Category Archives: Scripture commentary

31 Million Flavors

Worship Wednesday

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ-the Message-have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives-words, actions, whatever-be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. (Colossians 3:15-17 MSG)

Fellowship is one of the key components of worship – both the things we do to express God’s worth, and the times of singing praise as a congregation.

Individual times of worship and devotion are important, of course. We spend time with God in a relationship. Like any relationship, there should be some intimacy, some “you and me” time. We see Jesus as our example in this: if He took time away from other people to get alone with God, then certainly we might benefit from doing the same.

But Paul points out that our worship of God is something we do together with others. Paul did not write just to individuals, like Timothy or Titus. He wrote to churches. He wrote to congregations. He wrote to groups of people and said “This is how we all do this together.”

This is part of why I love a good Bible study group. When I say “a good group” I mean a place where a bunch of different people can discuss the Scriptures and how they apply to our lives. Good groups have a strong facilitator who can allow discussion and multiple viewpoints without getting off track or derailed by a vocal opinion.

Some groups are hand-fed and led by a teacher who lectures. I’ve been in groups where the only time anyone other than the leader is allowed to speak is to read a particular verse and not one word more. I suppose that ensures that only the accepted teaching gets brought to light, but I didn’t come for a sermon. To each their own; that’s not my cup of tea.

20120912-231352.jpg

I scream, you scream, we all scream for theology! Wait, what?

But when a Bible study is facilitated well, you get to experience a Baskin-Robbins of theology. It’s all good ice cream, but you get a variety of flavors, some you like and some that aren’t your favorite. You test it, hold to what’s good, ignore the bad (or maybe discuss it if someone is saying something opposed to Scripture). Everyone has something to offer, and you hear perspectives you’d never expect – some of which might speak profoundly to your heart as you look at a Scripture in a new way.

And you get to build relationships with others.

The relationship we have with God is great, and we affirm that every time we sing a song about how “You are all I need.” But that’s not entirely true, nor is it biblical. We read in 2nd Peter the following statement about “all we need.”

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3 NIV)

The relationship we have with others in light of our common faith is essential. God did not make us loner Christians. He relates to us individually, but He also relates to us and calls us to relate to each other in a church Body. We all have something to offer, some part to play in the story God is telling in our local church. (See 1 Cor 12 about parts of the Body fitted together.)

Worship alone, yes. Worship together, definitely. See God and others from a different set of eyes. Discover a new perspective. Hear something new from God, through the voice of your brother or sister in Christ. Sing a song that ministers to your heart, and let it touch the need of another. Share the comfort God has given you in past times of distress with someone who is hurting right now. We were made for God, and we were made for one another.

So get a little pink-spoon taste of what all the Body has to offer. They’re free. You’ll find way more than 31 flavors of awesome God.

A Mouthful

Monday Morning Snack

My mouth is filled with Your praise
And with Your glory all day long.
Psalm 71:8 NASB

What sort of “snack” are we giving others to eat?

I saw this verse, and the question popped into my mind: “What is my mouth full of?” Maybe it’s because I’m dieting, but I thought of a mouthful of food.

How does that “mouth full” taste to the people around me? How does that “mouth full” taste to me?

Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. Hebrews 13:15 NASB (emphasis mine)

What comes out of our mouths? Is it fruit that will delight our God and satisfy another’s soul? Or is our fruit rotten and withered by pessimism and unbelief, moldy and putrid because of bitterness and anger?

James drives this point home in writing about the power of our words:

8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. 11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh. James 3:8-12 NASB

We all slip up and say things we know we ought not to say. All of us can think of a time where we said words we wish we could take back. We may never be perfect in our choice of words, but we must still aim for perfection.

This prayer of David is one of my favorite in the Psalms, and it reminds me to be careful about the “mouth-fulls” I allow:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14 NASB

So… what’s in your mouth?

God is the One, v3

Welcome back to this Sunday Psalm series looking at Psalm 23, considering the various ways David reminds us that “God is the One we need.”

He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3 NASB)

True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. (Psalm 23:3 MSG)

God is the One who restores.

The Hebrew here is a word for turning something back or away, but not necessarily a return to a starting point. A lot of languages are like word pictures where a particular word can have multiple meanings based on the context it’s used in, and this is no different. This word can mean “to come back, to carry something back, to deliver something or fetch something, to recall, recover, refresh, relieve, rescue, retrieve.”

I get the picture that the Shepherd finds this lost sheep going off the path, headed astray, and He picks it up to bring it back to the flock. He’s not bringing it back to the same place; the flock is on the move. But He brings it back so that the lost sheep can follow along with the rest, on the paths that the Shepherd is taking.

Isaiah said of us that “all we like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” Isa 53:5

Sheep aren’t to be trusted with directions.

Plz can has Google Maaaaaaaps?
Sorry, that’s baaaaaaad.

God is the One who gets in the mess with us.

The good news is that God doesn’t leave us in the muck where we often find ourselves. David writes “He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip.” (Psalm 40:2 MSG)

The Shepherd doesn’t abandon the sheep, doesn’t say “He got in this mess, he can get himself out.”
“How? you say. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 MSG)
“But the Lord has laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all.” Isa 53:6

God is the One who guides.
David continues the thought here. The Shepherd doesn’t merely get the sheep out of the mess they’re in. The Shepherd is taking the flock somewhere. He has a destination in mind, and there are specific paths that lead to that goal. The Shepherd is not telling the sheep that “all roads will get you where I want you to be.” He only chooses the right way. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6
Similar to the very first point from two weeks ago, the first way that “God is the One,” this reminds me that God is not shrugging off sin with a “boys will be boys” and a shake of his head. He calls our going astray an act of rebellion and open hostility. He isn’t willing to accept and call good whatever path we choose. And why is that?

God is the One who is worthy.
He guides us for His name’s sake. It’s not simply because He cares for the sheep, but He cares about His reputation.
“I will not share My glory with another.” Isa 45:8
“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 NASB
“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Php 2:9-11 NASB
He protects His reputation. He makes sure everyone knows He is all He claims to be. It’s about Him, not us. His love and care is not because of something we’ve done to deserve it. It’s because of who He is. He stoops down to shepherd us, not because sheep are special, but because He is humble. “Your gentleness has made me great.” Psalm 18:35

God is the One who is true.
The Message puts “for His name’s sake” as “True to Your word…”
His promises and His mercies come to us because He is faithful. He will not go back on His word. We don’t earn blessings like a paycheck, by doing good deeds and cashing in at the Bank of Heaven. We don’t go to God with a list of what He owes us since we’ve done so much for Him. But we do get to go to Him based on His faithful and true nature. Like the child who reminds the father, “you promised,” the responsibility and the commitment are on His end. God our Shepherd is reliable even if we are not.

God is the One who gets into the mess with me, lifts me out, and points me on the way to truth, which is why He is worthy of praise.

Playing Favorites

Happy Labor Day in America. It’s time for a

Monday Morning Snack

There was reclining on  Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples,  whom Jesus loved. – John 13:23 NASB

OM NOM NOM
Goes best with a cup of steaming coffee.
Coffee not included in price of purchase.

If you ever want to learn how to make things fair in life, have more than one child.

It seems no matter how hard we try, one of our four children is always wondering why he or she has it worse than everybody else, and why some sibling gets it so easy.

“My chores are the worst!”

“She got to play the XBox for a long time!”

“He got to go to his friend’s house, why can’t I?”

“IT’S NOT FAIR!”

I don’t feel too bad. If Jesus’ own disciples bickered and accused Him of playing favorites, then I figure this is a normal fact of life.

In the Gospel of John, the writer (John… shocking, I know) uses the phrase “the disciple whom Jesus loved” five times to refer to himself.

Maybe it was humility; he didn’t want to write his name in the account, like “me me me, look at me.” But it kind of comes across to my ears as a proud statement. “I’m the favorite. I’m the one He loves. Neenur neenur neenur, you’re just plain ol’ Peter.

But maybe this phrase is neither humble nor proud.

Maybe it’s a statement of a wonderful and incredible fact.

John understood. He really got it. John’s the one who later writes all about love in the church (read 1st John). He’s the one who emphasizes over and over again that Christ’s followers are “beloved of God” – and he even uses “beloved” as the collective title for his readers.

Beloved means dear to the heart, favored, favorite one. To call myself beloved of God speaks of confidence about His love, security and certainty that “He likes me… He really, really likes me.”

That’s not arrogant, either.

It is arrogant when we add “more than you” either consciously or unconsciously. It is arrogant if we presume to add “but not you” when we think of some group we don’t like. It’s foolish for us to think God should limit His love to suit our desires.

But we can confidently say that we are beloved of God, dear to His heart, favored and special to Him.

Why?

Because He said so.

You’re His “prized possession” and “special treasure.” You are recipients of “great love lavished on us” by God, an unconquerable and inseparable love.

It pains my heart when my wife apologizes or worries needlessly whenever I seem frustrated or upset by anything. It hurts when my children say they are afraid to admit a bad decision for fear that “Daddy might get upset.” That tells me that I have not fully communicated to them the unchanging and unconditional love in my heart. They don’t understand that each of them is my absolute favorite. Each of them holds captive the full measure of my love. So, in my imperfection, I must work to communicate that more clearly.

God, on the other hand, has communicated His love. He has told you that you are His beloved, you are His treasure, you are the one He loves. When He plays favorites, we all win.

Say to yourself, “I am the one He loves.”

Chew on that for a bit.

God is the One v2

Sunday Psalm

Welcome back to God is the One, taken from the verses of Psalm 23.

Verse 2: He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.

God is the One who gives me rest.

He makes me lie down. When everything else has me going constantly, God would have me stop and find a quiet place, lie down and stay awhile. I’ve got work responsibilities that compete with each other and make demands on off-duty time. I’ve got a wife that I want to spend time with in order to maintain our relationship. I also have four kids, and each of them are unique individuals with different needs. We have a great church that we want to cooperate with, so we’re involved in the music ministry. They’ve got weekly activities we want to participate in, too. But we’re learning about writing, so we’ve joined a writing group and a monthly critique group. And that’s not even counting all the video games!

God says, “Okay, stop. Take a minute and catch your breath. Rest.” That’s what Sabbath means. Rest is so important that God commanded His people to set aside an entire day for it. Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, sometimes you need to take time to recover.

OM NOM NOM.
Grass. It’s what sheep crave.

God is the One who feeds me.

He puts me in green pastures. He provides me with sustenance. The food He gives is plentiful – there are whole pastures here. The food He gives is fresh and vibrant, green with abundant life. God gives the good stuff.

Consider references like Jesus speaking of doing His Father’s will as food (John 4) and David’s rejoicing in the value and power of God’s Word as his source of life (Psalm 119). What God provides may not always look like it will strengthen us or fill us up. Jesus ended up ministering at the well when all He wanted was a drink. But He found renewed energy, because He had food His disciples knew not of – doing the work of the Father.

I’ll even throw out there that God’s food is 100% all natural and organic. There’s no quick-growth hormone that turns us from spiritual babies into the next Billy Graham or Matt Redman. There’s no short-cut, no secret formula, no special ingredient that only the “in-crowd” knows about. Like the natural, a healthy spiritual diet means discipline, time, and effort. It means making good decisions day by day.

He’ll lead us there and provide the meal.

It’s up to us to eat.

…leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.            1 Pet 2:21 NASB

God is the One who leads me.

He leads me. I remember following my father or my brother whenever we had a deep snow. I would always try to step in their footprints in order to avoid getting snow in my shoes or boots. They carved a path for me to follow.And so it is with God. There’s nowhere we find ourselves that He hasn’t gone before us preparing the way. It’s like the Footsteps poem, in reverse. Step by step, we follow His lead, finding His footprints and trying (and often failing) to follow.

My relationship with my father and brother made it easy to follow them. I knew they knew where they were going. I trusted that I wanted to be wherever they were going, and I knew I wanted to be with them along the way. So it is with God. He’s leading, and He’s proven Himself faithful before. It’s my choice whether I’m going to trust Him with where we’re headed. It’s my choice whether I’m going to respond to His call to follow.

My seven year old tries to follow his older brother and sister all the time, and they immediately resist. “Get out of my room. Go away. Go play with your friends.” My brother sometimes felt the same way with me when I’d follow him. Rest assured, this is not the way it is with God. He leads, and He desires that we follow. He desires intimacy, but that’s a two-way street.

God is the One who brings peace.

He leads me to a place of stillness. In all the storm and chaos of the world around me, God is the One who can say, “Peace, be still!”

Sometimes this happens in the middle of the crisis. He supernaturally brings the answer to my prayer, the solution to my problem, and “immediately” the winds and waves cease. Sometimes, this happens in the natural order, and He leads me through the storm to a place of stillness in the aftermath. There’s not always a divine rescue. There is always a divine reassurance. “I am with you always. Be not afraid.”

As the deer pants for the waters,
so my soul longs for God, the living God. Ps 42:1

God is the One who satisfies thirst.

Nothing quenches thirst like water. All the other junk we drink still requires water to process, despite Coca-Cola’s efforts to convince customers otherwise. Sure, some things are less detrimental to your hydration than others, but nothing’s as good as water.

Other psalmists wrote about the longing in our hearts for God being “as the deer panting for the water” (Psalm 42:1). Then they ask the question, “When can I come stand in the presence of God?” (v.2). But it’s God who leads us, God who brings us to the place that satisfies our need and our desire.

“Plain old boring water” may not be the thing we want right now or the thing we like the most, but God provides us with what will accomplish His purpose in us. He has given us “everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

God is the One who leads me to a place of peace and rest where I am well fed and my thirst is satisfied.

Fitness Friday

Welcome to the new category, Fitness Friday. This is the first such post, and here’s what to expect: I am no fitness guru with a wealth of information about how to squeeze out that last little bit of performance or lose that last percentage of body fat to meet your goal. I was a certified indoor cycling instructor and taught classes for a couple years, but I’m no expert.

We love the hills!
Good times. Bring a gel seat.

However, I have lots of time in the gym spent thinking about exercise and how it relates to the rest of life. There are lessons that apply not only to physical fitness, but to mental and emotional health, and even spirituality. And the first lesson is:                Fitness is about me, not anyone else.

No one runs my race for me; no one else can push me to my maximum effort. How fast or slow another person runs means nothing for my fitness. I am only competing with myself.

When the Air Force gives me a fitness test, it doesn’t matter how well everyone else can do push-ups. It doesn’t matter if someone next to me can’t do a single sit-up. If that guy over there has a bulging waist that causes him to fail, that doesn’t affect my test.

                I’m up against me.

Competition can be healthy, don’t get me wrong. It can spur a person to new heights of performance. It can push us past what we might have thought of as our limit. Athletes strive to be the very best, with good reason.

But when I exercise, it’s not about everyone else’s condition. It’s not about how strong the next guy is or how fast the woman is doing sprints. It’s not about how much better I am, either. Comparing myself to others is silly, because everyone has a different fitness level.

Challenge yourself. Push your limits.

I have to find my motivation and push myself. I have to make my workout worth the time I’m spending. What matters is this: Am I challenging myself to be better than I was before? Am I running my race with 100% effort? Am I lifting weights that challenge my muscles and make me stronger? Am I straining against my personal limitations?

This applies to mental fitness as well. Am I always learning? Am I growing, developing my skills and my awareness of the world around me? Or am I content to remain ignorant?

Spiritually, am I pushing myself toward intimacy with God? Or am I stagnant, content to rest on what I’ve done in the past? Am I like a former Olympian, sitting in the gym, thinking and bragging about the glory days of what I once did, but growing weak through present inactivity?

Paul wrote to one of his churches about “some of those who commend themselves.” He said, “when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding” (2 Corinthians 10:12 NASB).

What he’s saying is, when we look at each other and say, “I’m faster than him, I’m smarter than her, I’m more patient than him, I’m more spiritual than her,” we miss the point.

Sprint it out!
Let us run with endurance the race set before us!

It’s about living at our personal maximum potential. At the end of his life, Paul looked back and was able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7 NASB). He wasn’t concerned with declaring himself better than anyone else, or claiming to be the best. He was concerned that he had given his all for the cause.Whatever your cause, give it your all. Don’t hold anything back. Your race isn’t against me or anyone else. It’s against a version of yourself that is content with mediocrity and being less than all that is possible.

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1 NASB).

The stopwatch is ticking.

Start running.

Worship Defined

What is Worship?

Though this is not the first post on my blog about worship, this is the first Wednesday Worship post. Because worship music is a passion of mine, I hope to use this weekly category to cover some of the myths and truths about how we do worship in the Church.

BCC Worship prep
Part of worship, yes.
All there is to worship? No.

Since we usually mean “singing and playing music” when we talk about worship, that’s going to be the main focus. But there is much more to worship than just the songs we perform on Sunday morning.

So what is worship?

Merriam-Webster gives a few applicable definitions:

1. reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also: an act of expressing such reverence.

2. a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual

As a verb, it is to perform an act of devotion, honor, or reverence based on the above.

The word comes from the concept of “worth” or “worthiness.” It’s an act that says “You are worth this much to me.”

That goes way beyond mere singing and playing music, doesn’t it?

So, what is worship?

In a way, it’s everything we do, to the extent that we do it for God’s glory. Worship is our expression of God’s worth, of our respect and honor and reverence for Him.

If I do a good job at work because I believe I am to work as unto the Lord, my work becomes worship.

If I bite my tongue instead of biting off my co-worker’s head because I realize that God calls me to forgive others and treat them with love, that is worship.

When we cheerfully give in the offering plate or cheerfully meet the needs of others, we are worshiping God as much as when we sing hymns and songs of praise.

When I have no words to say, let alone sing, and I simply fall to my knees before God, pouring out my heart’s burden of grief or sorrow, that is worship.

Paul tells us that living our lives as sacrifices offered to God is our spiritual act of worship.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Romans 12:1 NASB)

The Messageparaphrase puts it this way:

A Lead Worshiper
Worship is service as much (if not more) than it is singing

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

There’s definitely a place for singing and playing music as an expression of our hearts and of God’s worth. And that will occupy the spotlight in my future posts about worship, because that’s an important part of who I am and what I’m gifted to do.

But I want to be clear from the outset about what worship really is.

Because if you think about it, and you trust what the Bible reveals about God, then there’s a lot more He wants from us than a song and dance at church.

These thoughts make me consider the following questions:

  • In what ways do I enjoy worshiping God?
  • In what ways can I improve?
  • Is there any part of my “everyday, ordinary… walking-around life” that is not placed before God?
  • How can I more fully embrace all that God does for me?

Morning Snack #3

Monday Morning Snack

(Note: I’ve created some new categories for posts. One of these is the “Monday Morning Snack,” which will contain thoughts from whatever Scripture I happen to be reading. These were going to be random and occasional, but now I aim to post them each Monday.)

OM NOM NOM
A little bite to whet your appetite

My Bible app gives me a verse of the day, and it sparked a thought this morning:

but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. 1Pet 4:16 NASB

This made me consider what it might mean to “suffer as a Christian.”

The Bible tells us often that if we’re true to the faith, the rest of the world isn’t going to like us. No one really likes having their sin pointed out, or being told they’re not good enough based on their own merit, or hearing that they are born in sin and naturally at enmity with God until they come to saving faith in Christ Jesus as their Redeemer.

It’s not a popular message. God obviously didn’t read How to Win Friends and Influence People before coming up with this plan of salvation.

The problem is, in my experience, believers are often too quick to assume that any opposition is based on the offense of the Gospel. If someone doesn’t like me as a Christian, of course I’d rather believe that they’re upset because of the counter-cultural message of my faith. But maybe they’re just mad because I’m inconsiderate or lazy at work.

A good example is Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A fame. Whether you agree with him or not, the statements he made (which sparked the whole controversy over same-sex marriage) were a simple declaration of what he believes based on the Bible. He wasn’t spewing blatant hate or disgust. He was merely professing his faith, and I submit he did it in a respectful way. The withering criticism came because of what the Bible says and how the majority of Christians in the West interpret Scripture on the subject of homosexuality.

If only all the Christian responses to that controversy were as calm, respectful, and precise.

Peter writes in this passage that “to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing,” and “if you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed” (vv. 13-14). But he also makes the point that there are other reasons why one might suffer: “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler” (v.15).

Certainly I hope none of those are true of any of us! But the meaning is clear: it is possible that we suffer not because of Christ or the Gospel or our faith, but because of our individual flaws.

I have to ask myself:

Are people upset by what Jesus taught and what the Bible says, or how I am saying it?

Are people irritated by my sincere acts of faith in Christ, or by my hypocrisy in other areas of life?

Is the message the source of the offense, or is the messenger?

These are questions we definitely want to answer.

God is the One

Sunday Psalm

(Note: I’ve created some new categories for posts. One of these is the “Sunday Psalm,” which will contain either songs I’ve written or snippets from the book of Psalms in the Bible. This is the first such post.)

Since I’m starting a new feature that closely involves Psalms, I figure it would be appropriate to begin with the most well-known psalm of the 150 we have in the Bible:

Psalm 23

A while back, I looked through this psalm and considered the words David chose. I found that all of it tied into one key point: God is the One I need.

(Unfortunately, I later lost the files and the notes for that study. So now I get to recreate it.)

I’ll take it one verse per post, because these time-tested verses contain something of lasting value, worthy of careful consideration.

Let’s begin.

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want. (NASB)

God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. (MSG)

God is the One. 

David starts with “the Lord.” Not “Lords” or “Gods” or “the Cosmos” or “my true inner spiritual self” or any such thing.

In ancient Israel, monotheism was one of the key religious points that separated the Jews from the nations around them. Starting with Moses, the message was “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.” Other commandments clarified that the Lord was to also be their only God. “You shall have no other gods before me.”

David sets his focus clearly right from the beginning. No other god, no other name, no spiritually vague concept will suffice. David’s eyes are on the Lord.

God is the One who cares for me. 

David chooses his own childhood experience and sees how God exemplifies that role. The shepherd loves and cares for the sheep. But the shepherd is not merely a friendly or fawning pet owner with their favorite animal. Shepherds take on several roles-as we’ll see in future verses.

Most importantly, I think of modern, socially-acceptable spirituality, which leads us to a Buddy Christ that loves us too much to discipline us, a Santa-God that gives us whatever we want if we are good boys and girls, an Oprah Spirit that stands back and encourages us to do whatever we think is best for us. Too often, the god we like to hear about is the one that is on our level.

The shepherd is not on the sheep’s level. He’s not their buddy all the time. He’s not out to let them “discover themselves.”

The shepherd can’t treat the sheep that way. Sheep need correction and firm guidance. They go through circumstances they don’t like because it’s healthy for them. They aren’t left to their own devices. They need a watchful eye.

God assumes the responsibility to provide all that for us. He steps up and says, “Let Me take care of you. This is My job.”

And let’s be honest. Look around. On our own, we can’t even do it right anyway.

God is the One who meets our needs.

The older meaning of “want” is used in most familiar versions. It doesn’t mean there will never be a time that I feel a desire for something I do not possess. It doesn’t mean that I will always have anything I wish. Again, God is not Santa. He’s not the ATM.

It means that I will have my needs met. Real needs, not just “really wants.”

“I really want that video game, God… Your Word says I shall not want, so… I need 60 bucks. Hook me up?”

Not quite.

The Message captures the meaning well. David is saying, “If I have God, I don’t need anything else. I’m good.”

Consider Paul’s comments in Philippians 4:11-13.

I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. (MSG)

This is where Paul speaks about God the Provider – “My God shall supply all your needs” (Php. 4:19 NASB).

Did Paul endure hardship and tough times? Absolutely. I have no doubt in my mind that there were moments where he had some wants, maybe even some valid needs.

But his experience was that in every situation, God came through, whether the answer was “yes” or “no.”

God is the One who genuinely cares for us and meets our genuine needs.

TDY Lemonade

Does not contain Will Smith or Bill Pullman
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

So the Air Force sent me TDY the weekend of the big air show back home.

For my non-military readers, “TDY” means “temporary duty” in the Air Force. Different services call it different acronyms, but it simply means you go somewhere else and do your job there for a short (or long) while. A six-day trip like mine is pretty short.

Of course, that leaves my wife home with four children and a zoo’s worth of pets.

And I miss the air show. I love airplanes. I particularly love the variety of fighters we’ve built over the years. There were supposed to be F/A-18E/F Super Hornets this year.

But such is life in the military, and we’ve grown accustomed to short-notice changes. The plan for this trip changed literally ten times or so. First we were going to England, then we were not, then we were, then maybe not, then maybe Washington State, then maybe not, then we found some rooms maybe but not enough, then no really there are enough rooms… you get the point.

My wife’s family lives in Washington State. My mother-in-law, Karen drives three hours one way every weekend to visit her husband, Jim in a care center where he stays while dealing with the effects of emphysema and the other ravages of a life-time of smoking. This weekend, Karen brought him a surprise: me.

We had a chance to play some Scrabble (Karen cheated, I maintain!). We chatted about how big my four children are now. We attempted to get a phone connection for FaceTime but reception out there was horrible. So we looked at the videos and photos of the kids that I have on my iPad and iPhone.

Convenience!
It DOES make shopping easy! (kidding)

Here’s Jonathan in his new glasses…
Here’s Teenager Deborah trying to be patient with Justin climbing on her…
Here’s Judah smiling…
Here’s our rabbit and our parakeet that we just bought…
Here’s Judah in a hand-held shopping basket…

I don’t know how well Jim does each weekend, of course. I only had this one to judge by.

But Karen said he seemed very happy to see me and seemed in good spirits as a result. We shook hands (he still gives a firm handshake), and he said, “You’re a good son-in-law.” I told him, sincerely, “It’s an honor.”

He let me give him a hug and even let me snap a picture for my wife and children.

He even smiled
Jim at the Care Center

All in all, it was a great way to spend a Saturday in a place I didn’t originally want to be.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28 NASB