Morning Exposition – Psalm 23:4

This is my preaching script for a morning exposition that I gave on Tuesday, 22 September for the Cornhill Training Course.


“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)

But let’s look at the text here. The verse is divided into a couple of phrases and it starts with a fairly bold statement.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,

Whether it is a national lockdown or the preaching of the gospel being considered hate speech, life in this fallen world will necessarily take you through valleys. Even while David was telling us about how good life is if the Lord is your shepherd, it remains true that hardship is coming. What’s interesting is the way that this follows David’s description of being lead down paths of righteousness. Would we feel the same way about the first two verses if we knew those paths were going to lead through great struggle and difficulty?

But it wasn’t just that David was lead through the valley. David faced evil as well! Whether it was Saul or Absalom or the sin in his own heart, he faced it. A king on the run like a fugitive or prey to Saul’s psychosis.

Why could he face these? Where is his confidence? We see it again in our passage.

For you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me

God is with him. David’s confidence isn’t in his ability to handle things but in knowing that even in this trial, through this valley, he is not alone. And it goes further than that, as David comes to the rod and the staff.

There’s a bit of controversy these days about the use of a rod, but here, it’s purpose in the hands of a shepherd is clear. The shepherd would use the rod to count his sheep, it was a way for him to know that they were all there. He knew if one of them was missing or had fallen in need of the rescuing power of the staff. And this was David’s comfort in the midst of his valleys. The people of Israel would have understood this from their national story as well. They would have known how God had guided them through the wilderness, cared for them and saved them.

Our lives may not be marked by time in the actual wilderness, unless you like camping, but we do still experience dark times. We lose our loved ones or our jobs. My wife and I have experienced the pain of miscarriage and estrangement from family. We had to live outside of the UK for a year after my visa was refused last August. A friend of mine remarked at seeing my family hold it together as we worked through being apart for two months only to have to have our reunion in a place that felt truly foreign. But my wife and I have often talked about how it didn’t feel like we were doing the holding, we were being held together. We only made it through because God carried us through.

In the midst of these things, it is possible to be comforted and confident. Why? Because our shepherd is with us. His rod and staff comfort us. Our God knows our state because he lived it through Christ. Jesus walked through the valley of the shadow of death. He feared no evil. He lived his life in complete dependence on his Father. Hebrews 2:10 tells us that he suffered. When God relates to us, it isn’t as a far off power who just watches. He, like a shepherd, lives and dwells with his sheep.

The fact that we experience trials in our lives should not cause us to doubt God’s care for his children but instead to hold to his unchanging hand. The same God who leads us beside still waters is the God who walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death.

What about us, here today? What trials may come as we work to grow as Bible teachers and as Christians? Preaching the gospel could become illegal. Or unearthing and contending with the sin that lives inside of us so that we can become more Christ-like. As we do all of this, take heart. Don’t fear. Be confident and comforted because we are not alone in these valleys. Our God is faithful. He is with us. He knows us.

Pray for logistics

One of the more stressful aspects of the missionary life is navigating the world of moving house and dealing with government stuff. Perhaps it is because those things have to happen before any actual missionary work begins. As we begin this first full week of raising support and sharing about what God has called us to do, please join with us in prayer over the following things:

Favour with the government

As you may know, the entire reason we ended up serving in Warsaw is because Dan’s visa renewal was refused last year. Because of this, we are entering into this process with a lot of fear and anxiety over how this application will go. Pray that Dan’s application would be approved. Pray that we would trust in the Lord and not lean on our own understanding.

Moving again

This is our third international move in three years. With it comes shipping our belongings, figuring out transitional accommodation, continuing to work in the mean time and countless small tasks that seem to balloon out as different milestones get closer. Pray that we would not be overwhelmed but would work diligently to do what is in front of us.

Thank you so much for praying with us. We’ll be back with another update tomorrow.

Fun Fact Friday – Covenanters

We are preparing to be on mission in the town of Strathaven. One of the coolest things we’ve been learning about the area is that part it played in church history.

Strathaven is surrounded by small towns and villages that were home to Covenanter pastors. These pastors were kicked out of their churches by the government because of their refusal to recognise the king as head of the church.

Despite the threat of death, the pastors would continue to hold meetings called field-coventicles at night, in fields or glens or ravines. During the gatherings, all of the elements of church worship were kept. The Word was preached, baptism and communion were observed. Far from being a quiet event, hundreds and thousands of people would attend.

Today, there are monuments and memorials dotted around the area in fields and forests.

Our hope is that one day, the people of Scotland would again be this devoted to the Lord. Partner with us as we seek to disciple families and young people there.


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The need in Scottish churches

One of the reasons we are so excited to be joining with the Scottish church is also one of the most alarming.

While there is an incredible church history in Scotland, it contrasts with the present to show a very bleak picture. There simply aren’t enough people in the church there and the growth that is happening is not enough to keep up with the population.

If you would like to partner with us as we work to reach families in Strathaven, there are two ways. First, you can join with us in prayer by signing up for our newsletter. We share regular life and ministry updates along with specific prayer requests. We would love to pray for you as well and you can reply to the newsletter with your own requests.

Second, you can partner with us financially. We have a financial goal of $3600 per month in order to be fully funded and able to engage full time with gospel ministry in Scotland.

Residency, Dan’s dad and lockdown lifting

Residency

Karta Pobytu means Residence Card.

After working on the process for six months (some of it was because of lockdown), we have finally got our residency in Poland sorted out. It’s kind of ironic that this is happening just as we are beginning to pack up and leave. We are, however, grateful that our time here is officially legal. Our stay here would not have been possible were it not for the fact that Tracy and the kids are still kinda-sorta EU nationals.

Dan’s dad

My dad’s surgery went well, he’s actually been messaging us today which is a huge relief. Hopefully, the staff will give him a chance to get some rest now but hospitals are never easy places to sleep. Thank you so much for all of your prayers.

Lockdown lifting in the UK

While churches in the US have already begun to gather again while observing distancing guidelines, the same has not yet happened in the UK. It was announced that, in England at least, churches might be able to open again for prayer and services. It is still unclear exactly what that means but it gives us hope that things will have opened up a bit more by the time we arrive (God-willing) in August.

In the mean time

It’s strawberry season in Poland.

As we get closer to transitioning out of our time in Poland, we are asking those who have supported us so far to prayerfully consider continuing with us for another year. Our heart has always been for ministry in the UK. We hope that you will join with us in our return to doing just that.

Quick prayer update

It’s now been a week since my (Dan’s) dad went into hospital for his cranioplasty. We were initially hoping for a swift recovery but there have been a few significant complications. Due to some issues with drainage, the doctors have decided to install a permanent shunt to alleviate this. It’s a quicker surgery but it is still invasive.

As can be expected, this has been really rough for the whole family. The time difference (7 hours) means that there’s a relatively small window of time where we can get information. On top of that is just the worry that comes with being so far away. We know that we are meant to be here and not there right now but it is still a lot to grapple with.

Please join with us in prayer over these things. I was grateful this morning for Paul’s second letter to Corinth. Christopher J. Gordon in Tabletalk Magazine reminds us that:

Yes, Paul received actual grace from the Lord through prayer. In his weakness, the grace of Christ rested on him, and he received strength.

My family is starting off this week already weary but we know that God cares.

The need in culture and the church

I wrote previously that Christianity and a biblical worldview are not welcome in British society. One of the places that has shown this to be true is in the recent change to abortion laws in Northern Ireland.

Until October 2019, abortion was essentially banned in Northern Ireland. Now, it’s legal across the whole of the UK. This is a tragedy beyond words that is made worse by one thing. In the House of Lords, there are 26 Church of England bishops who are eligible to vote as ”Lords Spiritual”. 19 of those bishops abstained from voting.

Now, we know that the only hope in situations like this is the Holy Spirit working to change the hearts of man. It’s only the Holy Spirit at work in us which allows us the ability to see and define good and evil correctly. And the Holy Spirit works through the preaching of the Word. Without gospel workers on the ground, we cannot expect to see gospel change.

Our hope as a family is to join workers in the UK to preach the gospel as well as train up young people. It is to do the work of Deuteronomy 6. To explain that we do all of this because we have been saved.

Please, prayerfully consider partnering with us in this calling. Click the button below to find out how.

Why we still feel called to the UK

First, an update on my dad

Thank you so much for your prayers for my dad. We got word that the surgery went very well. The doctors’ plans right now are for my dad to spend the day and night in ICU before being transferred to the neurological department. Not just that, but my dad was strong enough to send us a selfie and a quick message only eight hours after his surgery!

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There is no getting away from the fact that having my visa refused last year really messed me up. Between dealing with being separated from my family and trying to figure out our next steps, I felt completely lost. To a lesser degree, that feeling still persists but we do have hope. As of right now (16 June 2020), we don’t have firm plans. We have a church and town in mind, but it’s still not for sure. Our hope is that we will have an answer by the start of July.

In the mean time, we do know one thing for sure. We are still called to be on mission in the UK. Our continued connection to the church, our family ties, and even the slow journey to confirming the new church are significant factors but they are small compared to one in particular: there is still a significant need for gospel workers in the UK.

Life in lockdown has slowed a lot of things down but has also helped the church’s witness. See, the UK is a truly secular nation. They may have a state church and be home to some of the best Bible teaching available. But one look at the culture will show that the church is not welcome in society. Except

A global pandemic that led to churches closing their physical doors led to them setting up online beacons. This has actually proven to be a great opportunity for the kingdom. While the buildings have been empty, people have been paying attention. I, personally, know of churches that have had their broadcasts viewed by two to three times as many people as they would have on the best Sunday.

Not only that, these numbers are being reported in secular news outlets. Since the lockdown began, a third of adults between the ages of 18 and 34 have viewed a church broadcast and a fifth of those who have viewed have never gone to church. Our hope is to join gospel workers in this harvest; to continue doing outreach and evangelism while discipling new believers and families.

Join Us

If you’re excited about what God is doing in the UK, please consider partnering with us as we work to preach the gospel and disciple new believers and young families. To find out more, visit our giving page.

Some answers to prayer

Things are beginning to ramp up here as we make preparations to leave Poland and begin new work in the UK. While we are still in the process of confirming what that work will be, there are some things that we have been praying over because they need to be in place no matter what.

The biggest answer to prayer that we have been given is a confirmed date for when international air travel will open up again. Our concern for the last few weeks has been that we would possibly have to do some kind of quarantined grand tour of Europe in order to leave Europe. As fun as that idea would sound under different circumstances, countries having 14-day quarantines after each border crossing would have meant taking potentially two months just to leave the continent!

Thankfully, Poland’s borders will open again on Saturday (13 June) and international air travel will open up next week (16 June)! Our next big hurdle is finding out if, because we have been pursuing temporary residency in Poland, we will be able to apply for my (Dan’s) UK visa in Warsaw.