Sailing a ship in stormy weather can be hazardous unless the captain has the knowledge and expertise. High winds and enormous waves can cause the ship to sink or shipwreck. Many a vessel has been lost due to treacherous seas. Like the tempest at sea, we are living in a troubled world. However, Jesus said "...in the world you will have tribulation..." (John 16:33) Paul also wrote in 2 Timothy, "...in the last days perilous times will come." (2 Tim. 3:1) Listening to the news we can see that we live in very dangerous, risky and unpredictable days. One who does not have the Lord as his Savior, is generally fearful and fretful. Jesus is our lighthouse, illuminating the path to safety. Through His direction and knowledge from His Word there is hope. (Heb. 13:20-21 "Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to who be glory forever and ever. Amen") In light of the fact of circumstances we face, let's see how our Great Shepherd is characteristic of the lighthouse to us....
Psalms 23 says, "The Lord is my shepherd;" Making Jesus the ruler of your life, places Him as your protector, and watcher of your life. A lighthouse is guidance to safety. Surrendering to Him, just like sheep do to a shepherd, allows Him to be a guide of security. Sheep know the shepherds voice and where He leads they follow, unlike goats that question and butt everything that comes against them. (John 10:4)
"I shall not want." Phil. 4:19 says, "He supplies all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." As your Shepherd, He's going to make sure you have provision for every necessity. His supply is satisfying if we follow Him, as a ship that follows the light from the lighthouse. The Bible also tells us, He will give us the desires of our heart as long as we are delighting in Him. (Ps. 37:4) In the place of every need is supply.
"He makes me to lie down in green pastures;" When sheep lie down it means they are satisfied and content. Because we are in His presence there is fullness of joy we can rest untroubled as well as at peace, "I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." (Ps. 4:8 & Ps.16:11) Even in the midst of a stormy sea the beacon shines to give us confidence and peace.
"He leads me beside the still waters." We can be sure He's leading us to a place of refreshment and tranquility. When we delight in His Word, as we meditate day and night will place us by the rivers of water which provides sustenance. Therefore, keeping us refreshed and prosperous, quenching our thirst. (Ps. 1:1-3 & Jer. 17:3)
"He restores my soul;" God forgives our iniquities and heals all our diseases. (Ps. 103:3) Regardless of how much we mess up, when we repent He forgives. Because of His infinite mercy and grace we are restored. The Holy Spirit gently signals us during times of struggles to escort us to the sanctuary for redemption.
"He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake." We can depend on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. (John 16:13) He will usher us in the right direction and in safety. His Name is the Lord our Righteousness, Jehovah Tsidkenu. Ps. 32:8 God says, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye." Keeping our vision focused on Him assures traveling in a sheltered course.
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death," Life is full of tribulations and temptations. One thing for sure, is we are going to the other side of the problem. But we must remember not to set up camp in depression or sorrow. We are more than an overcomer through Him. Especially when storms are raging, there's trust in His guidance. Pro. 18:30 "As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him."
"I will fear no evil, for You are with me;" Paul wrote, that God didn't give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind. (2 Tim. 1:7) As long as we abide in the presence of the All Mighty God, we remain in His protection and fear will not affect us. (Ps. 91) Relying on the promise of His faithfulness to never leave or forsake us brings courage and strength. (Deu. 31:6-8) Just like the light signaling lost ships gives hope.
"Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." God's Word is the instruction we need to get us through our life. In Ps. 119:105, it says, His Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. That means it will point us in the right direction daily and for things to come. If we refer to the Bible everyday, it will teach, correct, and admonish us in living. (2 Ti. 3:16)
"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;" God is on our side. He will contend with those who contend with us. Although there are enemies, we will not just survive, but feast in the midst of them. We come out on top of situations because of Him. Ps. 18:3 says, we can call upon the Lord, and He will deliver us from our enemies. Our trust and faith in Him, will bring peace with any adversary. (Pr. 16:17)
"You anoint my head with oil;" The anointing of oil upon the head is symbolic of blessing, protection and empowerment. We are sanctified and set apart for Him. (1 Cor. 6:11) We are chosen to proclaim the praises of God. (1 Peter 2:9)
"My cup runs over." Jesus said He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly, overflowing, much more than is expected or needed. This is the blessing that spills over. We are blessed!
"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life;" As long as we remain faithful to God's Word, we shall be in His mercy. Ps. 65:11 says, God crowns the year with His goodness, and richness overflows wherever He is. Steadfastly abiding in the Word and His presence guarantees goodness and mercy.
"And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever." We have guarantee of our place for eternity when Jesus becomes our Lord and Savior. This is a promise of security in eternity.
We want to encourage you to mediate on this scripture and let it become a reality in your heart. Realize that through the Word, God has given us guidance for anything we may face. He encourages us with the promises of provision, protection, healing, blessing, and His benefits. Our failure to recognize these, believe and trust Him, and receive it, puts us at risk in these insecure days. Don't shipwreck because you reject faith and a good conscience. Keep your eyes upon Jesus and sail through to the shore. You can do all things through Him, who gives you strength. (Phil. 4:13)
Let's pretend that you hired me as an executive assistant for your swiftly advancing business. Because you desire to expand the company, a decision is made for you and your family to move to Europe and establish a division there for the next year. You tell me that you will write each week and give me all the necessary directions and instructions needed to run the corporation in the states. Months pass and the letters come flowing in with expectations and guidance to manage the business.
After your year term in Europe, you return and drive to the office. As you approach you are shocked to find the grass and weeds have taken over the yard. Windows are broken out and the place looks a mess. As you enter the building you find the receptionist is sitting at her desk doing her nails, reading a magazine and snacking. Upon observation you discover the waste baskets are running over, the carpet is filthy, and not one person is interested that you, the owner has returned. You then ask for me, to which they reply by pointing to a room that's been converted to a game space. Troubled by this you continue to proceed towards that area and coincidentally come across me as I have finished a game of chess with the sales director. We then progress to your office, which has been converted into a television/movie room. Our conversation is as follows:
You, "Can you explain what's going on?"
Me, "What do you mean?"
You, "Well, take a look around. Didn't you get my letters?"
Me, "Yes, we sure did. We got all of them. Actually we began a 'letter study day', every Friday night right after you left. We designated personnel to attend small groups to discuss the contents of the letters. Many of us have literally committed to memorizing some of the sentences and even the paragraphs. Several even know by heart and entire letter. You really wrote some great things."
You, "Alright, you received my letters, you read, discussed and even memorized them, but what did you DO about them?"
In the book of Matthew chapter 24, beginning in verse 44 Jesus talks about His return saying, "You also must be ready therefore, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him. Who then is the faithful, thoughtful, and wise servant, whom his master has put in charge of his household to give to the others the food and supplies at the proper time? Blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) is that servant whom, when his master comes, he will find so doing."
It's easy to become lackadaisical in our work with the Lord as well as our walk with Him. Consumption with our every day life gets in the way of praying, getting into the Word, serving at church or often going to church. Loosing focus can cause us to get bored, tired, cranky, and do inappropriate things unbecoming to a Christian. Listen people, the signs of the times are all around us, Jesus IS coming soon. No, I don't know the day nor the time, but I do know it's soon.
Our job is to be about the Lord's business:
1) Being a Christian witness to friends, family and acquaintances; Phil. 2:15 "That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;"
2) Remaining steadfast in prayer and rightly dividing the word of truth; 1 Pet. 4:7 "But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer." and 2 Tim. 2:15 "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
3) Prevailing as an overcomer in trials and tribulations; Rom. 8:37 "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us."
4) Staying faithful to assemble with our brothers and sisters in the Lord for encouragement; Heb. 10:25 "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much to more, as you see the day approaching."
5) Serving Him as our part of the Body of Christ. Heb. 6:10 "For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister."
Let the Lord find us busy doing His Word not just busy with our business. Luke 12:37 "Blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) are those servants whom the Master finds awake and alert and watching when He comes. Truly I say to you, He will gird himself and have them recline at table and will come and serve them!"
We've all heard the old adage, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me." The response was to bullies on the playground that called us names. The reply was to imply they might be able to hurt us by physical force, but their insults would not. America values 'Freedom of Speech, so people are quick with expressing what's on their mind. Whether it's an opinion about world events, another person, or just how we feel, it's uttered without restrictions regardless of repercussions. In fact, in our culture today, we support the irresponsible use of words through music, movies or in the public. Most individuals think nothing of the foul language that's expressed. Because we've become desensitized, by our consistent hearing of it, we do not notice it and we allow it to become common place.
As a Christian, words are extremely important, especially to God. Proverbs 18:21 says, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits." Since God created the world by speaking, then utterance must be significant. What this scripture means, is that we frame our future by what we say. That's why it's important to think before vocalizing. You know, we don't always have to say everything we think about!
Do you know of someone that has been affected by what others have told them? Perhaps a parent that spoke negatively to a child, telling them "You're not going to amount to anything, you're such a loser, you lazy no good kid."; A teacher that said, "You're such a failure, what's the matter with your brain? When God passed out brains you must have thought He said trains and you said no thanks." If this degrading talk is consistent, they begin to believe what's been said. That's why the Word of God says, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." (Prov. 4:23) It's critical that we guard what goes into our heart, because our life is shaped by what we let in. We should be protective of the movies we watch, the music we listen to or the conversation with which we yield.
Not only it is our obligation to protect our ears, but we must put a guard on our mouth. Proverbs 21:23 "Whoever guards his mouth and tongue Keeps his soul from troubles." Most of us are praying and believing God for a specific thing. We can trust Him and be in faith when we pray. But we must remember, to retain the blessing of the Lord it's contingent upon our mouth. It's easy to loose faith and our blessings, when our mouth complains or talks about the problem. In Mark 11:22-24 Jesus says, "....Have faith in God [constantly].Truly I tell you, whoever says to this mountain, Be lifted up and thrown into the sea! and does not doubt at all in his heart but believes that what he says will take place, it will be done for him. For this reason I am telling you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe (trust and be confident) that it is granted to you, and you will [get it]." Don't lose the answer you've received or the miracles because of opposing conversation. Remember Proverbs 18:21, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue..." We want blessing not cursing!
Take a look and see what's enthroned on your heart. You decide by what's coming out of your mouth. "For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." (Luke 6:45) Make a quality decision today to place the Word of God in your heart. Heb. 4:12 "For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart." Gods Word is Life, Choose Life!
With Christmas rapidly approaching, I'm reminded of a children's song, "Santa Clause is Coming to Town." The chorus says, "He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you're awake, he knows if you've been bad or good.." I'm by no means endorsing Santa. Yet it brings to mind something that deeply impacted me, after watching a specific online ministry broadcast. Something I already knew, but somehow, had vaguely disregarded awakened in my spirit. More importantly than Santa watching, Jesus is watching!
A scriptural reference to this is found in Mark 12:41-42 which says, "Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents." And we know that Jesus stopped and pointed out to everyone there, that this woman's offering was more abundant than all that had been given. Jesus was not only observing the amount they were giving, but He was also considering the way they gave. The attitude of the heart is extremely important. Pr. 21:2NIV "A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart." God is looking on our hearts in all that we do, to see our motive. Are we doing our service because we want others to see us and think we are holy? Do we give in the offering because 'we're expected to'? Is our worship done for the sake of others watching? What is the true motive of our heart?
In Revelation when Jesus spoke to the seven churches, the very first thing He says to them is, "I know your works.." He knew their works, because He had visited their church. He walked up and down their services, He listened to their conversations and their hearts were revealed to Him. If Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, then He's keeping an eye on us. He is paying attention to how we act in troublesome times, to our treatment of others, listening to our conversations, heeding our attitudes we have to the messages we receive from our Pastor. He's watching to see if we behave like He did because we love Him and want to, or if it's because we want to impress. Jesus is not just watching us when we're at church, but He's with us when we're home, at our job, at school, or where ever we may be.
Listen children of God, Hebrews 4:13 says, "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." Reality set in for me today, God is with us, watching. No matter what we think, hide in our heart, speak, or conduct ourselves, God knows. And one day, very soon, just like the scripture says, we will give and account. I encourage you today to consider your attitude, your behavior, and your words. Are they glorifying the Lord? Colossians 3:17 "And whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus and in [dependence upon] His Person, giving praise to God the Father through Him."
We need to quit pretending we're one way, when our heart says another. Jesus is not only watching, but knows our heart. Make a decision today to practice the presence of God in every day life and activate Colossians 1:10. "That you may walk (live and conduct yourselves) in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him and desiring to please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and steadily growing and increasing in and by the knowledge of God [with fuller, deeper, and clearer insight, acquaintance, and recognition]."
Pastors Michael & Ginny Gulotta
Pro. 11:25 "The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself."