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Psalm 23: Trading Our Perception with the Truth of Our Good Shepherd

We respond to Scripture based on how we perceive our current circumstances of life. That is one of the beauties of God’s Word; it becomes new each day just as our circumstances and moods do. It’s a lifelong process to take God at His word and not allow perception to filter out the truth. Psalm 23 is an easy passage to help us trade our perception with God’s truth.



Psalm 23

A dear sister recently told me she is not a fan of Psalm 23. I got the impression she felt bad about admitting it since it’s part of the Bible, but her reasoning made perfect sense.

After a little inquiry, I learned it was the chapter she was forced to read and recite when she got in trouble as a child. So it’s not hard to see how one of the most well-known passages in Scripture became tarnished in her mind. Let’s dig into Psalm 23 together and see what it says and how it may challenge our perception.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.

Psalm 23:1

We respond to Scripture based on the perception of our circumstances in life. Psalm 23 is an easy passage to help us trade our perception, with God's truth. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional | Christian Nonprofit #devotional #scripture #gratitude #thankful #provision #GodsWord #scripture #perception #Psalm23

Our Perception

Two specific thoughts come to my mind after reading verse one:

  1. Do I view God as my personal Shepherd, or is He too busy with more important tasks?
  2. What do I perceive I am lacking?

In this passage, God presents Himself as a caretaker. He is seen as a provider, a leader, and One who is responsible for care. Because of that fact, David’s response is: there is nothing I lack. The first part of verse one speaks to God’s character. I wonder what causes us to feel He is holding out on us? Lately, a bit of careful reflection will quickly illuminate I have everything I need.

For example, a few weeks ago our kitchen was wrecked after a weekend of grilling out with neighbors and running around town. No one wanted to clean up the mess. My man is an excellent helper around the house, but he was working late and I needed to clean up before I had room to cook. Has anyone else encountered this yucky phenomenon?

Anyway, as I dove into the mountain I asked God to help me see the positive instead of feeling sorry for myself that no one was helping me. The Father quickly reminded me of the sweet time we had spent with our neighbors and the laundry list of blessings which made it possible. And He showed me what a joy it is to have a family and a home to share. Before I knew it, I was actually smiling while washing dishes. But don’t spread that around.

God’s Provision

He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He renews my life; He leads me along the right paths.

Psalm 23:2-3

Three more reflections appear to me here:

  1. Green pastures mean God knows where the food is.
  2. Quiet waters represent that God knows we are like sheep.
  3. Comfort is always going to be greater on God’s path.

Sometimes, our perception tells us something looks really tantalizing, or maybe even righteous. Yet the Father, in His omniscience, knows what will nourish us completely. If sheep are steered to rushing waters they will stick their head in and be swept downstream. God understands what His children need and how best to provide for them.

That means, if we truly accept that He knows best and does provide for us, then we must dare to challenge beliefs that set themselves against God’s goodness to us. Sheep may lack water and be willing to go toward a stream to quench their thirst, but they may be pulled under rushing waters. The Good Shepherd will always lead us to quiet waters, even if it means we have to walk away from a seemingly sure thing.

His purposes are better than ours, and therefore His paths are better than ours.

Jeremy Pierre, Author & Dean of Students at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Sometimes, our perception tells us something looks really tantalizing, or maybe even righteous. Yet the Father, in His omniscience, knows what will nourish us completely. Click To Tweet

God’s Presence

Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4

Two big things stand out:

  1. There’s no question of if we will go through dark times; it’s merely a question of when.
  2. Yet God is present in the darkness.

In verse 4, David is allowing his understanding of God’s nearness and comfort to guide his perception of a truly agonizing situation. There are times in life when we feel such thick darkness we can practically taste it. Normally that causes fear. But God is with you. He is with me. Darkness and death cannot separate us from the love of God, so in reality, it can do no infinite harm. It may trifle with our body, but it cannot touch the souls of the children of God. We are secure through Christ Jesus.

God’s Attention

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in house of the Lord as long as I live.

Psalm 23:5-6

Two observations:

  1. God hosted David on the battlefield in the face of his biggest threat.
  2. David has the assurance of complete rest in God’s steadfast love.

In this last stanza, David shifts the descriptive symbols used for God. He went from describing God as Shepherd in verses 1-4 to a Host in verses 5-6. God lavishes us with His individual attention and exclusive exaltation. He can do that because He’s God! And because the things that concern us concern the Father.

A Few Questions

  • How would it change your life to believe God “leaves the 99” to find you (Luke 15:4)?
  • What is the thing you feel you’re lacking or desiring that you don’t have?
  • Do you believe you can continually leave your desires at the feet of Jesus because He cares for you (Philippians 4:6-7) and will fulfill His purpose for you (Psalm 138:8)?

I hope this encourages your heart and has sparked some rich thoughts about our Good Shepherd and Host. My journal is filled to the brim as I read the beautiful Word of God. It is all at once penetrating and comforting my soul.

We respond to Scripture based on the perception of our circumstances in life. Psalm 23 is an easy passage to help us trade our perception, with God's truth. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional | Christian Nonprofit #devotional #scripture #gratitude #thankful #provision #GodsWord #scripture #perception #Psalm23

All scripture is referenced from the HCSB version of the Bible.
unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt
mentor, mentoring, shepherding, love, service, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Shepherding: Sharing Christ’s Love with The Least of These

When we share the love of Christ with young people who are hurting, we can change the course of their lives. Shepherding in love is one way to do this. 



I can almost feel the shock of cold in my fingertips as I recall those early winter morning walks to catch the school bus. Now before you listen for the crotchety echo of your grandpa’s voice saying: “Kid, I had to walk a mile to school every day, barefoot. And it was uphill both ways!” Here’s my disclaimer: my walk was only half a mile; I wasn’t barefoot, and except for the uneven cracks in the sidewalk, it was completely flat!

When we share the love of Christ with young people who are hurting, we can change the course of their lives. Shepherding in love is one way to do this. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #love #mentor #serve #sacrifice

A Long, Cold Walk…

I was ten years old when I walked that half mile alone, from our apartment to the bus stop, down at the high school parking lot. Those Midwest winter mornings were always very dark, very quiet, and very cold. In front of our old place out in the country, the school bus used to pull right up. I’d run outside and hop right onto the bus–its fumes of diesel fuel and musty vinyl seat upholstery mingling in the warm air.

Since I’d recently moved into town with my dad and sisters, I now had this long, cold walk to contend with. But that walk was really the least of my concerns. You see, within a matter of months, my whole world had come crashing down.

An Escape Plan…

My dad was divorcing my mom, and he was filing for full custody of me and my two older sisters. Divorce is not easy on any family, and the circumstances of this separation proved particularly traumatic. Because my mom had been getting more and more abusive, we essentially had to formulate an escape plan to leave our home.

I remember the morning we left. The tension heightened as Mom began to catch wind of what was happening. As I sat in the big cab of Dad’s old Ford truck, I watched through the windshield as Mom and Dad shouted at each other outside. I covered my ears and clung to my sisters as Mom screamed and shrieked hysterically, pounding on the truck’s metal hood. I remember watching in terror when she threw herself down on the gravel in front of the truck as Dad tried to drive away.

Betrayal…

A few weeks before that, I had to sit in a fancy law office and recount the different ways that Mom had physically, verbally, and emotionally hurt me and my siblings. There was the time she slapped my sister across the face. Another time when she broke a green tree limb over my brother’s back.

Then there were the countless times she whipped the back of my legs so hard with a switch. The swollen red welts were still visible days later. I experienced a strange combination of feelings after that interview. On the one hand, I felt justified; yet on the other, I worried that by confessing about the abuse, I had betrayed my own mom.

Our ‘New’ Apartment…

Now, here we were. In our new apartment, which was really just a rundown, government subsidized box. We didn’t have any furniture except for an old plaid couch from the Salvation Army and a couple of bare mattresses on the floor of our bedroom.

Each night I’d set a small plastic travel alarm clock. I’d won it for selling boxes of chocolates for a school fundraiser. I remember wishing for some of the yummy chocolates instead of the dinky plastic prizes they were giving away.

But the clock did come in handy as I had to get myself up for school. Dad was working two retail jobs and going back to school full time. Most days, he was gone before I got up and didn’t get home until it was time for bed. So, I’d set my alarm and brace myself for the freezing trek to the bus.

“I Don’t Have A Coat”…

But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

1 John 3:17-18, NKJV

Before I ever even knew the Lord, He put people in my life who showed me the love of Christ this passage describes. They mentored me–shepherding me through some very difficult seasons. One morning I showed up to school wrapped in Dad’s very large, but very thin windbreaker jacket. It was the only thing I could find to cover myself up against the cold. When my teacher, Mrs. Montgomery, (I called her Mrs. M.) saw how I was dressed, she asked me if I had lost my coat. I told her, “I don’t have a coat.”

Something about my statement must have touched her because that afternoon, she sent a note home to my dad. In it, she offered to pick me up for school each morning. Dad, who was never one to accept handouts, actually consented to her offer. I was so relieved to know that I wouldn’t have to walk to the bus stop alone anymore! Mrs. M. also found me a proper winter coat.

Hunger…

Each morning, Mrs. M. arrived in her big, warm Astro van. I’d get in, and she’d swing by the local donut shop to get me a donut and hot chocolate on the way to school. That breakfast treat, along with the free school lunch, would be the only food I’d eat all day.

Many nights I writhed around on my mattress, hunger pangs gnawing at my stomach. Eventually, I learned how to feed myself though. When I got so hungry that I just couldn’t take it anymore, I’d walk to the nearby Kroger grocery store and shoplift food to eat. My feelings of fear and guilt for stealing were quickly replaced by the relief of a full belly.

Utterly Alone…

Two years after we escaped from Mom’s, my dad suffered a massive heart attack and died suddenly. I was twelve years old. I had never felt so utterly alone. My dad was dead, and legally I could not–nor did I want to–go back to live with my mom. Once again, Mrs. M. stepped into my broken life and showed me the love of Christ. She came to our apartment and helped clean, fielded phone calls from friends and family, and made sure my sisters and I had food to eat.

Those are just the things I could see her doing, but most likely she also was working behind the scenes. Making Dad’s funeral arrangements and helping line up homes for me and my sisters. No one could take all three of us girls in together. So we had to be split up–all going to live in different families’ homes. Although we often fought like cats, I was terrified to live apart from my big sisters.

I will never forget the morning we left that empty apartment. The emptiness of the space mirrored the gaping hole I felt in my stomach. But this was not the familiar emptiness of hunger. This was an even deeper, physically painful ache. It was the ache of feeling utterly alone in the world. And that ache was accompanied by another, almost sickening feeling: shame. I felt so ashamed as I looked at the single black trash bag on the floor. It contained everything I owned.

Above and Beyond…

That summer, Mrs. M.’s daughter was attending a week-long gymnastics camp in Pennsylvania. Mrs. M. knew that our dad’s family lived in Philadelphia, so she offered to take my sisters and me with her on a road trip. After dropping off her daughter, we went to visit all of our distant relatives on the east coast–many of whom we had never met. Talk about going above and beyond!

In the years that followed, I bounced around from one family to another–six homes in all. When I was scared and had nowhere to turn, I would often call Mrs. M. for help. She would patiently talk through things with me and try to help me make good decisions. Looking back, without her consistently loving and supportive presence, I do not know how I would have made it through those tumultuous years. I thank God for placing her in my life as a teacher, mentor, and friend.

Mentors practice sacrificial love and generosity through the grace and mercy of God, asking nothing in return. The Lord works through them, shepherding our hearts through trauma, pain, and isolation. Click To Tweet

She Pointed Me to Him…

And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.

Matthew 25:40, NKJV

The kind of sacrificial love and generosity that Mrs. M. so willingly offered to me is nothing short of the grace and mercy of God. I was a young girl who had many needs and nothing to offer in return. I was the least of these. Yet, the Lord worked through her, shepherding my heart through traumas that no little girl should ever have to face.

She helped me tremendously, but she was working as unto the Lord. I thank God for her because her love ultimately pointed me to Him. In my mid-twenties, I finally stopped running away from God. And when I turned back to Him, I realized that He had been there all along.

Even when I thought I was utterly alone, He was there. He was the nurturer that I needed my broken mom to be. The Abba that I thought I’d lost when my dad died. He was holding my hands with the frozen fingertips on those long, cold walks to the bus stop. Rubbing my empty belly as I tossed and turned from the hunger pangs.

His voice was in the encouragement I heard from mentors like Mrs. M., the families who took me into their homes, and countless other teachers and counselors who spoke into my life.

Beloved, He has been with us all along. He is with us now and He will be with us forever. Because that is who He is. Emmanuel. God with us.

Has the Lord touched your heart in shepherding one of His lost lambs? May God bless you for helping the least of these!

When we share the love of Christ with young people who are hurting, we can change the course of their lives. Shepherding in love is one way to do this. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #love #mentor #serve #sacrifice
Steinar Engeland

All scripture references from The New King James Version of The Bible.
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Shepherd: The Response to Those Who Can’t Get it Right

Psalm 23 says the Lord is my Shepherd, but does that mean I am like a sheep? Read how the Lord responds to those of us who can’t seem to get it right.



The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Psalm 23:1, NKJV

Despite loving and seeking to serve God for most of my life, at times I have sort-term memory loss when it comes to remembering His many-faceted, words-defying character. Also, sometimes it escapes my cluttered mind that God is the anchor of my soul in the storms of life…as cheesy as that sounds. (Think of the terrified apostles on the stormy sea and Jesus walking toward them telling them to ‘chill’.)

God’s Many Names

So… recently, I worked back through a Bible study by Kay Arthur entitled, Lord I Want to Know You. Within those pages, Arthur leads the reader throughout Scripture showing when God revealed a new characteristic of Himself to His people, Israel. With each one, a need they had was met and a new name for God was given to them.

I had done this study years ago, when I was gobbling up one Bible study after another, barely taking time for any root to develop. However, the many constellations surrounding my life have been colliding crazily and I needed a fresh reminder of the nature of my awe-inspiring Father. Many of the names of God spoke to my heart, but God as my Shepherd loomed large.

Psalm 23…

Psalm 23 has been dear to me for too many decades to count. I think I may have first memorized it in Vacation Bible School, if that tells you anything! (Don’t ever think kids aren’t taking something home in their hearts from VBS, moms!) When I suffer from insomnia, when anxiety is high or faith is low, my heart and mind often run to Psalm 23.

Being a shepherd himself, I understand David referring to God as a Shepherd. David could relate; it was his own lifestyle. He hung out on dusty mountainsides with smelly sheep all day every day. But that was then, this is now. How can a shepherd analogy work for today? Living today in the technological 21st century – can we truly be considered a bunch of dumb, sheep?…

Psalm 23 says the Lord is my Shepherd, but does that mean I am like a sheep? Read how the Lord responds to those of us who can't seem to get it right. #Psalm23 #TheGoodShepherd #spiritualgrowth #faith

A Flock of Sheep…

Uh…afraid so. At least that’s what Scripture declares.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the LORD has laid on [Jesus] the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:6, ESV

For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

I Peter 2:25, ESV

Without a shepherd, sheep inevitably are aimless. They will munch themselves off of a cliff and will gladly eat or drink things that harm them. It’s just their basic nature. That sounds like a lot of people I know. Wait – it sounds like me!

The late journalist, scientist, and shepherd Phillip Keller wrote in, A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm:

It is no accident that God has chosen to call us sheep. The behavior of sheep and human beings is similar in many ways…Our mass mind (or mob instincts), our fears and timidity, our stubbornness and stupidity, our perverse habits are all parallels of profound importance.

Yet, despite these adverse characteristics Christ chooses us, buys us, calls us by name, makes us His own and delights in caring for us.

The Tender Shepherd…

Often in Scripture, God refers to His people as sheep and He as their Shepherd. I believe it’s probably an analogy worth investigating, don’t you?

After strongly chastising the priests/shepherds of Israel for allowing the people/sheep to be scattered, God had a message of hope for the flock:

For thus says the LORD GOD: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day.

Ezekial 34:11-12, NKJV

I can envision this word picture; can you? Whether physically or metaphorically, are there cloudy and dark days when your spirit feels pummeled? Do you long for your Lord to seek you out to comfort you? Sister, He IS!

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.

Isaiah 40:11, ESV

He will tend. He will gather in His arms. He will carry them. He will gently lead. My spirit is moved by the Shepherd’s tenderness. I wonder why we so often lose sight of this picture of God, this aspect of His character when He is on every page of Scripture!

The Good Shepherd…

In Luke 15:4-6, Jesus talked about leaving the 99 sheep and going after the ONE sheep that was lost. Then, what did He do? Berate the sheep? Beat it? NO! He placed it on His shoulders, carried it home, called His friends together and rejoiced!

If you were the one sheep who wandered off, the Good Shepherd would come after you.

Why? You may ask; He has others, others who don’t stray or who are less trouble.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

John 10:11-16, ESV

Precious sister, He knows you inside out. The good Shepherd knew we were sheep when He called us and knew the characteristics of sheep. He knew we were sheep when He laid down His life for us so that we could experience LIFE. Jesus would never abandon us. It’s against His nature.

He is the Good Shepherd.


All of us are a mess!
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Psalm 23 says the Lord is my Shepherd, but does that mean I am like a sheep? Read how the Lord responds to those of us who can't seem to get it right. #Psalm23 #TheGoodShepherd #spiritualgrowth #faith

Sam Carter