Denominational humility
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There are many Christian organizations and denominations. Mostly that’s a good thing. Monopolies breed tyranny, and some degree of competition is healthy for any business or nonprofit. It’s good for people to have choices. If they are abused or underserved in one, they can move to another. It’s good for religious denominations to be proud of their heritage and confident of their theological convictions. What is not good is when pride leads church leaders to glorify themselves or empower themselves... Read More
Just because we can
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The Internet gives us absolute freedom of expression. It is pure democracy. Anyone can publish unchecked thoughts and images on popular social media platforms. More are being developed. You could become famous if your stuff goes viral. But the pitfalls are historic. Henry David Thoreau nailed it in 1854: “We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate” (Walden). Everyone has a megaphone,... Read More
He welcomes me
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Most of the 23rd psalm is about the journey; the last two verses are about the arrival. Christ is portrayed no longer as Shepherd—now he is Host, throwing open the doors of the mansion, welcoming his weary travelers home: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house... Read More
He corrects me
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People like to see pictures of their country’s military technology—it gives them a feeling of security to see those sleek jet fighters and aircraft carriers and know how they are being protected. In the same way, sheep are comforted by their shepherd’s rod. The rod is his weapon, a club chosen and shaped carefully for balance and power. It can be swung or thrown, and though used mostly as a defensive weapon, shepherds will use it on the ribs of... Read More
He protects me
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The physical world that your eyes can see and the infrared, UV, and atomic world that scientific instruments can “see,” are not all there is. The Bible reveals what is going on behind the scenes in the very real spiritual world. God and Satan, angels and demons, are in constant conflict, warring for control of earth and its people, including control of you. Nervous sheep like you and me are worried about physical breakdowns like illness, injury, and death, but... Read More
He guides me
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The farther south you go in the land of Israel, the less rainfall there is. As farming gets more difficult, people’s lives depend on the raising of smaller livestock—sheep and goats. One of a shepherd’s main tasks is to find edible grass and a water supply for his animals. It is part of the job to stay on the move, always searching out the next day’s food and water. Sheep are not naturally good at foraging—they depend on guidance from... Read More
He restores me
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One of the hazards of reading extended metaphors in the Bible is the difficulty of knowing exactly how the ideas in the word pictures actually apply to your own life. The Shepherd Psalm is couched almost entirely in images, and you can muse dreamily on the happy pictures of sheep and their shepherd in a meadow and not get the point for your life right now. Right now you might be underwater financially, in danger of losing your job, struggling... Read More
He provides for me
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Without a doubt the 23rd is the most famous of all the psalms. Many Christians know it by heart. It is often heard at funerals and murmured to people in their hospital beds. It has provided comfort and hope to millions of stressed believers over the centuries. Its author, King David, wrote it from his own personal experience as a teenager, when he was put in charge of tending his father’s flocks. He knew sheep. He knew their needs, their... Read More
If egos went missing
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Imagine a day when our egos run away. They don’t get what they want, so they take their ball and go home. They refuse to participate and vow never to return. Imagine a day when they decide to punish everyone by pulling out. What would a day without egos be like? Well, meetings would be shorter. Productivity would increase. The future would unfold seamlessly. And everyone would sleep better. God instructs us to send our egos packing and follow Christ’s... Read More
Armed for battle
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Have you ever witnessed the sport of paintball? In paintball, players try to eliminate opponents by shooting dye-filled capsules at each other with special paintball guns. Although paintball is supposed to be fun, I’ve heard that getting hit stings pretty badly. Most people who paintball wear a layer of clothing to protect themselves. They know they’re entering a “war zone” and attack is imminent. They’d be foolish to show up without ample clothing to shield them from some of the... Read More