“Our Only Prayer” (Psalm 51: 12, ESV) by Carley Evans

David sings a request to God. He asks God, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.” When does David misplace this joy? David has committed adultery with Bathsheba, and he is keenly aware of his transgressions, saying, “And my sin is ever before me.” (Psalm 51: 3) David is weighed down with wrongdoing. “Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight.” (Psalm 51: 4)

If only we felt this as keenly as David. If our sins against others became sins against God, and God only; then we might turn from them quickly and back to Him even faster.

David says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51: 5)
David finds no escape from sin. He knows that God is “justified in [His] words and blameless in [His] judgment.” (Psalm 51: 4)

The only answer for David is to ask God: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51: 7)

He begs, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51: 10)

How is it that we think we are different from David? What makes us believe that we are capable of creating clean hearts of our filthy ones or that we are able to renew our distorted spirits under our own power?

God requires of us “a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, [He] will not despise.” (Psalm 51: 17)
Notice that David asks God, “Uphold me with a willing spirit.” Even our willingness comes from God’s hand. (Psalm 51: 12)

Finally, our only prayer is: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your steadfast love; according to Your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.” (Psalm 51: 1)

“Betrothed To God” (Hosea 3: 1, ESV) by Carley Evans

God promises, “I will betroth you to Me forever. I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.” (Hosea 2: 19 – 20)

God tells Hosea to “go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.”

Hosea obeys. He buys his woman. He tells his new wife that she must “dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” (Hosea 3: 3) Hosea compares her to the children of Israel, saying they will “return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to His goodness in the latter days.” (Hosea 3: 5)

God is betrothing His children to Himself forever, that is — for always. He is betrothing His children in righteousness, justice, steadfast love, mercy and faithfulness. Whom do we suppose has these qualities? The children of God or God Himself?

Hosea is the husband who marries the adulteress. God is the Righteous Judge who marries sinners to Himself — giving them His Name forever. As a result, these sinners will come to “know the Lord.”

God says, “And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, you are My people; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’ ” (Hosea 2: 23)

“A Blessed House Forever” (2 Samuel 7: 22, ESV) by Carley Evans

“What more can David say to You?” (2 Samuel 7: 20)

We know that David says much to the Lord during his lifetime on earth. He sings His praises; he prays for deliverance; he begs for forgiveness.

David knows God’s greatness firsthand. He has seen it. “Because of Your promise, and according to Your own heart, You have brought out this greatness, to make Your servant know it.” (2 Samuel 7: 21)

God reveals Himself to David.

“Therefore You are great, O Lord God. For there is none like You, and there is no God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears.” (2 Samuel 7: 22)

David anticipates that he will be God’s servant forever, not only for his lifetime. He knows the “house of [God’s] servant David will be established before” Him forever.

David finds the courage to pray to the Lord a blessing on his house forever. He says, “You have spoken also of Your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord God!” (2 Samuel 7: 19)

David tells us that his house is blessed. He is God’s servant. This instruction is for mankind. From David’s throne comes a savior, who is Christ the Lord.

“And Your Name will be magnified forever, saying, ‘The Lord of hosts is God over Israel,’ and the house of Your servant David will be established before You.” (2 Samuel 7: 26)

God says to David, “I will build you a house.” (2 Samuel 7: 27) God blesses this house; and God’s blessing is a never-ending one.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23: 6)

“Discern By Testing” (Romans 12: 2, ESV) by Carley Evans

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Two angels come to Sodom where they find Lot sitting at the city gate. Lot invites the angels to come to his house where he feeds them “a feast and bakes unleavened bread, and they eat.” (Genesis 19: 3) Before the angels sleep, the entire city — “all the people to the last man surround the house.” (Genesis 19: 4) The entire city desires to engage in some sort of sexual activity with these two angels. Lot is mortified, and even offers his virginal daughters to the city. The city revolts, seeking to enter Lot’s house to take the angels by force. The two angels strike the men, “both small and great” who are at the door with blindness. (Genesis 19: 11)

Then the angels ask Lot to gather together “anyone you have in the city; bring them out of this place. For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.” (Genesis 19: 12 – 13)

Lot attempts to persuade his future sons-in-law to join him in his exodus from Sodom, but they think he is joking.

By dawn, the angels urge Lot to take his wife and his two daughters and leave. Lot does not obey. Instead, “he lingers. So the [angels] seize him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they bring him out and set him outside the city. And as they bring them out, one says, ‘Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” (Genesis 19: 16 – 17)

God asks us not to conform to the world. Lot is not conformed to Sodom. God asks Lot and us to escape, to take as many out of Sodom as we are able, not to bargain with those who are so wicked so as to destroy us along with themselves, not to laugh as did Lot’s sons-in-law, not to linger as did Lot, not to look back as did Lot’s wife.

God commands us to discern by testing what is good and acceptable and perfect in each and every situation.

“From Babylon” (Jeremiah 29: 11, ESV) by Carley Evans

We are in exile, far from the Lord. We are in a place to which He sent us — a place called Babylon. When an appointed time is passed, He brings us out of that place. Then, we call upon Him. We come and pray to Him. We seek Him with our whole hearts and we find Him. Our fortunes are restored.

God explains, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jesus speaks of the man with two sons. The younger son wants his inheritance now. The man gives his sons what should come to them in the future. The younger leaves for a faraway country “where he squanders his property in reckless living.” (Luke 15: 13) He becomes so desolate that he eats the corn husks left behind by the pigs. “When he comes to himself,” he realizes that even his father’s servants are in better shape than he. So, he returns home. (Luke 15: 17)

From a distance, his father sees him. He “feels compassion, and runs and embraces him.” (Luke 15: 20) He throws a huge celebration for the recovery of his youngest son.

The older son, who remains in the field, hears the music and the laughter. He comes close enough to discover that his younger brother has returned, and that their father has “killed the fattened calf.” (Luke 15: 27) He is livid; his anger so intense he refuses to enter the house. He pouts that he has not received recognition for staying put, for serving his father diligently.

His father entreats, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15: 31 – 32)

God is always waiting for exiles to turn from Babylon. His plans are for our good; He is prepared to kill the fattened calf, turn up the music, celebrate our return from the deadness of the world. God gives us a future and a hope, whether we are always by His side or whether we run away then turn to seek Him.

“Make A Right Judgment” (Luke 18: 13, ESV) by Carley Evans

A man stands far off. He does not lift his eyes to heaven. He beats his chest with his fists, and cries. He begs for mercy; he recognizes he is a sinner.

Another man stands by himself. He prays to God. He tithes. He fasts two times each week. He is not like others. He is not an extortioner; he is not unjust; he is not an adulterer; he is not a tax collector. He knows the Law of Moses. He is grateful and proud not to be like others.

Jesus says, “Do not judge by appearances, but make a right judgment.” (John 7: 24)

Jesus asks, “What do you think?” He tells the story of the man with two sons. The first son, when asked to work in the vineyard, says that he will. But he fails to go to the vineyard that day. The second son, when asked to work in the vineyard, says that he will not. Afterward he has a change of heart, and goes to work.”Which of the two did the will of his father?” (Matthew 21: 28, 31)

“Truly I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” (Matthew 21: 31)

Why? Because you hear the way of righteousness and do not believe, says Jesus. Now you see the way of righteousness and still you do not believe. But the tax collectors and the prostitutes believe when hearing.

“Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe.”(John 20: 29)

“Be Still; Fret Not” (Psalm 62: 1, ESV) by Carley Evans

“For God alone my soul waits in silence.”

“Be still,” says the Lord, “and know that I Am God.” (Psalm 46: 10)

“And your ears shall hear a Word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30: 21)

“Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.” (Psalm 37: 7) “Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” (Psalm 37: 8)

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.” (Psalm 62: 5) “From Him comes my salvation.”

God is straightforward — He says: ‘Wait on Me; don’t fret over evil. Listen in the stillness for My voice. I will provide clear direction of My path for you. You turn right at this point, and left at that point. Be still, attentive, rapt, restrained and quiet. Your hope comes from Me. Your salvation is Mine.’

“Foolishness And Evil” (Psalm 7: 14 – 17, ESV) by Carley Evans

Sometimes wickedness appears synonymous to foolishness (as sometimes righteousness seems to wisdom.)

“And on his own skull his violence descends.”

I think of the young man (approximately 18 to 24) who rides his Harley out across the back roads of — say, South Carolina — without a helmet, at speeds he should avoid. The Harley spins out, the young man is ejected from its seat, and “on his own skull his violence descends.”

“He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole he has made.”

I think of the older man (approximately 35 – 65) who schemes at his place of employment to defraud, embezzle, hide funds who later “falls into the hole that he has made.”

Sometimes, wickedness is synonymous with evil.

“Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies.”

True, premeditated wickedness is hard for me to even imagine. The woman who schemes in advance to murder her elderly husband for an early inheritance. The young couple who defraud a home buyer by covering up serious issues such as a poor foundation or black mold. This sort of evil is akin to a bad movie script, not reality. Yet, there are people who plan to commit wickedness.

“I will give to the Lord the thanks due to His righteousness, and I will sing praise to the Name of the Lord, the Most High.” (Psalm 7: 17)

“The Lord’s Purpose Prevails” (Proverbs 19: 20 – 21, NIV) by Carley Evans

“Listen to advice.”

“Accept instruction.”

God says that if you listen to advice and accept instruction from others, “in the end you will be wise.”

You may have many plans in your heart, “but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you, bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3: 3 – 6)

God’s purpose prevails; as you acknowledge Him, He makes your paths straight.

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” (Proverbs 2: 7)

Wisdom is “more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of [wisdom] will be blessed.” (Proverbs 3: 15 – 18)

God’s purpose prevails; as you fear Him, He makes your paths pleasant and peaceful.

“You will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble.” (Proverbs 3: 23)

“Should Not Shepherds Feed His Sheep?” (Ezekiel 34: 2, ESV) by Carley Evans

“Should not shepherds feed the sheep?” asks God. “The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought.” (Ezekiel 34: 3)

After breakfast, Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love Me more than these?” When Peter says that he does; Jesus commands, “Feed My lambs.” (John 21: 15) He asks Peter again if he loves Him. And Peter replies, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” Jesus tells Peter: “Tend My sheep.” (John 21: 16) A third time, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him. Here Peter is hurt. Peter responds, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.” Jesus says, “Feed My sheep. Follow Me.” (John 21: 17, 19)

Paul writes to Timothy, “From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3: 15)

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3: 16)

Paul tells Timothy to “preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort WITH COMPLETE PATIENCE and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4: 2)

“The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden form His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4: 12 – 13)

Peter says to Jesus, “Lord, You know everything.”

Jesus says, “Feed My sheep. Follow Me.”