The LORD is my Shepherd…

As we prepare to bid “Adios” to 2017, a year that, for many of us, has been very difficult, we need to be reminded that the same Shepherd that King David trusted in three-thousand years ago is still on His throne and will lead us onward into and through 2018.

I lost my mom to cancer April 4th of this year. She spent the last 2-1/2 weeks in a Hospice facility, and when I went to see her, I read the 23rd Psalm to her right before I left each time. Even though her thinking wasn’t very clear and she was minimally-responsive, when I read this Psalm to her, she would get the most peaceful-countenance about her as she imagined being led by her great Shepherd. It was all I could do to read the 23rd Psalm at her memorial service without breaking down.

Several of us lost a friend and brother to suicide October 12th. He left his young, pregnant wife and three adorable daughters behind. Other close friends also lost family members this year.

October 22nd was the twentieth anniversary of the death by suicide of my beloved wife, Connie. That kind of loss never goes away, and it is a loss that you don’t just “get-over”.

The 23rd Psalm is the best-know passage in the whole Bible, and even unbelievers want it read at their funeral or memorial service, because it speaks of the kind of comfort and security everyone craves. This is a phrase-by-phrase, part-by-part, meditation, and I hope to open up the richest meaning we can get from this marvelous Psalm.

King David, the author, had been a shepherd long before he was anointed as a king, so he knew intimately what the responsibilities of a shepherd were. As he applied it to us, as sheep under God’s shepherding, he has told us both what our Shepherd will do, and what our response should be.

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23)

The LORD – The LORD – Yahweh…the most personal name of God, the great I AM. This was the marvelous name God told Moses to use when he went back to Egypt to carry out the mission God commanded him to do…liberate the children of Israel from bondage.

Is my shepherd – The supreme God of the universe is the One who has taken on the task of being my God, provider, guide and protector. There is no higher authority…no better provider.

I shall not want – I shall not lack the necessities of life. We have become a seriously materialistic society, and we often confuse our “wants” with what we actually need. God is the provider of our needs, and we should be thankful for “our daily bread“.

He makes me lie down in green pastures – Lying down in green pastures is a picture of rest…rest in abundance.

He leads me beside quiet waters – In all the hustle and bustle of life, God wants to lead us to a peaceful place, a place of refreshing…quiet waters.

He restores my soul – Our souls are in turmoil. We see nothing but bad news…broken relationships, violence, wars, and personal brokenness, but God wants to repair and heal our brokenness, and restore us to a right relationship with Him.

He guides me in paths of righteousness – Our first parents left us with a legacy of sin and despair. We are sinners by birth, and sinners by choice, but God wants us to depend on Him for our righteousness. Then, with His enabling, we are able to live a life that is pleasing to Him.

For His name’s sake – God has staked His own reputation on us, and if we do what is right, we are a positive reflection of Him. We should do everything for His glory, not our own.

Even though I walk through the valley of shadow of death – We will all face the valley of death, and maybe many times, as we lose friends and loved ones, but our Lord Jesus has already trod and conquered that lonely valley, and He will guide us safely through. Even though we all will die, unless our Lord returns beforehand, we should see our death not as an exit from this life, but as an entrance-ramp into eternity.

I will fear no evil – Evil IS everywhere around us, because Satan is on the prowl, but his days are numbered. Our Lord Jesus crushed the serpent’s head on the cross, and in so doing, gained the victory over sin and death. Even though evil men may kill us, our victory is assured in Christ. We need not fear the evil one or any of his schemes.

For you are with me – Is there any better assurance? God is with us, and if God is with us, who can successfully be against us. He is our guide, and He walks by our side and carries us when we need to be carried.

Your rod and your staff – These are pictures of both protection and guidance. The rod is a tool of protection from our enemies, and the staff is used to gently guide and direct us in the path.

They comfort me – What greater comfort can we have, than that we are both protected and guided by our faithful Shepherd, even though the path may be rough and steep. This life WILL bring tough times our way, but our comfort must come from the LORD.

You prepare a table before me – This is no ordinary table. It is a lavish banquet table in a magnificent celebration hall, set and prepared by the LORD Himself. We are His honored-guests.

In the presence of my enemies – Our enemies seek to do us harm, but when we are in God’s banquet-hall, all they can do is fuss and fume on the sidelines. God’s banquet-hall is a place of perfect safety and security. We are better-protected than any president ever will be.

You anoint my head with oil – Anointing carries with it a two-fold picture. It is a picture of healing, and also a picture of honor. Priests were anointed for their holy service, and we are anointed both for holy service and as a badge of honor in God’s house.

My cup overflows – A never-ending supply, and a permanent place at His table. There is a limitless supply of His wine of grace.

Sure goodness and mercy – Goodness and mercy=blessings and salvation, which come only from the hand of God. They are not things we can earn or merit.

Will follow me – They will not only follow me, but they will also surround me and en-dwell me.

All the days of my life – God, through Jesus Christ, has guaranteed these blessings for as long as we live.

And I will dwell – Live safely and securely.

In the house – We will no longer be out in the “fields” of life. Instead, we will be HOME, never to be put out to pasture again.

Of the LORD – Our eternal LORD is the provider of our “forever-home“. This reminds me of a child who has been in foster-care for many years, and who has never really had a place to call “home“, but when they are adopted, they are taken to their “forever-home“…the home of their new parents. We have been orphans, but God has adopted us, and He will take us to HIS home…our “forever-home“.

Forever – Do we really comprehend “forever“? If we see someone we haven’t seen in a long time, we may tell them: “I haven’t seen you in forever“, which to us means “a long time“, but that time isn’t even a pin-prick on the time-line of “forever“. The problem is that our minds are constrained by MEASURABLE time, so IMMEASURABLE time is incomprehensible. “Forever” is immeasurable, and we can’t wrap our brains around it, but in fact, that is how “long” we will dwell in the house of the LORD.

Is this LORD your shepherd? I pray that He is, and that you find great comfort in knowing that, no matter what kind of trials come your way, you are in good hands…the hands of the LORD.

Sola Deo Gloria!


Welcome Home!

Is there any place you would rather be than at home? Even though I am sure that there are people with such a wander-lust that they really don’t call any place “home“, but for the majority of us, Dorothy had it right when she said “There is no place like home!“. Even though Toto was by her side, she wasn’t in Kansas. If this reference is unfamiliar to you, Dorothy is the young girl in “The Wizard of Oz“.

We all long for a place to call “home“, and if we do have a “home“, when we are away from home, there is a level of uneasiness that won’t go away until get get back home. Whether it is a mansion or a cardboard box, home is where the heart is.

I traveled a lot during the early years of my working career, and sometimes I was gone for several weeks at at time, but there was no sweeter sight than the faces of my family waiting for me at the exit of the jet-way. Even though the airport wasn’t “home“, Albuquerque was, and the airport was in Albuquerque. Arriving at that airport meant that I would be home soon, to greetings of “Welcome Home Dad!“.

I didn’t spend any of my time in the military overseas, so I can only imagine what it feels like to be HOME from an overseas deployment, particularly from a combat-zone. It must be the most wonderful feeling on earth.

In 2011, I made a 31 day, 5,200 mile odyssey across the US of A. I spent a night with my baby brother, Rocky, on my way west. His daughter spent the night with a friend so that I could use her bedroom. That was very sweet of her. I hadn’t seen Rocky since about 1974, so it was wonderful to be together again.

I spent the next few days at the home of my brother Darrell, or should I say, his former home, because Darrell wasn’t there. Yes, his name was still on the deed, but that wasn’t his home any more. Darrell was HOME!!! Cancer had claimed his body, but his Lord had claimed his soul, so Darrell was in a far better place. All that was left of Darrell on earth was a handful of ashes. The chapel at the funeral home was packed, much to Darrell’s surprise, because even though he thought that he really didn’t have many friends, he had touched the lives of many people, and through our tears, we were there to celebrate his life.

I spent the next few days with John and Sue, dear friends from my time in Albuquerque. John was my traveling-partner for quite a few of those work trips. In Spanish, they say “Mi casa es su casa“, for “My home is your home“, and they sure pulled out all the stops to make me feel at home. They insisted that I sleep in their bedroom while they slept on the sofas in the living room so that I could have private sleeping-quarters. As much as they tried to make me feel at home, I wasn’t home.

I journeyed on west to spend some time with Rich and Phyl. I have known Rich since the early 80’s, so we go WAY back. They don’t have a guest bedroom, so I slept on a mattress on the floor of Phyl’s office. Being with them was more important than where I slept. We had a great time together, but I was still over 2,000 miles from home.

I spent all but one night on the rest of the trip in a motel room. Motel rooms ARE NOT home, as nice as they can be, because that room is only “yours” as long as you pay the “rent“. None of the places I had been or stayed were “home“, because I didn’t have my OWN bedroom or my OWN place at the table.

As I pulled into the driveway of MY home, it was good to be HOME. Mom met me with “WELCOME HOME!“, because I WAS HOME.

Many people would think that the little place I call “home” is way too small, but it is “home” to me. I don’t have to compete with anyone else for any part of the house. It is not that I wouldn’t share it, but at this point in my life, I don’t have to share it.

I go up to see my mom once in a while, and even though her place is technically mine also, it isn’t really “home“. I am ALWAYS ready to come back HOME.

As much as we feel like this Earth is our home, if we are Christians, this is NOT our home. We are sojourners for a finite period of time. As with Darrell, so also with Connie and my own father. They aren’t here any longer. They are HOME. They are in their “FOREVERHOME“. They have joined a myriad of saints who have gone before them, saints who have left their earthly-dwelling behind, and are now dwelling in a place that was not made by human hands. They have already heard God say “WELCOME HOME!“.

David, in that glorious 23rd Psalm, said “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever“. The “house of the Lord” IS our forever-home. This “home“, this earthly-body wears out, gets diseased, and ultimately dies, but it is only our temporary home, because God has given us an immortal spirit which lives on even after our body is long-gone. Yes, we WILL get a new body, a body that is not subject to decay, disease and death, a body not-unlike Adam and Eve’s bodies before their fall into sin. We will be restored to our true and full humanity, because being human isn’t “bad“, it is WONDERFUL. We, among all of God’s creation, are the only beings made in His image. Jesus showed us what it is like to be fully-human, and what we should strive for in our earthly-sojourn is to be more like Him.

Sometimes I wish that God would call me HOME, but I know that as long as I am still here, He has more work for me to do. Should we “settledown” here? I believe that we should only “settlelightly“, because nothing we accumulate here will cross over with us. Only what we do for the furtherance of His kingdom and for His glory really matters. Those are what will follow us HOME.

Are you ready to go HOME? Are you ready to hear “WELCOME HOME!“?

I am!