Psalm 21-23 (NLT) 

Discover His Heart: He longs to guide us, heal us, protect us, comfort us and cover us with the oil of His blessings

@ Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.  He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.  He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.  You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.  You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.  Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

It was while reading the Bible on a day in February 1998, just like I’m doing today, that the familiar 23rd Psalm became more real to me than I had ever known before.  The presence of the Lord filled my little family room in a very special way and from that day forward I started to record His revelation to me of the Shepherd’s faithfulness to His sheep.  From that experience I wrote the devotional book Intimate Moments with the Shepherd – Guidance through the Challenges of Life, an illustrated portrayal of the Shepherd’s intimate relationship with us.

While researching and taking photos for this project, I visited dozens of sheep farms and learned some valuable lessons.  Out in the sheep pastures I could have called the sheep over to me all day long, but they only came when they heard their shepherd calling. At his or her call, they came running.  I learned that even with a flock of 200 or more, the shepherd knew each sheep, their lineage, their illnesses and even the grains and grasses that some preferred.  These experiences and many others like them were valuable lessons that revealed to me first-hand the intimacy we have with our Shepherd as David understood it.

Something that always blesses me when I read Psalm 23 is the subtle, yet significant change that takes place between verses 3 and 4, “He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.  Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.” (3-4)  Up to verse 4, David had been talking about his Shepherd, His guidance, His rest, His strength.  But when David reached the dark valley, he began talking to his Shepherd.

The Lord leads us along life’s path giving direction and guidance. When we face the dark valley that may be death or may just seem like it, a shadow of it, He is right there beside us often carrying us through our challenge.  We can talk to Him, confident that we are not alone.

In a personal way, David continued, “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.”  Then, right there in front of our howling enemies, He anoints us with abundant favor, as if to say to our enemy, “Be gone!  This one is Mine, eternally!”  What an honor to sit at His table and to be marked with His fragrant oil for everyone to see and smell. “I’m my Beloved’s, and He is mine.” What a Shepherd! 

Moving Forward: As I move forward to live out the challenges I may face today, I will walk with the confident knowledge that my Shepherd, my Lord, is with me.  When the enemy comes with his taunts, I will boldly declare that I am anointed with the Lord’s favor, “Be gone! I belong to Him.” 

Tomorrow @ Job 15-16

Psalms 18-20 (NLT) 

Discover His Heart: He blesses our right living and provides the keys to His blessing

Each year I spend 52 days with David in Psalms.  After 28 years of doing this, I feel like I know him fairly well. The Biblical record of David, the mighty warrior, is impressive; but make no mistake, David was a shepherd at heart.  We think of shepherds as mild-mannered and gentle; but when the flock is in jeopardy, the warrior rises up — David > slingshot > giant.  I’ve met many shepherds, and never met one who wouldn’t go the distance to protect the flock.  Our Shepherd will do the same.

@ Psalm 18
David, the warrior
, knew where his help and strength came from to engage the enemy.  He opened Psalm 18 with, “I love you, Lord; you are my strength …rock …fortress …savior …shield …power …place of safety.”  Twice in Psalm 18, David declared the reason God’s help came, “The Lord rewarded me for doing right…to the faithful you show your faithful, to those with integrity you show integrity.  To the pure you show yourself pure…the Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.” (24-28)  What an incentive for right living! 

@ Psalm 19
David, the shepherd
, was qualified to write Psalm 19:1-6. Shepherding gave him the opportunity to enjoy and contemplate God’s creation.  “The heavens proclaim the glory of God.  The skies display his craftsmanship.” (1)  When I walk through gardens, view majestic mountains and travel His countryside, I always say that He could have made everything gray; but, no, that would not reflect who He is. We enjoy beauty and colorful landscapes because we are made in His image, and, obviously, He enjoys color! 

David, the shepherd, had the opportunity to meditate on God’s laws and their purposes.  Back in the ’70 we often sang the Psalms in our praise and worship, and Psalm19:7-11 was one of my favorites.  Instead of viewing His commandments as rules to inhibit my freedom, I look to them as the essential keys to a blessed life.  When obeyed, His commandments come with a promise for the future.

God’s laws tell me how to respond to life’s challenges, and they give His wisdom and His warnings.  “The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul.  The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.  The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living.” (7-8)

Most of us long to revive our body and souls in this fast-paced world and many spend great sums of money on spas and retreats for a quick fix, but living out the commandments of the Lord that He designed for our well being is the permanent solution. We attend conferences, seminars, online classes and read volumes of books seeking to improve our lives and make us better, yet the Lord has provided clear, insights for living in His Word, providing all the wisdom we need to live a blessed life.  After all, He would know.

Moving Forward:  “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (19:14)  Today I will meditate on Him and pursue right living with tenacity, opening the doors of blessing in my life. And He will light up my darkness. 

Tomorrow @ Job 13-14.

Isaiah 23-28 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He keeps our hearts in perfect peace when we trust Him

Like most everyone, I’ve passed through some difficult moments in my life.  When I look back over those times, I see how rough and rocky they truly were, but in the midst of them, they didn’t seem so troublesome. There was an undergirding strength, a peace that I can’t explain, but I know it was from God. In our reading today, Isaiah prophesied about a peace that not only permeates all of heaven but also sustains us on our journey to heaven. 

@ Isaiah 26
Amidst all the terrible judgments to come on the nations of the world, Isaiah threw in a little oasis from it all with his prophecy about heaven.  When circumstances in life seem to be at their darkest, we have the hope of heaven and all that awaits us there.  Right now we are on a pilgrimage to that Holy place where God’s presence and peace abide; and while we travel some rough roads at times, we are not alone on our journey – the Peace of Heaven is with us even now.

“But for those who are righteous, the way is not steep and rough. You are a God who does what is right, and you smooth out the path ahead of them.” (7)  Often in our walk with the Lord, we see where the Lord has gone ahead of us and smoothed out the path – the job is waiting for us, the house has sold and reports are good – and we praise Him for His goodness.  These steps may not require as great a faith or trust in the Lord from us because we quickly see His handiwork and our hearts are at peace.  However, sometimes we look at our path, and we certainly see steep and rough, a view that can rob us of our peace.  It’s in these moments that we need to focus, not on the difficult path, but on the Lord.

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!  Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.” (3)  Perfect peace in the Hebrew here means shalom, shalom or peace, peacePeace on top of peace – oh, I want that!  However, we’ll never experience this peace, peace as long as we think about how rough the road is. When we fix our thoughts on Him, the eternal Rock, we travel that rough road without realizing how rugged it really is and verse 7 becomes our reality by faith even in the midst of the struggle. It’s supernatural!

David expresses this supernatural walk this way, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” (Psalm 37:23)  Paul encourages us in Philippians 4:6-7, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything…Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”  Peace, peace! 

Moving Forward:  Should I face some bumps in the road today, I’ve decided to keep my focus on the one who holds my hand and who provides supernatural peace.  Peace, peace! 

Tomorrow @ Matthew 11-13

Psalms 12-14 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He answers our prayers based on His eternal clock

It’s disheartening to me to be around someone who is upset about something, possibly with me, but not willing to express what it is – commonly known as the silent treatment.  Yes, those who easily express their feelings can be annoying at times, but at least we know what problem exists and we can offer a response. Communication is good, especially when it comes from a heart that does not want to hurt and is seeking a resolve.

I don’t imagine that God ever found it necessary to say to David, “Well, David, why don’t you tell me how you really feel.”  Psalms offers many of David’s laments to God that were expressions of sadness, sorrow or disappointment when he faced betrayal and hatred from his enemies.  What I like about David’s laments is that, just like a good movie, they always seem to end well. 

@ Psalm 13
“O Lord, how long will you forget me?  Forever?  How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?” (1-2)  How long? I think we have a theme going here, and I’ve certainly sung this song.  At times I am convinced that heaven’s clock needs a new battery.  David asks, “Forever?” and forever is the key to the answer.  God’s timing is not based on the World Clock, it’s based on eternity.

God answers our cry to Him based on the timeless click of His eternal clock because He is more interested in our eternal destination than our temporary lament.  I love Him for that.  Sometimes in the delay, God is orchestrating our answer through others and at other times He is changing our own hearts.  Regardless of how long, He is answering according to our eternal good.

David snapped out of his despair and hope was renewed as he offered a prayer request to God.  Prayer is our indication to God that we have hope that He will respond to our need.  “Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!  Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.  Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, ‘We have defeated him!’  Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.”(3-4)  Restore the sparkle in my eyes – how could our loving God, the One who put the sparkle in our eyes, resist that request!  When we pray without the disguise of contrived words or pretense and speak from our hearts, we touch God’s heart.

David talked himself right into trusting the Lord through his trial, “But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.  I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.” (5-6)   With hope renewed, David remembered that he could trust God’s unfailing love.  In fact, God had been so faithful to David in the past that he could rejoice ahead of time for the victory in this trial. Trusting God does not always give immediate answers, but it does give us the encouragement we need.   And finally, David burst into song – a song of praise about the goodness of God.  A great ending!

God understands our laments, but He doesn’t want us to wallow in them.  We can express our feelings, but we should give Him a prayer request as well. In doing so, we are expressing our confidence in Him to meet our needs. Then, filled with hope and trust like David, we will sing songs of praise in sync with the timeless click of His clock.  Tick-tock! 

Moving Forward:  No lamenting for me today. With a heart filled with hope and trust, I’m singing songs of praise, keeping with the beat of His tick-tock. 

Tomorrow @ Job 9-10

Psalms 9-11 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  From His Holy Temple, He observes both the righteous and wicked alike, but the righteous will see His face

Head for the hills! Cut and run! Turn tail!  Take to the woods!  Fly the coop!  Skedaddle! Hightail it!  There are a lot of ways to put it, but they all mean pretty much the same thing – retreat, run from the battle.  While sometimes we feel we have to pick our battles, we really aren’t comfortable admitting retreat, even though the situation may call for it.  As a warrior, David faced this dilemma over and over again. 

@ Psalm 11
I trust in the Lord for protection.  So why do you say to me, ‘Fly like a bird to the mountains for safety!’” (1)  David sounded insulted that his advisers would suggest that he retreats.  Did he back down from Goliath? Did he not send the Philistines to flight?  Why would he fly to the mountains for safety?  David put his trust in the Lord for protection.  David was not afraid.

We understand from scripture, however, that David did retreat from the battle on occasion.  Did he not trust the Lord during those moments?  I’m sure David must have had moments of apprehension, but he was a brave warrior who knew what battles to pick.  He would have been put in a position of kill or be killed had he come face to face with Saul, the anointed king of Israel, or with his own son Absalom, so David chose to hide from them.  Can you imagine looking into the eyes of your own son and facing the decision to kill or be killed?  I would retreat as well.

Sometimes we find we have an enemy that should not be an enemy at all, but aggressive and hurtful things have been said and done to us.  We’re ready for an all-out attack, no running for the hills, we’re ready to rumble!  While victory may feel good for the moment, an altercation could possibly destroy that person in one way or another forever.  Do we really want to be responsible for that?  Better to have the heart of David.

Just as David was a warrior, we suit up every day in our battle dress from Ephesians 6 to fight the devil.  We are not afraid!  But we, too, have to pick our battles and be led by the Spirit when it comes to those individuals who oppose us.  When it’s all said and done, no one ever really gets away with anything. “But the Lord is in his holy Temple; the Lord still rules from heaven.  He watches everyone closely, examining every person on earth. The Lord examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates those who love violence. He will rain down blazing coals and burning sulfur on the wicked.” (4-5)

For the wicked, the future does not look good. However, for those who trust in the Lord for protection and live a virtuous life, it’s all good! “For the righteous Lord loves justice. The virtuous will see his face.” (7) 

Moving Forward:  I’ll trust the Lord to protect me whether in battle or at peace; and with His help, I’ll live a righteous life so that I may see His face. 

Tomorrow @ Job 7-8

Psalms 6-8 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is merciful because of His unfailing love

I loved to visit the neighborhood park playground when I was little.  I would run to the swing set and swing what seemed like hours, back and forth, getting as high as I could.  This fun always came to an end when a train came flying past in front of me and I would get sick – the double motion got me every time.  Then I’d find a friend and run to the teeter totter, the up and down seesaw, and I’d feel like I was flying myself.  The seesaw, however, was the most fickle of all the equipment on the playground because when I sat dangling high in the air, my safety was at the mercy of my friend.  On more than one occasion through the years, a distracted playmate left her seat and sent me crashing to the ground.  Somehow I lived through this.  David’s struggle in our reading today reminded me of the seesaw, where mercy or judgment takes the other seat. 

@ Psalm 6
We don’t know David’s sin on this occasion, but we recognize a cry for mercy when we see one, “O Lord, don’t rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your rage. Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak.  Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. I am sick at heart.  How long, O Lord, until you restore me? Return, O Lord, and rescue me.  Save me because of your unfailing love.” (6:1-4) David sat dangling, staring judgment in the face; but he asked for mercy to take the other seat.  My heart’s cry every day is for mercy, don’t give me what I deserve – give me mercy. 

@ Psalm 7
Now the tables are turned as David’s accusing enemies have risen up and are dangling high because they have touched God’s anointed.  Because revenge always seems to be so sweet at the time of our pain, David may have desired to slip right off the seat and send his enemies crashing, but instead, David called on God to bring justice.  “Arise, O Lord, in anger!  Stand up against the fury of my enemies! Wake up, my God, and bring justice!  Declare me righteous, O Lord, for I am innocent, O Most High! End the evil of those who are wicked, and defend the righteous.” (6,8-9) When we ask God to avenge us rather than to take matters into our own hands, we  place Him at the center, the fulcrum of the seesaw and ask him to determine the outcome.

“Wake up, my God?”  Did David actually think that God was dozing?  Probably not, but we often think God has taken too long to bring about justice to those who have caused us pain.  His hesitancy to bring judgment to all of us, for which I am thankful, comes because of what David himself said, “You look deep within the mind and heart, O righteous God.” (9)  He isn’t asleep; He sees man’s heart and He is merciful. 

“If a person does not repent, God will sharpen his sword; he will bend and string his bow.  He will prepare his deadly weapons and shoot his flaming arrows.” (12)  Our merciful God waits for repentance, longs for the contrite heart of David to fill the hearts of our enemies so that He can seat mercy rather than judgment.  But without repentance, the evil deeds of our enemies fall on their own heads. (16)

In the natural, because of our nature, we would never extend this mercy, but when we allow God to sit at the fulcrum of our hearts, our enemies just may repent.  Regardless, when it’s all said and done, God will rule with justice, “I will thank the Lord because He is just; I will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.”(17)  Sometimes it’s rough out there on the playground of life, and it may feel safer to withdraw and stay inside.  But we need to remember that we have Someone watching over us, observing all that is happening, Someone who is just and plays fair.  Come on, I’ll race you to the slide! 

Moving Forward:  I’ve determined that in the situations I face today, I will allow God’s justice to rule. 

Tomorrow @ Job 5-6

Psalms 3-5 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He has set us apart for Himself

I remember my first piece of shiny jewelry, or bling as it’s sometimes called today.  It was a dime store necklace with a cross that my mom bought for me when I was very young.  I didn’t understand all the ramifications of wearing the cross, but I knew that it was an indicator that I loved Jesus.  I wore it proudly!  I don’t know what happened to it, but as a teenager I bought a small 14k gold cross that I wore along with whatever necklace I was wearing.  Sometimes it got covered up by other jewelry and clothing, but I knew it was there.  It was my statement, my mark if you will, that I was His. More important to me today than this simple gesture, however, is the profound truth that God has marked me as one who belongs to Him. And someday I will be a bit of bling in His kingdom! 

@ Psalm 4
“You can be sure of this: The Lord set apart the godly for himself. The Lord will answer when I call to Him.” (3)  The understanding that the God of all creation has set me aside, marked me as distinct and separate just for Himself humbles me to my knees.  God has noticed us, those who have chosen to follow Him and live godly lives, and has set us apart for Himself.  Are we able to get our minds around that thought?

Whether we are a part of any other group or club, whether we have a friend in the world and whether we feel accepted by society as a whole, we should rejoice that we are part of a group that God has set apart just for Himself.  As redeemed and grafted in to the family, we are a chosen people, but we are not exclusive.  “You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” (I Peter 2:9)  God wants everyone, every godly one, to be a part of His special group.

As if it wasn’t enough being marked by God with distinction, we only have to call out to Him and He answers!  In a day where we can spent an entire morning on the phone on the answering machine merry-go-round, never talking with a real person, never getting any answers, the Lord will take my call!  Amazing!   “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them.” (Psalm 91:14-15)  I love being chosen and set apart.

Even more exciting is what is to come.  Greater than our wearing some bling to show our dedication and love for God, someday we will be some bling.  In Zechariah 9:16-17 is a promise not only to Israel but a messianic promise to the redeemed as well, “On that day the Lord their God will rescue his people, just as a shepherd rescues his sheep. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. How wonderful and beautiful they will be!”   His bling!

Moving Forward: I’m blessed to receive love and acceptance from family and friends, but even if no one showed love to me today, I know that I am loved and set apart by Him.  As I live a godly life, I am forever distinct in this way and destined to be a beautiful jewel in His crown. According to David, I can be sure of it!

Tomorrow @ Job 3-4