Monday, March 14, 2022 8:24 AM

The Leader’s Psalm

Monday, March 14, 2022 8:24 AM
Monday, March 14, 2022 8:24 AM

 

Pray for Ukraine by lauraypablo on DeviantArt

by Bill Lawrence, President of Leader Formation International

The Twenty-third Psalm is The Leader’s Psalm, David’s psalm, one he may have created as a shepherd, that he sang over and over again throughout his leadership as the King and when he was a warrior. It must have been a vital verse for him.  For that reason I offer it to you as a word for all who lead in these seasons of injustice as Jesus walks beside you in your season of darkness.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death

 I fear no evil, for you are with me.

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

                                                Psalm 23:4

For our brothers and sisters in Ukraine under

the attack of the evil one from one who walks with you

Today I speak to you as a pastor to pastors.

If I could be with you as you serve your frightened sheep, the suffering, the crying, the questioning, the suffering—all who wrestle in the most difficult times of their lives—I want to tell you what the ultimate Shepherd is saying to you. You have so many overwhelmed hearts, so many who carry such terrible weights, who have such penetrating pain and face such undeserved injustice. You must bear all of this with your sheep. And yet as pastors you have your own families, your wives, your children, and even your aging parents. Still you are their shepherd, the one who turns to follow the Chief Shepherd.

So I come to you to support you in some way, with words that I hope will encourage and help you and give you strength from the One who gave all for you. May it be that the sheep you lead can find a way to follow His word as you follow Him, the Chief Shepherd who walked the same path of pain for us and paid the price for sin that we will never have to pay. We will pay for following Him, but never for our sin, and through us we trust Him that many others will know the forgiveness He has given us.

What you must understand is that the evil one who attacked Him now attacks you who follow Him who enter the valley of death with Him. The Lord walks alongside you and protects you now. He can never take you down even if the shadow takes you from the struggles of life into the glory of eternity without ever actually taking you down into the damage of death. This is what the death of Jesus on Calvary and His resurrection brings to us.  This is what I would say to you if I could be with you and what I say to you now. Read my word to you as I take you to Psalm 23:4. There is no word greater than this, no certainty truer, nothing more absolute, nothing more certain.

So I say to you no matter what you face that you must do what this verse says.

Follow the Leader

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death

On our way to eternal life as we follow the Leader, we will enter into the shadow of death.

This is not a way we would choose, but it is a way we will all face. Many of us have already walked through the valley of death with Him as we have walked with Him even when we didn’t know it. I certainly have. When I was five years old I entered this valley when I had pneumonia and lived on the edge of death for three weeks, but the Good Shepherd took care of me through the desperate prayer of my parents and the newly created sulpha drug that delivered me and brought me to health. And once again, only five years ago I had a fall that took me to the edge of death, yet God delivered me from death to life through prayer and the amazing wisdom of medical experts enabled by God.

Many of you have had the same experience in very different ways.

Now large numbers of you face this same risk as the Russians rush in on you. They come to take you and those you shepherd. They tear upon your fold, strive to destroy your safe place, tear apart your secure life, and destroy all you have built. What must you do? Can you take as many as possible to a safe place, perhaps in Poland or Romania or even further? What of those who are weak and in deep need? Can you protect them? The answers to these and other questions are confusing and uncertain.

But we must remember that we experience only the shadow of death, not the destructive grip of death. Yet if death takes you, He takes you to the banquet of glory He has prepared for you that lies ahead of you as He promised.

Those who know Jesus will never know the true grip of death, the choaking grasp of death, the tear that takes us down and rips life out of us. We are never torn away from life. Death never grips us or holds us or rips us away from eternal reality. We are never dead. Our bodies are, but our hearts, our souls, our spirits, our eternal realities never ever take is into any true loss of any kind. Instead, we are transformed from the temporal to the eternal. And those who follow Jesus with us must know this. He walks beside us, in the shadow of death, between death and us. He is always real to us no matter what we face. Call upon Him and lead them to call upon Him, and they will know His presence and His protection.

This is why we only enter the shadow of death and never death itself no matter how real it appears to be. We die, but we are never dead. Our bodies die, yet our selves are never dead. We only know eternal life through the grace of God.

Those who follow the Shepherd with us must know this. You must constantly tell them this.

This is not a false truth. This is the greatest truth we can ever have and give to those we shepherd. There is a dark valley, but there is a brilliant celebration for all who trust Him. Putin can never take this away from us!

Fear no Evil

I fear no evil, for you are with me.

Fear will come upon us when we first face death.

You cannot help but feel fear. It is all around you. The reality of what you face will come upon you and you cannot avoid the reality of what is happening. I have spent days thinking about what is happening and I have seen the events become worse and worse until now I see buildings where you have lived being destroyed, beautiful buildings being reduced to ashes, hospitals twisted into places of pain rather than sources of strength, husbands and wives weeping as they are crammed onto trains and separated, perhaps forever. I see places where I have been now attacked, men and women whom I have served being threatened, all because of one evil man. Just one evil man! One sinful evil man! How amazing can the evil one be. Perhaps you have noticed that I have not capitalized the term “evil one.” I choose not to dignify this term nor that demon. I will not honor such an evil person in even such a small way. No evil person is worthy of even a capital letter.

Yet it is a battle not to fear the evil of our world, especially the evil of our time that would destroy this great country of Ukraine that has become the strongest testimony for Christ in Europe in our day. The country has grown to become a major center for the cross of Calvary, the core of the good news of Jesus of Nazareth, the proclaimers of His message, so strategic that the evil one has acted against its true greatness.

So we must turn from our weakness in ourselves to radically dependence on the Shepherd we follow, the One who walks beside us in the shadow of death. We carry the cross even as He did and bear His fruit for so many who face His sacrifice. Pray for them as they walk untouched through that dark, dark valley of death to the glory that awaits them, whether it is the glory of time or eternity.

Find all Comfort

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

How can we have comfort as we struggle in the days of darkness?

We share many days of darkness as I write this, the valley of the shadow of death. Still, Jesus is beside us. While we are full of fear, we must trust Him, and He frees us from the fear of death. So we can be free from fear because have His rod and His staff. Yet you have never needed the Shepherd’s tools and the Shepherd’s comfort so much. What else can you count on? How can you count on it? The Russians are all around you! All you have are the weapons of the Cross and the tools of the Shepherd. All that Jesus carried on His back is now on your backs and all that He used are in your hands, as you remain radically dependent on Him. I cannot be physically with you, but I am prayerfully with you, and I call on scores and scores of brothers and sisters around the world to join with you to support you and walk with you as you carry that Cross on Calvary’s road, even on the Ukrainian Way. But remember, you walk on the Resurrection Way also, the Jesus way, the way Jesus walked as He went to the Cross and then was carried to the grave and then rose to the resurrection and finally arose to His throne. He rules even over Russia. He rules over Russia, and He will carry you with Him either through life or through death to resurrection, but always to worship at His throne and His glory. In this darkest valley you must be full of hope even as we are for you and with you.

What weapons do you have?  Some rifles, some grenades, perhaps some artillery, maybe you will get some fighter planes or some rockets. Who knows? But maybe you will have none. Remember that David was often without weapons in his battles, or at least with adequate weapons or enough weapons, but God always out weaponed by His enemies, even when He had no weapons. We do not know what He is going to do, only that prayer is one of the greatest weapons of all. And who is greater than the Holy Spirit? We do not know what Jesus is going to do and we do not know how He is going to win, but we do know that He will defeat His enemies in His time, yet at great cost, the cost of the Cross.

David, the poet, knew much about battle. After all, he was a warrior, a king who fought many wars. The first one we know of was for few short moments with the giant Goliath, whom he defeated with apparent ease because his giant faith overcame the giant’s armor. Yet he faced many other struggles, some of which were in himself with his pride and his lust, even greater than with Goliath. And some of them he lost because he didn’t face them the same way he faced them with the Philistine because he lacked trust in the sovereign Yahweh who was always on his side. How tragic it is not to remember that God is constantly on our side, especially when we suffer. It is then that we learn about resurrection.

There is suffering at this time and Calvary is always more than we want to pay, but His triumph is always resurrection, yet at great cost, but only through Jesus, who walks in this dark valley with us, and we have His weapons, the weapons of the Cross that brings us to resurrection and prayer.

The chief weapon is prayer, our cry out to the Lord who also cried out in prayer to His Father from the cross. But now we have what He has finished. His work is done. He not only has the weapon of prayer but also the weapon of His very resurrection, His defeat of the evil one, the triumph over death and the eternal victory of lasting life. He has won the war! No matter what battle we face, if we cry out to Him and fight with the weapons of prayer and resurrection we will have His presence, even when the battle is overwhelming.

You walk through the valley of the shadow of death. You didn’t choose it or cause it or create it, you just suddenly enter into it with those who unexpectedly enter it. Actually, I have not entered into this. My far away friends, my brothers, my fellow pastors, those I served but never knew except as I spoke to you when I met with you at Kiev and in other parts of Ukraine, those men whom I taught from God’s word, you are the ones who are now in the valley of the shadow of death, and I enter it with you as I can. If I could, I would walk with you against the evil one and his agents in this time. I want to walk with you as best I can, which is not very much, but God’s word takes me there, and I want His truth to sustain you. What little I have I give you, but while I have little, He has all, and He gives all to you. May His weapons and His tools be your strength in this terrible time

As He said,

I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.

P.S. This is a message of the word I sent to the pastors I served in Ukraine to support them in their effort to help those who struggle so much from the injustice of Putin in Ukraine. It is all I can do to stand with them in these overwhelming days. Please pray for these pastors and make every effort you can to stand with the Chief Shepherd to stand beside the shepherds of the suffering sheep in that terrible nation. The evil one has done all he can to attack the Cross and overcome the Resurrection, but no one and nothing can overcome what the human Jesus did, the One who now reigns eternally on His divine and holy throne. Cry out for them even as He did from the Cross and has commissioned us to do from the mountain in Galilee. He rules over Putin. No one can overcome Him! Go and live The Leader’s Psalm in His will.

 

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