Practice, Practice

Do know the old joke about how to get to Carnegie Hall?

Question: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Answer: “Practice, practice, practice.” The poor guy was looking for directions and he got a lecture.

But this is good advice for those who want to master an artistic, athletic, or academic performance of any kind. Good math requires practice. Good piano playing requires practice. Good ballet requires practice. My inability to do any of those three things is a result of my not wanting to practice!

Have you ever considered that praising God also requires practice? David was surely in the habit of praising God continually. It was a lifestyle for him and when he found himself in a place where his life and his sanity were in jeopardy, his praise practice helped him out:

Psalm 71 (Common English Bible)

I’ve taken refuge in you, Lord.
 Don’t let me ever be put to shame!
Deliver me and rescue me by your righteousness!
   Bend your ear toward me and save me!
Be my rock of refuge
   where I can always escape.
You commanded that my life be saved
  because you are my rock and my fortress.

The lovely phrase, “Bend your ear toward me” is a beautiful portrayal of our relationship with God. God indeed inclines his ear toward us every time we cry out to him. Like a mother bird feeding her squawking babies, God is ready to supply the need when we ask. He is the rock of refuge where we can always escape.

My God, rescue me from the power of the wicked;
    rescue me from the grip of the wrongdoer and the oppressor
 because you are my hope, Lord.
    You, Lord, are the one I’ve trusted since childhood.

Here we see why it is important to bring our children to church. David writes that he has trusted God since childhood and has depended on him from birth. How will our children have this type of relationship with God if we don’t make the effort to get them to Sunday school and worship every week?

I’ve depended on you from birth—
    you cut the cord when I came from my mother’s womb.
    My praise is always about you.
I’ve become an example to many people
    because you are my strong refuge.

Now comes the “practice, practice, practice” part:
My mouth is filled with your praise,
    glorifying you all day long.
Don’t cast me off in old age.
    Don’t abandon me when my strength is used up!

Is your mouth filled with God’s praise, or do you spend time gossiping, cutting others down, or complaining?

10 Yes, my enemies have been talking about me;
    those who stalk me plot together:
11 “God has abandoned him!
    Pursue him!
    Grab him because no one will deliver him!”
12 Don’t be far from me, God!
    My God, hurry to help me!
13 Let my accusers be put to shame,
    completely finished off!
    Let those who seek my downfall
    be dressed in insults and disgrace!

David reminds us that we can also build a relationship with God by “repeating God’s righteous acts and saving deeds all day long.”

14 But me? I will hope. Always.
    I will add to all your praise.
15 My mouth will repeat your righteous acts
    and your saving deeds all day long.
    I don’t even know how many of those there are!
16 I will dwell on your mighty acts, my Lord.
    Lord, I will help others remember nothing but your righteous deeds
.

What will come out of your mouth today? Try practicing praise for a change. My guess is that your day will be filled with blessings if you do.

Practice Praise by Michelle Robertson

Down and Out

Have you ever felt completely down and out? Were you in a place where nothing you did went right, everyone had turned against you, and everywhere you turned, someone was after you, trying to do you harm? Life can sometimes catch up to us and grab us by the ankles so hard we can’t move or breathe.

Several years ago, I found myself in such a place. A person who was struggling with mental illness turned her focus on me in ways that were disturbing and threatening. Then I came out of my office one day to find my tire had been slashed, preventing me from leaving on a trip until it got fixed. A month later, my mother suddenly passed away. With no sibling available, I was left to settle her estate and take care of all of her arrangements while trying to process my deep grief. It seemed that everywhere I turned for a few months, it was nothing but doom and gloom.

King David found himself in such a state many times in his life. His down-and-out moments often came as a result of his own actions, but he also was threatened by a mentally ill king who tried to take David’s life. David learned through all of that, as I did, that there is only one place to go: God is our rescuer in troubling times, regardless of the cause of our stress:

Psalm 41 (Common English Bible)

Those who pay close attention to the poor are truly happy!
    The Lord rescues them during troubling times.
The Lord protects them and keeps them alive;
    they are widely regarded throughout the land as happy people.
    You won’t hand them over to the will of their enemies.
The Lord will strengthen them when they are lying in bed, sick.
    You will completely transform the place where they lie ill.

But me? I said, “Lord, have mercy on me!
    Heal me because I have sinned against you.”
My enemies speak maliciously about me:
    “When will he die and his name disappear?”
Whenever they come to visit, they say nothing of value.
    Their hearts collect evil gossip;
    once they leave, they tell it to everybody.
All of those who hate me talk about me, whispering to each other,
    plotting evil against me:
“Some horrible thing has been poured into him;
    the next time he lies down, he won’t get up.”

One of life’s greatest stressors is the betrayal of someone you love. Few things cut as deep as a spouse, sibling, or friend turning against you. This happened to David, too.

Even my good friend,
    the one I trusted,
    who shared my food,
    has kicked me with his heel—a betrayer!
10 But you, Lord, please have mercy on me and lift me up
    so I can pay them back!

David’s plea for revenge for revenge’s sake will go unheeded by God. God reminds us that vengeance is his. But we can certainly tap into David’s emotions here. Who among us hasn’t wished to see our enemy get what’s coming to them?

11 Then I’ll know you are pleased with me
    because my enemy won’t be shouting in triumph over me.
12 You support me in my integrity;
    you put me in your presence forever.

Are you feeling down and out today? Take heart. God is with you even in the worst of your situation. You are never alone.

13 Bless the Lord, the God of Israel,
    from forever to forever!
        Amen and Amen!

Light in the Darkness by Karen Warlitner

Back Scratching

Getting to the airport from where I live is no easy thing. I was spoiled by living 20 minutes away from one of the world’s largest airports for the 20 years we lived near Atlanta. Now an airport run takes up to two hours one way and involves a fair bit of traffic, state interchanges, bridges, poorly lit country roads, and a lot of aggravation.

I recently arranged for a friend to ride home with my pilot husband to spare her husband a four-hour round trip to get her. I know the inconvenience that would have been for him and was happy to help. These are friends who are gracious and hospitable. I know for sure they would do the same thing for me. In a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” relationship, it is easy to give and receive, knowing that the good will that is extended will come back in some form when you need the favor.

God calls us into reciprocal relationships in order to strengthen our ties in our community. We need to know we can count on folks when we get into a jam. I never considered that we have a reciprocal relationship with God, however. God is so far above us; I can’t imagine how we can ever “repay the favor” in any meaningful way. God has provided everything we need in life, including his only son, who guarantees our eternal life. How can we possibly respond?

But today’s psalm offers an idea. This is a psalm of David, who begins by outlining the many, many things he has received from the Lord:

Psalm 40 (Common English Bible)

I put all my hope in the Lord.
    He leaned down to me;
    he listened to my cry for help.
He lifted me out of the pit of death,
    out of the mud and filth,
    and set my feet on solid rock.
        He steadied my legs.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise for our God.
Many people will learn of this and be amazed;
    they will trust the Lord.
Those who put their trust in the Lord,
    who pay no attention to the proud
    or to those who follow lies,
    are truly happy!

David gets it. He knows that God has listened to him in times of great trouble, and credits God for pulling him out of “the pit of death” and restoring his life. God has blessed David with the ability to sing new praise songs for what God has done. He continues listing all of God’s goodness to him:

You, Lord my God!
    You’ve done so many things—
    your wonderful deeds and your plans for us—
        no one can compare with you!
    If I were to proclaim and talk about all of them,
        they would be too numerous to count!
You don’t relish sacrifices or offerings;
    you don’t require entirely burned offerings or compensation offerings—
    but you have given me ears!
So I said, “Here I come!
    I’m inscribed in the written scroll.

Now comes an idea of how to repay God for his goodness. First, we are encouraged to seek God’s will and learn as much about God as we can:


    I want to do your will, my God.
    Your Instruction is deep within me.”

David continues this thought with a specific way that all of us can repay God for his kindness: we can testify. We can share the good news with everyone we meet. We can go all out in witnessing to our faith.

It begs the question: when was the last time you shared your faith with someone? Have you been inviting people church? Have you borne witness to an answered prayer to your neighbor? Have you offered to pray with a hurting friend? Do you say grace in a restaurant?


I’ve told the good news of your righteousness
    in the great assembly.
    I didn’t hold anything back—
        as you well know, Lord!
10 I didn’t keep your righteousness only to myself.
    I declared your faithfulness and your salvation.
I didn’t hide your loyal love and trustworthiness
    from the great assembly.

Read that last part again, and let it inspire you.

Having demonstrated how he has reciprocated God’s attention, David now boldly shifts to the “scratch my back” part of the psalm:

1So now you, Lord—
    don’t hold back any of your compassion from me.
Let your loyal love and faithfulness always protect me,
12     because countless evils surround me.
My wrongdoings have caught up with me—
    I can’t see a thing!
There’s more of them than hairs on my head—
    my courage leaves me.
13 Favor me, Lord, and deliver me!
    Lord, come quickly and help me!
14 Let those who seek my life, who want me dead,
    be disgraced and put to shame.
Let those who want to do me harm
    be thoroughly frustrated and humiliated.
15 Let those who say to me, “Yes! Oh, yes!”
    be destroyed by their shame.

I love how David doesn’t hold anything back. Even in his demanding tone, he is letting God know that the reason he asks for favor and deliverance is because he believes in God with all his heart. He knows God will answer him! Do you ask for what you need with such confidence?


16 But let all who seek you
    celebrate and rejoice in you.
Let those who love your salvation always say,
    “The Lord is great!”
17 But me? I’m weak and needy.
    Let my Lord think of me.
You are my help and my rescuer.
    My God, don’t wait any longer!

I want to encourage you to do a few things today. First, ask boldly for what you need. God will surely lean down with all his might to hear your prayer. And second, find someone in your circle today who needs to hear about God. Give a word of testimony, offer a casserole and a prayer, post a Christian meme on your Facebook page … let people know where you stand in your relationship with God. Find some way to let everyone know that “The Lord is Great!”

Because he is great, indeed.

Wave Watching by Michelle Robertson

Loyal Love

We use the word “love” a lot nowadays. From the deepest relationship love to the most casual, “Girl! I love your shoes!”, the word love is often on our lips. Everyone is in the habit of saying “Love you!” at the end of a phone call. Have you ever embarrassed yourself by signing off on a call with that familiar phrase, only to remember that you were talking to the lady at the water department? I have!

What are some things that you love? It might be a favorite sports team, a pet, your children/parents/spouse, Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies … we are blessed to have a list of things we love with all our hearts. I recently preached a sermon on 1 Corinthians 13, the famous ”love passage,” and found a lovely illustration on children’s thoughts on love. One young girl explained that love is like when her grandmother got arthritis, preventing her from being able to bend over to paint her toenails, her grandfather started doing it for her, even though he has arthritis in his hands. That is loyal love, my friends.

David wrote a beautiful psalm about his love for God, and God’s love for him. David knew God intimately, and these words reflect the depth of David’s appreciation and understanding for a God who loves us with a deep and abiding love:

Psalm 138 (Common English Bible)

I give thanks to you with all my heart, Lord.
    I sing your praise before all other gods.
I bow toward your holy temple
    and thank your name
    for your loyal love and faithfulness
        because you have made your name and word
        greater than everything else.
On the day I cried out, you answered me.
    You encouraged me with inner strength.

Let’s pause there a moment and think of God’s love for us. David describes it as ”loyal love and faithfulness.” I agree with that. Too often, as we go about our day, we neglect to show God the appreciation that he is due. This Psalm is a good reminder that whenever we cry out, God answers us.

Do you need to cry out to God today? He is always listening.

Let all the earth’s rulers give thanks to you, Lord,
    when they hear what you say.
Let them sing about the Lord’s ways
    because the Lord’s glory is so great!
Even though the Lord is high,
    he can still see the lowly,
    but God keeps his distance from the arrogant.

I know a young man who is extremely arrogant. His over-inflated sense of self-worth led him down some dangerous paths as he sought to feed his insatiable ego. Then came a life-changing downfall. Did God abandon him? No. Did God keep his distance? You bet.

Whenever I am in deep trouble,
    you make me live again;
    you send your power against my enemies’ wrath;
    you save me with your strong hand.
The Lord will do all this for my sake.

So here is the good news for that young man, and for us as well. David writes that whenever he was in deep trouble, God provided the strength to get out of his situation. The problem with arrogance is that we think we have it all under control, and so we don’t seek God’s help. Arrogance prevents us from being willing to yield to God’s will. But when we lay down our egos, God can come in.

Your faithful love lasts forever, Lord!
    Don’t let go of what your hands
    have made.

I love that last line … don’t let go. You see, even in our most despicable times, God may distance himself from our sin, but he NEVER LETS GO. His reach is beyond measure and his love is loyal and faithful.

I hope that gives you encouragement today. If you have gotten too ”full of yourself,” you can always repent and return. When you do, you’ll find that God had his long arm extended with his sure grasp on your shoulder the whole time. Thanks be to God!

God Never Lets Go by Michelle Robertson

Teach Me

Today’s Psalm needs no introduction or commentary. It is a beautiful tribute by David to the God that he loved. In this writing you will find words of dedication, gratitude, trust, submission, and TRUTH. In a world where it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the truth, David’s words bring a refreshing change. Listen as he plainly states the many reasons why we should trust God and learn about his ways every day of our lives:

Psalm 25

I offer my life to you, Lord.
    My God, I trust you.
Please don’t let me be put to shame!
    Don’t let my enemies rejoice over me!
For that matter,
    don’t let anyone who hopes in you
        be put to shame;
    instead, let those who are treacherous without excuse be put to shame.

Make your ways known to me, Lord;
    teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth—teach it to me—
    because you are the God who saves me.
        I put my hope in you all day long.
Lord, remember your compassion and faithful love—
    they are forever!

Did you need to be reminded today of God’s everlasting and faithful love for you? Do you know that there is nothing you can do that would permanently separate you from God, thanks to the love of Christ Jesus on the cross and the forgiveness of sin? And even better, God does not hold our former wrongdoings against us:

But don’t remember the sins of my youth or my wrongdoing.
    Remember me only according to your faithful love
        for the sake of your goodness, Lord.

The Lord is good and does the right thing;
    he teaches sinners which way they should go.
God guides the weak to justice,
    teaching them his way.
10 All the Lord’s paths are loving and faithful
    for those who keep his covenant and laws.

Now go back and read that first line again. ”I offer my life to you, Lord.” Is God calling you to make the same commitment (or re-commitment) to him today?

David’s confidence in a saving, redeeming, and forgiving God can be our confidence as well today. We are blessed to have a go-to God who guides and leads us in his truth every day, if we are willing to yield to his teachings. Are you willing? When we commit our ways to following God’s covenant, we are never alone. Only there will we find justice, peace, hope, and truth. Teach us and lead us, oh God!

Lead Me by Kathy Schumacher

Beautiful Things

What can you do when your heart is heavy with concern for someone you love? I have a colleague who is dealing with the murder of his daughter and her unborn child. An arrest has finally been made, and we are praying that justice will prevail. Another friend is watching her marriage crumble after decades of being together. A neighbor is struggling to negotiate the depths of her mother’s dementia, and a young woman I know has just received the news that the baby she is carrying has Down Syndrome. When someone you care about is hurting, you hurt.

A few days ago when I woke up early to write, this Psalm popped up in the lectionary assignments for this week. I had already been reminded of all four of these situations before I logged into my lectionary library, and here was David’s reminder for all of us about what we can do in the heaviest of situations. Before you read it, think about what is troubling you today, and pray that God will enable you to lay that burden down at the foot of the cross. Then read this as his answer to you:

Psalm 16 (Common English Bible)

Protect me, God, because I take refuge in you.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord.
    Apart from you, I have nothing good.”

God is our only place of refuge when we are in trouble. I remember once being chased by bullies on the way home from school one day. This may be the moment when I happily discovered that I am a decent runner. All I kept thinking was that as soon as I reached my house and the safety of my mother, I would be okay. David is reminding us that we can run home to God whenever we are in trouble.

Now as for the “holy ones” in the land,
    the “magnificent ones” that I was so happy about;
    let their suffering increase because
        they hurried after a different god.
I won’t participate in their blood offerings;
    I won’t let their names cross my lips.

David has realized that following after people who don’t follow after God is a fruitless and useless pursuit. Does that resonate with you today?

You, Lord, are my portion, my cup;
    you control my destiny.
The property lines have fallen beautifully for me;
    yes, I have a lovely home.

This brings me such comfort! To know that all these people I have been praying for are completely being cared for by the Lord, who is the one who controls their destiny, is a blessing beyond measure. It also reminds me that God is God … and we are not.

I will bless the Lord who advises me;
    even at night I am instructed
    in the depths of my mind.
I always put the Lord in front of me;
    I will not stumble because he is on my right side.
That’s why my heart celebrates and my mood is joyous;
    yes, my whole body will rest in safety
10     because you won’t abandon my life to the grave;
    you won’t let your faithful follower see the pit.

My prayer for you today is that you can tap into the kind of relief that David describes when he says that his heart celebrates and his mood is joyous knowing that his whole body will rest in safety. Our life crises are not beyond God’s reach! God is on our right side.

11 You teach me the way of life.
    In your presence is total celebration.
Beautiful things are always in your right hand.

I hope you can take a moment to breathe into that last line: beautiful things are always in God’s right hand. Even in times when you can’t see it, they are there. Lord, give us insight and patience as we wait for our vision to clear. Your presence with us is a total celebration … thanks be to God.

Refuge by David Bevel Jones

Taste and See

The Food Network has a show where celebrity chefs describe the best thing they ever ate. Could you name just one thing? I couldn’t..there is no way I could decide what one thing was the best. In fact, I would struggle to come up with a list that was limited to the ten best things….there are too many to name. My mother’s chocolate mayonnaise cake made with Hershey’s Cocoa Powder is one of the things at the top. My husband’s Chicken Tiki Masala is up there. And I can still taste the Truffle Aioli Fries with fresh Parmesan curls that I ate at Gordon Ramsey’s BURGR a few years ago. These were shared with friends from Georgia who we ran into quite by accident. Both the meal and the company were satisfying and yummy.

As you can see by these examples, I enjoy things that taste sweet as well as things that are savory. When salty and sweet meet in the same dish, it is pure heaven. Every year I make my staff a Christmas treat that contains peanuts, Chex, M & Ms, pretzels, and cheerios, all mixed together with melted white chocolate. Oh my, yum!

David tapped into our appreciation for things that taste good in the 34th psalm. What is especially interesting about this psalm is that is titled A Psalm of David when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed. Well, that is quite a story!

This happened when David was fleeing from Saul, who in his own madness was trying to kill David. David fled to the Philistine city of Gath, but of course he found no refuge there. He had to run from Abimelech after pretending to be crazy in order to escape. He found himself in a cave, safe for the moment, thanks to the intervention of God:

Psalm 34 (Common English Bible)

I will bless the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be in my mouth.
I praise the Lord—
    let the suffering listen and rejoice.
Magnify the Lord with me!
    Together let us lift his name up high!
I sought the Lord and he answered me.
    He delivered me from all my fears.

Those who look to God will shine;
    their faces are never ashamed.
This suffering person cried out:
    the Lord listened and saved him from every trouble.
On every side, the Lord’s messenger protects those who honor God; and he delivers them.


Taste and see how good the Lord is!
    The one who takes refuge in him is truly happy!

I like how David used his wits (by feigning being witless) in order to extricate himself from a precarious position. But you do have to question his decision to flee to a Philistine city. Anyone remember that little altercation with a Philistine giant named Goliath? Israelites and Philistines were not natural allies.

His psalm is one of pure joy, however. Having safely reached the other side, he gives God all the glory. His encouragement to us to find refuge in God comes from his own experience of having been in jeopardy and finding protection. He reminds us that God listens to our suffering and saves us from every kind of trouble.

What kind of trouble are you in? Are you struggling with something too personal to share with friends? David reminds us that you don’t have to “go it alone” when you are suffering. He sought the Lord, and the Lord answered him and delivered him from all his fears.

When we call upon God in the midst of a trial, God’s answer will be immediate and sweet. You are never alone.

Oh taste and see how good the Lord is!

Take Refuge by Wende Pritchard

There Is No God

Let’s talk about fools today. We often assume that when we call someone a fool, we are describing an intellectual incapacity. We think about foolishness as a lack of common sense, or making poor decisions. When a friend does something foolish, we respond with “Well, that was stupid!” Foolish behavior is seen as a function of the mind, and fools lack the wherewithal to “know better.” Fools are imprudent and silly.

In David’s time, however, the word fool was more a factor of heart than mind. Foolish behavior came from a place of morality, not intellect. Thus fools were the ones who were morally bankrupt evildoers, regardless of intelligence. Fools believed there is no God.

David makes it clear in Psalm 14 that he considers anyone who rejects God to be corrupt and perverse. He complains that there are few people who seek God, stating that everyone has gone astray. He draws a clear line between those who accept God for who he is and those who contend that there is no God:

Psalm 14 (New Revised Standard Version)

Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
    They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
    there is no one who does good.

The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind
    to see if there are any who are wise,
    who seek after God.

They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse;
    there is no one who does good,
    no, not one.

You can almost feel David’s disdain for anyone who denies God. He is solidly in the camp of those who call upon the Lord for everything, and so he has no patience or respect for godless evildoers.

Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
    who eat up my people as they eat bread,
    and do not call upon the Lord?

There they shall be in great terror,
    for God is with the company of the righteous.
You would confound the plans of the poor,
    but the Lord is their refuge.

Here is the application for modern day readers: those who call upon God will find a refuge of safety in that relationship. Knowing that God is real puts one in the camp of the righteous, where God resides. It is not only the smart choice, it is the only safe choice. God is our strength. God is our restoration. God is our deliverance.

O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion!
    When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
    Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.

Do you know someone who denies the existence of God? They, too, may make this assertion from a heart-perspective rather than a head-perspective. Ask questions. Have they been hurt by the church? Have they suffered at the hand of “religion?” Have they felt condemnation from those who know God?

Listening to the heart is much better than lecturing to the mind. When people see God in your actions as you offer unconditional love, compassion, generosity, and forgiveness, they can see with their hearts that God is real.

You’re the only Jesus some will ever see. Go and preach the Gospel with your winsome ways, and only use words when absolutely necessary.

God is our Refuge by Michelle Robertson

Loyal Love

Think about the loves of your life. Perhaps they include a spouse, a partner, a sibling, your college, a sports team, a parent, a child, a friend, or even your church. We were created to enjoy many levels of love. The love a parent has for a child is not comparable to the love they have for a favorite co-worker. The love for a spouse is deeper and richer than the love for a friend, in most cases. And each of these levels of love come with a corresponding level of loyalty. I am loyal to my university, but that is nowhere near the loyalty I feel toward my family.

Did you ever stop to consider God’s love and loyalty toward you? Most God-fearing followers seek to be loyal to the God they love, but did you realize that God feels that same loyalty toward his people?

Take David, for example. God was fiercely loyal to David:

Psalm 89 (Common English Bible)

I discovered my servant David.
    I anointed him with my holy oil.
21 My hand will sustain him—
    yes, my arm will strengthen him!
22 No enemy will oppress him;
    no wicked person will make him suffer.
23 I will crush all his foes in front of him.
    I will strike down all those who hate him.


24 My faithfulness and my loyal love will be with him.
    He will be strengthened by my name.
25 I will set his hand on the sea.
    I will set his strong hand on the rivers.
26 He will cry out to me:
    “You are my father,
    my God, the rock of my salvation.”
27 Yes, I’ll make him the one born first—
    I’ll make him the high king of all earth’s kings.
28 I will always guard my loyal love toward him.
    My covenant with him will last forever.
29 I will establish his dynasty for all time.
    His throne will last as long as heaven does.

Now comes the big “but.” God clearly requires that his loyalty be met with obedience. Even in his faithfulness to David, he would not tolerate disobedience in the next generation:


30 But if his children ever abandon my Instruction,
    stop following my rules—
31         if they treat my statutes like dirt,
        stop keeping my commandments—
32     then I will punish their sin with a stick,
        and I will punish their wrongdoing with a severe beating.

But this warning comes with an explanation of the extent of his love. His punishment will not erase the covenant. His reaction to wrongdoing will not cancel out what he has sworn to do, which is to bestow loyal love to David:


33 But even then I won’t withdraw my loyal love from him.
    I won’t betray my faithfulness.
34     I won’t break my covenant.
    I won’t renege on what crossed my lips.
35 By my own holiness I’ve sworn one thing:
    I will not lie to David.
36     His dynasty will last forever.
    His throne will be like the sun, always before me.

Jesus was born of David’s lineage, and so we know that this promise was kept, even though David himself broke the commandments. Jesus is like the sun, always before God, and like the moon, a faithful witness in the sky that reminds us of God’s unshakeable love for us all.
37     It will be securely established forever;
    like the moon, a faithful witness in the sky
.

Go back now and re-read the psalm. Where you see David’s name, replace it with your own. God makes the same commitment of loyal love to you today. Thanks be to God!

Loyal Love by Michelle Robertson

Caught

Caught….red-handed….without a hope of denying it.

Have you ever been caught doing something you shouldn’t have done, and then had to face the consequences? I sure have. I will never forget getting caught gossiping in the cloak room of my fifth grade classroom about a girl of whom I was very jealous. The teacher heard me, sent the girl out of the room on an errand to spare her feelings, and then made me stand in front of the class and repeat what I said while she condemned every word. I was HUMILIATED, and rightfully so. The sting of that experience is still with me.

When we are caught, feelings of shame and regret are immediate and overwhelming. Our first thought is “Why, oh WHY did I do it?” Right up to the moment of discovery, we delude ourselves into thinking that we will get away with our sinful behavior. Most of us can even rationalize that if nobody finds out, nobody gets hurt.

Then everybody finds out, and everybody gets hurt.

Such is the case in Psalm 51, written by David after he was caught committing adultery with Bathsheba and was confronted by his friend Nathan. He immediately felt the searing pain of knowing that he has sinned against God and now everyone knows it. Listen to the regret and remorse that flowed from his pen as he composed a song of confession:

Psalm 51 (Common English Bible)

Have mercy on me, God, according to your faithful love!
    Wipe away my wrongdoings according to your great compassion!
Wash me completely clean of my guilt;
    purify me from my sin!
Because I know my wrongdoings,
    my sin is always right in front of me.
I’ve sinned against you—you alone.
    I’ve committed evil in your sight.
That’s why you are justified when you render your verdict,
    completely correct when you issue your judgment.

David is such a man of faith that his sinning against God was the worst part of it for him. He knew his wrongdoings. This sin was not done in ignorance of the Law that commands “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” He knew that he coveted another man’s wife and then had that man brought home from war to cover up the unplanned pregnancy that resulted. Then David sent him back to the front lines to be killed. Coveting, adultery, lying, murder…David was guilty on all counts.

Yes, I was born in guilt, in sin,
    from the moment my mother conceived me.
And yes, you want truth in the most hidden places;
    you teach me wisdom in the most secret space.

David was blessed to have received wisdom from God in the “most secret space.” He studied the scriptures. He experienced God’s power first hand when he faced down Goliath many years earlier. All of David’s experiences had been an adequate teacher of God’s will and direction for his life. It is this truth in the hidden places of his heart and soul that he walked away from in his pursuit of Bathsheba. There is no pleading ignorance here…David totally knew better.

As did I, when I sinned.

As do you, when you sin.

His song of confession then moves from pain to hope, and David reminds God that God alone has the power to wash this sin away. He writes that joy can be felt once more, but only after God wipes away all of his guilty deeds:

Purify me with hyssop and I will be clean;
    wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and celebration again;
    let the bones you crushed rejoice once more.
Hide your face from my sins;
    wipe away all my guilty deeds!

Singing these words to the God that he loved provided a moment of humble obeisance for David, as the song now moves to a plea for a new, clean heart. This may be one of the prettiest verses in all of the Psalms:

10 Create a clean heart for me, God;
    put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me!
11 Please don’t throw me out of your presence;
    please don’t take your holy spirit away from me.
12 Return the joy of your salvation to me
    and sustain me with a willing spirit.

“Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and return unto me the joy of your salvation!” This should be our song today as well. God always inclines an ear when people confess with contrite hearts and humility.

Where is God calling you to lay down your sin so that you might take up a new and faithful spirit? God truly longs to sustain you with the power of the Holy Spirit, but you have to come clean first.

Don’t let the sun go down on your sin. Open yourself to God and ask for a clean heart to be created in you. And may the joy of God’s salvation make you sing.

Sunset Awaits by Michelle Robertson