Psalm 23: Knowing the Shepherd

Psalm 23: Knowing the Shepherd

A favorite Bible passage of mine is Psalm 23. Although often read at funerals for comfort, its words bring comfort and guidance any day, in any situation. It is a psalm of confidence about the Lord’s care, written by the shepherd David.

David knew about the life of a shepherd from his early years. We gain insight from his writing about the Lord as our shepherd.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

The loving care of the shepherd provides for the needs of the sheep.

Psalm 23 shows us the care of the shepherd.

Sheep need a caregiver to lead them to food and water, guiding them from danger. They could not survive on their own. The word pictures of Psalm 23 reveal the caring relationship between the shepherd and his sheep. David, the human shepherd, depicts the character of the Good Shepherd.

In John 10, Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the the sheep, who knows them personally and calls them by name. The sheep trust the good shepherd and follow him.

He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

What a beautiful picture of a relationship with the Lord! He is the gentle shepherd who leads and provides the best for the sheep.

Psalm 23 Shepherd provides for needs

Psalm 23 offers us comfort and courage.

Comfort is shown in verse 4.

Even though I was through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me.

In this verse, we gain courage to face our fears. The valley of the shadow of death could be a physical death, but also could be a death of a relationship or loss of security or the death of a dream. We grieve over many types of losses. Yet the Lord promises His comfort and presence in the midst of any loss.

The shepherd’s tools, the rod and staff, are implements of care. The rod is a short, thick stick used to protect the sheep from predators, to discipline the sheep if they stray, and to count the sheep as they return to the sheep pen. The staff is long with a curved hook. It can be used to guide the sheep, rescue the sheep, and draw the sheep close to him. The shepherd developed skills in using the rod and staff.

We gain comfort knowing the Lord cares for us, protects us, and draws us to himself. He is with us always.

Psalm 23 describes confidence in the Lord for provision in difficult situations.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

The feast is prepared with peace and holy confidence from the Lord. We draw strength and courage from the Lord, knowing he is with us. He pours his love over us, even in the midst of our adversaries.

Psalm 23 lavishes blessings on us.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

As we receive blessings of goodness and mercy from the Lord, we become vessels to share those blessings with others. The comfort and care from the Lord are passed on.

These six verses help us know the Shepherd of our souls, giving us confidence and comfort for our daily lives.

What images and memories of Psalm 23 give you hope?

Psalm 23 Do you know the Shepherd

Do you know the Good Shepherd?


Infusion of Hope

Need an Infusion of Genuine Hope?

Hope stirs up expectations in our minds. We look forward to good things with an optimistic perspective.

We long for

  • a good school year.
  • everything getting done before a deadline.
  • good medical test results.
  • getting through a crazy, busy day.

These are honest desires in a chaotic world. However, if our expectation is based on good results from short-term events, we live from situation to situation without an anchor. The pace of life and the stress of worry wear us down.

Hope becomes elusive when unexpected things happen. Not only that, but we doubt our worth or ability, heading on a downward spiral of hopelessness.

When I’ve been in a discouraging season of life, it’s  hard not to look at the overwhelming situations. Health problems and financial concerns burdened my heart. I had a choice to make—to keep my eyes on the bleak problems or to change my perspective. If I kept my eyes on the problems, I would remain depressed. If I changed my focus to the Lord, I could cling to genuine hope.

A Bible verse gave me focus and a better perspective with hope.

I wrote it on a 3 x 5 card and taped it to the dashboard of my car. Whenever I started my car, I read it. When I turned the engine off, I read it. By reading it several times daily, the verse was soon memorized. It became an anchor for me. Instead of worrying all the time by thinking about the circumstances, I began to pray more with a new infusion of genuine hope.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Several lessons arose from reading that verse on my dashboard.

The Lord is our anchor, steadying us in the waters of  life.

An anchor, when tossed in the water, keeps a boat from drifting away in the wind or current. With the Lord as our anchor, we won’t drift away from His truth when rough waters come into our lives.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. Hebrews 6:19 NIV

Look at the Lord for a better perspective, not at the problem.

Why are you depressed, O my soul? Why are you upset? Wait for God! For I will again give thanks to my God for his saving intervention. Psalm 42:5 NET

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24 NIV

Prayer gives us new hope

Prayer gives us a new infusion of hope knowing the Lord hears us.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 NIV

Reading the Word of God calmed my spirit and restored hopefulness. Releasing my worry to the Lord in prayer brought peace during the trial, keeping me steady. In the end, my perspective improved with greater faith.

When hope wanes, prayer restores us to a new perspective. Prayer brings a ray of sunshine to the bleak heart.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12 NIV

Do you have health problems? Financial issues? Relationship challenges? Are you overwhelmed? Calm your heart before the Lord.

Come to the Lord to find genuine hope.

 


Heart of Summer

Deep in the Heart of Summer

The heart of summer draws many of us closer to our air conditioners. Temperatures rise, the grass crunches, and flowers shrivel if not watered daily.

The joy of planting flowers in spring is replaced with the drudgery of lugging hoses to keep the blooms alive. Heat and humidity dissolve the ambitions of working outdoors. We wonder when the next pop-up shower will bring relief to the baked earth.

The heart of summer has a unique rhythm.

The schedule is different; sometimes it’s more relaxed with less responsibility, while other times it’s more hectic as different kinds of activities are planned. Birds sing in the morning while locusts chirp in the evening.

Summer blessings abound.

Blessings come from garden veggies, impromptu picnics or camping adventures. We are thankful for different things that are easily overlooked at other times of the year, like drippy popcicles, kids jumping in sprinklers or laying in the grass watcing meteor showers.

The simple actions of today become pleasant memories for tomorrow. Pause and reflect on the fun moments of past summers. As a child, what did you like about this season? What is your favorite thing about summer now?

Recall those blessings from God in this particular time of year as a pathway to praise Him.

Recall summer

My recollections as an adult include my July wedding on a mild day and my father’s memorial service on a sweltering, humid afternoon. Each memory is a special gift.

In a nostalgic moment, I wrote this poem as I thought about the mid-year uniqueness. (It first appeared on Medium).

The Heart of Summer

Summer breezes, scorching sun,

Sweat glistening on an errand run.

Slushie drinks, ice cream cones,

Day-long trips, coming home.

Vacation travels, sights to see,

Memories in making—mountains of sea?

Fireflies and june bugs,

Garden goodies with iced tea to chug.

Children in sprinklers with sparklers at night,

Parents wonder—will bedtime happen tonight?

The heart of summer explodes with heat,

But joy remains from memories sweet.

When winter wind blow strong and bearish,

What summer memories will you cherish?

 

 

 


Refections on Freedom

Reflections on Freedom

Freedom is a key component of life for us. I’m grateful for courage and battles fought during the Revolutionary War. George Washington and others persevered against the odds, facing hunger, disease and lack of supplies.

Several years ago we visited Williamsburg and Yorktown, Virginia. I gained a new appreciation for the valiant bravery of the founders of America. In colonial Williamsburg we stepped back in time, engaging in reenactments of conversations between Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. Hearing the fife and drum corps stirred patriotism in onlookers.

music of freedom

Fife and Drum Corps, Williamsburg

In Yorktown we strolled the solemn battlefield and toured the Moore House, the final scene negotiation and surrender in the Revolutionary War. The Victory Monument  stands as a tribute to courage and determination. The inscription around the concrete reads, “One Country-One Constitution-One Destiny.”

Freedom came through difficulty, problems, and controversy. Monuments and museums document the role of faith.

 I gained of deeper understanding of the cost of freedom.

Freedom plaque Bruton Parish

Plaque in Bruton Parish Church, Williamsburg, VA. Men who fought for independence worshipped here.

Faith in God is foundational to the freedom and founding of America.

On July 4th we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the hard-fought liberty. I encourage you to pause and reflect, with gratitude, on the beginnings of our country.

As important as that is, a greater freedom comes through faith in Jesus Christ. He gave his life to free us from the grip of sin and death.

Jesus fought the battle over sin and death securing our freedom for eternity.

We don’t have to stay tangled up in the sins of the past. Through the grace of God we are loved and accepted. By grace we receive forgiveness. The power of the Holy Spirit strengthens us for our daily struggles. In Christ, we can stand firm and live our faith in the daily battles.Freedom in Christ Galatians 5:1

As you reflect on liberty during the Independence Day holiday with cook outs and fireworks, I pray that your heart will also sing the music of freedom in Christ.


Encouragent & Hope Psalm 1

Finding Encouragement and Hope in Psalm 1

Psalm 1 offers encouragement and hope for the person who finds joy in the Word of God.

The Psalmist focuses on the imagery of the flourishing tree.

Psalm 1

The blessed person and the wicked are contrasted. The blessed person delights in the word of God, reflecting on it throughout the day and night. Thoughts of scripture guide this person, rather than the considerations of the world.

The tree described in Psalm 1 flourishes by streams of water. Its leaves never wither.

Recently we hiked in where rushing water flowed through tree-lined banks.

trees by stream

Because of the nearness of the water source, the trees are often the healthiest. Their roots grow deep. This is the picture of the blessed person, who steadily takes in nourishment from the Lord.

 

 

The roots of this tree, spread wide and deep, anchoring it near a lake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But if the roots only go wide and are shallow, the tree is not secure and can topple in a storm.  

Shallow roots will hold for a season, but will eventually give way to excessive rain or rising water.

Psalm 1 encourages us to send our roots deep into the word of God.

Meditation is more than reading words; it implies the action of chewing and digesting the meaning of the words, pondering them and applying their wisdom to life.

Maybe you’re like me, having worries or doubts taking up residence in my mind. When I dwell on those, I get negative, fearful mindset. “What ifs” can take over. Those thoughts spread shallow roots. Although they can easily be pulled up, they grow fast.

When I choose to meditate on the Word of God, the secure roots of faith go deep, calming my anxious thoughts. The deeper roots stabilize my heart, guiding me with the wisdom of scripture.

Psalm 1 offers the hope of fruitfulness.

The phrase “yields fruit in season” reminds me that there is a fruit bearing season and a harvest. There are times when we wait and hope for answers to prayer, like waiting for an orchard to produce fruit at the proper time. The trees are still nourished although the fruit is yet to ripen. For the believer, the times of waiting can be seasons of abiding in Christ. Jesus taught in John 15:4-5:

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

When I need a dose of encouragement and hope to draw near to God, I turn to Psalm 1.

Once again I’m reminded to meditate and apply its truths while I wait for God to produce his fruit  in my life.

How do you grow deeper in the Word of God?