Category Archives: Scripture commentary

Numbering Days

This month, I turned 40. While that number itself doesn’t seem like some monumental change or drastic milestone worthy of a mid-life crisis, I do find myself thinking of a familiar passage from Psalm 90.

“The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
‭Psalms‬ ‭90:10, 12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Well, that’s bad news. At best, I’m at the half-way point… and I’ve never been super fit or strong, so let’s be honest about those odds!

Obviously, this is biblical poetry and not some literal maxim about the extent of human aging. Thanks to modern medicine and the progress of civilization, we have folks who live much longer. Sadly, we all know people who never reach 70 years of age.

I can’t find the source of the quote, but there’s a phrase that comes to mind: 


To be clear, I post this without any morbid contemplations of aging or death, without any fear of a life wasted, or opportunities missed. It’s just the thought that comes to mind as I considered my birthday and the significance of turning 40. 

Going back to Psalms, the only day that’s guaranteed in life is your last, and there’s no telling when it comes. Like a game of Russian Roulette played with years or decades, sooner or later, that final day arrives, whether you’re 17 or 70 or 107.

I focus on verse 12–its reminder that there is an impending finality, its encouragement that wisdom is found by living in light of that truth. Not that I believe I can number my days, at least not with any fidelity… but I can remember that, however many there may be, that number is ticking down.

This forces a refocusing onto what I believe matters. My faith; my relationships; those I love; the sharing of good times and fellowship; ministering love and kindness and connection; sparking laughter in a heavy heart; simply being present in a hard time. 

I’ve spent more time lately planning out tabletop games than writing fiction, because to me and several friends of my family, that connection and shared enjoyment around the table is something magical and exciting. Planning a role-playing game also scratches the creative itch of the writer in me… except I’m writing for an audience of 5 or 8 players instead of blog or book readers.

The pragmatic in me says “Yes, but isn’t this a grand waste of time?” (At least, what little pragmatism hasn’t been defeated by perpetual procrastination and my playful, lazy nature.) 

But it’s not about the game; it’s about the people. Shared humanity and my faith both lead me to see lasting value where others might not.

For now, I still need to learn to number my days so I can live wisely. But I know that 80 > 70. So I’m off to the gym to hop on a bike, plot out some interesting stories for the next gaming session, and work on that “by reason of strength” thing.
What do you do to “number your days” or invest in what matters? Let me know in a comment – maybe it’s an idea I could use too!

Radical Focus on Wrong Things

When does making music not involve playing actual music?

When you’re a “Radical Christian,” apparently.

I hope you all have perfect pitch...
I hope you all have perfect pitch…

A gent named Wes McAdams has a couple blogs that popped up on my Facebook feed. His site is titled “Radically Christian – 1st Century Christianity in a 21st Century World.” One post calls into question why some churches feel musical instruments are a necessary part of the worship service. The next challenges the idea that instruments have any place in today’s church at all.

It concerns me when people assume they’ve found the secret, the missing spiritual link, the one thing that every “good” or “true” Christian should be doing (or not doing) in order to show how much more Christ-like they are than everyone else.

Usually that’s the road to heresy. Because if Jesus isn’t the One Thing–if your message becomes “Jesus and (fill in the blank)” instead–then your Gospel isn’t the good news of grace anymore. It becomes all about doing something to prove your faith and earn your reward. Or it becomes yet another self-righteous way to show how much better you are than the benighted and corrupted so-called Christians in every other church.

However, since I have been a lead worshiper at times in the past, and since one of my passions is worship (to include specifically the musical part often done in church gatherings), I wanted to give Mr. McAdams’ points due consideration.

(thinking…)

At best, he’s being silly and nit-picking, but generally harmless. At worst, he’s way off Scripture, and his condemnations foist an assumed truth based on misunderstandings upon his readers.

He makes important points about what worship has become to many churches. It can be a spectacle or performance with little or no heart. It can be focused on the congregation without giving due regard to the God we’re supposedly worshiping. It can be a misguided attempt to draw more people who otherwise might not be interested in church. And it can feel like a talent show where people get attention.

Those faults are also potentially true of everything else we do in church. But we don’t stop preaching even though I’ve heard people talk about what a powerful speaker a pastor is. We don’t stop giving to the community for fear that someone might do it to be seen doing good. We don’t stop sharing the Gospel even though some Christians talk about the converts they’ve made like an ace pilot keeps track of his kills in combat.

McAdams’ post questioning whether we need instruments in worship makes so many important points that I wish I could share it for all that’s right in his assessment of modern worship. He mentions so many causes for concern that I personally share. Modern worship runs the risk of becoming a distraction, a business model, a Play-Doh fun machine churning out tepid and indistinguishable songs onto albums to create dollars instead of devotion.

But the critique goes awry when McAdams takes a logical point (you don’t need instruments to worship) and makes it a mandatory stance (churches must not use instruments to worship). He does this even while pointing to scripture that tells us to do whatever we do for the glory of God.

In so doing, he throws the grace out with the guitars.

The second post I linked is McAdams’ case for why instruments ought to be forbidden in church. He uses the example of ordering a pizza. If he orders a pizza with Canadian bacon and pineapple, those are the toppings he expects to receive, no more, no less.

The analogy is, if God in the New Testament only mentions making music with our lips and our thankful hearts, then those are the only “toppings” God wants on His praise-pie. The New Testament makes no mention of musical instruments, only psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

And McAdams argues, that silence is a prohibitive restriction in the same way that I don’t need to say “No green peppers” if I order his pizza as described earlier.

The logic is flawed.

What would 1st century hearers possibly think when told to sing psalms and hymns? Would they possibly think of the psalms of David and others recorded in scripture? Would they see it in a way appropriate to their culture? Was music with instruments forbidden as an expression of worship for the Jewish people?

Hardly.

Psalm 92:1-3 “It is good to give thanks to the LORD… with the ten-stringed lute and with the harp, with resounding music upon the lyre.”

Psalm 33:2 “Give thanks the LORD with the lyre; sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings.”

Psalm 81:2-3 “Raise a song, strike the timbrel, the sweet sounding lyre with the harp. Blow the trumpet…” (all references NASB)

That search took all of two seconds. And there’s plenty more.

McAdams makes the case that the Old Testament doesn’t apply here, just like the pizza order I made last week may not be the toppings I want today. We’re under the New Testament, so what God orders in the New is all that matters.

But the OT informs the NT, and gives us a perspective on the understanding 1st century hearers would have. Otherwise, let’s strip it out of the Bibles, because we only need what is recorded in the NT, right?

By definition, “psalms” and “songs” could be logically assumed to involve music with instruments. The counterpoint to his pizza analogy is that—without specifically saying so—he expects his pizza toppings to arrive placed upon a crust covered with sauce and cheese, because that’s what a pizza is.

IMG_0924.JPG
I guess you don’t want these, because you didn’t specifically ask.

The difference between his misguided focus and my rant is this: grace.

Self-righteousness likes to tell others where they’re going wrong. But Grace is big enough to say “If you worship without instruments, praise God! If you worship with instruments, praise God! Do everything for the glory of God!”

A radical thought, I know… but one that’s big enough for us all to come together.

The Problem of Evil

“If God is all-powerful, and God is all good, then explain the presence of evil in the world.”

This question, more than any other, is (in my experience) the trump card, the go-to argument for the atheist. Some slam it down like a hammer, driving the point home with as much zeal as a fundamentalist preacher. Others offer it with more genuine curiosity. “How can you believe in the face of such an obvious theological flaw?”

This question gets asked in many ways:

“Why do bad things happen to good people?”
“Where was God during the Holocaust?”
“Why do people starve?”
“If you’re serving God, then why did that tragedy happen to you?”
“Why can’t we have an ebola outbreak limited to Westboro Baptist Church and ISIS?”
“Why does God hate kids in Africa so much?”
“Do you know a person dying of cancer? Can you tell them that God is in control?”

It’s a good question – or maybe I should say a tough one. It doesn’t just raise a logical argument, but it tugs at the emotions, hitting us in a spot where we know something is wrong.

There are answers… but like many issues of belief, they’re convincing enough for the believer to retain confidence, and at the same time vague enough for the skeptic to reject faith.

The cancer question grabs my mind. Terminal illness and sudden tragedies are situations where there just aren’t words good enough to say. People try, of course. Platitudes and pat answers are offered with the best of intentions.

But the general advice is: shut up and just be there with a grieving person.

I noted CNN posted an article about Dr. Kent Bradley, who proclaimed that “God saved me from ebola.”

He’s a believer. I’m not surprised he feels that way. And I’m happy to hear he recovered.

But that statement carries an implication that God either failed to save the 900+ ebola deaths in this recent outbreak… or He chose not to.

Where is the all-good God Scripture proclaims? How does a believer reconcile the terrible events of life with this faith in an all-good all-powerful God who chooses not to act?

My family and I watched God’s Not Dead finally. I think it’s a great movie to reinforce faith for the believer, but I don’t know that the arguments would really shake an atheist’s “faith” in the absence of God.

But two comments stuck with me, because I don’t recall hearing them in my time growing up in church.

First, the point is made that this all-good all-powerful God has–all through Scripture–maintained an intent and a promise to one day eliminate all evil–both the intentional wrong things sentient creatures do, and the tragic suffering we endure as a result of the brokenness of this world.

Evil is being tolerated for a limited time only in order to provide opportunity for something more important: our capacity for good, founded on our free will to choose and God’s grace given to us. God could wipe out evil (and we see in Scripture that He was willing to push the “reset” button on humanity). But doing so takes away from our ability to commit ourselves to Him of our own volition in response to His grace.

More importantly, what struck me in the movie was a comment made very near the end. The dialogue references Jesus sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, beseeching the Father for an exit strategy. “If there is any other way, let this cup pass from Me.” If there’s any way, let Me not go through this suffering.

God’s answer is a clear “No.” He said no to Jesus, fully Divine, His own Son–basically His own self. Jesus suffers and dies and experiences all manner of evil, because God says “no” to saving Him from that.

It strikes me that God’s response is much like the good advice for reaching out to someone in grief. Jesus knows what it’s like to have to “go through.” By that I mean to endure, to suffer, to find that God doesn’t always stop the storms with a “Peace, be still.” He knows what it’s like to be told “no” when asking for a miracle. He raised the dead and healed the sick, but when it was His turn, the heavens shut like iron against His fervent prayers.

In that sense, Jesus joins the ranks of the sufferers, the grief-struck, the overwhelmed.

There are no good words in that place.

But there is His presence. And that is enough.

…for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” (Hebrews 13:5 NASB)

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 NASB)

Detour Ahead

This is the fifth and (probably) final “God Leads” devotional I’m posting, based on my experiences as a young Christian serving in the military.

GOD LEADS US THROUGH LIFE’S DETOURS

The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9, NASB)

A wallet in the middle of the street caught my eye.
I came to Bellevue, Nebraska for a two-week training course. Bored on my off-time, I looked for a nearby mall. I didn’t find any good stores, but I found the wallet two blocks from my hotel.
“Maybe there’s money in it,” I thought. “No, that’s wrong. I can return it to the person and witness to them.”
I opened the wallet to search for identification. The top card said, “Pastor, Assemblies of God,” the denomination of my church back home.
“So much for witnessing,” I chuckled.
I reached Pastor Petey. He took me out to dinner to thank me. He also picked me up for church on Sunday since I didn’t have a car. The service was great.
Nine years later, I came back to Nebraska for another course I did not want to attend. Unsure if I’d be there six weeks or six months, I remembered the church from when I found the pastor’s wallet, and visited again. I got connected with the young adult ministry and played keys for their services. From my first visit, I saw their genuine interest and love for me. I returned home six weeks later.
Two years passed. During yet another undesired training course, I returned to the church. The senior pastor remembered most of my life story and family details, which blew my mind. The young adult service plugged me right back in, a home away from home.
When my family finally moved to Nebraska two years ago, we talked about churches.
“Don’t worry, honey,” I said. “I know a place we can go.”

Application: God uses unexpected, unwanted turns of life to take us to the best destinations.

Answered Before I Asked

This is the fourth “God Leads” devotional I’m posting, based on my experiences as a young Christian man serving in the military.

GOD LEADS EVEN WHEN WE’RE NOT FOLLOWING

Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. (Isaiah 65:24, NIV)

I smoked in the church parking lot during their Christmas party. I expected criticism. But a lady stepped outside and chatted with me instead.
“What kind of church is this?”
I grew up attending weekly services and knew how Christians behaved. But I walked away once I joined the military. Sunday morning was for sleeping in.
I tried the base Chapel a couple times during my training. In Texas, I made some friends at a small evening service. A military spouse opened her home for Airmen to hang out.
Also, the pianist was hot.
But once I got to Japan, I stopped attending church again.
God didn’t stop pursuing me.
I got a call from a missionary inviting me to the Christmas party. I said, “Why are you calling me?”
“You were in Texas, right?” she said. “Your friend’s neighbor lived here and knew me back then. Your friend talked to her and she suggested I call you.”
Small world.
My life fell apart when I moved to Japan, so I agreed to go. The people welcomed me like family.
“I like this church,” I told the missionary.
“I don’t go there, but I know a girl who does. She lives in the dorm next to yours.”
That night, I met Jami, my ride to church. She became my best Christian friend. God worked on my heart, and I surrendered to Him. The more I pursued God, the more Jami fell in love with me. And I fell in love with her.
Also, she was hot.
When I was not seeking Him, God drew me back to Himself and connected me with the woman of my dreams. Before I asked, He prepared an answer.

Application: God knows and plans for what we need before we ask.

God's Gifts Make a Way

This is the third of five “God Leads” devotionals based on my experiences as a young Christian man in the military.

GOD MAKES A WAY FOR HIS GIFTS IN US

…According to your faith be it unto you. (Matthew 9:29, KJV)

“He’s so amazing,” I said. “I wish I could play and sing like him.”
Friends from church invited the singles over for spaghetti. While we ate, we watched a video of a musical minister leading worship from a piano. I started playing with our church worship team using one of this singer’s most popular songs.
“His lyrics minister so well,” I said. “They speak right to people’s needs.”
Our church bass player agreed with me.
The host looked us both in the eye. “I see God doing the same thing in you two.”
The bass player said what was on my mind. “Oh, no, not me. I couldn’t do that.”
The host stood up and declared, “Be it unto you according to your faith.”
I was shocked, frozen to my seat.
“Little faith, you reap little,” he continued. “Big faith, you reap big.”
The words echoed in my thoughts for an hour. I drove back to church long before the evening service and sat down at the piano.
“God, if that’s really something You’ll do, then… have Your way.”
I started playing. I chose a few chords, thought of some words, and sang. In two hours, I wrote four songs.
Since then, I started hearing music in my pastor’s sermons. I wrote over one hundred songs. We translated one into Japanese, and several became regular tunes at our church. I believed God, and He answered.
But I am also haunted by one thought, and I hope I’m wrong:
I never saw the bass player write any songs.

Application: Following God’s lead means taking chances and trusting Him for results.

Asking Better Questions

This is the second “God Leads” devotional post drawn from my experiences serving in the military.

GOD LEADS US TO ASK BETTER QUESTIONS

…Being content with what you have, for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5, NASB)

My friend counseled me, “Ask yourself ‘Where do I need to be to do God’s will?’ Then your choice becomes easy.”
It didn’t seem so simple.
My overseas tour was almost finished. I could take an assignment in the States, or stay on Okinawa for another tour.
A distant relative lived near my next duty station. She received a cancer diagnosis, and didn’t have long to live. My wife and I wanted to be there for her.
But the pastor of our church on Okinawa started to train me for ministry. I served as the worship leader and I helped prepare medical relief missions trips to reach people in poverty. I also had the opportunity to preach. I felt connected and vital.
I struggled with the decision for weeks. In my mind, there was a right choice and a less-than-perfect choice. But which was which? Staying would mean doing great things for the local church and the poor in nearby nations. Going could be a chance to minister to a loved one.
My commander, a Christian, saw me in the hallway at work and asked how I was doing. I shared my frustration.
“Sometimes we think we have to choose A or B,” he said. “We think if we choose wrong, we miss what God is doing. But I take great comfort in knowing we can’t go somewhere God is not present.” Then he quoted the verse in Hebrews.
“Is God going to be there, whichever way you choose?”
I wanted an answer. God gave me a better question to consider.

Application: Sometimes God responds to our concerns by changing our perspective.

40th Anniversary Poem

My parents married on March 9th, 1974, on a 70 degree day at the end of “winter.”

A while back, my Mom found a copy of a poem I (apparently) wrote in 1996 for a special anniversary for my great-uncle and great-aunt. Mom loved it.

I read it with a few more years experience, and hated it.

So I cringed when my Mom asked, “Could you do me a huge favor and write a poem for our 40th Anniversary?”

After all, it was doubtful I and my family could even attend. We were in the middle of moving overseas for my next duty station.

I think my response was, “Uhhh… yeah. Sure.” Followed by a few weeks of oh crap, what am I going to write?

40th anniversary… 40th… 40… 40, 40, 40… where have I heard something about 40 before?

And then it all clicked. One quick book search for references, a little thought and organization, and about an hour or two of putting words on the screen, and voila!

Icing on the cake – due to paperwork delays, we were able to attend the spectacular party my brother and sister-in-law organized. And after he read a set of touching Q&A responses from an interview with my Mom and Dad, I got up to read this poem to our mostly church-going crowd:

20140316-190815.jpg

As I think about this particular date
And we take time out to celebrate
In a day and age when marriage
Has a fifty fifty chance
And eight years is the average length
Of marital romance
I recall Sunday sermons and it strikes me
That 40 is a number of significance
For this anniversary of a special memory
And a marriage that has made a difference

For Forty days and nights rain fell
On Noah’s ark of wood
And no doubt you have tales to tell
When times were not that good
When storms of life brought pain and strife
To toss you to and fro
You clung together, husband and wife
And waited for the rainbow

Forty years of wandering
Before the Promised Land
Like times you’ve been left wondering
If God forgot His plan
If dreams and hopes you once saw clear
Would ever come to be
And yet we now have gathered here
For forty years of marriage, walking faithfully

I think of Moses in his tent
Before the glory of The Lord
For forty days he sought His Face
And trembled at His Word
I think how often as a child
I saw you both in prayer
And learned true peace and wisdom
Will only be found there

I read that 40 days and nights
Goliath mocked and taunted
Until the man you named me for
Stood up to him, undaunted
And I think of those naysayers
Who never thought you’d stay
Who choked or snickered, Joked or bickered
“Those two? What?” They’d say
But you stood your ground on the Rock you found
And the house stands to this day

Like Elijah fed by God’s own care
Who then ran for 40 days
I know you’ve seen His mercies there
Throughout these four decades
To give you strength to run the race
To find by grace a hiding place
A refuge of repair

Our Savior 40 days in desert
Showed us to rely
Not on ourselves or on this world
But Father God on high
And with the ups and downs of life
I watched the way you live
Not choosing safe or easy ways
But trusting God to give
Enough to get through each new day
New mercies for each morn
A living testimony saying
This is life reborn

For 40 days the resurrected Christ walked and revealed
That victory is won and sin’s fatal wound is healed
For 40 years God chose to show His victory in you
A picture of the Bride and Christ, a window He shines through

Yes, it’s clear to me
And I hope you see
That 40 is a number of significance
For this anniversary of a special memory
And a marriage that has made
a difference

God Leads Us At Our Best

This is the first of five meditations I wrote for a project last year. When my iCloud account got accidentally purged, I thought I lost these. But I recently found a file, so I thought I’d share them online.

The other four will be scheduled for Monday mornings, to start the week out looking for God to lead in our lives.

GOD LEADS US AT OUR BEST

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus… (Colossians 3:17, NIV)

“But I don’t want to go to Japan.”
Near the end of language training for the Air Force, my class received orders. Mine said, “Okinawa.”
I whined long-distance to my parents in Chicago. Before the military, I didn’t live away from home for any length of time. Flying to Texas for Basic was the farthest I’d ever been from Mom and Dad. Training in California came next, but I could still drive home if I wanted.
Okinawa is the other side of the world.
There was a big test coming soon. We would have to prove we knew our language well enough to continue to our next duty station. It would be easy to miss some questions. My best friend was on his way to a different job because his grades were low. I could do that too, I thought. Fail, and stay close to home.
My parents no doubt wanted me to stay. But my father advised me, “You need to do your best. If God doesn’t want you to go to Japan, you won’t. But if He does want you there, you’d be wrong to resist.”
I graduated from language school and continued on to Japan.
Over six years on Okinawa, I met my wife, got married, had two children, and rededicated myself to Christ. Now I see God prepared His best for me. But I had to give my best to see it fulfilled.
I’m happy to say I passed the test.

Application: God may use skills we’ve developed to reveal the path we should take.

Even Though…

Sunday Psalm – God is the One, part IV

Even though I walk

through the darkest valley,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4 NIV)

God is the One no matter what.

We all go through hard times and difficulties. No one is immune. Religion and spirituality are no shield from tough circumstances. It’s not even a question of “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Bad things happen to everybody.

But God is unchanging. The God we call worthy when the sun is shining – He’s the same God in dark clouds and driving rain. The God we praise on Sunday is the God of Monday mornings.

We all have our “Even though” moments, when everything seems to go wrong. It’s tempting at that point to yell at God and wonder where He is, but then we miss the point. Whatever your “Even though” may be, God is still God in spite of it.

God is the One who brings me through.

There is often no magic escape to the hard times in life. There’s no ejection handle, no parachute strapped to our back. David writes, “even though I walk through the valley…” not around it. We don’t get to avoid trouble in our lives. Sometimes the trouble is exactly what we need to go through in order to get to where God wants us to be.

God is the One who calms my fears.

When trouble comes, and my eyes get fixed on the storm and the winds and the waves of life, I need something bigger, something stronger, something deeper and lasting to fix my eyes on. Like the lighthouse on the shoreline, God gives us that beacon of His presence in the midst of the storm. Think of Peter, walking on the water. As his gaze turns to the violent weather, he begins to sink. As he realizes the danger of his situation, he cries out to Someone greater.

God is the One who is with me.

The arm of Jesus lifts Peter from the waters “immediately.” God is never distant in the midst of the chaos around us. We may not notice His nearness. We might be distracted by the waves and winds. But God is there, close at hand, close enough to grab us “immediately.” David thinks about this Shepherd-God who stays close by His flock. The shadows and the noises of the valley may put fear in the hearts of the sheep, but they are never forsaken, never abandoned.

God is the One who fights my enemies.

David thinks of the rod and the staff. The rod was like a club the shepherd carried to fight off any threat to the sheep. If you’re being told that the “rod” is how your spiritual leader has a position of authority to discipline the sheep, then I submit that you’re being misled. The shepherd isn’t there to beat the sheep. The rod isn’t meant to strike the flock. The rod is meant to strike anything else that would try to sink its teeth into the sheep. There’s a place for discipline in the church, no doubt. But if you feel beat by your spiritual authority, maybe you don’t have a real shepherd. The rod is a comfort to David, because David knows that his Shepherd is fighting off anything that would try to devour him.

God is the One who pulls me back.

Unlike the rod, the staff is for the sheep. The shepherd’s crook at the end is meant to catch the sheep going astray. I remember learning to swim at the local pool. The lifeguards had a long pole with a green plastic hook they called a shepherd’s crook. If someone is drowning, flailing, or-God forbid-floating in deep water, the crook is there so the lifeguard can reach in and pull them to safety. So it is with God as our Shepherd.

God is the One whose oversight comforts me.

Everyone sooner or later has a boss that drives them nuts. Maybe it’s a personality clash, but more often than not, it’s an issue of management style. Again, I’ll point to those so-called shepherds who think they carry a rod in order to beat the sheep. Note in all these verses the servant-leadership of the Shepherd David is thinking about. This Shepherd doesn’t treat the sheep like they exist to serve Him, even if that really is the case. “The good shepherd cares for the sheep.” The Shepherd gives up His time and energy to provide for the needs and the comfort of the sheep in His care.

It seems backwards to think of a King who stoops down to help the beggar and the needy, a Lord who takes the towel from the servant and washes the dirty feet of His subjects. The God of the Universe should be worthy of our devotion and attention, our service and worship. And yet He took the form of a man, made Himself of no reputation, and let Himself be put to death on a cross like a criminal.

Even though He did nothing wrong, Jesus submitted to our whims, because He was submitted to the Father’s will. The Son of God was forsaken and abandoned by His Father, left in the valley of the shadow of death, beaten with the rod of wrath that our sins deserved, so that we could be caught up in the Shepherd’s crook of mercy and grace, and comforted in the presence of God.

God is the One who comforts me, pulls me back, protects me, stays with me, and calms my fears in the midst of everything I go through, no matter what.