The Shepherd: He Restores My Soul

I remember my first trip to the mountains of Pennsylvania. It was a snowy day and I was walking along the top of the mountain. When suddenly, my foot caught ahold of a root under the snow. I tripped forward and after a number of staggering steps, I finally caught my balance. That is when I realized I was in a very bad situation. Because the wind was blowing hard, the tracks behind me were cleared away. I was spun around and lost.

From my location, I walked in various directions trying to get to the edge of the mountain, which would lead me back to camp. I was unsuccessful, cold, lost and darkness was fading in. I was spin around and I really needed somebody to turn me in the right direction.

Life is much the same way. We live with everything appearing to be just right and then it happens. Some event knocks us for a loop, spins us around, and we find ourselves farther away from God than we want to be. How did it happen and how do we get back?

We can find ourselves turned around and away from God for a few reasons. One way we get turned around is by deceit. We can be deceived by people who teach us things contrary to the Word of God or we could be deceived by our traditions. Regardless of the source, unbiblical doctrine can cause you to end up far away from the Lord. If you are trying to live up to a standard so that you can be or feel accepted by God, you have been spun around. Instead of walking toward God, you are walking away from him.

Another major cause for believers to get turn about and away from God is by not being prepared . We are admonished to put on the whole armor of God. When we are not equipped, we get overcome by our past and present failures. Our sin nature has the ability to rise up and take control of our lives and we can easily find ourselves turned around by sin, simply because we were not prepared. But there is good news.

Remember, when life turns you around, it is only God who can turn you back around. He restoreth my soul… (Psalm 23:3)

It is God who can turn you around and he may use different ways to accomplish it. One thing we know is that he will use his powerful word because it is perfect and it can convert or turn around the soul. (Psalm 19:7) There can be instances where we may resist his working and when that happens, he may use acts of chastening to accomplish what is best for us. Regardless of how he does it, it will always be because of his mercy. (Psalm 85:4-7) Thankfully it is new every day.

How did I get turned back around on that mountain top? I remembered that in the morning the sun rose from behind the cabin. Through the snow clouded sky, I spotted where the sun was ready to go down. I used the sun as a guide to get me back to safety by keeping my back to the sun and began running. Eventually, I made it to the mountain’s slope edge and to safety.

It is the same for me today. When I get turned around, I look for the son—the Good Shepherd—and he always leads me back.

Praise the Lord! He restoreth my soul.

It Is All in the Shepherd (Psalm 23:1)


What would it take to make you happy? People may give various answers to this question, but what each answer reveals is the longing that people have in their hearts. If you could sum up for all people as to what would make them happy, it would be that their hearts would be full and without want. For some people, it may be to be out of debt. For another person, it may be to have a spouse. If you asked a person living in an impoverished situation, their answer may be to have enough food to eat each day.

King David said it wisely, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.” This statement is insightful in that David recognized the shepherd was everything that he needed and that because he had the shepherd, he did not have any needs. This does not mean that he was in possession of everything that he ever would need. He recognized that it is the shepherd who would supply his needs and that because he had the supplier of his needs, he really had everything he would ever need.

Have you recognized this for your life? You have everything you will ever need in the shepherd: everything for your marriage, child raising, work, ministry and personal happiness. When you are abiding in the shepherd, your heart will be satisfied and lack nothing. However, if you find your heart becoming barren and longing for something that you just cannot identify, it is because you ceased abiding in the shepherd. You begin to want because you wandered from the shepherd.

If you want to be like David and in your heart experience the joy of being without want, consider the following.

1. Recognize your need for a shepherd.  

2. Decide to trust the shepherd. For some, it may mean them accepting his payment on the cross for their sin as what they need in order to be saved and accepted by God. For others, it may mean that they will cease from trying to create their own security in life and will now trust him to provide for them.

3. Follow the leading of the shepherd. Life is not a brightly lit way down a path of lovely flowers. It is filled with darkness, evil and heart ache. When you follow him, he will lead you in the path that is best for you.

4. Feed on what the shepherd provides. Spend time with him in prayer and reading his word. From it, you will gain strength, nourishment and guidance.

5. Sit at the feet of the shepherd. I am reminded of a German Shepherd that I once had. She would lie down at my feet and look up at me in adoration. I was strong and she loved strength; I am loving and she loved my attention. She would look at me and wait to be noticed. When I would reach out to touch her, she would soak up the attention. Did you know, that God wants that with us. He wants us to sit at his feet and look to him. He wants to pour out his blessing of fellowship and love and when we experience this, we will recognize that everything we would ever want or need is found in him.

6. Rejoice in what the shepherd has provided to you. When you do, this rejoicing will be revealed in every aspect of your life. The lost and the saved will see it, but best of all, your heart will be drawn even closer to the shepherd.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

Really?

Oh yeah. Really!

Misplaced Faith

From our childhood, we have heard the story of Adam and Eve. They were the first two humans created by God and lived in the garden of Eden. When God made them, he declared that they were very good. By these words, he was describing the wonder and magnificence of his creating act. As they lived together, they were sinless and acted according to the will of him who created them. You would think that because they were sinless, they would just continue to live a sinless life. However if you know the story, you know that they failed terribly and plummeted the entire human race into sin.

Why didn’t Adam and Eve stay sinless? What was the core problem or cause for their failure? This may come as a surprise to you, but their core problem was their faith. Stop and think for a moment. At one point in time, Adam only knew God. He did not recognize he had a need, but he did and the need was that of a companion. Adam saw God meet that need and present woman to him. His life in the garden of Eden was complete and fulfilling.

But then the serpent came using alluring words: words that promised an even better existence then they were already experiencing. At that point, Adam and Eve had a major decision to make. Would they believe the serpent or would they believe God.

As you know, they believed the serpent, ate the fruit and became sinners. The goodness of their creation and being could not prevent it, because the action which led to the fall first began in the heart. 

Because man fell in this matter, God made his redemption and way back to him to be in the same way. Man fell because of misplaced faith, man will be rescued from sin by right faith. God will not require a man to be faithful for salvation, but instead he requires man to put his faith in the only person whoever was faithful: Jesus Christ. God is not looking for goodness because there is not anyone who is good: Matthew 19:17 …there is none good but one, that is God. Romans 3:10 There is none righteous, no not one.

God is looking for people who will believe and trust in his promise of salvation through the work of Jesus Christ. Ask yourself this question, “Do I have faith?” If your answer is yes, ask yourself, “Am I placing my faith in me or in Jesus Christ?” It can only be one way or the other.

Your Story (Luke 8:39)

Our lives should be showing the great things that God is doing in them. It isn’t what we are now doing with our lives, but what he has done to us on the inside.

Religion can cause people to serve and even clean the inside of the cup, but God’s hidden work can never be duplicated. We can never fill the emptiness, but God can. We can never remove our shame, but God can blot it out. The nets of fear and insecurity, which grip us can never be escaped, but God can deliver us from them.

The struggles that brought you to Christ are the very areas of your life upon which he has done his greatest work. This is what your life must declare.

The maniac of Gadera was delivered. The woman with the issue of blood was cleansed. What’s your story?

Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. Luke 8:39

Why Do People Come to Jesus?

Why do people come to Jesus? Most people in society believe that it is the result from someone scaring them to death about hell. But is that really the reason? Surprisingly, it is not.

In Matthew 5 and Luke 6, Jesus speaks of certain conditions in life that are considered blessings to man. Blessed are you that are poor; blessed are you that are hungry;blessed are you that weep: these doesn’t sound too promising to me. I don’t see people lining up to be poor, hungry or sorrowful, but still Jesus says that these people are blessed.

Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled.

Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. (Luke 6:20-21)

The reason these are blessings is because when people find themselves in these types of situations, they are unable to deliver themselves and are forced to look outside of themselves for hope.

Before coming to Christ, I had everything that I have ever wanted, but I was miserable and sorrowful inside. That sorrow moved me to seek Christ. Renowned apologetist, Ravi Zacharias, was in a hospital bed after a failed suicide attempt and soon afterwards trusted Christ. I have met many successful businessman with cash just flowing through their hands, but their hearts were dry and the dry emptiness turned them to Jesus.

Surprisingly, most people do not come to Christ out of fear, but they come to him because they recognize the need for God to be in their lives. God wants to be in people’s lives so that he may do his miraculous work, but in order for that to occur, he first must conquer the sin that separates us from him. The message of Christ is still true. He died on the cross to make a complete payment for your complete lifetime committing sins. His life for yours. When we trust him to do this, the sin debt is gone, but he does much more than that. The poor become kingdom rich, the hungry souls are fed and the sorrowful laugh with joy.
Think about it. Why did you come to Christ? Or haven’t you yet? You can today by simply calling upon him to save you from sin and do this miraculous work in your life too.

Religion Still Doesn’t Work

Since nearly the beginning, sin has separated man from God and with it has brought sorrow, sickness, and emptiness in the heart of man. Throughout time, man has sought to overcome these troubles in his life and to accomplish it created religious acts or rituals, which were intended to appease God of his wrath or at the least turn away the consequences of sin that he faced.

These acts involved offering to God everything from crops to human sacrifices, the punishment of sinners or the punishment of themselves. Always, the results were unsuccessful. David described it best when he spoke to the Lord concerning his own condition.

For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. (Psalms 38:4)

The load of sin that looms over the head of every man is so great that no religious act could ever remove the effect or its debt.

Several decades ago, a teenaged girl attended a local carnival. When she failed to return home, a search was made and eventually her lifeless body was found. For more than 30 years, law-enforcement searched for the suspected killer: who was eventually found. Should he be held for trial? Of course he should! Regardless of how long ago the event occurred, he should still be held accountable.

But what if he was found living a respectable life? What if he, for the last 20 years, had been doing a great humanitarian work? Should he still be held for trial? Should he still be charged even if he has been so sorry for his crime? The answer is a resounding, Yes! He committed a crime and the penalty for that crime must be paid.

For the last 6,000 years, man has been trying to avoid paying the penalty for his sin. But regardless of what he does, the holy righteous God still requires complete payment for sins committed. The only hope for all men would be for God to determine a way for someone else to pay the debt that man owed. God did and that person was himself. He came to earth as human. Born of a virgin, he live a lonely life and yet did not sin. Throughout his entire life he did not commit one sin. For the remaining three years of his life, he taught and performed miracles to declare who it was and the purpose for his coming to earth. Then as foretold by God, he was rejected by his people, judged by the government and punished on the cross.

However God’s purpose for allowing all this to occur was so that he could place all the sin of humanity upon himself as he hung on the cross. The beatings and torture done to Jesus were extremely grave, but nothing in comparison to the punishment that God, while still yet also in heaven, punished himself as he lived as a human hanging on the cross.

Only until Jesus cried, “It is finished!” was mankind given any hope. When Jesus finished, he was finished paying the wages for our sins – yours and mine.

For those, who continue striving to pay for their own sins or are relying on religious acts to appease God’s wrath for sin will continue to fall short and carry the burden of their sin debt. Those who call upon Christ to bear there sin, will find the relief that they need. No longer is the burden of sin going over their head or too much to bear, the burden has been removed and the payment has been made. None of their sins committed have gone unpunished. Instead of them paying the debt, someone else paid the debt for them.

In America, we have discovered that countless people have been falsely charged, found guilty and sentenced for crimes that they had never committed. Society, unknowing of their wrong, was still satisfied because the penalty of the crime was being paid.  

In your case, Jesus willingly took the charge, allowed himself to be found guilty and then paid your complete payment for sin. So that your salvation could take place when you call out to Jesus and trust that he will save you.

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:13)

Is Depression a Sin?

Hurt and sorrow are not emotions that you can control and store away. When they are present, it is for reason. Some may suggest that you must turn yourself around or rise above the circumstances of your hurt and sorrow. This may seem correct and may be in part, but as a whole this thinking is in error.

God has given us a comforter and he is able to lift us out of hurt and sorrow or at the least give us joy intermingled with our hurt and sorrow. Sometimes our ability to rise out of sorrow or to experience his joy is limited by two conditions or circumstances. These conditions or circumstances are time and the ministering of truth by another person.

I have heard some say that we are to have joy in the midst of our circumstances. To this I somewhat agree, but recognize the joy may not be experienced right away, but only until after hurt and pain has followed its course.

To illustrate, imagine that a person is severely punched in the face leaving the victim wincing in extreme pain. Immediately afterwards, he was approached by a believer who points out the beautiful sunset and tries to get the victim to rejoice in the power and wonder of God. As you can guess, that most likely is not going to happen.

However after the initial pain begins to subside, the victim may be confused as to why he was rejected and wounded in such a manner and then as he looks to the sunset, lifts his heart to God and rejoices in the fact that he who created such beauty loves him and will always be with him. He eventually rejoiced in his hurt and sorrow, but only after hurt or sorrow followed its course. It is not that he would not rejoice in God, but that he could not at that time rejoice in God.

Another reason why some cannot rejoice in the midst of their hurt and sorrow is because the burden is greater than they can bear. The Lord has promised that he will not allow us to be tempted above that we are able to bear because at the same time he will provide a way of escape. For these individuals, the way of escape is truth.

However while being crushed under the heavy load of hurt and sorrow, the believer may not know the necessary truth needed to overcome or they may not recognize it. It is in these circumstances that other believers are instructed to bear the burden of others. Just as the Holy Spirit (parakletos) comes along side us for comfort, we are to come alongside other believers and help them bear of their burden. We can do this with empathy, love, patience and the sharing of truth that will encourage their heart and point them to the Lord. It is not a truth of telling them what they need to do, but a truth of God upon which their faith can cling. When this occurs, the Holy Spirit can continue to do his work and lift her heart from hurt and sorrow. Rejoicing will follow, but it will only be able to occur as a result of at least one person ministering to another.

Remember how those at Thessalonica were sorrowing over loved ones who have passed away? Did not the apostle Paul come alongside the believers and comfort them with the truth that one day they would be reunited and be together with the Lord? (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18)

Also, did not Paul recognize the man who was being swallowed up with excessive sorrow and experienced this because believers did not exercise the truth of forgiveness when he repented? (2 Corinthians 2:7)

Some may deem the person struggling in hurt and sorrow as being in sin and that their hurt and sorrow, which today we call depression is in fact sin. To say that the person struggling with deep hurt and sorrow is in sin could be a sin in itself. Instead of trying to label and identify people, let us first pray to God and ask him to use us to bring truth to those who for the time being are struggling with hurt and sorrow so that their faith may cling to this truth and bring the comfort in the midst of their hurt and sorrow.

Pleasing to God (Colossians 3:20)

The scriptures inform us that the action of children obeying their parents is well pleasing to the Lord. 

Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. (Colossians 3:20)

It does not say that children who obey their parents are well pleasing to the Lord, but that obeying parents is pleasing to him. As a child of God which positionally puts you in Christ, God is always pleased with you. However, there may be things that you do that may be displeasing to the him.

This can be difficult for some to understand. They are locked into the thought that if a person does something that is displeasing to the Lord, then the Lord must also be displeased with them. 

What we must understand is that God does not exist in linear time. This means that God is not stuck in time like you and me only moving forward from one day to the next. Time does not affect him: he can see from the beginning to the end and from the end to the beginning.

My children, as all children, have done things that are pleasing to me and also displeasing. Some of these actions were faults and others we sins. However when I look at them and assess whether or not I am pleased with them, I am able to see and recall much of their past and even with their faults and sins, I can still truly be pleased with them.

God looks at us from eternity future. The complete workings of salvation have been accomplished and from that standpoint as he looks at you in today’s time, you are pleasing to him. You are pleasing to God because of Christ and whenever he sees you, he sees you in Christ. The actions you do may be displeasing, but you are still pleasing to him. If you remain in disobedience and continue to act in ways that displease the Lord, he may chasten you. He will do this because he takes pleasure in you, and he cannot allow you to ruin your life.

Remember, your relationship with God is completely based on the works of Christ. There is nothing that you can do that will make you any more or less acceptable to him.

Fearing God vs Being Afraid of God

There is a difference between fearing the Lord and being afraid of the Lord. The former recognizes the greatness of God and his ability to do whatever he chooses. Therefore, he submits himself to the one that he recognizes as sovereign. Those who are afraid of the Lord, do not submit themselves to a sovereign God to rule over them. They instead perform actions in an attempt to keep God from exercising his anger upon them. The former will have a love relationship with God: the latter will struggle with love and acceptance. 

How did Job respond when his world caved in upon him? He continued to fear the Lord. He remained steadfast in trusting God’s sovereignty and continued to submit himself to him. (Job 1:21) Had Job been afraid of God, would his actions have been the same? Most likely not. His actions would have more been in line with those of his accuser. If a person lives in fear and governs his actions to keep God from punishing him, how would he react when God does exercise wrath? As the accuser stated, “He will curse thee to thy face.” It would be in that manner that he would act.

God wants you to fear him, but not be afraid of him. Fearing God is respecting God for who he is and the power that he possesses. Those who fear the Lord will recognize God’s ability to raise up and to put down, to love and admonish or to rebuke and chasten, and to exercise his will because what he desires is for the benefit of those he created.

When you are afraid of God, you have a difficult time accepting his love. Being afraid and accepting love cannot cohabit because perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18). Recognize that God loves you and that any actions that he has towards you will be motivated by his love. As we seek him for our lives, blessings will flow to us from his love, but if our steps begin to slip, he by love will take whatever actions are necessary to keep us from ruining our lives.

Living a life of fearing the Lord is a joy and blessing, but living a life afraid of God is a struggle and burden.

Sneak Peak of God’s Big Deal (1 Peter 1:8-9)

I remember staying home from school sick. Being sick was never fun, but the best part of it was being able to watch the TV game shows. One of my favorites was Let’s Make a Deal. Sometimes contestants would blindly trade for items that they could not see, but at other times, contestants would be given a sneak peak at what was behind a curtain. Sometimes that trade would work out for good and other times it didn’t.

We as believers have somewhat the same opportunity. We get to experience a peak of what God has in store for us.

Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)

We don’t get to see into the future or peak to see what is on the other side of the pearly gates, but we do get to experience some aspects of our salvation on this side of eternity.

Before coming to Christ, sin controlled us with its dominating grip, but now we experience power over sin. No longer are we a slave to sin and bound in its chains. Salvation set us free and Christ gave us liberty. As the power of Christ gives us victory over sin, liberty gives us the ability to make right choices and to choose righteousness instead of sin.

We experience light and are no longer in darkness. God’s word lightens our path and the Holy Spirit lightens our eyes so that by faith we can see God and follow him. He also dwells in the heart of every believer and because of it, he guides, teaches, intercedes and gives us comfort. Because he dwells in us, we are never alone.

Our stepping stones to heaven are lined with great and precious promises. From them we have assurance of what God will do through us and also for us.

Probably one of my greatest experiences in salvation is my adoptive relationship with God. The night that I trusted Christ as savior, God the Father adopted me into his family. Before this, my heart experienced a great void: an emptiness that nothing on earth was able to satisfy, but when I came to Christ, the love of God filled my heart.

This is not all that we will experience. One day, our salvation will be complete, but until then, we get to peak behind Heaven’s curtain and see part of the big deal that God has prepared for us.