if Thursday
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A little worship music for you during your devotion time… from our IF playlist.

Psalm 23:5

Sharing a table with my enemies, while not something I would readily choose, seems like something my Lord would ask of me. Matthew 5:44 says, “love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you.”  So, David’s description of a table prepared by God and placed in front of me to be shared with my enemy provides an intriguing picture.

But if we change the meaning of the word “before” from “in front of me” to “ahead of me”, it creates a different vision. What if David was referring to a shepherd literally going ahead of his flock and preparing the way, even amongst our enemies. It changes the perspective from one of comfort and harmony around a table to one of preparing for battle.

I read that shepherds often go ahead of their flock seeking out the best grass and also clearing away harmful grasses, weeds, hazards, or predators (i.e. preparing their table). God does the same for us, especially if we ask him in prayer. We are not guaranteed a leisurely “meal”. After all, we are “dining” with our enemy, but God provides and prepares us with what we need to face trials, difficult times, and even literal enemies.

How? Part two of this verse reads “you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows”. Olive oil was offered by hosts in the ancient world as a sign of hospitality. It was also used by shepherds to protect sheep from becoming infested with various insects and pests. Sheep can become so distracted by bugs buzzing about their noses that they are unable to rest or even eat. And rams will fight for the affections of a ewe by running headfirst into their competition, but some well-placed oil on their heads will cause them to slide harmlessly off each other. The shepherd is preventing the sheep from being distracted from the good things they need and from hurting themselves in times of competition. A good shepherd is not stingy with the oil – the sheep’s cup overflows – so yet again, he has provided for his flock.

In my own life, I have found that it is so easy to be distracted from my relationship with Christ. Not necessarily by bad things, but things that are pesky or seemingly “urgent”. My days leading up to Christmas, like many of yours, are crammed with good things – gift buying, meeting with friends and family, wrapping, baking – and when Christmas arrives and is quickly over, I have often felt rather let down and empty. I forgot the point. But the years where I have not let that sense of a “perfect” Christmas overwhelm me, and I took time to reflect on the true gift I was given when I accepted Jesus as my Savior, I found myself feeling quite content and grateful no matter how “imperfect” the day was.

It is a constant battle, however. We can be grateful and humbled that the Good Shepherd does not hold back on the oil – the Holy Spirit. It is there every day as our advocate giving us guidance, courage, and confidence. It will help us choose the best path forward in our career. It will give us the courage to face the difficult diagnosis or face that really unpleasant neighbor. It reminds us that it’s Ok to not answer that text or call immediately. Our children really can wait while we finish a daily prayer or reading. We can say no and take time to rest and read Scripture.

And remember, no matter how many times we forget and get caught up in the world around us, our Shepherd prepares us and is ready to make our cup overflow again and again.

IF devotion day 4 unplugged

Happy Thursday and see you tomorrow!

Check out IF INFO for reminders on times and general info.  Can’t wait to “IF” with you this Friday! 🙂