Psalm 128-131

I love this:

“Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you.” 130:3-4

The Lord is not like us. He doesn’t hold a grudge, he doesn’t stack our wrongs against us, then lose patience and implode. He extends us new mercies every morning (Lamentations 3:23). This is a beautiful concept that we should incorporate into our relationships. Start fresh. 

I know I’m not doing this when I accuse someone of always ____ or never _____. That language is hinged on past events. This is not the language of someone who is being forgiving. 

Because really, if everyone kept a record of every wrong, who could survive? God does not hold things over my head, how dare I? 

Notice your tendencies today. Are you living in forgiveness? Forgiven people are not weighted by guilt or shame. And forgiven people freely forgive. I’m thankful to know a God who is marked by grace and forgiveness; let’s represent him well. 
-Carly 

Psalm 124-127

“Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” (124:8‬)

I love it when the LORD’s resume is tagged the end of a sentence. “This guy will help you! You know, the One who created everything out of nothing, perfectly beautiful and complex down to an atomic level. Cycles, seasons, reproduction, seeds dying and bursting forth into new life. YEAH THAT GUY.”

In fact, if He doesn’t help, it won’t happen.

“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives to His beloved sleep.” (127:1-2‬)

Servants of a tyrannical master are ridden with anxiety. Sometimes we are our own tyrannical masters, heaping unrealistic, less-than-important, expectations on ourselves. Familiar we are with “anxious toil”. What does this communicate about our relationship with God?

Anything of real significance must be built by Our Creater, Beloved Lord. Somehow understanding this fact helps us sleep at night. You do what you can, in peace, by His strength, and He determines the fruit. A gardener sows, tends and waters, but God makes everything grow. 

His image is upon us to create with Him; making art and homes, but leave the heavy lifting to Him. He loves you.

The NIV puts it this way: “He grants sleep to those He loves”. The NASB (more literal translation from Hebrew) says, “He gives to His beloved even in his sleep”.

Together this paints a full picture. He is working, even when we are sleeping. So take Him up on this! Relax! Look to Him to accomplish the big things. Don’t wade into His responsibility waters. He (who made heaven and earth) is here to help. 

Lord, lead me to rest, knowing when to act and when to sleep. Thank you for loving me in this beautiful way.

-Bethany 

Psalm 120-123

The psalms were short today, so we’re going to read through four!

“Pray for peace in Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper. O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your wall and prosperity in your palaces.” 122:6-7

This is a beautiful, intercessory prayer given by the writer. He doesn’t just pray for a good future for him, but he lifts up the needs of where he lives.

Prayer can be daunting, and we all experience seasons where we thrive in it, and seasons where we’re quiet, unsure where to even start. Here’s a simple outline prompt I start with when I struggle in prayer:

Pray for your leaders. Whatever your life looks like, you have someone over you. Your boss at work, your pastor, your camp counselor or even your parents. You have some sort of authority in your life, and they deserve to be covered in prayer by you. The Bible mentions in a couple places that we should pray for those over us.
Pray for your city. As a resident of where you live, you know the needs. Don’t feel like you do? What are the things you find yourself complaining about? Lift those things up in prayer and intercede for where you live.

Pray for urgent needs. Unfortunately, there is always someone battling cancer, losing a loved one or experiencing an unexpected trauma. Call upon the Lord. Ask for peace, ask for comfort, ask for a miracle.

Notice, these three prompts don’t necessarily have you praying for yourself. I’ve never struggled to think about myself or revolve my prayer life around myself. For one week, try not to pray for your own personal needs and desires. “But my marriage is a nightmare!” Then pray for your spouse and their needs for a week. God knows your needs and desires, lean into him and take a week spending your thought life on someone else. (I succeed at this when I’m writing in a prayer journal or referring to a written list, otherwise my thought life will wander right back to thinking about itself. Sigh.)

Try it!
-Carly

Psalm 119: Shin & Tav

“I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, For I do not forget Your commandments.” (176)

It’s interesting, and hopeful, to me that the psalmist concludes with this verse. After all this loving His commandments, why does he still stray?

Sheep aren’t maniacal brutes, with big intentions of leaving the sight of their shepherds. They’re just incessant eaters, with their heads down, going from one patch of grass to another. 

This is very relatable. It’s easy to get distracted, carried away, then unexpectedly lost. Loving the Shepherd and His laws doesn’t make you immune. Our gracious king is very aware of this. 

It’s real easy to get down on yourself and shame spiral about “how you should have known better”, but God doesn’t see us that way. He is very familiar with our nature and every inch of our shortcomings; 

“for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.” (‭‭Psalm‬ ‭103:14‬)

“He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬)

It is wonderful to know and love God’s law, but all the more glorious to know His grace. Didn’t Jesus come because the Law, itself, could not make us perfect? It makes me want to know Him more, discovering Him more each day in His word.

“May my lips overflow with praise, for You teach me Your decrees.” (171)

-Bethany 

Psalm 119: Qoph & Resh

“Argue my case, take my side! Protect my life as you promised.” 119:154 

This verse made me think about what a great advocate we have in Jesus Christ. 

1 John 2:1 reads “…but if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.” 

Romans 8:34 tells us that Jesus sits at God’s right hand and pleads for us. 

We are clothed in the protection, love, advocacy and safety of the Son of God. This means we don’t have to worry about being enough, we don’t have to dwell on our shortcomings or failures and we can rest in our true identity. 

Take time today to mediate on this. We are advocated for! Jesus defends us and covers us. Even when we fail him or choose other things over him. He loves us unconditionally and stands between us and our former fate. 

What keeps you from living in this truth? 
-Carly 

Psalm 119: Pe & Tsadhe

“Establish my footsteps in Your word, And do not let any iniquity have dominion over me.” (133)
It’s good to consider how these two things can be connected. Being grounded on a foundation of the word doesn’t make you immune to sin, but perhaps it does disarm sin of some power. 

Without a foundation of truth, things very easily define themselves and our enemy accuser wants to define sin for us. He wants it to be all-consuming, tantalizing, and then enslaving, disqualifying and shame inducing. 

In this case, we’re talking about iniquity, which the Internet dictionary defines as: Gross immorality or injustice; wickedness.

Gross.

So yeah, I think a meditation, understanding, saturation in the Word could naturally lend to a side-stepping of iniquity. The Law helps us to understand justice: what it is, what it looks like, its beauty. Loving the Word leads to loving justice. Similarly, it also leads to understanding and valuing morality. 

“Your word is very pure, Therefore Your servant loves it.” (140)

This makes me want to draw nearer to the LORD, crawl up on to His lap and say, “teach me”. I want to firmly establish my feet in truth so that when immortality and injustice try to weasel into my life, I can stop and say, “Ew, no. Gross.” 

An illustration I often hear, is how bankers are trained to spot counterfeits, not by studying counterfeits, but by becoming extremely familiar with real money, making a slight difference obvious. 

I want to saturate myself in truth and God’s definitions of morality and justice, so that immorality and injustice doesn’t have a chance to rule my life. 

Teach me, LORD.

-Bethany 

Psalm 119: Samekh & Ayin

“Lord, sustain me as you promised, that I may live! Do not let my hope be crushed.” 119:116

I’m in a season where things feel weighty. I check in daily with someone who will give birth to her stillborn son in a few months. Another friend, watching a family member fade on life support. Passing time in the waiting room as they lift up petitioning prayers to God. And another prayer on my list this week is for a family recovering from a suicide of a young woman, her kids, husband and family still in shock. 

I don’t air these things lightly, or in exploitation. You have your list too. Things that weigh heavy on your heart, prompting doubt to peek it’s head around the corner.

I’m letting myself dwell on them, mostly because of how often I sidestep grief, or how seldom I want to acknowledge suffering. The Bible tells me blessed are those who mourn. Jesus cries with his friends when they lose someone. He doesn’t say anything weird or try to minimize their suffering. He sits down with them and he weeps. Even though moments later, he revived the man they were mourning, he met them where they were in that moment. 

I want to be a friend like that. Someone who is comfortable with sorrow, someone who mourns when their friends mourn, meeting them where they are. God, who has overcome death forever, makes room for grief; so will I. 

But I can’t do this without standing under his banner of hope. The more I cry out to him like the psalmist did (sustain me as you promised!), the more I have to offer those who are suffering. 
-Carly 

Psalm 119: Mem & Nun

“O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (97)

If you have a hard time with this sentence, like I have at different points of my life, lean in. I found, the closer I am to the Word, the more time I am able to meditate on it, the more I am able to receive Biblical teaching about it, the more I am heart-eyes about it.

Whoever wrote this psalm dedicated his life to Scripture, specifically the Torah, in a major way. He spends all this day thinking about it. And it’s a good thing, because apparently he had some enemies and affliction to deal with. He discovered the Word as an anchor. 

“Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” (105)

Absolutely necessary, daily bread.

There have been many times, in my estimation, I have sharply disagreed with the Law. It seemed unreasonable, mean, unnecessary, ensnaring, impossible or crude. I don’t have it all figured out now. I don’t love the Law as much as this guy. But I realized, the Law is good, beautiful, lovely. The problem is that it’s brilliance casts a dirty shadow on me, pointing out all the ways I’m not good, beautiful or lovely. 

There are a few options, then, in relating too the Law: Stare at it, lovingly, keeping your eyes off your shadowed self (though maybe occasionally catching someone else’s shadows out of the corner of your eye). Run away from it, so that, in the darkness no one can tell you’re shadowed (which could subsequently cause you to forget what it said, allowing you to dislike your folklore version of it). Or embrace its goodness in light on Christ’s fulfillment of it, in which He offers His perfect application of it to us, making us brilliant as well, since He dwells in us. 

It is lovely, and He had made us lovely. Now don’t be tempted to cast it aside. It still has the power to make you wiser than you enemies, more insightful than your teachers and more understanding than the elderly. 

Lean in to God’s law and designs. Meditate on them today.

-Bethany 

Psalm 119: Kaph & Lamedh

I liked how these two chapters read like a call and answer. 

It seems like Kaph is writing inside a dark season, waiting for the King of Light to arrive and rescue him. Lamedh reads like someone with perspective, looking in the rear view mirror at suffering. 

They both write the same truth: God’s word is trustworthy, offers protection and to be obeyed. 

Are you like Kaph? Straining your eyes to see God’s promises coming true? Asking him, ‘when will you comfort me? How long must I wait?’ 

Or maybe you find yourself more like Lamedh, your head more above water, but you can recount the recent storm waves. “If your instructions hadn’t sustained me with joy, I would have died in my misery.” 

Either way, whatever season you’re in, cling to God’s word. It offers the consistency we need and provides us with irrevocable joy while anchoring our souls in this unpredictable life. 
-Carly 

Psalm 119: Teth & Yodh

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” (71)

“I know, LORD, that your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” (75)

It’s always hard to be thankful for affliction in the moment, or as the writer of Hebrews says:

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”‭‭ (Hebrews‬ ‭12:11‬)

But I can look back at many moments of affliction in my life that would later be counted as gracious and merciful. Sometimes it’s the discipline of being caught in sin, and allowed to experience the consequences. Sometimes its major disappointment about a failed relationship I didn’t realize was twisted or unhealthy. Sometimes it’s the weeding out of something in my life I loved, but shouldn’t have let in. 

Israel experienced numerous afflictions because of their pride and idolatry. This psalmist wisely reflects on the benefits of these.

We can easily forget we are children, naive and in need of correction. We forget we are sheep, easily distracted and carried away in short sightedness. It’s no call to be embarrassed, just humble, realistic about ourselves, and thankful for a loving Father who allows us to experience various degrees of affliction.

Take some time today to thank God for an affliction which has become a harvest of righteousness and peace.

-Bethany