Psalm 23

Week of March 18

Psalm 23

He Pursues Me

Day 1: Read through Psalm 23 again. As we conclude this series, think about the themes that we have learned. "My" Shepherd, He is enough, He leads, He guides us through, He restores, He prepares a table for us. What steps over the course of this series have you taken? Take five minutes to consider these messages. Flip through the past devotionals and message outlines. What conversations have you had with your small group? What have you written in a journal or prayers have you prayed over the last seven weeks? How are these steps changing your attitudes and how you live? Thank Jesus for how He is pursuing you and how you are following Him.   

Day 2: Psalm 23:6 begins with “Surely Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life…” This is a statement of certainty. Not maybe. Not what if. David knew the character of God through experience and found him to be trustworthy. On Sunday, as Cory defined “goodness” in verse six, he said, "that which is beautiful, excellent, joyful, fruitful, correct and righteous," and unfailing love as an act of kindness, love or mercy." God does not passively wait in the clouds for us to find Him, but in His unfailing love, He pursues us with all goodness. This doesn’t mean that only good will happen in our lives, but it means that if we respond to his pursuit we trust that He will work out good in the middle of our circumstances. In the creation account found in Genesis 1 & 2, God says everything He created is good! In the gospels, we learn that Jesus came to forgive us of our sin and restore our relationship with the Father, and that is very good! So today, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Phil 4:8)  

Day 3: This Psalm concludes with the phrase, “and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” Think about it in this context. He will pursue me as long as I live, but as a follower of Jesus, I will dwell with Him forever. What does forever look like? Have you really thought about what happens after “all the days of our lives” are over? In Psalm 73, the Psalmist was struggling over the prosperity of the wicked in contrast to His own experience of trouble. Read that Psalm and take note of his conclusion in verse 26. “He is mine forever.” Remember your current situation will pass, but your relationship with the good Shepherd can go on from today and will last forever.  

Day 4: We’re all being pursued by God. We might not recognize it. We might not want or appreciate it. But we can’t escape it. Being chased our entire lifetime by the goodness and unfailing love of God, none of us has ever lived a day outside of His pursuit of us. We may not sense it, we may even reject it, but we cannot be outside of it. Consider the example of Joseph in Genesis 50. Joseph told his brothers, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Joseph trusted God during his dark valleys. God showed kindness, love and mercy. How are you responding to the Shepherd’s pursuit? Do you see His goodness? Do you find yourself holding back from God in any way? How is His pursuit of you challenge or change your perspective?  

Day 5: God's pursuit of us is fully realized when, in His goodness and unfailing love, Jesus took on flesh, and gave up His life on the cross in our place. Knowing the cross was ahead of him, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) If you have believed in and are following Jesus, this sacrificial love with which He has pursued us will be reflected in our lives and to others around us. By following Jesus, goodness and love naturally passes through you to others. That is the mark of a follower of Jesus. Consider two things today. Have you taken the initial step of admitting the wrong in your life and trusting in Jesus, the Good Shepherd? If you have, how is your life reflecting a trail of goodness to those around you?

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Week of March 4

Psalm 23

Restore

Day 1: Psalm 23:3, “He restores my soul; He guides me in paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake.” He restores my soul. When has the Shepherd restored your soul? Was it recently or has it been a while? Consider how Jesus goes about restoring one’s soul. Do you remember the green pastures and still waters from verse two? For some, the green pastures are a familiar coffee shop, the back deck, a walk through a wooded trail. Others experience still waters in the middle of a song or in a scripted prayer. Wherever or however Jesus restores your soul, pursue Him. Put yourself in a place to allow Jesus to restore your soul today, maybe even right now.   

Day 2: Travis’s message on Sunday’s was titled, “He Restores Me.” Notice what Jesus does not restore here. He does not a restore a position, friendship, an outcome, a circumstance or even health. Sometimes in life restoration does happen: a relational conflict is mended, a better job is found, a debt is fulfilled, a cure is found. However, David writes that the Shepherd restores his soul. The soul runs deeper than a thought or feeling. We find the soul in our emotional center. It is where peace, love, acceptance, worth, and joy reside. Settle into your chair. Close your eyes. Invite the Shepherd to restore your soul. Play a song. Speak a favorite verse or recite Isaiah 40:31 or 57:10. Pray and allow your Shepherd to restore your soul.  

Day 3: Read Psalm 23:1-4 emphasizing the verbs – makes, leads, refreshes, guides. The Shepherd invites us along the way, along a path. This is a path He knows well. The Shepherd travels this path knowing each twist and turn. He is comfortable and sure on this path. I don’t know about you, but this is not a difficult intellectual choice for me. I want this path. He is a good Shepherd. He has shown Himself caring, wise, and faithful. Yet, I wander from this path. How about you? When in your daily routine do you find yourself off the path? Is there a particular stress or problem that causes you to drift? Become aware of it. In doing so, repeating a word, phrase or verse can bring you back. If you haven’t memorized Psalm 23, try it. If memorizing is new or difficult, start with the first four verses. You will discover, by reciting these verses, He can guide you to green pastures and still waters simply by removing yourself mentally from a situation for even a brief moment.  

Day 4: Psalm 23:3, “He restores my soul; He guides me in paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake.” The paths of righteousness, or the right paths, are where Jesus is guiding you and me. Consider these paths for a few moments. Are these paths well-lit and easy to find? How do we know if we are on the right path or the wrong one? Who or what determines right from wrong? Surely, I can. God has given me a mind to figure out life. Since we’re made in His image, his likeness, there is some truth to that statement. Yet remember the pivotal word from yesterday’s devotional. He guides. It is not God’s design for us to sort this all out on our own. He wants us to follow Him. Write down 1-2 big decisions you are considering. Ask Him to reveal His path. Pray about it several times, not for your solution but for His solution.  Share with another Christ follower who doesn’t have a stake in the decision.  

Day 5: We may be similar. I like simple, easy, straightforward. Give me a list to follow, and I’ll be happy to oblige. Are you like that or not? Maybe you find rules confining. Recall Psalm 23:3, “He restores my soul; He guides me in paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake.” In order to follow these paths of righteousness that align with God’s wishes and desires, just give me the list or the formula. What should I do? What should I not do? Just spell it out, and I will build it into my life. Unfortunately, that leads us down a wrong path. It can look right and appear we are traveling down the right road, however, Jesus warned the religious teachers of the day, that the path isn’t following rules. (See Matthew 12:1-14 for an example.) It is patterning our life after Jesus. We follow Jesus by being in relationship with Him through practicing habits like prayer, serving others, discussing Scripture with other Christ-followers, and committing to take steps together. Who in your life are you specifically encouraging on their journey of following Jesus? What is a step that you are taking? Does anyone else know about it, and are they supporting you? Following the Shepherd on the right paths happens with other sheep.  

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Week of February 18

Psalm 23

He Leads Me

Day 1: Read Psalm 23:2 out loud. Notice how the Lord as Shepherd knows how to make David rest when he needs it. Often our view is to live life to its fullest until we’re physically and mentally exhausted. We are starving for rest. Even our vacations are filled with must-sees and have-to-dos. Yet God’s view for us is to rest in Him each day so that we can truly live. Read Mark 6:30-32. How do Jesus’ words to his disciples speak to you on the difference between doing and being? We all like a big God that conquers, but we also need a comforting God that refreshes. What action step can you take this week to break away from the world’s busyness, recognize the lack within your own soul, and just rest in Him? 

 

Day 2: To lead means to guide or bring along. Jesus, our Shepherd, is not behind us yelling “Go!” He is ahead of us bidding us to, “Come.” Cory shared Sunday how sheep that are pushed tend to scatter while those being led recognize and respond to a trusted voice. The first emphasizes movement, the second fosters relationship. Are you responding to God relationally as He bids you to “come”? Now think of how this translates to how we can become more like Jesus when we deal with others. How are you leading the people God has given you to lead – are you pushing them to move or are you leading as Jesus would through peace, patience, kindness, love, forgiveness and care? Are those you shepherd a means to an end or lives entrusted to you to help steward toward a reliance on God? 

 

Day 3: Close your eyes and think of green pastures and still waters. What picture pops to mind? Most likely it’s a favorite location or activity filled with peace, rest and satisfaction. Now compare this picture to the messiness of day-to-day life. How many times in scripture does Jesus remind us there will be trouble, that life will be a struggle? How do those times contrast with the picture of peace you had in mind? Think of Jesus’ own life on this earth. He lost friends and family, was betrayed, arrested, beaten, faced injustice and suffered a painful death. Yet, his last words on the cross were “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.” Luke 23:46. He knew and trusted the goodness of a Good Father. What do you have in your life to remind you of your Good Shepherd when troubles hit? A small group? Prayer? Quiet time with scripture? One-on-one time with an accountability partner? Remember your go-to choice the next time you need help bringing God’s perspective and His peace and rest into the troubling circumstances you face. 

 

Day 4: Cory shared from Phillip Keller’s book “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” that four realities prevent sheep from experiencing green pastures and quiet waters. Fear, friction within the flock, flies and other irritations, and lack of food. The presence of a good shepherd alleviates these issues, allowing his sheep to rest. Like sheep, we face these realities in our lives. Read John 10:14-16. What do these words tell you about the type of relationship Jesus wants with you? How does this knowing you are known by Him help you rest better in the understanding you have a Good Shepherd ready to deal with the fear, friction, flies and famine you face? Share some thoughts or emotions you experience in your small group or with a friend. 

 

Day 5: To be led, we must be willing to follow. Like Cory shared in the first week, Americans bridle at being compared to sheep. Timid? Dumb? Defenseless? Come on! This is the country of John Wayne and Rambo. But Jesus is not demanding we follow Him. The choice is ours. He pursues us, like the Good Shepherd He is. Not just once and awhile, but constantly.

What in your life, your choices, your attitudes are holding you back from trusting the rest that Jesus offers? The culture pushes us to be busy, perform, produce and achieve. Does your daily rest and rhythm match the rhythm of our culture or the rhythm of God? God wants to lead us to green pastures and quiet waters. Find a quiet place today to reflect on how the rhythm of your life keeps you away from this peace. Ask the Good Shepherd to tend to your heart, to care for your needs. Get in line with His rhythm and see where He takes you.   

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Week of February 4

Psalm 23

The Lord Is My Shepherd

Day 1: Read Psalm 23 slowly, as if you’ve never read it before. Try a different translation. Meditate on it phrase by phrase. Pray that God would give this familiar Psalm new life and meaning to you. Read it again as a prayer to God. After you read, take a few minutes to write down the words and phrases that stood out, or may carry a unique significance in your life right now. Include any questions you have about a verse or phrase that you could investigate later. As you go about your day, remind yourself of the memorable word or phrase. When your day is over, return to what you wrote and take time to pray further.  

 

Day 2: Read John 10:14-15. Jesus knows you intimately. Just as He refers to a close relationship with the Father, Jesus knows you in the same way. In Psalm 139:1, David writes, “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.” There are no secrets or hidden places in our lives. He guides us along the right paths. He is close beside us. He gives us courage to enter the day we may be dreading. This is the kind of shepherd who Jesus is,

a good shepherd. He knows your name. He knows your heart. He knows you. With all honesty, do you believe this today? Do you believe He is a good shepherd to you? If yes, celebrate that. Think about the events of this day believing He will shepherd you through them. Pray for your children or others in your life. Pray that they may truly sense the Shepherd in their lives today. If no, it’s ok. Consider why you have doubts. Open Psalm 23 again. In what ways does this Psalm not match your view of God right now?   

 

Day 3: Read Isaiah 46:3-4. Today, let’s focus in on the first phrase of Psalm 23. David writes in vs 1, “The Lord is my shepherd.” David doesn’t say that the Lord is a shepherd, or the shepherd. He says that the Lord is MY shepherd. Before David was a king, he was a shepherd himself, responsible for the care of his father’s flock. He knew that a shepherd would be aware not only of the whole flock, but also of each and every individual sheep. In Matthew 18:12-14, Jesus teaches that the Good Shepherd will search out the one who is lost and celebrate when the lost is found. Have you ever considered what it means that God, who created the universe and all that it contains, cares for you? “I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” (Is. 46: 4b) A core question we all ask ourselves is this. Do I matter? Am I valuable? Do I like myself? If we answer yes, it means that we recognize and appreciate the uniqueness that He has made. We value our attributes, our personality, our strengths, our talents. Write down the qualities you admire about yourself, the qualities the God formed to make you.  

 

Day 4: Read Ephesians 1:13-14. What do you know about sheep? A quick Google search will reveal that every sheep has a unique personality. They instinctively band together for safety. Their keen vision and hearing gives them excellent senses to know and follow their shepherd. If the Lord is my shepherd, the implication is that I am His sheep and I belong to Him. On Sunday, Cory shared that shepherds will identify their sheep by putting distinctive “ear marks” on them. Is it clear to others that you have been “marked” by the Shepherd? Journal about this question or talk it over with a friend sometime today.   

 

Day 5: Read John 10:27. Yesterday, we learned that a sheep has a good sense of hearing, which enables them to recognize and follow the shepherd’s call. How are your senses? Are you aware of the Shepherd’s voice in your life? One of the best ways to learn to hear the voice of the shepherd is to know the Bible as this is a primary way that He speaks. The Psalmist writes, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (Ps. 119:105) As you study the Scripture, listen for His leading. While we often value self-sufficiency and the ability to figure it out on our own, we need to recognize our dependency on Him. This is a mark of true spiritual maturity. The Good Shepherd knows you, cares for you, claims you as His own, and leads you. Is self-sufficiency getting in your way from hearing God? How have you been listening to the Shepherd’s voice to follow where He is leading? As you read the Scripture passages this week, what did He say to you?  

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