Those Wonderful Sheepdogs

Psalm 16

A psalm of David.

Keep me safe, O God,
    for I have come to you for refuge.

I said to the Lord, “You are my Master!
    Every good thing I have comes from you.”
The godly people in the land
    are my true heroes!
    I take pleasure in them!
Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods.
    I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood
    or even speak the names of their gods.

Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
    You guard all that is mine.
The land you have given me is a pleasant land.
    What a wonderful inheritance!

I will bless the Lord who guides me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I know the Lord is always with me.
    I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.
    My body rests in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead
    or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.
You will show me the way of life,
    granting me the joy of your presence
    and the pleasures of living with you forever.

By Chuck Griffin

God is our ultimate protector. When we believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, we are protected even as we experience death, carried into eternal life by God’s great plan. The final verses of today’s psalm are a prophecy of that plan, revealing how it culminates in the resurrection of Jesus.

A desire for safety in this earthly life and the idea that godly people can be heroes are two other concepts that come together in this psalm. And as I write this devotion knowing it will be published on Veterans Day, I cannot help but think of those who took time out of their lives to serve the United States of America in a military role to protect us.

I give particular thanks for those who take on such difficult roles while clinging to godliness, the pursuit of what God would have them do.

Sometimes you hear certain people described as having “sheepdog” personalities—friendly, gentle and loyal, but a force to be reckoned with when evil threatens. Many such people are naturally drawn to military service. I love the way the sheepdogs fit into the pastoral image of the Great Shepherd, the one responsible for the flock as a whole.

A good sheepdog becomes an extension of the shepherd’s hand, sensitive to the call of the master and following commands without allowing fear to get in the way. What a comfort sheepdogs should be to the flock!

Think of the sheepdogs around you today and offer them words of affection and thanks. Let them know they are loved and welcomed among us. We need their experiences and attitudes in the midst of our churches.

Lord, pour a special blessing out today on those who have chosen to form that thin line protecting us from disaster. Amen.

Peaceful Warriors

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Psalm 144:1-2
A psalm of David.
Praise the Lord, who is my rock.
    He trains my hands for war
    and gives my fingers skill for battle.
He is my loving ally and my fortress,
    my tower of safety, my rescuer.
He is my shield, and I take refuge in him.
    He makes the nations submit to me.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we should have a deep aversion to violence. Our savior and teacher had a lot to say about radical forgiveness, turning the other cheek, and forgiveness for enemies.

And yet, evil remains in the world. Since the days when the church and institutional power first began to blend, Christians have struggled with how to  follow Jesus’ teachings when confronted with the potential for great violence.

There are two basic paths thoughtful Christians have promoted through the years. The first is pacifism, where Christians say violence is unacceptable under any circumstances. True Christian pacifists are relatively few in number, although that doesn’t necessarily make them wrong—I have enormous respect for the creative ways they will try to confront violence with nonviolent countermeasures.

The second involves something called Just War Theory. Essentially, war is never good, but sometimes it is necessary in a broken world. There are, however, principles that should never be violated in deciding to go to war or during its prosecution.

I pray there are no more wars in my lifetime for Americans to justify, but if one arises, we likely will hear a leader at some point describe the cause as “just.” He or she will be trying to convince the public that principles of a just war have been considered.

We should always be dubious, by the way. Just wars inherently should be rare events, far more rare than what we have experienced since the end of World War II.

By the way, some of these just war principles can be applied to the “when and how” of Christians individually defending themselves. It has been my experience that martial arts training will cause people to back into these ethical debates without realizing they’re touching on Just War Theory.

For most Christians, it is a reality that some will train their hands for war, trusting God to give their fingers skill for battle. Certainly, soldiers should train, as should our police and others willing to protect innocent lives.

We need to pray for those who train, asking that they also maintain their humanity and their connection to God. Indeed, let’s pray they feel guided by God if forced into action.

Simultaneously, we need to pray for political leaders who will not abuse how they make use of these willing warriors.

I look forward to the day when Jesus’ sword of truth has overcome all evil, and violence is part of a former world.

Lord, grant us creative solutions to ancient problems, and may we all learn to think of violent solutions as acts of last resort. Amen.

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