Psalm 18:1-2 (NLT)
I love you, LORD; you are my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.
Called to his bedside to say my goodbyes, I remember looking at my grandfather not remembering him to be quite so small. He was an average man of normal stature but in the hospital bed in the midst of so many machines reduced to a simple sheet covering his failing body – it could not be the same man. My grandfather played a pivotal part in the life of my brother and me who had very young parents filling in the gap as they matured. He would check on us constantly leaving groceries on the front porch of our mobile home. On Friday afternoon, he would pick us up from school and we would spend the weekends with them at the house that we identified as home. He was a hardworking man with strong hands but a gentle heart filled with overwhelming love for us. A role model now preparing to enter Glory and finally meet the God who He loved and served his whole life. Sitting on the edge of his bed, my human heart was torn. Oh how I wanted him with me always, but in the last few years with limited mobility and mounting health issues he was miserably homebound. I knew it was time for him to go meet Jesus. I was at peace. In these final moments with him, I took hold of his hand and asked the Lord to forever imprint it in my mind. I did not want to forget this man who had been my refuge and strength since I could remember. Overpowering loneliness overtook me for a moment but then He was there. In that still small voice the Lord whispered, “Don’t worry I am still here!”
Many times over the last couple of years, I have thought about my grandparents. They were godly people who although I am sure they were not perfect…loved me completely. I never doubted their love, compassion and concern for me. I knew that if I needed love, affirmation or strength – all that I had to do was head for home. They lived in the same house from when I was born throughout my whole life. They had the same phone number. Each time they left on their yearly vacation to go square dancing in the mountains, a detailed note was left at their house for us in case we needed them so that we would know where to find them. Naturally, as I have been faced with the greatest challenge and most profound heartbreak, my thoughts turn to those people who were always there for me. But I am glad that they are not here for their hearts would have been crushed at the illness of our son. Not only that, they would have been petrified as our older son embarked for a year of military service in the Middle East. God knew when it was time for them to go home. He knew in His Infinite Wisdom and Divine Knowledge that I would need to hold a much stronger hand than one could ever find in the natural. Could it be that He took them home so that I would reach for Him?
Psalm 23:3-4 (NLT)
He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
In the last week, these words have crossed my mind many times. “Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” A friend came to me once with a “Word from God” for my life. I trusted this person and respected them so listened. He went on to tell me that the Lord “was going to plant me deep in the ground like a pole so that I would not be moved.” My response internally was “Wow buddy, thanks for your obedience now let me go buy a helmet and by the way next time…keep it to yourself” but instead I thanked him walking away in disbelief. What kind of feel good word is that? About as good as “Even when I walk through the darkest valley…” Do you ever wonder “Hey God, could we just skip that part?” We all would rather avoid hardships and trials in life. The time when hearts are broken into a million pieces as everything you know and love falls apart. It does not say in Psalm 23 that God will rescue you from the darkest valley, but that His Rod and Staff will protect and comfort you so you have nothing to fear. Gee thanks! God wants to renew your strength today. Sometimes that means removing the crutches that we have taken hold of in our life. My grandfather’s love pointed to a God who loved me unconditionally and completely. My understanding and acceptance of God’s Love changed when I no longer to run to him for acceptance, affirmation and assistance. I learned to depend on God. Strength becomes renewable when the Source is the source of life. His Strength and Power are infinitely endless and above anything we could even to think or ask for. You will go through some tough times in life, it is inevitable. But the Lord has promised that His Rod and His Staff will protect and comfort you.
Hebrews 12:5-8 (NLT)
And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said,
“My child, don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you.
For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all.
Having five children, I have experienced several very different and unique personalities. I have children who needed a great deal of discipline and others who choose to follow our instructions without incident. I discipline or train them because it is my responsibility. I do it because I love them and want them to be successfully people in life. It is important to me so not only am I committed to it but spent a great deal of time over the years praying about it, seeking the Lord on the subject, reading books about it and staying on top of the latest trends in parenting. When my child did something unacceptable, they were instructed not to do it and giving the proper reasoning. If they did it again, they would be redirected. If they continued to ignore my instruction, they would be punished. Those times when the behavior would lead to arm the punishment was quick and direct to make sure that they understood the seriousness of such an act. For example, running away from me in the parking lot would elicit a quick pop to their backside because an error on their part or inattentiveness on my part could result in a fatal mistake. God disciplines those who He loves. The discipline or guidance of God is represented by the rod in Psalm 23. The Word of God is our instructions for life and how we should live. His Word leads us through life renewing our strength by faith as we go. Without God’s Direction, you will never be able to discern all the voices in our head and those leading us in life to choose the path that leads to victory. Every step we take by faith in obedience to God leads to victory. You will be safe no matter where you go as long as it is in step with the Lord. His Grace covers any missteps and His Mercy picks us up if we fall. But you will never find victory and strength in your own power. Sometimes we must be rendered powerless so that God can get His Point across. This is not punishment but love. Love limits our options so we will take the best route. Divine Discipline is not pleasant as it contradicts human nature and is at odds with the flesh every time. (Hebrews 12:11) But it is oh so worth it when you celebrate victory that leads to a harvest in our life. God did not give you a spirit of fear or doubt, but one of power, love and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7) God’s Rod is guiding you away from fear and doubt to walk in power and love which comes from self-discipline. Discipline is the pathway of the living. (Proverbs 10:17) It keeps us from jumping overboard in a storm but holding on to the strong anchor of hope that we have been given. The Word of God teaches us to live a successful life. (Proverbs 1:1-3) If you do not love discipline, life will be hard and victory elusive. But those who accept the Lord’s Discipline and embrace the rod will live a life to be celebrated. His Rod is a source of direction in our life that leads us from glory to glory and victory to victory.
John 10:9-15 (NLT)
Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep. “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.
The shepherd carried a staff which was generally a long pole with a hook on the end of it. Not only could he use this to rescue a wayward wanderer but he could also use it to defend his flock. There is an imminent threat to every man and woman of God that is often overlooked as we scramble around trying to make a better life for ourselves. He is a thief who is poised at every turn ready to steal, kill and destroy you. Many predators will scatter a flock casting it in confusion to single out one to be their prey. Traumatic events in our life and desperate situations often emulate this feeling of loneliness as the enemy prepares to take over your thoughts so you will rebel from God moving out of His Careful Protection to be consumed by the lie of the enemy as faith is devoured and crushed. Jesus is a Good Shepherd. He laid down His Life for you and me. We have nothing to fear or run from but when we do His Grace reaches out to pull us from danger and restore us to the flock. In Luke 15, the Lord illustrated His Love for you as an individual. All of Heaven rejoices when a lost person is found. It creates celebration in Heaven so although you are part of the family of God it is not a flock mentality but that of a Loving Father who is heartbroken to think of ever losing one of His Precious Children. The Lord’s Staff represents His Great Care and Compassion for you as an individual. The crook at the end is only big enough to rescue one at a time. You are important to God. He does not want to lose a single person who Jesus Christ gave His Life for. No matter what you are facing in this life, God the Father has not left your side. He is right there with you, leading with His Word and guiding with His Hand. The rest is up to you. Will you reach out and take the Strong Hand of the Lord today?
Deuteronomy 11:8-9 (NLT)
“Therefore, be careful to obey every command I am giving you today, so you may have strength to go in and take over the land you are about to enter. If you obey, you will enjoy a long life in the land the LORD swore to give to your ancestors and to you, their descendants—a land flowing with milk and honey!”
The secret to our success today is found in one’s ability to obey the Lord. If we are “careful to obey every command” that God is giving us on a daily basis, success is inevitable. God has given us the strength (character) necessary to go in for we are His Children set to inherit. He has already prepared the place where we are going (it’s His Plan). If we are careful to walk in obedience, we will ENJOY long life in a land of milk and honey. I don’t know about you but I am ready to enjoy living again. I have been given many days but most of them are consumed with worry these days. Beyond that we are promised a land flowing in milk and honey. Think about it. This does not describe a place of labor and hardship. Milk is produced by a cow standing in a field eating grass. We must just take it from the cow who generally does not fight our effort. Honey is produced by bees who will get very angry if their nest is disturbed. But if you respectfully approach the hive with the proper covering and take it as instructed, there is no problem just sweet, sticky goodness. God has provided everything that you need to live a prosperous and peaceful life in the darkest valley. I want that life. It is my right as a Child of God. I will never find it my way. I must fully and completely rely on God’s Strong Hand to guide me to that place and keep me there. If I focus on obedience that is produced by knowing God and having the wisdom to do what He says, I will be blessed. It is not because of anything that I have done and will not bear the burden of hard labor just radical obedience to an Awesome God.
Psalm 63:6-8 (NLT)
I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night. Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.
Over and over in the Word of God, it points to God’s Right Hand for strength and protection. Why? “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3) Jesus is at the Right Hand of God! He is our strength and protection. If we learn to cling to Jesus, His Strong Right Hand will hold us securely. No weapon formed against us will prosper. We will find joy and pleasure evermore even when all hell is breaking loose in our life. He is our refuge and strong tower. We have been the privilege of a new life in Him. Will you take Him up on this offer? When my grandfather left this world, he took a piece of my heart with Him. But Jesus filled the void and every other misplaced token of my love and affection that I have surrendered to Him. My grandfather was only a man. He died. Jesus Christ is my Savior and Lord who lives forever and ever making intercession for me so that I will be where He is. No other hand is stronger or more firmly attached to me. I must find my way to Him! God wants you to walk in victory today! (Psalm 18:31-33) Jesus Christ died so that you would overcome the obstacles and challenges of this world beginning with sin! His Spirit lives inside of you to lead you to such a life which sometimes means letting go of those things in this world that have become our refuge, strength and comfort zone to fully embrace His Strong Right Hand!
Psalm 89:13-15 (NLT)
Powerful is your arm! Strong is your hand! Your right hand is lifted high in glorious strength. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne. Unfailing love and truth walk before you as attendants. Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, LORD.