I went to high school in the late 90’s and I grew to fall in love with Dave Matthews.  I was an avid, rabid Dave Matthews fan.  I went and saw him at Red Rocks not once, but twice—the shekinah glory of the Lord came and hovered over that place twice as I was there.  It was amazing and I absolutely loved him.  I learned to play all his songs on the guitar and yet I haven’t listened to Dave Matthews in probably a decade.  Have you ever wondered how short a shelf life music has in our day and time?  Let me give you an example:  Last year, 2014, the song that topped the Billboard charts was a song Happy by Pharrell.  Now, I’m just going to throw it out there, I don’t think in five years anybody’s going to be listening to Happy by Pharrell.  Just sayin’.  You might be really happy, but I don’t think you’re going to dial into that song.  The top album of 2014 was the album from the soundtrack to the movie Frozen.  If there is a God in heaven, we WON’T be singing that in five years!!  We will finally have let it go, friends!!

Have you ever thought about how quickly things in our culture nowadays come and go?  How it’s just sorta the next, the biggest, the brightest thing and once that thing proverbially burns out it sort of just is tossed aside.  I was thinking of that as I was studying for a series in Psalm 23 that we’re jumping into today.  Because for some reason, this psalm, this ancient Hebrew poetry, this song, if you will…..we can’t seem to get over it can we?  I was standing here watching the bumper video play and many of you were mouthing the words to this beautiful psalm.  There’s something about Psalm 23 that resonates with the human experience.  There’s something that transcends culture.  There’s something that transcends time.  There’s some reason that for a few millennia people have been looking at this psalm and thinking: I HOPE that that’s what God is like!!  I NEED for God to be like that! And it’s not just followers of Jesus that feel this way.  In fact, you can go to a ton of different pop culture segments and find Psalm 23 playing a fairly prevalent part.  TV shows:  There’s a scene in the TV show “LOST!” where one of the characters passionately recites Psalm 23.  You can look at songs that are popular in our culture even now.  Many of your favorite songs:  “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West; “Gangster’s Paradise” by Coolio.  {Ryan rapped out the verse!}  Go back a few years and you’ll find U2 and their song “Love Rescue Me” with lyrics from Psalm 23.  Pink Floyd and their song “Sheep”; “Ripple” by the Grateful Dead.  You name it, people have attached some sort of meaning, some sort of prevalence, some sort of influence to this psalm….this few thousand year old psalm still resonates with our soul today.

Would you open to Psalm 23 and we’re going to jump in and read this beautiful psalm.  Here’s the way that David, the psalmist, writes this.  Remember, this is Hebrew poetry.  This is an invitation into the narrative of faith that the Hebrew nation sort of wrapped their collective hearts and minds around.  It was the way they told their story of what God was like and in turn, their invitation to you and I today to step into this understanding of who God is and what God is like.  Over the next few weeks as we study this psalm, our goal is going to be not just to memorize it and not just to recite it and not just to know it, but to climb inside of it and walk in it.  Here’s the way he writes it:  The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear not 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 goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  There’s something about that psalm, isn’t there?  There’s something about that psalm that caused my great grandmother at the age of 102….when my dad walked into her nursing home room and asked, “Mama Rose, is there anything you want me to read to you?” And she said, “Psalm 23.”  And at the age of 102, my great grandmother didn’t know my name anymore….she had a hard time identifying the people around her, but when my dad started to read Psalm 23 to her, something clicked.  And she recited, at the age of 102, the entire thing verbatim,  word for word.  There’s something about this psalm, isn’t there?  There’s something about this poem that just draws us in as human beings that says yes, that’s what God is like and it says yes, that’s what you need for your life today because there’s both provision in this psalm and there’s need in this psalm.

One of the things that stood out to me as I studied for this series was that this image of God as a shepherd, a good shepherd, was the prevailing image for the early church.  Now that should be no surprise to us if you go and sorta trace the idea of a shepherd through the Scriptures you’ll find that the earliest mention of God as shepherd actually comes in Genesis 48.  So the first book in our Bible.  Listen to the way that Jacob, who’s blessing, speaking a good word over Joseph, talks about God.  He says:   The God before who my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day.   He says that’s the God we’re gathering our lives around.  A God who’s a shepherd, a good shepherd, and Jacob as he says this you have to know he’s walked through betrayal, he’s walked through hurt, he’s walked through pain, he’s walked through really, really difficult seasons, but somehow in someway he sees in all of those seasons and all of those circumstances…God was my shepherd in all of that.  Through the prophets you can see this theme coming back over and over again.  In the New Testament, we’ll see today, Jesus claims HE’S the good shepherd.  Writers of the New Testament epistles are going to attach to this idea also the role of pastors or shepherds to continue to live in the way of Jesus and shepherd the people of God.  What’s really interesting, though, is not just the way it’s portrayed in Scripture that God is shepherd, but the way that the early church really grabbed onto this.  Now we have a lot of images of what we think God is like in our mind.  For the early church, they didn’t have the image of God as an omnipotent judge.  It wasn’t so prominent their idea of God as the suffering servant or even of Jesus gathering his disciples around a communion table to celebrate Passover for the last time.  Those weren’t the images that held the forefront of the early followers of Christ.  The image that held the forefront in the minds of the early followers of Christ was that of shepherd, good shepherd.

Listen to the way that the great author, Kenneth Bailey, puts it:  “On no image does the early Church seem to have dwelt with greater delight than this of Christ as the good Shepherd bringing home his lost sheep.”   Look up at me for just a moment.  That’s a great image, is it not?  That this God loves his people so much that he chases after them.  God is so complex, so big, so beautiful that we need pictures, we need images to attach to God that help us relate to him.  The most prominent picture for the New Testament church was God as good Shepherd.

Tertullian, the early church father, had carved into his communion chalice a picture of Jesus the Good Shepherd carrying home lost sheep.  Phillip Schaff, the great early church historian, says: “The shepherd symbolized: rescuing of the lost, protection, green pasture and fresh fountain, the sacrifice of life: in a word, the whole picture of a Savior.”  That’s great, isn’t it?  It’s got a problem, though, at least for me.  It’s got a huge problem.  I grew up in Orange County!  I’ve never met a shepherd!  Everybody reading this passage back in the early church, or even back in David’s time would have known a number of shepherds.  It was a big job!  I’ve never met a shepherd.  I’ve never seen a sheep who wasn’t confined to a cage….and even those scare me a little bit!  My kids are feeding them and I don’t know if I’d do that.  I don’t trust these things!  I don’t know about you, but I haven’t met too many shepherds and I haven’t encountered too many sheep, so I struggled with this passage.  I struggled to enter into what does this mean for us.  The fact that David will say, “The Lord is MY shepherd.”  Something about this has connected with the human experience.  Something about this has resonated with our collective souls to say back to God, “Yes, we need you to be this for us.”

It’s interesting because David says, “The Lord is my shepherd.”  He was a shepherd himself, so he knew the role well, but in THIS psalm he turns that on his head and says not that I’m a shepherd, but God, you’ve been my shepherd…you are my shepherd today and you’re good.  In doing so, here’s what he says about himself.  He says, “I’m a sheep.”  Turn to the person next to you and say, “You’re a sheep.”  Now, that’s not exactly a compliment.  Because I don’t understand the life of a shepherd all that well, I was reading a little bit this week and I came across a story of a shepherd who was watching over 1500 sheep in Turkey.   It was his role to make sure that they had green pastures and quiet waters and rest for their bodies.  Here’s the way the article reads:  First one sheep jumped to its death.  Then the stunned Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500 other sheep followed, each leaping off of the same cliff.  Turn to the person next to you and say, “You’re a sheep.”  They’re watching and…..what kind of insanity does have a sheep have to do to go to the edge and look and say, “You know what? That looks like a great idea!  I’m in!”  So the story continues:  At the end, 450 dead animals lay on the bottom, one on top of another in a billowy white pile.  Well, you may be going, there were 1500 sheep, Ryan.  What happened to the other 1000+ sheep?  Great question!  The article helps us.  It says this:  Those who jumped later were saved as the pile got higher and higher and the fall got more cushioned.  You may be going this guy’s a sheep hater….no, I’m not!  I need to step into this reality of who sheep are, because here’s what the Scriptures say: I’m like a sheep!  The Scriptures say….you are, too!

That means, not just illustrated by that story, but if you look at sheep in general, they have a tendency to get into positions that really hurt themselves.  We’re like sheep, aren’t we?  We have this tendency to not be able to get ourselves the things we really actually need.  We need a shepherd!  Sheep hurt themselves.  They’re needy.  They operate—-you and I like sheep—-in this mob mentality, don’t we?  Well, if they’re going, I’m going with them!  You don’t believe me?  Just wait until Apple releases their new iPhone, then baaaa! baaaa!….we’ll line up at the door and baaaa give us a new one, right?  We need that!  We operate with this mob mentality, don’t we?  Sheep are also known for living timid, fearful lives.  The Lord is my Shepherd and I, in turn, am His sheep.  I’m going to throw this out to you:  I think I got the better end of that deal!

The Lord is my Shepherd, David writes and then he follows with this beautiful one line statement that I want us to anchor into today:  I shall not want.  So he ties these two things together.  He says because I’m a sheep and I’m need and I’m dangerous to myself and I operate with a mob mentality and I often live in fearful trepidation, BUT, in light of that, God is my shepherd and BECAUSE God is my shepherd my soul is satisfied.  I shall lack nothing that I need. (New Living Translation)   Look at me for a moment, will you?  Every single person in this room has a Shepherd that they cling to.  You have a shepherd over your life.  The question this morning is not whether you have a shepherd or that you are a sheep.  You are a sheep and you have a shepherd.  The question is does your shepherd lead you to this statement, this reality for your life, for your soul…I shall not want.  OR does the shepherd over your life lead you to a place where you go:  I need and I’m desperate and I’m broken and I’m in pain and I hurt and I lack.  The question isn’t whether or not you have a shepherd, the question is where is your shepherd leading you and WHO is your shepherd?  I love the fact that David makes this personal.  God is MY shepherd!  He’s not just a shepherd and he’s not just the shepherd, but David, in a very intentional way says I have come under this glorious goodness of God as MY shepherd.  And because I’ve done that I shall not want.

I want us to wrap our hearts and minds around one big idea today and it’s simply this: The shepherd of your life will determine the satisfaction of your soul.  Every day, every time and in every way.  We have a lot of ideas about the things that determine whether or not we’re satisfied and I want to say it’s just one thing.  It’s simply one thing.  According to our Scriptures, one thing that determines whether or not you can say, before everybody else and before God, I am satisfied.  Life may not be going exactly the way that I think it should, but there’s a calm, there’s a peace, there’s a blessing of favor over my life and my soul and I can rest in it.  And the ONE thing that determines whether or not you can say that……isn’t what your bank account looks like, isn’t what kind of car you drive, isn’t what kind of education you have, it’s not the job that you have, it’s not the family that you have….as good or as bad as those things might be….the ONE thing that allows you to say I’m satisfied……is having the Lord as your shepherd.

Satisfaction is a tough thing to come by, isn’t it?  I mean, to quote the great American poet, Mick Jagger: “I can’t get no satisfaction, I can’t get no satisfaction, ‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try, I can’t get no, I can’t get no.”  Right?  I think that’s the way we often operate and here’s our idea.  Our idea is if I had a little bit more of what I already have then I’d be satisfied.  Isn’t it?  If I had a little bit bigger….if I had a little bit shinier….if I had a little bit more then I would be okay.  But that the stuff that you have will never lead to your soul’s satisfaction.  That’s what David’s drawing out.  I can say I shall not want not because of what I have, but because of WHO I have.  The Lord is my shepherd.

When Kelly and I lived in Portland, I was going to school out there and we went to this park in the springtime.  Along the fence of this park there was a huge blackberry bush and being from this area and southern California, I hadn’t seen blackberries like that before.  We went over and popped one in our mouth and it was like “Turkish delight!”  We’re popping them in our mouths as quickly as we can and we have this idea:  Let’s get some bags from the car and get some more berries.  We FILLED these grocery bags full of blackberries!  We went back to the car and by the time we got home there were only a few blackberries on top.  All the blackberries underneath were good for only one thing and that was making a ton of pies.  They had gotten absolutely smashed and demolished.

I thought of that as a picture of the way my soul often tells me to find satisfaction:  Get a little bit more!  A little bit more and you’ll be okay.  A little bit more and then that will be enough.  A little bit more….a little bit more….a little bit more.  By the time we get all this “more” we realize it’s really not what we were looking for. Isn’t it? You know why?  Because your satisfaction in life will never be determined by the stuff that you have.  It will only be determined by one thing: the shepherd of your soul.  Your satisfaction isn’t determined by your circumstances, it’s determined by your shepherd.  Look at the way that Jesus says this: The thief comes {He’s talking in shepherd language. In John 10 he’s taken on this role of the Good Shepherd.  He’s put this metaphor over his life and in doing so made a very definitive claim to be God for everybody who was listening that had any understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures.} The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they {That you, that sheep….needy, smelly, hurt themselves sheep..} may have life and have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  {He’s going to point out two things:  There’s a war that’s going to wage for your soul.  There is.  There’s a war between the thief who wants to look like a shepherd and the Good Shepherd who wants to lead you to life.  There’s a war between the thief who’s going to come and say this is the path we should go down, come with me.  Let’s go.  And the good shepherd who says no, no, no, no, no.  That’s not the path.  I have the path for you.  I’m good, follow me.  I want your life—in the Greek it’s the word zoe.  It’s this life that goes beyond just living, but actually being alive.  And he says not only that, but that I want that life in abundance.    Quite literally, in excess.  That’s what this word means.  Excess—like you look back at God and go: Good shepherd, you’re ridiculously good!  I can’t believe you’ve given me all this.  I can’t believe you’ve led me here.  I can’t believe you’ve restored me, protected me, provided for me…..in excess.  Superfluous!  More than you need.  When David says, “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want,” he’s not saying that I will never encounter a need in my life—-you know that and I know that.  But what he is saying is that when you drill down deep into that need, what you will find is that THIS Good Shepherd is sufficient.  And that THIS Good Shepherd wants not to lead you to death, but to lead you to life.

This is the picture, friends, all throughout Scripture that we get of our God. Start at the very beginning, in Genesis 1-2.  Adam and Eve aren’t walking through the Garden going: Man, I wish there was some food around this place.  They’re walking through the garden….God’s pointing out things and his declaration after everything he points out is: It’s good.  It’s good. It’s good.  He looks at them and goes: I’m awesome! Why don’t you walk with me?  And from the beginning of time people have been pushing back against his provision.  Your other shepherds may be a relationship that you have; a marriage that’s even ending; a wife; a family.  Your other shepherds might be a job or a bank account or some thing that you have that focuses the direction of your life.  Something you trust in, something you hope in and something you say to…lead me to satisfaction.  It could be knowledge, it could be schooling.  It could be your position at your work.  There’s one simple invitation from the text this morning, though.  Run back to this God.  Run back to the Author of Life, as the Scripture describes him.  He created you, intricately knows you, intimately loves you and is for you and his invitation is not push down all your desires and try to snuff them out.  That’s not his invitation.  In fact, that’s Buddhism’s invitation to you.  Try your best to rid yourself of desires.  The Christian invitation, the invitation from the God of the universe and the God of the Scriptures is amplify your desires to the point where only God can fulfill them.  Where only God can meet those desires, because the pinnacle of human experience and existence is drinking deeply from the wells dug by the Author of Life himself.  That’s why people love this psalm.  I think C.S. Lewis says it well:  “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.  We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased.”

So my question as I wrestle with this…..God, you satisfy….God, in you I shall not want…..what does that look like? what does that mean? and how do I step into it?  I’m glad you asked that question!  Here’s how we step into it.  One, we rely on this Good Shepherd’s provision.  It’s interesting if you know and have looked at, studied the role of the shepherd one of their jobs is to find nourishment, to find food for their sheep.  If you can’t do that, you can’t be a shepherd. So one of the ways we step under the Good Shepherd’s care is by stepping under his provision.  So this is the way I started to think about it–I’ve started to pray back to God: Jesus, if you don’t provide it, I must not need it.  That’s helped me because I have a lot of things in my mind that I think I need, that I want and that my life won’t go on if I don’t get!  But if this is true, if this is real, if Jesus is the Good Shepherd and he wants to give us life abundantly.  If he doesn’t provide it, I must not need it!  Here’s another way to look at it:  If it’s not a desire God can satisfy, it’s not a longing I need to embrace.  So what are some things maybe that God would pull out of our hands–pry out of our hands–this morning as we reanoint him as the Good Shepherd and rely on his provision?  Here’s the way the psalmist says it and I love this passage.  He invites you delight yourself {as in satisfy yourself} in the Lord, and he will give you {as you’re satisfied in him he will give you} the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)  As you walk with him, you will look back at him and say, “God, you have given me everything I need and everything I want, because you are what I want and you’ve given me yourself.”  That’s the journey that these sheep are on.

But..but..but…one thing must be in place in order to rely on God for his provision.  Here it is…..you ready…you’re gonna go that’s it?   You need to believe he cares for you.  You gotta believe it!   1 Peter 5:7 is going to say back to you: cast your anxieties on him because he cares for you!  In Luke 15:4 Jesus tells a story and says: What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?   I’ve always read that and went that shepherd’s crazy!  He trades ninety-nine for one??!!  And I’ve wrestled with that and wrestled with that and wrestled with that until just this week I came to this realization: I’m the one.  You’re the one.  That’s what this story’s about, God going after not just “a” one but after “YOU!”  Why?  Because he cares for you and he’s for you and so this God….I must be able to turn back to him and say if you don’t provide it, I must not need it.  And he provides not only what we need, but he provides his very life.  Notice the way that Jesus talks about himself.  I’m the Good Shepherd and I’ll give you my job description: I lay down my life for my sheep. (John 10:11)  So when you doubt his love, friend, when you doubt his provision, when you doubt his goodness, when you doubt if he cares you simply need to look back at his cross, whereby he says back to you: I love you more than you could ever possibly imagine and I’m for you.  Will you let me be your shepherd?  I want to lead you…I want to lead you to life, but you and I, we must be willing to receive.  I don’t know about you, but the time I receive least is when I need provision most.  You with me?  The time when life gets hardest…the time when life gets the most painful is the time where I say back to the shepherd, “I’m not going there with you!! Look where you got me!”  And I think what he wants to say to us is: Stay with me.  I’ve got a plan.  I’ve got provision.  I’m good.  Every resource is at my fingertips, you will have nothing lacking that you need.

The second way that we wrap it around our hearts and our minds is we enjoy His presence.  God himself is the delight and the joy of every believer.  You have complete access to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  We’ll get there in a few weeks, but David’s going to write even when I’m in the midst of pain, sorrow and the valley of death, God, you are with me.  Have you disciplined your soul to delight in the presence of God?  This takes work, friends, it doesn’t come by accident.  It takes intentional discipline to delight in the presence of God.  It’s your invitation, it’s your calling.  The psalmist writes: (God) You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Ps. 16:11) 

Let me give you three ways you can start to enjoy and delight in God.  One, through his Word.  Don’t just read his Word for information.  Read his Word for encounter.  Say, God, speak to me.  You live, you breathe through your word, by your Spirit speak to my soul.  Don’t just read for information, read for encounter.  Two, worship Him. As you worship, your soul starts to soar in the goodness and glory of the Gospel and you’re able to say, God, you are exceedingly, abundantly good in the midst of every season and every circumstance.  I love that passage we started with this morning: Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. (Ps. 63:3)  And third, relationally get to know the Holy Spirit that lives inside of you.  God says that he pours out his love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that lives in us (Romans 5:5), so as we engage with him through his word, as we worship and as we walk with His Spirit, we start to enjoy His presence.  As we enjoy his presence, he’s anointed as the Good Shepherd.

Finally, we trust His providence.  In the same way that we pray back to Jesus:  Jesus, if you don’t provide it, I must not need it, we can also pray back to him: Jesus, if you don’t take me there, I don’t want to go.  Here’s the thing:  sheep have to trust their shepherd.  What options do they have?  They can’t say, “Hey, shepherd, thank you very much, but I think I got this one!”  You know where that leads them?  Walking over a cliff and falling.  If they’re lucky, they’re in the back of the line!  And they’re still walking out going I don’t think that was the brightest idea.  And like sheep, you and I, we have to trust in God’s providence and here’s when that gets hardest:  When he leads us through the valley of the shadow of death.  That’s when that gets hardest.  When we look back at Him and say, “God, I don’t see you in this and I don’t know how you could work good through this. And God, the pain seems absolutely overwhelming.”  Even then, my question for you, for us, for me….even then will we trust in his goodness?  We have to believe that God knows more than us.  That seems really elementary, but I forget it often.  I forget that God knows way more than me.  I look at those pictures that the Hubble space telescope takes and I’m like man, your universe is expansive and I can’t even explain how a battery works to my six year old.  You’re unbelievable, God!   And yet….here’s the deal, God.  I don’t get what you’re doing here.  I don’t like it and here’s the way we should really go and here’s what we should do.  If I’m a sheep and God is my shepherd and he’s good and he promises to provide, then I must trust in his provision.  He has the bigger picture in mind.  And third, he’s been there before.  The great thing about your shepherd, he’s not walking down the valley going I really don’t know what’s coming next.  This shepherd has walked that road before.

As I got to the end of verse one and started to jump into verse two, here’s what David says next: He makes me lie down in green pastures.  It’s really interesting because I’ve heard a number of messages on this idea of he makes me lie down and most of them revolve around the image of a shepherd grabbing a sheep by the back of the neck and sorta forcing it down.  That was the image that I was taught, that I saw in my head when I read that: He makes me lie down.  We were suppose to believe for some reason that that was a really good thing. It’s interesting because Kenneth Bailey in his great book The Good Shepherd says this:  “No one can make a sheep lie down.  Sheep will only lie down when they have had plenty to eat, have quenched their thirst and are not threatened by any wild animals or disturbed by biting insects.”  Here’s the deal, friend.  Your God wants to satisfy you today and in satisfying you he wants to cause you, make you lie down and just rest under his goodness, but he doesn’t want to force you down.  He doesn’t want to make you lie down by force, he wants to make you lie down by favor.  He wants to speak a good word over you, blessing over you, satisfaction over you. He wants you to run to him and think and know and say back to him, “God, you have given me, not just life, but abundant and good life.”  Satisfaction of your soul is only determined by one thing and that’s the shepherd of your life.

Here’s my invitation.  I’ve read Psalm 23 to a number of people who were about to meet Jesus.  I want to read Psalm 23 to a number of people who are committed to walking with Him.  Where we don’t just read Psalm 23 on our deathbed, but we dwell in it while we live!  This beautiful passage that because it’s so transcended and so beautiful and so good has captured the collective imagination of thousands of years of people.  And I just want to point you back to what the Scriptures say:  He is the Good Shepherd.  He does provide for his people.  To rely on his provision, to enjoy his presence and to trust in his providence.

Before my mom passed away she made this quilt for Kelly and I. I love this quilt!  Not just because of the way it looks, but I love to get on the couch on a cold evening and I love to put this quilt over me.  Not just because it keeps me warm, it does that.  It also reminds me of my mom.  It reminds me of her sense of humor.  It reminds me of her creativity.  It reminds me of her life—the life she lived and the life she lives!  I think Psalm 23 is intended to work the same way for your soul.  That it’s not just something that you read and something that you memorize, but it’s something that you use.  It’s something that you use to cause your soul…you push in to intentionally to cause your soul to rest in the goodness and grace and mercy of God.  It’s something that as we remember it and as we recite it, it’s intended to remind us of the nature and character of God.  God, you’re good.  God, you provide.  God, you’ll be enough.  God, in every season you are with us.  Good Shepherd, even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil for you are with us.  Put it on!! Drape it over you!  Remind yourself….use it to remind yourself of the nature and character of your good God! Don’t wait until you’re on your deathbed to read it.  Dwell in it while you live!  This God loves you, cares for you and longs to satisfy your soul.  I pray that we will collectively run to Him and allow him to do what he deeply desires: to pour into our lives.

Would you pray with me?  Jesus, in the quietness of this moment before we run out of here and continue on with the craziness of our day, would you search us, would you know us?  If there’s another shepherd at the forefront of our life that we’re following would you, even right now, help us identify that?  And help us hold open hands back to you to say God, we want to follow you.  We want to abide in you. We want you, Good Shepherd, to provide for everyone of our needs that we would be able to say back with David:  I lack nothing.  Nothing. So for those in this room that are struggling with satisfaction in life, Lord, maybe more they’re struggling with their shepherd.  For those who are struggling this morning, I pray, Lord, would you just do a work in their soul that would cause them to say back to you: Lord, I’m returning to your fold under your care, your provision, to enjoy you and to trust in your providence. Lead us, Good Shepherd, we pray and we thank you for laying down your life for us that we might know that you are for us.  We love you.  And it’s in the name of Jesus, our Good Shepherd, we pray.  Amen.