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Psalm 23: God’s got my back! In Psalm 23 there are eight promises. The first is that God will meet my needs. Similarly, Jesus tells us that when we pray we should ask for our daily bread. What he offers is the main entrée. We may not often get dessert, but neither shall we hunger. I love the balance of this promise. Scripture tells us to pray for the desires of our heart, but sometimes the answer is no. How many would praise God that the boy or girl they prayed God would let them marry, during their teens, is not who they ended up with? Besides meeting our needs, God grants us rest. Jesus once told his followers that in his service we find rest for our souls. In the jail I serve at inmates often sleep 8-10 hours per day. I encourage them that though rest may not be the primary reason God has them inside, many of them were running 100 mph, and sleeping 4-5 hours per day, on the outside. Could it be God is using the jail to provide them the rest they so desperately need? We realize that our situation is not so bad when we take time to hear others. I consider the inmate who is coming to the end of a 12 year sentence. He’s upset at the time he’s wasted. Then another inmate comes along and starts complaining about his 10-month sentence. The first fellow is internally furious. “What a baby! What a weak, tender soul!” he thinks. Yet, he listens. At the end, the second inmate says, “Thanks for listening, brother. I feel better. You’re the real deal!” At first the long-timer is thinking that he’s done nothing for the other guy but judge him. Then those last words hit him. “No matter what, that guy was blessed by my listening,” he realizes. Suddenly, he’s feeling less upset about his own situation. It’s still there. It still stings—but less so. This too is a kind of rest. As important as rest is, we need to be restored. Consider Peter, who denied Jesus three times. Peter wept over his denials, and he waited on Jesus, so he could repent before him. Jesus challenged him three times, asking, “Do you love me?” Underlying the question had to be, “If so, how could you deny me?” Yet, Peter responded affirmatively all three times, and Jesus restored him. We see the power of this restoration a few weeks later. The disciples are in the temple, and the Holy Spirit comes on them. They begin speaking in tongues. It’s noisy and seems chaotic. The Jewish leaders are accusing them of disgracing the temple by their drunkenness. Peter stands up and says that they are filled with the Holy Spirit, in fulfillment of Joel’s prophesy. Then he preaches and 3,000 are saved. People tell inmates that they are too bad to be forgiven or restored. God says that those who repent are already restored. After restoration, we want to know what to do, where to go, how to be. Jesus says he is the way, so we must follow him. We do that by loving God and our neighbor—even the troll who intentionally misconstrues our words on Facebook! A simple way to love people is to bless and focus on them. Isn’t it interesting that our eyes only see forward—outward? God designed us to focus on others. Love finds self-satisfaction in the satisfaction of others. By the way, that’s great marriage counseling! Guys always chuckle about the old saying, “Happy wife, happy life,” but it’s true. When we focus on her pleasure, our own lives are more love-filled. Jesus not only guides us, he comforts us—especially during the difficult stretches. Whether we are in recovery over addictions, or we are struggling to love difficult people, Jesus says his spirit will strengthen us, so we can meet the challenges, and not falter. Perhaps the most dramatic example is the first Christian martyr, Stephen. As he is being stoned to death, he declares that he sees Jesus. If God can comfort us in the midst of a violent death he can comfort us at any time! Another beautiful promise in the Psalms is that God will vindicate us before our enemies. We must not seek revenge, because God will avenge us. So, we show kindness to our enemies. If they repent, they’ll owe us gratitude for all eternity. Otherwise, God will take care of the ones who come against his children. A great example is Jonah. He hated his enemies, the people of Nineveh. Nevertheless, he obeys God, and goes through the city, telling them God will destroy them. They repent, and God spares the city of 100,000 for three generations. This means that nearly 300,000 people will thank Jonah, who hated them, for saving their souls! Finally, David tells us that God will never abandon us. In John 14:18 Jesus says: I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. So many of us know abandonment—most often by fathers, but sometimes by spouses, or other loved ones. God is the good-good father. He was the original father, before Adam and Eve ever conceived children. Similarly, even as Jesus was leaving the earth, he promised the Holy Spirit would come to be with us forever. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus says he will always be with us. We are no longer alone—we are reconciled to God Almighty! With God as my Shepherd, I know I am safe, I am loved, I am strengthened, and I am useful. Thank you Lord for being my shepherd. Thank you for having my back! To view a video presentation of this message see: https://www.facebook.com/pg/anglelakechurch/videos/ , click on the 08/13/2017 service. The message starts at 56:00.