Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Personal Meditation on Psalm 23

It is not often that I share entries from my personal journal but I felt a burden on my heart to share this meditation. I have been discussing with my spiritual director the image of shepherd and how it relates to the gifts God has given me. Aside from the devotional "Streams in the Desert", I also enjoy reading "Our Daily Bread." On Thursday the verse of encouragement that day read, "Follow your Leader into the lives of those around you." This verse touched a special place in my heart that led me to meditate on Psalm 23. So I share with you the journal meditation that flowed from the above verse.

May 29, 2014 From "Our Daily Bread" "Follow your leader into the lives of those around you."
"Lord, all I can think about is the shepherd motif. This gifting that You have placed in my heart. That verse could have easily read, "Follow your Shepherd into the lives of those around you." The Shepherd/Leader. I look at the lives around me whether it be family, friends, or clients and you bid me to walk into their lives because I am following You. I am Your shepherd/leader. A Meditation on Psalm 23. "The Lord is my shepherd.."  He is the example. He is the Shepherd/Leader. He is safe to follow because human beings can lead you astray. Jesus told His disciples, "Follow Me." Powerful words! How interesting that You chose the most despised people of the day to be the image we are to follow. It is easier and perhaps more acceptable to follow an "important" person like a king but David chose to relate to You using an image he knew well. You Lord, connect with us, with me, using the imagery that fits me well. Like You connected with the disciples declaring that You would make them "fishers of men." They were to follow the great "Fisher of men" into the lives if those around them. "I shall not be in want..." Again the irony. The despised shepherds were in want. They were their society's outcasts. No one was going to invite them to the banquet table but You did, Lord. You are the Provider, "Jehovah Jireh." I don't have to be worried that I'll starve. What can a shepherd provide? Not much. What can the Shepherd provide? Everything! I shall not want in any area of my life (physical, spiritual, emotional.) "He makes me lie down in green pastures.." It is not a suggestion. He insists I lie down but not just anywhere. In green pastures, lush and full. Bursting forth with life. Even as I lie there, there is life surrounding me. "He leads me beside quiet waters.." An interesting description. Not still waters or calm waters but quiet waters. A peaceful place wherein I can see my reflection and His. It would almost seem sacrilegious that anything should disturb these waters. "He restores my soul.." Surrounded by this life giving pasture and nourished by these quiet waters I am renewed and refreshed. It is that sacred time, the time Jesus withdrew to be with the Father, the times Jesus called His disciples to withdraw when things became too overwhelming. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His names sake..." It is His Name that is to be upheld. He knows the best path to take, the one that will help me see His glory. If I am to follow the Shepherd/Leader into the lives of those around me, it must be on a path that is right so they too will come to know His Name. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..." Not only will I walk there but as shepherd I will lead others there. Yes, my Shepherd/Leader lets me know that those green pastures and quiet waters are necessary to walk through the valley of the shadow of death with others. A place of darkness, a place of anxiety, a place where the soul is not restored but rather laid down. Yet, the Shepherd/Leader also goes with me. "I will fear no evil for You are with me..." As ominous and unpleasant an experience it may be, the Shepherd/Leader whispers, "Do not be afraid, remember I am with you even to the end of the age." "Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.." It does not seem like a rod and a staff would offer much protection. What if the attacker is fierce and overwhelmingly strong? I notice it does not say, "Your rod and Your staff will protect me but rather comfort me." It is not about what He holds but who He is. In His hands there is power and protection. He will defend against any threats and therein lies the comfort. "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies..." You care not that my enemies are right there in front of me. You are calling me to come into fellowship with You. To eat as it were from the King's table. Despite what others try to do to stand in the way of Your call on my life, they cannot interrupt the feast. They cannot interrupt the rejoicing at Your table. You prepare that table before me so I can see that there are two sides. The side You are on and the side the enemies are on. You help me to understand that being on the side of the table where we fellowship together is all that matters. Because You will still lavish Your gifts on me in spite of the naysayers. "You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows..." Moreover, You place Your special anointing upon me. To show others "she is set apart for My service." You are the Great High Priest. Therefore, the anointing is sure and powerful. It is not dependent upon an "earthly priest" to determine if I am gifted. And with that anointing is an unending overflow of power that will flow into the lives of those around me. "Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life..." The goodness and love that is who You are. As Your people Israel declared in worship, "He is good. His love endures forever." (2 Chronicles 7:3) So it is with all the days of my life here and in the life hereafter. When I follow the Shepherd/Leader there is a certainty to this verse as David prefaces it with the word, "surely." There is no doubt, there is no uncertainty, it cannot be any other way. "And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." In His sanctuary. In that sacred place never to be removed. I will follow the Shepherd/Leader into the very life of God Himself. He will be the life all around me forever. AMEN.

Pastor Sheree

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Master

I have just come off a very long weekend that was planned yet at the same time unexpected. I was asked three weeks ago to preach at my former church on the first Sunday in May and lead the Communion. At the time of the request I had two weeks to prepare and began looking at my schedule to see how to fit in my preparation time during the work week. Graciously, God lightened my work week so I could put in the extra time. I was very thankful and rejoicing in the Lord that He knew just what I needed. I was feeling rather content and comfortable with my progress in getting ready for the service. Then, one week before I was set to preach, my 100 year old great aunt passed away. The expectation was for me to officiate the funeral service as the family's "resident minister." I remember panic setting in after I was informed that the funeral was scheduled for Saturday, the day before I was scheduled to preach. I had one week to prepare for the funeral service. I struggled to believe this could be happening but decided that God knows what He is doing and would help me as I prepared for the funeral. Funerals are one of the more challenging aspects of pastoral ministry as they are often unexpected and one must be ready in season and out for when someone passes away. Additionally, there is the emotional side of holding the grief for all those who are mourning. It is especially difficult when the person who dies is a relative or a close friend. The Friday before the funeral, the clients I had scheduled to counsel that morning cancelled, leaving me with only one person to see in the late afternoon. I took advantage of that time to spend with the Lord in prayer and devotional reading. I felt a great sense of peace and a feeling that everything was going to be O.K. I must confess that I was anxious the day of the funeral but the power and presence of the Lord was palpable during the service. Those who attended, both family and friends were highly complimentary of the eulogy. The next day, the Sunday worship service also went well. I was reading this week in my devotional, "Streams In The Desert"  when I was struck by these words, "A person who has Christ as his/her Master is the master of every circumstance." As I meditated on that statement, some words jumped out at me. The first little word that stood out was "is." It does not say we will be the master of every circumstance but that we are, right now and always will be because of Christ. The second word that jumped out at me was "every." It does not say we are masters of some, a few, or occasional circumstances but every circumstance. Regardless of whether we experience the circumstance as positive or negative, we are masters of it. The word "master" is a powerful word. As an African-American it can stir up negative feelings and images of slavery. However, in this case it can evoke positive feelings of control over having done something so well we can replicate it. It occurred to me that because Christ is my Master, I was able to master the circumstances involved with both services. Jesus, told His disciples, I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father." (John 14:12) It is an overwhelming feeling to think that we can emulate Jesus. In the midst of any particular situation, we are to be "Jesus" for the people. The heart of mastering every circumstance has its roots in faith in Christ. For God has already prepared those situations and circumstances in advance for us to do to His honor and glory. (Ephesians 2:10) My responsibility is to execute my faith and trust that every circumstance can be mastered even though the situation may be unplanned, like a death, or not turn out as expected. I am humbled when I consider how the Lord has used me to shepherd His people. I praise God for His faithfulness as I remember His words to Joshua when He was faced with an overwhelming task upon the death of his mentor, Moses. However, Joshua went on to master the situation because of his faith in God. So I encourage you, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)
Soli Deo Gloria,
Pastor Sheree