The Good Shepherd

As much as I want to strike out boldly in 2018 and conquer giants in the land, I am too often paralyzed with fear to move forward. It’s been a year of new circumstances, that is certain. A cross-country move last fall (for some background, read A New Season). A continuation for me and my family in a new location, with new schools, a new church, new surroundings and a new(ish) job (I say that because I’m with Walmart which is familiar but in various locations all around Nashville). All lots of change and all within a short period of time. I convince myself, yes giants must fall (see Giants Will Fall)…but not until I feel ready and confident; willing and able to muster up the strength needed to overcome them.
I don’t think God waits for us to be ready. I don’t think He is dependent upon our ability to harness our will power to do something. For indeed, the Bible states, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty.” Zechariah 4:6. If we are living in a place of fear, we must realize the dependence we draw upon comes from a source entirely outside of ourselves. It comes from the Holy Spirit living and reigning within us.
How might this tie into “The Good Shepherd” you might be thinking? Well I had been dealing with some anxious thoughts the other day as I was driving into one of my shifts at the pharmacy. It could’ve been the traffic. It could have been the anticipation of what would await me as I stepped onto the job site. It could’ve been wondering how all these new experiences were going to come together and start making sense. It could have been a number of things. But regardless, my heart was racing and that “lump in the throat” feeling was coming on strong.
It was in that moment I began to pray and in my mind heard the words “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23 is a passage many of us know by heart but fail to realize the full weight of the words. I started to focus on that one phrase: the rod and the staff of the Shepherd, they bring comfort. But how? In the staff is protection. In the staff is power and strength. The Shepherd knows those who are His and He fiercely defends them, loves them and gives them strength. The Shepherd doesn’t lose His sheep but protects them (from within and without). I immediately clung to those words and felt a wave of peace wash over me. Feeling His presence, the Lord made Himself known within the cab of a ’98 Ford Expedition traveling down I-65 in the midst of a sea of traffic.
In digging further into Psalm 23, I see the characteristics of the Lord that we have access to. I often forget these things within the noise of my surroundings. We lack for nothing. He brings quiet and rest to our weary souls. He refreshes us. He keeps us on the right path (even as much as we want to take our own). When we are in the valley, He is there. When we face evil, He is there. He surrounds us even when the enemy is at our door. He anoints us and gives us the best of Himself. He promises us a life with Him in eternity.
Read it once again and be reminded of it all:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
   He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
   he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
   for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
   through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
   for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
   they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Anxiety. Fear. Doubt. Discouragement. These are words that reflect a character not motivated into action and faithfulness, but rather a shrinking away that leads to immobility. When we are faced with these thoughts, we have two choices: to chose an identity that finds itself in something other than Christ or to choose one that He tells us we have in Him. We have no reason to doubt and no reason to fear if we are taking the words of Scripture literally and applying them to our lives. When we start to see ourselves as He sees us, what can stop us? Nothing can stand against us and no power can snatch us out of His mighty hand.
I leave you this week with a song that I have literally had on repeat in my home over the past few weeks. John Tibbs is a singer-songwriter who lives in Nashville and who’s music I have just recently discovered in the past year. A commanding voice, powerful lyrics, and moving melodies are in each and every one of his songs. To hear him sing and proclaim truth is an experience like no other. His song “Shepherd” is a song that’s part of the soundtrack of my life right now. I hope you’ll find it powerful as well; take a listen here:

As always, I love you and am praying for you. Reach out to me at
You meet me here and I need nothing
You have covered me I will not fear
And I will rest by these waters
You've delivered me I will not fear
And oh You are with me
And oh You are with me
What a shepherd ever keeping me oh
Ever leading me with love and mercy
What a shepherd ever keeping me oh
Ever leading me and I will follow
Though I walk through the valley
Of the shadows I will not fear
Though I stand in the company
Of the enemy I will not fear
You are with me oh You are with me
Oh You are with me
Your rod and Your staff they cover me
Oh You are with me
Breaking bread in front of my enemies
Oh You are with me
You anoint my head my head with oil
You are with me
My cup overflowing
John Tibbs | Michael Farren
© Farren Love And War Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (Integrity Music [DC Cook]))
Integrity's Alleluia! Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (Integrity Music [DC Cook]))

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