Psalm 23: The Lord is MY Shepherd


Psalm 23 is one of my favorites. I return there often. First, as David begins, he doesn’t say, “The Lord is a Shepherd” (in a general way), or “The Lord is the Shepherd” (in a definitive way), but “The Lord is my Shepherd” (in a personal way). He doesn’t just shepherd the world of Christians, but He shepherds my life in the midst of my relationships and my work.

The question I often begin with as I reflect on this psalm is:

“How is the Lord wanting you to know, to feel, and to be confident that He is shepherding your life in this season?”

The rest of the psalm helps answer that question. No one is a better guide, a better companion, a better counselor, or a better shepherd that He is.

And after affirming that the Lord is his shepherd, David then says, “I shall not want.” What does that mean?

1) When I allow myself to be well shepherded by the Lord, I experience deep contentment. I don’t feel a desperate want for anything (or anyone) but Him.

2) When I respond to the Lord’s shepherding, I begin to realize that I really don’t want anything (or anyone) more than Him. I remember the insight of another psalmist who says, “I have no one in heaven but you, earth has nothing I want besides you (Psalm 73:25-26).” I think of the words of Jesus Himself when He said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well (Matthew 6:33).”

So how do you sense the Lord wanting to shepherd you in this new year? What are some places of want or need you want to entrust to Him to meet as He wishes? Where is He wanting to lead you? These would be good questions to ask Him prayerfully.

 

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Is God Easy to Live With?


Psalm 111:9b-10 (MSG)
He’s so personal and holy, worthy of our respect.
The good life begins in the fear of God—
Do that and you’ll know the blessing of God.
His Hallelujah lasts forever!

This makes me think of something A. W. Tozer said in his book, The Root of the Righteous, “God is easy to live with…” There is a immature part of my heart that believes God is impossible to live with, that God expects too much and grows impatient with my slow progress. This is untrue. Peterson’s version of Psalm 111 has it, “He’s so personal and holy, worthy of our respect.”

It’s the combination of personal and holy that tweaks something in me. Part of me expects an “or” there. Personal or holy. But God is both. He draws near to me in love and righteousness. He is good and He is near.  I don’t have any better news that this in my life.

Father, today my prayer is that You would open my eyes to both Your holiness and Your intimacy. You are near, even in my shortcomings and line-crossings. You are so good that You desire my best and are working to that end without wearying.

May Your holiness produce in me that holy fear that is the beginning of wisdom. As long as my heart and mind are driven this way and that by many other fears, I am not really walking the path of wisdom. Wisdom has a single eye. Thank You for this generous insight. Amen.

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Slow Down, Soul!


img_9045Lately, I’ve been finding help in those psalm passages in which I see someone talking to their own soul. It’s a kind of holy talking to yourself. There are times when I’ve been able to simply notice the thoughts of my soul rather than being caught up in them without any detachment or holy perspective. Rather than being inwardly rushed and frantic, I am able to remind myself of a reality greater than my immediate feelings. Here are some of the psalm lines that have been especially good for me:

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:5 NIV)

When my soul feels heavy, down and troubled, I can remind myself that have reliable hope in God. I can remind myself that God is good and that I will see Him and praise Him soon. (Also Psalm 42:11 &. 43:5).

Awake, my soul!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn. (Psalm 57:8 NIV)

When my soul feels lethargic and sleepy, I can urge my soul to awaken to the real presence of God with me just like the rising sun awakens a new day.

My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him….
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. (Psalm 62:1, 5 NIV)

When I feel itchy, anxious or fearful within, I can remind my soul that there is rest to be found abiding in God. The future is bright in Him. There are countless good things that He is preparing for me.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits— (Psalm 103:1, 2 NIV)

Praise the Lord, my soul.
Lord my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty. (Psalm 104:1 NIV, and 146:1)

In seasons when my soul is not as aware of the goodness of God as it has been in others, I can remind myself of countless benefits and express the treasure, brilliance and weightiness of Who God is in my life. One practical way I’ve been doing this lately is through a journalled examen. I just start writing a list of thanksgivings, some dramatic and some simple. The other morning, it took writing thirty expressions of gratitude in my journal before my soul lightened up a bit and because to see hope.

Unhurried time:

What is happening in your soul right now? What are your joys, encouragements or hopes? What are your sorrows, worries or despairs? How do you want to talk to your soul in God’s presence to remind yourself of what is good and true?

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Morning Prayer: Overcoming Powerful Enemies


Prayer candles in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (3/2012)

Prayer candles in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (3/2012)

[This comes from a journal entry in April this year when I was finishing up my manuscript for An Unhurried Life]

Psalm 118:17-19 NIV
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Can I echo David’s prayer in my own experience? My powerful enemies have been anxiety, fear, low confidence and self-doubt. I can say that this morning that I actually feel those enemies at bay compared to other days. They are a powerful enemy, but You are immeasurably more powerful. They really have been too strong for me to overcome on my own. I am grateful that I am not on my own though.

My enemies do not play fair. They are glad to kick me when I’m down rather than offering me any hand up. My enemies have nothing but my demise in heart. In the face of such malice and evil intent, You are my support. You reach to me to help me. You aren’t even waiting for my cry for help, though my cry is an evidence of recognizing Your availability to me. I am not abandoned but companioned.

In all of this, I can find myself coming out of such a constricted place out into a spacious place. There is room to breathe, room to move. I am not stuck or trapped. I am walking, even running, free.

And all of this is a delight to my God. He takes pleasure in caring for me, watching over me, guiding me, rescuing me. His heart is full of good towards me.

  • Reflect: Where are you sensing opposition or resistance to the good God desires to do within and through you? How are you responding to this push-back?

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Is God Easy to Live With?


Psalm 111:9b-10 (MSG)
He’s so personal and holy, worthy of our respect.
The good life begins in the fear of God—
Do that and you’ll know the blessing of God.
His Hallelujah lasts forever!

This makes me think of something A. W. Tozer said in his book, The Root of the Righteous, “God is easy to live with…” There is a young part of me that believes God is impossible to live with. He expects too much and grows impatient with my slow progress. This is untrue. Peterson’s version of Psalm 111 has it, “He’s so personal and holy, worthy of our respect.”

It’s the combination of personal and holy that tweaks something in me. Part of me expects an “or” there. Personal or holy. But God is both. He draws near to me in love and righteousness. He is good and He is near.  I don’t have any better news that this in my life.

Father, today my prayer is that You would open my eyes to both Your holiness and Your intimacy. You are near, even in my shortcomings and line-crossings. You are so good that You desire my best and are working to that end without wearying.

I desire that Your holiness would produce in me that holy fear that is the beginning of wisdom. As long as my heart and mind are driven this way and that by many other fears, I am not really walking the path of wisdom. Wisdom has a single eye. Thank You for this generosity. Amen.

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(Repost from April 2011)

Only One Second Chance?


The Mediterranean Sea alongside the ruins of Caesarea by the Sea

Psalm 85:4-6 NIV
Restore us again, God our Savior,

      and put away your displeasure toward us.
Will you be angry with us forever?

      Will you prolong your anger through all generations?
Will you not revive us again,

      that your people may rejoice in you?

Twice, this psalmist mentions being restored or revived again. There’s life (-vive), new life (revive), and new life again (revive us again). Somewhere in the back of my mind there lurks the idea that God is rather stingy when it comes to restoration or revival. Some childish part of me assumes that restoration or revival is a kind of one-time deal. “You have one revival ticket, so use it wisely.” I know it’s a silly way to say it.

Our practical experience over a lifetime of seeking and following Jesus is that we need to be revived over and over and over again. Maybe daily…maybe more often than that. And the last line of this passage reminds me that joy in God will be one of the evidences that we have, indeed, been revived again.

“Father, revive me now. Revive me this very morning. Breathe once again into me the energy and freshness of Your gracious life. Even as I ask this, I don’t feel much different. But I am glad that your reviving work starts in the depths of my heart and mind before I have one thought or feeling about it. Enable me today to trust that You are answering my request to revive me. I look forward to how that new life might fill and overflow me as I interact with others and engage the work You’ve prepared for me today. And maybe I’m feeling a little of the joy bubbling up as I finish this prayer. Thank You!”

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I Own Nothing


Psalm 24:1
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
      the world, and all who live in it;

This is one of those statements that looks good on the surface, but calls into question many of the assumptions we live by in North America. There is nothing in the earth that I can call “Mine,” because everything is God’s. The great lie of consumerism is that I possess anything. The good news is that God is generous with what He owns. He is unlike me in my tendency to hoard things. And not only does everything belong to Him, but everyone does as well. I am God’s. God treats what belongs to Himself with great care. “I belong to You” is a statement of very good news. “All that I have belongs to You” is a statement of great freedom. “Father, help me let go of the illusion that I actually own anything.

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