Ian led worship at this Lampstand gathering and we really spent time declaring that the Lord is WORTHY! Lifting up the name of Jesus because there is no other name like His name! His name is higher than every other name. As we spent time doing this, Ginny shared that the Lord was encouraging her about honing the weapon we have of crying out and declaring His name!
There was a unique time of sharing things people felt the Lord stirring after our worship time. It was confirmation of the value of these meetings. I think it was valuable to people on many levels.
We are beginning a series about Psalm 23 using the book A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm by Phillip Keller. We highly recommend this book to anyone! This is a powerful look at the way the Lord Jesus is our Good Shepherd.
At this May Lampstand, we began with Matthew sharing from the chapters of the book dealing with Psalm 23:1
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
Some highlights from the teaching time:
-The Lord is my shepherd. This is a declaration, almost boasting, by David, Israel's shepherd king. He is declaring that the Lord is the manager of his life and that He is an excellent manager! It is important to ask, Do I really believe the Lord has the credentials to be the Shepherd or manager of my life? And, truly, He does!! He created us; He loves us; He gave His Son for us; He continually provides for us. He is an excellent Shepherd!!
-I shall not want. Sometimes people take this to mean that if you come under the management of the Lord, you will never have troubles or problems. This is clearly not true and not even Biblical! The idea of this statement is saying I am content in His care and management of my life. Like in Philippians 4, are we able to say, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation”? Will we trust the Lord to care for us and lead us despite the trials and valleys and challenges? Can we be content IN Him?
There were so many beautiful things shared by people in attendance. We all felt the challenge to trust the Lord's leadership and the reminder that sin, Satan, and self are poor masters!!
At the end of our response time, Linda Martin shared a dream she had had years ago about climbing with the Lord on a very narrow path. It was frighteningly narrow and eventually they turned a corner into a lush green pasture. Sheep were resting in the pasture and there was a beautiful stream. After resting, Jesus was ready to lead them on again. The way forward couldn't be seen and it looked scary. Some wouldn't follow and wanted to stay in the pasture. So as He led on, some remained behind and Linda saw wolves come out of the bushes in the lush green pasture and devour those who had remained behind. Where we are seems “good enough” but we must ALWAYS keep following Jesus!
We must make this our declaration: Lead ON!! We will follow in Your footsteps, Lord!
During the recent 40 Days campaign (CLICK HERE for more info on 40 Days for Life), I met a pastor who travels about an hour to stand with his wife in front of the Bristol abortion clinic every Monday morning as a positive pro-life witness. I felt led to join him on Monday mornings. So, since the Spring 40 Days for Life Campaign, I have stood on Monday mornings down in front of the abortion clinic in Bristol and continued to pray and also to be a pro-life witness for a few hours.
I have had the opportunity to pray but also to have some short conversations with those going in and out of the clinic. I think the most impacting conversation so far has been a simple, short conversation but it has spoken volumes to me. The conversation went something like this…
Me: Can I speak to you a second, ma’am?
Woman: No, no, I am only here for an exam.
Me: Do you know they do abortions here?
Woman: Yes, I am aware of that. That is why I go here.
It is one thing to reach out to a woman who may be considering an abortion and offer a better way, communicate that there is a real baby in her womb, and that there are other, better options than the decision to have an abortion. It is a whole other thing to know that women are frequenting this clinic to support the killing of the unborn. Undoubtedly, they would say they are for the woman’s choice and she alone can make the decision about her body. It’s a whole mindset, philosophy, and ideology.
Fundamental to this mindset is that God is not the center but the woman is, her rights, her choices, her decision. The fact of the matter is that more and more pro-choice individuals are believing that a fetus IS life in the womb. The main argument for abortion has changed from “it isn’t even a life.” It is now more accurately stated that it is more important that a woman has the choice to kill that life rather than the value for life itself. It’s disheartening to see that the life that God values and created is not valued. If He were at the center of the mindset, there would be serious consideration of what HE thinks about aborting a baby. (Psalm 139, Psalm 106:38).
So, my short conversation illustrated for me the problem of a faulty mindset that is a factor in someone having an abortion, but also it is that mindset that fuels and supports the whole abortion industry.
Oh, that God would be our center again and not what we feel is right in our own eyes.
*We want to make a special note that we realize there are very difficult situations surrounding a woman considering abortion. We always want to express compassion for women in these circumstances and emphasize that abortion harms women (and men and families) as well. We also always want to point to Jesus and the forgiveness and healing that He extends to those who turn to Him who have chosen abortion.
Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Ephesians 1:3
Continuing with my blog series about the Martyn Lloyd-Jones Ephesians study we are involved in, I am continuously thankful for the meat of the Word. Truly any time we give to chew on the Word of God is never wasted time.
In the last verse, I was looking at verse 2 which could be seen as merely introductory material however it is full of truth about the grace and peace available to us from God through Christ and why we need these critical things. God has given us favor that we could never deserve and the end result of this in our lives is PEACE: with God, with others, with ourselves. What a blessing we have through the grace and peace of God.
Now, the next verse flows directly from the previous one. Because of the grace and peace of God, we bless God! Praise and thanksgiving should flow from our lives despite our circumstances. What a gift that God has made peace with Himself, peace with people around us, peace within our own selves possible! What favor! What kindness! What GRACE...
Then we consider the fullness of this verse: God our Father has blessed us with EVERY spiritual blessing... I want to jump to another passage found in Luke 15 beginning in verse 11 that I think highlights this verse in a unique way.
One of the most sobering passages in the Scripture is the parable of the prodigal son. The prodigal son isn't the character in this story who troubles me or leaves me feeling sobered. No, the prodigal son is the part of the story that leaves me in open-mouthed awe at the grace and kindness of the Father God. And, his flight from his father isn't really surprising. After all, it is in the heart of men to go their own way. No, the older brother is the one who leaves me quaking a bit. This one who "remained faithful" and seemingly never strayed from his father. He says he served faithfully and never disobeyed the father's commands. Yet, somehow, he has completely missed his father's heart.
And, then the father in the story says the most astounding thing to this son who is feeling left out from the celebration of his "wicked" brother's return: "Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours." Oh. my. This son had access to everything belonging to the father and yet he missed it. Completely.
And, what about me? This is where I shudder a bit because I never want to be like the older brother. So, when I read Ephesians 1:3, I am astounded at the generosity of the Father and I tremble, wondering if I'm living like this is true that He has blessed me with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places?
Do I really live like I have access to the FULLNESS of the BLESSING of GOD the Father?
What about you? What blessing do you feel like you're lacking? Where do you feel weak? Have you gone to the Source of every available spiritual blessing and asked Him for it?
Before I go any further, it is critical that we start at the beginning with these blessings. Sometimes we get things out of order. Ok, mostly we get things out of order and we focus on ourselves and we say, "Goody! Presents! Blessings! What's in this thing for me?" We might never admit to or even realize completely that we have such skewed thinking because we disguise it pretty well even from ourselves, but truly we demand our rights, our happiness, "blessings" according to our definitions. And, we miss the point. God has blessed us with every SPIRITUAL blessing in heavenly places.
In order to truly appreciate the blessings He has given us we have to have a renewed nature. We have to have a new outlook. A heavenly outlook. When we are born again into Jesus' kingdom, we don't just have a natural outlook on the life around us or on eternity. We still are natural creatures and we have natural needs, but we also are suddenly alive spiritually and we are aware of a new heavenly perspective. Suddenly, the most important thing may not be that everything goes right for me and I have "success" as the world measures it, but that I know His presence with me and that I know He approves of me. Suddenly, my prayers change from "I want the bestest, coolest car" to "I need a way to get around so that I can serve You, Lord." I'm not saying the Lord doesn't bless us with nice things, but that's not even really the point of this verse in my thinking.
He's talking about something so much higher than physical needs being met. We often settle for "stuff blessings," when God wants us stuffed with Spiritual blessings that we are completely missing.
One more important thing before we leave this verse (which I am pitifully summing up in a few pages while the good Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones spent THREE sermons on this particular verse), is that we must look at who is giving these blessings and how we get them.
God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God has so many names throughout the scripture. And, in the Old Testament he is primarily referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But, now we see something different: God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the previous verse, he is referred to as "our Father" and this so true, and such an amazing revelation. But, here in this verse we see He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that this is because it demonstrates what kind of Father He is. "Our Father" might make us think of our earthly examples of fathers, which can be great, but might not be even close to great and may even be non-existent. So, here He is saying that He is the Father of our Lord Jesus. Jesus said Himself that He revealed the Father to us. His nature shows us the nature of our Heavenly Father. As we look at Jesus and we know HIS Father, we realize that this, too, is our Father.
And, finally, how do we get these never-ending spiritual blessings? In Christ. It is all through Him and because of Him. Christ is the source.
God our amazing, caring Heavenly Father, who like the father in the aforementioned parable, says to us, "Son, daughter, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours."
Live like this is truth.
We were so blessed at our April Lampstand to have Bill Jolley come to lead us in worship. He brought along two other musicians, Jamin Rathbun and Jason Pierce. They led us in an awesome time of worship in which the Lord was highlighting Isaiah 9 and 10, “The anointing that breaks the yoke.” I felt like the Lord was speaking this during worship and there was a sense of the Lord bringing breakthrough as we sang and even clapped and lifted our eyes to Him. We read from Psalm 107 (He breaks in two the bars of iron and burst our bonds apart…) and Psalm 45 (He is anointed with gladness above His companions…). Lyndsey Jolley also shared an impression that He is our resurrection life and we sing our way back to the resurrection!
Matthew shared from the word about Shepherds after God’s heart. We finished our series on Revelation and the “Beauty Realm” in March and felt like the Lord was leading us to begin looking at Jesus as our Shepherd. We will be using a book by Phillip Keller called, “A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm.” But, as we began this new direction, Matthew gave an overview of the idea of “end-time Shepherds” and how God will raise up people who will lead and care for His people in a way that is in agreement with His heart as The Good Shepherd. You can check out this link to a blog he wrote on this subject here to find out more about this topic. (God's Shepherds)
We feel that focusing on this aspect of who Jesus is fits into our Lampstand message of getting fuel. If we are called to be those who shepherd after His heart then we must be people who are fueling ourselves with who He is so that we have something to share with those He gives us to care for.
Bethany Oakes led us in a beautiful time of worship in which we were lifting our voices as the Bride crying out “Come, Lord Jesus!” It’s hard to write a “description” of a time of worship. More than we can write out what was said or done, worship is a thing that we engage in and that we experience. So, we try to capture some highlight of these times together just to remember what the Lord was doing, but more than anything, we invite you to come and just enter into worship with us!
Matthew and Julie both shared at this Lampstand. Matthew sharing a brief encouragement from a book called “When People are Big and God is Small.” He described how before we are followers of Jesus, we are looking for all kinds of things to satisfy us. Then, we become followers of Christ and we then look for Jesus to satisfy that same place within us. However, this is incomplete because we are still the center. The shift is that we want to see Jesus be the center and then we certainly do find fulfillment, but the point is that we are looking to love and please Him, and as our focus is on Him and not ourselves, we find ultimate satisfaction! Ultimately, we are not the point. He is the point. Our lives, our stories are all part of a BIGGER picture.
Julie shared from Revelation 5, finishing out our series on Revelation 4 and 5. We looked at the end of Revelation 5, “He is worthy!” A critical aspect of this chapter is the invitation into something bigger than ourselves. We see the Son taking the scroll from the Father on the throne and the importance of it that caused John to weep that no one could open it, and I always pause and think, “What is this scroll all about? This is something so much bigger than just my life!” This passage of Scripture draws our eyes up from our own circumstances and causes us to see the Lamb who was slain and to sing with those around the throne, “He is Worthy!!”
We finished out our time by listening to a song by Andrew Peterson called “Is He Worthy” (which you can find HERE). This beautiful liturgical song is a call and response that again lifts our eyes to the One who is worthy of all of our worship and all of our praise, and all of our lives.
15 And I will give you shepherds according to My heart,
who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.
The context of this passage in the book of Jeremiah is a prophecy to the nation of Israel in the midst of the Lord’s beckoning message to Israel to return to Him. It was a message of encouragement to Israel that God was going to raise up shepherds who reflect His heart in contrast to some of the unfaithful shepherds that they had experienced.
It is a great encouragement to me that God will not only literally do this with Israel but He is raising up more and more shepherds who fit this description in Jeremiah 3:15 in the church worldwide.
This description is very similar to the description we have of King David, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22), who was called to be Israel’s “Shepherd King” (2 Samuel 5:2). God prepared David to be a shepherd to His people by being a literal shepherd where he learned to shepherd them “according to the integrity of His heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.”
The “according to My heart” described in Jeremiah 3:15 describes shepherds who are after the Lord’s heart, diligently seeking Him. They are those whose hearts are corresponding with the Lord’s heart, conforming to His heart, and in agreement with His heart; not only His emotions, passions, and desires but His thoughts and His ways.
These shepherds will feed others, caring for them by leading them to the knowledge of God. This is more than just an informational knowing of Bible facts but a “knowing God,” intimate with Him, familiar with His personality, attributes, etc (Jeremiah 9:23). This kind of knowledge is what brings stability to us (Isaiah 33:6). It is not a window shopping type of knowledge but a partaking of every aspect of who He is. The understanding of Jeremiah 3:15 describes insight into, consideration of, and comprehension of the Lord, who He is, what He is like, and why He does the things He does.
In contrast to the descriptions of other shepherds in Jeremiah, these ones the Lord is raising up will be those who don’t “destroy and scatter the sheep,” those who attend to the needs of the sheep, who have stood in the counsel of the Lord causing God’s people to hear His words (Jeremiah 23). We also get other descriptions of unfaithful, irresponsible, and absent shepherds out of passages like Ezekiel 34, Zechariah 10, and other places in Scripture.
We also have prophesies about God himself being a shepherd in Ezekiel 24 & 37, Zechariah 13, and Jeremiah 31. We know the ultimate example of a shepherd of God’s people is Jesus. He had compassion on people because they “were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” (Matthew 9: 36). He is the Good Shepherd described in John 10, modeling wonderfully what His shepherds will look like.
So, God is raising up shepherds. They will be after His heart and according to His heart. They will fill others on knowledge and understanding, yet they will not be just in the “pastor of a church” role. They are those who will carry His heart into the workplace and lead like Jesus leads. They are fathers, mothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, older brothers, older sisters who will influence others in their family according to the heart of God. They are mentors and teacher who will tend to others with right understanding of who God is and what He does. Two questions each of us can consider are: where are we serving as shepherds and what kind of shepherds are we?
The most important lesson for shepherds is knowing THE SHEPHERD. How else can we truly impart His heart and truth to others? Shepherds must themselves feed on knowledge and understanding from the Good Shepherd before they can effectively lead others.
Lord, you are raising up shepherds like King David who are after your heart. You are preparing them to tend your people. Prepare us in whatever role of shepherding you would call us to. Feed us. Tend to us. Help us to grow in knowledge and understanding of You. And then use us to feed and care for others, effectively leading others in Your paths. Amen.
Matthew or Julie Wine