_banquet was once held for the famous English born American actor, Charles Laughton, who was retiring. After dinner he offered to recite any dramatic role requested. There was an awkward silence for a moment, and then an elderly woman asked the actor to recite the 23rd Psalm. The actor thought a moment and then agreed, but only if the woman would recite it after him. She agreed. With all the oratory skill he had mastered, the actor recited the psalm with great force and drama. When he finished, there was a burst of applause.
Then it was the woman's turn. She began slowly and softly: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want..." When she finished, there was no applause, but some eyes were moist and some heads were bowed. The actor put his hand on the woman's shoulder and said to the crowd: "I appealed to your emotions. I know how to recite the 23rd Psalm, but it is clear that this woman knows the Shepherd."
Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish." God has promised to always be with us.
Roy Campanella, the Hall of Fame Brooklyn Dodgers catcher, was in career ending automobile accident in 1958 that left him partially paralyzed. In his autobiography, It's Good to Be Alive, written in 1959, Campy talks about the many nights he cried himself to sleep, the pain that racked his body, his sinking into deep depression. He writes, "All my life whenever I was in trouble, I had turned to God for help. I remembered my Bible and asked the nurse to get it from the drawer in the night table. I opened it to the 23rd Psalm and read: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me." "From that moment on, I was on my way back. I knew I was going to make it!" The beloved backbone of the Dodgers became an even greater role model during his thirty-five years of paralysis than he was during his ten-year baseball career. Today, the Roy and Roxy Campanella Physical Therapy Scholarship Foundation continues in his memory.
God has promised to never leave us or forsake us--- and he won't!
All of us have wondered what thoughts would go through our minds in a situation where we thought we might die: I found out the hard way. Driving into the city two years ago in the rain on I-75 approaching the 14th street exit southbound, a car in the lane to my left started moving into my lane and didn't stop. Suddenly I was twirling around not able to gain control of my car. My surprise reaction was to close my eyes and pray something like, "Dear God, Dear God, help me!" And I felt the comforting feeling of hitting concrete and realized that I was safe off the expressway against the right side barrier. It felt so good! I forced my door open and got out, I was OK, and the other driver was also safe and sound. God had promised to never forsake me--- and he didn't!
Someday some preacher will recite the Twenty-third Psalm over us and in so doing will testify to the fact that God has "restored our soul," "has made our cups to overflow," that He "was with us" to the end, and that we are "dwelling in the house of the Lord forever." What more can we ask?
God has promised to hang in there with us no matter what comes our way--- and he will! The Twenty-third Psalm is associated with funerals but is really for the living: for those who want to allow God to help them live life at its highest and best.
Last Sunday I referred to Bruce Wilkinson's best selling book, The Prayer of Jabez, in which he uses an ancient prayer by a little known son of Judah to encourage us to pray for a life of abundant impact and significance for God. "...bless me indeed... enlarge my influence and my life... let your hand be with me in all that I do... keep me from evil... keep me from experiencing or causing pain. And God granted Jabez' prayer. (I Chronicles 4:10) In Wilkinson's sequel entitled, Secrets of the Vine, he emphasizes how God answers prayer and how we can cooperate with Him to make it happen. Our Good Shepherd wants the very best for us and will give us power to have an abundant life.
Some of you read the cover article in this week's NEWSWEEK magazine (May 7) which deals with experiments of scientists who call themselves "neurotheologians." They have studied MRI's of patients who were praying or meditating and have found that these persons' brains experienced a "change in the wiring" during such spiritual events that enabled them to feel disconnected with the world and connected with God. This research gives some support to what Christians have known all along. If we will recite the 23rd Psalm and the Prayer of Jabez and then enter into a time of meditative prayer, we can feel God's presence and know his blessings. God has promised to extend his hand to us that we might have the assurance of His presence.
"The Lord is my Shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in the green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along the right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You will welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (NLT)
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor