God Loves Me
God Loves Me
High on the moors in the Welsh highlands, two ministers met a young shepherd boy who had impaired hearing and was illiterate. They explained that Jesus wanted to be his shepherd, who would always look after him as he, the boy, looked after his sheep. They taught him to repeat the words, ‘The Lord is my shepherd’ (Psalm 23:1), using the fingers and thumb of his right hand to help him remember, starting with his thumb and then a finger for each word. They told him to pause at the fourth word ‘my’, and remember, ‘this psalm was meant for me’.
Some years later, one of them was passing through that same village and asked after the shepherd boy. The previous winter there had been terrible storms and the boy had died on the hills, buried in a snowdrift. The villager who was telling the story said, ‘There was one thing, however, that we didn’t understand. When his body was discovered he was holding the fourth finger of his right hand.’
The ‘parable’ illustrates the nature of God’s personal love for each one of us.
Many people today think of God as some great impersonal force. However, the God of the Bible is very different. His relationship with us is personal. St Paul wrote, ‘The Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’ (Galatians 2:20). He is ‘My God’ (Philippians 4:19). God loves me.
1. My ShepherdPsalm 23:1-6
God cares for us like a shepherd cares for their sheep. There are times when I have felt spiritually drained. I love the fact that ‘He refreshes my soul’ (v.3a). Many times, I have written down situations in which I have needed guidance, and later I have been able to thank God because ‘He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake’ (v.3b). God has a great purpose for your life. Let him guide you along the right path for you. You don’t have to go through life full of fear, because he is with you (v.4).
2. My Host
The scene changes from a shepherd with his sheep to a host with his guest. This is a wonderful picture of what it is like to get alone with God in the midst of all the hassles of life: ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies’ (v.5a). He satisfies the hunger in your soul with a feast. Accept his invitation and spend time each day feeding your soul in his presence.
All of us will at some stage ‘walk through the valley of the shadow of death’ (v.4), facing our own death or the death of someone we love. Even then we need not be afraid because the Lord is with us (v.4).
I have often read this psalm to people who are very sick or dying. It is a great comfort to know that the Lord is near to us at all times: ‘Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever’ (v.6).
Lord, thank you for the way you have led me and protected me. Thank you that you satisfy my spiritual hunger and thirst with your presence and your love.
3. My LordMark 4:30-5:20
Have you ever been in a situation when suddenly, without warning, your life seems to be hit by a storm of hurricane proportions (4:37, AMP)?
The Sea of Galilee was notorious for sudden storms. The disciples knew that waves of that size could overturn their boat and take their lives.
Yet, Jesus was asleep (v.38). Sometimes when the storms come it appears that God is not doing anything. He does not seem to be answering your prayers or even listening to you. In times like this, your faith is being tested.
Eventually, Jesus calms the storm. He addresses the power behind the storms with words someone might use to a puppy: ‘Quiet! Be still!’ (v.39), showing he is Lord over nature. For the disciples, the passage starts with fear and ends with faith. A crisis tests your faith. Jesus wants you to learn to conquer your fears and trust him even in the middle of the storms of life.
Sometimes God calms the storm. Sometimes he lets the storm rage and he calms you.
Next, Jesus demonstrates that he is Lord over the powers that try to destroy our lives. Somehow a demonised man (nicknamed Legion, 5:9) had ended up in a hellish place, self-harming (v.5) and chained by society (v.4), whose only answer was to lock him up. That was all they could do. The power of politicians, the state and the police (was and) is limited. Jesus did not judge or condemn the man. Rather he saw his potential to live in wholeness. Jesus gave an authoritative command and demonstrated his Lordship and power to set us free and heal us.
There were two distinct reactions from the people to the lordship of Jesus. The first was hostile (v.17). Commercial interests had been damaged. It can be rather uncomfortable when we see real power operating. On the other hand, some were interested (v.20).
One of the fascinating aspects of this story is that after Jesus had healed the demon-possessed man and set him free, the man begged to go with him (v.18), but Jesus did not let him (v.19).
I would have thought that this man would have benefited from some intensive follow-up with Jesus! However, Jesus gets him involved in evangelism straight away. He says, ‘Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you’ (v.19). And that is exactly what he did (v.20).
Don’t be overprotective of people who have recently come to faith. It’s sometimes good to get them speaking publicly about their new faith straight away. The next time Jesus came to the Decapolis, 4,000 people came to listen. This man’s testimony seems to have had a big impact.
Maybe this is why Mark places the story shortly after the parable of the mustard seed. The demoniac may have felt he had little to offer, but his life had a huge impact. Jesus says that God can do a lot with a very small seed – a mustard seed (4:31). ‘When planted, it grows’ (v.32).
The issue is not how much you have, but what you do with it. A mustard seed needs to be planted in the ground straight away or else it is lost. If it is planted, the growth is so strong it can go through concrete. The lesson is simple: use it or lose it. Use what you have and God will multiply it many times over.
Thank you that you are Lord over all. Thank you that I can trust you in times of crisis and I do not need to fear.
4. My GuideExodus 25:1-26:37
Generosity is an act of the will. If you are passionate about God, you will give generously in order to see his name honoured. The people of God were able to raise the money they needed for the work of God from all ‘whose hearts [prompted] them to give’ (25:2b). They gave ‘willingly and ungrudgingly’ (v.2b, AMP). God’s love never forces you. He wants you to respond freely from your heart.
The tabernacle (‘tent of meeting’) was a provisional meeting place of God and his people. Theologically, the tabernacle as the dwelling place of God on earth is of immense importance. It is the first in the series of the dwelling places of God: tabernacle, temple, Jesus himself, the body of the individual believer, the church.
God promises to guide even about the fine details: ‘Make this tabernacle and all its furnishing exactly like the pattern I will show you’ (v.9). God is my guide, even in the details of life.
5. My Saviour
The writer of Hebrews explains that the sanctuary described here (Exodus 25:10 – 26:37) is ‘a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain”’ (Hebrews 8:5–6).
All these instructions for the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place were preparation for the saving work of Christ: ‘When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, so obtaining eternal redemption’ (9:11–12).
Through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, you and I have access to the Most Holy Place. Jesus is my Saviour.
Lord, thank you that you are my Shepherd, my Host, my Lord, my Guide and my Saviour. Thank you that you love me.
The storms of life seem to come out of nowhere, often when things are going along quite smoothly. It is easy for faith to be thrown away at that moment. But the disciples did the right thing, they went to Jesus. Even though he rebuked them for their lack of faith, he still sorted the situation out. And I like the fact that after the wind died down, it was completely calm (Mark 4:39).
Verse of the Day
‘The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul’ (Psalm 23:1–3).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)