BY ELLEN MARTIN
Psalm 23 is a familiar passage for most of us. Psalm 23:4 says “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.”
When I read a Bible passage that is familiar to me, I don’t really spend time mediating on it because I think I already know it. But although we may be familiar with a passage, we should spend time meditating on and studying it. God reveals things to us through His Word, regardless if we have read that passage before or not.
Psalm 23, especially verse 4, resonates with me because it is saying that through the difficult times, God is there. We have nothing to fear. This one verse goes beyond saying that we have nothing to feel to say that God comforts us with His rod and His staff. Even through difficult times, God is teaching us something. It may be difficult to see it in that moment, but in hindsight we may be able to see what God was doing.
BY KENT BUSH
Which God do you pray to?
If there is only one God, why do our prayers sound so different?
Rev. Willard Kern helped me understand that. This pastor earned the title reverend. He knew his Bible. He loved people. He even had the booming pastor’s voice that just made you want to call him reverend.
When he prayed, you felt like your soul was riding an escalator straight to Heaven.
But for one week, he stepped down from his revered status.
Our church needed a male counselor for our youth camp at Falls Creek in Oklahoma. When duty called, Rev. Kern answered. But something interesting happened to the good reverend that week.
For that week, he became “Sweet Willie.”
BY DANIEL FOSTER
And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” Mark 10:20
This passage is from Mark 10, the story of the rich young ruler who was seeking eternal life from Jesus.
“What must I do?” (verse 17) He asked Jesus, as if there is some sort of checklist we must accomplish to enter Heaven. Sadly, there are many today with this exact thought. If I go to church twice a week, if I help someone in need, if I read my bible exactly 25 minutes each day, if I tithe my 10% I will be good enough to go to Heaven when this life is over. However, it’s never been (and still isn’t) about being “good enough.” But it is all about having a relationship and following Jesus. Jesus lists a few of the commandments we are to follow and the guy insists he has kept them from his youth. Ultimately Jesus tells this guy to sell everything and to take up the cross and to follow Him.
BY ELLEN MARTIN
Do you have that person (or people) in your life that are just hard to get along with? I am guilty of ending things badly or making a bad situation worse. It may be easier to just write people off that frustrate and aggravate you and never speak to them again. Is this what God wants for us, though?
Romans 12:17-18 says “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Verse 19 goes on to say “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’”.
God commands us to live at peace with everyone. I would be the first to admit that this is very difficult to do. I have a tendency to not back down and to have the last word. We need to allow God to be in control. As Romans 12:19 says, we do not need to avenge ourselves. We need to trust God with our hurts, offenses, and other wrongs people have done to us.
BY KEVIN WELBORN
I have now officially been without my full voice for two weeks. At this point I can communicate clearly, but depending on the time I either sound like Whoopi Goldberg or a pubescent Peter Brady. It is irritating, infuriating, and irksome. With the heat of the Saharan sun do I scorn my current deficient vocal aptitude!!!
Being able to speak as a pastor is fairly, you know, important.
As a general rule, I do not think that I talk that much. When a subject in which I am interested is broached, I will surely jump into that conversation. Or, there are times when it is nice just to say your piece to a willing listener and let go of some thoughts be they consequential or not.
Whether you are reserved or a chatterbox, let me encourage you to remember there is a large difference in having something to say, and in having to say something.
I can think of two specific examples of men that I know or have known that rarely spoke a word.
BY JOSEPH BRAZIL
After all, who could blame us? Everything we need to live can be easily found at a grocery store. For generations now, Americans have gotten used to having the life’s provisions delivered to our homes or found within easy grasp. Our civilization has advanced to a stage where we’re no longer required to hunt or gather tonight’s dinner, or to leave a guard on watch while our family sleeps. Presently, the vast majority of Americans live in what we could probably agree upon as a privileged society.
But with privilege comes complacency. And complacency turns priorities inward.
Here’s a light-hearted example. Take a look at these household items and see if you can identify the common bond:
iPhone. iPad. (the now defunct) MySpace. YouTube. And—heaven help me--selfies.
BY JEFF WEDDLE
There is a hidden danger lurking out there. You never know when it will strike. Few are even aware of it. Its strike may even go unnoticed at first. Then, when it’s too late, you’ll realize it got you. But by then your faith may be destroyed, sin may have multiplied, and you may be snared in an inescapable trap.
What is this unnoticed, lurking danger that can ruin faith?
It’s the danger of success.
Now, if you‘re like me, and Lord help you if you are, success is a pretty rare thing. But even losers get lucky sometimes. I have had a couple moments of success. Inevitably I will take a fall shortly thereafter.