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Not to Worry

March 20th, 2017

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not be in want. (Psalm 23:1)

I heard a good sermon last night here in Milan, Italy, at the International Church of Milan, by Pastor Jim Albright, on this text.  Rarely does a day go by that would not become brighter if we would just remember this simple truth. He who has all power has promised us that He will care for us, and this simple truth should resolve our tendencies to worry.

Yet, sin being what it is, infectious, deep, troublesome, stubborn, still dampens our spirits. Our problems land on us like rain on a leaky roof, and they seep down, dripping through all the cracks and crevices of our lives, the untended places and unresolved things, to the deepest parts of our souls, pooling and stagnating there. A memory is all it takes to trigger a wave of worry that blocks out the sun in our eyes on any day. Something that happened long ago can conjure up in our minds all manner of doubts and worries.

So we need constantly to keep such verses before us, to put them there and to keep them there. We can never predict when a doubt will surface, when a fear will take our minds off of God’s benevolence and faithfulness.

Corrie Ten Boom wrote, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” Warren Wiersbe said: “Most Christians are being crucified on a cross between two thieves: Yesterday’s regrets and tomorrow’s worries.” Unresolved regrets feed into our worries and both rob us of the joy of the Lord. John Maxwell said: “The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up.”

We take responsibility by choosing what to think about - the faithfulness of God or the problems of life. Our minds must always make a priority to meditate on the positive blessings of God. It may seem chic and realistic to complain about life - “misery loves company” the adage goes - but it is far better to be reminded of God’s goodness in the midst of each day than to be obsessed with life’s unpredictable nature.

The soul that sings through its troubles chooses to do so out of its faith in God’s promises, and not simply because it has no sorrow. The Christian sees the hand of God active - forgiving our sins, feeding our souls, strengthening us in the inner most of our lives. Rather than obsessing over the problem we face, we would do better to anticipate the strength of God we will receive through the problem. What new thing will I learn about God’s amazing care for me through this new challenge? That is a question worthy of a Christian’s attention.

The scripture says:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:16-19 NIV)

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The Confident Life

July 23rd, 2015

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23:6

There seems to be two different types of response to Jesus, among those who hold Him in some esteem.

One is to respect Him and to admire Him, and to say all sorts of nice things about Him, and even to accept Him as One who blesses us, but to fall short of bowing before Him in utter humility of heart. These are the “sheep” that try to peer with the Shepherd, and such an attitude never truly results in the confidence of heart described here. I truly feel sorry for the people who fall here, they are those spoken of as “ever learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). And many think that they are wise in their attitude - wiser than others, most often. Despite their education, or perhaps on some level because of it, in the name of openness and exploration, or the educational process or the general progression of society, they see the Good Shepherd as less than He should be. They mistake curiosity for repentance, and whether or not they have true “saving faith” is a matter for God alone to resolve. I suspect that some do and others do not, but only God knows.

The other attitude is to come to Him in utter humility and faith, depending on Him and not on ourselves. Let’s be honest, to be in line with the truth of this psalm requires an attitude of repentance and faith. He is the shepherd and we are the sheep, and not His peers. As Psalm 100:3 proclaims:

Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

The one who believes, believes in Christ, not in some principle of character or of educational pursuit. We must come to Him as needy creatures and trust in Him as the Savior, Redeemer, Protector, and Shepherd. The heart that trusts in the Lord as the Good Shepherd, as the One who feeds, waters, guides, and protects His sheep, that is the soul that can say with confidence that God’s mercy and love shall always follow him.

To those who do come to Him in this humility, there is a new confidence of heart given, that nothing shall separate us from the Savior’s love. The other attitude hangs too tightly to one’s own wit, or to the cleverness of the sheep, and, as such, inevitably injects and inbreeds within the thought processes the attitudes of doubt and insecurity. Too many today come to say, “The Lord is my sheep, and I will correct his theology, and I will be a shepherd to his legacy.” And in so doing they forfeit the promise of this psalm.

Faith, if it is to be life-changing and truly biblical, must be invested in Christ totally, and not in ourselves. This is the faith Peter described when he said, “Lord, to whom else will we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). The sheep that keeps running off thinks that he knows more than the shepherd, or he does not trust the shepherd, and he remains in insecurity. The sheep that trusts the Good Shepherd rests in Him and rejoices in Him. He does not ask, “How far from the Shepherd may I run and still be considered part of the flock?” Rather he asks, “How close to the Shepherd may I come and stand and live?”

And this leads to repentance, cleansing, deeper faith, more love, greater devotion, confidence, and eternal joy. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7).

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