Psalm 23: Sermon Notes

Jesus fighting wolves

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

-Psalm 23:4

Sunday, Sept. 30 I had the privilege of leading a short 5-minute sermon at church. I was one of 6 people who spoke on Psalm 23. My assigned verse is listed above.

Each chapter in the Bible has so much to offer us, during my pre-sermon studies I discovered that God’s Word will teach you something new every time you read it, even if it’s one verse!

My Sermon Notes:

When I read (Psalm 23:4) the first thing God highlighted to me was, “the shadow of death.” That is all death is, just a shadow we will all someday pass under, but thanks to Jesus, death will never have the final say, it will never have substance, as 1 Corinthians 15:55 says

“Where O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting?”

The next line, “I will fear no evil” is the assurance that God is enough and that satan stands defeated even while we walk this valley of death. The battle over satan and death is already decided. The battle is not God vs. satan but man vs. satan. We can share in God’s victory!

“You are with me.” God doesn’t trail behind you, He doesn’t begrudgingly walk with you, I believe that He walks in stride with you, hand in hand. Just like He did in the garden of Eden, in the cool of the day with Adam and Eve. “you are with me” implies that God stands beside us, and has a close relationship with us. There is a bond, an agreeance in mind, will, and heart.

Here’s something you can do, next time you are alone with God doing devotions ask God to show you where He was standing in a particular moment in your life when you felt afraid or alone. I believe He will show you and you will be amazed to see that He wasn’t far away but right at your side.

You see, in the moment when you are afraid it’s hard to see or feel God. And that is because fear is imagining a future without Him. It blinds us to the truth and can cripple us spiritually, mentally and physically because we weren’t created to ever feel alone or separated from God’s presence.

Lastly, we read the phrase, “Your rod and staff, they comfort me.”

rod and staff

As a shepherd, you carried roughly two tools, a rod and a staff. The curved handle of the staff was used to pull sheep in when they started to stray off. The rod was used to drive the sheep or discipline them. And either tool worked well against fighting wolves.

Like a father in the wilderness with his child, he will discipline and he will protect, he will guide and he will comfort, and he will walk hand in hand with you because he loves you!

Who here loves discipline? It can hurt! Here’s something I didn’t want to hear when I researched a shepherd’s rod. If a certain lamb strayed off too many times, endangering itself, the shepherd would use the rod to break one or two of its legs. This way the lamb wouldn’t be able to leave and would learn the hard way never to stray too far from the protection of the shepherd. Ouch! We are to find comfort in that? Yes.

(After the sermon a dear friend of mine mentioned that the shepherd most likely carried the lamb over his shoulders with him wherever he went, building trust and dependency)

I’m not saying God will break your legs, but if we ever find ourselves turning from Him, ignoring his call, or not heeding his warnings, we had better hope He will save us from total destruction, that He will remind us that we need Him more than anything and anyone. God doesn’t cause horrible things to happen, but often He works through those times to bring us closer to Him.

I knew someone who never settled down, they were so busy all the time, never stopping. They didn’t listen to God when He warned, “slow down, I didn’t create you to work like this!” Pretty soon that person had an accident that kept them bedridden for months, they were forced to go slow. But they didn’t wallow in self-pity, their faith was renewed and their focus shifted toward God and they were restored in more ways than one.

God cares more about the heart of an individual than the body of an individual. Our body, though important, is only a shell concealing our Spirit, the core of our being. The body will fail us someday, but our hearts will remain. And so, give praise to God during times of discipline, understand that it doesn’t bring him joy to discipline you, but He loves you so much that He would rather you break your leg then be killed by a pack of wolves.

Proverbs 13:24

“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.”





“Satan is so much more in earnest than we are–he buys up the opportunity while we are wondering how much it will cost.” 
― Amy Carmichael

Moves and countermoves. I’ve seen it over and over, satan makes what appears to be a striking blow against God’s children, and to his dismay, we deal him an even greater one. It has been a never-ending game of chess, and yet his pieces are being taken from the board, and soon we will checkmate him.

satan is crafty, but he is predictable. Since the beginning of time, he has learned of our weaknesses and has perfected his attack to specifically target those weaknesses. If we truly die to ourselves and become aware of our pitfalls, then we will be able to discern satan’s attacks, possibly even before they occur. Let’s face it, we have played chess together a long time, just as he has learned a great deal about us, we have learned a great deal about him.

Expect trials, temptations, and attacks, never assume that you are safe, and if you ever discover that you are, then I would question whether satan has already won you over. You see he won’t play chess against someone who won’t make a move. What damage could you do by standing still? He will chuckle and go sit at another table where his opponents are actually a threat to him.

You may keep your pieces safe this way, but you will never conquer ground for the Kingdom of God. Much like the servant who buried his master’s treasure in the Parable of the Three Servants (Matthew 25:14-30). Our heavenly master longs very much for us to use what has been given us to dispel the dark forces of the world and save the lost and hurting souls.

When we stand tall amidst trials, when we worship during times of suffering, when we pray, louder still, drowning out the sound of torrential rain from countless storms, we strike fear into satan and his demons, and his chess piece, meant to stop us in our tracks, rolls harmlessly to the floor.

I believe that is why we are here. We are here to fight, to win, and to lead as many people we can into that sweet victory. The ultimate game has been won, now it’s our turn to take back what is ours, and bring heaven to earth.

During this time of great loss at our church, I have also seen a greater passion being stirred, a righteous anger toward our enemy. Reminding us that we are all fighting a very real battle, and no “God pursuing Christian” is exempt from this fight. In fact, the deeper in we go, the more arrows we will have to block, and dragons we will have to slay. And yet, God is with us every step of the way, guiding our blade and keeping our feet steady.

devil, you’re a crafty one

but you don’t make the rules

I know the outcome of this game

You do not have me fooled

You think you have a snare laid out

But I’ve seen this move before

It may have snared a thousand men

But I won’t add one more

I laugh at your humility

Chess pieces on the floor

You still think you stand a chance?

I’ve seen the final score!

Pack up and leave this silly game

Before I start to snore

God holds my life upon His hands

I won’t fear you no more…

The Wilderness


“They did not say, ‘Where is the LORD Who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, Who led us through the wilderness, Through a land of deserts and of pits, Through a land of drought and of deep darkness, Through a land that no one crossed And where no man dwelt?’

-Jeremiah 2:6

Wilderness Definition:

An uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region.

  • a neglected or abandoned area of a garden or town.
  • a position of disfavor, especially in a political context.


Before reading this definition, the images I associated with the term, “wilderness” were relatively positive. I think of hikes through the woods or mountains, enjoying the raw beauty of God. Nature has always been a favorite place of mine to immerse in because it displays God. It is beautiful chaos, yet each facet fits together perfectly. There is a rhyme and reason and a lesson in everything I see. God is very present and very alive in those places, and His voice often becomes as clear as the wind in the trees or in the cry of the hawk.

However, my view of the wilderness is shaped by my experiences. I’ve never been lost, attacked by a wild animal, or caught up in a storm without shelter. Nor have I ever experienced another form of wilderness, such as the desert. The wilderness I know is rich and full of life, while the wilderness the Israelites knew, was a hot and unforgiving wasteland that only the strongest could withstand.

It is that “wilderness” in which Adam and Eve were cursed into. It was that wilderness in which Abraham raised his family, awaiting God’s promise. It was that wilderness in which Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. That wilderness in which Jesus was tested by satan.

Over and over again the bible mentions this wilderness. It was a place that the jews sent their sins into in the form of a goat, hence the term “scapegoat” (Leviticus 16:10), a place that the high and proud King Nebuchadnezzar was cast into like a wild animal, feasting on grass (Daniel 4:33). The wilderness was a place where the proud became humble, where faith was tested, and you could become lost in more ways than one.

Why did God create such a place? Why did He cause the Israelites to wander in it for 40 years? Why did Jesus have to go into the wilderness to be tested?

I believe there are many reasons but the core lesson is this; His grace is sufficient.

We have nothing, can do nothing, and are nothing apart from God. It is only by His grace that we live and are blessed. Every man must go through such a trial in order for this truth to come alive in his heart. Otherwise, we will always believe that “we” can overcome challenges on our own, or by our own might. We will take God’s blessings for granted or will attribute such blessings to our own skill and success.

“Consider it a gift when you hit a point in which God is your only option.”

-Brian Johnson, Christian singer/songwriter

“Faith is the inner confidence that God is enough.”

-Brian Simmons, author of the Passion Translation

Jesus often went away to the wilderness, even after he was tested by satan, to spend time alone with God. I believe it was in these moments Jesus renewed his strength. It is easy to forget that he was a man too, that he faced every hardship and suffered more than anyone for our sake. If the Son of God needed to go off alone and pray, then how much more do we need to do this?

Each of us has walked in or will walk through the wilderness. Maybe not in the literal sense, but in the spiritual one for certain. It is only through such a place that we learn to trust God, to surrender it all to Him, because only He can save us and our families.

Food For Thought


Every action we take first began as a thought.

Were Adam and Eve by the Forbidden Tree when satan tempted them? The bible doesn’t say, however, it does say that the tree was placed in the middle of the garden. I find this interesting, it makes me wonder if the tree could be seen no matter where you were in the garden. Adam and Eve in any case, probably grew accustomed to passing by the tree even if they gave it a wide birth. And it’s even more likely that they thought about the tree, even though they feared God’s wrath. Like a child told to not touch a plate of cookies, they may have outwardly taken a step back but inwardly imagined taking a bite.

And what about the Tree of Life? It too was placed in the middle of the garden for all to see, and yet unlike the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, God didn’t command Adam and Eve to not eat of it’s fruit. They could’ve eaten it’s fruit at any time, possibly unawares since the bible doesn’t show God describing this tree or it’s name to Adam. He was placed in the garden after God had created the trees, and God only named and pointed Adam to the one that was forbidden. It makes me wonder if God placed the trees together for a reason, maybe as a possible test. Should Adam and Eve pass the test, then would God have then told them about the Tree of Life and offered it’s fruit to them Himself?

I’ve discovered that God never hides gifts from us but for us. Through seeking and overcoming challenges He reveals His blessings and secrets to us. In other words, maybe He was hiding the Tree of Life for Adam and Eve to find at the right time, when they had proven they were ready for it.

Another possibility is that Adam and Eve were more captivated by what they couldn’t have than what they could. That was the lie that satan deceived them with after all. He made them believe that God had withheld something good from them, when in reality He had given them everything including the Tree of Life. Did they turn their backs on it all because of that one forbidden thing? It is possible, considering how people are today. The girl you can’t have because she is married, the car you can’t afford, the cake you can’t eat because you are dieting…desire for something has been proven to increase the moment you find that it is forbidden or unattainable.

Lastly, as a final food for thought.

Did God want to see if Adam and Eve would fall into the same sin as satan? The bible describes satan before the fall as being given much authority and beauty. Some believe He was even the angel in charge of worship. (See Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14) His sin that led to him being cast out of heaven was pride. He thought himself a god worthy of worship, and in this he turned his back on his blessings and the one who gave him such blessings, all because of the one thing (the throne seat) he couldn’t have.

In both cases, the sin wasn’t in the thinking but in the doing. Eve taking a bite of the fruit, satan outwardly rebelling against God, turning to violence, and influencing a third of the angels to follow him. And yet, we should still guard our minds from such thoughts that lead to sin. Our thoughts and our focus reveal our heart, and a heart that is set against God does not go unnoticed by Him. Nor does it go unnoticed by those around you, eventually our true colors will shine through, spilling out in action.

What are your thoughts on the garden of Eden/the first sin?

Prophecies: The End Times (Part 1)


“Besides this, you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.”

-Romans 13:11

Though it is impossible for us to know the day or hour of our Lord’s coming (Matthew 24:36/Mark 13:32), God didn’t cover the heavenly timetable completely. Throughout the Bible, there have been prophecies spoken that were recorded for a purpose. I believe that purpose was so we would better understand the signs today.

We are not called to understand it all, but we are called to see that time is running short, just as Romans stated above. Every day that passes brings us closer to His coming, regardless of whether that coming is in our lifetime or not. For the very sake of our children and children’s children, it is our driven destiny to do what we can with the time we have been given. Every lost soul that is saved, will bring us a step closer to His coming.

 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.[a] That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. (2 Peter 3:11-12)

So many believe that the Lord acts alone in this when truly He is co-laboring with us to bring about the End. We can hasten His coming! that should excite us, that should be reason enough alone to spread the gospel, to reunite our divided family, to reach out into the far corners of the world and dispel the darkness.

What time are we in? Where do we sit on this timetable now that we know we can speed up its progress? Let’s take a look at what we know has come to pass, and what is in the making. Starting with this prophecy told by Jesus, who is himself, a culmination of many prophecies fulfilled.

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. (Matthew 24:3-8)

He goes on to talk about us Christians being persecuted and many falling away from faith. But this will bring about a wave of new hope, as those Christians who persevere will be saved and a worldwide revival will break out…and then Jesus says, “the end will come.” And the sign we are to look for is the abomination of desolation which was originally prophesied about in Daniel, as an erected idol in Jerusalem by their enemies, or quite possibly the destruction of the Temple Mount. Which we are waiting to see built today. After this Jesus said that people in Judea would flee to the mountains and the greatest Tribulation would then occur.

The focal point of this prophecy is to take place in Jerusalem, and that is significant. As Israel in itself only became a state in 1948, and Jerusalem has finally been recognized as the capital of Israel only a few days ago when America moved the embassy there. These occurrences pave the way for future events.

Now, what can we gather from the rest of Jesus’s prophecy? Today we can claim that there have been rumors of wars, nations rising against nations, famines, and earthquakes.  So, therefore, we are at the beginning at least, of what Jesus calls “the birth pains.” Also, though the media generally ignores it, persecution against Christians has risen throughout the world. Due to the rise of Islam and more recently ISIS, Christians have been targeted and brutally killed in the past few years in great numbers. The Center for Studies on New Religions discovered that 90,000 Christians were killed in 2016 alone. Open Doors USA estimated that today, 322 Christians are killed every month. (Those are just some of many statistics that can be found)

Lastly, let’s talk about the advancements in technology, which have made sense of many prophecies that speak of “worldwide” recognition of events. Not to mention, have made it possible for us to annihilate ourselves which can be tied to what Jesus says in Matthew 24:21-22, after talking about the abomination of desolation:

“For at that time there will be great tribulation, unmatched from the beginning of the world until now, and never to be seen again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect, those days will be shortened.”

Technology plays a major rule, especially in regards to the two witnesses of God, mentioned in Revelations. It is said that they will prophesy for 1,260 days and then they will be killed. After that, verse 11:7-10 states:

“Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth”


Though there is much more to say, and many more verses to discuss, for now, I will end in saying that the times are changing, the puzzle pieces are falling into place, and we are a part of this great march, this walk down the aisle. The Bride must be ready, for Christ is coming soon.

God bless



From Saul to Paul

A.D. The Bible Continues

“Now for several days, he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, “Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?”‘ 

-Acts 9:19-25

I have always known that Paul had once persecuted those of the faith, but never had I truly considered what he was like before his encounter on the road to Damascus. The image above is from TV series, A.D. The Bible Continues, in which Paul first arrives on the scene as terrifyingly cruel and insatiably zealous. We see that even as Saul, he was a passionate man who could persuade others. He was also very loyal to the temple and high priest, but not quite as loyal as he was towards Judaism. All these traits that Saul had twisted, would be incredibly useful tools in ministry later on. But at this point, they had made him a monster to be feared, and who could not be stopped from his pursuit.

“And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves understand that in one synagogue after another I used to imprison and beat those who believed in You. ‘And when the blood of Your witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing by approving and watching out for the coats of those who were slaying him.” –Acts 22:19-20

When the Lord wants you, He will take you for His Kingdom and Glory. Saul discovered this on the road to Damascus, which he was traveling towards to acquire letters allowing him permission to arrest and bind any Christian he may find and take them to Jerusalem. In a moment his world was flipped upside down, the truth was undeniable and his eyes were opened. And then he lost his sight.

This was Saul’s defining moment, he received a new identity, he also probably felt the weight of his sin come crashing down on him for he didn’t eat or drink for a few days after this encounter. Now a Christian, blinded, and alone with his confused escorts, he had only one idea as to what to do next. God had given him the name, Ananias, who would be able to heal his eyes.

Ananias also received God’s call to assist Saul. Can you imagine the fear he probably felt? It would be the equivalent of a modern-day Christain being called to heal an ISIS leader. With Saul’s eyes opened, he was immediately baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. And at once he went to preach the good news in the city.

Remember, Saul’s identity may have been completely changed, but his personality, the traits that made him a man to be feared before, now made him a considerable ally. The zealousness once fueled by hatred was now fueled by love and grace, and could not be contained. Saul is the ultimate go-getter here, and I’m sure Ananias had his hands full.

At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?”22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.

23 After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept a close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall. –Acts 9:20-25

I believe that A.D. The Bible Continues does a great job of portraying this transformation in Saul. Just as he was filled with rage and contempt to the point of being driven to foreign lands after Jesus’s followers, he now carried such a great passion and love that he was driven immediately to the streets to proclaim the name of Jesus.

I never considered what happened next, Saul returned to Jerusalem in the hopes of being welcomed in just as Ananias had accepted him. But instead, he was met with fear and trepidation. It was still fresh in everyone’s minds the kind of man Saul was, the torture he had put the disciples through. Barnabas shared Saul’s story, and through time and the power of forgiveness Saul was accepted as a brother.

The change in his countenance would have been compelling proof enough of Saul’s change. We see this today when people are born again, they seem to carry a light, a weightiness is lifted from their shoulders and something in them comes alive that wasn’t alive before.

Saul’s passion leads him to preach in Jerusalem until the disciples fear that he will be killed for his boldness. They send him away to Tarsus, the land of his birth in the hopes, I think, of him calming down and returning to his family for a while. But I believe that Saul continued to preach and to grow in his faith.

From there we begin to better know Saul as Paul. He helps establish the first churches, guides them, is continually persecuted, and is known best by his letters; Thessalonians, Galatians, Corinthians, Philippians, Philemon, and Romans.

In those letters we see Paul, we get to know his heart, not just for Jesus, but for his brothers and sisters in Christ. What an amazing testimony to the transforming power of God, that a man could change so much. That a monster could become a man of admiration and respect.

This is a testimony we should all remember and cling to. That there is hope for all no matter how far it seems they have fallen. God can restore and redeem anyone. It is His perfect will to save the lost and give them a new identity in Him.

From Saul to Paul. From _______ to _______. Fill in the blank, all things are possible through Jesus.



Stoke the Flame


“His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself.” 

-Revelation 19:12

I’ve always loved bonfires. My friends and I would keep busy feeding it with leaves and sticks until the yard was spotless. After that we would find other things to put in the flames, watching the ever-changing intensity and colors dance across the items and reflect on our warm faces. The fire isn’t concerned with the temperature of the world around it, burning just as bright whether it’s 90 degrees or 20. However, a windy night could be too dangerous to light a flame, and a rainy one would put it out before it ever began. But with the right conditions and constant fuel, a fire could stay burning forever.

Is it a literal fire that John the Apostle saw in Jesus’ eyes? Or could it have been the only words he had to describe the look in his eyes? Perhaps it was both, symbolic and real. The book of Revelation is filled with such descriptions that could be taken either way. It was a vision, after all, revealing things that we may not fully understand in this reality. The image this paints for us though can be very real and applicable today. I have read in books many times the line, “..with fire in his eyes…” It’s meaning generally signifying a call to action, a fury, or an unquenchable passion.  Those words call out something in us too, an inner boldness that has been in us since creation.

In Biblical times, that boldness had to be brought out of every able-bodied man on the fields of battle. A fiery passion and fearlessness are what drove the Israelites as they conquered armies larger than their own. It was a fiery zealousness that rose in Jesus as he upturned the money tables and chased away the profiteers. The very reason he had come was to reconcile mankind to God, and it angered him to see men aiding in this separation and making a profit of it.

We all have a fire, a light that dispels darkness. As children of God, we are called to be a light, a burning flame, a lamp in a dark world. Our light is not for our sake alone, that we may see what lies ahead. It is a transforming light that should spread and conquer wherever we go. That flame within us is the Holy Spirit partnered with the desires of our soul. The closer we draw to God, the more we mirror His heart and passions.

How strong is your flame? Is it barely flickering or just glowing embers? What do you need to do to bring it back to life? Everyone has to stoke the flame every now and then. It is hard work, but not as hard as re-lighting it again. The only way we stoke our flame is by being in the presence of God and encountering the passions He has placed on our lives as Christians, and as children with unique destinies and callings. I feel a fire in my eyes when people are abused and when satan deceives people into feeling worthless and victimized. A zealousness for God rises in me when I come across people who feel forever separated from His love, as if our sins are somehow more powerful than His love for us. The religious spirit deadens the flame till it can be controlled and tamed. The flame becomes a candle, “this little light of mine” when it was never made to be contained or controlled.

The religious spirit is zealous about control and order. He’s the one who circles the fire in our souls like a hawk, pouring water on any flame that reaches for more. Our passions should be burning and growing. Our love should mirror Christ’s love, and our fire should be free. Free to burn for Him. This is why fires burn and spread so easily in places where people are hungry for more, their wood is dry and it quickly catches when they hear about Jesus. In places that are under the strict control of the religious spirit, or heavily deceived by satan, fires are harder to spread, everyone’s wood has been so watered down that it takes transforming miracles to see a revival.

Before we set out to change the world, let Him change you. Stoke the fires in your heart so that people will long for what you carry. Shine bright and brighter still so that the people who guard their candle lights would see that there is so much more. They have known Jesus as the lamb, now they must know him as the lion. As the one whose eyes are like flames of fire…Stoke the flame. Burn for him.

My heart is ablaze
with the flame of triumph
my soul alight
with this fire of success
an eternal inferno
rages within me
and when you peer into my eyes
then you will see
the fire burning within.

…The fire burning within my eyes. 

-Allen Steble