06/23/2019 = Psalm 23:5a = “Who’s Invited to the Table? Her? Him? Me?”

(Click HERE to listen to this message)

Mark Wheeler

Psalm 23:5a

“Who’s Invited to the Table? Her/Him/Me?”

06/23/2019

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,           

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Today’s Bible verse is where the rubber meets the road and we call a foul, but we also learn why the chicken has crossed the road!

Does anybody see a problem with what you just heard? (Oops, I did it again.) [Yes! The metaphors, while connected, are all mixed up! – You can’tcall a foul” at the “rubber meeting the road” – and while the “chicken” which may have “crossed” that same “road” is a “fowl” …  – nothing in this sentence actually fits, right? (And you can’t reallysee” something you just “heard”.)]

 

The classic metaphor of the Shepherd and the sheep, in today’s verse, are suddenly sitting at a banquet table with their enemies watching them eat.

I believe what David is realizing is that, while the Shepherd metaphor is a great metaphor – it is not great enough!

 

We are working our way through the 23rd Psalm. This Psalm opens by affirming that “the Lord is my Shepherd”, and we recognize that if God is our Shepherd – then we are claiming to be His sheepGod-trusting, obedient, Jesus-following members of His flock! So we ask, if we claim that, do we actually trust God with our lives, do we listen to/for His voice, do we go where and do what He wants? Always?

And, we see how “I shall not want” refers to our ultimate needs for God’s presence more than to our desires for success. Do we acknowledge God’s love and relationship to us? Always?

Then, that theme is reinforced by God’s command to enjoy the “Rest of our lives” in His presence.

We see how the Good Shepherdrestores our soul” – the lives in the flock and the life of the flock!

We learn that when our lives are restored, God offers us Paths of Righteous life-choices – to feed hungry, share our faith, sponsor orphansnot to earn God’s love or our salvation, but in response to God’s amazing Grace given to us through Jesus Christ.

And, we read that God is always with us – we celebrate to remember so that we can hope.

On Father’s Day we recognized God’s presence in the gift of rods and shepherd staffs for guidance and protection.

 

Today, we read from the Extended Bible, concentrating on the second part of verse 4 (P. 392 in our NIV). Listen to the Word of God, Psalm 23: …. —-

A Psalm of David

The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need [will lack nothing].
He lets me rest [makes me lie down] in green pastures.    He leads me to calm [quiet] water.
He gives me new strength [renews my soul].    He leads me on paths that are right [righteous; or straight]
    for the good [sake] of his name [reputation].
Even if I walk through a very dark valley [or the shadow of death],
    I will not be afraid [fear no evil], because you are with me.    Your rod and your shepherd’s staff comfort me.

You prepare a meal [table] for me       in front [the presence] of my enemies.
You pour oil of blessing on my head
[anoint my head with oil; oil was a means of refreshment in a hot, dry environment];
    you fill my cup to overflowing [make my cup overflow; a cup of blessing].
Surely your goodness and love [loyalty; mercy] will be with [pursue;follow] me  all my life,
and I will live in the house of the
Lord forever [for length of days].

 

Did you catch the metaphor shift? From Shepherd and sheep (which signify King and kingdom residents), to actual King and honored subjects, subservient and loyal serfs invited to the King’s banqueting table!

So, this metaphor swing forces two sets of questions in my brain. In reverse order, they are: 1) why “in front of my enemies”?, and 2) Who is actually invited to the Table?

So, why is the “table prepared in front of my enemies? Right? We don’t normally invite our enemies over to observe us eat. That’s kind of creepy, even. So why here?

Iain Duguid, Old Testament professor at Philadelphia’s Westminster Theological Seminary, suggests that it has to do with final justice. David, the Shepherd-King who penned this Psalm, had faced many, many enemies – many of which mocked his God-fearing faith and fortitude, and threatened his religious devotion with extinction.

How many times does the Psalms cry out something like: “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? … How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (eg., Psalm 13)

It must have seemed to David, and to the watching world, that God had indeed forgotten him and allowed his enemies to rejoice in triumph!

In the last couple of weeks, I have listened to several of us ask the same kinds of questions: How much more, O Lord? How many more family members? How many more bills? How many more travel delays? Right?

But, nowDavid announces that he is seated at the King’s Banquet Feast – and his enemies are not! Vindication! Mock me if you want to, but it will not last for long! David helps us say, “This is why I canfear no evil’ when I ‘walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death’! Because I know thatThou art with me!’! Today, while seated at the King-of-kings’ Feast-Table, I can look back and recognize the ‘rod of protection’ and ‘the shepherd’s staff of guidance’!

So, we can say, “I do not know how much more I can take! Denials, rejections, losses, fears, attacks – I do not know how to know You are here with me, God! But, along with David, I will believe You are here even when I can’t feel You!  Even when I don’t hear You! Even when I feel abandoned and left to die! I will believe Thou art with me, and my Enemy has no power over my faith or my relationship with You or my eternal peace of heart and mind – my Shalom-Sabbath-Rest is in Your presence!

 

But the second question is far more important! Who is invited to the table? Why her? Why him? Why me?! Let me start with Me! Because I have not earned steadfast love and mercy! Sometimes I fail to ask for forgiveness! Every day I might discover myself doing, saying or thinking something that dishonors God – and yet – He has indeed invited Me to the Table!

Him? He’s rude, selfish, loud, and obnoxious!

Her? She’s lazy, self-centered, brash, and her dog dumps on my lawn!

Peter? He’s about to deny Jesus … THREE times!

Judas? Well, we all know Judas! He turned against Jesus for a mere 30-pieces of silver!

The other Ten Apostles? They argued about who was best; who was most deserving; who had the best hair (OK, I know men – they argued about that, it’s just not recorded!)!

But guess what? All are at the Table!

 

Who’s invited to the Table?God so loved the WORLD that He gave His one and only Son, that WHOEVER believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life! For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him! WHOEVER believes in Him is not condemned!

So, who is invited?!  That’s right – SHE is! Uh, huh – HE is! And, my friend, YOU are, too!

 

But just being invited does not get you a seat. Being invited simply opens the door! “WHOEVER believes in Him is not condemned; but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son!” (John 3:16-18)

 

Who is not invited? Satan is not invited! Satan is the one Enemy of the Gospel, of your faith and life, Satan is the one Enemy who mocks and derides usSatan gets to watch us celebrate from across the hall!

 

Jesus knows the worst of our hardships. While on the cross, Jesus recites from Psalm 22 – “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?! Why are You so far from saving me?!” He was not enjoying the grassy pasture or the quiet water; He was not experiencing His Father’s presence while in that Valley of the Shadow of Death; His soul did not feel restored! But Psalm 22 concludes with David singing, “The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the Lord will praise Him. … All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before Him. … All the rich of the earth will feast and worship …. They will proclaim His righteousness to a people yet unborn—for He has done it!” (Psalm 22:1, 26-31)

 

What Jesus cries from the cross – His “forsakenness” and hunger and thirst and aloneness – becomes the foundation of our hope! We have far more reason than David had for confidently declaring, “I shall not want” and “I will fear no evil”! Our Good Shepherd has already laid down His life for his sheep! He’s already been raised from the grave! He has already put our last Enemy, death, to shame!

Duguid tells us that Jesus has promised to welcome us into His Kingdom, to feast at His Table, with all His saints from all time and all places!

That includes YOU as soon as you receive Him from God and believe Him to be our Savior and Lord! He is, indeed, our Good Shepherd! Amen!

 

Resources:

Duguid, Iain; “You Prepare a Table for Me in the Presence of My Enemies”; TableTalk; August 2018; Pp. 22-23.

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06/16/2019 = Psalm 23:4b = “Wait till Your Father …”

(Click HERE for today’s Father’s Day message)

Mark Wheeler

Psalm 23:4b

“Wait Till Your Father …”

Father’s Day, 06/16/2019

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,           

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Who here remembers how today’s Sermon Title usually ends? (Say it with me.) “Wait till your father … [gets home!]”

Right?! We all know that phrase. How many of you moms used that line on your children?

Was it always a threat? That’s the joke, right? When Dad gets home … well, just waityou’ll see….

 

Waiting for my Dad might result in him coming home from work and stating something like: I think I want to quit my insurance company job. I’d rather clean mirrors for a living.

It’s just something I can see myself doing.

 

We are working our way through the 23rd Psalm. This Psalm opens by affirming that “the Lord is my Shepherd”, and we recognize that if God is our Shepherd – then we are claiming to be His sheepGod-trusting, obedient, Jesus-following members of His flock! So we ask, if we claim that, do we actually trust God with our lives, do we listen to/for His voice, do we go where and do what He wants? Always?

And, we see how “I shall not want” refers to our ultimate needs for God’s presence more than to our desires for success. Do we acknowledge God’s love and relationship to us? Always?

Then, that theme is reinforced by God’s command to enjoy the “Rest of our lives” in His presence.

We see how the Good Shepherdrestores our soul” – the lives in the flock and the life of the flock!

We learned that when our lives are restored, God offers us Paths of Righteous life-choices – to feed hungry, share our faith, sponsor orphansnot to earn God’s love or our salvation, but in response to God’s amazing Grace given to us through Jesus Christ.

Last week, on Pentecost, we read that God is with us – we celebrate to remember so that we can hope.

 

Today, we read from the Amplified Bible, concentrating on the second part of verse 4 (P. 392 in our NIV). Listen to the Word of God, Psalm 23: …. —-

A Psalm of David

The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, to guide and to shield me],    I shall not want.
He lets me lie down in green pastures;   He leads me beside the still and quiet waters.
3 He refreshes and restores my soul (life);   He leads me in the paths of righteousness   for His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the [sunless] valley of the shadow of death,   I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.   You have anointed and refreshed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell forever [throughout all my days] in the house and in the presence of the 
Lord.

 

Wait till your fathergets home!”  What will our Father do? In Psalm 23 it’s not so much of a trick phrase, but for us, who are not sheep-herders, or even farmers – yes, some of us used to be, but even for you it’s been a few years….

A rod and a staff? That sounds, to some, like when Dad came home and made you head outside and “cut a switch”! That was never good news! Or if he told you to meet him in the back room and he started loosening his belt. No thank you. A rod and a staff sound better than a belt buckle across some bare buns!

But tune your ears differently for a minute: If you have 13 apples in one hand and 10 oranges in the other, what do you have?   [Big hands.]

Retune your listeners to hear something other than what maybe you expected to hear.

 

When we pray, “Even though I walk through the sunless valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me. … Your rod and Your staff, theywhat? Not scold me, not punish me, not whoop my backsidewhat do they do? … They comfort me and console me!

 

Like a father feeds his children; Like a shepherd leads his flock; the Lord will always guide us, and show us where to walk.”

That’s what rods and staffs are for! They are not switches and belt buckles – they are for protection and guidance. The rod warded off predators, and you can beat that with a stick! That’s a rod. A staff, or a shepherd’s crook, was a long pole with a big hook on one end – used to keep a sheep away from the edge of a cliff, or to grab, or catch, a sheep and pull it to safety.

When we’re wandering through dark valleys, filled with deathly shadowsprotection and guidance is exactly what we need!

 

Last Tuesday our Elders, in our study of the Confessions and Creeds in our denomination’s Book of Confessions, read from the Heidelberg Catechism. Answer 1 includes this line: “[God] also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.” It says that Christ’s blood assures us that we have been counted among the Good Shepherd’s flock, such that no calamity can befall us without it being willed by God.

We sheep need protection! We need protection from temptation, from sin, from physical attacks as well as spiritual attacks. In Acts 7 Stephen was stoned simply for his faith statement in Jesus Christ.

Oh. Ya wanna hear a joke about a stone? Never mind, I’ll just skip that one.

(Lord, protect us from terrible dad jokes!)

 

And we need guidance – every day! We need guidance for big life choices, and for little every day life choices. Ultimately, we need guidance toward the green pastures and the waters of calm-rest that describe our eternity in the Good Shepherd’s presence!

I need guidance to lead me in preparing Sunday messages. Sermon prep can be governed by Murphy’s Law. You know what Murphy’s Law is, right? [If something can go wrong, it will go wrong.]

          Do y’all know what Cole’s Law is? [Thinly sliced cabbage and mayo….]

OK, that’s the last one. I thought father’s day required some bad Dad jokes, but I may have been mis-guided!

For what do you require God’s guidance today? In a few minutes Pastor Kathy will lead us in a time of prayer – we should pray for each other as we seek guidance together!

 

This line of the 23rd Psalm prays for protection and guidance, a rod and a staff. And the Good Shepherd provides that for us in spades. James tells us that we don’t have because we do not ask our Father who gives generously! (James 4:2)

We Christians are pilgrim sheep. We have not yet reached our ultimate eternal rest. Until we do, danger lurks, temptation prowls, hardships and adversities attack. Look at your own life; it’s easy to recognize this truth. But we have a Shepherdthe Good Shepherd, who lays down His life for His sheep! We experience His protection and guidance all the time!

When hardship befalls us and fear is paralyzing, we can rest wholly upon the protective providence of our Good Shepherd who is right here with us! And He will walk us into that Garden of Sabbath glory (Revelation 22:1-2).

 

And always remember that John10:28, that’s the same chapter as today’s Call to Worship, Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd – that’s code language for Him calling Himself God – He says, that His Father will not allow His sheep, not one of His sheep, to be snatched from His fold! We are safe in His presence!

 

One day my Dad hit his head on an open cupboard door, I asked him if he was alright. My Dad said, “No. I’m half-left and half-right.”

 

Is it time for prayer? Kathy?

 

Wait till your heavenly Fatherprotects and guides youinto paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  Amen.

 

Resources:

Garriott, Aaron L.; “Your Rod and Your Staff, They Comfort Me”; TableTalk; August 2018; Pp. 20-22.

06/09/2019 = Pentecost = Psalm 23:4a = “Holy Spirit Power – What’s to Fear?”

(Click HERE to HEAR this message.)

Mark Wheeler

Psalm 23:4a

“Holy Spirit Power – What’s to Fear?”

Pentecost, 06/09/2019

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,           

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Today is Pentecost Sunday! Do you remember what this means? Like all the biblical feasts that God gave to Israel, God intended Pentecost to remind His people what He’d done in the past! When we remember what God’s already done, it helps us recognize His continuing activity in the present – and that’s what we need in order to our hope in His promises for tomorrow!

Long before Pentecost was a Christian holiday, it was a Jewish festival. The back of your bulletin has a little history of this. It was originally a festival celebrating God’s gift of produce to His people – a Festival of First Fruits, it was called. This was one of the three festivals where the Jews were expected to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. So, in Acts 2 we read that Jews were there from all over the Roman Empire – and they heard the Gospel spoken in their own languages from the 11 Apostles’ mouths after the Holy Spirit came and filled them with God’s presence and power!

 

We wear red as a way to celebrate this event by commemorating the miraculous flames of fire on their heads. God’s Holy Spirit power and presence is here for us today – even as it was on that Acts 2 Pentecost Sunday!

 

We are working our way through the 23rd Psalm. This Psalm starts by stating that “the Lord is my Shepherd”, and we realized that if God is our Shepherd – then we are claiming to be His sheepGod-trusting, obedient, Jesus-following members of His flock! So we asked, if we claim that, do we actually trust God with our lives, do we listen to/for His voice, do we go where and do what He wants? Always?

And, we saw how “I shall not want” refers more to our ultimate needs for God’s presence than to our desires for success or sex appeal or stuff. Do we acknowledge God’s love and relationship to us? Always?

Then, that theme is reinforced by God’s command to enjoy the “Rest of our lives” in His presence.

We saw how the Good Shepherdrestores our soul” – the lives in the flock and the life of the flock!

And last week we learned that when our lives are restored, God offers us Paths of Righteous life-choices – to feed hungry, share our faith, sponsor orphans – not to earn God’s love or our salvation, but in response to God’s amazing Grace given to us through Jesus Christ.

 

Today, we read from the International Children’s Bible, concentrating on the first part of verse 4 (P. 392 in our NIV). Listen to the Word of God, Psalm 23: …. —-

A Psalm of David

The Lord is my shepherd.    I have everything I need.
He gives me rest in green pastures.    He leads me to calm water.
He gives me new strength.            For the good of his name,    he leads me on paths that are right.
Even if I walk    through a very dark valley,       I will not be afraid       because you are with me.
Your rod and your shepherd’s staff comfort me.

You prepare a meal for me    in front of my enemies.    You pour oil of blessing on my head. 

    You give me more than I can hold.
Surely your goodness and love will be with me    all my life.      And I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

 

Last Tuesday I stepped into Myrna Kerr’s room and looked her in the eye saying, “Yea though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death …”

And Myrna said, “… I will fear no evil.”  I said, “Why not?

She responded, “… For Thou art with me.”

 

That is the truth, isn’t it? Did you catch the verb tenses in that verse?

Even if I walk” is a conditional clause. It is a potential future circumstantial phrase. “Yeah, suppose I might eventually enter into …” The gift for Myrna, is that it is no longer merely conditional – it is actual. She has already entered the Valley of Death. Maybe you’ve been there – with a loved one, in a relationship, at a job. This is a potential for all of us, every day.

Even if I walk through a very dark Valley”, the ICB appropriately translates this.

 

I read this week about one of the first routes used to scale Denali, that’s the older Alaskan Koyukon language name for the tallest mountain in North America. The 1959 Time magazine article said that this route was “relatively safe, except for the approach which passes through a narrow and deep glacial valley between Denali on the left and the Kahiltna peaks on the right.” Apparently, these slopes are known to avalanche snow and ice onto whatever is beneath them. As a result, this passage has been nick-namedthe Valley of Death”. Climbers are advised to ascend this section at night so that the colder temperatures hold the snow and ice in place.

I suppose I might pray that “if I’m ever trying to climb ‘the tallest mountain’ Denali ”, but neither Myrna nor I (nor you) are likely to ever be in that condition. But, if I ever find myself in a dangerous place, a very dark valley, overshadowed by death, the Psalmist writes, and Myrna boldly proclaimed, “I will fear no evil – I will not be afraid!What tense is that? Future tense!

If I’m ever in that scary conditional clause, I will not fear whatever evil might temp me in the future!

 

Why not? Becausewho is my Shepherd? The Lord is my Shepherd!

For what shall my life lack? Not a thing – because what I really need is the Lord(!), and He is my Shepherd!

What does this Good Shepherd provide? Nourishment and waters of calm restHis presence and His power!

But what if I can’t keep walking His path? Our good Shepherd restores my soul, refreshes my life; He renews my faith!

Why does He offer this? Because He loves us! He loves us so much that the Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep!

How does He do this? By providing us Paths of Righteous optionsgood works, opportunities to worship, ways to praise, chances to serve – in ways that bring honor and glory to God Himself!

Why not become afraid if I might happen to wander into the condition of dangerous, scary places? “Because Thou art with me!” – Present-Progressive tense – it is true right now, and it continues to be true on-going!!

 

Do you remember that this message started with remembering the past? We remember holy days like Pentecost to remind us that God has provided His power and presence in the pastwhy should we not expect Him to do the same for us today? That is the reason for all the Old Testament festival celebrations, repeated annually, so we remember God’s presence and power and grace and mercy, and rely on Him, trust Him, give to Him today for whatever might be tomorrow!

 

Psalm 23:4 reminds us that God does not wait until we get ourselves into trouble! Because this conditional clause is definitely gonna happen! Right? We’re gonna find ourselves in something too deep for us to get out of, too dark to see in, too dirty to get cleaned from, too difficult to finish. It will definitely happen. But the Good Shepherd does not sit back and wait for that to happen before He steps in! “Thou art with me, right now! You are already with me, right here! Always!

 

That is the promise of Pentecost! Look again at today’s Call to Worship from John’s Gospel! Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to all who follow Him, to all who say “the Lord is my Shepherd!Is that you?!

 

Who here needs to be reminded of God’s presence and power today? I do. I certainly do, every day.

Yeah, we wear RED once a year and remember the Pentecost event one Sunday a year; but God’s Holy Spirit is present every single day – to comfort, to challenge, to heal, to embolden and to grow our faith!

 

In just a few minutes we will move into a time of prayer, we will seek God’s voice and ask for Him to make Himself known in our circumstances and our dark valleys. And He is answering us already!

 

But before we do, I wanna invite our CEO:Mission president, Anne Arana, from Fellowship Church, to step up and share some news about God’s power and presence in Africa, and what we’re doing here to join God in this amazing work.

 

Anne, …..

 

Resources:

Estelle, Bryan D.; “Even Though I Walk Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I Will Fear No Evil, for Thou Art with Me”; TableTalk; August 2018; Pp. 16-17.

06/02/2019 = Psalm 23:3b = “Paths Filled with Righteousness”

(Click HERE to listen to this message.)

Mark Wheeler

Psalm 23:3b

“Paths Filled with Righteousness

06/02/2019

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,          

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

We are working our way through the 23rd Psalm, and today we reach the halfway mark. This Psalm starts by stating that “the Lord is my Shepherd”, we made the realization that if God is our Shepherd – then we are claiming to be His sheepGod-trusting, obedient, Jesus-following members of His flock! So we asked, if we claim such, do we actually trust God with our lives, do we listen to/for His voice, do we go where and do what He wants? Always?

And, how “I shall not want” refers more to our ultimate needs for God’s presence than to our desires for success or sex appeal or stuff. Do we acknowledge God’s love and relationship to us? Always?

Then, that theme is reinforced by God’s command to enjoy the “Rest of our lives” in His presence.

And, last week we saw how the Good Shepherdrestores our soul” – the lives in the flock and the life of the flock!

 

Today, we read from the Young’s Literal Translation, concentrating on the second part of verse 3 (P. 392 in our NIV). Listen to the Word of God, Psalm 23: …. —-

A Psalm of David

1 Jehovah [is] my shepherd, I do not lack,

In pastures of tender grass He causeth me to lie down, By quiet waters He doth lead me.

My soul He refresheth, He leadeth me in paths of righteousness, For His name’s sake,

Also — when I walk in a valley of death-shade, I fear no evil, for Thou [art] with me, Thy rod and Thy staff — they comfort me.

Thou arrangest before me a table, Over-against my adversaries, Thou hast anointed with oil my head, My cup is full!

Only — goodness and kindness pursue me, All the days of my life, And my dwelling [is] in the house of Jehovah, For a length of days!

 

This Psalm is chalk full of action wordsmakes/causes, leads, restores/refreshes, prepare/arrange, anoint – and all of them, except for a brief interlude in verse 4 where “I walk in the valley of the shadow of death”, all of the other action words are God’s actions – actions of the Good Shepherd, YHWH, the Lord!

And Jesus refers to Himself as that Good Shepherd in John 10 (look at our Call to Worship). In our ears this sounds like a nice pastoral metaphor. “Ahhhh, how sweet. Jesus calls Himself of shepherd.” But in reality, in the ears of His first hearers, this was equivalent to Jesus calling Himself equal to God! Throughout the Old Testament, YHWH is repeatedly identified as the Shepherd of His chosen people Israel!

 

Now, pay attention to how Psalm 23 stresses, from start to finish, that the Good Shepherd leads His lambs away from evil, out of peril, through the valley of death, into the safety and blessing of His eternal presence by the way of goodness and mercy! All of that is encompassed in the statement, “He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake”.

 

Pop Quiz question: What is a “Path of Righteousness”?

  1. Path that leads to Righteousness
  2. Path that is defined by Righteousness
  3. Path that is filled with Righteousness

It’s really a trickgrammar question. The “of” of “Paths of Righteousness” is the most often used preposition in most languages. And there are three main ways this preposition is used. This may seem like grammatical trivia, but understanding grammar is key to interpretation. So, just real quickly, here’s a brief grammar lesson:

  1. There’s a “possessive” “of”, meaning it describes “belonging”: Bert is the husband of Rita; Jesus is the friend of sinners.
  2. There’s a “referential” “of”, meaning it describes “defining”: Summer of 2019; God of love.
  3. There’s a “characteristic” “of”, meaning it describes “how something is”: storehouse of toys; “Paths of Righteousness”.

 

If I’m reading this Psalm correctly, these “Paths of Righteousness” are filled with God’s righteous ways, words and wonders. The divine Good Shepherd, we read in the Gospels, seeks and saves the lost sheep. He is not only the “restorer of souls”; he is also the One who guards us, cares for us, keeps us, brings us back when we wander, and leads us in “paths filled with righteous options for His name’s sake”. It is His character to be such! This is who He is; it is how He is! The character of these paths is God’s righteousness for His name’s sake!

 

What we see in Scripture is that we sheep can do nothing to attain our own salvation. No matter how good we are, no matter how hard we try, we cannot, we are unable, we are incapable of being perfectly without sin! Even if we had never ever broken a single Commandment, our human condition’s pride in being perfect would do us in!

No. Instead – we are saved by grace through faith! We are saved by God’s grace! God does the saving work. All we do is accept His invitation to call Him our Good Shepherd.

John MacArthur says, “Every aspect of our salvation is wrought by divine grace – so much so that even the good things we do as redeemed people are works that ‘God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them’ (Ephesians 2:10). Thus, the Great Shepherd sovereignly leads us in paths of righteousness.”

 

However, while Scripture definitely emphasizes God’s absolute sovereignty in the work of salvation, it never excludes or downplays our responsibility. We know that the Shepherd leads, but the sheep are not without responsible behavior. We must follow!

Jesus says, John 10, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.God leads us down paths filled with righteousness, filled with His love and protection, filled with opportunities to share His grace with others, filled with chances to feed hungry people and clothe people in need, filled with invitations to generously support orphans…. Our following Jesus down these Paths of Righteousness gives evidence that we belong to the Good Shepherd. We are not saved by walking these Righteous Paths – we are not saved by going to church, by being nice, by giving to charities – but our Righteous Path walking offers proof that God has saved us!

 

Johnny’s multiple Student of the Week Awards do not win him salvation; Hope’s amazing feats of K-level scholarship and love do not earn her special favor into God’s Kingdom – but they do both demonstrate the truth that they know Jesus died for them and invites us to love God. Today this same God calls them and us, to walk with Him down Paths filled with His Righteousness!

Because God is sovereign, His sheep are secure! And this Good Shepherd Himself says to us, “I give [My sheep] eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

 

Johnny and Hope, congratulations kids. You are awesome. But never forget how much God loves you! Friends – that is for all of us. God’s love is the canopy over these Paths of Righteousness. And we must be led with trust and obedience. In Jesus’ name.

 

Resources:

MacArthur, John; “He Leads in Paths of Righteousness for His Name’s Sake”; TableTalk; August 2018; Pp. 14-16.

June 2019 Lidgerwood Presby Church Newsletter

 

Like a Father Feeds His Children

Like a Shepherd Leads His Flock

Those are the opening words to one of my favorite Don Moen songs – it goes on to talk about how our God protects and guides us as His followers, through the difficult times and into His glorious presence.

As we continue our Sunday wandering through Psalm 23, we continue to discover truths of faith in this favorite poem of grace. Listen to this translation:

Jehovah [is] my shepherd, I do not lack,

In pastures of tender grass He causeth me to lie down, By quiet waters He doth lead me.

My soul He refresheth, He leadeth me in paths of righteousness, For His name’s sake,

Also — when I walk in a valley of death-shade, I fear no evil, for Thou [art] with me, Thy rod and Thy staff — they comfort me.

Thou arrangest before me a table, Over-against my adversaries, Thou hast anointed with oil my head, My cup is full!

Only — goodness and kindness pursue me, All the days of my life, And my dwelling [is] in the house of Jehovah, For a length of days!

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church responds to this Psalm by praying to our “Father who art in heaven” that we might experience the full measure of this Psalm’s blessings in this life – and for the eternal life begun in this faithful response.

Six big ways we participate in this Psalm are: 1) praying with each other for our larger community; 2) honoring those in our own circles who achieve new levels of education (our grads);  3) fellowshipping with one another for the sake of being family (Deacon’s Dinner); 4) celebrating Pentecost Sunday – 50 days after Christ’s Resurrection God gave the Church His Holy Spirit – and LPC was chartered in 1907 (Church birthdays galore); 5) Father’s Day – born in Spokane – to honor fathers; 6) praying for and reaching out to our neighbors with God’s love (see the Saturate Spokane article inside).

Our June calendar is loaded with these kinds of days, and God calls us to love one another as He loves us. May we hear His voice, follow His guidance, and share His love – together.

And may we discover God’s “goodness and kindness” has been pursuing all along the way!

I’ll see you in His flock!

Mark

All Church Dinner

Saturday, June 8, 2:00pm!

Our amazing Board of Deacons invites YOU to a wonderful time of fellowship with each other! This is a FREE dinner, and an opportunity to sit with some of our more housebound members and friends while we enjoy a delicious sit-and-be-served meal!

No RSVP is necessary, but please call if you would like a ride – as many of us as possible is the goal.

Pentecost Sunday

Sunday, June 9, is Pentecost Sunday (see the article above for an understanding)!!

Wear RED to celebrate Pentecost!

Father’s Day

Sunday, June 16, is Father’s Day – and we continue our “dress-code” tradition!

In honor of dads everywhere, dress in something PLAID – shirts, ties, jackets, dresses, socks. (Everyone is welcome, regardless of their Sunday fashion style – but we encourage as much PLAID as we can find!)

Click HERE for a link to the whole newsletter

05/26/2019 = Psalm 23:3a = “Soul Restoration”

(Click HERE for the AUDIO …)

Mark Wheeler

Psalm 23:3a

“Soul Restoration”

05/19/2019

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,           

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

I heard about a woman who was weed whacking in her back yard – btw, this is not a true story, so please, no one send me hate mail – and her cat got in the way – and she whacked off the cat’s tail!

She went screaming in the house, and her husband said, “It’ll be OK. Just grab the cat and its tail, and we’ll go straight to WalMart®!”

“Why WalMart®?” she asked.

“Well, they’re the biggest retailer in the country!”

 

Wouldn’t it be nice if all our brokenness could be fixed by a quick trip to WalMart®?

Well, guess what. The journey will take a lifetime, but the “fix” is way better than what any “retailer” could ever offer.

 

We are taking a few weeks to study the 23rd Psalm. This Psalm commences with the declaration that “the Lord is my Shepherd”, we made the realization that if God is our Shepherd – then we are claiming to be His sheepGod-trusting, obedient, Jesus-following members of His flock! So we asked, if we claim such, do we actually trust God with our lives, do we listen to/for His voice, do we go where and do what He wants? Always?

And, how “I shall not want” refers more to our ultimate needs for God’s presence than to our desires for success or sex appeal or stuff. Do we acknowledge God’s love and relationship to us? Always?

Then, that theme is reinforced by God’s command to enjoy the “Rest of our lives” in His presence,

 

You know how when we say something too often it starts to lose its meaning? Our recitation of the Lord’s Prayer can become rote and powerless. We can see John 3:16 so often that we forget the magnificent wonder that it proclaims.

That’s why we’re slowly making our way through Psalm 23. It is one of the most memorized passages of Scripture there is.

So, listen again to this Psalm, today, from the Complete Jewish Bible translation, concentrating on the first part of verse 3 (P. 392 in our NIV): …. —-

A Psalm of David

1 Adonai is my shepherd; I lack nothing.
He has me lie down in grassy pastures,   he leads me by quiet water,
he restores my inner person.    He guides me in right paths    for the sake of his own name.
Even if I pass through death-dark ravines,    I will fear no disaster; for you are with me;    your rod and staff reassure me.

You prepare a table for me,    even as my enemies watch;    you anoint my head with oil    from an overflowing cup.

Goodness and grace will pursue me    every day of my life;   

     and I will live in the house of Adonai for years and years to come.

 

Look at verse 3. We probably know that verse as “He restoreth my soul”. In most English translations that is just four simple words. In the Hebrew it’s actually only two words (Nefeshi Yeshovvev.)

But what do those simple words really signify? What does it mean to have our “nefeshrestored? What do you think that means? The first two verses are super clear, easily understood images we can see with our mind’s eye – a shepherd, not lacking any needs, lying down in green pastures and drinking from calm waters. But what doesHe restores my soulmean? What image do these words bring to mind?

 

Maybe to help us get what this Psalm means we look at another Old Testament passage about “shepherds”. Please look this up so you can see it for yourselves. Ezekiel 34 may have been what Jesus was thinking about when He talked about being the Good Shepherd (John 10, our Call to Worship). This is an Old Testament prophecy where the Lord outright condemns the “shepherds of Israel” – the spiritual leaders of God’s chosen people. Ezekiel 34:4 talks about the shepherds not bringing back the sheep who have gone astray.  In verse 16 the Lord finally just says that He will be the Good Shepherd! He will bring back the sheep who have strayed!

That’s what sheep are known forwandering aimlessly away from the flock, maybe following a vein of green grass or just not paying attention to where we are. It is the task of the shepherd to bring the lost sheep back to the flock!

The Good Shepherd searches out His lost sheep and “refreshes our soul”, restores our life, nefeshi yeshovvev. The Good Shepherd does not let us stray too far.

Do you think you have wandered away too far? You have not. John 10 ends with Jesus assuring His hearers that we cannot escape or be snatched away from the Good Shepherd’s grasp!

Do you wonder if your child or your friend has wandered too far for too long? She has not! God still has her in His grasp!

 

Ezekiel 34:16 goes on to say that the Good Shepherd gives life to the deadrestores my soul! He gathers the lost sheep and binds up their wounds. He restores them to full life, to abundant life.

Paul tells us that our old life left us dead in our sin, but also weak, sick and damaged by our sin. It is Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who binds our wounds and restores our soul!

 

Benjamin Shaw, Old Testament professor at Greenville Presbyterian Seminary, says that “in restoring our souls, He makes us hunger and thirst for righteousness. He feeds that hunger. He quenches that thirst.” He says, “Our nephesh is also the seat of our emotions. In restoring our souls, He gives us joy in the morning after the night of weeping he turns our mourning into dancing. He removes our sackcloth of lamentation and distress, giving us the new clothes of gladness.

Then Shaw says, “The nephesh also occasionally refers to our mental acts, our thinking and our knowing. In restoring our souls, the Good Shepherd restores our thinking and our knowing. We begin to understand things in a new way. The Word that was once no more than words on a page begins to have meaning. We begin to hear and understand and know the voice of the Shepherd.

I have heard more than one of you tell me, just in the past couple years, that the Bible has done that for you – it suddenly started giving life! Do you hunger for that kind of faith? For that kind of hope and light? The Good Shepherd calls your name todayanswer Him. Say, “Yes, Lord. Here I am. Rescue me. Refresh me. Restore my soul.” He does!

 

One of the things I love about this 23rd Psalm is how personal it is. “The Lord is MY Shepherd. I shall not want. He makes ME lie down in green pastures, and He leads ME beside still waters. He restores MY soul.” It’s all first-person singular.

I pray this Psalm for ME! You pray this Psalm for YOU. But we pray it personally, together! He not only restores Sigrun’s soul, or Darlene’s soul, or Carol’s soul. He does do that. But as He does so He also restores OUR congregate soul together! LPC gets a refreshed life every time Jack’s soul, or Sandy’s soul, is restored! In restoring the lives of the flock, He restores the life of the flock!

The Good Shepherd actually uses the flock, the church, in the restoring of the individual sheep. And as each individual grows in faith and practice of the Christian life, she in turn is used by the Shepherd in the restoring of others in the flock!

 

While there may not be a quick fix to our life problems that we can get at the local retail mart, God does indeed use the Church to restore our broken, worn out, tired, weary souls over the course of our lives together.

We can know that the Good Shepherd gives Himself for us and will never let us go.

 

Resources:

Shaw, Benjamin; “He Restores My Soul”; TableTalk; August 2018; Pp. 12-13.

05/19/2019 = Psalm 23:2 = “Pastures of Grass; Waters of Rest”

(Click HERE to listen to this message.)

Mark Wheeler

Psalm 23:2

“Pastures of Grass; Waters of Rest”

05/19/2019

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,          

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

In this study on the 23rd Psalm, which begins with the declaration that “the Lord is my Shepherd”, we made the realization that if God  is our Shepherd – then we are claiming to be His sheepGod-trusting, obedient, Jesus-following members of His flock! So we asked, if we claim such, do we actually trust God with our lives, do we listen to/for His voice, do we go where and do what He wants? Always?

And, how “I shall not want” refers more to our ultimate needs for God’s presence than our desires for success or sex appeal or stuff. Do we acknowledge God’s love and relationship to us? Always?

 

This Psalm fills our imagination with wonderful images of God’s perfect protection and providence. Verse 2 demonstrates that wonder beautifully.

We learn that the shepherd imagery is actually a metaphor for Kingship. When King David wroteThe Lord is my shepherd” he was not simply remembering his day as a shepherd – he was calling the Lord his King – his King who guides and sustains him through all the trials of life.

Listen to this Psalm, today, from The Wycliffe Bible translation – I love how this 800-year old English translation offers us “kingship” language (P. 392 in our NIV): …. —-

The Psalm of David

1 The Lord governeth me, and nothing shall fail to me;
in the place of pasture there he hath set me. He nourished me on the water of refreshing;
he converted my soul. He led me forth on the paths of rightfulness; for his name.

For why though I shall go in the midst of shadow of death;

I shall not dread evils, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff; those have comforted me.

Thou hast made ready a board in my sight; against them that trouble me.

Thou hast made fat mine head with oil; and my cup, that filleth greatly, is full clear.

And thy mercy shall follow me; in all the days of my life. And that I dwell in the house of the Lord; into the length of days.

 

Look at verse 2. The KJV, and a few other translations, continue the theme of the Shepherd’s Kingly Authority. The KJV says, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures”; the NIV says, “He makes me lie down.” Who has the ultimate authority to “make” me do something? The Master, the King – the Shepherd, YHWH the Lord!

But what does He make me do? Listen to the most literal Hebrew translation I could find: “In Pastures of Grass, He makes me to lie down; upon Waters of Rest, He guides me.

 

In the semi-arid landscape of ancient Israel, grazing land was not readily abundant. Shepherds had to guide their flocks to the places with enough grass for their sheep. He needed to know where to go, how to get there, safely, and the proper pace at which to walk his entire flock – difficult terrain, wild beasts, and even hiding thieves were always a danger.

Michael McKelvey, professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Mississippi, says, “This reality underscores the greatness of God seen in this verse. The phrase “Pastures of Grass” highlights the abundant provision of God. The word translated as “pastures” signifies places of grazing, and it suggests something like green meadows. The addition of [the word] “grassfurther underlines the abundance of the provision. The word often refers to the lavish, bountiful grass of springtime after the rainy season has watered the earth.

Who here loves the aroma of freshly mowed lawn? I always go back to Little League in my olfactory memory after the first lawn-mow of the spring.

In Pastures of Green Grass, He makes me to lie down!” It does not say, “To sweat, fret and regret, He makes me work harder!” But, “in pastures of grass, he makes me to lie down”! It is true that we will sweat, fret and regret things in this life – and those passages, valleys of shadows of death, might be the route we have to take – discipleship, faithful Jesus-following is often hard work do not neglect the hard work! – but this verse says, “in pastures of grass, He makes me to lie down”. Yesterday I listened to a pod-cast where the speaker, a Spokane Hoopfest organizer, advised his listeners tolead from a place of rest”. Begin from a place of “pastures of green grass.” Is this why the Jewish day begins at sunset? So we can start our activities well rested?

Then there’s that parallel line: “Upon Waters of Rest, He guides me.” There’s only one noun in that phrase – did you hear it? “Upon Waters of Rest, He guides me.” [That’s right – “Rest” is the noun – “waters of …” describes the nounrest”.] “Rest” was a regular Old Testament reference for God’s place for His people – the Promised Land, God’s dwelling place, was “rest-full” (Dt 12:9; I Kgs 8:56; Ps 95:11; 132:8, 14; Is 11:10; 66:1). Psalm 23:2 suggests that YHWH Himself is the place “rest” Himself! Psalm 23:6 says as much, “that I may dwell in the House of the Lord, into the length of days (for the ‘rest’ of my life! [-did you hear it?]).”

Rev. Rick Melin, one of our retired Presbytery Execs, used to advise pastors, “All week long people give ‘em hell, Wheeler. On Sunday, give ‘em heaven.

Jesus says, Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavily-burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Sharing Jesus’ yoke – equipment used to unite two beasts of burden to carry a load – this is being united with Christ in full, abundant relationship. And that’s what lying down in “pastures of grass” and drinking from “waters of rest” is really all about!

 

This is the promise of the wonder of abundant provision that we have in His Son, the Good Shepherd! In a few minutes when we praygive us this day our daily bread” may we recognize that Jesus, our sovereign King who guides us to waters of rest, is the Bread of Life!

 

Are you in these pastures of green grass? Do you know how to find these waters of rest?

Let’s start with a word of prayer:

Loving,      grace-filled God,      You are here with me right now!      In quiet,      allow me to rest in Your care,      Your comfort,      Your discipline,      Your Word.      You invite me to take Your yoke,      to walk with You,      to commune with You,      to receive from You.

Thank You, Lord.      Thank You, Jesus.      You are my King     …     for the rest of my life!      Amen.

 

Resources:

McKelvey, Michael G.; “He Makes Me Lie Down in Green Pastures. He Leads Me Beside Still Waters”; TableTalk; August 2018; Pp. 10-12.