God's presence

A Shepherd and a Best Friend

We literally lack nothing…

A cliché is a phrase that once was thought provoking but became boring or ineffective because of repetition. A cliché isn’t necessarily untrue. It may be just as meaningful now as when it was first penned, but we stop being impacted by it because we’ve heard it too many times.

Psalm 23 is a good example of a Bible chapter that could become a cliché. Many of us have heard this chapter over and over. It’s been read at hospital beds and funerals. It’s been a favorite memorization assignment in Kid’s Church. It’s so well known we could easily stop feeling its impact.

Let’s turn fresh eyes and an open heart to the first verse of Psalm 23 and move past the cliché to the richness of this verse.

“The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1). The word translated as, “shepherd,” is from the Hebrew word, “raah.” It actually has two meanings. The first meaning is shepherd. We like to think we’re smarter than sheep. We like to think we can shepherd ourselves. But we’re prone to go our own way, get lost, get injured, or get in trouble.

We desperately, urgently, constantly need a shepherd.

John 10:14-15 says, “I alone am the Good Shepherd, and I know those whose hearts are mine, for they recognize and know me…I am ready to give my life for the sheep.” When we lean into the guidance of the Good Shepherd, we have everything we need and absolutely nothing to fear.

We needed a shepherd. And we also needed a friend.

The second meaning of “raah” is, “best friend.”  A best friend is someone we value above other friends in our lives, someone we trust, and someone in whom we confide. Our best friend is the first person we call when we get good news or bad news. When we just want someone to hang out with, we look to our best friend.

Jesus is not just our shepherd. Yes, he leads us and protects us. Yes, he provides everything we need to thrive. But he’s also our best friend. He can be trusted and can handle all our secrets. He rejoices in our good news and comforts us in our bad news. He’s always available and he always cares.

How blessed are we? Our shepherd is also our best friend. We lack nothing. Every physical need—supplied. Every spiritual need—supplied. Jesus is a companion who will never leave us or forsake us. He is our redeemer, the forgiver of our sins, and the one who conquers sin, death, and the grave.

Jesus is both our Good Shepherd and our best friend forever. We have nothing to fear. And we lack no good thing.

Dear Jesus, you are my closest friend, always with me, always listening, and always caring. And you are my Good Shepherd, leading me, protecting me, and providing for me. I am abundantly blessed. I know I will lack no good thing. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.

God's presence

More Aware of His Presence

He’s always there, but are we aware?

Why has anyone today heard of Brother Lawrence, a man who died over 400 years ago? It’s because he actively pursued an awareness of the presence of God. He looked for God’s presence not just when he was in church, but when he was working in the kitchen, running errands, repairing shoes, or talking to people.

As a result, he was genuinely filled with joy and peace. He was sought after for spiritual guidance from those in his community and church leaders all over France.

Ordinary people become extraordinary when they focus on the presence of an extraordinary God.

“The most holy and important practice in the spiritual life is the presence of God—that is, to take great pleasure in every moment because God is with you.” – Brother Lawrence

God is always with us. It is our awareness of his presence that is lacking. When we open our eyes in the morning, God is present. When we close our eyes to sleep at night, God is present. And during everything that happened in the hours in between, God was right there, waiting for us to notice his presence.

How do we increase our awareness of God’s presence? Here are three suggestions:

  • Schedule quiet time. Take five minutes each day to sit still, be quiet, and rest in God’s presence. Psalm 46:10 instructs us to, “be quiet and know that I am God.” Busy lives and constant distractions move our focus away from God. Five minutes of silenced phones, no activity, and resting in God’s presence can change our lives.
  • Speak one-breath prayers. We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to, “pray without ceasing.” A one-breath prayer is a short sentence we repeat throughout the day. It may be, “I love you, Lord,” “Jesus, give me your peace,” or whatever is in our hearts. Just speaking his name throughout the day keeps our minds on God and increases our awareness of his presence.
  • Soak in the Scripture. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the word of God is, “alive and powerful.” When we read the Bible, we are encountering the living, breathing, active presence of God. A Bible verse makes an inspiring wallpaper on our phones or magnet on our refrigerator. We can listen to the Bible while we do chores or errands. God’s word moves us into his presence. Let’s immerse ourselves in it!

We are seldom aware of the air we breathe, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The same is true of the presence of God. God is always with us, always there to strengthen and guide us. It’s up to us to pursue a higher awareness of his presence.

Father God, I know you are always with me. Whether I’m happy or sad, whether times are good or bad, your presence remains. Help me focus more on your presence. Let me lift my eyes to you, where my help comes from. Give me the peace and joy of living with the awareness of your presence. In Jesus’s name, amen.