I am Guided by the Good Shepherd, I have been offered rest, Who I am in Christ

Invitation to Rest

Hear the Good Shepherd’s gentle call. He invites you, his sheep, into His rest. In any season of life–storms, paradises, sorrows and joys–he is extending his generous offer. “Come, and know my rest.”

The Good Shepherd
A Davidic psalm.
The LORD is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
He lets me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He renews my life;
He leads me along the right paths
for His name’s sake.
Even when I go through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger,
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;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
as long as I live.

Psalm 23, HCSB

I am Guided by the Good Shepherd

I Will Dwell in the House of the Lord Forever

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live. Psalm 23:5-6

Jen and I are both aspiring authors.  We’d love to write novels and see them published, and we’ve both done quite a bit of research as to what it takes to make that happen.  The most crucial element?  A great story.  And most literary agents will tell you that readers don’t want a downer of an ending. They want your characters to live “happily ever after.” 

I’ve struggled with that a bit, because it seems that more often than not, real life doesn’t hand out happy endings.  Too often, real people close their days with Alzheimer’s, cancer, tornados, and school shootings.  Too often, their last breaths are taken in the valley of the shadow of death.

But David didn’t end his psalm there.  He marched right out of that valley onto the hilltop of triumph. “God, you are going to give me a banquet right in front of my enemies, and they’ll have to watch me eat it.  You will give me so much good that my cup will run over.  I will live in your house forever – happily… ever… after.”

Surely, even in David’s day, the majority of folks didn’t party until the end of their lives.  I think David is looking further into the future than just this earthly life.  I think he was looking all the way into Heaven. There, finally, all believers will get their happy ending. There, quite literally, we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

My parents recently moved into a retirement facility.  While they were trying to make the decision, they had to weigh their desire to stay in their own home against some health issues. My mom told my dad, “When I look down the road, I don’t see things getting better.”

My father smiled. “You aren’t looking far enough.”

May I be as far sighted as King David and my Daddy.

I am Guided by the Good Shepherd

The Comfort of Discipline

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. ~Psalm 23:4, NKJV

Many years ago a second cousin of mine sang ‘Daddy’s Hands’ to my great-grandfather at a family reunion. I’d never heard that song until that day, but after she sang it, the words stayed with me. Now, twenty-plus years later, I can still hear them—still sing them.

Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was crying.

Daddy’s hands were hard as steel when I’d done wrong.

Daddy’s hands weren’t always gentle, but I’ve come to understand,

There was always love in Daddy’s hands. (Holly Dunn)

Walking through the valley doesn’t sound like fun, but the part that strikes me in this passage isn’t that dark place—it’s David’s source of comfort. God’s rod and staff. Instruments of discipline, but also instruments of protection.

This is such a powerful picture. Recently, my husband and I had to make a choice that affected our daughter. Her softball coach wanted to practice on Sunday afternoons. Now, we’re not legalists about the Sabbath, especially knowing that the Hebrew Sabbath is Saturday, not Sunday, but there’s something sacred about that day. And when I sat down to really think about it, God’s command to take a Sabbath was, like so many of His other commands, a gift. Rest is a gift, not means of bondage.

God’s commands are like that rod and staff. Though often a source of discipline, they can be a means of protection, and as such, a source of comfort. And in either case, there’s always love in Daddy’s hands.

I am Guided by the Good Shepherd

He Leads Me ….

He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake. Psalm 23:3, HCSB

I settled into the saddle, took up the reigns and held my breath.  My mule was about to step into the Grand Canyon, and the first bend we rounded caused me to cry out, “How beautiful!”  I couldn’t help myself.  The morning sun turned the red rock to fire, the depth was dizzying, the patterns amazing.  That canyon deserved praise.  To see it and not verbalize its beauty was unthinkable.

How much more does the creator of the Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains and Victoria Falls deserve our praise?  His name is worthy of anthems and orchestras and poetry.  And, just as I’d love to show you the splendor of the earthly places I’ve seen, God wants to display his own splendor to the people He created. He wants them to revel in His beauty and lift up His name.

And so, He does something that perhaps we don’t think about much when we read the 23rd Psalm.  He guides His sheep along paths that will glorify His name.

But sometimes, the sheep don’t like it much. We’d rather pick the paths that glorify our own names, or at least give us some comfort and luxury.  I mean, won’t a good shepherd want the best for fluffy little ‘ole bleating me?  He’ll guide me in the path of a nice, air-conditioned home, a lucrative job and excellent schools for my children, right?

Not necessarily.  Those aren’t His goals when he picks out my paths.  His goal is to bring glory to His own name. That means He may send this sheep to dirty, hot, hungry places to tell others about His love.  That means he may allow me to suffer in the short term so that my trust in His redemption so impresses those around me that they, too, glorify His name.

And, in the future, we will see that those sojourns on the difficult paths not only glorified God’s name, but also made us into stronger sheep.  And when we step into heaven, our reward awaits us – the reward of the Good Shepherd to his faithful flock.

So, choose my path, Faithful Father.  And guard me from complaining when it doesn’t suit my fancy.  Keep my eyes on You, not myself.  May Your name be glorified on every road my hooves walk.

I am Guided by the Good Shepherd

I Shall Not Want . . .

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. ~Psalm 23:1-3a, NKJV

The aching of the soul is as real as it is undefined. Longing tugs hard, hunger rumbles long, and the void is ever felt. But when the good Shepherd adopts this hungry sheep, that starving little lamb is satisfied. He will not let my soul go forever unfulfilled. He will not leave me in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters.

But what if I’m tired while in the hot, dry desert? Continue on, little sheep. There is a better place of rest. I will lead you there, I promise, and there you can lie in the lush quilt of green.

How about a drink here—I can smell the waters, hear them tumbling over boulders and down the mountain. Continue on, little sheep. It is not safe here.

But it’s water—it’s what I want. I know a better place. You will not go thirsty, and you will be safe.

The journey can be long and frustrating. Sometimes frightening. But the Good Shepherd, the one who adopted me, gave me a name, and guides my path, He will restore my soul. He did not call me only to leave me empty again. He shepherds me with love; I will follow Him all the days of my life.

I am Guided by the Good Shepherd

I am Guided by the Good Shepherd: A Joint Post

A Psalm of David. 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; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

~Psalm 23, NKJV

From Jen:

I remember my dad reciting this Psalm at my grandfather’s funeral. Pretty common practice, I think, except my dad made it personal. He spoke as if he were speaking to God, not reciting to a group of mourners.

Ever wonder if something has become too familiar? I grew up in Colorado, at the base of the majestic Rocky Mountains. I’d lived in those mountains during the early part of my childhood. But I didn’t really appreciate their glory until I was an adult living on the Great Plains of Nebraska. Back when I was a kid, they were the peaks in my back yard. Now they are the astonishing handy-work of God, and every chance I get to go hiking is like an intensive one-on-one conference between me and my Creator.

I think Psalm 23 may be like that. Churched all my life, I’ve heard it. A lot. But this week, what if we hike through it? What if we take a stroll near those still waters? Come to know that rod and staff that are comforting? Taste the goodness and mercy David spoke of?

Maybe it will become more than a backdrop in the yard of our faith. Are you up for it?

From Susan:

I am.  If we begin at the base of this mountain, we begin with the first sentence and the premise of the whole psalm: The Lord is my shepherd.

When I first moved to West Africa, we lived in the midst of a stunning rainforest dotted with tiny villages connected by rough dirt roads.  Each village was overflowing with livestock of every kind, including sheep.  But no one shepherded them.  They just wondered around as they pleased, mingling with the goats and chickens and ducks and guinea fowl.

As my husband and I drove our truck over all the bumps and rocks between the villages, the animals scurried out of the road, except for the sheep.  They just stood there, looking blankly at the pickup, oblivious to the fact that we could squash them.  Undoubtedly, they were the stupidest of all the creatures there. I’d often ask my husband, as we laid on the horn trying to urge one from our path, “Why in the world don’t the Africans shepherd these things?”

I, too, need a shepherd. Without one, I will blithely walk in front of oncoming trucks.  I will make unwise life decisions.  I will choose to stop and nibble on the tuft of grass in the middle of the road. I will seek to meet my immediate needs without considering the long-term consequences.

And the awe-inspiring thing is that God himself has taken the job.  The Creator of the Universe has decided to guide me, to keep me safe, to shepherd me.

May we stand at the base of the mountain and just marvel about Who our shepherd is today.