“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” Psalm 23:1. When I was a kid and heard this psalm, I wondered why anyone would not want the LORD. This language, I think, is a holdover from older translations though. Perhaps today we might say, “I shall not be in want.” Someone older might think this song is only for funerals. These six verses are certainly often heard at funerals and can give the comfort that people are seek-ing it during those times. But it is giving help to those who are struggling to live. It was my job as the oldest kid to take food scraps out to the edge of a dark woods to our compost pile, and after dinner in NYS for most of the year it was dark. Having memorized this psalm, I would recite it as I slunk across our backyard, scanning the shadows for creatures. My faith grew as I trusted that God would give me everything that I would need. More than provision, however, was His protection and His presence. Now, our trailer in a clearing was far from the valley of the shadow of death, but even as a young child I learned that nothing would happen to me that God wouldn’t allow and that God was good. Moreover, God taught me through this psalm that He held my future.
“But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking” Acts 6:10. It was really an unfair match from the start. To all the world—certainly to the army and his seven older brothers who were “dismayed and greatly afraid”—the shepherd boy did not stand a chance against the warrior giant, but David came “in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom [he] had defied.” So, not a fair matchup to start with. And neither was it with Stephen. Yes, what chance did those who were from the synagogue of the Freedmen have against one who was picked to serve because he was “of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom”? And so the world’s Goliath was once more pitted against God’s giant—and the predictable result: they could not withstand. No, not fair at all. It’s the strength and wisdom of the world against the weakness and foolishness of God. The world falls every time. And so it is with us. We who’ve believed and obeyed the gospel are God’s Davids and Stephens in the world. Their brawny giants snarl and shout their defiance, but we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed. Rather, knowing who’ll win, we meet them.
“But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’” Romans 9:20. Submission is so hard. After all, we are made in God’s image and so want to be our own gods. But, we are made a little lower than the angels and so have to submit to God. Even the Word made flesh had to submit to His Father. Think about it … as the Creator through Whom all things were made, Jesus knew how to do everything except submit—to anything. It’s so hard to get us to this point: Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Thou art the Potter, I am the clay! Mold me and make me After Thy will, While I am waiting, Yielded and still. It truly does mean giving up our vision for our lives—our will--and accepting God’s plan. We may have thought we were fit for “greater” things and feel trapped, because of life’s circumstances, in a life, a job, a family, an income bracket that we never thought we’d be in. People die, economies shift, sicknesses alter our lives. God knows all about it. He’s arranged the parts of the body where He wants them to be. Submit to Him as the clay does to the Potter. Bloom where you’re planted. Serve Him!
“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” Acts 6:4. Always the ‘nerd’ I was the kid at my grandparents’ houses that would search through their old books to glean what information they had. I’d stay occupied with a science encyclopedia set while my parents visited. Summer vacation meant sitting outside on our deck with a stack of books beside me. So, you can imagine my joy when I got my first Bible at age ten! I obeyed the gospel in college while studying to become an English teacher and five years later took on the ministry of the word in a small mission work in upstate NY, where I learned to do everything associated with ministry. This might have worked when the church first began after Pentecost, but by Acts 6, the church had grown tremendously and the one-room schoolhouse approach was no longer effective. When a challenge arose, the twelve picked seven to see to the widows’ needs while they focused on the ministry of the word. How blessed I feel to be able to study, write, and present lessons every day now in a much larger church while God has provided so many with so many other gifts to minister in other ways here. Are you stepping up?
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” John 13:35. I’ve heard that the least favorite day to work for restaurant serving staff is Sunday. Why? Large groups from various churches are typically viewed as rude, demanding, and lousy tippers. It may shock many to know that such great people as we think we are are seen in such a terrible way by the very people that we’d hope to reach with the gospel of Christ. Knowing the love that we have for our brothers and sisters and the incredible message of salvation we have to offer, we try to blame the world for not being receptive. They’re too distracted … too in love with their sin … or just too uninterested. Yet, we’re called to win souls. So, we remodel or repurpose our facilities, offer secular programs and events, restructure and retrain staff to suit the world. And still they do not come, or if they do, we’ve become a compromised version of culture that sort of resembles the church. Jesus’ solution: love even those hard to love with the love He loves us with! He tells us this after he washes their feet and then says He’s given us an example to follow. Does your love show you’re a Christian?