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Psalm 23:1

Psalm 23:1 “The LORD is my shepherd”
 
[Five short words that hold infinite grace. You, Lord God, the Holy, Pure and Triune Creator, utterly other, totally Just and the Punisher of sin–decisively and wholeheartedly chose to make yourself the Shepherd of rebels.
 
We are by nature the antithesis of you: finite, sinful, polluted through and through, nurturers of negatives, lovers of lusts. Yet you were willing to stoop down, to reach into this sin-soaked, iniquity-infused, evil-endowed world and make yourself Shepherd to your saved, yet selfish sheep.
 
We, in our old nature, deserve only condemnation, suffering, punishment, despair, hopelessness, meaninglessness and death–eternal banishment from your presence and all good.
 
But, in your magnanimous love and in your gracious goodness, you have offered to all and granted to those who respond, the right to become the children of God. And with that right, you have also granted us a whole host of privileges, at the top of which is, having you be our Shepherd.
 
A good shepherd is consistently and intimately involved in the lives of his sheep, aware of all that is happening, providing all that is needed for their health, protection and prospering. The sheep don’t choose their shepherd, the shepherd chooses his sheep. So have you, Lord Jesus, chosen us and are now our good Shepherd.
 
You have made a total commitment to our good: patiently and persistently prodding, providing and protecting us. You do this even though we daily grieve you with our rebellious love for sin, our stubborn selfishness and our unholy focus on things rather than relationships.
 
Because you are good, we can be sure, on a moment by moment basis, of your faithfulness, of your goodness, of your wisdom, of your grace, of your power at work in our lives–no matter what failure there may be on our part.
 
As the Psalmist, Asaph, wrote, “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. YET I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory” (Ps. 73:21-24). What great Love and Commitment on God’s part!
 
We praise you that you have chosen to be our Shepherd, Lord Jesus. Help us to follow you faithfully, trusting your Truth, obeying your wisdom, submitting to your shepherding moment by moment, now, today and always.]
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Psalm 22:29-31

 
Psalm 22:29 “All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—those who cannot keep themselves alive.”
 
[No one can keep himself from dying, none of us can defeat old age. And no one can avoid their judgment: all human beings will come before you, Lord, and bow their knee, whether willingly or not. No man will be able on his own to stand in your magnificent, holy presence, for the strength of your mighty power and majestic authority will force all to bow in submission to truth and the judgment to come.
 
But you offer us the privilege of bowing before you now in willing surrender, in belief, in faith, in submission to Truth. This brings us into your presence through the blood of Christ, where we, as your children, can joyfully bow to your Kingship, O Triune God. And we do so willingly, wholeheartedly, in wonder.]
 
Psalm 22:30 “Posterity will serve him;”
 
[There will always be an ongoing line of believers, sustained and guided by you, no matter what the era may be–just as there were in the Dark Ages, in the Middle ages, in the Enlightenment, in modern times, in postmodernism and now in the “me culture.” Man tries to go his own way, but there are always those who respond to your invitation to walk in your way.]
 
Psalm 22:31 “future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn—for he has done it.”
 
[There will also always be a witness, there will always be propagation of the gospel. You, Lord, in your righteousness, truth and grace have done all, prepared all by sending out your Word in creation, in the work of the Spirit, in your written Word, in spoken witness, in dreams or visions if necessary.
 
You have everything ready and will bring all history to your desired end: the elimination of evil, the entrance of eternity, the enlightenment of all by your eternal character. Praise you for your greatness, your goodness, your glory that was, is, and is to come!
 
You alone are worthy of faith and obedience, of trust and praise, for you are wonderful, you are the only One to be worshiped. Help us to do so every day, all day!
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Psalm 22:27-28

Psalm 22:27 “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD,”
 
[You, Lord, are at work in all the world, among all peoples, bringing from every group those who respond to your call. Praise you for revealing yourself through your creation, which speaks to us every day of your presence and power, as well as through your Word and the work of your Spirit.
 
Praise you for your love for every single person, for providing salvation for all, for convicting each of sin, of righteousness and the judgment to come. You do this so that they might think truth and decide to escape the condemnation of sin to come by taking refuge in the forgiveness you offer. You are good and merciful, gracious and kind. You are love itself.]
 
Psalm 22:28 “and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations.”
 
[You are the Sovereign One who reigns, you have control, you use all for good, making your major plans come to pass while still giving us moral and ethical responsibility in our own spheres of responsibility. And in the end, all will come, every human being, and bow before you, whether willingly in belief or grudgingly at the judgment seat.
 
Praise you, Lord God, for the wonder of knowing you and bowing before you now, the King of All, the Lord of Lords, the Ruler of the universe.
 
Help me to live today in the light of your greatness, standing in awe of you, of your love, of your Word, of your commands. May this result in fearing and obeying you instead of raising my thoughts or those of others above your Word.
 
You are worthy of my full conformity, my total surrender, my wholehearted obedience, so I bow before you now, that I might bring you great honor today.]
 
Picture: we served in this nursery this past Sunday
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Psalm 22:26

Psalm 22:26 “The poor will eat and be satisfied;”
 
[You, Lord, are the Provider of all the physical needs of the world. You remember the needy and weak, being “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows.” You “set the lonely in families, and lead out the prisoners with singing…” (Psa 68:5).
 
And you also provide the spiritual bread that nourishes and satisfies in all your children. “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty'” (John 6:35).]
 
“they who seek the LORD will praise him—“
 
[You are so worthy of praise, Father God, King of the universe, Lord of the nations, Creator and Sustainer of all. When you turn our hearts to seek your face, as we begin to see you as you are, what can we do but praise you in and for all, rejoicing in your being, boasting in our weakness, exalting in your faithfulness and forgiveness.]
 
“may your hearts live forever!”
 
[And this is the reality you have promised for your children. You are the Giver of eternal life, the Author of all eternity, the Defeater of death: in you we will live forever.]
 
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God’s Beautiful Faithfulness

 
 
A clear and sunny day with early morning fog rising off the pond. Praise be to you, Lord God, Creator of all the beauty before us, beauty which shows us your great heart of love. You share all the reflected glory of your Being through your creation, through the vast variety of flowers and trees, colors and scents, creatures and shapes, landscapes and seas.
 
Your mind has no limit, your wisdom has no boundary, your knowledge has no border, your greatness has no end.
On the other hand, I praise you that your Character does have limits in the right places: in you there is no sin, no evil, no selfishness, no lying, no double-mindedness, no hypocrisy, no failure, no faithlessness. In you there is only goodness, purity and holiness.
 
I praise you that you also limit yourself by making promises: you give your Word and you always keep it. You make your vows, you fulfill them. All other possibilities are set aside and you bind yourself to your promised prophecies, always following through.
 
The choosing of Jesus to be the Savior of the world was your greatest promise, made before creation, and brought to pass at the right time. I give you praise and honor and glory for this marvelous Truth of your faithfulness, for this wonderful reality of your steady heart of truth and love.
 
I praise you, too, for your unending presence; you are everywhere at the same time, while in another way, you are especially near to those who seek you, those whose hearts are open to you. You are near the brokenhearted. You are near the repentant. You are near those righteous in Christ. You are near the obedient. You are deeply at work in the elect, those you know will believe.
 
I give you glory, Lord God, for how we can trust you with all our hearts because you are faithful with all your heart. Wherever I go, whatever I do, you are always watching, protecting, guiding, keeping, equipping, teaching, revealing, convicting, blocking and loving. You are worthy of praise and glory, of adoration and obedience.
 
You are the great One, the wise One, the loving One, the holy One, the pure One, the faithful One, the true One, the eternal One.
 
To you I bow down today, to you I give my heart, my mind, my soul, my body, my time, my possessions, my money, my relationships, my future, my desires, my projects, my health, my strength, my will–my all. I am your son, your steward, your servant, your subject. Praise you for what you will do in me and through me today to bring greater glory to your Name.
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Growth and Turmoil, 1981

 
In 1981 we began to get new recruits for our team. First came two single women. Betty had spent thirteen years in Iran and since she couldn’t go back because of the revolution of 1979, she decided to join us. She proved to be a very helpful person with all the experience she had had. Her roommate Dolly came with no overseas experience and proved to be the opposite of Betty, unfortunately and in the end I had to send her home.
 
These two new teammates began to come to John with requests. Betty suggested that we have a weekly team prayer meeting. Dorothy wanted more help with language. John, however, was too engrossed in his work with the foundation to listen to them. He brushed off their requests by giving his philosophy of leadership, learned as a sergeant in the Air Force: “I make the decisions, you follow.”
 
As a result, Betty and Dorothy began to come to me with their requests, questions and desires, making me the de facto leader of the team. This put me in an awkward position, and stirred up some conflict between John and myself. However, after some discussion, he agreed to having a team prayer meeting and to meet other desires of the team.
 
In April of 1980 a family with two children joined us. Dan and Nancy were self-sufficient pioneer types and fit in well. Little did Dan know that within six weeks of arrival he would become both the field leader and team leader, but he was the type of man who could rise to the challenge.
 
Since the foundation was now fully established, in April John suggested that he and I apply for work and residence permits through it. That way we could put all our time and effort into ministry instead of having to work at teaching English, too. With great hopes we made our applications. The police accepted them willingly and told us they would let us know when to pick up our permits.
 
Several weeks later in May the police sent a notice for us to come. We went with the expectation of receiving the permits we’d applied for, but were shocked to learn that not only were our applications denied, but that we had only twenty-four hours to leave the country! We were to be escorted to the border and deported!
 
After some intense discussion with John, the police granted us two weeks to wrap things up before having to leave. John asked the reason for our deportation, The police said they couldn’t tell us the reason for our expulsion because it was “top secret!”
 
Later we found out that in the report from the Black Sea Coast, the police accused us of collecting money from the villagers instead of giving them help. And what was their version of why we were “collecting” money? To help Jimmy Carter! Amazingly convoluted thinking.
 
This was our introduction to the wide-spread conspiracy-thinking of locals. There actually are a lot of conspiracies at work among locals, so they assume that others also operate with secret agendas.
 
Our expulsion was a grave turn of events: instead of settling in with solid residence permits, it looked like our time in our new country was coming to an early end.
 
The next two weeks were very full. At the time we had visitors from our group: a fellow who came to make a film for us and a prospective new worker. They joined in on our discussions about the future work in the country.
 
John tried to think of how to keep everything going while he was away and of how to anticipate all that could happen and prepare for it. The rest of us felt he should let go and turn things over to those who remained. There was some tension in those meetings, but in the end John wisely gave up trying to do it all and turned his attention to getting ready to leave.
We decided to make our required exit but then try to come back as soon as possible and see what would happen. We weren’t going to give up so easily.
 
There was not only our own household to think of, but also the three children staying with us. Dan and Nancy agreed to take the two girls, and a responsible single German woman moved into our apartment to watch little Solomon. It was good to have such team help to rely on.
 
In the end, the police decided not to send an escort with us to the border, which was not at all a disappointment to us. We set off one fine June day, heading to Bulgaria instead of Greece. This seemed to be a shorter way than the one we’d originally come on and we could return through Greece, where the border guards may not have received news of our expulsion.
 
We were pleasantly surprised at the Bulgarian border to find that no news had been given to them about our exit or about our being expelled. We didn’t volunteer any information either and made a smooth exit.
 
Communist-controlled Bulgaria had the feel of a large prison. We were not allowed to stop anywhere other than for gas. It seemed to be much more oppressive than Yugoslavia.
 
On this trip we established a pattern that we followed on the subsequent nine trips by car to or from Germany. We drove the whole first day and stayed overnight somewhere near the border. Then we drove all the second day, all that night and then arrived on the third day in Southern Germany. We often stopped there for a break at the Word of Life castle on Starnberger Lake.
 
On this trip, the Lord had a wonderful surprise for us at the castle, a lovely God sighting: there was a reunion of students from Barbara’s Bible school taking place. It was a very refreshing time for her after the stress of being expelled and making the long trip.
 
Barbara’s parents were glad to have us back. And they were appalled that we wanted to return to such an uncertain situation, but after one initial attempt, they didn’t try to dissuade us.
 
One of my major tasks was to re-register the car in Germany; losing my residence permit in meant that my foreign car license plate was now invalid.
 
Registering the car went well. The next task was to take the license plates to a Consulate and turn them in. The man there accepted them and gave me a little paper saying that I surrendered them. I looked at the paper, and hesitated.
 
“I think there should be some kind of stamp on this paper,” I said.
“No, I don’t think so,” he replied, “this should be enough.”
“Well, I’ve been in your country long enough to know that a paper without an official stamp is pretty useless,” I said. “Please put a stamp on it.”
The man sighed. “Alright,” he said and taking the paper, he stamped it and signed over the stamp. “There, now you have what you want.”
 
It turned out that having that stamp on the paper was absolutely critical to our reentry. The Lord had guided
 
Picture below: little Solomon with Nat

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Psalm 22:25

 
Psalm 22:25 “From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows.”
 
[You, O Lord, are the praiseworthy One, the great Shepherd, our good God, our kind King, the One to be obeyed no matter what. You are the ultimate in Leadership, the true and only God. “For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God?” (Psa. 18:31).
 
I thank you, Lord Jesus, for the privilege and wonder of memorizing and meditating on your Word, so I can go over it as I lay in bed or walk or drive, soaking in the richness of truth, the beauty of your mind, the power of your perspective.
 
You are great and gracious and good; I thank you for your wonderful love and care, for your guidance and direction.
“The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from my enemies (Psa. 18:2-3).
 
I praise you for your marvelous Character: pristine, pure, perfect, powerful, prolific, the paragon of all positives. You are worthy of worship no matter what my circumstances. You are the God of goodness, who is great in glory and the Giver of all grace. “I will love you, O LORD, my strength” (Psa. 18:1).
 
May you rule in my life today, may I walk in paths of righteousness, responding to the leading of your Spirit as He uses the Word in me. May you be exalted by my motives, honored with my responses and gratified with my obedience. May your name be lifted up before all those around.]
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Psalm 22:22-24

 
Psalm 22:22 “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you.”
 
[You, Heavenly Father, are the prayer-answering, all-wise, infinitely powerful, all-good God, worthy of praise. You are Yahweh, Elohim and Adonai, the God of perfect character, marvelous wisdom, rich love, unending righteousness and immeasurable power. Yes, before all I will declare your name and praise you!]
 
Psalm 22:23 “You who fear the LORD, praise him!”
 
[To fear the Lord is to stand in awe of His power and greatness, His hatred of sin and love of righteousness; it is to care deeply what He thinks about things, and therefore obey Him wholeheartedly and fully.]
 
“All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!”
 
[To honor and revere you with enthusiasm and joy, Lord God, are the responses of those who spend time in worship and in your Word. They can see your beautiful and majestic Character, the eternal, Triune Ruler and Perfect One.]
 
Psalm 22:24 “For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one;
 
[You, Father, planned Jesus’ suffering, knowing that it was necessary for Him to be the perfect Savior: “Because [Jesus] himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Heb. 18).
 
Jesus “endured the cross, despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of God” (Heb. 12:4). You valued His suffering because you knew it was necessary; Jesus was able to reject the shame of his suffering because He looked forward to what it would do in saving many and giving His Father glory.
 
You are also aware of the suffering of your children, ever giving us the grace needed to move through persecution and problems with power to become more like Christ. Help us to not despise or disdain the suffering you allow into our lives, but to look beyond it in joy to what it will accomplish in our lives and to the honor it will bring to you as we respond in faith.]
 
“he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”
 
[You came in at the right time and rescued Jesus, not from the cross, but from the grave. You are the absolutely reliable One, as we see in your repeatedly helping David when he called out to you, “This poor man cried and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles” (Ps. 34:6).
 
And you do the same in our lives when we flee to you for help: “The angel of the Lord encamps round about those who fear him and delivers them” (Psalm 34:7).
 
As David so confidently states in Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” Help us to consistently run to you, Lord, for refuge in each situation, to fear you, not men, to trust you, not ourselves.]
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The Greatness of our God

Praise you, dear Lord God, that in your gracious goodness, you unfailingly guide and direct, provide for and protect us. Praise you for the completeness of your character, the perfection of your personality, the graciousness of your goodness, and the firmness of your faithfulness.
 
Thank you that you lead us through difficulties, darkness and disappointments, using each to deepen, mature, chasten and develop us. You are wise beyond words, knowing exactly what is right, always doing what is best, and working out what is wonderful, no matter how it may appear to us.
 
I praise you, Lord, that whatever comes today, I can thank you for it. Confidence in you is never misplaced, praise is always appropriate, trust is always right.
 
To you now I lift my heart and soul in praise, for you are worthy of it in your perfect power, wonderful wisdom, lavish love, great goodness and flawless faith, in your strong sternness and touching tenderness. Every quality needed is there in the exact amount and in perfect balance: mercy triumphs over justice, forgiveness conquers condemnation, love covers a multitude of sins.
 
You are our marvelous Master, our good God, perfect Father, loving Lord, and supreme Shepherd. You are far better than any god we could make up: in our flawed thinking, anything we could produce would also be faulty, like the Greeks’ human-like sinful gods.
 
Thankfully you are completely different, far beyond any human conception: perfect and eternal, wise and good. You are light, love and life yourself. Your essence is totally other than that of your creation—both uncorrupted and incorruptible–and for that we are thankful.
 
Praise be to you forever and ever. Your faithfulness is the reason we can praise you before anything comes to pass, for you are fully sovereign and, completely good and totally powerful, easily able to allow or prevent whatever you desire. It is a certainty that you will bring to us what is right and best.
 
Praise you for our weakness in the events before us now, and for the strength you will use for good in our lives. We give you glory, honor and praise now for what you will do today, tomorrow, next year and forever. You are Lord, you are God, you are worthy. Amen.
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The Secret Life of Walter M. Christian, Part 2

A continuation of how one man keeps on and uses the armor of Ephesians 6:10-18
On the way home Walter sat quietly on the train looking out the window, polishing his sword by meditating on the passage he’d been memorizing. A billboard swept into view, featuring a semi-clad girl. Although Walter quickly looked away, he’d already been hit with a dart of lust and was taken down.
He immediately sprang up and pulled the dart out with confession: “Look at what I just thought, Lord. I agree with you that it is totally selfish, destructive, and caustic to my soul. It is pleasing to Satan and grievous to you. I repent and ask your forgiveness, especially for grieving you, you who love me so much.”
Then he went on the offensive and in the powerful name of Jesus withdrew any ground he’d given to the enemy in this attack, asking God to fill him again with the Spirit.
Just in case any more such attacks came on the way home, he kept his shield of faith up by thanking God for all that had happened during the day–and he decided not to stare out the window any more.
When he came in the door at home, the kids were arguing and his exasperated wife welcomed him with, “Well, I’m glad you’re finally home. See if you can do something with these three fighters!”
Walter skillfully got his shield up as the dart of anger flew at him, followed by one of self-justification. “I was hoping for a better reception and some peaceful interaction, Lord–but I thank you for the chance to fulfill the role you have for me in serving and protecting my wife, and of helping my 3 boys learn to follow you!” Both darts hit the shield and were extinguished.
But then the dragon of selfishness took a swipe at him and almost knocked the shield out of Walter’s hand. He quickly came around with his sword, “I praise you, Lord, that I can keep my eyes on you; I confess my desire to do my own thing here and have some ‘well deserved relaxation’ before supper, but as your disciple I’m called to deny myself, take up my cross and follow you. I thank you for the chance to obey you in this moment.” This sent the dragon squealing in retreat.
Walter strode to the kids and scooped two of them up in his arms. “Hi Dad,” they shouted. “Can we go to the park for a while before supper?”
“Sure!” Walter replied. “Get you shoes and coats on.”
The three little bodies scurried to the hall while Walter went to the kitchen and gave his wife a hug. “Hard day, huh?”
“Sure was! I wish I had a quiet and easy life like yours!”
Walter smiled as he deftly raised up his shield with his left hand to quench the flaming arrow of competitiveness, wanting to tell her how hard his day had been. Resting his right hand on his sword, he thought, “If you only knew!” He kissed his wife gently and turned to take the kids to the park.
For more information on using the armor see:
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