Day 8

Psalm 23:2

“He makes me lie down in green pastures…”

 

            Have you ever been forced to stop? Since moving out of town and now being four miles away from the office instead of forty feet has taken some adjusting. The biggest is that I have to drive. (Yes, running and bicycling is not an option).  Twice I have hastily taken off in my car only to find myself stranded on the roadside because I ran out of gas. Numerous times I have found myself emptying my gas cans in the garage early in the morning because I don’t have enough in the tank to get to my next appointment.  I am too busy to stop and make sure I have what I need to get where I am going.

            The psalmist says the great shepherd, God makes us lie down. Yes, in the Hebrew language it carries that authority and includes a continuous action on top of it. In other words it is saying: He continually causes or makes us lie down. We don’t have a choice.  God knows what we need to get where he wants us to go. And one of those needs is to lie down, breathe, soak it in, or just simply stop!

            Life piles up on me and I feel like I am frantically trying to keep all those proverbial plates spinning so nothing will fall down. Unfortunately, when one drops, another one does and it threatens to become catastrophic. But when I stop, even for a moment to reflect, soak, and breathe life seems to slow down and my perspective is readjusted to what is truly important.

            Today might be a good day to take a break, a walk, or a good conversation with God so that you can give yourself that needed breath of fresh air that only God can provide.

 

Today’s Scripture:   Philippians 4:4-7 (Notice God’s presence, His interest in your needs, and His Peace that is provided all hinges on your time in prayer with Him)

What do you think?  How many times do you intentionally make some space for you during the day?  Where could you make some space in your daily schedule? (It doesn’t have to be a long time, just a little here or there.)

Today’s Prayer:  Rest in God’s presence today. That means relaxed breathing, focused thoughts on why you love God, and a small block of time. Thank God for this moment you will spend with Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(English Standard Version)

Day 9

Psalm 23:2

“He makes me lie down in green pastures…”

 

        Trains are cool. These huge machines have a certain mystique about them that draws you to them. I remember as a kid as we would wait at a railroad crossing the family game to keep us occupied was: “Let’s count the train cars!” We would all count and most everyone would get a different number as the rumbling train would cause us to miss a car here or there.  It was fun to see a train.  Keyword in that sentence: WAS.

            I still think that trains are pretty cool, but they are not very much fun. Too often as I am scrambling to get somewhere my life and plans abruptly stop. The red flashing lights and the cross bars keep me from all those things that are of vital (yes, vital!) to my day. And after you take that deep breath and say it shouldn’t last much longer, you notice it is slowing down which means it will add another 4 unbearable minutes.  Have you been there?

            The shepherd finds ways to make us lie down in green pastures. The idea of green pastures is one where there is tender green grass that is soft and yummy. The neat thing we learn in the New Testament is that we can find refuge and even green pastures anywhere because our faith is within ourselves and not dependent on where we are geographically.

            Whenever we are forced to do something we tend to fight it and our stubbornness refuses to let us enjoy it. Whether it is a railroad crossing, a stalled car, or even an ill-time cancellation it could be an opportunity for us to lie down in God’s green pasture even if it is for a moment.

 

Today’s Scripture:  Luke 10:38-42
 
What do you think?   What are some different opportunities (planned or unplanned) where you could spend time with Jesus?  Are you willing to fight the urge to do something else so that you might have time with Him?
 

Today’s Prayer:   Dear Lord, Let me see those unexpected times of delay as opportunities to spend more time with you.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

Luke 10:38-42

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus[a] entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary.[b] Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(English Standard Version)

Day 10

Psalm 23:2

“…He leads me beside still waters.”

            One of the things I look forward to the most after being away is my bed. There is just something special about the bed I have been sleeping on for the past 15 years.  It just fits me. When I am away, rarely do I find myself having a good sleep the first couple nights. (After 2 nights of poor sleep I have found I can sleep pretty much anywhere.) When my body finally lays down in my bed, it knows it is home and it can relax.

            We have seen how God as our shepherd makes us lie down in green pastures. He also leads us beside still waters. Just like the word ‘makes us”, the word “leads me” is another word that means God continually and intensely leading us to still waters. He is continually showing us a place where there are still waters.  He is trying to tell us that, “over here is a place that you are really going to be refreshed.” He wants us to follow him to that special place prepared for us.

            The Hebrew word for “still or quiet” is one that is surrounded by the understanding of rest. There is something peaceful about the gentle ripple of a small river’s rapids. The sound is soft, soothing, and relaxing. It allows us to think, ponder, and restfully relax. This is the place where God promises to lead us.

            It’s funny though.  While God is offering us this beautiful place to rest we fight it and prefer to be constantly on the go. Instead of seeing it as that favorite mattress to sleep upon, we see it as a threat to these other things that are constantly draining our being.  I guess that is why we need a shepherd to lead us there. 

 

 

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 11:28-30

What do you think?  Even though His offer for rest is appealing, how do you fight the idea of resting with God? Has there been a time when God strongly “led” you to rest?

Today’s Prayer:  Pray that you might find the opportunities for rest that God is leading you to and that you will not fight it when it comes.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Matthew 11:28-30

 
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
 
 
 
 
(English Standard Version)

Day 11

Psalm 23:2

“…He leads me beside still waters.”

            Have you become cynical like me when someone offers you something for free?  How about if it is on the phone, at a store, or from a stranger?  There is something inside of us that asks, “Where the catch?”  Why do we do this?  It is because we have come to learn that there is a cost to everything and most of the time we will have to pay for in some way.

            There is a cost to living life that is not monetary. Life can drain us emotionally through our relationships, crises, and broken expectations. Life can drain us physically as we have a “to do list” every day that requires more time than we have hours. Life can drain us mentally as we are expected to do things that are beyond our abilities or comprehension. Life is draining which is why we need a shepherd that will lead us to a place of rest. 

            How do you find rest? Is it a nap, a walk, a time of thoughtful reflection?  Do you find times to take that needed rest? Do you find times where your body, your emotions, your brain, and your spirit can find refreshment? This is what the Shepherd is leading you to!  A productive place so that you can continue living life and doing the things that your life requires of you.  

            Unfortunately, guilt drives us to avoid these places.  This is why John Ortberg said “Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap” We feel guilty, selfish, or even irresponsible when we take time for ourselves so that we can be better followers of Christ and healthier individuals.  We must remember the Shepherd is leading us to these places and we are to follow him as he knows what is best for us with no guilt attached.

 

 

Today’s Scripture:   Psalm 116:5-14

What do you think?  How can we use verses 6 and 7 to motivate us to rest? Will he not continue to do the same for you now when we seek Him?  Can you find an extended period of time (1 hour or more) to find a place for some type of rest this week?

Today’s Prayer:  Allow your prayers to be honest with God with the things that are weighing you down. Then reflect on the Shepherd’s promises found in Psalm 23 to encourage you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Psalm 116:5-14

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
    our God is merciful.
The Lord preserves the simple;
    when I was brought low,                                   he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest;
    for the Lord has dealt bountifully                        with you.

For you have delivered my                          soul from death,
    my eyes from tears,
    my feet from stumbling;
I will walk before the Lord
    in the land of the living.

10 I believed, even whena] I spoke:
    “I am greatly afflicted”;
11 I said in my alarm,
    “All mankind are liars.”

12 What shall I render to the Lord
    for all his benefits to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
    and call on the name of the Lord,
14 I will pay my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people.
 
 
(English Standard Version)

Day 12

Psalm 23:3  “He restores my soul….”

            When I was younger my father would take me up to Canada fishing. It was so much fun exploring and catching fish on these remote lakes. When we were done fishing for the day we would have to carry all of our tackle and fish out to the truck for the ride back to the cabin. Handling fish and being in the heat of the day sometimes translated into some interesting smells on the ride back.

            Wednesday nights were the special night of the week.  It was the night we would go into town to get our shower.  For some of us it was 4 days late. We would sauna, shave and shower. When done we would call home to check in at the pay phone and then get some ice cream. After that we would return to the cabin all clean and have a nice steak dinner.  While the steak and ice cream were good, the highlight for most of us was the shower. There is just something refreshing about being clean. Just like there is something nice about waking from a good night sleep or come back from a quick getaway.

            Verse two gave us some instructions on how we can find the restoration our soul desires. It is a simple equation. Slowing down with some much needed rest can bring us to a restore soul. But there is a catch.  It is not just any rest or schedule that has been simplified.  It is one that has found rest and time with God that finds a restored soul. 

            How can this be? Well we have to go back to verse one.  When we slow down and find our much needed rest, we realize that God really does supply our needs where we do lack nothing under His care. (Just like He promised!) 

 

 

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 12:9-13

What do you think?  The man could not have his hand restored unless he stretched it as Jesus commanded. What do you need to do so that you can have your soul restored?

Today’s Prayer:  Spend sometime today asking God to open your eyes to areas he has already given you some restoration?

 
 
 
 
 

Matthew 12:9-13

 
He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(English Standard Version)

Day 13

Psalm 23:3   “He restores my soul..”

            Whenever I am asked by a student if I want a magazine subscription, I think of Motor Trend. That was my magazine of choice when the same fundraiser came through our house growing up. I loved to read and look at the pictures of all those cool cars.  They would occasionally include an article that centered on some older shiny ‘classic’ car.

            I love looking at the cars of the past and the design and technology that they had for their era. It is fascinating to see how these beautiful machines are still running even after all these decades. But the only way this happens is under the continual care of its owner.  They have had to fix, repair, and restore this car to keep it looking as if it was fresh off the showroom floor.

            We take on a lot of wear and tear on our bodies, hearts, and minds over the years. The work and activities we do eventually will wear out our joints and muscles.  Our life of relationships has left us with many blessings along with some wounds.  Even the challenges we face in our lives sometimes just takes its toll on our minds. But under the care of the shepherd we are promised to be continually cared to the point of full restoration!  It is like we just came off the showroom floor (minus the diapers). But the restoration is a continual restoration.  The shepherd’s promise is not a “one and done” action. As he cares for us, he will continually restore us as life does its damage to us.

            Restoration is a difficult thing to accept because it means that we don’t have to dwell on the past anymore. It suggests that we can move forward in spite of life’s difficulty and frustrations. So much so that our soul can be FULLY restored.

 

Today’s Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

What do you think?   Did you notice that we are no longer judged in terms of our flesh but rather in light of our relationship to Jesus? That relationship means we are a new creation with the old no longer present. What are some things in your life that make it difficult to accept God’s promise of complete restoration?

Today’s Prayer:   Thank God for His promise of complete restoration and ask Him for forgiveness for when you are living in your past instead of in your current relationship with Him.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

2 Corinthians 5:16-17

 
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.a] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(English Standard Version)

Day 14

Psalm 23:3  “He restores my soul…”

            I don’t think camping is as easy as I thought it would be. You look at those beautiful pictures of a tent, a canoe and a dog next to some water. There is a family (laughing, of course) around the campfire working on the next round of s’mores. In the background is this nice rugged looking SUV doesn’t  have a speck of dust considering how ‘remote’ this picture was taken.

            I wanted that same experience, but I found there is a lot more to it.  Do you realize how expensive it is to get all that stuff?  Did you know that just the camping chairs and sleeping bags can fill up the back of my SUV? That doesn’t include the clothes, the canoe, or the bicycles for five people. Oh yeah, we need to eat too. So there are the pans, cooking supplies, and the actual food.  That picture made it look so simple, yet it was so much more.

            When we talk about the soul, we almost take the same line of reasoning. We try to bring the idea of the soul to a simplified definition that focuses on the spiritual side of a person, but it is so much more!  When looking at the Hebrew word for ‘soul’ we come to find out that it includes all these ideas: self, life, appetite, mind, passions, emotions, and that which breathes.[1]

            So when we follow the Shepherd, our whole being is restored. God works in our whole being through our spiritual relationship with Him. He helps us in all areas of our life and in return His investment in us allows for us to give him everything we are.  God’s work in us, through our faith relationship, affects our whole being.

Today’s Scripture: Mark 12: 28-34

What do you think?   How have your reciprocated the love that God has invested in you? Does that love and restoration show itself  in all areas of your life?

Today’s Prayer:   Take time to thank God for his unconditional love for you and ask him for help in an area where you struggle to show that same love to others.
 

[1]  Accessed on October 10, 2015. https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H5315&t=ESV

 
 
 

Mark 12: 28-34

 
28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.
 
 
 
(English Standard Version)