Shepherds have uniquely valuable insights into this most beloved of Bible passages.
It was almost Christmas as my young family and I left for church from our town house in Bad Kissingen, Germany, a few miles north of Schweinfurt. A middle-aged German couple lived next door, and one day I asked the wife if they attend church, and what were their holiday plans. She replied that she and her family had attended services occasionally long ago, and were planning a quiet Christmas. Hoping to encourage her to go back to church, at least for Christmas, I mentioned that the Bible has some wonderful passages and asked her if she had ever heard of the 23rd Psalm. “Der Herr ist mein hirte!” she shot back, “Of course! Germans learn that as children. Do you think we know nothing?” I apologized for my inadvertent insult, but couldn’t help thinking about Psalm 23 as cultural classic versus Psalm 23 as living truth. My neighbor memorized Psalm 23, but showed no sign of living it. Followers of Christ must know it, and live it.
God uses the research, experiences, and insights of other Christians to help us see into the Scriptures. Much of the Bible is written in the language of farmers and herders. The 23rd Psalm is a beautiful, symbolic description of our Father’s care for His people through a shepherd’s eyes. As a professional shepherd and the author of A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Philip Keller shares some valuable insights, which I have included.
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What do we do when crisis comes? What should we do? How can others help?
Carolyn, a friend in her 90s, approached me at church after the morning worship service a few Sundays ago. She and her husband Alan had had a terrible week. The previous Tuesday she was hit by another car while driving, destroying her vehicle but leaving her mercifully with only a few bumps and bruises. On Friday there had been an electrical fire in her house. She and her husband were safe but their home was badly damaged. They were living in a nearby hotel and needed prayer. The couple, another friend and I prayed together immediately, and my family has lifted them up before the Lord several times in the past few weeks.
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The old song tells us to Trust and Obey, but trust often doesn’t seem to make sense, and neither does obedience. What do we do?
The air in southern Belize was hot and sticky as I saw Maya and Garifuna villagers in my jungle clinic in June and July of 1987. Having only a stethoscope, some donated medications, the books Where There is No Doctor and Merck Manual, an undergraduate biology degree, and a little experience, I had come to Belize before medical school as a volunteer with Central American Outreach Ministries (CAOM). Dozens of patients lined up for care before breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and in between we farmed the banana plantation and orange tree nursery, fed chickens and pigs, took eggs, pumped water, and built a new clinic. John Collier was the founder of CAOM, and he worked on the ranch with two long term volunteers, a man and a woman in their late 20s. The four of us hosted a volunteer team from West Virginia. Once per week we took a side trip, hiking to the ruins of a Mayan temple, swimming in a jungle pool, or relaxing on the Belizean beach near Dangriga.
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How can we control conflict in our selves, our families, our communities, our nation, and our world?
A quick review of news headlines today shows conflict between police and demonstrators after a shooting, conflict between Taliban militants and Afghani police, conflict between and within political parties in the 2016 campaigns, and even conflict within families. As much as we may wish to resolve all conflicts, sometimes they can only be controlled. From presidents such as Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton who had “enemy lists” to average folks who can never forgive a slight, unresolved conflict is a major fixture in our lives. The Biblical story of David, Nabal, and Abigail (1 Samuel 25:2-38) provides good lessons on dealing with conflict. We will discover that controlling conflict requires three things:
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