Psalm 104-106 B

I wish I were more like Moses:

“The people made a calf at Mount Sinai; they bowed before an image made of gold. They traded their glorious God for a statue of a grass-eating bull. They forgot God, their savior, who had done such great things in Egypt—such wonderful things in the land of Ham, such awesome deeds at the Red Sea. So he declared he would destroy them. But Moses, his chosen one, stepped between the Lord and the people. He begged him to turn from his anger and not destroy them.” 106:19-23

Even when the Israelites were terrible, he defended them. They were ungrateful, disobedient, stubborn and wow, whiny. Yet still, Moses advocated for them. He stepped in and asked God to spare the guilty. 

What’s your relationship with people who are wrong? Are you eager for them to get what they deserve, or are you eager for them to experience God’s grace and forgiveness?

Obviously, Moses is foreshadowing our Perfect Advocate. The one who stepped in between the Lord and all people. My desire to be more like Moses is really a desire to be more like Jesus.

Take a moment and think of someone you could be advocating for and ask God for more opportunities to do so.

 

-Carly

Psalm 101-103 B

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits” (103:2)

What are some of His benefits listed here?

  • Pardons your iniquity
  • Heals your diseases
  • Crowns you with lovingkindness & compassion
  • Satisfies your years with good things
  • Performs righteous deeds
  • Performs judgements for the oppressed
  • Compassionate
  • Gracious
  • Slow to anger
  • Abounding in lovingkindness
  • Doesn’t deal with you according to your sins
  • Doesn’t reward you according to your iniquities
  • Removes your transgressions

This is the LORD! That scary Old Testament LORD you may have been warned about. Seems like He was in the business of grace and forgiveness long before He sent His Messiah. He does not change. He has not changed. Bless Him! Don’t forget His benefits!

What personally, specific benefits can you bless Him for today?

-Bethany

Psalm 98-100 B

I always thought heaven sounded really boring. I grew up going to a big church, and any time they held a family service where kids stayed in the main gathering instead of peeling off to Sunday School, I was bored to death. Worship was slow and long and I had to hold very, very still (American churches services tend to be a bit of a snooze, but we mean well). Sometimes at the end of service, the worship leader would say something along the lines of how excited they were to ‘worship like that for the rest of eternity in heaven’. I was panicked. I have to hold still and recite lyrics from an overhead projector for the REST OF ETERNITY?! 

Then one time, laying on my back in the grass, star-gazing, I had my first experience truly worshiping. I was in junior high and it was the last night of summer camp. Someone on staff with an acoustic guitar was playing songs and prompting us to reflect on the past week. Shooting stars raced across the moody black sky and I felt in such awe of creation. My heart felt like it could burst.

I loved all the psalms today and felt connected back to the times I felt like I was truly engaged in praising God.

“Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” 100:1-3

We are his. We are not our jobs, titles, roles, appearances, successes, failures, sinful tendencies, number on the scale, addictions or talents. We are sheep in God’s pasture, being taken care of by the Good Shepherd. He protects us, feeds us, knows us and loves us. Shout with joy to the Lord because of this and worship him with gladness!

What do you have to sing about with joy from today? Regular worship is like muscle that needs to be exercised. Start now!

 

-Carly

Psalm 95-97 B

“O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD, let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.” (95:1)

“Sing to the LORD, a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.” (96:1)

“The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the islands be glad.” (97:1)

We are in a very praise-y section of the psalms. Lots of singing, lots of joy and rejoicing. Reminders of the eternal worshipful state of creation; trees, mountains, seas, fields, forests, heavens and earth.

There is something truly glorious about joining the worshipful singing of creation. I know many people feel as though “Planet Earth” shows, and their similar counterparts, are worship inducing experiences. Hiking to a sweeping vista ends in worship (no matter how miserably winded you may feel).

There are a few things on this blog I am a major broken record about and this could be one of them: finding out we are intended to do something doesn’t make it a bummer. The commands of the LORD are good, right, pure and wonderful. Sometimes witnessing His beauty in creation can draw such a response of praise, it feels like the releasing of a long-held breath. We know we’re supposed to breathe, and we’re generally not bummed it’s a rule. It’s something we are more naturally inclined to obey.

Sometimes I don’t feel like worshiping the LORD (maybe in a traditional sense), but other times I feel like it’s all the atoms in my body want to. Probably because they long to join in the songs of the rest of creation: trees, mountains, rivers, skies, flowers, animals… you name it! It can be super therapeutic.

I know for many of you in Oregon today, it’s snowing. For me, it’s sunny and very windy. My weather app is telling me it’s sunny and mid-50’s in Alabama. Wherever you are, get outside and breathe a magical sigh of joy to the creator of all this beautiful creation.

Sing a new song of joy. Even if it doesn’t seem to pertain to any other aspect of your day. It just might seep in, since obedience to His designs always come with a measure of blessing.

-Bethany

Psalm 92-94 B

I have to admit, I semi-regularly wonder how people can’t at least admit there’s a higher power out there, besides humans. How can someone listen to the crack of thunder or hold a newborn baby and not wonder if there’s intelligent design?

“O Lord, what great works you do! And how deep are your thoughts. Only a simpleton would not know, and only a fool would not understand this..” 92:4-5

How can you read that when seeds are planted upside down in soil, they rotate themselves into proper position in the soil to survive, and not believe that creation was intentional?

I ooh and aww in nature until I’m filled to the brim with belief that God is big, and real and among us. But then I meet someone whose father chronically sexually abused them or see an innocent child in a hospital gown at the oncology center and my heart aches to understand how it all ties together. Why is everything so beautiful and yet so incredibly broken and terrible? How can your creation coexist with all our death?

“The floods have risen up, O Lord. The floods have roared like thunder; the floods have lifted their pounding waves. But mightier than the violent raging of the seas, mightier than the breakers on the shore—the Lord above is mightier than these!” 93:3-4

I’m so thankful or God’s word and the way it beckons me out of a tail spin. Our God is greater. Our God is stronger. Our God is higher than any other. The hurt and pain is real. But the intricate evidence of his love and his plan for us is real too.

 

-Carly

 

 

Psalm 89-91 B

“Once You spoke in a vision to Your godly ones and said, ‘I have given help to one who is mighty; I have exalted one chosen from the people. I have found David My servant; with My holy oil I have anointed him… I also shall make him firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. My lovingkindness I will keep for him forever, and My covenant shall be confirmed to him.” (89:19-21; 27-28)

89:19-37 makes us think, immediately of the Messiah–Jesus–and maybe let out an adoring sigh. We have this perspective from many years in the future, looking back. What I find interesting is how things pick up in verse 38:

“But You have cast off and rejected, You have been full of wrath against Your anointed. You have spurned the covenant of Your servant; You have profaned his crown in the dust.”

Basically, the psalmist is raging at the LORD for promising good things via the eternal king–descendant of David–and he’s real mad it seems to have all been an empty promise. The kingly line of David is not doing so hot.

Do you know there passed roughly 1000 years between David and Jesus? That’s a long time. More than 1000 passed between David and Abraham. This particular psalmist was lamenting at a distance of a couple hundred years (maybe a handful) and he was ready to call the LORD a liar.

Pack it up, folks, He’s not coming!

However, this lengthy psalm begins and ends in praise. Even, a promise to sing praises to the LORD beyond a lifetime (89:1). I like that this Ethan the Ezrahite guy knows the LORD is worthy of praise no matter if they ever see the fruition of His promises.

We live in a time of instant gratification and unbridled impatience. I’ve been in many-a church service, YWAM meeting or youth conference gathering where people are calling and calling for the LORD to show up and do something. We want to see some action, and we want to see it at least once a day. That would be ideal, okay LORD? Thanks.

Do we have what it takes to keep praising Him even when it really looks like He’s given up on us? Do we praise Him because He protects and provides, keeps us fat and happy, or do we praise Him because even the council of the holy ones does? (89:7) That’s a tough question. We love to wonder why bad things happen to good people or where God could be in the midst of suffering.

Would I still adore the LORD, even if I never saw a promise fulfilled or a prayer answered the rest of my life? On what do I build my temple of praise?

-Bethany

Psalm 86-88 B

Okay, I know we do this a lot (or at least I do), but you have to read Beth’s reflection on chapter 88 from last time we read through Psalms. I love when she reminds us to not accept death; it was never intended for us. 

Just last week, my sister and her husband were clobbered by a death in the family. Familiar with grief and unexpected loss, they’re still overwhelmed and yet she wisely pointed out “we’re not suppose to know how to handle death, it’s not what God wanted for us”.

Bethany’s post weaves the hope of the gospel into the psalmist’s cries of despair. (And someone also ties it all back in to going streaking.)

Read it!

 “Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer;
    answer me, for I need your help.
  Protect me, for I am devoted to you.
    Save me, for I serve you and trust you.
    You are my God.
  Be merciful to me, O Lord,
    for I am calling on you constantly.
 Give me happiness, O Lord,
    for I give myself to you.
  O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive,
    so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.
  Listen closely to my prayer, O Lord;
    hear my urgent cry.
  I will call to you whenever I’m in trouble,
    and you will answer me.

No pagan god is like you, O Lord.
    None can do what you do!
 All the nations you made
    will come and bow before you, Lord;
    they will praise your holy name.
  For you are great and perform wonderful deeds.
    You alone are God.”

Psalm 86:1-10

 

I keep coming back to chapter 86.

Thank you, Lord, for being a God who bends down and listens. There is no one like Jehovah. 

 

-Carly

Psalm 83-85 B

Israel has a lot of enemies. Basically all their neighbors. They do not like many folks, at this juncture of history. Understandably so, they are at war more often than not. This morning it struck me that out of the 9 nations listed in 83:6-7, I know 4 to be relatives.

  • The descendants of Lot (Abraham’s nephew): Moab and Ammon (see Genesis 19:37-38)
  • The descendants of Ishmael (Abraham’s son)
  • The descendants of Esau (Abraham’s grandson): Edom

None of these groups would exist if not for Abraham, as two are offspring, and two were spared the fire rained on Sodom because of his interceding.

I begin to wonder what the LORD thought of these prayers of cursing for their enemies: Is He into that? Is this a Spirit-filled prayer? Does the arrival of the Messiah, who beseeches love for enemies give insight into this? Is He remembering His friend, Abraham, who advocated for mercy on Sodom?

To be sure, these nations did messed up stuff and had pagan idols, but so did Israel, the intended conduit of blessing extended through Abraham. Asaph’s prayer seems good, because he says,

“Let them be ashamed and dismayed forever, and let them be humiliated and perish, that they may know that You alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth.” (83:17-18)

But Jesus came to teach us this isn’t the right approach. There’s another way for people to know the LORD is the Most High over all the earth besides eternal shame, humiliation and death.

Let us seek the LORD together to know this more beautiful way.

Who might you consider an enemy? How could God use you as a conduit of blessing to reveal His Most High-ness?

-Bethany

Psalm 80-82 B

Chapter 81 kind of breaks my heart.

Sing praises to God, our strengthSing to the God of Jacob. Sing! Beat the tambourine.
Play the sweet lyre and the harp. Blow the ram’s horn at new moon, and again at full moon to call a festival! For this is required by the decrees of Israel; it is a regulation of the God of Jacob. He made it a law for Israel when he attacked Egypt to set us free.” 81:1-5)

I like these pieces of narrative in the Psalms, where the author is imagining how God feels and putting language to it. The author is urging Israel to obey God’s command to celebrate a traditional festival (the specifications can be found in Lev. 23:34). Then imagining how God would reward their obedience (81:11-16).

He requires that we stop and celebrate, to acknowledge the rescue story he’s written in our lives. He knows our tendency to latch on to every bad thing, and to run off and forget him without stopping to practice gratefulness. The festivals and feasts that he established with his people are not religious boxes to check. They are meant to reorient our hearts, to give God deserved credit and admiration and to shake us out of our forgetfulness.

As Easter approaches, I want to find a better way to engage. Most years I find myself going through the motions, trying to cultivate deep reverence that feels muffled by menu planning, bunnies or egg hunts. The feast is important, and so is the celebrating. But the remembering is crucial.

How can we engage more fully in lent and Easter?

What does it look like for you to stop and be remember what God has done in your past?

 

-Carly

Psalm 77-79 B

“He rained meat upon them like the dust.” (78:27) What a weird thing, the LORD did. I’ve seen a lot of apocalyptic movies and I still have a hard time imagining meat rain. How do you know to take it as a, “Oh, hey, thanks LORD!” and not as a, “Run for your lives!” In any case, they didn’t run or give thanks, they started gorging themselves and the LORD came at them out of anger (78:31)

After many cycles of the LORD providing and Israel being indignant, we still find this unrelenting love of God.: “Thus He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and does not return.” (78:39)

I hear all the time how people prefer the New Testament God to the Old Testament God and I think people are way mistaken. I don’t think we can properly understand Jesus if we don’t understand the patiently enduring love of the LORD. His expectations for us are a lot lower than we think.

The only people Jesus condemned were the religious elite who were piling necessary burdens on people; slamming the doors to the kingdom in faces. Even when Jesus had an excellent chance to come after the people of Israel as a whole, saying, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!” He doesn’t curse them, but instead gives us a glimpse of the Eternal Nature of the LORD, saying, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.” (Matthew 23:37)

They grieved Him all those years in the wilderness (78:40) His jealously and wrath always manifested in refining fire, after way more chances than any human would allot.

All this to say, be willing to let the LORD mother you. Let Him offload your shame burdens. Give yourself a break and remember mankind was formed out of dust. He remembers doing that. Don’t push Him away, like He’s the problem or the enemy. Believe Him that He loves you and is patient with you. He can heal you from there. He can and does provide for you in miraculous ways. Recognize His power, and thank Him for all the weird meat rain.

-Bethany