Tag Archives: The Good Shepherd

Thou Preparest a Table

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 “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” (Psalm 23:5 KJV)

I used to delight in breakfast in bed, a charming tray of blueberry pancakes with a pat of real butter and the steamy smell of tea in a hearty mug. However, after just being released from my sixth hospital stay over the last year, breakfast in bed has lost its luster. I don’t want a little table prepared and set before me. I realize I sound like a spoiled brat, but the sight and smell of hospital food sends nausea rising from the pit of my stomach.

My thoughts must ascend to a table beyond description. The awe-inspiring table the Lord prepares for those who love Him.

In his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Phillip Keller explains that a table (mesa) is the height of the summer range of the mountain.

A mesa (Portuguese and Spanish for table) is the American English term for tableland, an elevated area of land with a flat top and sides that are usually steep cliffs. It takes its name from its characteristic table-top shape. It may also be called a table hill, table-topped hill or table mountain. (Wikipedia)

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The Island in the Sky mesa/district of Canyonlands National Park, as seen from the Needles district. (Wikipedia)

Phillip Keller likewise explains that mesas are remote and hard to reach. The shepherd goes up early in the season to survey the wild country, remove poisonous plants, etc. He goes before and “prepares a table” for the sheep. Christ goes before us to prepare a table for His people.

He has spread the feast! Will you come? Though He goes before us and prepares the way, our enemies are ever present. “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) As the sheep must stay close to the shepherd to avoid being devoured by a predator, we must stay near to Jesus to avoid being devoured by the evil one. We must stay in continual prayer and communion through His Word. We must walk in the Holy Spirit, not in the flesh.

“Stay close to the Shepherd! The distant sheep, the roamers, the wanders fall prey!” Phillip Keller

After 16 years of living with Myasthenia gravis (an autoimmune disease), I long for physical healing. This last hospital stay was for five days of plasmapheresis. (Plasma exchange). Polluted antibodies were removed, and replaced with fresh plasma. I picture the Holy Spirit coming in and removing my sin and replacing it with more of Himself.

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May I long more for the table He sets before me. The wine representing His cleansing blood, cleansing mine. The bread His body, broken for me, that I might be whole.

By His stripes, I am healed, in this life or the next!

I close with this piercing question from Phillip Keller. Meditate and ask yourself the same thing.

“When I come to the Lord’s Table and partake of the communion service which is a feast of thanksgiving for His love and care, do I fully appreciate what it has cost Him to prepare this table for me?” Phillip Keller, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23

Still Waters

still waters“For sheep, it is the shepherd who finds the water. Very often, he is the one who with much effort and industry has provided the watering places.  Water is essential for the sheep’s well being.”  Phillip Keller

Likewise water is essential for the well being of humans as well, but not just physically. The human soul also has a capacity and need for the water of the Spirit of the eternal God.

Every human soul has a thirst for God, but sadly, many try to quench it with things of the world, which do not assuage the longing.

As St. Augustine said many years ago, “O God! Thou hast made us for Thyself and our souls are restless, searching, ‘till they find their rest in Thee.”

“Only the shepherd knows where the sheep can find still, clean, pure water, water that will truly satisfy.  Unfortunately, sheep will often settle for polluted potholes, where they pick up a disease.” Phillip Keller

Sadly, we humans are much the same.  Like Esau, we often settle for a pot of porridge over our birthright.

Outside and inside the church, addictions continue to rise.  Drug, alcohol, sex, spending, you name it.  Many are trying to satisfy their thirst for God with polluted potholes, which make them sick.

Matthew 5:6 says, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled (satisfied).”

We must continually eat and drink from the Word of God.

In John chapter 4 we learn the story of a Samaritan woman who has gone to the city well, to draw water.  She encounters Jesus there. He teaches her about Himself (the living water).  He explains that if she receives His Spirit by faith, repenting of her sins, and giving her life to Him, her thirst will be satisfied for eternity. This woman was a great sinner, yet she came face to face with a GREAT Savior.  She had had five husbands, and the man she was currently living with was not her husband.

Friends that is why Jesus came to this earth, to satisfy our thirst and bring forgiveness for our sins! He says in Luke: “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32 NASB)

What about you?  Are you restless? Is your heart thirsty? Do you long for the abundant life that Jesus promised?

Is it possible that you know the forgiveness of Christ, but you haven’t forgiven yourself?

Come away by the still waters and find rest for your weary soul.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

I Shall Not Want

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Photo Credit holleygerth.com/free-words/

 

“I have been young, and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken Or his descendants begging bread.” Psalm 37:25 (NAS)

Many of us have suffered financial stress.  Has any of us had to beg bread?  Has God ever forsaken us?

Meditate on the above promise from Psalm 37. As the “righteous”, (those who have confessed our sins and have had Christ’s righteousness imputed to us) we have His promise that He will never abandon us.

Lift us your arms and release your financial stress to Him, and know that your Good Shepherd will provide.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” (Psalm 23:1 KJV)  What rich and beautiful words penned by the shepherd David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Lord of the universe is a personal shepherd to each of his children and has promised not to leave us needy.
The Greed word for “want” is: husterésis.  It means: an expression or type of lack (temporal insufficiency).  He will never leave us with insufficient funds, we have everything we need for life and godliness!

In his book, A Shepherd Looks at the Psalm 23; Phillip Keller says: “We are to be utterly contented in the Good Shepherd’s care and consequently not craving or desiring anything more.”

1 Timothy 6:6 says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

Seek first His kingdom, look to Him and be content with what He has provided, as this is great gain.

I ask again, have you ever had to beg bread?
Has He ever forsaken you?

I close with the beautiful words of William Cooper’s old hymn, Sometimes a Light Surprises:

1 Sometimes a light surprises

The Christian while he sings;

It is the Lord who rises

With healing in His wings;

When comforts are declining,

He grants the soul again

A season of clear shining,

To cheer it after rain.

2 In holy contemplation

We sweetly then pursue

The theme of God’s salvation,

And find it ever new;

Set free from present sorrow,

We cheerfully can say—

E’en let the unknown morrow

Bring with it what it may.

3 It can bring with it nothing,

But He will bear us through;

Who gives the lilies clothing,

Will clothe His people too:

Beneath the spreading heavens

No creature but is fed;

And He, who feeds the ravens,

Will give His children bread.

4 Though vine nor fig tree neither

Their wonted fruit shall bear;

Though all the fields should wither

Nor flocks nor herds be there;

Yet God the same abiding,

His praise shall tune my voice,

For, while in Him confiding,

I cannot but rejoice.

You’re Being Followed!

psalm-23“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 23:6)

I was in the drive-thru at Whataburger in Corpus Christi, Texas in my 1984 red mustang listening to the latest 80’s hits. I happened to glance into my rearview mirror.   My body froze as I saw his menacing face. It was my abusive ex-boyfriend. How long had he been following me? I got my food and made a quick exit, deciding to head to the house of a friend of mine who lived on Padre Island. It was a terrifying ride over the bridge to the Island as he hugged my bumper and drove inches beside me trying to force me to pull over.

How about you? Have you ever been stalked or followed? It sure doesn’t sound like a good thing does it? Meditate on the above verse from Psalm 23. When we receive Christ as our Lord and Savior, He becomes our Good Shepherd.   He not only guides and provides for us, but also sends His goodness and mercy to follow us…all the days of our lives! The storms, the deep valleys, the heartbreaking losses when friends despise and forsake us, through the piercing pain of wayward children; His presence is still with us and His goodness and mercy are following us. I often counsel ones going through gut wrenching trials to “look up.” I can also exhort them to “look behind” with eyes of faith and see His goodness and mercy. They are always there, following us, whether we feel them or not. Cling to His promises and proclaim this truth until it truly fills your heart.

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By God’s goodness and mercy I arrived safely at my friend’s home, but, unfortunately, that was not the last of the struggles I had with that young man. I stubbornly chose to defy sound counsel and put myself in harms way rather than look to my Good Shepherd to fill the void in my heart. However, I had received Him as my Savior in sixth grade, and He followed me!

“I fled Him down the nights and days

I fled Him down the path of years

I heard all about the love of the One

Who was following me

I clung to every shallow friend

The whistling mane of every wind

I feared that once I tasted that love

I could never let go…” (Hound of Heaven, Michael Card)

How about you? Do you have a loved one on the run from the Hound of Heaven? Turn your despair into prayer. My sweet mother spent many sleepless nights praying for me. If they are His, He will not let them go. Even in the midst of painful consequences of sin, His goodness and mercy are following them.

Now contemplate the last words of Psalm 23:6:

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

His goodness and mercy in this life and heaven too! We will see Him face to face, and dwell with Him forever.

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Fear Factor!

IMG_1147He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. Psalm 23:2 (NASB)

 

Are you crazy busy? I challenge you to stop your frantic pace and “lie down in the green pastures and sit beside the still waters.”

 

 

In his book, A Shepherd Looks at PSALM 23, Phillip Keller says, “Sheep refuse to lie down unless they are free of all fear.”

 

Have you considered the root of your frantic pace may be fear? Do you worry that if you stop over-achieving your life will no longer have value? Are you running hard in order to avoid dealing with past and present hurts? Do you fear that if you lie down in the green pastures you won’t be able to get moving again?

 

We all need soul-rest with our Creator, and we must be intentional about making it happen.   I used to run all day every day, refusing to listen to friends who exhorted me that I was doing too much. The Good Shepherd finally got my attention when I fell flat on my face. After many years of doctors and counseling, we finally realized my problems were three-fold: physical, spiritual, and emotional. I am doing so much better, and can now see how my neuromuscular and seizure disorders force me to take that precious time in the green pastures and beside the quiet waters with my Good Shepherd.

 

Living at a frantic pace? Take a minute to journal about any fear factors you may have. Like sheep, we cannot rest when we are fearful.

 

Phillip Keller said, “nothing so quieted and reassured the sheep as to see me in the field.”

“In the Christian life there is no substitute for a keen awareness that my Shepherd is nearby.”

 

Take an inventory of your fear factors and talk to a friend or therapist about them.

 

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8 (NASB)

 

“Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NASB)