Psalm 51, Day 2

Devotional for Tuesday, May 19

Psalm 51:4-6
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
    and your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner—
    yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb,
    teaching me wisdom even there.

When I first dwelled on the idea of “Against you, and you alone, have I sinned,” I was a bit taken aback. I realized my notion of sin was too limited. In my mind, the problem with sin was the damage we do to others.

Certainly, sin hurts others, and that by itself is a major problem. When our sins do enough damage, we can even drive others to sin. For example, think of the abused child who grows up to be an abuser. There’s no doubt sin runs rampant in the world because we are first born broken, and we then have a tendency to break each other further.

But ultimately, our sins are a violation of God’s will, and our creator has the right to demand a reckoning. We first must repair our relationship with God. Once we are right with God, we then can hope to repair some of the damage we’ve done in this world, trusting divine power to guide us.

Lord, help us to first be right with you so our efforts to help others are genuine and rooted in your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Seeking His Will

Devotional for Tuesday, May 12

The proverbs found in the Old Testament often provide us with a good opportunity to meditate on what God is saying to us. As I take a look at Proverbs 3:5-12 in the New Living Translation, I’m going to offer what comes to mind for me. I invite you to ponder these words in a similar way.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take.

This is the overall theme of these verses. God’s knowledge is superior to ours. Genesis begins with a basic premise that resonates through Scripture: God made all things good, and he made humans capable of freely choosing whether to follow his will, but we chose and continue to choose poorly.

Humans are born broken because of all these historically poor choices, and our minds are too corrupt to be trusted. We were made in the image of God, but the image is cracked. We need guidance—from God’s word, and from direct revelations from God that must be tested against Scripture.

Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
    Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
Then you will have healing for your body
    and strength for your bones.

Connie and I recently re-watched one of our favorite movies, “Harvey,” starring Jimmy Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd. His family and neighbors consider him crazy because he talks to an invisible 6-foot-3-inch-tall white rabbit.

Dowd seems full of a deeply humble wisdom, though. At one point, he says this: “Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be,’—she always called me Elwood—’In this world, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

It strikes me that living in fear of the Lord and turning away from evil is bound to make a person more pleasant. (Now I’m thinking of the conversion of Ebenezer Scrooge.) Age also has begun to teach me that I would rather be around people who prefer being pleasant, regardless of how wise they may be.

Honor the Lord with your wealth
    and with the best part of everything you produce.
Then he will fill your barns with grain,
    and your vats will overflow with good wine.

Let’s not confuse these words with the corrupt “prosperity gospel” being preached, the idea that a dollar given to the church will return to you tenfold, or other claims along those lines. The idea here is much deeper.

Decisions about worldly possessions—how we use them, how we rank them, how we covet them—reveal where our hearts really lie. This is why Jesus spent so much time talking about our relationship to our stuff. When we have riches, we have to suppress the love and confidence we tend to place in them, keeping God first and using our material blessings to bless others.

As we learn to trust God more and more, relying on him for guidance, we find ourselves in a cyclical relationship with him as the God of Abundance, the one who pours out life for all eternity and provisions for now.

This is a complicated subject, one worthy of much study and prayer.

My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline,
    and don’t be upset when he corrects you.
For the Lord corrects those he loves,
    just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.

This assertion may shock or amuse people who consider God a vague and distant notion. But the Lord is involved in our lives in a direct way, and he does try to correct our willful behaviors without taking away our freedom to choose.

I suspect that often, this divine discipline is simply a matter of God letting a situation play out the way we think we want it to go. This would be the adult version of what happens to children who do not believe certain objects are hot until they touch them. God says, fine, your will be done instead of mine.

We can take comfort, however, even as we consider the Lord’s discipline. We are loved, and God wants us to grow into the loving beings he intended us to be from the start. This is a kind of discipline that builds rather than destroys.

Lord, may we find ourselves relating to you more rightly each day, and may any discipline we face grow us rather than break us. Amen.

Power Source

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Devotional for Tuesday, May 5

Hebrews 13:20-21 (NLT)

Now may the God of peace—
    who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,
the great Shepherd of the sheep,
    and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—
may he equip you with all you need
    for doing his will.
May he produce in you,
    through the power of Jesus Christ,
every good thing that is pleasing to him.
    All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.

Let’s start with some questions for meditation. Do you remember how to breathe while you meditate? I would suggest taking a minute or two to consider each of these questions.

From where does my power come?

Do I do God’s will in all things, at all times?

In following God’s will, do I produce goodness, the kind of goodness that glorifies God?

When I have failed to do God’s will, did I trust in a different source of power?

We are promised so much when we enter a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. That salvific moment is not a one-time, historical event in our lives—it is the beginning of our ongoing access to God’s life-changing grace.

The fancy Methodist word for this process is “sanctification.” Each day, as we allow God’s grace to change us, we become more like what we were meant to be before sin muddied our images. We enter this process when we pray, by reading God’s word, when we gather in fellowship, through the taking of the sacraments, and by other activities where we make ourselves open and vulnerable to our loving Savior.

It is exciting news for believers, and yet, it is one of the more difficult truths to trust. Sanctification doesn’t happen all at once, and too often, we begin to look around for other sources of power. The world offers us a lot of possibilities.

I won’t try to list examples. Instead, I’ll let you watch for them today. Pay attention: How many times today will the world offer you the chance to improve yourself, usually to someone else’s profit?

Remember, someone else already paid the price, in the process tapping for us the power of eternity, drawing divinity into our lives now. Through the ever-present Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ gives us all we need.

Lord, as an encouragement, we humbly seek a new experience of your grace today. Amen.