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Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Promise With Two Parts

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
Psalm 23: 6 AKJV

 Today as I am sitting in the garden, I am feeling a little sad. The life that Jesus Christ lived on earth was such an amazing example of the way that God wants us all to live our lives. I feel sad because I fall so short! I get caught off guard and my attitude is crummy, my words are not kind, and fear is often just a thought away. People upset me and my response is not always gracious. At times I find myself being intolerant of others who are not like me. Time after time the example that Jesus set for me is there, yet I get it right only occasionally. I know full well that Jesus was perfect and I am not, but God did send his son Jesus, as an example to mankind so that we would recognize what holy living looks like. Jesus’ example is the bull’s-eye that we aim for.
I don’t believe that God demands perfection but I do believe that he wants to see progress in the lives of his children. God desires to see each of us moving continually in the direction of holiness. I am faced with daily choices. I must learn to choose godliness over sinfulness, goodness over evil, and mercy over criticism. It helps me to remember that my first thought does not have to be my last. I can choose to respond differently. My mother used to say, “Just take a deep breath and count to ten.”
The Psalmist says that goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. God’s goodness and mercy has followed me every day that I have been alive. God’s goodness and mercy follows both believers and non believers every day. All people experience good things from the hand of God, but it is the grateful believer that will acknowledge that all the goodness and mercy they experience in this life is from the hand of God alone.
The first promise found in Psalm 23:6 is true! God’s goodness and mercy does follow us around like a puppy dog! I am beginning to realize that God’s goodness is always followed by his mercy. God is so compassionate and merciful and those attributes are the very qualities that make his forgiveness possible. So if I am to be like Jesus then I must also make every effort to follow the example he modeled. Jesus always exhibited goodness and mercy, compassion and forgiveness. More times than not, I cannot do this in my own strength. But the Holy Spirit has promised to help us in our time of need. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 NIV
I must admit that if I get upset with someone I often take a hike! I pack up my bag of goodness and mercy, leave the presence of the person that offended me and head for the nearest exit! As they observe my exit, I’m sure they are thinking, there she blows! How much better it would be if I could humbly reach up to the throne of grace and wrap myself in the blanket of God’s grace, goodness, and mercy. Then I would find that I am equipped to go back to that person with the understanding that they too are in need of Jesus’ goodness and mercy. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5: 7 NIV   My prayer today is that God would enlarge my capacity to be both good and merciful.
The second promise in today’s scripture verse is “…and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  What will the house of the Lord be like? It will be a safe place and it will be a place of love and welcome. It will be a place where goodness abounds. It will be a place of eternal REWARD.
Our Shepherd, Jesus Christ, wants us to hang in there! He wants us to carry his banner of goodness and mercy high, as we walk through this valley of the shadow of death. I don’t want to be in a place that when others see me coming toward them they view me as an enemy. No, I want them to feel safe and loved. I want others to say, here comes Paula, and she is carrying in her arms goodness and mercy. I want them to be happy to see me.  If per chance I am actually able to do that, it is only by the grace of God and the example of Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit that enables me to have good thoughts and holy responses.
This is a beautiful day for reflection. The garden is quiet. The sunshine feels warm. There is so much beauty it nearly takes my breath away. I am beginning to remember all of the lessons to be learned from the 23rd Psalm. What a marvelous Psalm! It is indeed a perfect pattern for living my life. It is God’s ideal plan for my spiritual growth and development. It is also a Psalm of amazing comfort. Only six little verses but what an impact they have made on my life.
Jesus Christ, my personal Shepherd, wants a RELATIONSHIP with me. When I put my trust in my Shepherd and enter into a personal relationship with him he begins the process of REDIRECTION. When I am sitting still before the Shepherd and I am free of distractions he begins to direct my life and lead me down a fresh new path of right living. As I listen to my Shepherd, he begins the process of RESTORATION. He begins to shape my life and restore it back to the way he intended it to be before sin entered our world. There is much in my life that is in need of change but the Shepherd REMAINS with me through all of the dark valleys I will ever encounter. My Shepherd is always waiting to provide me with the soothing oil of his Holy Spirit which gives me comfort and peace.  My Shepherd will constantly be close beside me for as long as it takes for me to be able to trust him. He wants me to RELINQUISH to him all that keeps me concerned and worried. He wants all my fears and all my anger. He wants my pain and my suffering. In the moments that we spend together in deep communication, my Shepherd REFRESHES my spirit. I eat from his bountiful table of blessings and drink from his refreshing living water. I accept his lavish love for me. My Shepherd follows me day in and day out with his goodness and mercy. The Shepherd has promised me that at the end of my journey here on earth he will give me my REWARD. The reward is heaven, the place where I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever and ever. What’s not to love about a Shepherd like this? 

  1. What are the seven “R” words that indicate the pattern God has for your spiritual growth and development? 
  2. What “R” word best describes what you need from the Shepherd this day?
  3. What are the two parts that are promised in Psalm 23:6?
  4. Which of the six verses of Psalm 23 is the most meaningful to you?

Dear Shepherd,
I am so thankful that you care for me in such a loving way. According to the words of this Psalm I will want for nothing. Not now, not ever! What a plan! A Relationship with my maker, Redirection for my sinful life, Restoration of my spirit during hard times, and God you  Remain  with me as you wait for me to Relinquish my needs and all of my difficult circumstances into your sovereign hands. God you Refresh me and you Reward me! You have cared for me from the beginning of my life and will be with me forever. Only a God like you could have orchestrated such a perfect plan. What a beautiful picture of you loving goodness and mercy. Thank you Jesus, you are an amazing Shepherd.
In Your Name I Pray. Amen.

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