Answer the Question!

“By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things? Mark 11:28 And Jesus said to them, “Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” Mark 11:33

The ultimate “drop mic” moment. The complete and total takedown of Jesus’ antagonists. The Lord tied the leaders in knots with his response (see Mark 11:27-34). Truth is, Jesus had authority even over his own life, and he demonstrated this by sacrificing it for us (John 19:30).

It’s interesting that the leaders did not question his authority, but simply wanted to know where it came from. Since the question was asked to entrap him, to get him to “blaspheme,” it was obvious they knew the answer. They spent their time badgering him, when they needed to bow to him.

Remember, one thief crucified next to Christ “hurled abuse” at him (Luke 23:39-43), but the other recognized who he was hanging with. Let all of us see who we’re really dealing with and respond accordingly!

When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:39

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Why Ask?

22 “Have faith in God.”
23 “Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.
24 “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.  Mark 11:22-24 (NAS)

For someone who believes strongly in the absolute sovereignty of God, that there’s nothing out of his control, that all has been decided beforehand, and that his will must be done, these promises are problematic.

All kinds of questions run through your mind. What if God has already decided? Who am I to change his mind? Perhaps that’s why the Lord uses the illustration of moving a mountain. Who would contemplate this? It’s impossible. That’s the point.

There are many things in life that appear as impossible as moving a mountain, and from these challenges we must not slink away, but pray. It’s not the mountain that must be moved, but our doubt! With this out of the way, whatever God decides, or has decided, who knows, will be good and acceptable.

“Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40) These were Jesus’ words before raising a man from the dead, who’d already been embalmed and entombed for four days! Have faith in God and pray. Yes, he does answer prayer, and apparently he is swayed by a believing heart.

We might say, why pray? He says, why not? I’m telling you too!

This may be why the disciples asked the Lord to “increase their faith.” Luke 17:5 It’s obviously the first mountain to be moved.

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The Good Shepherd

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:6

Ultimately, our shepherd leads us to our permanent eternal home with him. In the meantime, goodness and lovingkindness will follow in our wake. The word “surely” can mean “only.” With our devoted shepherd in the lead, only good happens. Yes, even in the valley of the shadow of death. Yes, even in the presence of our enemies. Hence the theme behind Romans 8:28.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

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Have a Seat

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Psalm 23:5

No matter the adversity, even in the darkest wilderness (Psalm 78:19), our Sovereign Lord, in his role as our shepherd, prepares a meal for us.

So rich is the food on the table it fully satisfies us, and our cup is always kept overflowing.

Here David describes a banquet in the midst of a hard time, not a victory celebration, when all that’s left is the shouting.

Times of testing don’t waste us, but enrich us. It’s the down time that gets us in trouble.

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He Carries a Big Stick

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

As you get older you sense that a journey through the “valley of the shadow of death” is imminent. Absent fighting a war as a young man, like my dad did in his late teens, threats in early life don’t normally involve death. There are some “dark and gloomy days” that I can remember. The prospect of losing a job while supporting a wife and four children. Some times of uncertain health. The failing health of my parents. But I was not in death’s shadow. But that day will come.

The key words here are “even though.” Whatever the threat, with the Lord at your side, you have no reason to fear. This should be like the feeling you had as a child while walking with your dad in an eerie place. You weren’t scared because he was strong and he’d protect you. Truth is, once the shoe was on the other foot, you find that your dad was probably a bit concerned too!

But the Lord our shepherd carries a big stick to ward off the wild animals out there, and it’s just something about that staff that shouts out the power to save and dictate our circumstances.

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Making Tracks

He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Psalm 23:3b Righteousness will go before Him and will make His footsteps into a way. Psalm 85:13

The Lord has a reputation to keep up. No one in his charge will be led astray. Psalm 85:14 talks about righteousness going before the Lord, leading him in its path, making it “a way.” It’s impossible for us to veer into sin if we walk the same tracks. These paths are straight, wise, upright and just.

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Peace and Quiet

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul. Psalm 23:1-3a

“I just need some wisdom,” is my most frequent prayer request. In the beginning you asked one or both your parents for advice and counsel. Late in life it’s down to you. Unfortunately, adult problems are complicated, and they can come at you in twos and threes. When stress compounds and straits are dire, I know of no other passage of scripture more calming and reassuring than Psalm 23.

Read it and almost immediately there’s sufficient comfort available to stop the hyperventilating long enough to realize you’re not in it alone. He says to us as we wallow in frustration, doubt and fear, “Follow me, and you’ll want for nothing.”

I love it how his first step is to make us “lie down in green pastures.” It’s equivalent to saying “stop the pacing and sit down!” What better to collect our thoughts in than a peaceful patch of cool green grass, looking up. From this vantage point we’ll see nothing but the Lord’s handiwork. In such a pasture was the expectation, at least for the sheep, to be aptly fed. So should it be with us.

Then the Lord, our shepherd, leads us by “quiet waters.“ With the hustle and bustle of the world and cacophony of cares and concerns bouncing off the walls of our heads, we need to be quiet long enough to hear what he has to say.

So, the first things we need when there’s no talking to us are peace and quiet. In this state he restores our soul. To understand this best in this day and age, what he will do for us is hit our reset button, and we’re back to full dependency on him. It’s that simple.

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