October 1

Psalms 23:1-3 (NIV) 1The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

This is undoubtedly the most famous psalm. The analogy of the LORD being our shepherd was taken up by Jesus in John chapter 10. When He said, "I am the shepherd of the sheep", He was declaring Himself to be the LORD God. It is an analogy upon which many a book has been written. In this short devotional we can only touch upon a few of the points.

Sheep are dumb, stinky creatures. I hope you don't feel offended, but I can say that because I am one. Without a shepherd to watch over and guide them, they would be easy prey for predators. They can't seem to find pasture for themselves, and when they try to, they often end up in precarious situations from which they need to be rescued.

The Eternal God is our shepherd. Could it be any better? When you realize just how needy we are as sheep, it is a very comforting thought to know the Almighty God is our shepherd. We will never have a need He will not meet. He will guide us to places rich in pasture so that we will have plenty to nourish our souls. He will guide us to places of rest with plenty to eat and drink. And when we are discouraged and feel as if everything is against us, He restores our very soul. He lifts us out of the pit of despair and encourages us with the loving smile from His face.

And why does He do all this for these stinky, dumb sheep? It is all for His name's sake. His name is the sum of His marvelous attributes. Would He be good, merciful, gracious, just, loving, holy, and righteous if He just let such dumb creatures as us wander to our doom? To show the excellence of His character, the greatness of His heart, He is our shepherd. You could not find another that comes close in comparison. Why would you try to wander off or go your own way, when you realize your condition and the wonderful offer to us from the LORD, to be our shepherd?

Consider: Follow the shepherd closely and the promises in this psalm will be yours.

October 1

Ephesians 4:1-3 (NIV) 1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Paul was imprisoned for preaching, "Jesus is Lord", but he was also of his own volition a prisoner to the will of God. He found that being a prisoner of God's will was a far greater freedom than any "freedom" he could find in the world. He was freed from the subtle control of evil. Since he lived an example of surrender to God, he could ask his converts to do the same. It is a matter of living a life worthy of the great calling we have received.

As Christians, you have a calling that is greater than any secular calling. You are to represent the nature of God to the world you come in contact with. You are called to be a priest to the world that does not know or understand what God is like. Every word you speak and every action you make as a Christian is interpreted by unbelievers as a representation of what a child of God looks like. That is why Paul urges us to live a life that measures up to the calling.

That life looks like Jesus, completely humble and gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love. When unbelievers see Christians act like the world, they conclude that their message is not authentic. When they see us fight amongst ourselves, split up our fellowship, refuse to humble ourselves and take the lowest place, they certainly do not see something representative of our Savior. We keep telling them that He will make a difference in their lives, but they won't believe it until they see it in us.

Paul emphasized this expression of Christ's likeness in our relationship with other believers. We have the same Lord, the same faith, the same baptism, so why are we arguing over the trivial issues? Pride! We insist on being the one who is right. The humility and gentleness of Christ is the last thing we are willing to exhibit. Consider how many things around Jesus He refused to address because they were not essential.

Remember: Bear with one another in love.