2/28 Reflect on your need, and go to your Shepherd to be filled.

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. What a wonderful truth! Tomorrow we head to the green pastures and still waters, but before we do take some time to reflect on your needs. Where do you hunger? What is drying you out and making you thirst? What is missing in your life today?

Spend some time considering your needs tonight, and then go worship tomorrow to let Jesus feed you! He has abundant gifts in store. Your needs will be cared for. Your hungers will be fed and your thirst quenched. Join Jesus in worship and let him fill you with good things!

Lord Jesus, it has been a long week. I’m tired. I’m hungry and thirsty. I need to be refreshed. Thank you for leading me to worship, and for caring for my most basic needs of body and soul. Amen.

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2/27 Dependable

I read Psalm 23 every day this week. Every day it said the same thing, “The Lord is My Shepherd.” That consistency is vital to me. I often fail at my end as a sheep who is to follow the Good Shepherd. Some days I wake up grumpy, and my attitude fails to follow the Joy I see in the Good Shepherd’s face. Some days I speak harsh words to people I care about, and I fail to follow the example of a Good Shepherd who speaks words of love and grace. Some days I follow my own desires instead of the wisdom of a Good Shepherd who knows the best paths for me. I am always wandering away, but my Good Shepherd is always there calling me by name and welcoming me into His arms.

The most consistent people I know are ones who work with animals. Whether it is the caregiver of Lydia our Comfort Dog who is up everyday to feed her in the morning before work, or my friends who grew up milking cows on a dairy farm, or my friend who works at Windrush Farm for therapeutic horseback riding; those who work with animals are consistent and dependable beyond any one else I’ve ever met. These are the people who don’t take a day off because of weather. These are the ones who care for their animals before they care for themselves. They’re always on, and you can count on them. Shepherds are the same. Even more so, the Good Shepherd.

I need a consistent Shepherd because I’m always wandering off. Fortunately God promises to always be the same. He is slow to anger and abounding in unending love. He is the same yesterday, and today, and tomorrow. As many times as you wander away and come back to read Psalm 23 your Good Shepherd will always be there to welcome you back to his flock. His love for you will never change. Count on it.

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2/26 Side by side…

The Lord is my Shepherd. Psalm 23 opens with a confession of faith that the Psalm writer believes that God walks beside him. The image of a shepherd and his sheep is a close and personal one. There is no huge chasm between the two. They walk side by side.

Throughout the Scriptures the personal nature of faith is highlighted. In the beginning God walked with Adam and Eve. Once sin came into the picture God came for His afternoon walk and found Adam and Eve hiding from him. Sin brought about separation. Adam and Eve couldn’t face God anymore. Fortunately God didn’t just allow the separation to last. His Gospel promise is that we will live with Him for eternity. Forgiveness removes the separation, and opens the way for us to walk side by side once again.

Read through the Bible and you’ll see people who walk with God in spite of their sin. Moses, David, Abraham, and many others walked with God as a Shepherd walks with His sheep.

Jesus highlights the personal nature of faith when he asks the disciples, “But what about you, who do you say that I am?” Faith cannot be held by someone for you. No one can follow Jesus for you. God has promised to be with you always. God is there to walk with you so that you can proclaim with the psalm writer, “The Lord is MY Shepherd!”

Dear Jesus, you are MY Shepherd. Stay close by my side. Amen.

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2/25 I shall not want…

Reading the Bible often means removing myself from 21st Century America and placing myself into a distant time and place. That cannot be more true for a verse than it is for Psalm 23:1b. “I shall not want.”

To an American today “I shall not want” means I have everything including a big enough house, a new enough I-phone with unlimited data and a plenty big battery, enough underwear so that I don’t have to do laundry this week, an SUV with enough of space, a tv big enough to be seen from my neighbors’ couch across the street, and money enough to go out to eat on average of five times a week, pay for my kids’ private education, and retire comfortably. It’s not really all that close to what Psalm 23:1 originally intended.

The word for “shall not want,” sometimes translated “lack nothing,” is also used in a verse in Deuteronomy chapter 2 in reference to the people of Israel wandering in the wilderness for 40 years between slavery in Egypt and entering the Promised Land. Moses writes: “These forty years the LORD your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing.”

They lacked nothing. Do you see how Psalm 23 must not be referring to a 21st century American’s definition of “lack nothing?” There was no wifi. No air conditioning. No electricity. No plumbing. No property owned. No e-readers. Once I get past the shock of realizing that Psalm 23 isn’t promising me my dream house, my dream car, or my dream vacation life then I can begin to consider what Psalm 23 IS promising, and what it really means for me.

Both Deuteronomy 2:7 and Psalm 23:1 talk about lacking nothing, and both point to the exact same source of contentment: a relationship with an ever-present, ever-loving God. In that relationship, there is no want. There is nothing I lack when He is with me. If I do feel like I’m missing something it is only because I’m looking for satisfaction in all the wrong places. Anything that fills my ‘want’ apart from God is going to come up short. Eventually the new car gets dinged and dings develop rust and rusty cars just don’t have the same appeal. Eventually you’ll get a bad piece of seafood and realize that even what looks like the best stuff on earth can be painful. Eventually your cutting edge technology will be replaced and you’ll keep chasing after the newer, the bigger, the best. Eventually you’ll lose your mind trying to fill a void that could be filled all along by Jesus.

Psalm 23 isn’t just a Psalm about eternal life. It’s a psalm about finding contentment TODAY. It’s to be found in a relationship with the Good Shepherd, Jesus. When you find that you’ll have no want.

Dear Jesus, help me find contentment in you. Amen.

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2/24 Psalm 23 puts me in my place

Psalm 23 places us in a humbling position. To proclaim that “the Lord is my shepherd” is to proclaim that I am in need of a leader. It means that I believe that I cannot lead myself to eternal life. It is a confession of my own weakness.

The Christian faith is unique in the religions of the world because it claims that we cannot get ourselves to eternity. This places us in a position of need. Many people struggle with this. We want to think that we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We want to believe that we are strong and brave and unstoppable. We want to believe that we are capable of anything. Yet, Psalm 23 reminds us of the truth. The Lord is my Shepherd. He leads. He guides. He gets us to eternal life.

Luther said it this way in the explanation to the Apostle’s Creed: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” In other words, I need a Shepherd to lead me.

Lord, I need you.  Thank you for Shepherding me through life to eternity.  I can’t do it without you!  In Jesus name, Amen.

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2/23 The Voice that leads to life.

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

The shepherd physically acted as a gate/door that offered protection for his sheep. The sheep pens would be groups of rocks piled up in a ring that would be visited once a year as the wandering shepherds led the sheep toward greener grass in the North, and once a year heading back south to their home market. There was no hinged door. The shepherd would lay down in the door way and call his sheep one by one to jump over him and land in the security of the pen. Then, he would spend the night asleep in the entrance keeping the sheep safely inside and the enemies on the outside. The sheep knew their shepherd’s voice and would follow it for life.

There are other voices out there calling your name. You know who or what they are. They call you to think and act in ways that in the beginning make you feel good, or comfortable, or well fed; but in the end lead you down paths that are destructive and dangerous. These voices speak to your deepest desires and most intimate needs. These voices come from the thief who seeks your destruction.

The Good Shepherd knows your name, and is the only one who can truly bring peace and safety in your life. The Good Shepherd has not come to feed himself, but has come to bring life to you. There are a lot of voices calling you today, only the Good Shepherd has your life in his best interest. All the rest are looking out for themselves and don’t care if you get destroyed in the process. The Good Shepherd has come to give you life, abundant life!

The Good Shepherd speaks through His Word. Listen to Him. Every day, listen to Him.

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2/22 Psalm 23:1

“The Lord is my Shepherd;  I shall not want.”

Psalm 23 says a lot about who God is: loving, kind, caring, providing, saving, protecting, producing, guiding, healing, feeding, leading, etc.

Psalm 23 also says a lot about who WE are.  If He is the Shepherd, that makes us the sheep.  Needy, soft, easily frightened, wandering, hungry, lost.  The picture isn’t pretty.  The facts are right in front of us from the beginning: We can’t do this alone.  We NEED God, and He is most willing to lead us.

That’s the bad news and the good news all tied up together.  We need God, and He loves to provide.  This week we’ll dive deeper into this Truth, please join us each day!

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