Psalm 32 (Message)
Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be—you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean. Count yourself lucky—God holds nothing against you and you’re holding nothing back from him. When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans. The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up. Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.” Suddenly the pressure was gone—my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared. These things add up. Every one of us needs to pray; when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts we’ll be on high ground, untouched. God’s my island hideaway, keeps danger far from the shore, throws garlands of hosannas around my neck. Let me give you some good advice; I’m looking you in the eye and giving it to you straight: “Don’t be ornery like a horse or mule that needs bit and bridle to stay on track.” God-defiers are always in trouble; God-affirmers find themselves loved every time they turn around. Celebrate God. Sing together—everyone! All you honest hearts, raise the roof!
A sincerest apology to all those people who like abbreviated text and short devotions with just a glimpse of the Word, but Psalm 32 was just too good to condense. I needed to hear this today from the Message standpoint – that straight forward sometimes informal context that breaks down into everyday terms that apply to my life. I have been living in a tight spot for some time now. If it is not our son’s health, it’s work, wedding, family and life. Constantly moving, listing making and trying to stay one step ahead of the game only to discover that Christmas is now less than two weeks away. How in the heck did that just happen? We live in a constant state of pressure. The world produces crushing pressure to succeed, keep up with the Jones’, and never let them see you sweat. We put pressure on ourselves to be perfect or at least make everybody else think that we are. Even God presses us from the inside out to be who He called us to be, fulfill our purpose and prosper in life. All the pressure puts in a tight spot. Often I just want to stop everything, sit down and cry. But I refuse, no today I am going to celebrate God.
Lamentations 3:19-24 (Message)
I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all—oh, how well I remember— the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.
Along with all the other “things” this year, my birth mom died. I still can’t believe it when I think about it or say it or even type it. She was not a bad person. Our relationship was strained for the better part of my adult years by her ongoing struggles and my own inability to deal with those issues. So I went about raising my family with occasional conversations and cards back and forth. She never met our youngest child. Only our oldest have any recollection, but now that she is gone and there is not the pressure of guilt any more I think about her remembering things. Good things.
We all go through “things” in life. These things produce pressure. Am I doing the right thing? Am I handling this the right way? What does he think? What does she think? What does God every decision that I make? It is a pressure that I have put on myself and would gladly cast off if I could only figure out how to do it. For many years preceding my mother’s death, I agonized over reconciliation. I wanted to see her, talk to her, and hug her but I could not figure out how to do it without all the other complicated issues of her life suffocating my own. I remember praying, “God, how will you ever forgive me for this?” But I am reminded today that I keep forgetting this one thing, “God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They are created new every morning!” We are imperfect people. God knows that so every day He prepares new love and mercy just for us so that we don’t have to live under the pressures of guilt, shame or even regret.
Psalm 139:7-12 (Message)
Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit? To be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you’re there! If I go underground, you’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You would find me in a minute—you’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; a night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.
“When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans. The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up.”
I keep forgetting that God knows my heart. He knows the words that I am going to speak before I even think of them. His Spirit lives inside of me privy to all there is to know about me even things I have not discovered. No matter where I go or what I do – He is always with me. He goes before me and closes in the rear. Countless times I lose sight of this but the Lord never loses sight of me. So why do I try so hard to be someone else? God knows already who I am and what I do. He sees my heart examining it thoroughly and lovingly preparing the mercy and grace that I will need to remain in His Righteousness tomorrow. The Blood of Jesus covers the sins of my past even though I refuse to let go of them sometimes. What are you keeping inside today? It is causing a pressure cooker that will one day explode. Watch out! Because when it does… the best is yet to come. “Suddenly the pressure was gone—my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared.” He knows. He still loves you. He is still making good on all the details. Yes, the Lord is perfecting your way according to His Way.
James 1:2-4 (Message)
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
You know that under pressure, your faith life is forced into the open. It is then it shows its true colors. Let’s be real for a minute, we talk the talk but do we walk the walk. Living in close proximity to God produces pressure. To move closer, we must allow His Spirit to transform us day by day. Nobody likes change. Our flesh hates it because it is a sacrifice of self. But there are some things that have to go to establish deeper intimacy with God to make room for more faith. It is not the “things” you are thinking of but rather a total surrender of self to Jesus Christ. My oldest daughter and I are extremely close. Always have been. We have been through a lot together. When she was younger, she could not stand for me to upset with her. None of my children are perfect, they are human making mistakes just like everyone else. So when she knew that I was unhappy with her, she would do whatever she could to make amends with me. Why? She could not tolerate the separation. So she would do whatever it took to keep our relationship close and intact. Fear of God is the enemy’s tactic to push us away from Him. Faith presses us into the Father moving us closer and closer every time. In His Presence is fullness of love, joy and peace that allows us to become who He called us to be rather than us trying to become who we think that we ought to be. God is not fooled, surprised or disheartened by you today – the Lord knows us and loves us just like we are. He has assumed full responsibility in making us who we should be, when we should be it, and how we become it. Whatever “it” is, the Lord uses the pressures of life to mold and shape us to fit more closely into His Plan. “Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.” (James 1:12)
James 1:13-18 (Message)
Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer. So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.
If you find that you are in a “tight spot” as I do today, celebrate God! He is working in you and through you to become all that He promised you would be. He is working out good things in your life which require change that forces us from comfort zones and complacency. The Lord is perfecting all that concerns us so we are required to let go of our expectation to embrace His Plan and Purpose for our life. Our sin is a problem not for God but us. He will deal with it – mercy and grace have provided full restitution. We must not hold on to sin and allow it to kill our faith but release it in the overflowing and overcoming Blood of Jesus Christ. God is opening the windows of Heaven over our life – it is up to us to hold our position of faith and trust in Jesus Christ believing that His Love is Unconditional. We have faith in Him and His Love for us that keeps us from letting go of hope when the pressures of life bear down on us. We never give up because we believe that His Glory belongs to us and it is worth having. We cannot bear to walk away because He becomes our life force when we press it rather than allowing the enemy to push us out with fear, doubt and anxiety. God is never ever trying to trip you up – He is trying to take you deeper into His Presence today where all His Goodness produces pleasure evermore. He wants to show you off not show you up! Embrace the tight spots in life. They are the pottery wheel of God as He molds us and shapes us to hold more and more of His Glory in our life. Celebrate God today! Let Him make you into the person you never knew you could be!
Psalm 139:13-17 (Message)
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day. Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful! God, I’ll never comprehend them! I couldn’t even begin to count them—any more than I could count the sand of the sea.