Tagged: Psalm 23

Ps 23:6

BlackSHEEPSurely your goodness and mercy will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

At VBS, I told kids to watch for three sheep named “Shirley, Gladys and Marci” would be following them around the paths of righteousness. They didn’t buy it.

But corny Dad jokes aside, what I THINK this means is not just that you’re so loved that God will continue to bless you all life long- I’d like to think it means that if you’re really following in God’s ways, then you’ll leave a goodness and mercy in your wake. As opposed to what Marian Raven wood suspected of Indiana Jones in the ‘Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,’ “You still leaving a trail of human wreckage, or have you retired?”

If we’re authentic disciples of Jesus, surely Spiritual fruit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and goodness will be strewn along our trail, right?

Now, about that house:

John 14:1-3 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

What a beautiful promise right? I had a professor who told us that there’d be snapshots of our students someday on the walls and mantles of our apartments in Heaven.

But that doesn’t have to be all. Why wait? Don’t worry- I don’t want you to leap off a cliff and die so you can go to Heaven now. What I’d like you to think about is that perhaps “house” doesn’t mean some far off castle in the clouds for eternity. “House” also refers to household. Remember in yesterday’s devo when I pointed out that we are God’s adopted children?

Think of the Kingdom like a house at Hogwarts, Griffindor, Huffinpuff, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Shepherdflock. When we live in the fraternity or sorority house, we share their identity.

Of course, the other way to think of it is how when you’re a teenager and your parents yell at you that “as long as you’re living in MY house, you’ll live under MY rules.” When we pray “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,” we’re asking God to help us live His way, under His Lordship.

Dwelling in God’s house doesn’t have to mean something we don’t do till we’re dead. It means being under His mentoring, loving influence, guidance and under His watchful protection.

It means getting to be part of something bigger than yourself. Being built INTO His house, into the Body of Christ.

1 Peter 2:5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Which is fine with me because like it says in Psalm 84:10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
Oh Lord,
Let my life be a blessing to others. 
Help me to be merciful, just as You have shown me mercy.
Let me be part of your household.
Use me to build something lasting,
with Your Son Jesus as my foundation.
In His name we pray,


Ps 23:5

BlackSHEEPYou prepare a table before me

    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.

I don’t have a doctorate in theology or Biblical languages. I’ve tried  searching for commentaries and Bible studies on this verse but I have to admit that I’m not entirely sure what God or David were talking about with this preparing a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

So you can take this with a grain of salt if you want to, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and bring up an unexpected food group. The fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

The crazy thing about this feast is that it’s not just for us, it’s for others too. In fact, we would do well to share this fruit with our enemies.

This might not have been what the Apostle Paul meant when in Romans 12:20 when he said “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Although, in the ancient Middle East, people would put coals (or at least ashes) on their heads to show that they were sorry for their sins and wanted to repent. Surely, if we offer others (even our enemies) love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, & gentleness- these fruit may just work to soften or turn their hearts.

Anointing my head with oil and overflowing cups are obviously easier. In that ancient Mid-East, anointing your head with oil, like washing your feel, was a service you offered as a form of hospitality. Ah, but all over the Old Testament God is anointing priests and kings and altars and things. That’s because anointing is a ceremonial way of sanctifying things, making them holy, setting them aside for a purpose.

1 John 3:1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

In other words, God wants to adopt you into His family AND commission you as His ambassador. That’s right. We’re on a mission from God.

As for that cup runningeth over stuff? Think about it. The whole optimist/pessimist thing about the cup being half-full or half-empty? Moot issue when it’s OVERFLOWING! Obviously we have MORE than we need. And, like the table full of fruit- if our cup’s runningeth over, we really ought to share, right?


You work in mysterious ways.
Like loving your enemies and praying for those that persecute you.
Like choosing a wretch like me! 
What am I that you care for me? 
Use me as an instrument of your peace,
Let me make a difference for you that that’s bigger than I am.
In Jesus name, 




Ps 23:4

BlackSHEEPEven though I walk through the darkest valley (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.

Here are two things about this verse which were brought to my attention this Summer at the National (LCMS) Youth Gathering in New Orleans (#nyg2016):

  • You are WITH me

Believe me, hard times happen to us all. Half the time I swear that the hardest things that happen to me are my own fault. Stuff happens (substitute the word “stuff” in that cliche with whatever colorful noun you’d prefer, you’d be correct.)

While worry and a lack of gratitude to God may be sins, let’s face it- sometimes our circumstances are out of our control. Angst is a combination of anger or frustration and anxiety about things beyond our influence. Sometimes it’s the valley.

What’s worse, our own frail flesh and nature (not just deliberately sinful choices) may make things seem darker than they are. Sometimes it’s the shadows.

Anxiety and depression are legitimate mental health issues. Sure, they’re often cognitive (we think our way into them) but that doesn’t make it simple to just snap out of it. And often they’re much more than cognitive, they’re hormonal, chemical or neurological. We may need professional help or medication or both. Take them seriously. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to seek medical, pastoral, or psychological help. Lutheran Family Services of Iowa offers counseling services. http://www.darkmyroad.org is a book by Lutheran Pastor’s struggle with clinical depression.

The thing is, no matter how sad or how frightened we are- we don’t have to dig in or remain paralyzed. Because 1. God didn’t lead us to the valley of shadows to abandon us and 2. He’s with us, even in the worst of times.

I’m constantly beating myself up over my lack of faith. Surely if I believed stronger, I’d have peace and joy. Other times I’m wresting with God, struggling to trust Him. If He really loved me, he wouldn’t let this happen..

But there are several things God’s done to give me a push to keep me going.

  • Sometimes He reveals to me that there are many, many others who have it much worse than me.
  • Sometimes He reminds me of all the previous valleys, often worse that the latest one, which He already brought me through unscathed.
  • Very often He brings people across my path whom He wants to use me to encourage, support, listen to, mentor, or pray for. When I’m focusing my empathy or compassion on someone else, I’m too busy to wallow in my own problems.

Several times this Summer God’s reminded me of 1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

One of those times was at that Youth Gathering when a former college classmate shared his story of how God used his valleys to shape and form him so that God could use him to minister to others. Listen to http://www.trustguyministries.com, you will never see 1 Peter 5:7 the same way again.

Micah Parker, “the TrusT Guy” is one of the people who taught me that God brings us THROUGH the valleys, not just to them. As or more importantly, God is always there WITH us, even if we can’t see it because things are so dark.

Sometimes I just don’t know why the darkness doesn’t seem to lift and the valley hast to be so hard, so deep and so far. But at least I know that I’m not alone. For one thing, I’m by no means the only person who’s ever suffered. For another thing,  Jesus knows what it means to suffer. He suffered even death on a cross. On top of that, He’s with you here and now, right in the middle of every valley, every shadow, including death itself.

Remember the Christmas carol, Oh come o come Emanuel? Emanuel means “God with us.”

So whatever you do, don’t stop moving. Jesus is moving with you.

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is co mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Get me through this.
Remind me that You’re here with me.
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can’t
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Today, and every day.
Get me through one day at a time.
In Jesus name,




BlackSHEEPHe guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

To me, this verse is about being a disciple. A disciple is one who follows. Not a believer, not a tribe-member, not a fan or supporter. A follower.

Not for my sake. Not for our sake. For who’s sake? For HIS name’s sake. “Hallowed be THY name.”

We can pray with the psalmist in Psalm 119:133 “Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.” But why? So that we’re good enough to get into Heaven?
Nah. As sheep go, I’m a black sheep. Chief among sinners. Sure I want God to lead me in His paths, His rules and His ways so that I please Him- but I can’t EVER please Him enough to save myself. Jesus already died for my sins on the cross.
No, I want Him to lead me in paths of righteousness, for HIS glory, for the sake of His good name and reputation- partly in response and gratitude for His grace and forgiveness, but also so that He can use me to attract others to Himself.
But guess what? This won’t always be easy. Notice that this verse comes after the nice green pastures and still waters but just before the valley of the shadow of death.
Too often we think of God as a sweet old Grandpa or maybe as Santa Claus. But if we’re disciples and He’s the rabbi, our teacher, maybe we ought to think of Him as a coach or even a drill instructor. Coaches and Sergeants can be tough. They make you run. They take you on hikes. They challenge you and push you to your limits. But why?
The best coaches make us do things we don’t want to do so that we’ll be able to do things we need to do. What did Jesus do? He laid down his life for us. He was unselfish, humble, altruistic, He was willing to make sacrifices. He ate with sinners, associated with tax collectors and prostitutes, embraced lepers, fed the hungry, healed the sick.
What did He tell us his followers to do? Check out Matthew 5- Love, forgive, show mercy, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, give people the coat off our backs, love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
Are we content to just sit in a pew or wear a t-shirt? Or are we actually willing to leave the plow in the field, not look back and follow Him. Wherever He goes. Even out of our comfort zone.
Matthew 10:38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
1 Peter 2:21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
Be a lamp unto my path and a light unto my feet.
Draw me into your wake. Let me get caught up in your momentum.
Give me Your Holy Spirit and guide me and lead me through the experiences which will help me grow and into the encounters and relationships where You can use me to share Your love, Your joy, Your peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness.
I don’t want to just claim that I believe in You or agree with You- I want to truly be where You are, even if it means having to trust You to lead me where You would have me go.
In Jesus’ name,


BlackSHEEPHe makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
 he refreshes my soul.

 When he was anxious about the responsibility of having to lead millions of Israelites, God assured Moses in Exodus 33:14 “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
In Matthew 11:28  Jesus offers to all of us “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Whether you are parent or a teacher or coach or a student or athlete- sometimes the new school year can be overwhelming.  I had a college professor who urged and admonished us to always observe the Sabbath. Not JUST because it’s one of the 10 commandments and God tells us to, but because God knows we NEED a break. Jesus had His disciples come away with him up into the mountains or out onto the lake in order to rest before sending them back out into the rigors of ministry.
It’s easier said than done. Believe me, I get it. You’re exhausted, but as soon as you sit down to rest or lie down to sleep or even just power-nap and your brain starts running over everything you haven’t gotten done yet, then your chest tightens and there’s no rest.
Well then, open up the Bible and read. Read through the book of Psalms. Talk to God. Pray like Hell (no pun intended). Get up and get some physical work done (cleaning, organizing, mowing, laundry, bathrooms) but pray or hum worship songs while you do so.
Take your mind off your stress. Not ALL day everyday, be responsible, but maybe nightly before you go to bed or at least weekly, whether that’s Friday/Saturday for a break or Sunday to worship. Let off some steam. There’s an old Irish saying that says that a good laugh and a good sleep will cure anything.
God doesn’t want you to burn out. He WANTS you to refresh and recharge. Seek Him and ask Him. Perhaps sheep are able to sleep well because they count each other. Maybe because they’re so simple and trusting. Sheep dogs no doubt sleep lightly, because they need to be aware and alert to protect the sheep- whereas sheep don’t have much responsibility.
But most likely, like small children perhaps, they sleep soundly because they know that the shepherd (and sheep dogs) are there with them, keeping them safe. So we need to remember that our Good Shepherd has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. He promises that if we invite Him in to our hearts, He and His Father will come in and eat with us.
He is not just the shepherd, you know, but the gate (John 10:6-8). In Jesus’ time, shepherds slept in the opening of the sheep pen. They literally were the gate. If we can keep this image in mind when it’s time to rest, perhaps it will help us sleep better.
Psalm 4:8 In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.


Help me sleep at night. Grant me the rest I need. And please lead me to opportunities and to people who will help me refresh and recharge, whether that’s through catharsis or learning and growing or being fed and encouraged, or just plain escape. Forgive me when I try to escape on my own or when I try to self-medicate. Instead, help me to trust You to provide the breaks and the nourishment and encouragement that my soul really needs.
In Jesus Name, our Good Shepherd and our Gate we pray,



BlackSHEEP.pngThis Summer both at the LCMS National Youth Gathering (#nyg2016) in New Orleans and at our congregations’ Vacation Bible School, I ran across the 23rd Psalm an awful lot. I’d never managed to commit it to memory until this Summer. For millennia, Jewish and Christian believers have recited it in times of crisis to find solace and comfort. The American pilots held prisoner in the infamous Hanoi Hilton POW camp during the Vietnam War tapped it out in Morris Code to encourage one another.

Because so, so many of us seem to be plagued with angst and anxiety lately (myself included) I thought I’d write a series of brief devotions on each verse in the psalm. I hope that they will be an encouragement to whoever happens to read them. Peace, friends. 

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

Hard, hard HARD to live and believe. This is one of those verses where I find myself praying Mark 9:24 “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

But part of this is trusting in Psalm 37:4 Delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

If we seek first His kingdom, He will take care of us. If we desire for money and power or prominence or comfort, we’ll never be satisfied.

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
People like to use Philippians 4:13 “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” to encourage them to accomplish anything they want. However, if we read the previous two verses, we see that Paul isn’t saying you can DO anything you set your mind to. He’s saying you can get THROUGH anything you have to with God at your side.
“…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”


Remind me that if I pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven,” then You will certainly “give us this day, our daily bread.”
May I desire to follow and serve You with all that I am and all that I do.
And may I thank you for all that I have since it is a gift and trust from you.
Help me to trust you at all times and under all conditions, that You will provide what I need.
In Jesus our good shepherd’s name we pray,