Led on Purpose

Led on Purpose

INTERPRETATION

Biblical Interpretation

I want to look at a well-loved passage of Scripture, today. It is very well-known, and very popular.

I am not sharing anything novel, today, but I love the wonderful the truth of this psalm.

Before going to seminary, I thought Psalm 23 was only about the theme of our Lord being our Shepherd, but once I was in seminary, I learned that there is another metaphor in the psalm.

While this understanding was new to me, and it helped me to understand the psalm, in reality, I still understood the psalm’s purpose and meaning before spending scholarship funds on my classes J

The second metaphor is that of a Host, and in the final two verses, we see terms like “table,” “cup” and “house,” which would support this interpretation.

Since seminary, I’ve read other interpretations, one in fact disproves that “host” altogether, and continues the understanding of the Lord being our Shepherd throughout all six verses.

Interpretation is important, and needs to lead us to understanding what God is saying.

Live Consecutive-Interpretation

I have lots of experience preaching with interpreters, in fact, I still, sometimes, think I need to pause, while preaching to give room to the interpreter J

While we served in Kazakhstan, I preached, gave speeches and taught classes in the Russian language, and yet, I still preferred to have interpreters.

I felt that with the interpreter, I was able to communicate even better.

I found that having more than one interpreter was a good thing.

As well, when studying the Scriptures, I find that using different translations is also helpful at understanding depth to God’s Word.

When I would preach in Kazakhstan, as I learned Russian, I had to have good interpreters, otherwise, I would be distracted by their mistakes.

Overall, even when we had weak interpreters, the audience understood what was being taught, most of the time.

And if not, then they would interrupt and ask appropriate questions.

ILLUSTRATION:

There were a few funny situations that happened with interpreters:

SASHA

I had one interpreter who would listen to me, and then put his finger to his mouth and say, “soooooo….” And then would interpret.

RUSLAN

Another used to reword what I said, and would preface it by saying, “In short, he said, ‘blah, blah, blah.’”

SAULE

There was one interpreter who worked with me for many years.

She was rather robotic, and wouldn’t always listen to what I was saying, but was able to automatically interpret. This, at times, though was funny.

On one occasion, I mentioned that a group of Kurds (that is, “Kurdish” people) had put their faith in Jesus, and were now Christian. My interpreter translated “Cheese curds” rather than “Kurds” and said that 50 cheese curds were saved.

People interrupted with, “excuse me, but what did you say?”

It gave us a good laugh.

Over all, people, hopefully, remember that God’s Word was preached, even if all they can recall after all of these years is the mistranslated remark.

INTERPRETING SCRIPTURE

Sometimes we may find that even if someone interprets Scripture a little differently than we, it might actually not be so bad.

Thus, two different interpretations of Psalm 23, is not a crisis for my faith.

In fact, when we approach the Scriptures, we need to do so from Faith.

The Bible, for example, does not prove God’s existence, but assumes it.

So, as we look at psalm 23, today, let’s notice the  description of our Lord.

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

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.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

The title of my message today is “Led on Purpose.” Let’s pray.

Led on Purpose

PRAY

  1. Who Is Leading Us?

In leadership seminars, we are told that

“if you think you are leading and no one is following you, then you’re only taking a walk.”

I found this motivational poster online. It says that this is an Afghan proverb, but it was attributed to many different sources.

And, I’m not sure why they use a penguin to illustrate something Afghani, but it is cute.

But, when no one is following the leader, that’s NOT cute.

And the converse is also true:

If you say you’re being led, but not acting like your leader, then you’re just taking a walk.

I think it is sad that many of us who call ourselves Christians find ourselves

  • merely taking a walk,
  • rather than walking with Jesus.

TRANSFORMATION vs LACK-OF-FORMATION

One of the greatest accomplishments that Jesus completes in the lives of ordinary people is the evidence of a transformed life.

Over the past 43 years as a believer in Jesus, I’ve seen many people transformed.

There have been times when I’ve seen evidence of transformation in my own life, too, Thank God!

Yet, one of the greatest obstacles to people finding New Life through Jesus is the many non-transformed people who call themselves Christian. They are those who are in LACK-OF-FORMATION… NON-TRANSFORMED

If we are honest, we recognize that there is evidence of LACK-OF-FORMATION in our own lives, too.

The Lord is my shepherd.

Is that true?

If Jesus, indeed, IS our Shepherd, then we will be moving toward transformation, rather than LACK-OF-FORMATION.

One of the most common times to hear the 23rd Psalm is a funeral.

It’s a comforting Scripture that may or may not have described the deceased.

Those in the audience are touched for that moment, but for the deceased, it is too late.

We need to see who the Lord is, and who We are in relation to Him.

Are we transformed?

Is He really our Shepherd? Our Host? Or the Head of our Household?

Let’s open the door for more transformation in our lives…

each of us in this room.

Let us pray and model this for our families, neighborhoods and city.

Thus, according to the two interpretations of Psalm 23, [the Lord is my Shepherd, and He is my Host.]

What does that make you and me?

We are the Lord’s Sheep and His Guest and His Family.

That is, if we are being led by the Lord…if we are being…

Led on Purpose

Who is leading us?

Are we leading ourselves?

Are circumstances leading us?

Are we being led by our personal desires?

OR Are we dying to self so that we can be led by our Shepherd? By Our Lord? By our Host?

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another.      

As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34, 35

[what is fascinating is that just after Jesus said this, he predicted Peter’s denial of him]

Are we loving one another, which Jesus said was a sign that people would know whose disciples we really are?

If we are, then we are being

Led on Purpose

So, the question has been “Who Is Leading Us?”

Most of us in this room represent the older generations.

Yet, Generation-X and the Millennials aren’t well represented.

We want our church to reach out to these generations, and I want us, individually, to see how we can help those aged 20-50 (roughly–depending on how we look at these generations).

We need to consider, who in this age group is, already, following us?

  • Co-workers
  • Employees
  • Neighbors
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Facebook Friends

And then we need to be praying for opportunities to share with them how the Lord is leading us.

TRULY, we are ALL leaders of people,

BUT the question is,

are we good leaders of people?

We may ALL be followers of Jesus, but the question is,

are we good followers of Jesus?

So, let’s Look at another question:

  1. How Is He Leading Us?

This is an important question, because it is in the “how” that we recognize our real needs.

In Psalm 23 we see that the Lord leads us in the following ways:

How the Lord Leads in Psalm 23

  1. Provisions
  2. Discipline
  3. Guidance
  4. Protection
  5. Belonging

There are many sermons that can be preached

  • about how the Lord is our provider, and I can share about that at another time.
  • about how the Lord disciplines us.
  • And how He guides us
  • and protects us.

But the final point is that of BELONGING.

How does the Lord Lead us?

By leading us into a family.

We are welcomed into His Fold/His Flock,

and He shows us that He is our Shepherd,

our Host

and even the Head of the Household.

If we are being Led on Purpose, then

WE ARE BEING LED TO BELONG

Led on Purpose—Led to Belong

Who is leading us?

And How is He Leading us?

He is leading us into BELONGING.

You see, because He is our Shepherd, I have everything I need.

I’ve seen God provide miraculously.

Let me give you an example:

ILLUSTRATION

I recall once in Seminary when we did not have enough money for bills, and I didn’t know what to do.

But we prayed.

The funny thing is, that just before we began to pray, the mail man had delivered a letter with a check in it from a friend.

That check was all we needed at that point.

So, while we were praying, the need was already met.

In fact, the check had been written several days, prior, before we had that need.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

Psalm 23:1

He knows what I need before I pray for it, even before I need it.

It is because we belong…we belong to Him,

We belong to Each Other!

Some people, erroneously judge other Christians for not having what they need.

People told me, once,

“If you have a need, that means that you are not seeking God, first,”

and I felt under judgment for that.

Someone said,

“The Scripture teaches, that the RIGHTEOUS ARE NOT FORSAKEN.”

25 I was young and now I am old,
    yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
    or their children begging bread.

Psalm 37:25

“Therefore, if you are a Christian,”

PEOPLE SAID TO ME,

“and in need, then you must be unrighteous.”

I think that this kind of INTERPRETAION and TEACHING comes from the Prosperity Teachers and not from the Whole Counsel of Scripture.

And, yes, we need to die to self, and we need to seek His Kingdom

and Righteousness, first and daily,

but there are people who are unrighteous, and they have an abundance of provision.

Are we

Led on Purpose

Are we

Led on Purpose—Led to Belong

We are.

Or we should be.

The 23rd psalm states that I have all that I need, I am led in the right paths,

and that I will live in the Lord’s house, forever (including now).

And yet the same writer also said,

25 I was young and now I am old,
    yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
    or their children begging bread.

Psalm 37:25

I talked a bit about interpretation.

One of the most important points about interpreting a story, is to understand the back story.

And to understand and interpret the Bible, we need to understand the context.

Sometimes we mean the historical context,

but simply, it can just be the literary context…

in other words, what verses are included with Psalm 37:25?

When we look at the next verse, we see the righteous described, again, not just as being taken care of, but as people who are generous.

25 I was young and now I am old,
    yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
    or their children begging bread.
26 They are always generous and lend freely;
    their children will be a blessing.

Psalm 37:25, 26

So, when we see people in need, let’s not consider their RIGHTEOUSNESS,

BUT, LET’S CONSIDER OURS.

Have we done the righteous thing, and reached out to those who are hurting?

Remember…

If you SAY you’re being led, but not acting like your leader, then you are just taking a walk.

So, when we read Psalm 23 and see that because the Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing, it means that the Lord is leading us to help others, too.

He is Leading us to help people with ….

How the Lord Leads in Psalm 23

  1. Provisions
  2. Discipline
  3. Guidance
  4. Protection
  5. Belonging

When we are being led by the Shepherd,

we hear His voice,

and our hearts change.

Our desires change from what our will wants to what His will IS.

If we are being Led on Purpose, then we are not only belonging, but we are helping others to belong, too.

I am so glad that we are friendly to everyone who enters this church,

whether they are a drug-addict or alcoholic (former and current),

or a previously incarcerated person,

whether they ride a motorcycle, pickup truck or SUV, we are welcoming people to belong.

Whether they vote Republican or Democrat,

and whether they were born in the USA or in another country.

We who are being led to belong, MUST DO THE RIGHT THING, encourage others to be led BY THE SHEPHERD into belonging, too.

That is how I am interpreting Scripture.

How can I learn to belong to the family of God?

How can I invite more people into His family?

How can I spend time seeking His Kingdom and His Righteousness? 

ILLUSTRATION-CONTINUED

I told you about the interpretation mistakes earlier because I was having fun, but I want to tell you that once I was teaching for two days to a group of Gypsy Bible students in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

I had no interpreter. I didn’t realize that there would be no interpreter, so I was less prepared that I would have wanted to be.

I talked about Psalm 23 and when I was finished, this group of 25-30 Gypsy men gathered around me to pray. I prayed for them and they for me. It was a beautiful time.

As I was closing, in prayer, I said,

“thank you God for being our Shepherd, and for letting us be your sheep.”

At least that is what I thought I had said. Some of those men began to chuckle, and then one prompted me with a different word for “sheep” than I had used.

 After prayer I asked,

 “what did I say?”

 I realized I had said,

 “You are our Shepherd and we are your mutton.”

Sometimes we feel like mutton rather than cute, cuddly sheep.

God calls us to be

Faithful

Available

Teachable

And in addition to that, I believe that God is calling us to be Fit:

Fearless

Intentional

Trained (or in Training)

Because the Lord is My Shepherd, I can be…

  • Faithful
  • Available
  • Teachable

Because I am being Led on Purpose, I can be…

  • Fearless
  • Intentional
  • And Trained/In Training

And in this way, we will welcome people into a BELONGING relationship with God and with His Church.

Let’s pray

RESPONSE

 

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