THE PREPARED TABLE

On the second Friday of each month in 2019 we are studying one of the most memorized chapters in the Bible: PSALM 23. Join me as we bring fresh application of this beloved psalm to our lives.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Yea, 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…

In our culture today we don’t really have enemies surrounding us like David who faced lions and bears that were trying to get his sheep. However later in his life, David had to run for his life many times when being chased by enemies like King Saul and even his own son sought to kill him at one point.

What enemies do we face?

Because you’re reading this column most likely you have all the basic comforts of the Western world: food, clothing, shelter, medicine, etc… In a spiritual sense the biggest enemy we face I believe is doubt and fear. Our physical enemies are often things such as lack or sickness.

Our own worst enemy.

Sometimes my biggest enemy is my own mind. I may have physical struggles although I have all my basic needs met. But when I wake up in the morning my mind goes right to today’s challenges or to the things I wish could be different. Starting my day with worship music always helps me with this. Maybe that’s why David wrote so many songs.

See the blessings not the struggle.

The lesson I get from this portion of Psalm 23 is that no matter what enemy we may be facing: lack, illness, fear or doubt… We need to look around and see all the things we already have before we grumble about the things we don’t have.

God has already blessed us with so much.

See His Goodness now!

Contemplate God’s goodness with this beautiful video by Elevation Worship.

THE COMFORTER

On the second Friday of each month in 2019 we are studying one of the most memorized chapters in the Bible: PSALM 23. Join me as we bring fresh application of this beloved psalm to our lives.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yes, 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.

 

In the shepherd fields of David’s day the sheep depended on their shepherd for everything. Because sheep aren’t very smart creatures they need guidance to food and water; protection from predators and from getting lost or hurt. If a sheep wondered off from the fold they could easily get lost and die.

In his most famous psalm, David uses the rod to represent discipline and protection. While the staff represents grace and comfort.

When a sheep got lost it could look up and see the shepherds staff guiding them back to the fold. Or when a sheep got caught in a bush or a ravine the shepherd could use the crook at the top, which is the staff, to rescue it.

In much the same way God is always ready to guide us when we need it or to correct us when necessary. And with His sweet amazing grace He reaches down and rescues us from a bramble bush when we get caught.

Where can we find our Good Shepherd’s rod and staff today?

How does God guide, discipline and rescue us today

The revelation of God is whole
    and pulls our lives together.
The signposts of God are clear
    and point out the right road.
The life-maps of God are right,
    showing the way to joy.
The directions of God are plain
    and easy on the eyes.
God’s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold,
    with a lifetime guarantee.
The decisions of God are accurate
    down to the nth degree.

God’s Word is better than a diamond,
    better than a diamond set between emeralds.
You’ll like it better than strawberries in spring,
    better than red, ripe strawberries.

There’s more: God’s Word warns us of danger
    and directs us to hidden treasure.
Otherwise how will we find our way?

~ Psalm 19:7-11 (The Passion Translation)

Certainly God uses people and circumstances to direct, protect and discipline us. But primarily today God guides us through His living Word: The Holy Bible.

This is why it’s so important that we stay close to God’s Word everyday! As sheep, we’re easily distracted. We may wonder off and put ourselves in a tempting, even dangerous situation.

Just like a loving parent, whose child has wondered away from them, we may need to be rescued and then disciplined. It’s sometimes hard, but we need to see our corrections and rescues as comfort from a loving father.

With this sweet song by Ellie Holbomb contemplate God’s loving arms reaching out to comfort you today.

THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW

On the second Friday of each month in 2019 we are studying one of the most memorized chapters in the Bible: PSALM 23. Join me as we bring fresh application of this beloved psalm to our lives.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me…*

 

During the time David wrote this psalm, a traveler going through the desert valley of Judah on foot would often risk their lives. The shadows cast by the mountains may be hiding unknown dangers: lurking bandits or wild animals. But the faithful could be assured that they need not fear because the Lord was near.

Each one of us walks through dark valleys in various seasons of our life. During these times of struggle it’s important that we not compare our valley walk with that of fellow believers. We each struggle in different ways and for different reasons. A dark valley experience for you may not be a dark valley experience for me and vice versa.

I may be going through the toughest season of my life while you seem to be floating along on cloud nine. If I’m not careful I could become resentful and bitter at you and/or God.  What I don’t know is that you may be having a family crisis that you can’t talk about. But all I see is you composed; not stressed or worried.

Others are watching us walk through our valleys.

What are they seeing?

Do they see someone who is bitter, angry and afraid?

Or do they see someone joy-filled and trusting God’s plan for good?

To be honest, this is difficult for me. I must remind myself almost daily to be patient, trust God and know that He loves me and hasn’t forgotten about me. I’m not in this valley alone. This valley has a lesson to build in my faith and character if I will just let it.

There are measures of God’s Presence that you can only experience in the valley. ~ Bill Johnson

The dictionary defines a shadow as a dark figure or an image cast on a surface of a body intercepting light. What’s intercepting the Light in your life today?

Maybe your valley seems dark because God’s Presence is so near protecting you under His wing.

If you are walking through a dark valley today take a few minutes to contemplate God’s Presence with this beautiful prophetic worship song by Nathaniel Coe III and Somer Jordan.


*New King James Version

THE PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

On the second Friday of each month in 2019 we are studying one of the most memorized chapters in the Bible: PSALM 23. Join me as we bring fresh application of this beloved psalm to our lives.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.*

 

What the path looks like isn’t important.

Whatever our path looks like or where it leads we can always know that God has a purpose and a plan. We can be sure that today’s path is especially designed for our good, for our growth and for His glory.

God’s children walk a privileged path.

Some days it may not feel so privileged because we’re going through tough times. But in my life experience I can look back on the toughest seasons and see that my faith grew more during those struggles than through times of ease.

Look at your path from a higher viewpoint.

If we look at our life from a helicopter view to see God’s big picture we can see the path going through the dry desert, past the lake then over and around the mountains. As a new friend of mine recently wrote, we each have good days and growth days. The path of the good days may feel like we are walking along a beautiful sandy beach.  Whereas the growth days are like climbing a steep rocky hill. If we can look at God’s viewpoint maybe we can see the mountain winding roads as the learning curves that they are.

Giving God’s name glory.

How we express ourselves along our path will determine how those around us view God. If we walk our easy path with humility and thanksgiving we’re representing God properly. However, if we’re walking a rocky path unhappy and complaining we’re not giving God’s name a good reputation. We can’t speed up God’s timing but we can slow it down with a poor attitude. Let’s travel the path to our victorious destination expecting God’s goodness to shine brighter and brighter on us each day. As we do God will be glorified in our life and we will bring others along with us!

But the lovers of God walk on the highway of light,
and their way shines brighter and brighter
until they bring forth the perfect day. ~ Proverbs 4:18 (TPT)**

Enjoy this beautiful video as you contemplate The Waymaker’s path for you today.


*New King James Version.

**The Passion Translation.

BE RESTORED

On the second Friday of each month in 2019 we are studying one of the most memorized chapters in the Bible: PSALM 23. Join me as we bring fresh application of this beloved psalm to our lives.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pasture, he leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul…

Jesus the Great Shepherd restores our weary souls.

He wants us to know that, because He cares for our every need, we can rest our worried minds and be content with what we have today and trust Him for what we will need for tomorrow.

Jesus the Great Shepherd nourishes our weary souls.

He lovingly guides us to the lush green pastures where we will be nourished. He lead us to the calming still waters that will refresh our thirst for peace.

Jesus the Great Shepherd knows us better that we know ourselves.

God knows when His children are down. Because He created us, He knows exactly what will restore us and when we will need it.  But often when we’re weary God is the last person we turn to for help.

Jesus the Great Shepherd is waiting for us to look to Him for our help.

We often turn to our friends or family in times of need. We may turn to media or substances to distract our weary heart. What we need is to sit in a quiet moment with the Lord and just be.

He is here. Your restoration is waiting. Call on Him. Be with HIm…

STILL WATERS

On the second Friday of each month in 2019 we are studying one of the most memorized chapters in the Bible: PSALM 23. Join me as we bring fresh application of this beloved psalm to our lives.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pasture, he leads me beside still waters…

We weren’t created to live in state of frenzy… stressing to make it to the next paycheck so we can pay off the debt we accumulated buying things we never use… Hustling to make it to the next rung on the corporate ladder so we can feel better about ourselves.

Life seems to be focused on what we don’t have today. Many of us are stretching ourselves to the breaking point just to get the next best newer things.

When God created Adam and Eve He gave them a peaceful home. They were privileged to live in a Garden created just for them where they walked with God in the cool of the morning. Because The Garden of Eden was the perfect home, I imagine it must have had a beautiful lake where Adam and Eve could sit by the still waters and enjoy the evening sunset with God at their side.

For me one of my most relaxing things is to sit beside water. Whether it’s the ocean, a lake, a river or stream it makes no difference. Water soothes my soul. It brings peace to my spirit and resets my mind after a hard week.

Sheep require still waters before they will drink. Sheep are nervous around moving water and they won’t drink. Because they fear flowing water they’re unable to be refreshed unless the water is still.

We need to find stillness to be refreshed. This is a good lesson for us. It might not happen every day, but we can make a point to regularly find a place of stillness to spend alone time with ourselves and God.

Let technology help if you can’t get to a natural source of water. There are apps and Internet videos galore that can give you a sense of being near water. I listen to an app during my lunch break at work most days. It helps me to rest, reset and prepare for the afternoon.

Seek time with the Living Water. In Scripture Jesus is called the Living Water. So as we’re able to spend time reading God’s Word our soul and spirit will be refreshed.

“All you thirsty ones, come to me! Come to me and drink! Believe in me so that rivers of living water will burst out from within you, flowing from your innermost being, just like the Scripture says!” ~ John 7:37-38

Contemplate the Still Waters that God provides to refresh your soul today as you watch/listen to this lovely video by Stephanie Bayne.

GREEN PASTURES

On the second Friday of each month in 2019 we are studying one of the most memorized chapters in the Bible: PSALM 23. Join me as we bring fresh application of this beloved psalm to our lives.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures…

Sometimes the pasture may seem greener on the other side of the fence. I think the other pasture is greener only because there’s more manure there. If you get my meaning. But seriously, just because other pastures appear to be better doesn’t mean they are.

Don’t believe everything you see.

Don’t compare your pasture to that of others. Stop and see the lush green pasture God has provided for you today. Your pasture may not be all you dream for, but I’m pretty sure this pasture is better than where you came from. I know mine certainly is!

Striving and stressing.

Are you striving to keep up with your friend, neighbor or co-worker? God wants us to rest in the green pasture He’s already provided for us. Yes, we can work to improve our pasture where needed. But to strive and run after things that are not in God’s plan for us today will wear us out. If we are experiencing frustration we’re working in our own power not God’s power.

Cultivate thankfulness.

We must find our way to gratefulness. If we can’t be thankful for what God has given us today, why would He want to give us more to complain about tomorrow? The enemy of our soul tries to keep us in a state of discontent. Our challenge is to push past the battle in our thoughts to find the joy in our hearts that God has given us. Then we will be able to rest in the green pastures God has given us today.

Contemplate God’s goodness that surrounds you right this minute as you listen to this classic Bluegrass Gospel song recorded by Ricky Skaggs.

I SHALL NOT WANT

On the second Friday of each month in 2019 we will be studying one of the most memorized chapters in the Bible: PSALM 23. Join me as we bring fresh application of this beloved psalm to our lives.

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Breath Prayer Meditations

During seasons of struggle this verse becomes like a mantra for me. There are many days and nights that I keep this Scripture close to my heart and mind. At work I often have it posted on my computer monitor.

When retiring for the night it’s very comforting to meditate on. Reciting it quietly as a breath prayer calms my spirit and soul to help me fall asleep.

Worry is Unnecessary

As a sheep in The Flock it helps to remind myself that My Shepherd hasn’t forgotten me no matter how bleak things may seem. The Good Shepherd always takes care of His sheep. He makes sure all their basic needs are met. While we are desiring more that just basic needs, it’s important that we seek our Shepherd’s face for guidance and not only His hands for provision.

In this beautiful song Audrey Assad finds the perfect words to help us contemplate Psalm 23:1. Enjoy…

 

MY GOOD SHEPHERD

On the second Friday in each month of 2019 we will be studying one of the most memorized chapters in the Bible: Psalm 23. Join me as we bring new application of this beloved Psalm to our lives today.

There are multiple places in the Bible where people are compared to sheep. When we look at the photo above we might think that’s a sweet thing. But after some study we will see that it’s not really a compliment!

Sheep may possibly be the dumbest animals on the planet.

They’re wayward and weak. They can’t defend or groom themselves. Their bodies aren’t strong and must be sheared to prevent the wool from becoming a burden. They’re restless and wander away when left alone. And because they have no sense of direction they get lost easily.  Left to guide themselves sheep will literally follow each other off a cliff. And when they fall down on their backs they can’t get up without help. This list could go on and on.

Do any of these weaknesses sound familiar?

That paragraph could easily describe much of my life. There was a time when I walked away from My Shepherd thinking I could do life better on my own. I didn’t take good care of myself and made many bad choices. Soon I began to follow other sheep and ended up in a deep pit with other rebellious sheep.

Then came a soul-shattering time.

My Shepherd allowed me to experience the consequences of my bad choices. Often breaking the bad habits of a strong-willed sheep only comes after serious disciplinary action is applied by the Good Shepherd.

A shepherd disciplines rebellious sheep to protect the whole herd.

When a rebellious sheep leaves the herd repeatedly, sometimes a shepherd must break its leg to force it to stay close to him. In the same way, our Good Shepherd may allow painful life situations to draw us back to Him.

Today I am grateful for the discipline of my Good Shepherd. 

Many years have passed since those harsh days of discipline. But still I stay close to His side, listening for His gentle voice to guide me in all I do. Life is so much better when He leads the way!

Jesus says: “My own sheep will hear my voice and I know each one, and they will follow me.” ~ John 10:27 (The Passion Translation)

Watch/listen to this lovely rendition of Psalm 23 while you contemplate The Good Shepherd who is leading you today.