God says in this passage that the righteous will be spared and will be his treasured possession.

Elsewhere in the Bible God says that you will not envy the wicked when you consider their end.  They will be cast away from God’s presence forever, while those that love and serve God will enjoy His love forever.

So why does God allow the wicked to seemingly thrive?  God loves sinners.  Which is good news because I and you and everyone has sinned.  He wants everyone to repent and turn to His love.  And it is His kindness that leads us to repentance.  That’s why He is kind to the ungodly.  But He will not wait forever.  He said, Today is the day of salvation. Today, if you hear His voice do not harden your heart.  Now is the accepted time.  So if you don’t yet know Jesus, He is calling you right now.  Repent and invite Him into your heart today.  Tomorrow is uncertain, you really only have right now to decide, so choose the One who loves you and forgives you when you turn away from sin.

And if you love and follow Jesus do not be discouraged by the trials you have.  Jesus is changing us into His likeness.  God is treating us like sons and daughters when He disciplines us in love even though at the time it is painful.  If we persevere God will bless us with a heart that loves like Jesus loves.  And we will be loved by Him and love Him and love others and be loved by them… forever.


What’s your goal?

In managing ourselves traditional goal setting and accountability goes something like what follows:
  • If you want to be more effective take some time and think of what you want.  
  • If you want to be even more effective make sure what you want is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound). 
  • If you want to be still more effective write down your SMART goal. 
  • If you want the greatest chance of success, give a copy of your SMART goal to a trusted friend and give them permission to hold you accountable for doing what you said you want to do. Give them permission to ask you the tough questions necessary to get at the real reason for your success or failure at working toward your goal.

This is a great plan but how could it be better?  Steven Covey asks in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: What if the ladder you are climbing is against the wrong wall?  Applied to this essay: Why wouldn’t I want what I want?

If we lead ourselves, we are limited by our own finite intelligence, knowledge, wisdom,experiences and resources.  We can learn from others, and that would multiply what we have available to work with, but in the end even the largest group of people is finite.  What we need is someone to lead us who knows the way.  Someone who has experienced all the joys and all the trouble that we have and yet in all ways has been successful.  We need someone who knows the end from the beginning, who knows the grand scheme of history and the future and knows our personal, meaningful purpose in it.

That someone, I suggest, is Jesus.  He knows your pain.  He has in all ways been tempted as we are but is without sin.  He knows everything.  He is the Author of history; past present and future.   And He designed you and your meaningful, personal role to play in His story.  And He loves you enough to have died to purchase forgiveness for your sins.  He will tell you the best “wall” to lean against and the best “ladder” to climb.  So ask Him.  He said, you will seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all your heart.  So seek Him today, He is waiting for you.

Shouldn’t there be more to this Christian life? Sometimes I don’t even feel like I’m God’s child!

 The Bible says we are saved by faith and faith alone.  But, it has been said, it is a faith that does not come alone.  Faith is trust.  If someone tells me to do something, and I trust them, I do it.  If I don’t do it, then why didn’t I do it?  I suggest it is because I didn’t trust them.  If I don’t trust them I don’t have faith in them.  So faith or trust implies obedience and obedience implies faith or trust.  If I have one I have the other.  If I don’t have one I don’t have the other.  If I say I have faith (which can’t be seen), and I don’t have obedience (which can be seen), I am deceived.  Can I show you my faith by my refusal to obey Jesus? Or, can I show you my faith by my obedience to Jesus?

What does this mean practically?  Simply that if I believe I am going to heaven to be with Jesus because I made a decision to follow Him, or prayed a prayer that I believe in Him, or had an emotional experience AND at the same time my life is not gradually (or rapidly) radically changing from doing what I selfishly want to do, to doing what Jesus wants me to do, I need to do a reality check.  

Jesus said that reality is, “My sheep hear my voice and they follow Me.”  Now, I fail every day to perfectly follow Jesus.  But, I do sense an increasing dependence on, allegiance to, and obedience to, the One who gave up His life to give me mine.  Not that I can directly do this on my own.  My obedience grows with the help of, and amid an intimate love relationship with, God the Father and His Son Jesus through God the Holy Spirit. 

How do I develop an intimate love relationship with God?  Again, Jesus showed the way when He said, “My sheep hear my voice and they follow Me.”  To hear His voice I first need to learn to recognize His voice.  I do that by getting alone with Him and reading the Bible and obeying what I read.  If I obey what I read God will entrust me with more of His truth.  If I just read and don’t obey I deceive myself into thinking I am a follower of Jesus when I am not.  I also need to talk to Him and listen to Him through prayer.  What I “hear” God saying will never contradict the Bible.  If it does, even in the smallest way, it is not God speaking.

Then as I talk, listen, read, and obey I develop an intimate love relationship with the One who loved me first and loves me most.  And as I sense His love, my love for Him grows and my obedience to Him grows.  And I gain great assurance that I am God’s child, that He is my Father and that we are one in purpose. 


There is an old hymn that says it all, “Trust and obey, because there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.”