“The Lord Is My Shepherd” – An In-Depth Study of Psalm 23 (Session 1, Vs 1)

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My friends, rather than upload a recording of my talk, I thought I’d simply write out my notes in an easy-to-read format for you. (This way, you also don’t have to hear me, over and over again, become emotional as I speak 🙂 …..Christ has used this passage so powerfully in my life since the passing of my beloved son.)

May you get to know the Shepherd more intimately in your study. And, after studying and meditating upon this great psalm, may we all gain a stronger, broader understanding of what it really means when we say, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Simply click on the link for the PDF file.

Psalm 23 – Session 1 – Intro & Verse 1

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

When You Feel Like God Isn’t Listening

I called him but he did not answer. (Song of Songs 5:6)

The words of a worship/scripture chorus we used to always sing with our students states: “Keep on praying – in the Spirit; Ephesians 6:18 says, ‘keep on praying….” Not seeing immediate, tangible answers to our prayers in no way means that God isn’t listening, or that He simply doesn’t care. He loves you. His answer, as well as His timing, is perfect.

Former missionary, L.B. Cowman’s devotional book, Streams in the Desert, is a breath of literary fresh air. One entry I read on this topic of prayer so impacted me I felt impressed to pass it along to you. Here is an excerpt:

Once the Lord has given us great faith, He has been known to test it with long delays…..Believers have knocked at the heavenly gate, but it has remained immovable, as though its hinges had rusted. And like Jeremiah, they have cried, “You have covered yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can get through.” (Lamentations 3:44)

True saints of God have endured lengthy times of patient waiting with no reply, not because their prayers were prayed without intensity, nor because God did not accept their pleas. They were required to wait because it pleased Him who is sovereign and who gives “according to His good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)

No prayer is ever lost, or any prayer ever breathed in vain. There is no such thing as prayer unanswered or unnoticed by God, and some things we see as refusals or denials are simply delays.

Christ sometimes delays His help so He may test our faith and energize our prayers. Our boat may be tossed by the waves while He continues to sleep, but He will awake before it sinks. (See: Matthew 8:23-27) He sleeps but He never oversleeps, for He is never too late.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

“The Lord Is My Shepherd” – How This Phrase Has Kept Me From Losing My Mind

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INTRODUCTION TO SERIES: Since the passing of my son last May, Jordan, no biblical passage has comforted my mind & soul more than the 23rd Psalm. Quoting it has saved me, more than once, from losing my mind.

The power of God’s Word – in particular, this passage – in setting me free from a “psychological hell”, of sorts, motivated me to more deeply “mine the treasures” of these six short verses. What I’ve discovered – and experienced – has been life-changing. And now, I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

Prayerfully consider joining me, please, as we unpack this beloved psalm, verse by verse, and discover what it really means when we say, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

3 Sundays: Feb. 23rd, Mar. 2nd, Mar. 9th; 5pm. BHBC Worship Center.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

Church? Not For Me.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

The Christian “blogoshpere” blew up last week when popular Christian author, Donald Miller, (Blue Like Jazz; 2003) wrote a blog explaining (1) why he doesn’t attend a local church, and (2) why he can worship God better outside of the local church. You can read his blog here.

Don’t get mad at him. Plenty have done that already.

Miller’s “mistake” was sharing his personal journey on the world-wide-web, allowing comments. Anyone can leave a comment – even idiots.

The reaction to his blog was so strong that Miller wrote a “follow up” blog a couple of days later, clarifying that his intent was never to give the impression that he is “anti-church,” but rather sharing his spiritual pilgrimage where church is concerned. You can read his “follow up” blog here.

After I read Miller’s “follow up” blog, my heart hurt for him. I left a comment. My first statement: “Hi Don. I have a message for you: I love you, my friend.”

This is not the place to write a thesis on the “doctrine of the church.” My purpose here is to simply remind all of those who, like Miller, have honest questions about the relationship of believers to the local church that Jesus can handle your questions. He loves you. So very much.

Biblically, “church” is not defined as “bricks, mortar & wood.” In truth, walls are optional. The “Church” of Scripture is the Body of Christ, comprising all believers. (“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Cor. 12:27) What’s vitally important, though, is that we’re connected to the Body (as made clear in the Hebrews passage cited at the top.)

There are a number of reasons Jesus used the metaphor of sheep when describing believers. One reason is that any shepherd will agree that when a sheep has strayed/becomes isolated from the flock they are easy prey for the enemy.

As I closed my comments to Miller, I included a quote from a book by Philip Yancey, entitled, “Church: Why Bother? A Personal Pilgrimage”. Introducing his first chapter, Yancey includes a quote by J.F. Powers from “Wheat That Springeth Green” that, at least to me, perfectly describes the local church: “This is a big old ship, Bill. She creaks, she rocks, she rolls, and at times she makes you want to throw up. But, she gets where she’s going. Always has, always will, until the end of time. With or without you.”

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

You’ll Never See It Coming

“Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, Amplified)

It was a gorgeous day at Busch Gardens on May 12, 2002. The Tampa, FL, amusement park was alive with all that is associated with Spring. Colorful flowers. Warm sunshine. And the smiles on the faces of children everywhere.

Little did a 21 year old Busch Gardens employee know that her life was about to change forever.

The Associated Press article reported that she was giving her family a “behind the scenes” tour of the theme park. Details are sketchy, but apparently she had stopped to show off the park’s 350 pound male lion. All was fine until, a moment later, with lightning speed, the lion’s massive jaw clamped onto the young employee’s arm like a steel trap. Despite the screams of the girl and her family, the lion’s razor-sharp teeth had already severed her arm at the elbow. She was flown with the severed limb to Tampa General Hospital by helicopter where it was unclear if an attempt would be made to re-attach the arm.

What struck me about this story was not so much the ferocity of the lion as it was the surprise of the attack. Clearly, this young lady was not some inexperienced passerby who was visiting the zoo on a pretty Sunday afternoon. She was a trained zookeeper who, no doubt, took what she was thinking were proper precautions in dealing with a 350 pound wild animal. However, for a split-second she let her guard down. And that’s when the lion instinctively struck. She never saw it coming.

Our enemy, the devil, rarely approaches when we expect him to do so. He’s far too smart for that. He revels in the thought that we believers arrogantly believe we’ve got him figured out. The truth is he’s a demon of ancient origin, trained over millennia to center on both our weaknesses, and weak moments. And that’s when it happens. With lightning speed, he strikes. But, instead of losing an arm, we’re left with a lost reputation, shredded integrity, a severed relationship, or broken fellowship with God.

It’s when we’re most confident in ourselves (rather than in the presence and power of Christ) that we become easiest prey, which is precisely why Paul warned the Corinthians, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed, lest he fall.” (1 Cor. 10:12, NASB)

So before you bound out of bed each morning and rush out the door ready for all life has for you, remember – satan has spent a great deal of time, perhaps years, waiting for your next unguarded moment. Abide in Jesus Christ, the One who “destroyed the works of the devil” by the Cross. If you don’t, make no mistake – the enemy will strike. And you’ll never see it coming.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick