Monday, June 26, 2017
By Right Paths (Psalm 23:3b)

First United Methodist Church

Glen Rose, Texas

May 10, 2015

Series: Following the Shepherd

“By Right Paths”

(Psalm 23:3b)

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn

INTRODUCTION:

     Rev. Dicky Love tells the story of an overworked mother of three active little boys. She was playing in the yard with her boys one afternoon when her neighbor came by to borrow a cup of sugar. One of her boys aimed his play pistol at his mother and yelled, “Bang! You’re dead!”

     Mom acted the part perfectly. She took the shot, groaned, “You got me.” Then she spun and fell to the ground. When she fell to the ground, she didn’t get up. Her neighbor waited for her to get up. But Mom didn’t get up, so the concerned neighbor rushed over to see if maybe she was hurt from the fall. 

     As the neighbor bent over, the mother opened one eye and whispered, “Shhhhhh. Please don’t give me away. This is the only chance I ever get to rest.” (1)

     Being a Mom is hard work. Being a parent is hard work because kids don’t come with a user’s manual. Somebody said “Being a parent is like being pecked to death by a duck. And a lot like trying nailing Jell-O to a tree or herding squirrels.”

     I like whoever said “Life’s “Golden Years” aren’t in retirement. The “Golden Years” refers to that period in your life when your kids are too old to require a baby-sitter and too young to take the car.”

PRAYER

     It’s tough being a parent in today’s world. It’s never been easy but it just seems to get harder and harder, especially with the far reaching aspects of our technology. When my kids were little I didn’t have to worry about them stumbling across a porn site while doing research for a homework project. And who would have thought that we’d have to worry about our kids being recruited by ISIS through chat rooms and twitter. But if you’ve been listening to the news, it’s become a very real threat.

     There aren’t any easy answers. And we can’t lock our kids away in a bunker. But I think we can find some very help in the 23rd Psalm. Especially that portion we’re going to look at today. But let’s begin by reading the 23rd Psalm again.

[1] The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

[2] He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

[3] He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

[4] Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

[5] Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

[6] Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

     The part I want to look at today is the second half of verse 3. “he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

     One of the jobs of the Shepherd is to make sure the sheep receive the right nourishment and follow the right paths and trails to reach the pasture. The Shepherd has to be on the lookout to make sure none of the sheep get distracted and wander off or get lead astray by some patch of grass that looks greener or smells sweeter. In a sense, the work of the Shepherd is a lot like being a parent.

     Since this is Mother’s Day, there are some attributes of the Good Shepherd that as parents we need to develop so we can be the best parents possible and keep our kids on “The Right Paths.”

I. BE THE PARENT:

     A. The first one is really quite simple. BE THE PARENT. The Shepherd can’t be a sheep. The Shepherd has to be a Shepherd. That’s the Shepherd’s job and calling in life. It’s the same with parenting.

     I think the greatest gift you can give to your children is to simply be THE PARENT. Not their friend but their parent. Too many parents today want to be their children’s friends. Our children have plenty of friends. And those friends are a whole lot cooler and more in the know than any parent will ever be. What our children need isn’t more friends. What our children need are parents.

     That doesn’t mean that you can’t have those intimate conversations that friends have. That doesn’t mean you can’t do the things your kids like to do and share in the adventure of growing up. That’s all part of being a parent. But a parent is someone who puts raising their kids and leading them on The Right Paths as a high priority. Friendship will come later, when they become adults.

     Our children want to know that we care. That we love them with the same unconditional love that God has for us. You may not think so, especially when you get the rolling eyes and attitude. But our children also want to know the boundaries because intuitively, they know they need boundaries. Friends don’t set boundaries, parents do. And boundaries tell your kids that you care, that you love them. It tells them that they matter enough for you to set limits on their behavior.

     OH, they are going to push the boundaries. They’re going to test you and see how far you’ll stretch the boundaries. But that’s OK. I know it’s maddening as a parent but believe it or not it’s in their job description. Their job description is simple, grow up. And how do you grow up? By learning what you can and can’t do and what’s acceptable to do and what’s not. And how do you learn what you can and can’t do? By testing your limits and testing the boundaries.

     As Parents, it’s our job to BE THE PARENT and set the boundaries. As they get older, as they mature, as the PARENT preparing them for independence, we broaden those boundaries.

     B. As the PARENT, I also think it’s important that you tell your family you love them. Not with gifts, not with money and not just by providing for them. I believe that you need to tell them and say the words: “I love you.” That’s hard for some guys. I never heard those words and so I made it a point to make sure it was said, and said often. Because I don’t think you can say it too much or too often.

     Baseball iron man Cal Ripken, Jr. said:  Growing up, “1 love you” wasn’t spread around too much in our household. Not that it wasn’t meant. I could tell every time my dad told me he loved me without saying it. It’s just the way things were then. 

     That part is different in my family. I want my kids to hear it. I tell them, “I love you no matter what,” which means, “Whether you’re good or bad, happy or sad. It doesn’t matter whatever you are. I love you. Unconditionally. Always.” (2)

     It all goes back to the idea and feeling of security, just like setting boundaries. Just as setting boundaries makes them feel safe and loved, telling them you love them and you’ll always be there for them does so even louder. You might run the risk of telling them you love them so often that it loses meaning. But you know, I’d risk it.

     BE THE PARENT. Set boundaries and tell your family you love them.

II. BE THERE:

     A. SECOND, We’re called to BE THERE. I’ve never raised sheep and most of what I know aoubt shepherding is second hand through commentaries, observation and a book by Phillip Keller that I read years ago titled: “A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23.” That book has been invaluable.

     One of the things I’ve rediscovered is that just like in raising cattle, the success of the flock also depends on good land management. A lot of folks who have hobby ranches don’t pay too much attention to pasture. But that often leads to over grazed land. That’s not good for cattle or sheep.

     With good pasture rotation and a watchful eye both the land and the livestock can prosper. But that takes someone willing to devote the proper amount of time. It means walking the fields and knowing the state of each of the pastures. It means walking among the livestock to check them out first hand.

     Forty years ago when I was farming, I’d walk among the cattle almost every day. They got used to my presence. I carried cubes in small bucket for my favorites. Up close I could tell when I needed to start dusting for flies or grubs. I could get a look at the newborn calves or check the progress of a steer or just rub the ears of the bull, who was just a big old baby. He’d been hand fed and hand raised from a calf by a young man who decided not to show him. The only thing I had to worry about was his size and the playful way he nudged me in the back begging for cubes.

     Being out in the field with the livestock was invaluable. And I think there’s a parallel between shepherding and parenting.

     B. When I was in 5th, 6th and 7th grades, I played Little League baseball. I wasn’t very good but I liked to play. I started in Center Field and occasionally played catcher. I don’t remember too much about many of the games, a stand up triple stands out in my memory. But the one game I remember the most, though, is the only game my Dad ever attended. That’s because He was there.

     He saw me strike out and he saw me get a double and a single. He saw me score a run. He was there. He said, “Good hit. You might try dropping your left shoulder a bit.” I’ve forgotten almost everything else but I remember that. There’s not too many times I can say that my Dad was there, but that night he was there. And that one game meant so much to me.

     As parents we’re called to BE THERE. Being there affirms and confirms the “I Love You”. Being there empowers the boundaries we’ve set as Parents. Being there helps lead our children down THE RIGHT PATHS.

III. BE THE EXAMPLE:

     THIRD, we’re called to BE THE EXAMPLE.

     Randall Mundt in SHORT SHOTS ON FAMILY said, “Children are natural mimics, who act like their parents despite every effort.” (3)

     Remember your folks saying something like this? “When you grow up and have children of your own, I hope that they all turn out JUST LIKE YOU!” It was usually yelled at us when we were in some kind of trouble, right. The thing is: that’s the way it works.

     Our children aren’t looking for someone to like, they are looking for someone to BE LIKE. They’re looking for someone to follow as an example.

     BE THE EXAMPLE. None of this, “Do as I say, not as I do,” stuff. BE THE EXAMPLE.

     John Wesley said “I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians of England.” (4) Susannah Wesley lived by example.

     Do you want to be the greatest influence in your children’s lives? Then BE THE EXAMPLE. Show them what a Christian Mother or Father is supposed to be by being that Christian Parent. By living what Jesus taught and did, you will BE THE EXAMPLE.

CONCLUSION:

     There was a small boy who sitting was with his mother in church listening to a sermon titled, “What is a Christian?” The Preacher kept coming back to the question and at key intervals would ask, “What is a Christian?” And every time he did, he pounded his fist on the pulpit for emphasis. 

     About the third or fourth time the Preacher asked, “What is a Christian?” The boy leaned over and whispered to his mother, “Momma, do you know? Do you know what a Christian is?” 

     Mom said, “Yes, dear, I do. Now try to sit still and listen.”

     As the Preacher was wrapping up the sermon, once again he thundered, “What is a Christian?” and pounded on the pulpit. The little boy just couldn’t stand it anymore. He jumped up and hollered, “My Momma knows. Tell him, Momma, tell him!”

     If we as parents will BE THE PARENT, BE THERE AND BE THE EXAMPLE, our children won’t have to ask if we know what a Christian is. They’ll see it for themselves. They’ll know firsthand. And they’ll follow you down THE RIGHT PATHS, “the paths of righteousness for God’s name sake.”

     BE THE PARENT, BE THERE, BE THE EXAMPLE

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.

________________________________

Bibliography

1.   Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), Aug 1998

2.   DADS MAGAZINE (JUNE/JULY 2000)

3.   Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), July 2001

4.   Leadership-Vol. 17, #1

5.   Autoillustrator

Other References Consulted

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