Make Our Days Count

Psalms 38-42: Making all of our days count by living for God.

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The New Year is just around the corner, and I have to say that I love each January 1st for all the possibility that it brings. When I was younger, I would pull out my journal or notebook and brainstorm the different New Year’s resolutions that I could pursue in the upcoming year. 365 days, 8760 hours, 525,600 minutes, or 31,536,000 seconds seemed like so much time waiting to be filled up with the sky only being the limit of what could be accomplished.

But, flash forward to the middle of the year (about the time of Fuel to be exact) and all the possibility seems a little less grand. The things that could fill up the New Year shrink a little more and a little more as the calendar days get a big slash through until wham, the calendar says December 31st.

Every year, as I begin to assemble my next planner and everything I want to accomplish, I always stop and think about the ways that God might use me in the upcoming year. It’s interesting that nestled between all of the psalms that we’ve been reading, we find psalm 39. In this psalm, David is struggling with sin for which he is seeking forgiveness. In the middle of his laments and prayers, we see this line in verse 4-5:

“LORD, reveal to me the end of my life and the number of my days. Let me know how short-lived I am. You, indeed, have made my days short in length and my life span as nothing in Your sight. Yes, every mortal man is only a vapor.”

Wow, what humility to pen these verses. Mortality has always been hard to come to grasp with, and death is one of, if not the, final enemy that is defeated at the end of time. That being said, what would you give if you could know how ‘short-lived’ you would be? Would you want to know? I would be hesitant to ask for knowledge, but I understand why David would want to know. If you can learn to make the most of the time you have left.

God may never reveal to us when the end of our life will be, but Moses in psalm 90:12 says a similar phrase when he asks God to “Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.”

When we are able to number our days and see how fleeting they are, we can recognize the importance of making each one count (so think about that the next time you binge watch your favorite show on Netflix). We all make choices of what we are going to pursue, so I encourage you to think about what choice you are making this year.

Each year, between the week of Christmas and New Year’s Day, we can always stop and reflect. We started this week by looking to the cross, we can begin each year recognizing that the cross and all the many gifts, blessings, and guidelines it brings with it is at the center of our life. Then, as the New Year comes to pass, we can rely on God to accomplish the work He has in store for us. By centering our lives around God, we can truly make our days count.

-Cayce Ballard

 

The Path

Psalms 35-37: The Path of Wisdom leads to faithfulness.

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Through this week’s reading, we’ve seen how God is our creator, provider, and refuge. We’ve seen how through Jesus’ death on the cross, we’ve received a beautiful inheritance in pleasant boundary lines, and how we can come to know God better through our communication with Him, in our prayers and praises. These truths point us to the great love that God has for us, love which David wrote about in some of my favorite verses in the Bible:

“LORD, Your faithful love reaches to heaven, Your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, Your judgments like the deepest sea. LORD, You preserve man and beast. God, Your faithful love is so valuable that people take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They are filled from the abundance of Your house; You let them drink from Your refreshing stream, for with You is life’s fountain. In Your light we will see light.” – Ps. 36:5-10

These verses sum up all the topics we’ve dwelled on over the last few days and show the true character of our God. In Psalm 36, David talks about the way that God shows love to the faithful. But, what does it mean to be faithful?

The whole Bible is written to answer this question, and it is a question we spend our whole lives trying to discern and live out. Psalm 37 answers this question in part by showing us what is means to be wise. In this psalm, David shows the dichotomy, the difference between, the evildoer and the wise man, and that difference is how the person lives out the law of God. This psalm is like a mini-sermon, in which David tells the listener not to follow or be annoyed with evildoers, but instead to trust in God, take delight in him, commit your way to him, and wait expectantly for him. David, the Psalmist shows us how to live the faithful life.

When my nieces were learning how to walk, I remember the way their steps were so hesitant, preferring to either be on their knees crawling or sitting. But, when I would take their tiny hands in mine to help them, their steps would become faster and more deliberant. When we live outside of God’s helping hand, we are forever like my nieces who waddle and fall as they attempt to walk by themselves. But, through the wisdom and instruction of God, he can lead us down a good path, and when we fall, God will hold us up. (Ps. 37:23-24)

When we live inside of God’s wisdom, we can pursue the good path, for the path of the faithful is full of light. David says it best when he says, “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act, making your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday.” – Psalm 37:5-6

-Cayce Ballard

Our Refuge

Psalms 31-34: God our stronghold, our refuge.

“The LORD is the stronghold of my life –

of whom should I be afraid?” – Ps. 27:1b

Imagine you are in a battle, with your enemies pressing you on every side. You need a place to regroup, get rest, and then continue fighting. Where would you seek your refuge?

This scenario might be hard to imagine for most of us, who have never fought a battle, but David, who wrote several of these psalms, knew exactly what it was like to be pursued by an army. In many of these psalms, he refers to God as his refuge, fortress, and stronghold. God is the place where he goes to receive rest, to be rescued.

One of the main attractions to visit while in the city of London is the Tower of London. This structure, that was built over the past millennia, was designed in such a way that it would prevent attacks from arrows, canons, and more. The base of the White Tower even has walls that are 15 feet thick!

Though the strongholds that David was referring to may have not been built like medieval buildings, the purpose of them would be the same. They were designed to be impenetrable. To be a safe place amidst the arrows, swords, and fighting. A refuge that David could come to for peace in the turmoil of a fighting life.

We, like David, can come into the refuge of God’s fortress. God can be our stronghold! When we follow God’s direction and trust in him, we have walls shielding us that are much thicker than those of the Tower of London. Praise God who protects even in the turmoil of this life.

-Cayce Ballard

Praying through the Ups and Downs

Psalms 25-30: Praying through the Ups and Downs

As an English major, I have come to be a voracious reader, and one of my favorite past-times is cuddling up with a good novel and a cup of coffee. In all my reading, I’ve come to see patterns in books.  I am now able to discern what I will like to read and what I won’t. A common thread through all the books I like is how they display a wide range of emotions of humanity, not just the good aspects. Instead of painting a glossy, rose-tinted picture, the novelists try to capture how broken the world is, and by doing so, show something much deeper, a common humanity.

I love novels and reading, but I will be the first to say that I do not look to these things for my hope and salvation. When I want to look to something that speaks to my life now, I look to the Bible. As I read through the Psalms, I recognize in scriptures the same thing I love in literature through these prayers and praises. The Psalms we read for today, Psalms 25-30, were all written by David. In these Psalms, David pleads to God for vindication and deliverance and praises God when he does so. These wonderful prayers model for us how we can come to God in all our pain as well as our joy. In both of these places, God longs to hear from us.

Like novels and books help the author to communicate to us, Psalms shows us how we can communicate with God and the many ways that God can communicate back, through His word, nature, and more. These prayers show us how to come to God in a way that is pleasing to Him and open up our hearts to what He wants from our lives.

God longs for us to pursue Him with prayer, and the New Testament focuses on this heavily. Jesus gives us an example of prayer in Luke 11 with the Lord’s prayer. Paul says in Ephesians 6:18 and 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to pray constantly. These examples and admonitions about prayer point to the same thing that David’s psalms do: we should communicate with God all the time. James says it best in his letter, chapter 5 verse 13, “Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises.”

As we can see in the Psalms and through the life of Jesus, prayer is the backbone of our faith. To know and pursue God we need to communicate with Him, and prayer is where that communication, that relationship, begins. We don’t have to gloss over our problems or focus on them solely. God longs for our whole humanity, and we, like David, can bring it to Him.

-Cayce Ballard

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Our Provider

Psalms 19-24: God is our provider.

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There are so many nuggets of truth in these Psalms that I couldn’t touch on here. Today, when I sat down to open my Bible and try to sift through it all to find what I wanted to write about, I happened upon a very familiar scripture. Psalms 23 is a Psalm that many people know, even those who aren’t Christians. Even through this Psalm, which contemplates death, shadow, and sorrow, the hope that it communicates draws people to it and to God. As I read through this Psalm in the context of those that surround it I was struck.

In Psalm 21 and 22, we see David crying out in praise and pain to God for his provision. In both emotional states, David knew that God was his provider, his savior. God was the person who could save him from his enemies. In Psalm 22, even when David could not see God acting in that moment, he prayed and praised God from the faith that didn’t come from the physical evidence around him.

What does provision mean? When we talk about provision, a word which literally means ‘something, like food or drink, that is supplied, especially for a journey,’ we think about the material thing that we are eating or drinking. But, David says that the LORD is his provision. I recently got a new puppy (and if you are my friend on Facebook you’ve probably seen plenty of pictures of him). This dog lives inside and does not have access to food or water, unless I provide those things for him. So, even though the food or drink is the literal provision, I am his provider. I am the one that sustains him. God is the same. He does grant us the things that we need, but most importantly, God is the one sustaining us. Without him, we have nothing, just like without me, my puppy would not have what it needed. When we rely on God to be our provider, we can say with assurance, as David does, “The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.”

As we think through these psalms, let’s remember to look to the LORD, our shepherd, in both the difficult times and the good, because he is our provision.

– Cayce Ballard

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Meet Finnegan! 

 

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Our Boundary Lines

boundarylinesWhen the Israelites finally entered the Promised Land after wandering for forty years, they had a big job to do. After taking possession of the land, they had to divide the land between the twelve tribes. Joshua was given this job, and you can find the boundary lines of each tribe in Joshua 16-21. These boundary lines were designed by God so that each tribe would have access to enough good land to survive. They were a provision from God as the Israelites settled into their new home.

Hundreds of years later, David talks about boundary lines in Psalm 16. He says,

“LORD, you are my portion

and my cup of blessing;

You hold my future.

The boundary lines

have fallen for me

In pleasant places;

Indeed, I have

A beautiful inheritance.” –vv. 5-6

The boundary lines David was talking about were not only boundary markers on the ground dictating the land he would inherit. These boundary lines concerned something far more important. These boundaries established a spiritual inheritance that we also receive, the Kingdom of God.

Hebrews 9:15 says, “Therefore, He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” Jesus is our mediator, so that we can receive our promised inheritance. The portion that we receive, our future and our inheritance, is the Kingdom of God. Indeed, our boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places!

Like many of David’s psalms, his celebration of God does not end with a praise. David always includes action. If we continue to read through the rest of Psalm 16, we see the reflection of a heart change in David’s life. He praises God, because God counsels Him- through his meditation on God’s word, he reflects on how he can better live for God. Through David’s purposeful study of God’s word, he walks on the path of life, which leads to the Kingdom.

Often, we think about boundaries as hemming and restricting us. David rejoices because, though the law does give him restrictions on how to live, he sees that life with the law is pleasant. Our boundary lines are great not only in the future to come, but also this world now.

Let’s rejoice in our inheritance and follow David’s example of walking and reveling in God’s word and presence.

-Cayce Ballard

 

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Look to the Cross

Psalm 8-14

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“When I observe Your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which You set into place,
what is man that you remember him,
the son of man that you look after him?” -Ps. 8:3-4

A few years ago on the UP Project, me and several other groggy kids were woken up at 5am to travel up into the heart of the South Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains.  Our destination was Pretty Place, an open chapel in a camp ground. From the chapel, the view of the ridges of the mountains are held in stunning display as they roll towards Greenville. The view can easily take your breath away. But, this chapel never held the view above the object that was placed directly before it.

In the middle of this lookout is a cross, and sitting in the pews, you can’t look at the view without first looking at the cross.

Psalm 8 describes our wonderful God and creator, who made the heavens majestic and us the caretakers of this world. Like David, there have been many times that I have called out, “Who am I, Lord? Who am I that you should remember me?” Travelling through this country and others, the magnificence of God is always in my mind, the way that he formed so many different places for us to inhabit. But, again I think, who are we to be the partakers of this beauty? My thoughts turn back to that image of the cross, held in stark relief to the blue hills below.

Today is Christmas, a day where we celebrate the birth of the heir to David’s throne, Jesus Christ! During this advent season, I remember that my Savior, God’s son, was born for me, and there are many times when I echo David’s question of ‘who is man that you remember him?’ When I think about the great love that God has for us, that he would send his son to die for us, my breath is taken away, similar to, but much greater than, the feeling I had as I gazed out over the mountains. God gave us this great gift, even while we were still sinners. Even on, especially on, this quiet (or perhaps rather hectic) Christmas morning, we should dwell on the Savior that was born for me and you.

Through Jesus’ birth and, like that cross symbolizes, his death, the great divide between God and man was overcome. The position of the cross at Pretty Place should mirror the position of the cross in our lives. The beauty of this world and its comforts are all secondary to the gift we have from God. Without Jesus’ death, we are nothing, but with the death of Jesus, we become God’s adopted children. Praise God for this wonderful gift we have been given!

-Cayce Ballard

Cayce is a Senior this year at the University of South Carolina, studying Secondary English Education. She plans to continue her education next year in the M.T. program at USC. She loves traveling, reading, and playing with her new puppy, Finnegan. Cayce leads a Young Adult Bible Study based on the Grow reading plan.  She would like to thank everyone for contributing to these devotions.

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