“Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.(background of parables)” “So He told them this parable, saying,”What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
Sheep aren’t the smartest of animals. They can be spooked easily and if their wool gets out of hand they can get stuck just by falling over. It’s very fitting that we are compared to sheep. We don’t always make the wisest decisions, but if we would just follow the shepherd we would never have a problem.
There are numerous ways that we can become lost, but many times it is due to our own ignorance. Just like a sheep. We become a meal for the devil the second we leave the protection of the shepherd. God’s love for the lost is something that is truly inspiring.
Animals tend to have a wandering nature about them. We are no different in that sense. We want to wander and explore. But it can be eternally damaging if we lose our soul in the process. So many different kinds of sins can peak our interest or get us curious. But Satan has been tempting Christians for 2000 years. He knows what works. He knows how to get a Christian to wander away from the shepherd. But it happens. People do fall away.
Thankfully that isn’t the end of the story. The shepherd longs for his sheep to return. He goes out and finds it, and when he does he’s joyful! God rejoices over our returned souls! Do we understand the pain we cause God when we fall away? Each one of us has the personal choice to make, Will I please God? Or will I break His heart? Many people have chosen to desert God. We must imitate the Father in loving those who have gone astray. We must show the same concern that this shepherd had for his sheep.
The fear I’m talking about is not the kind that tells us be cautious or keeps us from harm, it’s the kind that fills our hearts and minds with doubt, apprehension, and anxiety. When this fear keeps us from doing things that please God, things that he expects from us and commands of us, it is a big deal.
When preparing for this I was given the advice that we should speak about things we are familiar with. I say that because fear has kept me for a long time avoiding opportunities such as this. I have never given a devotional before tonight. It is because of that Fear I mentioned. This type of fear convinces us of things that aren’t true. It convinces you that you’re not good enough to get up here and speak. You are not qualified or educated enough to speak to a group of people; you care too much about what people think of you and the things you say. It convinces you that you are terrible at public speaking, you won’t speak well, or say the right things. This is my personal fear, but all of us here tonight deal with fears that keep us from doing what God wants us to do and what pleases him.
A great biblical example of this is:
Moses, in Exodus 3: 8-10 when God called him to go lead Israel out of Egypt and speak to pharaoh.
In vs 11 you can tell he is afraid because he says, “who am I that I should go to pharaoh and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” God is quick to reassure Moses “I will certainly be with you.”
He continues in chapter 4:1 to make excuses to God “what if they will not believe me or listen to my voice” So, God sent miraculous signs to help convince the people.
In 4:10 he basically said I can’t speak “I’m not eloquent, I’m slow of speech and slow of tongue.” So, God reminded him who made man’s tongue, have not I?! He then said He would be his mouth and teach him what to say.
And finally in vs 13 he even asked the Lord to send someone else. We should never get to this point.
We should always look to God, put our faith and trust in the Lord, because fear is not from God. He is a God of love and fear does not have to consume us.
We should always trust in God when we are afraid. If we draw near to God, he will cast out that fear. In Isaiah 41:10, God reassured Israel – “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand”
II Timothy 1:7 reminds us that “God gave us a spirit NOT OF FEAR, but of power and love and self-control”.
“I will never leave you nor forsake you. So, we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” in Hebrews 13: 5-6
Ultimately, we can’t let fear keep us from doing what God has commanded of us – we are to go into all the world to spread the gospel with everyone. How can we do that if we carry around the burden of Fear.
In closing tonight, I want to ask each of us to think about what gets us out of our comfort zone when it comes to doing the will of God? Is it speaking to someone about Christ? Is it inviting our friends or co workers to come to worship service with us? Maybe having a Bible study with a complete stranger? Perhaps leading a devotional for the first time, or maybe leading singing.
Whatever those things are, we should set aside our fears, put our trust in God, let our hearts be full of Love, not Fear. We should be on fire for God as Jeremy said last week. We as Christians are capable of much more than we realize but how will we ever know those capabilities if we are too afraid to try.
Philippians 4:13 doesn’t say I can do some things….it says I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.
How amazing is it that we serve a God that loves us so much, and says he will always be with us, that he will never leave our side. He tells us time and time again we have no reason to be afraid.
(From Travis’ first-ever devotional delivered at Lehman on Wednesday night, 2/16/22)
There are days when one must turn off the news and go to the prayer closet. Current events sometimes make us uneasy, and the “if-it-bleeds-it-leads” type of yellow journalism permeates the twenty-four-hour news cycle. And while I sit here and write, the big story is the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Putin’s pretense is that Ukraine is committing genocide against the “ethnic Russians” living in Ukraine. There has been no evidence produced supporting this claim, of course, but there is evidence that pro-Russian militants have committed crimes, some violent, within Ukraine.
In 2014, for example, Pro-Russian militants seized the building housing the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Ukraine in Horlivka. Armed men gave the brethren of the congregation assembling in the same building as the Central church of Christ three hours to remove those contents from the building the members wanted. Thankfully, no one was injured.1 But as I think of the location of the current branch of the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Ukraine2, about 50 miles southwest of Kyiv, I cannot help but be concerned for my Christian brethren impacted by the specter of war in Ukraine. After all, Russia has already bombed the Ukrainian capital.
Then there are the less important factors than human life that produce potential anxiety. For example, what is going to happen to the price of petroleum? Authorities say it is going up. WSB in Atlanta reported that “experts” believe that the sanctions placed on Russia will cause gas prices to increase to a national average of $4 a gallon by March or April.3 Higher gas prices lead to higher transportation costs, which causes the costs of goods to increase. In a country already hit by the highest inflation in 40 years, we might view such painful side effects from trying to rein Putin as too much.
Plus, one wonders if we now hear the renewed drumbeats of global war. Some pundits lay the blame for this at the feet of the current U.S. President, whom they claim looks weak to foreign leaders. Thus, neither Putin nor Xi Jinping may refrain from acting upon imperial ambitions. Ukraine is one thing, but what if Putin desires to reconstitute the former Soviet Union? Eventually, that would mean that Putin would invade a NATO country. We would be obliged by treaty to intervene.
Meanwhile, soon after Putin invaded Ukraine, nine Chinese fighter jets violated Taiwan’s airspace.4 This is not the first Chinese incursion into Taiwanese airspace, but the timing is unsettling. China still believes that Taiwan belongs to China. Since 1954, we have been in a bilateral treaty with Taiwan.5 Therefore, if China invades Taiwan, we would be obliged to respond to China’s actions. Granted, we are assuming that the United States will keep the word that it has given to its treaty partners. Possibly, our leaders may try to do so economically rather than placing boots on the ground.
During this time, when the waters of the sea roar and foam and the mountains shake, it is marvelous to know that God is our refuge. This truth is the assurance the sons of Korah provide in Psalm 46. Commentators believe the author wrote the psalm when the Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites moved to attack the kingdom of Judah (cf. 2 Chronicles 20.1ff). King Jehosophat prayed for God’s intervention, and God replied by confusing Judah’s enemies. Those enemies ended up killing one another. When Jehosophat rose to face them as God commanded, he found every one of them dead. Thus, God was Judah’s refuge.
Turning our attention once more to Psalm 46, we note three quick points. First, God is our place of refuge when everything around us seems insecure (1-3). Thus, we are told not to fear (2). When we look at the boisterous sea rather than our Lord, we will quickly sink as Peter when he joined Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 14.30). Therefore, we must increase our faith (Matthew 14.31). So, there is no reason to feel insecure when the God of peace is with us (Romans 15.33).
Second, God provides us with a walled city (i.e., stronghold) secured by a flowing river of life (4-7). There is debate whether this is a picture of Heaven. Indeed, Heaven has its River of Life. But it was a tactic of siege warfare to cut a walled city off from food and water sources. One such siege by Sennacherib led Hezekiah to construct a tunnel to bring water to Jerusalem (2 Kings 20.20; 2 Chronicles 32). Despite Sennacherib’s bravado, Hezekiah knew that his people would not cry out from thirst. Providence would spare them. Martin Luther, reading Psalm 46.7, was moved to pen the hymn “Ein Feste Burg ist Unser Gott” (“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”). Yes, we find in God that bulwark that is never failing.
Third, God will provide us with what man cannot (8-11). Sometimes we try and solve things on our own. When we feel exasperated, we might even look to our fellow man for answers. It seems that we look around everywhere but to where we should. To this practice, God tells us, “Stop!” The NASB1995 renders it, “Cease striving and know that I am God” (46.10). God will be exalted! And indeed, we see His mighty works that attest to His great power. The sons of Korah tell us in conclusion that God is with us.
Our world feels like a crazy place now. I recently commented that it feels more like 1938 than 2022. In 1938, Adolph Hitler annexed Austria to reabsorb the “ethnic Germans.” In the United States, Americans were still struggling to overcome the Great Depression. So, current events do seem comparable. But, by God’s help, we survived that turbulent time, and we will also live through an uncertain future. God is in control, and He tells us that He will provide us with refuge. So, we must cease our striving and enter it.
Though scripture doesn’t say, you can be sure David’s sheep had no idea how lucky they were to have a shepherd like him. They were just sheep after all. How could they fully appreciate the extent that David went to in order to keep them safe? Before this begins to sound ridiculous, let’s remember that at least two of David’s sheep were carried off in the jaws of a lion and a bear. When the terrified bleating of an unfortunate sheep is heard by the shepherd, he sprints after the wild animal knowing all the while— it’s just a sheep. It’s just one sheep! Nevertheless, David strikes the predator and saves the sheep (1 Sam. 17.34-35).
What made David a good shepherd? It certainly wasn’t his stature. The average male of his day stood around five feet tall. He was also the youngest of his family and often unappreciated (1 Sam. 16.11,17.29,33). It was David’s heart and not his height that made him exceptional. He was a natural shepherd of sheep, and of people.
David is sent by his father, Jesse, to deliver bread for his brothers who are among Saul’s army. When he arrives on scene everyone, including the king, is afraid and unwilling to take a stand against the arrogant Goliath. But before the giant warrior from Gath meets the shepherd boy from Bethlehem, a few more giants will be faced.
The first giant was the giant of degradation.
David’s own brother, Eliab, would greet him with two belittling questions that would make a lesser man feel sheepish, but not this shepherd. Eliab asks, “why have you come down here? And who is watching the few sheep?” David’s brother doesn’t think he belongs among warriors and that he is only capable of handling a small number of dumb animals.
The second giant was that of accusation.
In the same breath Eliab would accuse and insult David three different times. He claims, “I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is. You’ve only come to watch the battle.” How wrong he was and how dare he insult such a godly man! It’s interesting to note that David had an answer to each of these questions and accusations, but never attempts to defend himself. His father sent him, that’s why he was there. He was there to deliver nourishment for this dear brother who had, no doubt, worked up an appetite doing absolutely nothing. No retaliation or snarky remark would escape from the shepherd’s mouth because nothing like that was in his heart (Matt. 12.34).
The third giant David would conquer would be the towering giant of indignity.
He didn’t shame his brother and he didn’t let his brothers shaming keep him from shining.
Shepherds put up with a lot, don’t they? Good shepherds really put up with a lot. Faithful god-fearing elders within the Lord’s church all over the world are faced with giants more often than they should. Sometimes the giants they face are their own sheep. How easy it is to make confident accusations against them, to question their intentions, hearts, and capabilities. That unpaid servant of God is more often than not the first one to come running when the bleating of a wayward member is heard. When we find ourselves in the clutches of our various trials, they attempt to pry us out. At times they earnestly pray over and take on burdens that aren’t theirs to carry. Faithful elders will find themselves in a position where they could make the sheep feel shame, but choose to save the feelings of others because that’s what a good shepherd does. It’s not their height, it’s their heart. The sheep need to love their shepherds, because the shepherds love their sheep!
Fifteen consecutive psalms (120-134) are so-called “Psalms of Ascent.” They were given this name because they were songs designated for the Israelites to sing on their way to worship in Jerusalem. Moses had instructed them at the giving of the Old Law, “For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders, and no man shall covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before the Lord your God” (Ex. 34:34). You can imagine how especially those who came a long distance to Jerusalem (it’s over 100 miles from Mt. Hermon and Beersheba, for example) might benefit from a reminder of why they were making this lengthy journey. As most would walk, this would help pass the time while preparing their minds. This is not a bad idea for us even on a 10 or 20 minute drive to the church building on Sunday morning.
There is quite a bit of uneven terrain, mountains and valleys, in the area around Jerusalem, and the temple required a steep climb as there were three valleys surrounding Mount Zion and the temple complex. So, people coming from every direction would have to “go up to Jerusalem” (Zech. 14:17; John 2:13; 5:1). But, it was more than a physical ascent, this trip to the temple. It was more significantly a spiritual ascent, an effort to get closer to God. While we can and should draw near to God daily in our personal devotion, there is still great significance and benefit when we join each other in the presence of God to worship Him and fellowship with Him and each other (Heb. 10:24-25). Each time, this should be an ascent for us!
Notice the repetitive use of “will” in Psalm 121. The word is used eight times in these eight verses. The word points to the future and indicates either anticipation or trust. The writer is confident, especially of what he expects God will do. Such assurance had to take his heart higher!
I WILL LIFT UP MY EYES TO HIM (1)
He starts with what he will do. The writer will look up to God, seeking help and strength. A heart ready to worship is one who sees things as they really are. I am spiritually destitute and needy, and I depend on God for everything. When that is my mindset, I am prepared to praise, thank, and petition Him!
GOD WILL HELP ME (1-2)
Whatever problems, distractions, struggles, and temptations are weighing me down and wearing me down, God will help me! His power is proven. Just look at the creation (2). He has not lost an ounce of strength from that moment to now.
GOD WILL NOT LET ME FALL (3)
The terrain around Jerusalem is often rocky and uneven. I suppose it is easy for anyone’s foot to slip on those roads up to the holy city. But, spiritually, it is a different matter. If I fall, it will not be God’s fault (John 10:27-29). If I hold to God’s unchanging hand, I will successfully complete my journey.
GOD WILL NOT FALL ASLEEP ON THE JOB (3-4)
Night and day, moment by moment, God is alert. He sees everything I do and everything that is done to me. How comforting to know that the All-seeing eye never droops or closes. He does not nod off, even for a moment.
GOD WILL GUARD AND PROTECT ME (5-8)
Half of this psalm is devoted to this idea. God is not just passively involved, watching me. He is actively involved, keeping me (5,7), providing me shade (5-6), protecting me (7), and guarding me (8). Our God is not inanimate! He is involved! It is why we pray. It is why we trust in His providence. It is why we serve and obey Him. As we love to sing, “There is a God! He is alive. In Him we live and we survive.” The writer of Hebrews quotes three Old Testament passages (Deut. 31:6; Josh. 1:5; Psa. 118:6) to convey two promises: “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (13:5-6).
When you enter to worship, enter with the heart and faith of the righteous pilgrims on their way to the temple for one of the annual festivals. Come with your heart ready, and come with a heart full of faith and trust in the object of your worship. You will leave rejuvenated and resolved.
Have you ever been in the habit of praying the same prayer over and over again?
You’ve said that prayer as a child and it’s so familiar to you that it just rolls off the tongue. It can seem robotic and maybe this is how we read Psalm 23.
Many of us know this Psalm and can quote it quickly— the words fly past our lips. The author, David, practically writes this Psalm like a young boy bragging about how awesome his Father is. Let’s look at this Psalm from his perspective.
He says that the Shepherd is always there to protect him, lead him, restore him, and He’s concerned with his needs. He’s nothing without God, and God inspires David to articulate his view of Him.
Do we think of God in this way? Some might feel ashamed of Him because standing up for Christ means saying something or doing something that makes us uncomfortable from time to time. You don’t see that in David. He’s bursting with pride because to him that relationship with the Shepherd is like no other. Today let’s humbly bow in thanksgiving and praise the perfect shepherd.
It was a gorgeous sunny day without a cloud in the sky. I shot Dale a text and told him to meet up with me at a mom and pop gas station outside of Huntsville for a BLT.
I grabbed my motorcycle keys, helmet, and leather vest. On the way out the door I decided to throw on my jean jacket underneath my vest. I don’t know why I did this because the temperature was close to 80 degrees. I hopped on my bike, turned on some Hank Williams Jr., and headed towards Huntsville.
I was biking on the road that led to those amazing gas station BLT’s. I had been on this road hundreds of times, but today’s trip ended a little differently than normal. I noticed a truck slowly pulling out of the driveway of the local shooting range. He crept forward and then stopped. I figured he was stopping because he saw me coming. I get about 100 feet away from the truck, and he pulls out. He turned left blocking both lanes of traffic and I knew what was about to happen. I pulled the clutch and grabbed a fist full of brakes, but it was too late.
It’s amazing how many thoughts you can have in such a short time. Everything slowed down and as the truck got closer I thought about Emily, my family, my spiritual state, and BLT’s. The initial impact was to my left leg, then my head hit the front body panel of the truck. The last thing I remember is a sharp pain in my head and a blinding flash of white.
I woke up in a ditch and the first thing I saw was my motorcycle upside down next to me and somehow “Feelin’ Better” by Hank was still playing from the speakers on my bike. Incredibly, I didn’t break a single bone or have any major head injuries. Needless to say, I never got that BLT.
May 12th 1:21 PM
I’m at the church building with my brother writing an article for tomorrow morning. I can’t stop thinking about everything that happened. I can’t help but feel like God’s providence was written all over that day.
The jean jacket I grabbed at the last minute saved my arms from getting road rash, the crash bars I installed literally the night before absorbed the initial impact. Those bars were an inch and a half solid steel pipe and they folded like a quesadilla. That would’ve been my leg if it weren’t for the time I spent installing them the night before.
I realized several important facts that day:
Only God knows what tomorrow holds (Prov. 27:1).
Death is certain, but when we die is uncertain. Because of sin we are destined to die. I could’ve died on a motorcycle, or from a heart attack from too much bacon. Bottom line, we must be spiritually prepared to leave this earth at any moment (Heb. 9:27; Matt. 24:42-44).
Some things are more important than a motorcycle. Like my parents’ mental health and blood pressure. Emily’s well-being and peace of mind is far more important than a bike. It’s a matter of looking at things from the other person’s point of view. Practicing the golden rule (Matt. 7:12). I would be a wreck if either of my parents bought a motorcycle (pun intended).
So here’s my two cents for those reading this:
It’s beneficial to take a step back and look at our priorities. If we value anything on earth more than God, we will leave this earth unprepared.
If there’s sin in our lives, procrastination is the absolute worst thing we could do. Tomorrow is never promised.
Be mindful of what our actions do to others. It may not even be sinful, but it’s all about showing a love that values others’ peace of mind and well-being above yourself.
P.S. Watch out for black Dodge trucks; they don’t stop.
Many know that Psalm 119 is the greatest, inspired tribute to the Word of God known to man. 176 verses, eight verses under the heading of every Hebrew letter, grace these pages of our Bibles. All but a few verses mention some synonym for God’s Word. So many individual studies can be made of themes and thrusts in Psalm 119, but by reading it one discovers David giving many benefits or needs for studying the Bible. Consider what is no doubt an inexhaustible study.
To keep from sinning against God (11)
I am a stranger in the earth (19)
The influential can be against us at times (23)
Our soul often melts from heaviness (28)
To keep our eyes from worthless things (37)
To have an answer for him who reproaches us (42)
It causes hope (49)
For comfort in affliction (50, 76)
It causes righteous indignation (53)
It leads us to seek God’s favor with our whole heart (58)
It makes us choose better companions (63)
It brings good judgment and knowledge (66)
It prevents apostasy (67)
It makes us more attractive to the God-fearing (74)
That I may live (77, 93, etc.)
For revival (88)
For greater understanding (99)
To be upheld and safe (117)
To have a proper sense of self (125)
For a proper sense of values (128)
For proper emotional investment (136)
For righteous zeal (139)
For a proper sense of dependency (147)
It brings confidence (152)
It gives us the proper sentiment toward the world (158)
Have you ever had someone that seemed to have it out for you? Not only did they not like you, but they actively undermined you. They may have slandered you or even lied about you. You may have even felt that they were trying to ruin your life!
Have you ever had something that seemed to overwhelm and overshadow you? It could be something from your past, present, or future, worry, guilt, regret, fear, trouble, pain, problem, or other stress. Maybe it was something that was nearly impossible to shake or something of which you were constantly reminded.
In a beautiful context writing about assurance, Paul asks, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). That is an eminently fair question to ask. Here are some potential foes that could undo us: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, sword, death, life, angels, principalities, powers, the present, the future, height, depth, or any other created thing (35, 38-39). Examine that list closely. Doesn’t it include just about every potential threat and trial? Do we believe the assertion of Romans 8:31, this rhetorical question firmly implying that God is bigger and stronger than any potential problem or person?
When it comes to our righteous plans, isn’t this same principle vital to our process? What can we do and be as a church? The only limitation is that which goes against God’s will or that which can dominate God’s will. We must give great care to the first part, but we need not worry for a second about the second part. There will be factors that strain or intimidate. There will be reverses and failures. But, if we will persist and persevere, what can defeat us?
How exciting, in our personal and congregational lives, to serve a God more powerful than any foe or fear! We can succeed by His help and to His glory, come what may! Let us trust this timeless truth and live our lives as though we believe it!
Have you heard about a “goat situation” in Oklahoma City that, well, stinks? Members of a Satanic Temple there want a 7-foot Satanists’ statue to be placed at the capitol building right next to a monument of the 10 commandments. The group submitted to a panel with oversight of the capitol grounds “an artist’s rendering that depicts Satan as Baphomet, a goat-headed figure with horns, wings and a long beard that’s often used as a symbol of the occult. In the rendering, Satan is sitting in a pentagram-adorned throne with smiling children next to him” (via Huffington Post, Sean Murphy, 1/6/14). Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves added, “”The statue will also have a functional purpose as a chair where people of all ages may sit on the lap of Satan for inspiration and contemplation” (ibid.).
I first heard about this from one of our local news networks, reporting on the story. They were aghast and appalled at the very idea, especially the thought that this would potentially be a place where children could sit on Satan’s lap. While I wholeheartedly agree that even the idea is disturbing, we as parents need to make sure we do not, in our negligence, allow our kids to figuratively do such.
That means being plugged into our kids’ social media (they are abandoning Facebook for other forms like Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, by the way), knowing who their friends are and something of their friends’ character, safeguarding our homes from ways Satan gets in (TV, computer, movies, phone, etc.), and modeling proper and biblical values as parents. It also means arming them, encouraging and sharing Bible study, prayer, and Christian service with them. It is about setting our affections on things above, not on things of the world (Col. 3:1-2). It is about being transformed and not conformed to this world (Rom. 12:1-2).
While most everyone would never set their children in that creepy Satan statue, are we, through their wardrobe, activities, friends, priorities, and the like, doing what is tantamount to that? God has entrusted us with an eternal stewardship—our children! Like those in Luke 18:15-17, let us ever be bringing our children to the “lap” of Christ!