Psalm 140-143

“Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you. (143:2)

This year I have encountered grace in a new way. I must confess, I never was sure when I was experiencing it.

I will start by saying the greatest gifts of my life are my family and Montavilla, so read this through that lense.

Our enemy is appropriately named the accuser. He whispers all sorts of garbage into our ears, twisting the well-meaning (or insecure) words of people around us. Growing up in church, as a sort of pastor’s kid, I rejoiced with people when they were radically saved. The more gnarly the story (drugs, prostitution, mafia, gangs, etc) the more readily embraced. I saw the beautiful grace of God in these moments.

However, I wasn’t always (or the accuser led me to believe) extended the same measure. I should know better, right? Instead I was often pre-maturely reprimanded for sins not yet committed, or for doing something that someone watching from the bushes could think was sinful. Avoid the appearance of evil! Also a lot of trouble for guilt-by-association. Beware of the unbeliever! On very special occasions, I was the scape goat for corporate shenanigans.

I was doing all the right things: reading my Bible, volunteering, not kissing boys, telling the truth, blah blah blah… with no payoff besides avoiding natural consequences for these things. No prizes for purity. In fact, the more good I did, the shorter the leash.

I read a statistic yesterday about how 58% of my generation raised in church left after high school, and I get it.

When Jesus expanded upon the law in the sermon on the mount, He wasn’t saying lust=adultery to raise the bar, He was saying “None are righteous NOT EVEN ONE”. Somehow we still took it as a challenge to up our self-righteousness game.

Is there grace for the pastor’s kid? Is there grace for those in ministry?

Yes.

Jesus really harped on being judgemental. Whatever standard you use to judge other people, yeah, I’ll use it on you. Christians are supposed to be united under the banner of needing the blood of Christ for redemption. Why are we still riddled with guilt and shame? Why are we expecting perfection from each other? Why do I expect it for myself?

The Apostle Paul has the audacity to rejoice in his weaknesses, saying Christ is strong in them. The best feeling in the world is having a friend, partner, teammate, etc who is strong in the ways you are weak. It is freeing and comfortable.

Wait, freeing and comfortable? Is that what is intended for me? Thank you Jesus! Then, which rules am I supposed to live by?

Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I entrust my life.” (143:8)

Walking daily with Jesus; remembering His unfailing love, trusting His leading, obeying, abiding, depending.

HIS righteousness, given to me.

“But 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)

I am eternally grateful for this and grateful for the wonderful gift of my family and Montavilla who have put up with a LOT from me, and protected me from much more. Amazing examples of grace, empowered by their unconditional love.

Let’s soak up today’s new mercy. Let’s be people who can be strong in a friend’s weakness. Let’s look to Christ for the way we should go, and let’s give up on the whole Pharisee self-righteous garbage. Also, tell that stupid accuser of ours to back off, cause he’s a major loser. Our fight is with him, not each other, right? (Ephesians 6:12)

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”‭‭ (1 Peter‬ ‭4:8‬)

-Bethany

Psalm 136-139

Good ol’ Psalm 139. It’s the anthem for the lonely, hurting, complicated or lost. We’re promised the thing we always long for: to be known. 

Being known is such a romanticized, human concept. We like it when the barista remembers our coffee order. When friends keep track of our memories. We love receiving the perfect gift, something we mentioned in passing months before. Romance is marked by thoughtfulness. Intimacy blooms in exposure. 

And here, in Psalm 139, we read about a God who has us all figured out. He anticipates us. He arrives before we get somewhere. When we duck into darkness, he flips on the light. He thinks about us. Can you fathom that? 

What trial or joy are you facing right now? God is facing that too. He’s Emmanuel, God with us. 

He knows what you like, what you don’t. He sorts through your thoughts. He anticipates your needs. He goes with you. Arrives before you. Thinks about you. Loves you. 

I love the response the psalmist has to this beautiful intimacy with God. They want more. They posture themselves towards sanctification, asking God to reveal their sin to them so they can stomp it out. 

What’s your response to being known by God? Do you shrink back? Do you ask for more? 

Reread Psalm 139 and praise God for being such an involved Creator. Look for more ways to grow your relationship with him today. 
-Carly 

Psalm 132-135

“Praise the LORD! Praise the name of the LORD; Praise Him, O servants of the LORD,” (135:1‬)

Lots of praising today, and building a temple of praise, and being in His Holy Habitation. No one, and nothing on earth, deserves the praise due His name. He is above all. It is lovely to praise Him.

LORD, I praise You for Your design of the earth, water cycles, season cycles, generations, families, animals, the human body. 

I praise You for Your pursuit of our hearts; loving, forgiving, redeeming, convicting, sanctifying, comforting, softening, restoring and nurturing.

I praise You for Your preservation of the Word and for always maintaining a remnant to carry Your glorious Name to the ends of the earth.

I praise You for sending Your Spirit to dwell in us, making our bodies Your new temple.

I praise You for Your grace, which so naturally qualifies as amazing; giving generously to me, the undeserving.

I praise You for laughter and beautiful moments in the face of adversity; bringing beauty out of our ashes.

I praise You for Your sovereignty, that when all seems out of control, You are still in control.

What will you praise Him for today?

-Bethany 

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