TO DIE IS CHRIST

Psa. 23:4 ¶ Even though I walk through 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.
Have you thought about the day of your death recently. Jonathan Edwards said that we need to think of that day everyday of our lives. Why? You ask. Thinking about dying and what comes next tends to have a great and dramatic effect on the way we live our lives right here right now. Of course for the Christian, that leads us to thinking about heaven. Heaven will be better than you think. The Father, the fountain of all life, will be there. Jesus, His only begotten Son, will be there ruling with His Father. The Holy Spirit will be there; He will be the atmosphere we breathe, the life that we live, and the veritable ocean of God’s love that shall swallow us. I guess the thing that keeps us from reflecting more often on heaven is that shadow of death that we have to pass through. Here is how Spurgeon sees it.

“The dying saint is not in a flurry, he does not run as though he were alarmed, nor stand still as though he would go no further, he is not confounded nor ashamed, and therefore keeps to his old pace. Observe that it is not walking in the valley, but through the valley. We go through the dark tunnel of death and emerge into the light of immortality. We do not die, we do but sleep to wake in glory. Death is not the house but the porch, not the goal but the passage to it. The dying article is called a valley. The storm breaks on the mountain, but the valley is the place of quietude, and thus full often the last days of the Christian are the most peaceful of his whole career; the mountain is bleak and bare, but the valley is rich with golden sheaves, and many a saint has reaped more joy and knowledge when he came to die than he ever knew while he lived.”
We are all headed for that valley one day, our approach to the valley is determined by our vision that lies beyond it. Heaven is real and nearer than you think. We live one breath, one heartbeat from our eternity. This life matters, it will determine what the next one is like.

HE RESTORES MY SOUL

He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
Ps.23:2,3

Before we met Christ, our souls were in a continuous state of shambles. Our pride and sin had blinded our eyes, our tragedies and offenses had wounded us. Our conversion began the work of restoration in our lives. Only the Shepherd could restore our soul. Here is a thought from Adam Clarke on this restoration.

“Brings back my life from destruction; and converts my soul from sin, that it may not eternally perish. Or, after it has backslidden from him, heals its backslidings, and restores it to his favor.”
After conversion we still need the restoring work of the Spirit in our lives. Temptations, offenses, and calamity tend to take their toll on all of us. Only the work of the Spirit can restore our souls so that we can walk with our Shepherd. Here is what Spurgeon says about the restoration of our souls.

“When the soul grows sorrowful he revives it; when it is sinful he sanctifies it; when it is weak he strengthens it. “He” does it. His ministers could not do it if he did not. His Word would not avail by itself. “He restoreth my soul.” Are any of us low in grace? Do we feel that our spirituality is at its lowest ebb? He who turns the ebb into the flood can soon restore our soul. Pray to him, then, for the blessing—“Restore thou me, thou Shepherd of my soul!”

The Apostle Paul says in best in Titus 3:5 “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit”.
So, how is it with your soul today. There is renewal and restoration available for us every time we step into the wonderful presence of the Holy Spirit. These are the waters of rest that the Shepherd gently and faithfully leads us to. You may feel tired or drained emotionally, there is renewal in the Holy Spirit for you. You may feel like the work of the ministry is just too much for you, good news, these are waters of rest as well as restoration. He will bring rest to your soul and strength for tomorrow’s journey. He is restoring our souls and making all things new again.

ANOINT ME WITH OIL

PSA. 23:5 ¶ You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.
David knew the importance of the anointing. Ever since that day when Samuel visited his family and anointed David with oil, the anointing had become a huge part of David’s life. He saw the importance of the anointing when facing the lion and the bear, fighting the giant, running from King Saul, fighting the Philistines, writing the songs of the Lord, and reigning as the King of Israel. It was the supernatural enabling that kept and empowered David all of his life.

Today, that anointing is available for all of us. Whether we are facing temptation, challenges in our work or ministry, the anointing of the Lord will equip us for whatever we face. Charles Spurgeon shares about the importance of anointing with fresh oil everyday.

“Thou anointest my head with oil. May we live in the daily enjoyment of this blessing, receiving a fresh anointing for every day’s duties. Every Christian is a priest, but he cannot execute the priestly office without unction, and hence we must go day by day to God the Holy Ghost, that we may have our heads anointed with oil. A priest without oil misses the chief qualification for his office, and the Christian priest lacks his chief fitness for service when he is devoid of new grace from on high.”

I love what Spurgeon said, “every Christian is a priest”. This was a cardinal doctrine of the Protestant Reformation, the priesthood of every believer. The anointing with the oil of the Spirit is critical for the ministry of the priest. Think about it, David instituted 24 hour worship and ministry to the Lord in his tabernacle. Ministry to the Lord is the first duty of the priest. The priests needed God’s empowering and intoxicating anointing to minister on a daily basis. Stepping into His daily anointing equips us for our ministry of worship to the Lord. Secondly, the priest has a ministry to the hurting people all around us. It is the anointing that puts the compassion in our heart for those around us. This compassion spills over in pouring out the love of God to the suffering people we see everyday. Just like David saw the importance of the anointing to face his daily challenges, we too need His help everyday.

HE ANOINTS MY HEAD WITH OIL

Psa. 23:5 ¶ You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.
David was a man of the Spirit. His whole life and ministry where an outflow of the anointing that was on his life. From the lion and the bear, to the Philistine giant, the jealous king, the rebellious son, and the Philistine armies; David was able to rise above and conquer every foe. He understood exactly what he meant when he penned the words, “You anoint my head with oil”. Today’s church has majored on programs, ministries, and principles with little or no mention of the anointing. The anointing is the weapon of our warfare to do damage to the kingdoms of the world and to establish the kingdom of God. Martin Luther spoke of the intoxicating effect of the anointing of the Spirit and the powerful effect it has on our world. Check out Luther’s thoughts on the anointing of the Spirit.
“The Holy Spirit makes them not only courageous and bold, but also so secure and happy that they get drunk with a great and boundless joy. David is thus speaking here of spiritual power, joy, and intoxication-the power of God; and a joy in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul calls it; and a blessed intoxication, in which the people are filled not with wine, for that is debauchery, but with the Holy Spirit. And this is the armor and the weapons with which our Lord God equips His believers against the devil and the world; that is, He puts the Word into their mouths and puts courage, that is, the Holy Spirit, into their hearts. Unafraid and cheerful, they attack all their enemies with that equipment. They smite and conquer them despite all their power, wisdom, and holiness. Such warriors were the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. They stood up in Jerusalem against the command of the emperor and the high priest and acted as though they were veritable gods and all the others mere locusts, and they pressed forward with all strength and joy, as though they were intoxicated, as some actually mocked them and said they were filled with new wine. But St. Peter showed from the prophet Joel that they were not filled with wine but with the Holy Spirit. Afterward he flays about with his sword; that is, he opens his mouth and preaches, and with one stroke he rescues three thousand souls from the devil.”
The one thing that can change the world is the one thing that has been ignored and even despised in church. We must have the anointing if we expect to change our world. The Lord has given Victory Fellowship a sharp sword to use in our battle in New Orleans. That sword is a production called Beyond the Grave. What is the source of the impact it has enjoyed? It is the outflow of Holy Spirit intoxication from the years of saturation at our church. Oh Lord, anoint our heads with fresh oil!!!

GREEN PASTURES

He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still water.
Psa. 23:2

Once you see it, it becomes a major part of your every day life. What am I talking about? Why, its right there in today’s verse. The green pastures are the daily provision for sheep. It’s what they live on. What is our provision for daily survival? Of course it is the written word of God. The Bible is our daily food. It is the nutrition we need for our spiritual health. The Shepherd leads us into life itself by constantly directing us to His book. This is where we find salvation, spiritual cleansing, wisdom, equipping for ministry, and it is the weapon to put our enemy on the run. Remember how the Shepherd Himself dealt with the deceiver, “It is written” is all He had to say. Check out Charles Spugeon’s thoughts on the green pastures.

“What are these “green pastures” but the Scriptures of truth—always fresh, always rich, and never exhausted? There is no fear of biting the bare ground where the grass is long enough for the flock to lie down in it. Sweet and full are the doctrines of the gospel; fit food for souls, as tender grass is natural nutriment for sheep. When by faith we are enabled to find rest in the promises, we are like the sheep that lie down in the midst of the pasture; we find at the same moment both provender and peace, rest and refreshment, serenity and satisfaction. But observe: “He maketh me to lie down.” It is the Lord who graciously enables us to perceive the preciousness of his truth, and to feed upon it. How grateful ought we to be for the power to appropriate the promises!.”

Remember what Jesus told His disciples in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”. Shepherds in Bible days had some kind of relationship with their sheep, they talked to them and even sometimes called them by name. This is what happens to us when we begin to spend time reading the Bible. We become accustomed to His word and begin to hear His voice speaking to us. He will take the scripture and breath on it and make it personal to us. We hear His voice and recognize He is speaking directly to us.

SHALL NOT WANT

Psa. 23:1 ¶ The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 

Learning to trust the Lord for my provision was a very important part of my early Christian journey. Parris and I went to Bible School in California shortly after our marriage. That first year we had our son Jeremy and learned the importance of trusting God for provision. There were food bills, Bible school tuition, rent, medical bills for Jeremy’s birth, plus all the other car and clothing costs. The amazing part of that season in our life, we never did want for anything. The Lord provided and taught us that He was the source of our supply. He is our Shepherd. Here are some thoughts from Charles Spurgeon on today’s verse. 

“I shall not lack for temporal things. Does he not feed the ravens, and cause the lilies to grow? How, then, can he leave his children to starve? I shall not want for spirituals, I know that his grace will be sufficient for me. Resting in him he will say to me, “As thy day so shall thy strength be.” I may not possess all that I wish for, but “I shall not want.” Others, far wealthier and wiser than I, may want, but “I shall not.” “The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.” It is not only “I do not want,” but “I shall not want.” Come what may, if famine should devastate the land, or calamity destroy the city, “I shall not want.” Old age with its feebleness shall not bring me any lack, and even death with its gloom shall not find me destitute. I have all things and abound; not because I have a good store of money in the bank, not because I have skill and wit with which to win my bread, but because “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
Maybe you find yourself in a place of worry and fear today. You don’t see how you can possibly have enough to get by, let alone not even want. We must look to the God of David. He learned about trusting the Lord as his Shepherd when he was living in exile running for his life from King Saul. David saw God’s continual supply in impossible circumstances. When David was old he thought back at the faithfulness of the Shepherd and this was his conclusion, “I have been young and now I am old but I have never seen the righteous forsaken or his seed begging bread

MY SHEPHERD

Psa. 23:1 ¶ The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

This has to be the greatest of all Psalms, the Lord is my Shepherd. This was about as personal as it gets. David spent years caring for sheep. He endured heat, cold, and loneliness; he fought off the lions and the bears, he had given and risked his life for the sheep. He protected them, provided for them, nursed them to health in sickness, and sought them when they were lost. David knew what it was to be a shepherd, the Lord had become a shepherd to Him.

Long after his years as a shepherd, David found himself alone in the wilderness, running from King Saul. He looked to the Lord for protection, provision, shelter, and guidance. In his years of exile the Lord had become David’s Shepherd. Here are some thoughts from Spurgeon on today’s verse.

“A sheep is an object of property, not a wild animal; its owner sets great store by it, and frequently it is bought with a great price. It is well to know, as certainly David did, that we belong to the Lord. There is a noble tone of confidence about this sentence. There is no “if” nor “but,” nor even “I hope so;” but he says, “The Lord is my shepherd.” We must cultivate the spirit of assured dependence upon our heavenly Father. The sweetest word of the whole is that monosyllable, “My.” He does not say, “The Lord is the shepherd of the world at large, and leadeth forth the multitude as his flock,” but “The Lord is my shepherd;” if he be a Shepherd to no one else, he is a Shepherd to me; he cares for me, watches over me, and preserves me. The words are in the present tense. Whatever be the believer’s position, he is even now under the pastoral care of Jehovah.”
I love that, a sheep is not a wild animal but an object of property. I am a sheep of the Lord’s pasture, I am the property of the Chief Shepherd. Since I belong to the Lord I live in a state of constant safety. What enemy can separate me from the Shepherd’s care? Sickness can’t, poverty is helpless against Him, my enemies run in terror before Him. He provides for me, protects me, shelters me, and directs my steps. Yes, the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.