Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Many people consider the 23rd Psalms to be a Sunday School verse for children to learn, others think that it is a verse to be quoted at funerals.  But I submit to you that the 23rd Psalms is a scripture related to the Good Shepherd, Jesus, developing in us the character and nature of God.  The image of Jesus as a shepherd is an appropriate one.  You see, the shepherd is the sheep's protector, his provider, his comfort and Jesus is all these things to us.  I believe that in this Psalm, David wanted us to reflect upon WHO Christ is in our lives at all times, even in the difficult places.  Psalm 23:1-3 reads: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake."(ESV).  These verses allow us to see Jesus as our comforter, and protector.  He leads us to places of rich provision and calm in our lives.  He guides us along right paths so that our lives bring glory and honor to Him.  All of this sounds absolutely wonderful until we run smack into verse four:  "Yes, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..." Huh?  VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH! What happened to the green pastures and the calm waters?  Where's that right path?  Well, what I believe is that the "path of righteousness" takes us into "the valley of the shadow of death."  I know what you're probably thinking, "wait a minute Evangelist, that's a little far fetched."  Just think about David's words for a moment, "He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yes, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..."  I believe that these two verses are tied together and that the path of righteousness will of necessity lead us through the valley of the shadow of death.  You see, when we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, we receive eternal life, but there are things from our old life, our old nature that we still carry and that can hinder us from becoming all that Christ wants us to be.  It is in the valley of the shadow of death that our old man, that old nature dies.  The valley of the shadow of death is not about physical death, but the death process for our old nature.  Remember a few weeks ago I wrote about the caterpillar.  Well, in a similar sense, the valley of the shadow of death is our cocoon.  It is the place where we come face to face with those things in our lives that do not glorify God and it is there that we must willingly surrender them.  David goes on in the verse to explain why we should not fear 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." When Christ leads us into that place where He exposes the things in our lives that must die in order for us to become all that He wants us to be, we don't have to be afraid of any evil that might try to attack us in this vulnerable place, where we are being exposed at our deepest levels because He is there with us.  Not only is He there with us, but He has His rod and His staff to protect us from the evil one and to correct us and keep us on the path of righteousness.  How are we to approach our valley of the shadow of death?  We find our answer in Hebrews 12:12, "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (ESV).  When we are going through the valley of the shadow of death, we should look to Jesus as our example, and endure the dying process because in the end it is going to produce righteousness that glorifies God and allow us to share His throne with Him.  So today, dearly loved ones, Praise God for the path of righteousness that leads us through the valley of the shadow of death!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Calming the Storm or Calming His Child

One of my most favorite songs is by Scott Krippayne called “Sometimes He Calms the Storm.”  The song opens talking about how sailors know that sometimes you’re sailing along with calm waters and a beautiful sky when suddenly the sky turns dark and you find yourself in the midst of a storm.  The artist compares this to our lives and having lived through those seasons, I agree with Scott, that sometimes it seems like you are living your life when all of a sudden, this storm arises.  What I love about the song is what Krippayne writes in the chorus:
Sometimes He calms the storm
With a whispered peace be still
He can settle any sea
But it doesn't mean He will
Sometimes He holds us close
And lets the wind and waves go wild
Sometimes He calms the storm
And other times He calms His child

Isn’t this so true?  There are times in our lives when these storms appear that we pray and we stand in faith and our Heavenly Father moves instantly, and as quick as the storm appeared, it’s gone!  Then there are the times when these storms appear and we pray hard and we stand in faith but still the storm rages in our lives.  In these times, we should know that Papa is holding us close, that despite the turmoil and chaos that is going on around us, He is with us and that eventually, “This too shall pass.”  Why is it that sometimes He calms the storm and other times He makes us ride it out?  I am not absolutely sure about that, I do have my opinion about it.  Do you want to hear it?  Ok, here it is…I believe that because He is a father, God knows that there are times in our lives when we are weak and fragile and though we love Him and we believe Him, that in these times, we simply cannot bear the storm, so He has to step in and be Dad and save the day.  Then there are times when, again, being Dad; He knows that it is for our good that we must go through.  He knows that we have the strength to endure that storm, the faith to trust Him in the midst of that storm, and that enduring the storm will only increase our trust in Him.  You see, I believe that in the “riding out the storm” times, we build markers, our Stones at Bethel; those places that we can look to in the next test, the next trial and say, “If He did it for me that time, He will do it for me again!” 
Are you in the midst of a storm dearly loved ones?  If your answer is yes, here is a pieces of advice from your sister who has been there, hang on to Papa, know that He’s got you and that this too shall pass!