COMMUNITY VOICES: Do You Need Your Soul Restored?

— By Pastor Paul Witkop —

The 23rd Psalm is, perhaps, the most well-known scripture passage. My second-grade teacher, in a public school, even had us memorize it as classical poetry. I have been with people who suffer from advanced dementia, who do not know even their own adult kids — and yet, when I begin reading Psalm 23, they join with me. There is something very personal and comforting about the shepherd psalm. It is calming promise when our soul is troubled. It is a reminder of God’s goodness even in the midst of this time of a pandemic. The psalm reminds us we can trust God, no matter what.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside still waters,
He restores my soul.
(Psalm 23:1–3a)

Shepherds were everywhere in King David’s day when he wrote it. Shepherds live to protect the sheep. The sheep do not have to fear because they trust the shepherd.

Where is your soul today? Does it need restoring? We are living in crazy and fearful times. The fear of catching the virus, the loss of a job, the loneliness caused by social distancing can all drain us. We worry. Sometimes, just the chaos of a busy schedule drains our soul. So, we ask, “Is the Lord really our shepherd or it is just a cute idea for a painting or a poem?”

Jesus, who called himself the good shepherd, said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus wants to restore your soul…to give you hope, to rejuvenate your spirit and to revive your God given potential. You are his unique creation and he has a plan for you that fits you perfectly. He wants you to know the security of unfailing and unconditional love. “For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation” (Psalm 100:5).

For the stresses of each day, take some time to read Psalm 23 — one verse a day. As you do, you will be drawn closer to the Lord who wants to shepherd you toward real solutions and real peace. More than anything, Jesus wants to restore your soul.

Teaser: Photo by Felix Mittermeier

COMMUNITY VOICES: God, Are You Sleeping?

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— By Pastor Paul Witkop — 

One of my favorite accounts from the life of Jesus is when Jesus and the disciples are traveling on the Sea of Galilee. A gigantic storm erupts, and everyone is afraid, that is everyone except Jesus, who happens to be sleeping in front of the boat. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” —Mark 4:38

This is one of the places where I can really relate to the disciples?

“Jesus, I am in the middle of a terrible storm, and you are sleeping…or at least is sure seems like you are.”

“Jesus, there is a pandemic virus going on in the world. I am praying, but it’s bad. People are losing their jobs. The vulnerable are being isolated. Jesus, don’t you care?”

In verses 39-41, we read: When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Putting myself in the disciples’ place, they were simply remembering past experiences and imagining what could happen. Maybe they had heard about, even friends, other fishermen…who had been caught in a storm like this and drowned.

Verse 41 tells us: The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

The disciples are beginning to process this event. They feared for their lives in the storm. They feared a WHAT. But now, they ask, “Who is this man? Even the winds and waves obey him.” This WHO is very different.

In our world today, there is a huge WHAT that is causing fear, there is a WHO that says, “I want you to look at me.”

Does this mean that we sit back and just wait for Jesus to work a huge miracle and eradicate the virus? I think not. He has given us creative minds and many opportunities to help others. Social distancing, looking out for the vulnerable, are some of the ways that we love God by loving our neighbors.

Ultimately, we have a choice. Every day when we wake up, do we live in fear of this huge WHAT? No, we research medical solutions, we work together, we take the paths and work the options that are provided. But ultimately, we trust the future into the hands of the greatest WHO, Jesus. There is an old cliché sounding truth, that has now taken on new significance for me.

I don’t know the details of what the future holds, but I know WHO holds the future.

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