Compassion, We All Need More


compassion-lgWe need more compassion.  We are followers of Jesus Christ, who had a lot of compassion.  He loved sinners, tax collectors, the poor, suffering, the outcasts, the rejected, and so must we.

So why is it a lot of followers of  Christ lose their compassion?  We see, hear, and read, judgement, opinions, and not as much of the love and kindness of  Jesus.  We struggle inwardly with true and authentic care and love for people.  Why do we not move in greater compassion?  Why does a small segment of the Church, have the most compassion and others seem hard, or apathetic to the needs of those around us in our lives and ocmmunity?

  1. We tend to drift away from the heart of Jesus.  We must seek him and allow the Spirit of God to keep our hearts soft.
  2. We must refrain from judging and becoming legalistic.  Judgment makes one hard.
  3. The world can be an uncaring place, and we live in it, so it rubs off on us. The way we think and act.
  4. Let’s be honest, we all become about us and we all fight that battle.  It can be a challenge in these times to look beyond us, and to the needs of  others.
  5. We need more compassion.  There are people that are the victims of the sin of this world, that are suffering in many ways, that are lonely, hurting, tires, and feeling very alone.  True compassion acts.
  6. Public leaders, without compassion, lash out at each other in social media, on the news, and many feel permission to join in.  We are called higher.

Questions:

  • Who in your life, path, work, needs someone to care?  You are that someone?
  • When is the last time you served someone from love and compassion?
  • Do you need to ask the Lord to forgive you for lacking care and compassion for others?
  • How can you be more compassionate?  Do you need to ask the Lord to impart some compassion?

Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.  Then He *said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  “Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”  Matthew 9:36–38 (NASB95)

 

 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  Colossians 3:12–14 (NASB95)

 You, O Lord, will not withhold Your compassion from me; Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me. Ps. 40.11

   Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, Philippians 2:1 (NASB95)

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When you don’t feel like putting any effort into your relationship with Christ


contemplation-1Many people are in this spot.  We know we should, but we don’t.  Does it matter?  Does it change anything?  Can I help maybe get us out of the slump of being apathetic about your life and soul?  I want to communicate these principles without more  guilt, but positive truths. Please know how much Jesus loves you. His presence is with you and in you and his life-transforming power, and special friendship is available to you, no matter what you think, what your past is, or what you are currently up to in life. He loves you. Here are some principles.

  1. Define what grows you closer to Christ.  There are many creative ways then just “read your Bible and pray.”   Investigate contemplative spirituality, journaling, solitude.  Maybe a new book to help guide you?  Can I suggest reading “Celebration of Discipline”  “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” and reat it with the devotional book.  Maybe a fresh Bible Study guide, exciting new podcast, read a classic from an anointed author that has gone to heaven.
  2. Make your relationship real.  Don’t relegate your relationship with Christ to that few moments a week when you read and pray. He is in you. He is everywhere.  Even during the mundane things of life, have an awareness that Jesus is with you.  Talk to Him, Listen with a cup of coffee.  Take a walk and talk to the Lord. Engage Him as you enjoy a hobby or work.
  3. Be honest about distractions.  Do you get up and grab your phone, or device and immediately start scrolling through posts?  Do you always have to have a TV on?  Does your news blare all the time?  Our senses become consumed and distracted away from Christ too much. Maybe we just have too many social media accounts?  Maybe we need to repent that we will put hours into social media and not much time into seeking the Lord.  We are too distracted. Apple set out to do this to a culture, and it has been done.  We can’t put our devices down. We are an addicted and enslaved society and our hearts, souls, and families are beginning to show the suffering this is bringing.
  4. Get some encouragement to grow.  You might not have it at home, from your parents or your spouse, but relationships are the way to do it.  Get in a small group, join a class, follow a spiritual leader’s blog.  I love silence, but also love worship music. I love to preach, but also need the encouragement from other preachers.  Get some encouragement to grow.  You may have relationships that do the opposite of encouraging to be close to Christ.  Have the courage to be honest about those.
  5. Ask Jesus for a hunger for Him.  Begin to read the Psalms, and the Gospels.  Confess you are not putting much effort and ask the Lord to assist you. He will.
  6. It’s hard to pursue the Lord, if you know you are violating the Lord’s ways.  You might need to get rid of a sin you have allowed, and be honest with repentance, confession, and receive the freedom of forgiveness. Sin is so deceiving.
  7. Realize growing in Christ is enjoyable, fun, secure, moving, touching, energizing, filling, and purposeful.  It is not a chore.  Listening, talking, and pursing Christ is not a root canal.  It is a vacation. It is a way of life. It bring purpose, clarity, aligns our heart, and sets our priorities for a Christ-honoring life.
  8. This life of loving Christ and seeking Him will bring wonderful changes on the inside.  Want to stop getting angry?  Don’t focus on your behavior, allow Christ to take it out of you. Need to forgive someone?  Don’t fake it, allow the love of Christ to truly change your heart.  Are you discontent and ungrateful?  Grow in your thankfulness.  You see, Jesus changes our hearts and souls, which change behavior. We try to change behavior without letting Jesus, and being honest, about the brokenness in our hearts that contribute to our behavior.
  9. As you begin to ignite your relationship, begin to grow, your desires will change.  This will change your life.  We begin to pull away from the things of this world, and only Jesus matters. He is enough. The revelation and authentic belief will transform you as a person, parent, spouse, and  child of God.
  10. Just do it.  Start today.  Don’t let dishes, devices, laundry, sleep, netflix, or people stop you from your destiny, to know and love the Lord, to allow him to be your Abba, closest friend, and only hope for contentment and inner peace.

Knowing Christ, glorifying and enjoying Him, is our primary purpose.

— Pastor Nate Elarton

Encouraging Scriptures about our Relationship with Christ

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:31-32

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” Psalm 86:15

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

My thoughts and experiences with death and grieving


Death  is very hard on this earth. Knowing someone we love, someone who has been part of our life, our history, even our day, will never be with us again on this earth, can be overwhelming, paralyzing, and discouraging, even depressing. I have watched people grieve, walk through other’s terrible tragedies, and experienced my own.

I lost a close friend in high school, tragically and suddenly. We were best friends since kindergarten and man that was hard. My first funeral to oversee and preach, was my brother Pat. We grew up together, went to school together, found Jesus together and grew in Christ together.  I had no idea at 20 years old, how much his death would affect me at that time.  Since then, and being a pastor I have had to bury many wonderful people, including a lot of my family, and very, very close friends.

Since the tragic death of my brother Pat, and then my very close brother Steve in 2010 from cancer, then my mom from COPD, as well as grandparents, and one of my closest friends and pastors here at Compelled in February , I have had to do some grieving, and still do.

Can I share some points from my experience?

  1. Allow yourself to grieve in the way you want to.  Yes, I cry, I remember, I get quiet. I look at old pictures, I go be by myself, and yes I cry (did I say that?). It’s OK, your way is the right way for you.  Everyone grieves differently. Every way is the right way.
  2. Grieving does not have an end date.  How can I  “move on” and just quit missing people that loved me so much and I them?  Don’t feel guilty or like you are doing something wrong if you have not gotten “over it”. You most likely won’t.  The emotions get more manageable and less intense, but the longing in my heart will never stop here on earth.  I’ll never forget or stop talking about these people and “move on” as some may want. (Maybe it’s because they are uncomfortable with feelings and emotions they want us to move on??)
  3. Talk about them.  Tell the stories. Remember the laughs. Journal the fun times, and quotes. Don’t act like they never existed and be honored when others bring them up (not offended).  They still have a place in our hearts and lives, and so talking about them has brought and is bringing me healing and peace.
  4. I don’t blame God.  I never became bitter that God did not heal them. I have stressed my disappointment to the Lord, but I trust Him. If you are mad at God. He’s big boy, he gets it. Don’t worry about what you said or thought about God.  When Steve was fighting cancer I prayed for his healing and it came, not on this earth but eternal life.  That’s the most incredible healing.  The Isaiah 53 verse “by his stripes we are healed.” is not just applied to the present, but it is a verse for our future.  We will be “whole” one day. I miss him daily.
  5. Their things don’t help my grief.  Yes, a few things for memories, but no one can hold onto everything forever. Parting with their things, that  I have, does not mean I do not love them and I am disloyal.  You can’t hold on to everything.
  6. I don’t pay any attention to the day of their death. I hoping to forget that day on my calendar as the day _______died.  I personally have not felt that celebrating that, remembering it, or sinking into a depression on that day helps me. I remember their birthday and the day of life, as their life blessed mine. If you want to, though and grieve that way that is OK too.
  7. I express my feelings verbally. I dont’ hold them in.  “I miss Marty” I yelled in my woodcarving shop to the Lord, and I have said it to others.  When my boys wrestled I thought and said, “man would Steve love this!”   I eat real butter and blurted out ” this is for you mom” and held my toast to the heavens in honor of my mom’s love for real butter and not margarine.  These acts, and connection bring me peace, and I express them to others.  Dad and I just talked yesterday about what Patrick, Uncle Allen would be like today if they were still here, or what mom would think of this or that.
  8. When my mourning for Steve was so intense and I once broke down in a message and started sobbing  and could not pull myself together. Three hundred people sat there and watched me weep. I abrubtly closed the service.  I went and talked to a counselor, and I took some time to grieve.  You may need to go and talk with someone. That does not mean you are crazy, or losing your mind, it means you need to care for yourself and that is something you should never feel guitly about!
  9. I pray thanksgiving prayers to the Lord for their lives in my grief.  When my brother’s Steve’s passing was so raw to me all I could do was weep and thank God for Steve’s impact on my life.  The presence of Jesus comforted me, and I realized what Jesus meant when he said, “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5.4).” I was comforted by the Lord Himself. I admit there were times I felt desperately alone too. But I knew in my heart my God was with me.
  10. Be aware when you grieve, you are vulnerable. The enemy knows this. He wants Christians to go get wasted, pull away from the faith, shut people out,  relapse to drugs, surf porn, have an affair, go in debt through shopping, lash out at others. Don’t make stupid decisions when you are grieving, try to make no decisions that have too much weight at all, and be aware of the evil one, who tries to make one think dumb decisions will bring us peace.  They won’t. Stay connected to your church, family, and good people that love you.
  11. I allowed myself to express my grief in creative ways other than tears.  I wrote a journal about Steve, carved a face for Marty, eat butter for mom, etc.  These things have allowed me expression. I did some other things, but I will be shy about sharing those, they are deeply personal, and a little goofy (but not to me).
  12. Don’t stop loving people.  Some say, “don’t get close to people, don’t love them, they will leave you.”  That is true, but also a lie.  Keep people in your life. Don’t build up walls to protect you from pain of loss. You can’t do it and you will be robbed of wonderful relationships.
  13. I dismissed, without offense, the silly things people say (said), that I do not believe, and did not appreciate, but I knew they wanted to help me and they honestly had no idea what to say.  I did not let these things make me angry and I did not respond poorly.  “They are in a better place.”   “God has a plan.”  “When our number is up, there’s nothing we can do, it was his time.”   “This was God’s will.”  I could go on and on, but you understand. Guard your heart, it’s ok. They love you.
  14. I learned from my counselor not to live in guilt for what I did not do before their death.  We all struggle with this when we encounter death.  We beat ourselves up for not calling more, not visiting, a quarrel in the past,  etc.  This makes the grieving process impossible as it becomes about us and not them.  Let go of the “I wish I would have….s” and just be sad they are gone.
  15. Grief hits when  it wants. I go with it.  Out of the blue, like a punch in the gut, a wave of grief, without warning, consumes me.  I go with it.  I hope this never stops. It reminds me of the blessing they were to me, and God’s Spirit comforts.
  16. I don’t hold it against others if they don’t understand my grief, or seem to be not grieving like I think they should have.  Everyone grieves differently and all ways are ok. Some hide their’s, I do mostly, but I don’t keep it in. The Lord and I have a moment.
  17. I believe in Heaven and eternal life and the Gospel more than ever.  I used to be thankful for my salvation, and what God can do for me.  But I have a different view of the Gospel now. Jesus forgave my sins so I could be with him FOREVER.  There are more of my family with Him than with me.  Eternal life, and never dying, and Jesus’ death and resurrection to make that happen me so much more to me now than it did when I was younger.  I will see mom, Patrick, Steve, Greg, Grandma and Granpa Ford and Elarton, Grandma Knight,  Marty, Alta, Nancy, Brother Skoog  and on and on.  My faith in Christ’s work on the cross, forgave my sins, so I can be with Father in the eternal after life forever with those I love. I believe this!  This does bring me comfort.

I hope these help you or someone you love that is journeying through grief.   Nate

When you are God’s…..He is always with you.


What is the greatest gift we receive from the Lord when we choose to serve Him?  When one cries out to the Lord for salvation, and believes in Christ, so much happens.  Being a follower of Christ give us so much grace and truth from the Lord.

  • Our sins are forgiven, as Jesus suffered for us on the cross (John 1.29; 1 John 1.1,2).
  • We are adopted as children of God, into the family of God (John 1.12)
  • We become new inside (2 Corinthians 5.17).
  • We stop leaving for our purposes or none at all and begin to live the purposes of the Lord. Our life has purpose and significance because we realize we are treasured by Father God.
  • Our names are written down in the book of life, promising us eternal life (John 5.24).
  • We receive the Holy Spirit and He lives in us (Ephesians 1.13,14).
  • We begin a life-long adventure of getting to know Christ, and His ways, as the Lord gives us revelation through His words, and our life.  We become set apart for the purposes of God.
  • Because the Lord lives in us, we hear Him. We can sense God in our daily lives.
  • We understand the Bible, the things of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2.14).
  • We begin to heal from the hurts of our past.
  • We do not have to fear death, or anything, because we are God’s and will live with him forever.
  • We have victory over sin, addictions, and the enemy (1 John 3.8).
  • We are delivered from the emptiness of religion and trying to be “good” to earn God’s love or salvation.
  • We gain wisdom from God (Proverbs 9.10). This wisdom helps us walk through life, make decisions, and treat others.
  • We have the power to forgive those in our past, those that hurt us, and those that will in the future.
  • We care for others with the unconditional love of Christ (1 Cor. 13).

But, one of the greatest things that happen when we choose to follow God, we have access to Father God, through Christ (John 14.16). We get to know God and call out to Him as our “Abba Father”. He is not known afar off. He is not aloof. He is with us.

We need His presence!  We need his power.  We need His wisdom, direction, Word, life, and light to help us on this earth because it can be very difficult.  We have our hope in the Lord, that whatever circumstances, heartaches, joys, tragedies, in life, our God is with us.  He has redeemed us, by Christ, bought us back so we can be His.

The most wonderful gift of salvation to me, is knowing that my Father God is with me.   It does not matter if I feel Him, He is with me.  It does not matter if tragedy strikes, He is with me.  Even when I sin against Him, He is with me.  When I don’t think about Him, He is with Me.  He is with you too.  Always.  Don’t think He isn’t if you believe. He is with you.

Pastor Nate Elarton

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”  Hebrews 13.5-6

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8.38-39

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.  John 14.16-18

Message is on sin this weekend and the remedy, John 1.29


I, by nature, am an encourager. The message this week is on sin and how Christ came to take away our sin as the “lamb of God.” (John 1.29).  As I have been seeking God and praying about the message it dawns on me through illumination and the Logos Word of God, that God is pretty serious about sin.  Sin in the believer and the believer.  For us to understand the Gospel, know about Jesus, and to continue to willfully live in sin, apart from God, is a horrible decision.  Communicating this serious Truth with grace and love will be the challenge this weekend.  Freedom is enouragement and walking in truth is also.

Our greatest life is to be forgiven and honor God with our life. To walk away from sin, sinful behavior, sin of ignoring Christ and what we know, bring amazing joy, peace and freedom, and removes the wrath of God from our lives (John 3.36). Pray for me as I teach these truths. Pray for us all, that we would be aware of sin, and believe, be forgiven, and walk in grace with thankful hearts.

Pray for those who know all of this, yet seem not to care anymore.

Pray for those who will hear the Gospel for the first time.

Pray for those filled with spiritual pride that think this message is for everyone else, not them.

Pray for this pastor.

Below are the handout notes.

P. Nate

John One|1.29

Compelled Church,

July 6, 2017

 

John 1.19-34

1.29   “ The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! “

 

Some Definitions

“Lamb of God”

The Lamb provided to Abraham Genesis 22:8 “ Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.”

The Passover Lamb- Exodus 12. 1-13

The Lamb of Isaiah-Isiah 53.1-5

The Lamb of Revelation  (Rev. 5 1.1-10   Revelation  5:9–10 (NASB95)

9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”

Sin- Gr. “harmartia”  sin, evil actions, guilt

Two Types of Sin- 1)Omission 2) commission

Of the World-  The atonement of Christ is comprehensive-

1 John 2:1–2” My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

  1. The foolish view

I don’t care about my sin.  (God cares)

It does not bother me to sin.  (you are deceived or heart has become hard)

I don’t feel guilty when I sin.   Guilt could be covered by selfishness and rebellion

James 1:14–16But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. “

 

  1. The significance of “sins gone”

The guilt of sin is gone Hebrews 10.22 Hebrews 10:22 (NASB95) “ let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. “

The punishment for sin is gone from us (1 John 2.1-2)

John 5:24- “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

  1. The gift of “sins gone”

John 1.12- We are adopted as the Father’s Children

  1. The response of “sins gone”

We live thankful.

We walk in God’s Grace

We stop willfully sinnin

1 John 1:9 (NASB95)

9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness

What about the Christian that continues in sin?

What if we do not stop, confess, and repent of sin?

 

 

The Effects of continued sin in our life.

  1. Drift happens
  2. Selfishness inflates
  3. God thoughts diminish
  4. Compassion begin to dissolve
  5. Love for God, becomes a doctrine, not an action
  6. Priorities of life become scrambled
  7. Desertion starts becoming complete.

 

We stop desiring to serve the Lord or honor him with our life.

 

Believe in Jesus as your Savior and have him forgive your sins by asking.

Acknowledge sin and ask forgiveness and be free.

 

 

He is My Confidence


When you struggle with fear, situations, and the feelings of insignificance, Jesus is our confidence.  We can rest in Him.  Trust in His Word, and the presence of His Spirit to guide us through every situation.

Love this song my Iron Bell Music  “My Confidence”. Enjoy and listen to the words closely.

Eleven Reasons Why It’s Easier Being a Pastor Today


Pastodawsonring has it’s challenges. Without a doubt, it can be overwhelming at times, but also filled with joy and fulfillment, most times. While I agree with Thom S. Rainer’s recent post, “Ten Reasons It is more Difficult to be a Pastor Today”  (Click here to read it), I offer another perspective. Although these ten reasons are true and many a reality, some, not so much in healthy situations. Leaving it on that note (a little negative and discouraging), does not do the wonderful work of pastoring justice.  I have given my own thoughts on why it rocks to be a pastor today.

Eleven Reasons Why it’s Easier Being a Pastor Today

  1. The Advent of Social media. It has become an arm of communication never matched by the old church’s monthly newsletter. Used with wisdom, we can encourage and influence more people toward Christ. Harness and use it and train your people to use it as an arsenal of communication and Christ-like encouragement.
  2. The Culture. While there are more “nones,” or people with no affiliation to any religion, this creates an amazing opportunity for evangelism.
  3. Podcast Pastors. I used to relish the thought of going to conferences and hearing my favorite authors. Now I can listen to podcasts.  I can learn at a breath-taking pace from some of the best teachers and leaders in the world.
  4. We have more business savvy.  Being forced to have an understanding of business, budgets, and banks is a good thing to a point, but this helps us surround ourselves with people and leaders that we can delegate these things to.
  5. Print is amazing. No longer do we have to depend on the local printer for marketing or any graphics. Most churches and pastors with a laptop can produce professional looking graphics to enhance ministry.
  6. Generational Blending.  Any leader knows that generational blending in the church is so healthy and positive. If leaders see the generational diversity as a gift and as the Bible teaches, then conflict among generations will be non-existent or minimal.
  7. More paid pastors. There are more pastors being paid now, even part-time, than ever before in the American context. That is a plus and does makes things easier. I recognize the tension of bi-vocational ministry. When planting here in Temperance, MI, I was bi-vocational for 3 years, I then became full-time. Although not really full-time salary, I knew that for the Kingdom, sacrifice would be made, and if the church grew, my leaders would increase my salary.
  8. Pastors are staying longer.  Because communities and churches are diverse, when a pastor has a good “match,” they stay longer.  I never remember pastors being places 20-25 years. Now that is still not the norm, but more common than it used to be.
  9. Churches are more pastor-driven.  The old model of churches being board-driven is becoming more rare. If you are at a pastor-driven church with a board’s trust and respect, there is great liberty for so many things God can do. A board is a gift and will love and support their pastor, and govern with effectiveness. We can really do things that God has called us to, set our schedule, be flexible, and run with the calling the Lord has given us.
  10. Support.  We have more support.  There is no long-distance calls anymore. We all have unlimited talking and text and can connect with our colleagues for encouragement and resourcing like never before.  No pastor should live in loneliness. We have the tools, and we can sculpt our schedules to reach out to others for prayer, meeting, encouragement and resource sharing.
  11. We don’t have to wear suits!

What are your thoughts?

Nate Elarton

The Lord is MY Leader


We are being led. Someone is speaking and influencing our life.  Sometimes in America we are like lemmings.  We allow the media, advertisers, and movies to shape who we are, our world view, the way we think, and yes, the way we believe.  How can the voice of Christ break through the noise and prominence of so many other “leaders” in our life.

Psalm 23 is a classic Psalm and probably one of the most known.  It is the “funeral” psalm, printed on the little funeral cards and recited at gravesites and memorials by countless clergy across the land.  But I contend that it is not a psalm for the dead but for the living. The very first line gripped my spirit this morning as David declares who is the leader of his life.

“The Lord is my Shepherd.”  Say it like this, “the Lord is MY Shepherd.”  (emphasis on “my).  He is declaring who is the leader of his life.  Let me fine tune that better.  He is the leader of our day, our hour, our moment.  The Shepherd leads, we follow.  David declares without shame and without embarrassment, “The Lord is MY Shepherd”.  He does the leading, the providing, the guiding, the loving. We do the faithful following.

If you were to declare who your leader was this hour, moment, what would be in this blank?  “The  ____________ is my shepherd (leader), for this day.”  Would you, could you be honest? We know the  correct answer is the Lord, but is that the true answer?  I must confess a lot of the time “I” am my shepherd, or “outlook” is my shepherd (LOL).

Immerse yourself in being led by the Lord.  His Word will guide, His Spirit will lead, His voice will direct us on the paths of life, for this day, this moment that we need to walk.  He will lead us in peace, even in valleys.  H restores our soul, and helps us live “right”. He takes away fear, with His presence, he leads us to a greater understanding, and friendship,  of our relationship with him, by knowing him more and trusting his leading.

Say it, and live it like David.  “The Lord is MY  shepherd.” Now, follow your leader “all the days of your life.” I will for my life, but I must start with today, right now.
The LORD is MY shepherd;
I have all that I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
4 Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,*
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
5 You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the LORD
forever.
Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Ps 23:1–6). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

 

Knowing God


We know much about God, but few really know God and fewer understand Him.  We know and experience a lot of the “culture” of God, or the church.  The potlucks, the music, the jargon of God’s people,, the do’s and don’ts of faith. These things are familiar to us, yet really  knowing  God escapes most.  We understand the way to God or the Father is Jesus and His work on the cross, and resurrection, but to know the Lord, and to have friendship with God is elusive to most, never thought about to some, and pursued by the minority of those who admit to being His people.

To know someone takes time.  Sadly, I must confess, we try to know God, while investing as little time as possible.  Many families worship together now, only a couple times a month, some do some Bible reading at home, and say some prayers.  I must confess to my own lethargic attention at times to my efforts to know the God of the universe. It is no wonder when hard times hit us, we wonder where God is?  When the comforts of our modern culture are interrupted we question the very existence of God and our own faith.  Making large investments into our soul, must no longer seem impossible, out of reach, or unrealistic. It is time to take time to know Him.

I have learned and I am being being reminded (as of late), that there are no short cuts to knowing God.  There are no “hacks” or apps that make it faster and easier than daily investing some time, reserving some place in our thoughts, and making choices in our day, to carve out time to get to know our closest friend.  It is all about time.  We, I, am too much in a hurry.  We have too many things to do, and we are hurried even when there is respite and time off.  We must complete the yard work quickly, get the kids to bed, eat and do chores fast, and we never pace our lives  to enjoy the life God has given us,  for He is not separated from us, therefore, He is not separated from our daily activities of our  lives, however mundane and routine they are.   We must grasp the realization that we are living with Christ, all the time. So setting aside extra time in the day to know Him, is not that out of reach.

Being taught by the living Christ, through contemplative prayer, solitude, true study of Scripture, and prayer will lead us to knowing God  on a level we never thought was possible.  We must reserve room in our mind to think of him, and to become one in thought, heart, and soul.   We must immerse ourselves in solitude and silence, with undisturbed times from the electronics, of phones, and IPads, that ding, alert us, and drag us back to the hurried world, and out of His presence. We must rush off, making money, making friends, making our mark on this earth, but without knowing  God it is all in vain, hollow, and pointless.

We must invest in our spirit, in the same way in invest in our physical bodies.  This investment has the greatest return. We will slowly, day by day, understand the Lord, feel His heart, grow in love, and many things in the world that we have been deceived as being such a high priority begin to grow, “strangely dim”.

We make time to do so many things, that I think the “I don’t have time” excuses have no more merit. The stakes are too high. Your transformation is imperative to your parenting, marriage, vocation, and enjoyment of life if we truly want  the abundant life Christ promised us (John 10.10).

May this Psalm be the cry of our heart, and the evidence of that cry
1 O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.

6 I lie awake thinking of you,
meditating on you through the night.
7 Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.
Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Ps 63:1–8). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

What is shaping you?


We are constantly being shaped and molded.  No one is static. We are changing, morphing into what we are becoming.  I am not the man I was in my twenties (thank you Lord!), and I am not the man now, that I will be in my 70’s. I am changing, being shaped, every so slowly, every day.

Habits and routines shape us. We wake up and immediately grab our phones, scrolling through the most recent Facebook posts, like something important would have happened to our “friends” since we last checked it at 11 pm.  Our day is shaped by the technological stream of information we cram into our minds the first 15 or 20 minutes of waking up. News, twitter, political rants, shape our mind and day and we are imprinted, not by what we have chosen to look at, but by the algorithms of twitter, Facebook, or snapshot.

I am surprised by how many people turn on the TV immediately, as if the silence of the new day cannot be tolerated.  News media, with their own bias and agenda, begin to imprint us and shape our lives. Slowly, morning after morning, one brain cell at a time, we become them, and “parrot” their news bites in our views as if we came up with it from scratch rather than admitting we are lemmings of some producer somewhere who is deciding how we should think and believe.

Our habits throughout the day shape us.  The jokes, hobbies, vices,  talk, radio, friends, and what we read, investments in our marriage, our family, our God, are slowly digested into our person, character, and personality. Our daily exposure to people, information, and relationships are changing us, for the better or the worse. We are being shaped, whether we think so or not.

So are your habits shaping you into who you want to be, or are you just letting a “routine” shape you into whatever you, by chance, you end up becoming?  Can we allow our God to shape us?  I am talking about habits outside of a church service a couple of times a month. Habits of a pursuit of a God, through Christ, that wants to shape us into the person that lives without addictions, regrets, fear, and pain of the past?  Could a new habit of silence, prayer, family time, worship, daily shape you into a person better than the current routine?  We each choose what we allow to be part of our life, our mind, and our spirit. It may be time for some honest evaluation. Time to stop being a slave to our phones and tablets?  It might be time to be shaped by living outside ourselves and for others?  To read and look at things that add value and don’t diminish us. New routines, and new habits, can bring a new you.  The Lord of our souls wills that. Choose wisely, every day we are all being shaped.