Category: Encouragement

Sharing support, courage & hope

The Great Escape

Reading our title, did you happen to think of the highest grossing war film of 1963 featuring Steve McQueen or did it cause you to consider the thrilling escape acts of the spectacular Harry Houdini? Perhaps it stirred images of the greatest escapes from prison like those of John Dillinger, Yoshie Shiratori, or those from Alcatraz island? I recently found this –

He has a thousand ways to set you free!”

Psalms 130:8 TPT

Imagine there being 1,000 ways to be set free?! THAT is a great escape! Greater than any movie, magician or fugitive.

Pause. Think of your life right now, right where you are, and the ways that you are bound up, tied up, enslaved. Or handcuffed like Houdini.

  • debt
  • fear
  • worry
  • insecurity
  • health
  • work
  • family
  • relationship
  • past
  • present
  • failures
  • loss
  • weight

Go on. List all you can think of. When you run out of things to list, would you have ammased more than 1,000? I doubt it.

Now select just one of those you listed. How many different ways can you think of to get free from it? Can you come up with 1,000 ways to get free from just one thing holding you captive? Can you imagine 1,000 ways to get out of those handcuffs, get free from that prison or out of that POW camp?

A great escape is possible. Here’s what preceeds the promise of 1,000 ways to be set free-

…keep hoping, keep trusting, and keep waiting for the Lord, for he is tenderhearted, kind, and forgiving. He has a thousand ways to set you free!

Psalm 130:8 TPT

The secret to our great escape from fear, sin, pride, anger, debt, loss, you name it, is to keep on hoping, keep on trusting in and keep on waiting for the Lord, always looking for his kind escape and our freedom. Hoping to see his tenderheartedness show up on our behalf and waiting on his perfectly fit key to our freedom.

You gotta be on the lookout, he has 1,000 ways to set you free, so they are all around you. Without faith filled hope and trust tho’, your wait can be miserable and your freedom in jeaporady. But as you trust in him, look to him, and wait patiently on him and his way to come into view, your freedom will come. You will be free when you follow his way out of your handcuffs.

I like what Thomas Jefferson said,

When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.”

Papers of Thomas Jefferson; Founders online

Your knot is the Lord. At the end of your rope, find him and hang on tightly to him. Allow him to speak to your heart and mind and listen to what he says. Follow his leadings and in doing so, you will find yourself like those POW’s in the movie, walking free from the Stalag Luftill, or like Houdini- not drowning in that Chinese water torture cell, or like those who escaped the solitary and desolate island of Alcatraz – FREE!

Your great escape surrounds you in thousands of ways. See them with His eyes.

Keep on waiting, trusting and hoping in the Lord and I promise you, your very own great escape.



  • Great Magicians list
  • Harry Houdini Biography, Editors
  • Prison Breakouts; Oxford Castle &, Top 10 Prison Escapes
  • The Great Escape, 1963 IMDb
  • Thomas Jefferson

Easter Seals Your Deal

The celebration of Easter is more than a marketing gimmick for eggs, candy, baskets and new spring clothing. And it is infinately more than a cultural mix of pagan and Christian practices passed on through the ages. In fact, whether or not you even celebrate Easter, or believe in the empty tomb, for us all, Easter seals our deal.

There are many reasons why, in my view, Easter matters. My favorites are:

  • The life and death of Jesus Christ split time in two. BC/before Christ, now called BCE/before the commom era and AD now called CE/the common era.
  • Jesus lived a life that has demonstrated Him to be the world’s greatest influencer because
  • He has had the greatest influence on literature. More literature, through every age, has featured Him than any other historical figure
  • He has had the greatest influence on music and the arts. Through all cultures, genres, and periods no one has been the focus of or influenced more innovation in music or its lyrics and the arts than Jesus Christ.
  • There would be no higher education without Christ’s influence. Jesus followers formed the schools and libraries of history that have spread and become some of the most prestigious universities in the world.
  • Science is dominated by Christians who have pursued discovery, exploration, and investigation. Nearly every field of science has been affected by Christian thinkers.
  • Other spiritual leaders have used and modified Jesus’ teachings. Hinduism, Krisna, Buddhism, etc.

Such things as these indicate to us that what happened on that Sunday morning, over 2,000 years ago matters, and is still making a difference today. I would like to submit to you that in fact, not only does Easter matter, but Easter literally seals your deal.

History has documented the accounts of Jesus Christ’s life, His brutal murder, and yes, His empty tomb. Actually, there are so many documents and accounts of Jesus’ life and death, that an accurate picture can be reconstructed without using the New Testament accounts.

As a review, here’s what we know about His death:

  • He was beated by Roman soldiers
  • He was flogged
  • He was spit on, slapped, and whipped
  • A silver, plated crown was stuck into His head
  • A makeshift robe was placed on His bloddied back and shoulders
  • A staff was given Him as a pretend scepter
  • He was mocked, harassed, and laughed at
  • The robe, crown and staff were taken away
  • His blood loss was great
  • He carried the cross bar of His cross until he fell under it’s weight
  • His outstretched hands were nailed to the beam
  • His feet were nailed
  • A sign was placed over His head, “The King of the Jews”
  • The cross was erected and Jesus struggled to breathe
  • Asphyxiation ensued
  • He breathed His last breath
  • There was an earthquake
  • The was darkness for 3 hours
  • The 4 inch tapestry/veil in the temple was ripped from top to bottom
  • His side was pierced, releasing blood and water – a sign of death
  • His dead body was taken off the cross
  • It was wrapped in grave clothes and laid in a tomb
  • A stone was rolled to cover the entrance
  • The stone was sealed with the Roman seal
  • Guards were placed in front of it to guard it
  • On Sunday morning, the tomb was empty

Jesus was crucified and He died, but after three days in the tomb, He was alive. He was seen by the disciples, and over 500 other people are documented as having seen Jesus. This was not a mass hallucination. The Roman soldiers had only three days earlier validated His death.

The Roman seal on the tomb is not what sealed your deal, this next part is though.

You’ll remember, that in Jerusalem at this time they were celebrating the Feast of Passover. It was a week long festival that featured the retelling and remembering of the Great Passover in Egypt, which led to Israel’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Because the lamb’s blood was applied to the door frames of homes, the death angel passed over during the 10th plague – the death of the forstborn.

On Passover, it was the blood of a lamb that was celebrated as the Jews remembered their bitter slavery and hardship. That blood, their ticket to life and release from Pharaoh. That lamb, they were to eat, along with unleavened bread as they prepared to travel towards their freedom.

It is that blood, my friend, that seals our deal.

For the Old Testament law was clear that only though the blood would there be atonement. The animal sacrifices of the temples, as cruel or gory as they may seem to us, were the way for man to find forgiveness and redemption. It was through the blood that man was put right with God. Those that participated in such offerings were forgiven.

The principle of atonement through the blood was God’s idea from before the beginning of time. Scripture tells us that Jesus was the Lamb slain, before the foundation of the world. Rev. 13:8 All along, God had Jesus, the Lamb in mind. Jesus’ blood, the atonement for all mankind to be brought back into relationship with God, fully forgiven, accepted and wonderfully loved.

THAT my friend, is what sealed your deal.

When Jesus, the Lamb of God, died on that cross and spilt His blood, it was to pay the price for our redemption. There could be no remission of sins without the blood of the Lamd, and so Jesus willingly gave it. He gave His life, His blood to pay for our deal – our relationship with God. What a deal!!

Not only did He, by His death seal our deal for forgiveness, but by His resurrection, He sealed our deal for victory over death and hell. Because He came out of that grave, He triumphed over death, thus providing for us every key that we need for victory in this life.

Like I said, what a deal??!!!

There may be one who says, I don’t believe that, I won’t accept those claims. That is your prerogative. But that in no way negates it’s truth. Truth does not need your validation to be true. Theses things are true, no matter who or what wrestles with it.

Just like the one in Jesus’ circle of disciples who chose not to believe in Him, there will be those. But for those that do believe, there is eternal life, daily hope, peace, forgiveness, passion, purpose, and overcoming power. There is a whole book full of truth to devour, guide you, and stand upon. There are centuries of other believers who have gone before you and many more who will come after you.

Jesus the Lamb, sealed your deal. Easter sealed your deal.The best deal you could ever have.

Happy, happy, Easter, my friend.


Psalm 23 Begins and Ends with the Lord

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6 ESV

Shepherding and all things sheep are not popular trending topics, I know. And in these days of urban living, us city dwellers know very little about sheep and care even less about them, I know. But there are far too many places in literature and life where you and I are compared to sheep, for us to pass by these insightful truths about sheep and their shepherd as found in Psalm 23. So, just as we began with “The Lord” (is my shepherd), now we are in the last verse, concluding with, (I shall dwell in the house of)) “The Lord”.

To say the life of a sheep begins and ends with it’s shepherd or owner is an understatement.

As we have seen throughout this psalm, the shepherd is totally responsible for the care, feeding, protection and health of his/her sheep. The kind of shepherd a sheep has determines its health, strength, freedom, nutrition, behavior, social skills, progeny, and lifespan.

Remember, too, that in this psalm David is reflecting on a whole year in the shepherd’s care and the year’s activities:

  • green, ranch pastures
  • still river waters
  • mountain passes
  • high tablelands
  • fall storms
  • back home to the ranch

David, speaking as one of the Lord’s sheep was boldly announcing, “I am so glad to be back home” – aka, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”. The shepherd’s house, family, household and flock is where David, this sheep, was forever delighting to be. The Good Shepherd had provided everything through another year, and there was now “no place like home.”

Isn’t that what our American Thanksgiving is s’pose to be? When we thank the Lord for how He has provided for us throughout the past year. But why only be thankful once a year? Why not joyfully proclaim to all who need to hear and will listen, “The Lord has so faithfully provided for me through every season of this past, crazy ride of a year! It’s all about the Lord! He gets me going to begin each year, He sees me through the sunny and stormy months that follow, and I will end up with Him, forever! He is awesome and there is no place else I’d rather be.

But there are other places to be and there are other shepherd’s besides the Lord, aren’t there?

Here is a place where we and sheep are different, tho’. Sheep can’t and don’t choose their own shepherd. They are stuck with the one who buys them, inherits them, or steals them.

We, on the other hand can and do choose our shepherd – the one we allow to “own us”. The one we serve and follow.

There are dangers in following the wrong shepherd. Look at what happens to those not led by the Good Shepherd.

  • lead astray
  • left alone on mountain tops
  • roams the mountains and hillsides
  • forget their fold
  • devoured by predators
  • many guiltless enemies
  • afflicted
  • hunted by lions
  • turned to their own ways
  • slaughtered by fat shepherds
  • no help for weak or sick
  • no help for the injured or stray
  • not searched for when lost
  • ruled harshly and with force
  • scattered and left as wild
  • a prey for food

This list, I gathered from passages in the Bible that speak of lost sheep, sheep that had bad shepherds. You can read those passages in Jeremiah 50:6-7; Zechariah 10:2; Isaiah 53:6; Ezekiel 34:2-10.

It is a graphic, desperate picture of those poor, needy, sheep when led by a shepherd who doesn’t really care about them, value them nor love them. How many of us could find in those descriptors what we experienced by following the wrong shepherd? But, the choice is ours, isn’t it? We choose our shepherd and we reap that shepherd’s “results”.

David made His choice. The Lord, his shepherd will care for him and He will care in these ways for you, too. Ezekiel 34:11-16 shows us these: He will –

  • search for me
  • seek me out
  • rescue
  • bring you back
  • feed in good pastures
  • let you lie down
  • bind up your wounds
  • strengthen the injured

Who wouldn’t want to be cared for like this? “Ain’t nobody can love me like Jesus”.

In fact, David summarizes his whole relationship with the Lord, His shepherd with absolute certainty! His confidence in the Lord and His expert care, no matter what he faced was sure, and so he states:

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life…”

Psalm 23:6a ESV

Translation – the bottom line is no matter what, the sheep can be absolutely certain that nothing less than goodness and mercy will come out of every situation that he and the Shepherd are in. SURELY, certainly, absolutely… goodness and mercy will be on my tail – always!

So confident are the Lord’s sheep, they are sure that even tho’ things may look desperate, cold and forboding, if the Shepherd is near (and He is if He resides in your heart), so too is goodness and mercy! Period. End of concern.

Everyday goodness and mercy are near. All your days will find goodness and mercy on your heels. This is a sure thing because the Lord is your Shepherd, not other shepherds, systems, world views or ideaologies. You are His sheep and your life begins and ends with the Lord.

Psalm 23 is a perpetual reminder to you and me that the Lord, from a heart of love for us, can and will care for our every need, as we choose to follow Him, as our Good Shepherd. John 10:11 And somewhere in the mix of our daily life, if we look, we will find goodness and mercy. It is certain.

Perhaps, like I have, you might say,

Lord, other lords beside you have ruled over us, but your name alone we bring to remembrance.”

Isaiah 26:13 ESV

If that’s so, then this can be your beginning step with the Lord. Take it. Invite Him to shepherd you, lead you, satisfy you, protect you, and love on you.

And if you have walked with Him, followed Him, and trusted Him as your Shepherd, then bring His name, power, ability, purpose and love to your remembrance. Oh, and turn around and look for goodness and mercy in you life, cuz they are near too. You gotta look for them, tho’ in all circumstances.

And now, we will end as we started a few blogs ago, with the Lord.

Because of His great love, goodness and mercy,


He Lavishly Provides

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5

For me. personally, this verse, in this amazing psalm has always been hard to understand and thoroughly wrap my brain around. Is it just me? Maybe. But let me share some simple insights that have helped me make sense of this verse.

Let’s first remember that most scholars believe that this psalm is two seperate pictures, and NOT one picture all regarding a shepherd and his sheep. In viewing it that way, they explain that “the table in the preence of my enemies”, is a picture of The King, who has received and seated his vassal at a banquet table, that is lavish in every way and fully satisfying. As a guest of the overloard, all his needs are tended to – he is anointed with the customary treatment of an honored guest, his cup never is empty and his enemies observe this honored treatment.

It’s not difficult to see the analogy here. Jesus, our Shepherd, has indeed set a banguet table for us, His sheep, fully loaded with every benefit we could ever need, as we celebrate with our King at the Table of the Lord.

That picture in and of itself is encouraging and comforting. Who wouldn’t be satisfied with a covenant, victory feast set by the Lord, for you? And that may settle your mind and assist your understanding of a table in the presence of your enemies….You can stop reading if you are completely satisfied. But for a long time I was not.

Then I heard a teaching from a shepherd, on Psalm 23, that opened my eyes to Him lavishly providing for me in the presence of my enemies.

You see, in this Shepherd’s psalm, David is recounting a full year in a sheep’s life. You can see the progression:

  • at home on the ranch
  • then on to green pastures
  • beside the still waters
  • up through the dark mountain valleys
  • to the high table lands of summer

At verse 5, the sheep are in the high grounds now, where the shepherd has previously made several trips to prepare the table land for them. He has laid salt and minerals over the land and pulled up poisonous, white, cammas flowers.The alert shepherd has prepared his land, in full view of the predators, and now the sheep have arrived at the high ground, the mesas, that are now ready, water holes cleaned out, repaired and refreshed.

And did you notice, the high plateaus of sheep ranges are called “mesas” or tables in Spanish and Swahali. Have you heard of Table Mountain, in Cape Town? David’s table was the entire range – the high, summer, mountain range.

It is in these tablelands, lavishly prepared by the Shepherd, that the sheep have settled down to banquet. There are predators, and poisonous plants, as well as storms and gales in this high country, but their table has been set. “Finding this tableland is finding the shepherd’s love”, says Phillip Keller.

You anoint my head with oil.

It is Phillip Keller again, who explains that “Summertime is fly time”.

During those hot summer months in the high country, flies and parasites surge. The nose flies that torment the sheep do so by depositing their eggs on the wet snout of the sheep. When they hatch, they form little worms that find their way into the nasal passages of the sheep’s head. There, they burrow into the flesh and cause swelling and severe irritation. This is so devestating for the sheep, it will literally beat it’s head against a tree, or rub it in the dirt to try and illeviate it. In some cases a sheep will do so even killing itself.

The entire flock is at risk during fly time and the only answer is to take a mixture of oil, tar and sulfur and apply it to the sheep’s nose and head. This requires multiple applications for the health of the sheep and the health of the flock. THIS is “anointing (the sheep’s) head with oil.”

My cup overflows.

It is during the summer, high mountain, tableland times that the sheep are fit, well and their strongest. No other season sees their health any better. But as summer turns to autum and autum to winter, stroms, cold, and blizzards arrive too. The shepherd goes through these storms alongside of his sheep, often warming them as they become chilled or frozen. Ancient shepherd’s used their wineskin with wine to warm them, whereas today’s shepherd may use a mix of brandy and water to warm them up.

During the winter and stormy season, the sheep can confidently declare, “My cup overslows”, because their shepherd has warmed their frozed heart during the long, cold winters. But even during the fall and summer months, with their good health and filled, four-part stomachs, their “cup overflows”. Each sheep is well cared for by their shepherd who has lavishly provided for them.

THAT all makes so much sense to me and helped me to understand what David was trying to convey about the shepherd’s care for his sheep. I hope it helped you too.

Here’s a wrap up summary.

The Lord has prepared for you a banquet of everything you need to make it through the season you are in. He has set in place all you need, for your taking. Staying close to Him in this tableland, will protect you from the wolves and poisonous fruit.

Whatever is bugging you, trying to rob you of your sanity, dignity, and maybe even your life can be overcome by the frequent application of prayer, Holy Spirit anointing, and submission to the Shepherd.

In every season, The Good Shepherd is right beside you extending love, care, provision, and protection. His grace is unlimited and His mercies new every morning. Your cup should never be empty, but rather overflowing- because His goodness to you is overflowing.

Lastly, it is the Shepherd’s desire to have His sheep live on higher grounds, above the mundane. So, if you’re not enjoying the banquet table of His provision daily, perhaps it is because you are not living in the highlands, the table lands.

For in those mesas, is where He lavishly provides.

Feast on,



  • NASB Study Bible
  • David Guzik, Commentary Psalm 23
  • A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Phillip Keller, Zondervan Publishing, 1970, 2007

Even in Death Valley You Are With Me

“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 ESV

If this six verse Psalm 23, written by David were an artichoke, the above verse would be the heart.

For just as it lies as the centering line of the psalm, it offers our life a centering line too. And just as it serves as a transition from the shepherd/sheep motif to a direct address using I and you, so too are we able to personalize this powerful psalm. This verse is the heart of the whole psalm and should be at the heart of every believer. So let’s peel away at this artichoke.

Here we have the first “dark note’ of the psalm. The shepherd has taken us through green pastures and beautiful pools of water, He has refreshed us and led us. But now we see a dark valley, not a mountop or lush field. A valley surrounded by foreboding peaks and rocky ledges casting cold, dark shadows on our path. We are now walking through death valley, under it’s ever present shadow.

Shadowed valleys

Psalm 23 can be divided into two balanced stanzas, each with 4 couplets. The first stanza presents the shepherd/sheep relationship and the second moves into the personalized King/servant picture with personalized direct address using “you” and “I”. Have you ever noticed this before? And smack dab in the center of it all is the beautiful assurance that even in death valley, we can be certain of His presence and have no need to fear – for He is with us. This very thought centers us, and personalizes His presence with us no matter where we are, or it should.

But it is a shadow. There is no substance to it. It is the shadow of death, not the substance of death. When faced with that shadow of death, defeat seems immenent, in fact, death is guaranteed for us all. But in this verse, the Shepherd leads the sheep right down Main Street of Death Valley fortified with His presence. That presence dispels all fear, panic or alarm, as the sheep confidently proclaims, “I will fear no evil”, even in this shadow of death.

Death Valley, CA

The Shepherd’s presence made all the difference. The presence of evil was not eliminated, but the fear of evil was.


Psalm 23:4

This phrase and its reality is our centering line of life. It is the heart of our life. He is with us. With us in the darkest, lowest, most evil valley. With us in the dangerous, predator infested hideouts. With us in the valley cast with dark, scary, violent and cold shadows, of deep, dark, dirty and fruitful valleys.

Rivers in the valley, green grass too

Yes, fruitful! It is in the valleys where we find the richest food and choicest meadows – along the river banks. Valleys are well watered. There you’ll find the rivers, springs, and quiet pools. And you know what else? The only way to get to higher ground is to go through the valleys! Those shadowy valleys are actually a road to higher ground.

Our Shepherd, like any shepherd, will only take His flock where He has already been. He has scouted out the way through the shadows in death valley and now He walks with us through that valley, taking us to higher ground. (Notice too, the peaceful walk. We’re not fearfully running through the scary valley.)

I will fear no evil, for you are with me.

Your rod and your staff they comfort me.

The shepherds of David’s day typically carried a rod or sturdy wooden stick, used as a weapon to protect and count the sheep, and a staff, a long, thin stick with a hook, used to direct the flock.

The rod was an extension of the shepherd’s right arm and speaks of his power, strength and authority. It was used to defend the sheep against attackers and discipline the wayward, wandering sheep. The sheep would “come under the rod” to be counted and examined. Here the shepherd would part the sheep’s wool, to check the skin for trouble. He would then run his hands over the body feeling for disease or ticks. The shepherd would examine in detail each sheep with his rod and hands. There was no “pulling the wool” over his eyes. The rod protected the sheep, they were comforted by it.

Shepherds are the only profession who use a staff. (Unless you consider the musical staff…) It is caringly used to manage the sheep, direct them, and guide them. It is a symbol of care and concern, of kindness. For with it, the shepherd draws sheep together into a close and loving relationship. He also uses it to draw the sheep unto himself.

By gently placing the staff against the animals side and applying pressure, the sheep is guided and is reassured of his proper path. Many a time, the shepherd will get “in touch” with a sheep, and they will walk this way, “hand in hand” – close, personal, intimate contact between sheep and shepherd. This comforts the sheep knowing that the shepherd is at its side.

Could The Good Shepherd’s rod and staff actually bring us comfort?

Haven’t we seen the power and authority of God is our world, life? Haven’t we recognized His love come after us and rescue us year after year? Haven’t we experienced His inspection under our wool and His gentle hands massaging our broken heart time and time again? Haven’t we then experienced the comfort of His rod?

How many time have we felt that gentle prodding inside of us to do, or say something or to go somewhere? Wasn’t it recently that we thought we felt God? Felt Him asking to walk beside us, close and personal? Isn’t it comforting to know that He wants to walk closely connected to us every day whether we are in death valley or not?

for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Psalm 23:4

Is that phrase the center point of your life? Is the presence of God in your life the heart of who you are? Have you found your way to a personal God, who is yours, and personally involved in your walk?

His presence, His rod and His staff comfort me, because the Lord is MY shepherd.

He is with us. Isn’t THAT the heart of the issue?




  • ESV Study Bible, Psalm 23
  • Quest Study Bible, Psalm 23
  • Life Application Study Bible, Psalm 23
  • NASB Study Bible, Psalm 23
  • David Guzik, Commentary Psalm 23
  • Matthew Henry Commentary Psalm 23
  • A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23; Phillip Keller; Zondervan 1970,2007