The blessedness of being pursued by God

Psalm 23:6 (NIV): Surely your goodness and love will follow me

all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

forever.

The Common English Bible is the only one I’ve read that says, goodness and faithful love will pursue me…

God will chase me down, grab me, and hold me (Walter Brueggemann).

Brueggemann then says this: “Lent is a time to quit running, to let ourselves be caught and embraced in love, like a sheep with safe pasture, like a traveler offered rich and unexpected food.”

Allow God to pursue you in this season. Desire one thing: his presence.

Walking Through the Dark Valleys

Psalm 23 deserves a slow walk at times. I’ve come back to it all week because I don’t want to rush through such a treasured Psalm this time.

One of the most difficult things for us to learn is knowing the presence of our Shepherd in our darkest valleys. If God is really there, why is it so dark? Isn’t he “light”? Why is he hiding? Why is he silent?

It is so incredibly difficult to know his presence in those dark times of our lives.

One of the great encouragements I received in my reading this week reflected on the pastor as shepherd. The shepherd is to be out in front of the sheep. In our modern day business-driven models for churches, that makes sense. We want to be out front! We are visionaries! We are leaders! We must show people the way!

But the shepherd is a different model out front. The shepherd is scouting ahead. He is seeking the next resting place. He is not “out ahead.” He is close. But in leading from the front, it is also a place of danger. If attacks come, the shepherd gets hit first. He can’t hide behind the sheep.

In our darkest times, in the dark valleys, when the heavens seem silent, we learn to know the presence of our Shepherd. He may be out front looking out for the danger ahead. While we may think the valley is dark, he is clearing the way of further danger. He is making sure we make it through that valley. In those times he may seem silent to us, but he is hard at work showing us the way through.

And he is not way out front. He is close. The darkness may be hiding him, but he is there.

His rod and staff are there to draw us in and keep us close. He doesn’t want us straying off.

When we learn to sense his presence we come to understand the valleys are no longer a place of fear. They are a place to know his presence in an entirely different way.

He Refreshes My Soul

With the Lord as my shepherd, and the metaphor of me being the sheep, the picture is that I follow. When I follow I will find that I lack nothing. He provides. He brings me to places where my hunger is taken care of and my thirst is quenched.

He is the One who brings me rest. In this life of striving and hurrying and trying to make ends meet, he causes me to lie down.

Find rest, my soul, in Christ alone…

In Eugene Peterson’s memoir, The Pastor, he talks about his journey to becoming a contemplative pastor. He needed the time to reflect, to study, to prepare in his teaching so that he could adequately pastor his flock. He needed to cut the busyness out of his life and he eventually worked it out with his church’s leadership. He needed to trust his leaders and allow the Lord to give him that rest so he could adequately prepare as a pastor.

The striving is the hard thing. There is the fear of making ends meet, paying the bills, getting things done. And then there is the necessity to come aside. But, who is the Shepherd? HE makes me lie down… HE restores my soul…

When he leads us to those times of quiet we need to faithfully respond. Feed on his word. Drink from his promises. Find rest.

Losing Sight of the Familiar

The Psalm for next Sunday is Psalm 23. So familiar, right?

Really?

How long has it been since you looked it over? For me, it’s far too long. Even if it’s on my regular reading schedule, I breeze through it. The familiar is dangerous territory. We lose sight of the beauty right in front of us.

Even that first verse. So familiar, yet I need to rest in those words again:

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.”

It reminds me of my favorite hymn:

“All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided…”

Do I acknowledge this? Do I rest in this?