Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want…

We know that when we hit a bump in life, we’re supposed to look to God but sometimes we get disorientated in the wait and so we employ a “hired-hand” instead.

In ancient times, the hired hand was the relief guy in place of the real shepherd.

Relief from trouble is often our highest prize. It may come in the form of a TV or food binge, a vent, isolation, it could be pornography, complaining or criticism. These are just a few hired hands we use to bring relief to trouble. But a hired hand cannot satisfy you, give you rest in green pastures or peace by still waters. The hired hand exacerbates fear and prolongs our pain.

The fact, is the Bible doesn’t describe us like a lion able to roar at our trouble until it goes away. It describes us like Sheep. Sheep are almost defenceless, they have poor eyesight, they smell a lot, they don’t have sharp teeth they make funny, quite weak baa noises and Sheep are prone to wander and sheep are susceptible to danger. And so what a sheep really needs in trouble is not a temporary hired hand. A Sheep needs a Good Shepherd. Today is the day to turn from your hired hands and say to the Lord, “Since you are my Shepherd, I shall not want another Shepherd”.

You can say that with all the confident assurance that he is powerful to keep you in your trouble because Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me… no one will snatch them out of my hand”.

Read Psalm 23 and be comforted by the true Shepherd of your life.

Lord, since you are my Shepherd, I shall not want another Shepherd. Please forgive me for seeking relief in temporary hired hands. I reinstate my faith in you as the true giver of peace and rest and comfort and anchor my Hope in Jesus, the Good Shepherd of my soul.

A child approached me in the classroom, a panicked expression on his face. “Miss Ambler, I can’t find my hat! I’ve searched everywhere and without it I’m not allowed to play!” Smilingly I patted him on the head “It’s ok darling, it’s already on your head!” In his rush, he let panic set in and forgot to look in the most obvious place.

Jesus urges us “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33)

So often in our worry, we run around like that boy, searching for answers in all the wrong places. We are like the Gentiles worrying about worldly cares, disturbing our joy in God and the gifts he has already bestowed on us. I know I panic at times and stress that I am not where I should be, comparing my situation with others. However, the Bible assures us in Jeremiah 29:11 that God’s plans for us are “for welfare and not for evil, to give a future and a hope”. What is causing you anxiety or worry today that you need to bring to the Lord?

Father, thank you that you already know the desires of our hearts. Rather than searching elsewhere for answers, help us to petition You first. Guide us to seek Your kingdom, and to find comfort in the knowledge that Your plans for us exceed any we may have for ourselves. Amen.

Easy does it… drip by drip… careful to get it just right. One daughter feeling the pressure of filling three cups evenly, the other two, eyes at cup level intensely watchful to ensure the job is done right. This has been the scene in our house when our three girls were younger, sharing out the last of a favourite drink. Because if the job wasn’t done right, there was an outcry, ‘it’s not fair.’

Amusing as it is, that childish sensitivity to having less than others, to life being fair and right, does not easily leave us. We may not cry out, but there can be a discontentment in our hearts. ‘It’s not fair! Why should life be so difficult for me, and easy for others? Why should that person get the credit for something I did? Why should I be misjudged?’ We can find ourselves watching life unfolding around us at ‘cup level’ checking for any unevenness that may trigger our internal unfairness meter.

But when we consider what Jesus has done for us, we can turn this familiar refrain of discontentment in our hearts into praise. In Romans 5:8 we read, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus took the punishment for our sin, and we received his righteousness. That’s not fair! But Jesus has set us free from living fair to live by grace.
Life is not fair… so whenever you hear these words in your heart, praise the Lord that it’s not!

Lord, we give thanks for our Salvation and praise you that life is not fair. Help me to escape the clutches of discontentment and walk in the freedom and joy of the riches of your grace that have you lavished upon us through Jesus. Amen.

Have you ever been in a group, walking at night? It’s never a good idea for the slowest member of the group to be the one with the light. Because to be dragging the light at the back, means there’s a high chance that those at the front will not benefit from its light and risk stumbling or falling.

John 1:10-13 tells us that the true light, Jesus Christ (also referred to as the Word) came into the world. This was echoed years earlier by the Psalmist who said in Ps 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” We have been chosen by God. And by receiving Jesus we can be guided by the one true light.

How are you using the light? Do you have it lifted up and out in front, so that not only is it directing your path but is also being seen by and pointing others to the path? Or are you dragging it behind you, keeping it as a backup in case things get rocky while you trust your own instinct or someone else’s light in the now?

Lord thank you that you sent your Son as the perfect light, but also have given us your word to guide us in your ways. Help me to grow in humility to rely on your light, Lord help me to use what you have given me for your glory and to point others to you.

I left home when I was 18 years to move to Sydney. My Nanna gave me a farewell gift – a kitchen knife. As she pressed the gift into my hand she said “this is the only knife you will ever need”. I didn’t believe her. It was only the size of a butter knife, how could it do everything when it came to cutting things? 40 years on, my Victorinox knife truly is the only knife I need! It is an amazing knife despite its simplicity and smallness!

God presses a promise into our hearts when he reminds us that “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9) He declares “my grace is the only thing you need”. Do we live like we believe this simple promise? Too often our actions reveal what our hearts really think – that although His grace is a great gift, it is not enough and some other circumstance, condition or possession is needed in order for us to be happy and secure. In the midst of the storm, His grace is sufficient – He is in control even when things feel out of control. In the midst of want… His grace is sufficient. He is a loving Father – He will provide for our needs. In the midst of pain… His grace is sufficient. His peace surpasses all understanding.

God, you are enough! Forgive me for not fully trusting in your sufficiency. Reveal areas of weakness in my life that I need to surrender to you, so they can be transformed by your power. I remind myself again, you ARE enough for me – may this truth sink deep into my heart today, no matter what challenges I face.

Every time I go to the football to watch the Crows. I put on the bright Red, Yellow and Blue jumper. And every time I put it on before a game, there is great hope that my team will perform. All the fans wear those colours with great hope. But sometimes the Crows lose and as the crowd streams out of the stadium, everyone is still wearing the colours but they just don’t seem as bright as they did before the match. Of course, that’s not reality! They’re the exact same bright colours as they were before the game. But new feelings have drained the colour right out.

This is often the battle between what we feel and what is real. We receive some kind of news and that news sends our feelings into overdrive! What we do next with them determines the type of life we will lead.

The Apostle Paul calls us to “Be strong in the Lord and the strength of his might” (Eph 6:10). He knew firsthand what it was like to be hit with pain and uncertainty, but his feelings did not dictate his thoughts or actions. He stood strong in the truth that God was his strength. It’s the facts of God that help us with feelings that often make faulty interpretations of reality.

Feelings are good. They are created by God and bring colour to your life. But they can be tricky and not always trustworthy. They can distort reality by telling you anything from, ‘you deserve this, to you are worthless, you are unlovable, you are ugly or even God is punishing me’. But don’t let them rule you today. Be strong in the Lord and the strength of his might – a strength that raised Jesus from the dead.

Lord, today I don’t want to be ruled by my feelings. Please help me to centre all my thoughts and actions on your truth and strength. When I am tempted to doubt you, help me to remember your strongest act of love for me in sending your Son to die in my place. In Jesus Name, Amen.

There have been many days when I wake up and God is the last thing on my mind. Life is so busy and overwhelming. When I do get some spare time the only thing that seems to give a temporary rest is mindlessly scrolling through social media or binge watching Netflix. At the end of it I still feel overwhelmed and unrested.

Paul says in Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace if God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your mind in Christ Jesus.”

This is an incredible promise, especially in our busy western society. God promises that though prayer, petition and thanksgiving he will always give us peace. The problem is that I know this truth but still turn to other things that provide temporary escape but ultimately make my situation worse.

James says in James 1:12, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

Busyness is a trial that all of us experience regularly and the evil one loves to use it to draw us away from the Lord. But when we persevere with our relationship and time with the Lord, especially when we are busy, it will bring peace and eternal rewards.

Lord, You created me and you know what is best for me. Help me not to find satisfaction in other things, but to always seek you. Please grow in me a disciplined heart so that I can be used for your glory. Thank you that you promise to give peace every time I turn to you. Amen.

The little boy shadowed his dad as they set up the caravan. They both hammered and tightened things, the boy thrilled to use his new plastic tool set. The son had a purpose, “I’m helping! I’m gonna be just like my dad!” he exclaimed to everyone who came near. But in that moment, was the little boy really any help? Absolutely not. Would he be in the future? Of course, as long as he kept watching and learning from his dad.

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loves us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

There is only one way to be ultimately satisfied, and that is to follow Jesus, choosing Him over everything else, walking in love and sacrifice. In 2 Corinthians 3:18 we read, “And we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image, from one degree of glory to another.” The more we see Him, the more the Holy Spirit works in us and changes us to be like Him. As we become more like Him we are better equipped to truly love others. Let’s have a determination to be like our Heavenly Father.

Dear Lord. Thank you that, as we follow you, you work in us to change us to be more like Jesus. Forgive us for putting other people or things before you. Help us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on you, and you alone. Please work in us to make us more like Jesus. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Giving thanks comes easily when we are feeling blessed, our needs taken are care of, and when life seems comfortable. But how do you go giving thanks when life gets tough? How would you go giving thanks when the bills can’t be paid, your marriage is painful, you become seriously ill, your child rebels, you feel alone or when you are miserable in your job?

It’s challenging I know, but God’s Word confronts us when we read we are, “to give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:18). In all circumstances! (Note, we are not told to give thanks for the circumstances, but in them).
Thanksgiving is a very strong theme in Scripture, and something we are regularly called to. Why? Firstly, I believe it is because thanksgiving gives God the glory and honour that is due. Secondly it calls our hearts to rise with faith in God and obedience to his will. If we find ourselves unable to give thanks to God in tough times, it means that fear, worry, bitterness, discontentment, or the like has kept us from trusting in the goodness of God and his promises. So, thanksgiving is a game changer. It forces us to look for God’s hand in all things, it reminds us of his faithful character and actually drives out from our hearts that which discourages and binds us.

What are the circumstances in your life where thanksgiving is yet to invade? Give it a go! You’ll be blessed.

Father, we know and trust that you are good, and always keep your promises to us. Lead our hearts in thanksgiving in all things, that we may worship you and rise above those temptations that cause us to doubt you. Amen.

What comes to mind when you imagine hearing these words… “I saw you the other day.” Or, “Hey! I know you.” Where? What was I doing? Was I with someone? I don’t even know you… I’m probably thinking – Oh gosh, what did I do? Have I embarrassed myself?

Why does the idea that someone has seen, or worse still knows us – give us so much anxiety? Maybe because for many of us we fear the possibility of bad news, either they want to shame or ridicule me. Whether it was Nathanael under the fig tree (John 1:43-51), the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:15-18 & 28-30) or us, Psalm 139 says, God has known us since before we were formed. God doesn’t know us to shame us. God knows us so that we might know him more fully. We are eternally known and eternally loved by God no matter what our past may be.

Are you ashamed by something you’ve done, thought or seen? Jesus knows. And he loves you anyway. Once we accept Jesus as our saviour, he doesn’t hold our sin against us. So why do we think we can? What is preventing you from believing that God could know all of you, and still love you? Jesus longs for us to see ourselves as he does, through the righteousness of Jesus. Repent, but then trust that Jesus mighty work on the cross has dealt with it, don’t hang onto shame that Jesus has died for.

Lord, I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Please help me to remember that you saw & knew me before I was even formed. Please help me to truly know I am loved, not shamed through the saving work of Jesus.

Corrie Ten Boom had suffered much. She survived the concentration camp of Ravenskbruck. Her sister and her father did not. Her story is told in the book – the Hiding Place. Her life, once released from the camp, was used by God to preach of His presence in the midst of suffering, and of forgiveness. One day, she had to put her sermons into action when she came face to face with one of the jailers, who had been listening to her message. Vengeful thoughts raged inside her. She could not find it in herself to extend her hand to shake it. She could not forgive him. She admitted to God that she could not forgive the jailer, and asked God to give her His forgiveness. Still numb inside, she raised her hand when the most incredible thing happened. A current seemed to travel down her arm and through her hand and pass from Corrie to the jailer, and into her heart sprang an overwhelming love for him.

Jesus commands us in Matthew 5:44 to “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Corrie learnt that while God gives us the command to love our enemies, He also gives us the love itself. Obedience often feels difficult. We need to obey based purely on what has been asked of us, not whether we feel like it or not. When we surrender and submit to what God has commanded us to do, what beautiful, surprising joy awaits us!

Dear Lord, I confess that sometimes forgiveness is hard, and there are people in life I find difficult to love. Change my heart with the love and forgiveness you have shown me, that I may generously show it to others, for Jesus sake. Amen.

Emma, a Christian, battled with fear of what people thought of her. When her boss sent her an abrupt email, she convinced herself that she was going to lose her job. When her friend joked about how messy her house was, she felt like a failure. When she walked into her work every morning, she was sure that people were talking about her. Her fear of people crippled her and she felt like she had to be somebody she was not, just to fit in.

Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me,” and in Philippians 3:20, “your citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Emma had forgotten her identity in Christ, that she was indwelt by the same Spirit that raised our Lord Jesus from the dead and is no longer a citizen of earth but her citizenship is in secure in heaven.

This is a perspective that many of us lose regularly. It’s so easy to let our identity be defined by what people think, rather than who we are in Christ. How are you defined? Is your fear of people greater than your fear of God?

Jesus, I know that in you I am a new creation. You gave it all so that I could be your child and I worship you for that. I repent of my fear of man. I ask you to grow my love and awe of you. That I might be a person who fears only you and doesn’t care what the world thinks. Amen

Ten years ago I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour; two years later my 29-year marriage ended. I was living interstate, away from my family in Adelaide and I prayed constantly for direction for my life. Within a few years I had a really strong sense that I needed return to my hometown to honour my aging parents. They were feeling lonely and isolated from family since all four of their children were now living in different states. I was convinced that this was God’s idea as it took me by complete surprise; I didn’t understand as I had many supportive friends, a church family and a great job. But I trusted God and obediently stepped into an uncertain future.

On returning, my parents were overjoyed as we shared many happy times together. I found a job, a church and reunited with relatives and friends. Then, after just six weeks, an unexpected blessing occurred: I met a kind and caring Christian widower. We both knew in our hearts that God had brought us together, in His perfect timing. We soon became one, with God at the centre of our marriage.

The Bible tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight” Proverbs 3: 5-6. Though God’s plan may not always be obvious to us, if we seek Him first and allow Him to guide us we will receive abundant blessings.

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for constantly walking beside us and directing our paths. Strengthen us to always be obedient to your voice and to trust in you. Amen

My assignment date is coming closer. I’ve barely even started it. I am having trouble sleeping, I’m getting angry at everyone, I’m feeling really stressed. Nothing is working. My bad attitude stinks! As the day goes on, my heart grows harder, I’m finding it hard to love, to be obedient and even to be happy. It’s hard to get back on the right track.

1 Peter 5:7 says “Give all your worries and cares to God because he cares about you”. Why should we give our worries to God? Because he cares for you! He wants you to be empty, so he can fill you up with what he wants you to have – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness and self-control.

If you give your worries and cares to God, you let him give you peace when you are stressed, when you are lonely, or when you are sick. Don’t hold back on giving things to the Lord, give it all to the Lord. When you do he will help you and you will feel much happier and less stressed. When you are faced with a problem, don’t run from it, when you have a problem ask God to give you strength. This will change the way you think and act.

Dear God, I know that I can’t do everything by myself. I need you to help me. Please fill me with the fruits of the spirit, give me strength when I am finding things difficult. Help me to see that you are always working. Thank you that you are a faithful God that you want us to give it all because you can handle it all. I am thankful that you are a good God. Amen.

I felt 10 feet tall as young boy whenever I would visit my dad at work. He was the branch manager at a local bank. I sensed the employees being careful to do their job well and follow dad’s instructions. He was their boss but I called him ‘dad.’ And this was more than a name or title. It meant that I shared a special relationship with him that they did not. It meant that I was given special attention, and sometimes treats because of who my father was, and I got to relax and hang out in the boss’s office.

Jesus teaches us to begin our prayers with ‘Our Father.’ But I wonder if sometimes we become so familiar with calling God, ‘Father’ that we forget the incredible privilege that is ours through Jesus, to call the almighty, ‘Father.’ Whenever we utter the word, ‘Father’ to our God, we profess our relationship with him, our adoptions as children and all the eternal blessings that are ours through the redeeming work of Jesus. To call God, ‘Father’ should strike us as so wonderful that it is hard to come to terms with. In 1 John 3:1 we read, ‘See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.’

When next you pray, and begin with ‘Father,’ don’t rush on, but linger and enjoy the reality of your relationship with him, the riches and blessings of the eternal privilege of being his child.

Father, thank you for redeeming me through your son and making me your child. Cause the truth of this relationship to penetrate my heart deeply that it may causes fountains of joy to spring forth until there be no greater thrill than to call you Father. Amen.

Ever been called out for doing something seemingly good – but someone actually saw your true motive was anything but pure? Maybe recognition, self-promotion or gain? In John 6 Jesus had just miraculously fed the 5000, when the following day some of the crowd come searching for him, finding him in the synagogue. Whilst they may have said they were seeking his teachings, Jesus bluntly sets things straight, “You are seeking me because you ate your fill of the loaves.” By highlighting their impure motives, he removed any false pretence. In this public place, their true motives were exposed. But, Jesus never exposes our sin for shame, but reveals it to move us out of it.

Jesus went on to tell them, “Do not work for food that perishes, but for food that endures to eternal life.” We often need to remove something in our lives that we’re attempting to fill ourselves with, to make room to be fully satisfied by the food Jesus offers. It could be like gorging on McDonalds, then not having room to eat a nutritious healthy meal put in front of you… You won’t be sustained with energy for life, and will probably feel a whole lot of guilt and regret about an hour later!… What might you need stop consuming with your eyes, mind, thoughts, or time… To make room to consume more of Jesus’ eternal and fully satisfying food? He desires us to move forward from our sin, through belief in Him.

Lord, Jesus you are the bread of life. Thankyou that just by believing in you I have eternal life. Please help me to die to my own desires and come to you first everyday for the life sustaining food you offer.

All the time I justify having a lay the couch, shopping spree or even a holiday by telling myself I earned it. I say to myself “you work full time” or “it’s been a hard day, you’ve earned it”. This subconscious way of thinking was challenged for me on a trip to India. I met some amazing people who spend their life labouring in poverty just to survive. How could it be that my work earned me luxury and theirs earned nothing?

Paul says in Ephesians 2:4, “God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions…” The truth is that we don’t deserve anything but death.

Paul goes on to say in verse 8 “it is by grace that you have been saved through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

The grace of Jesus can’t be earned therefore the only appropriate response for it is an overflow of gratitude and worship. In the same way, the luxuries we experience in Australia are not a deserved entitlement but they should spur on in us thankfulness to God and generosity to others. What is something that you take for granted?

Lord, remind me that I deserve nothing. You are the giver of good gifts. Take my incorrect sense of entitlement and replace it with a heart of gratitude. Help me to be generous with the resources you give me and grow my love for others. Amen.

As a child, I remember playing with that classic kids toy in which you fit different shapes into their corresponding holes on the sides of a ball. It didn’t take long to figure out that no matter how hard I pushed or which way I orientated it, there was no way the triangle shape was going to fit into the circle hole. Now, 17 years later, I realise how this is exactly the same for us spiritually!

In the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:13-14

Jesus teaches us that if we continue trying to force the wrong shapes – money, our job, our reputation – into the hole that God created for the Holy Spirit, then we will continue to thirst because these things will never satisfy us. Instead, Jesus tells us that if we drink of the water he gives, which is the Holy Spirit, then we will no longer thirst but will be completely satisfied, having eternal life.

Father, thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit – the living water that satisfies our soul for all eternity. Keep us from seeking satisfaction from things of this world but to depend on you alone.

One birthday, Jess asked me to make chocolate mousse for her. A first for me, but I felt confident, until I got to separating the egg yolks from the whites. Perhaps my problem was my YouTube method which involved sucking up the yokes with an empty plastic bottle. So a few bits of yoke got into the whites, which I ignored. The recipe said to whip the whites into soft, white, fluffy peaks. No matter how hard I whipped, there was no sign of them. Eventually I learned, 24 eggs later, you can’t ignore egg yolk in the whites – they just wont whip.

Our God is a holy God who requires holiness. He will not ignore sin. He cannot. While this may be terrifying, as those trusting in Jesus it becomes the greatest news ever. Don’t you long to be free from sin? In 1 John 3:2 we read, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared: but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

This is our blessed hope! To be perfected in Christ. His sinlessness achieved in us, which we could have never achieved no matter how hard we tried to whip ourselves up into holiness. And with this great joy in view, let’s not show tolerance to sin in our life now. For as John says in the next verse, “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

Thank you Father, you are the author and perfector of our faith. We groan to be free from sin, but until that day Lord, we ask you to inflame our desire for holiness in this life, to the glory of our Saviour, Jesus. Amen.

All eyes were on John the Baptist. For generations, no one had spoken words with such power. When John preached, God moved in power. John’s close followers found themselves at the centre of mass revival. But the people’s gaze was soon redirected. A new figure emerged whose presence outshone them all. Finding themselves out of the spotlight, John’s inner circle of friends winced with a conflicted spirit, their words tinged with disappointment, “Rabbi… he is baptizing and all are going to Him”.

John looked lovingly at his friends. This was the very moment he had longed for. He leaned in to them and said, “Friends, this joy of mine is complete, He must increase, but I must decrease”. (John 3:30).

Jealousy hits us all when we least expect it. We see something that someone has – a possession, a character trait, appearance, a talent or more attention and we wish we had it. One thing we all know – a jealous person is a miserable person!

So how do we grow out of jealousy? The answer is found in John the Baptist’s highest joy – Christ exalted above all things. A person whose highest joy is Christ exalted feels jealous for only one thing – that Christ gets the glory in all things. All other things are not worthy of our jealousy.

As you approach God today, ask yourself “What is my highest joy?” “What do I treasure most?” Is it the exaltation of Christ? His glory is the antidote for jealousy and the recipe for true joy.

Lord, please forgive me for the sin of jealousy. I recognise that I get jealous because I value the wrong things. Please show me more of your glory that I may find my joy in you alone. When others succeed, help me to praise you for your grace to them and me. Thank you for your patience with me and please fill me with your Spirit that I may grow in my love for you.