Psalm 124-127 B

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” 127:1

The verse is washing over me after a long week of stopping myself from Doing. (Bless Bethany’s heart, she is on the receiving end of my ups and downs. Find yourself a good friend like her, who will discuss religious sin cycles and Veronica Mars with you in the same text thread.)

Isn’t that verse great? We don’t need to waste our time and energy coming up with plans or our own projects. We don’t need to labor in vain.

This verse says more than I ever could, so I’ll keep my response brief. How does this hit you?

Are you spinning your wheels on something? Eating the bread of anxious toil? This is not of God. When he drops building materials and blue prints in your lap, peace will wash over you.

He makes it so easy, and we make it so complicated. Maybe the project itself won’t be easy, but at least you’ll know it’s of Him and not of yourself.

-Carly

Psalm 120-123 B

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.” (121:1-3)

These Psalms revitalized my soul today. I find myself in a season of life where I cannot fully wrap my mind around how much the LORD has helped me. He answers prayers, even the ones I could never think to pray. He has opened doors I would never have the gumption to knock on. He is truly amazing and my soul sings along with these psalms in praise.

“The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night.” (121:5-6)

Right now, Europe is at the apex of a massive heat wave. I’ve felt feverish for days. The sun is so oppressive, even in the morning, as temperatures begin climbing into the hundreds. My friends and I find ourselves chasing shade, even if it takes us down strange paths. The direct sunlight is just too much.

Seeing the LORD described as shade today felt especially poignant. He shields us from harshness. He spares us from “the worst of it” more times than we notice. The sun is definitely out to smite us right now, so I stay indoors, even though summer is supposed to be the time we live outdoors (according to my Oregonian background).

What in your life feels like the harsh sun right now, ready to smite you? How do you see the hand of the LORD shading you from it’s full power?

He helps us, He holds us. He’s the best.

-Bethany

Psalm 119: Shin & Taw B

“Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.” 119:165

I always feel drawn to parts of the Bible offering God’s peace. There’s nothing like it. No sedative, distraction or pep talk can cover a weary heart like his peace.

Nothing can make them stumble. Often when the Bible take about “stumbling”, it’s referring to behavior that leads one into sinfulness.

I read this verse and hear “people who obey all the rules never worry and never fail” and feel overwhelmed. I know this isn’t how it works! You can love God’s law and still stumble all over the place. Perhaps it’s hyperbole, giving a glimpse of what’s at least possible within obedience.

I can’t strive for perfection; it will lead only to more anxiety and failure. Maybe I’m getting it wrong. Maybe loving God’s law to get something out of it is where the failure starts.

Maybe loving God’s requirements and sinking deeper into a life with him organically changes my behavior and produces peace, obedience and structure.

(Give yourself a round of applause for getting through all 176 verses of chapter 119!)

-Carly

Psalm 119: Qoph & Resh B

“I cried with all my heart; answer me, O LORD! I will observe Your statutes. I cried to You; save me And I shall keep Your testimonies. I rise before dawn and cry for help; I wait for Your words. My eyes anticipate the night watches, That I may meditate on Your word.” (145-148‬)

I think we rarely find ourselves at this level of desperation. Maybe we’ve seen people be desperate before (in movies or in especially impoverished missions trip locations), but it’s not the usual way we approach scripture.

Do I need it? In different seasons, the need is felt differently, of course. Perhaps my point is not about feelings. Those are fickle, fleeting and easily faked. The point is, the Word of God is so wonderful it can actually be the satisfying answer to a desperation.

It has, after all, been likened to both food and water. (Side note, if you’re having a hard time remembering what true hunger or thirst feels like, fast!)

If the Word of God is worth losing sleep over in the middle of a crisis, perhaps it’s worth some time in the calm too.

-Bethany

Psalm 119: Pe & Tsadhe B

“Your laws are wonderful. No wonder I obey them!” 119:129

I think it’s safe to assume we don’t get there right away. If you’re like me, you push back on rules. Maybe you blatantly ignore them; maybe you try to bend them as much as possible without breaking them. Or maybe you’re a rule-follower! Wherever you are on this spectrum, how often do you find yourself saying no wonder I obey your rules, they’re so perfect.

Honestly, I’m getting there. The more and more I read the Bible, the more I lean back into God’s guidelines and expectations. The more I break the rules, the more I realize they exist out of love and for my protection.

When we engage in the full story of the Bible and trust his design for life, we can respond with your laws are so wonderful.

Do you find yourself bristling against one of God’s expectations?

How do you respond?

Think of a time you’ve been thankful for the way God has instructed you on something. Did it feel more freeing than oppressive?

-Carly

Psalm 119: Samekh & Ayin B

“I am Your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your testimonies.” (125)

Do you give reasons in your prayers? Sometimes I find myself giving the LORD reasons for why He should help me. Why should He help me to know what He wants or help me to know what to do (AKA understanding)? Because I am His servant.

Quite often we find the Psalmist crying out to the LORD, and the reason is; because he is totally dependent on the LORD to act. His literal life depends on it, sometimes.

Do you ever allow yourself into those kinds of waters with the LORD? Like, there’s no plan B if He doesn’t act? Maybe a better question is, do you really want to understand? And when you do, what are you planning to do with that information? Respond as a servant would?

We want to see the LORD’s hand. We want to get the inside scoop and understand what’s going on. But what would we do with that information? I think these things need to go hand in hand. The servant-hood obedience and dependence is married to the LORD bringing understanding in it’s time.

What are you still struggling to understand? Can you find any connection between what you wish to know and what you’re afraid to surrender?

-Bethany

Psalm 119: Mem & Nun B

“I have refused to walk on any evil path, so that I may remain obedient to your word. I haven’t turned away from your regulations, for you have taught me well.” 119:101-102

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is when Joseph physically runs away from sexual temptation; his struggle so fierce that he ripped out of his robe to get away (Gen 39). It’s a refreshing story in the Old Testament of someone fleeing from sexual immorality instead of pouncing on it.

Anyway, the verse above from today’s chapters had me reflecting on how seldom I refuse to walk on any evil path. It has me thinking about the company I keep, the content I engage in, the conversations I hold and the thought life I have. Nothing glaring comes to mind, and I don’t exactly stroll down any particularly evil paths.

But it’s a reminder that a holy, godly life requires resistance and an active opposition to sin.

I like that the author/translation uses “refuse”. Not “politely decline” or “avoid if possible“, but refuse.

How do you respond when sinful opportunities pop up?

How are you actively fending off sin in your life?

-Carly

Psalm 119: Kaph & Lamedh B

“Forever, O LORD, Your word stands firm in heaven. Your faithfulness throughout all generations; You established the earth, and it stands.” (89-90)

I love to be reminded of the unshakable and unbreakable things in life. They are few, and most of them are orbiting the LORD.

When my dad teaches Ephesians one, he often talks about the repeated phrase: in the heavenly places. All the things Paul says are true about our identities are in the heavenly places. My dad would assert that things which are true in the heavenly places are perfectly true, whether or not we can perceive them as true from our fallen perspectives here on earth.

Carly and I talk about the Word being our anchor on here a lot. I can get emotional, I can get riled up, or carried away with my thoughts, or in my circumstances, but the Word stands firm. I love that about the Word. Also, the only reason the earth is still in existence (especially with how long mankind’s had access to nuclear weapons) is because the LORD is the one who established it. He’s not done with it, til He’s done with it. It is standing on His preexisting terms.

He is faithful throughout all generations. We can look back and testify to that. We can also hold on to that as a promise, looking forward. No matter how freaked out older generations can be by younger generations, we can count on the LORD being faithful to them as well.

He is trustworthy, and He is true, even when everything else feels a lie.

-Bethany

Psalm 119: Teth & Yodh B

“My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees. Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver.” 119:71-72

Bethany referred to these same verses last time around; they‘re just so good!

My suffering was good for me. Notice the author doesn’t use presenttense, right? I doubt anyone is in the midst of a trauma and thinks “this will be for the best”. But most people, with healthy perspective, will eventually admit that they’ve grown from the suffering in the lives.

Just the other day, my husband was swaying on the porch swing, reflecting on his past. He wondered out loud if he’d appreciate and love our family as much as he does if he hadn’t experienced so much loneliness and pain as a young adult. It shapes you, the pain.

Consider a hardship or trial in your life and how it ended up being good for you.

-Carly

Psalm 119: Zayin & Heth B

“Remember the word to Your servant, in which You have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your word has revived me.” (49-50)

Don’t forget in the dark what you heard in the light. This is a bit of advice that’s stuck with me through many years and valleys. It’s something I try to remind friends in similar moments of panic.

When everything feels sideways and you feel like you can’t “hear from God”, take a deep breath and think.

What is a promise He makes in His word that is one hundred percent, all-the-time true? What is a promise you feel He’s given you directly? What were you sure of the last time you felt sure?

Sometimes the dark place feels so dark, we can find ourselves crying out to the LORD, “You remember the plan, right? You remember what You said?”

The truth of Who He Is, and the sureness of His promises, is always a good thing to circle back to in times of affliction. Don’t take your eyes off Him, lazar focus them onto His face. He is your hope.

-Bethany