A Shining Light

Read Psalm 119:105

There are times when our path in life can seem difficult to see. We may be going through a dark time when no light is shining on our path. The problems and concerns around us may be like overgrown vines, weeds and brambles which hide our way from us. When we find ourselves in such a time in life, Scripture can provide a special type of guidance. Spending time studying God’s Word and listening can shine a light upon our life path which overcomes darkness and overgrowth.

The psalmist included this wisdom in the song we know as Psalm 119. Army Grant used this wisdom in the song which she made famous. Listen now and consider how the words may speak to you when you feel lost.

Carrying a Burden

Read Psalm 32:1-5

Many of us carry burdens unnecessarily. There are times we are not even aware that we have accepted a burden; other times we willingly take it up. When these burdens are pointed out to us, we may even choose to continue carrying them instead of laying them down. There can be a strange comfort in holding on to our burden because it is familiar.

In the portion of today’s psalm, a burden is mentioned. This burden, familiar to all of us, is sin. The psalm begins by admitting what a blessing it is to be forgiven. The psalmist continues by saying that while carrying the burden, instead of confessing it, there were negative results which caused torment and weariness. The change took place when the sin was acknowledged out loud and no longer hidden. Forgiveness was given and the burden was removed.

Each of us have reasons why we choose to continuously carry our sin. Fear may drive us, the fear that the sin is unforgivable. We may decide that we deserve to have to carry this load. Our thought could be that if we keep the sin hidden, we can maintain the proper public image. All of these reasons are just excuses which prevent us from experiencing a full life. Carrying the burden of sin destroys our life from the inside out. Our health, self-image, spirit, and mental wellness are negatively impacted by the carrying of our sin.

Confession of our sin to the Lord, and when necessary to others, allows this burden to be laid down. Jesus reminds us endlessly that in him all sin can be forgiven. By laying this burden at the foot of the cross we can experience the fullness of life. We will see improvements in health, spirit and our minds.

Lay down your burden and receive the blessing of forgiveness.

Not Alone

Read Psalm 36:5-9

Everyone of us have days when troubles seem to abound and solutions appear unattainable. Dreams and hopes can be shattered without any warning. Expectations may go unfulfilled. These are the difficult times in life. No one is exempt from these occurrences, even though others may not perceive them.

It is during these times that it is important to remember how vast God’s love is for each of us. We benefit by recalling the promises of companionship, support and guidance that the Lord has made to us. We are not alone in these times. God’s faithfulness endures forever for each person. Our cries for help are heard by our Lord and we are led by the hand through the darkness. We lay out our hurts, our grief, our hopelessness before the Lord and we are understood. When we  are weary, we receive support. When we are lost, we are led.

The psalmist reminds us of this. The song, Precious Lord, Take My Hand, also speaks to us when these times come into our lives.

Cry For Help

Read Psalm 143

Life is not always easy. There are periods when everything seems to be going smoothly; work, relationships, health, finances, and leisure time seem to be in sync and have positive outlooks. Then there are events which impact one or more of these and life can seem topsy turvy. All of us experience some level of this during the pandemic. During these times of challenge it may appear that we are all alone, having to face whatever situation on our own. We may even feel God has abandoned us. Hope may be fading for us.

This description of a life situation is exactly how the author of Psalm 143 is feeling. In a period of desperation and fading hope the author writes this song to be sung to the Lord. It is a plea, a prayer. The request is simple. The song calls on the Lord for hope. A desire to be led out of the current, difficult times is placed before God. There is urgency in the plea. The individual acknowledges the loss of hope and the crushing of the spirit. Yet, clearly there still exists confidence in the Lord.

This psalm is one which each of us could probably sing at different points in our lives. We may experience times of desperation. Our view may be that we are facing challenges alone. While we still believe in God, God can seem to be so distant from us. Hope can be fading in our lives. The weight of our situation is overwhelming and brings us to the point where our spirit feels crushed under it. However, we are not alone. The Spirit of the Lord is always present with us. Our prayers and cries for help are heard. We are being led to something better even though we are unable to see it at the present time. Our confidence does not rest in us but in the hope from our Lord.

As One

Read Psalm 133

In the 1970s if a person attended church camp or some church youth event, you stood a good chance to sing “Kum ba yah.” The song is an African American spiritual with an origin which is difficult to establish. The earliest version of the written music is from the 1920s. Translated from the Gullah, the song title is “Come By Here” in English. Today this song is seen as an example of a feeling of unity and goodwill. It is associated with the idea of harmony and warm fuzzies. Frequently it is used in a mocking manner. The view is that this unity and harmony is not real but an attempt to present a false image.

The passage chosen for today is also a song from the Hebrew hymnal. Psalm 133 is a song which would likely be sung by pilgrims on their journey to the Temple. This is a song of unity. The words communicate how pleasing it is to God when the people live united. Blessings come upon the people who live in harmony with one another. As they journeyed together,  this would be a binding song, all heading to the same place for the same purpose. 

Unity is a word which is frequently misused and misunderstood. This leads to a sense of falseness when the word is employed. Much of the reason for this sense is due to the misconception that unity is a synonym of uniformity. When perceived this way, achieving such a state seems unrealistic and in many ways undesirable. These two words definitely are not synonyms. Uniformity is not pleasing to the Lord or what Psalm 133 is speaking of.

God created diversity in all of creation, most definitely among humans. This diversity is what created a beautiful weaving of the world. Also, diversity is what makes an efficient and effective meshing of all creation. Since diverse components are what was the Creator’s plan, uniformity is in resistance to the plan.

What does please the Lord is when the diverse aspects of creation live and work together in united ways. Including and valuing each unique component of creation is the desire. The Latin phrase found on most U.S. coins and in various government buildings, “E pluribus unum” (Out of many, one), is the concept of this unity. The idea is that our differences do not divide us but we are meshed as one like a jigsaw puzzle to create a whole picture. 

Let us cherish our diversity while we acknowledge our unity. This form of living and working as one is the true unity which pleases God and blesses each of us.

Majesty

Read Psalm 8

There seems to be very little which shocks or amazes people most days. Psychologists have created the term trauma and compassion fatigue to describe this. With so many reports of crime, war, and natural disasters, humans have become tired of expending energy on responding to all the events surrounding them. What would have led people to have reactions of shock and horror in previous generations, now seems to be so prevalent that many do not even take much notice. This can also be true on the positive side of life. Since we have gained an ability to explain nature’s beauty and magnificent aspects of creation, there is a tendency to not be amazed by our surroundings anymore. Even human inventions and structures have less of an impact upon us.

The psalmist calls us back to a sense of wonder in the words of Psalm 8. We are reminded to consider how majestic is our God. The power seen in creation and the praises of the least of us is truly amazing. Whether we are standing at the base of a great waterfall or listening to the voices of the very young, we are aware of the strength in all which God has created.

The psalmist then speaks what is probably the most amazing of all observations, the One who created the mountains, the large sequoias, and the very sun, has chosen to take notice of each human and what each human is doing. This same One has chosen to view us as the highest of all creation and placed us in charge.

These realizations must create a renewed feeling of shock and awe in us. They lead us to be mindful of the magnificence of our own God. Each calls us to praise our Lord.

Being Known

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

Psalm 139:1-18 (NIV)

For eleven seasons from 1982 until 1993, the familiar theme song from the sitcom Cheers played in many homes where the television was tuned to NBC. This theme song captured the desire of almost every human, “Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name.” Humans are created with a desire to be known. The sitcom demonstrated this desire. We became close to the characters as they became close to one another. As they experienced challenges, heartbreaks, triumphs and the ebb and flow of relationships, we experienced along with them because we could easily relate. Sam, Coach, Diane, Cliff, Norm, Carla, Lilith, Frazier, Woody and Rebecca each had a part of our life experience in them. We laughed and cried with them because we felt they knew us as much as we knew them.

The psalmist writes about being known in Psalm 139. The words recall for us the promise that God fully knows each and every one of us. God knows where we are and what we are doing at all times. We were known by the Lord even before being given life. Nothing about us is ever hidden from our Creator. We are completely known.

The idea of being so completely and intimately known can be comforting and unnerving at the same time. The comfort comes from a deep need being met. The unnerving aspect is that not only our good parts but our flawed and troublesome parts are fully exposed. There is no place or means of being hidden from God. Yet even while this is true, we are still loved fully by the Lord. The Almighty knows as by name and the welcome never ends. “(God) is always glad you came.”

Songs From the Sky

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
    It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth.

Psalm 19:1-6 (NIV)

Humanity has been impressed and awed by the magnificence of the sky since recorded time. The mysteries of the sun, the stars, the planets, and the weather associated with the sky have drawn humans to speculate and search for answers. Even prior to the launching of the scientific age, individuals had tried to explain what they observed in the sky. With the advent of science, the explanations have shifted from mythical and spiritual explanations to physical and temporal explanations. The awe and wonder still remains though. Our hunger to explore and go farther in our celestial understandings remain strong as evidenced by the increased interest in Mars and talks of returned trips to the moon.

In the psalm from today, we hear the psalmist claim the great wonder of the firmaments. These words link the awe of the sky to our understanding of God. When the psalmist gazes on the massiveness of the sky, there seems to be a voice which is singing the praises of God. The sun communicates the warmth which God provides to all of creation.

The imagery found in this psalm speaks to us about the greatness of God. Amazed at the vastness of the sky, we are led to contemplate the vastness of our God. As large as the galaxy and universe may be, God is larger. From the sun we receive warmth, necessary nutrients which create and sustain life, and light to direct all creation through the activities of a day. As we stand amazed at the wonders of the stars, planets and sky, we are prompted to be amazed by the One who created them all. So we join our voices with the creation’s celestial voices as we sing of the glory of God.

Come and See

Shout for joy to God, all the earth!
    Sing the glory of his name;
    make his praise glorious.
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
    So great is your power
    that your enemies cringe before you.
All the earth bows down to you;
    they sing praise to you,
    they sing the praises of your name.”

Come and see what God has done,
    his awesome deeds for mankind!

Psalm 66:1-5 (NIV)

Hiking can be an activity filled with many wonderful benefits. Being outside along trails allows one to exercise which helps to reduce weight, improve heart and lung health, and benefit sleep. This form of exercise can also reduce stress and improve mental health. Hiking also offers beautiful views of nature, including experiencing wildlife. Viewing nature can create feelings of wonderment and awe.

Like many of the psalms, Psalm 66 is a psalm of praise. The psalm begins with a call for all creation to express joy. Singing of God’s glory and offering of praise sets the tone for this psalm. The fifth verse in the psalm invites all people to come and see. The psalmist seems to indicate that by seeing what the Lord has done it is almost inevitable that one would shout for joy and sing praises to the Lord.

Experiencing God’s marvelous work in creation is one of those come and see moments. How the Lord has created the brilliant colors, the amazing effects of sunlight on rippling water, and the interaction of creatures, communicates the awesome deeds of the Lord. The key for us in hearing the invitation. Most people benefit from first-hand experiences. We are surrounded by the awesome deeds of the Lord but we must take the time and open our eyes to see.  Our praise will follow. 

The Wait

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Psalm 130:5-6 (NIV)

Waiting can be a challenging aspect of life.  Children wait for birthday celebrations, Christmas, Easter and Halloween when they receive gifts and special treats.  When a woman is pregnant, there is approximately eight months of waiting (usually the first month the person is unaware). Family, friends, and her partner eagerly look forward to the arrival of new life along with the one carrying the child. In the midst of winter we must wait for the warmth and new life of spring. All of this waiting can result in impatient people.

On this day when we await the sunrise of Easter morning, we sit in silence. The events of Thursday and Friday, filled with activity and emotions, are over. Jesus died on the cross and it now stands empty. His body has been sealed away in a tomb where death holds the power. All there is for us to do is wait. The darkness of yesterday afternoon and last night lingers around our spirits. There is an unsettling quiet about today. As the words from the psalm portray, our whole being waits for the Lord. Tomorrow will bring a new beginning with new life but today we wait.