Day 22

Psalm 23:5

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;

            If you have ever been invited to my mother’s home for a meal, you understand the idea of a prepared table. On my mother’s table for special occasions always include the following: at least one table cloth, cloth napkins, a napkin holder or the napkins are folded, candles, a table centerpiece, a place setting evenly set around the table for each guest. This does not include the stack of plates, fancy coffee cups, and dessert forks that are on the counter ready to be used after the table is cleared and  it is time for dessert. Why does my mom go to all this work for her company?  It is because she cannot help herself! God has placed the gift of hospitality in her so deeply; she must prepare the table this way. She wants each guest to feel appreciated, special and welcome.

            David gives us a word picture as to how the shepherd protects us from this continual threat of danger.  As we continually walk the path where the shadows are dark and the danger is near, we come to find the warm and inviting presence of the shepherd. We find He has prepared a table with a place setting for each of us. In this place we not only find comfort, but also a reprieve from the harshness of life.  A place that resembles the quiet waters and the lush green pastures when life wasn’t so difficult.

            This is the kind of Shepherd we have. He knows our life yet finds ways to encourage us and sustain us. These are not generic; one size fits all efforts that are impersonal. No, the Shepherd knows us and he sets a special place setting just for us as a reminder we are not on this path alone. My question for you is will you stop to enjoy it?

 

Today’s Scripture:  John 14:15-24

What do you think?  What are some of your common excuses that keep you from stopping at the place setting of peace and rest that the Shepherd prepared for you?

Today’s Prayer:  Pray that God may open your eyes to the table He has prepared for you today and the courage to stop and enjoy it.

 
 
 
 
 
 

John 14:15-24

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,a] to be with you forever, 17 eventhe Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will beb] in you.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is itthat you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.
(English Standard Version)

Day 23

Psalm 23:5

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

            Can you imagine being 18 year old athlete walking into “Death Valley” the home of the LSU Tigers Football team and voted as the most intimidating stadium college football[1]?  As you walk through the tunnel, the fans are screaming at you, the air is deafening, and you feel you are on an island by yourself. You look around and there seems to be no fans of your own. Everything you or your team attempts is frustrated by the crowd’s merciless noise and behavior. The next 4 hours are daunting. How would you handle that intimidation?

            Granted, it is only a game but don’t you sometimes feel that you are surrounded by people or situations that you cannot escape from? I do and it overwhelms me to the point of running away in fear or being paralyzed by the fear. But in verse 5, we find that we can sit down and have a meal with our Shepherd right there in the midst of our enemies. It might be in the midst of those who are conspiring against us, licking their chops as we are closer to failure.  It might be in the midst of them frustrating our every thought or action.  But it doesn’t matter what they do, because we know what our Shepherd does. He sees the efforts to bring us down, yet His power and protection are certain. So much so that He can sit down with us and have a meal even when they are in our midst. That isn’t courage.  It isn’t bravery.  It is trust, knowing that no matter how crazy our world is, He has us in His care. No matter how powerful the foe seems, his protection is stronger. No matter how many are on their side, His power is greater. He has set a place where we can enjoy what has been prepared even though we are in a place where danger is present.

 

Today’s Scripture:  John 7:15-32, 45-46

What do you think?  Did Jesus fear his situation when they wanted to arrest him? Do you believe God will work the same way on your behalf?

Today’s Prayer:  Lord, help me trust your promise to provide and protect when I feel intimidated, overwhelmed, and targeted. May your peace dwell in

 

Day 24

Psalm 23:5

“…you anoint my head with oil”

           I am a Vikings fan. That’s it, no negotiations, its final.  That is just the way I am.  Even though I am Ohio born, I am Minnesota raised.  That means there is something in me that just naturally roots for the Minnesota team.  To appease my Wisconsin friends, I have to admit it might not always be logical (to you) it is who I am.  I grew up in Minnesota, so I will always have a place for it in my life.

            What about you?  Who are you?  Are you a Packer fan? (that’s so cliché in Wisconsin). Are you a Chevy driver or Ford? Do you wear Nike or Under Armour?  You might be a meat-eater or a vegetable lover.  Who are you?  What is it that really defines who you are?

            Anointing in the Bible is a big deal. When someone in the Old Testament was anointed, it meant they were being set aside for a special appointment or assignment by God.  It was more than just being picked to do something special. It also came with the reality that God had prepared the person and the circumstance for something special to happen.

            In the New Testament, the idea of anointing has a big boost from the Old Testament. The anointing is not just a special assignment, but the presence of the Holy Spirt in our lives. No more is it just a select individual who is anointed, it is now anyone who has taken Jesus as their Lord and Savior. That means you and I! So we have been given this anointing with a promise that God will use us for His special purposes!

            The verb anointed in verse 5 is in the perfect tense which means a completed action. That means once I am anointed, I am anointed and it is a finished act. That means that nothing can change my status as a child of God, anointed with the Holy Spirit. I am therefore prepared and positioned to do something special for God. I guess being a Viking or Packer fan really isn’t all that important compared to this.

 

Today’s Scripture:    1 Corinthians 3:16-17, Ephesians 2:8-10

 

What do you think?  The Holy Spirit makes us a temple dedicated to God to do His Work. What areas of your temple need to be improved for God’s service?

 

Today’s Prayer:  Thank God that we are anointed and claimed as His. Plus, in His anointing is a plan for our life. Ask for guidance in following His plan.

 

Day 25

Psalm 23:5

“…My cup overflows.”

            Have you ever been elated?  You know, like completely and overwhelmingly happy? Last year I was given a birthday gift from my parents to jump out of an airplane. I don’t think it was to get rid of me. Instead it was to join my dad in completing one of the items off his bucket list: skydiving.

            The date was set and we traveled to the facility. We went through the training that included the phrase several times: “…and the possibility of death.” It was risky. It was a bit scary. As we went on the plane our pictures showed signs of a smile trying to cover up our nerves. As our plane climbed to 11,000 feet the hum of the aircraft wasn’t as deafening as the questions of sanity that were running through my mind.

            We jumped and at one point I was going over 120 mph free falling. The parachute opened (whew!) and we gradually descended to the field where my family was waiting.

            When it was time for a picture this time, I couldn’t help but smile. My insides were about ready to explode with all the adrenaline that was pumping within. I couldn’t stop smiling for about 20 minutes. I was elated and my cup was overflowing.

            The shepherd’s care for His sheep, causes His sheep to feel elated. For David there were times of darkness, uncertainty, even paralyzing fear but he saw God’s hand with him through it all. Why? Because when God anointed him, God’s faithfulness was sure. His cup overflowed.

            How wonderful is the grace God provides us with each day allows us to get through those hairy and scary moments. I wonder where I would be without him. For that reason, my cup overflows. Does yours?

 

Today’s Scripture:    1 Timothy 1:12-17

What do you think?  Do you see how far God has taken you on the journey with Him? Have you experienced that overflowing Grace? Have you seen him heal your brokenness so that you could be an example to others?  That is the Shepherd we have!

Today’s Prayer:  Thank God for the journey and ask him to continue to give you that overflowing grace that heals and provides for our needs.

 

Day 26

Psalm 23:6

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,

            Do you remember the cartoon with Ralph Wolf and Sam the Sheepdog?  Sam is this big, unassuming dog with a large tuft of hair that covers his eyes. Ralph is a scheming wolf desperately trying to outwit Sam so he can have a sheep for supper. Ralph is anxious. Sam is calm. Ralph is constantly on the move. Sam seems way too relaxed to be a good protector of sheep. But every time Ralph tries, Sam is there protecting the sheep. Ralph never wins and the sheep never notice a threat. Sam is excellent at his job. Ralph, not so much.

            We have talked about the continual walk we have through the dark shadows that threaten us. We have talked about how the Shepherd is always present protecting us. We have even talked about how David’s life had experienced threat after threat. But how did he view these threats?

            David says, “Surely goodness with follow me.”  That word ‘surely’ challenges me. David’s confidence is so high, that he does not doubt for even one moment that the Shepherd’s goodness and mercy will leave him. That’s what the word ‘surely’ means: complete confidence. Isn’t it interesting that there isn’t a “yeah, but” here?  Because isn’t that what we do?  We say, “Yeah, I believe this, but …”  David doesn’t do this.

            In fact, he holds on to two assurances here: goodness and mercy.  The goodness means that my welfare will be greatly benefited from my relationship with God.  The mercy is a kindness directed towards us that is based on our covenant relationship with him. These two beautiful qualities are joined by another imperfect verb: “follow me” which literally means “continually pursue.” This is not a passive action by our Shepherd.  He is continually pursuing kindness and a benefit to our wellbeing.

            Can we be as confident of our Shepherd’s care to where we do not feel the threat of life as David did?

 

Today’s Scripture:   Romans 8:31-39

What do you think?  How can you apply the attitude of verse 31?  What assurances do you have where you can live in this confidence?

Today’s Prayer:  May you take some time just to rest in the power of God and His promise that nothing can take you out of His care. Then repent of your fears and replace them with confidence in your Shepherd’s care for you.

 

Day 27

Psalm 23:6

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

           

            What is the best vacation you ever took with your family? Was it a trip to visit family? What it to explore a new part of the world? Maybe it was just to get away and go somewhere. Do you ever get to that point where you just start to yearn for home?  The vacation is fantastic, but home is home.

            Remember David’s heart from the first week? He had a heart that chased after being with God. Life as difficult as it was for him found rest not in his home, but in the presence of God. The Shepherd’s pasture with tender grass, the pure water, the protection, the meal set on that place setting, and His kindness and mercy are so desirable.

            David doesn’t see his relationship with the Shepherd as a pacifier or bandaid that will keep him going through today or this season of life. He sees it as forever. He desires to return and remain in God’s house forever. Don’t you desire the same? To abide, dwell, and live in the dwelling place of God? To be at peace and surrounded by joy?

            The beautiful thing is that we can have it here and in the future.  When Jesus came to earth he established God’s Kingdom now in which we can live. Therefore we can experience all the wonderful benefits of God’s kindness now. And when Jesus decides to return, all the pain and hurt that surrounds us will be gone.  Life will be in paradise much like it was when God created this earth with Adam and Eve void of all sin.

            We can abide with him now and forever. How do you abide with your Shepherd?

 

Today’s Scripture:    2 Corinthians 5:1-10

What do you think?  What do you look forward to most about heaven?  How can we make better aim to please him as we wait? (vs. 9)

Today’s Prayer:  God’s promise of a beautiful heaven can pull us through the ugly of this world. Thank your Shepherd for His continual care and this promise of abiding in His house forever.

 

Day 28

Psalm 23:1   The Lord is my shepherd…

Psalm 23:6   and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

            I received an invitation in the mail of a dear friend who was going to get married. I was excited for her and put the date on my “internal calendar.” I kept that weekend open and asked Jennifer if she would join me as we were not married yet.

            The day came as planned and I got all dressed up and picked up Jennifer. We then drove the hour and fifteen minutes to get to the town where the wedding was to be held.  We arrived at the church and no one was there. I knocked on the doors, drove around the block, and still nothing.

            I took out the invitation, which I had saved and looked at the time. Yep, we had the right time. I was still confused.  Then Jennifer picked it up and looked at it. She pointed out that we were 24 hours late. It was a Friday wedding and not a Saturday wedding. Oops?

            I am always honored when I am invited to attend wedding. To miss my friend’s wedding was not only embarrassing, but saddening.  I was looking forward to cheering her on, connecting with mutual friends and her family, and enjoying the festivities.  I missed out and sent a huge apology to her.  I got the invitation, but I missed out on the wedding.

            The Psalm opens and closes with a reminder of what this Psalm is all about: Yahweh. The personal, intimate name of the Shepherd God who loves, pursues, protects, and generously gives to his sheep. He loves being in a relationship with us.  Everyone has received the invitation, but not everyone has asked Him to be their shepherd. There is a big difference because either you are under His care as Shepherd or you are not.

            We all have different life stories that we have lived. We all have had different struggles and hurts along the way. We all have a desire for a Shepherd God who will fulfill all these promises. We all have an invitation. Have we all responded to that invitation?  If we have, how are we doing staying in His care?

 

Today’s Scripture:   John 10:7-11

What do you think?  Have you asked Jesus, who is both the Good Shepherd and the Door, to be your Shepherd for life? Have you stayed in His pasture? Is it time to return?

Today’s Prayer:  Whether you have answered the invitation or not, take time now to ask Jesus to be your Lord and Shepherd not only for today but for the rest of your life. Confess your sins that cause you to run away from the Shepherd and change your ways so it will not happen again.

 

 

 

Day 29

(Bonus Devotion)

 

Psalm 91:1

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

 

            Do you know that feeling when you are in busy public area and your heart jumps through your throat? You just realized that you cannot locate one of your children. You were trying to be nonchalant about it as you casually wandered around looking for them. But now your eyes, feet, and head are moving frantically. “Where could they be?”

            Any parent knows exactly what I am talking about. Once you find them, you hug them and then in a stern voice say something like, “You can’t wander off like that!” Why do we get so worked up so easily? It is because we know the danger that exists and we want to protect our children from it.

            As parents, we have learned the best way to protect our young kids is to keep them in our presence. That first time when they leave our ‘nest’ and go into the big world like school, a friend’s house, or even their first solo drive we fight the tension of fear and trust.

                  Proximity is key to being protected and provided for. When we leave the pasture under the Shepherd’s watch we invite the danger, heartache, and hurt we so often are trying to avoid. When we choose our own way instead of the Shepherd’s path we find obstacles, blockades, and an unwanted destination. When we pursue feeding ourselves at different pastures we find ourselves malnourished and unsatisfied. Is it really worth walking away from the care of the Shepherd?

            Thankfully, our shepherd does not like the thought of our leaving. He pursues us relentlessly no matter the circumstances because he loves us.  Each time we choose to leave he pursues.

 

Today’s Scripture:   Luke 15:1-7

 

What do you think?  Our sin plays no part in our value to God, that is why Jesus died for our sins. Sin does influence our proximity to God in how we can enjoy the promises of Psalm 23.  What can you do to dwell and abide closer to God daily?

Today’s Prayer:  Go through Psalm 23 and thank God for each of the promises. Pray you will be a person after God’s own heart that continually dwells in the Shepherd’s pasture.