The Good Shepherd Leads You

The Lord is my Shepherd; I’ll not be in want. – Psalm 23:1

Psalm 23 describes our Savior God as our Shepherd. And because he is our loving Shepherd, we come to this confident conclusion: we shall never be in want—we shall never lack anything we truly need.

How does the Lord our Shepherd give us such confidence? We can trust where our Good Shepherd leads us. He guides us for our benefit, even if it doesn’t always appear that way.

Many people want to be leading their own life. As they strive after numerous things, they look somewhat like a dog chasing its tail. They pursue money, possessions, popularity and many other things, but those things don’t give them any true peace and lasting fulfillment. They know what they want for themselves, but they miss what they need for a relationship with God.

Give thanks that we do not have to be part of this vain chase. We do not lead. Our Shepherd does, and his lead is always for our greatest benefit. He supplies everything we really need for our physical life. Most importantly, he gives us what we absolutely need for our souls: the forgiveness of sins which he provided by laying down his life for us!

Take comfort in the confidence that your Good Shepherd is always leading you. Trust him, and gladly follow the Lord who is your Shepherd.

How do I find God?

How do you find Atlanta?  You could go to a public library and ask for a map.  You could surf the internet for road directions.  You could ask a family member for help.  Or you could use Global Positioning System’s navigational technology.  This technology is now standard equipment in many new cars or on-sale at most electronic stores.  Using  satellites positioned many miles above the earth that transmit signals to earth-based GPS units to determine location and direction, GPS helps us get from point A to point B.

A GPS can give you step-by-step directions to Los Angeles.  But a GPS can’t help you with life’s most basic question: “How do I find God?”  Many people ask this question during a personal crisis that causes us to look for explanation, comfort, or relief.  Like looking for road directions, you could go to your public library and ask for books on religion – but there are so many religions that claim to be true even though logically not all of them can be.  You could Google for God – but when you do, you will come up with 356,000,000 pages — most of which raise more questions than they answer.  Or you could ask a family member for advice about how to seek God – but you probably did that already and feel more confused.  Or you can use technology already trusted by millions of people for thousands of years.  This technology is not available as standard equipment or on sale from any electronic stores.  Yes, it is a different type of GPS known as God Positioning System.  This spiritual GPS is simply reading a book known as the Holy Bible.  Year after year, more people buy the Bible, read the Bible, trust the Bible, and are inspired by the Bible more than any document on earth.  That’s because God himself gave us this book to seek him.  It’s a road-map … a road-map to heaven.  The Bible is more accurate and trustworthy than any Global Positioning System.

This spiritual GPS informs us that every person is wired to search for God, but God isn’t the one lost.  Spiritually, we are. Because of our personal sins we are lost eternally.  Hopeless and helpless, we need accurate directions to help us find a fulfilling life now and an eternity in heaven.  Simply opening the Bible activates this special spiritual kind of GPS as we start to read the words and apply them to our personal lives.  As we read these words of fact and reality, we soon find that the Bible’s central person is Jesus Christ, God’s own Son and our human brother who tells us all that we need to know about God.  Jesus tells us simply to believe that he lived a perfect life in our place, died the death we deserved on a cross, and rose physically from the grave to guarantee every believer an eternal life in heaven.  We find God as we believe in Jesus as the Savior.  As we review the pages of the Holy Bible, God also assures us that he will give us his unlimited Holy Spirit to help us believe what our limited human minds couldn’t possibly understand–that God loves us and also has a plan for our lives right now.

But this Spiritual GPS, the Bible, also directs us to a local Bible-believing, Jesus-centered church.  Talk with a pastor, get involved in a regular worship service and Bible study, apply the words of the Bible to your life.  Taste and see that the LORD is good.  Earth-based GPS has it’s limitations:  it needs a power source and doesn’t work if it’s antenna is blocked.  But God’s GPS, the Bible, works anytime, anywhere.  So use it.  Believe it.

Does God really care?

Does a shepherd care about a lost sheep?  Does a father care about a wayward son?

Jesus Christ used both examples to assure those who have made terrible mistakes, assumed deplorable lifestyles, or suffered grievous loss that God cares for them. Jesus was being criticized because he “welcomed sinners” (Luke 15). So he defended his compassionate care with two stories that people would understand.

In the story of the sheep, a shepherd owns a hundred sheep, and one of them becomes lost. He takes a calculated risk, leaves the other ninety-nine sheep, and goes after the lost sheep. He calls it by name. He rescues it.

He joyfully puts it on his shoulders.

The wayward son isn’t ignorant, like a sheep, but rebellious. He demands his inheritance and then lives the wild life in a distant country until he spends it all foolishly. His money and his pride gone, so he returns to his father and pleads to be hired as a servant.

Instead, he is welcomed by his father like a king. A party is thrown in his honor.

Now, a shepherd may take a privilege or two away from a sheep that tends to stray, just to keep that rascal in plain sight. A father may not be so willing to extend responsibility to a foolish son. Neither indicate lack of loving care, however, but just the opposite – a loving care that is willing to help even if it hurts.

We will sometimes see the loving care of God and appreciate it. Other times we will see sadness and pain. During sad times our limited understanding can yield to our faith that God understands more than we do, and he cares in a way we can’t understand.

We turn to his promises and hold him to his Word, “In all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).

How Can I Live in the Presence of God?

Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4)

If you want to live in the presence of a holy, perfect, and righteous God, then you need to be holy, perfect, and righteous yourself. If you are holy, perfect, and righteous, then you can live in his presence and live in his presence forever.

This is the situation that every single human being ever born into this world finds him or herself in. It’s also a problem. A huge problem!

It’s a problem because none of us can meet this standard that our holy, perfect, and righteous God has placed on us. We are, by our very natures, stained with sin and so everything we think, say, and do is stained with sin too. We have failed to meet God’s standard. We have not kept his law in the righteous way that he demands. We deserve to be cast away from his holy, perfect and righteous presence forever.

This is how the story of every single human being ever born into this world would end if…

…if Christ would have never entered into our story. But praise be to God, he did! He entered into the story of humanity as God himself made flesh and into our story for a very important reason. He came to live the righteous life that God demands of us. The righteous life that we could not live on our own he lived in our place–perfect obedience all his life to every last one of God’s laws. Now, his righteous life is for all of humanity as a free gift. So, how does this gift of righteousness become our own?

God’s Word teaches, “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”

Christ’s righteousness becomes our own through faith. Through faith in what Christ has done for us, we personally receive the righteousness that Christ has won for the world. Therefore, through faith in what Christ has done, we stand before our righteous God with the righteousness that he demands from us—not a righteousness we attempt to produce ourselves, but the righteousness that has been gifted to us by Christ. That means, by faith in Jesus we live in God’s righteous presence forever!

Jesus is Light

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned (Isaiah 9:2).

Light is certainly one of the most precious things in our world. Without it, we can’t do much of anything. The simplest tasks become all but impossible when darkness envelopes us instead of light.

A lack of light can also strike fear into our hearts and be quite dangerous. If you have ever tried navigating your way through complete darkness, you know this to be true. When you can’t even see your hand two inches in front of your face, it is impossible to walk with purpose and confidence. That is what life is like without Jesus.

Without Jesus there is no purpose in life. Every reason our world produces for our existence comes up empty in the end. Without the light of Jesus, we would be forced to stumble our way through life, bumping into blessings without knowing where they come from and tripping over trials and problems. As we stumble we would always have the terrifying understanding that death could be right around the corner.

Thank God for sending Jesus to be the Light that illuminates our lives. He gives us hope and purpose. He came to remove the darkness of sin by shedding his blood and scatter the shadow of death by rising from the grave. Since our sins have been paid for by his blood, we have the sure confidence that every one of our sins has been removed – even the ones that weigh us down with the most guilt. Since he rose from the grave we have the rock-solid guarantee that death is not the end for us. We too will rise with him to live eternally.

With Jesus lighting up our lives we can live with confidence and purpose. The confidence comes from knowing that nothing can change the fact that our sins have been washed away by his blood and our eternal life guaranteed by his resurrection. Our purpose now is to live every moment to his glory.

Protected Information

Mark 13:32-33: Jesus says “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on your guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.”

Why doesn’t God tell us everything. Wouldn’t it be helpful for us? Wouldn’t it make us better? However, God protected some information because it could be misused.

As Jesus prepared his disciples for the time he would complete his work on this earth, he wanted them to understand there are some things they will never know. This was especially true regarding the last day. He made it clear, no one had that knowledge. Even at that time as he humbled himself to the point of death, he chose not to have that knowledge. Still, wouldn’t it be better if this knowledge were not protected?

In his undeserved love the Lord chose to protect certain information about the last day. His concern was that this knowledge would be misused. He would be right. Because of our sinful nature we would indulge ourselves right up to the time when the Lord would return. We would even feel secure in this destructive life style because we knew that there would always be time to change. But would we?

This is why Jesus makes the last day and hour protected information. He also exhorts us to keep watch and be on guard. Not knowing when Jesus will come suddenly turns our attention to what we need to do to be prepared.

In the time which remains we can dedicate ourselves to grow in his Word and to grow in the peace of his forgiveness. We can dedicate ourselves to a more faithful life of prayer and loving service. This will keep us focused and ready.

Although the day and hour of the Lord’s return is protected information, we can find great joy and peace in what we do know about our Savior and how he prepares us for his return.

Proof of Payment

Years of reckless spending resulted in massive credit card debt. A couple months of following a strict budget couldn’t erase the debt, and he was beginning to feel hopeless. The house that he wanted to buy seemed completely out of reach because his poor credit made it impossible to get any kind of loan from a mortgage company.

Then the letter came. It was from an uncle that he hardly knew. “I want you to have that house. I’ve paid off all of your credit cards and deposited the money for the house in your bank account.”

“How can this be real?” he thought. “I want to believe it, but how can I be sure?” Then he contacted the bank. His account which had been overdrawn the day before now showed a balance that would easily pay for the new house. He looked at online statements from his credit cards. They all read a balance of zero.

It was all true! His debt had been paid! The proof was right there!

Years of sin have resulted in a massive debt that you cannot pay. Attempts at self-control and leading a good life can’t erase the debt. It is easy to feel hopeless. The eternal home that you would love to occupy seems so far out of reach.

Then you read the Bible—that letter from your God describing his love for you. “I want you to have that eternal dwelling in heaven. I sent my Son to pay the debt you owe for your sins. I have credited his perfection to your account so that you are justified in my eyes. Rejoice! Heaven is yours!”

How can this be real? It sounds fantastic, but how can you be sure? How do you know that Jesus’ death paid the price you owe for your sins? His tomb is empty. He died, but then he rose from the grave to life again, proving that he is not just a man, but the Son of God himself; proving that his sacrifice for you was accepted by God as payment for your debt.

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. – Romans 4:25

It’s all true! Your debt has been paid! You are justified before God! Believe it and enjoy the eternal life that is yours!

How do I know there is a God?

Have you ever thought about how many things you know and believe without having seen them? Take gravity for instance. I have never seen gravity, but I see evidence of it all around me. As a matter of fact, we depend on it for almost all of our everyday activities. Gravity holds our cars on the road. It keeps us from floating away into space. We would be in serious trouble without it.

I look at God in very much the same way that I look at gravity. I have never seen him, but I see evidence that he must exist in the world around me. Whether I am taking in a soft summer sunset or a late night display of the constellations, I know that someone took some serious time and effort to get things just right. The Bible puts it this way, “Every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.” (Hebrews 3:4)

Have you ever taken time to look closely at the world in which we live? Get up a little earlier than normal tomorrow and let the sunrise speak for itself. You decide which is more impressive, the beauty of the sunrise or the fact that it has risen every day in the history of the world. You will hear an inaudible voice in that sunrise. It is God’s voice. (See Psalm 19:1-4)

Perhaps you are more impressed with detail. Take time to count the hairs on one of your arms from your wrist to your elbow. As you notice the delicacy with which each hair is connected, consider how hard plastic surgeons work to duplicate a “normal” hair pattern. They never do get it quite right, do they? All of this is part of God’s great attention to detail and more evidence that he does exist.

I have never seen God, but, like gravity, I know he is here. He has taken the time to leave evidence of his existence all around the world in which we live. Take time to notice it. You will see that he is very real. If you want more, definite information, take time to get to know him better in the Bible.

What Is the Trinity?

“Trinity” means “three-in-one.”  It’s true, the word “Trinity” is not in the Bible.  But the concept is.

The true religion has always stated that there is only one Divine Essence who is called “God.”  From the beginning of time God has revealed himself as the LORD God (Genesis 2:4) and there is no other but him (Isaiah 44:6).  Monotheism set the Hebrews apart from other nations (Deuteronomy 6:4), and Christianity follows the same truth.

God the Father is God.  Jesus spoke of him as “the only true God” (John 17:1,3).  The apostle Paul spoke of God the Father as the creator God and the source of life (1 Corinthians 8:6).

God the Son is God.  Hebrews chapter one emphasizes that fact, explicitly saying “the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (1:3).  We believe as the Bible teaches that “in Christ all the fullness of the deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).  And we believe that “he is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).  Besides, the Bible attributes to Jesus all the characteristics of God (Matthew 28:18).  Jesus is also to be worshiped as true God (Matthew 28:17; Hebrews 1:6).  The New Testament shows that Jesus is the redeemer of the world from sin and the power of Satan.

God the Holy Spirit is God.  “The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).  He is distinguished from the Father and Son when Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, the Spirit of truth, to be with you forever” (John 14:16-17).  The Holy Spirit is more than an impersonal power of God.  He grieves (Ephesians 4:30), and is the person of the Trinity who works faith in our hearts.  Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3).  Some people “speak against the Holy Spirit” to their damnation (Matthew 12:32).

There are many places in Scripture that mention all three Persons of the Triune God (Matthew 4:16-17).  God has always presented himself in plural terms (Genesis 1:26).

There are three Persons, each one the complete God, and yet there is no more than one single God.  “We worship one God in three persons and three persons in one God” (from the Athanasian Creed of the Christian church).

The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. And they are one God.

What is the Holy Spirit’s work?

“Fire the coach!” That’s what happens when a team loses too many times.

Put a group of baseball players together who know how to play the game, but don’t give them a coach for running the bases or telling them where to play on defense, and that team won’t go very far.

So it is in the lives of people.  You don’t have to be a Christian to have a good, moral life. God has given each of us a natural understanding of his will. Everyone in the world knows you can’t steal your neighbor’s house, spouse, or stuff. But this alone does us no good after we die—for no one can be morally perfect!

We needed a “Spiritual Coach.” The Bible calls our Spiritual Coach the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit uses the Holy Scriptures to bring people from being morally good to eternally saved.

Some people say, “Don’t I get some of the credit for the good I do in my life?”  The answer is, “No.”  God gets all the credit.  No one would have a desire to obey God or have the ability to obey God if they weren’t first changed or renewed by the Holy Spirit.  The Bible says, “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).

The Holy Spirit uses the Good News that Jesus died on the cross to save us. This powerful Word changes hearts and lives. The Holy Spirit gives us the desire and the ability to live according to God’s will. So you can see, in this sense, that the Holy Spirit gets all the credit for the good we do. In fact, because of our sinful nature, we cannot even cooperate with the Holy Spirit to produce faith and trust in Jesus.

But after Jesus takes possession of our hearts, we have the ability and desire to serve. Even then it isn’t a 50-50 cooperation. We love to serve Jesus because the Holy Spirit living in us motivates us to love and serve Jesus.  He is the Spiritual Coach who trains us, directs us, and leads us on to victory for Jesus’ sake.

If I were the devil I would work very hard at ruining the work of the Holy Spirit.  I would try to keep people away from the Bible and make them think, “I’m good enough the way I am.”  Because if I could keep people away from the Bible, the tool the Holy Spirit uses to bring us and keep us in faith, then I could easily deceive them about their relationship with God, and they wouldn’t even know it!

Let’s recognize the temptation of Satan to try and entice us away from Jesus.  The Holy Spirit will continue to work hard to keep us as God’s children.  Let’s never fire our Spiritual Coach! Let’s enjoy his work in our hearts and lives.