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Fork in the Road

Notes & Transcripts

08/02/2009 Fork in the Road Knox 16 PC

483/570/461 Psalm 143 Jeremiah 31:7-14 Ephesians 1:3-10

OOPS! After a violent storm one night, a large tree, which over the years had become a stately giant, was found lying across the pathway in a park. Nothing but a splintered stump was left. Closer examination showed that it was rotten at the core because thousands of tiny insects had eaten away at its heart. The weakness of that tree was not brought on by the sudden storm; it began the very moment the first insect nested within its bark.  
  UGH! No other class of livestock requires more careful handling, more detailed direction, then do sheep. No doubt David, as a shepherd himself, had learned this first-hand from tough experience. He knew beyond dispute that if the flock was to flourish and the owner's reputation was to be held in high esteem as a good manager, the sheep had to be constantly under his meticulous control and guidance.
Sheep are notorious creatures of habit. If left to themselves they will follow the same trails until they become ruts; graze the same hills until they turn to desert wastes; pollute their own ground until it is corrupt with disease and parasites. Many of the world's finest sheep ranges have been ruined beyond repair by overgrazing, poor management and indifferent or ignorant sheep owners.  
  Human beings are creatures of habit. When you do something for 30 days, consistently everyday, it becomes a habit. The older we get, the harder it is to break a habit. Not many people are looking for new ideas when they're into their 60s, or 70s, or 80s.
As a church leader once told me early in my ministry, change is a four letter word. We would rather do it this way, than change. Because it is comfortable. When I reflect over the past 20 years of my life, I find it amazing that so many things have changed so rapidly.  
  Twenty years ago personal home computers were just beginning to come onto the market. Communication is so fast today that it dazzles the imagination. For many of us as we get older it is hard to catch up to the wave. I thought I was doing just fine by being able to e-mail and look up some things on the Internet in order to find information.
But, blogging and twittering and face booking are far beyond my comprehension. In the church we have the distinction of keeping on doing the same old things even when they bring no new results. In the business world that would be asking for bankruptcy.  
  AHA! He leads me in the paths of righteousness, even for his own namesake. Not only does God restore us to a position of honour, he leads us into the right path. Into the right way of relationship. Into the right way of doing things.
WHEE! The Lord's desire is to lead us into the paths of righteousness. He wants us always to do the right thing in order that we might honour his name. God chose us in Jesus Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will, to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  
  He draws us into the paths of righteousness for his own glory. He doesn't want His people to be looking like the homeless who have nothing at all. Or with everything in life in a shopping cart. He desires us to grow rich in our family life and to teach our children the ways of His truth. This is the task of the church and the reason we have Sunday school.
The Chinese character for "righteousness" is very interesting. It is composed of two separate characters. The first represents the "lamb of God" and the other for "me". When the character for "the lamb of God" is placed directly above the character for "me", a new character is formed - "righteousness". This is a great reminder that righteousness is only obtained when we place the "the lamb of God" above "me".  
  We have been given such great redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us. See, I will bring them away from the land of the North and gather them from the ends of the Earth. And among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labour; a great throng will return.
God is willing to receive us just as we are, but he doesn't want us to remain in the same place in life and ministry and in work. He wants to lead us into the paths of righteousness for his own glory. He wants us to grow and mature and to have the abundant life that is offered to us in Jesus Christ.  
  If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in character. If there is beauty in character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world. Chinese Proverb
They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. What a vision of the new life in Jesus Christ. But it means discarding the old habits. In our life without Christ we will remain in the old habits. The pasture and the grazing will be obliterated and used up.  
  One of the great things my grandfather did on the farm was to rotate the crops. Every seven years there was a 1/7 portion of his 100 acres that lay fallow. Everything on the farm was used to fertilise and to nurture the crops. It was a management phenomenon which has been forgotten in modern-day farming. Old principles remain, but we need to find new ways to use them in order to reach this generation.
I first saw a computer of huge magnitude in a huge cabinet and a large room when I was 21 years old. My son saw a computer for the first time in a small lab at his public school when he was six years old. By the time he has children there will probably be computers monitoring every breath that they take. The trick is to pull out what is good and leave out that which doesn't really need to be done now.  
  The 23rd psalm for busy people: 'The Lord is my pace-setter; I shall not rush. He makes me to stop and rest for quiet intervals; He provides me with images of stillness which restores my serenity. He leads me in ways of efficiency, through great calmness of mind: and His guidance is peace. Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day, I will not fret for His presence is here. His timelessness, His all- importance will keep me in balance. He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity by anointing my mind with His oils of tranquillity. My cup of joyous energy overflows. Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours, for I shall walk in the pace of the Lord, and dwell in His house forever.
This is a prayer for followers of Jesus Christ. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. For your namesake, Lord, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.  
  In order to be in the paths of righteousness we need to be in the One who is righteous, the Lord God Almighty. None can compare to him. If we go back earlier in this preaching series we are called to follow him into his ways and we learned that there is no greener grass on the other side. When we come to God in Jesus Christ, we begin to get the idea that there really is nothing better.
The habits that we need to develop in the Church of Jesus Christ is the habit of daily prayer. Things always begin to move when there is concerted prayer by a large number of God's people. Even two or three gathering together in his name will draw on the power of God in his wonderful presence. We need to develop the habit of regular worship, or we forgo a great many of the blessings that God has in mind for us. We need to come back to wearing out several editions of the Bible because it is used regularly every day. We miss so much of the good pasture that God has in mind for us by failing to develop these positive habits.  
  Even in this modern day and age we can get iPod's that will have the whole of the Scriptures on it. We can listen to it over and over again and let it seep down into the inner part of our being and nurture us in new pasture, day by day, by day. We need to have the confidence that when the pasture seems to be beginning to be muddied up and problems arise on the horizon, that God still leads us in the paths of righteousness.
The greatest safeguard the Shepherd can do for the sheep is to keep his flock on the move. This prevents overgrazing of the forage. It also avoids the rutting of trails and erosion of land from overuse.  
  The Shepherd does the same thing with the church. He desires to keep his church on the move in order to keep us from slipping into the ruts of life. Remember the definition of a rut is a coffin with the ends not out. The good Shepherd is not through with his church. It may seem that we haven't nothing very much to pass on to this next generation coming to us. But don't underestimate the small things in life.
While travelling through the mountains, a vacationing family were detained for an hour by a flock of sheep--thousands of them--clogging the highway as far as they could see. The day was hot and dusty, and the weary animals wanted to rest, but the shepherds with their sheep dogs kept prodding them onward.  
  YEAH! The father asked one of the men, "Where are you driving these sheep? To the slaughterhouse?" The shepherd seemed shocked. "Oh, no Mister," he said, "not to the slaughterhouse. We are just changing pastures! As the snow on the mountain melts, we move the sheep from the lower levels where the hot summer sun dries up the winter grazing areas, and we lead them to new and higher ground where the better pastures lie!"
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