September 17 – You Saw Me Before I Was Born

Psalm 139: 13 – 18; 23 – 24  NLT

13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.

17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
    They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
    you are still with me!  …

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

If ever there was a statement about how wrong abortion is, this is it. Reread those verses and think about God watching you from the moment you were conceived. No matter who you are, no matter what your body looks like, no matter how your mind works – “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.”

In our culture, excellence is promoted everywhere.  You want to be the best in your class, you want to be a good athlete, you want promotions at work, you want …  You want to be regarded as successful. 

But God knows you exactly how you are – imperfections and all. He knew you right from the beginning. And this is what he thought about you:

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
    They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!

What can we give back to God for His amazing love and care?

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Our song for today is He Gave Me You by Stephanie Marshburn and Don Gaskins.

September 16 – Lord, You Know Everything About Me

Psalm 139: 1 – 12  NLT

For the choir director: A psalm of David.

O Lord, you have examined my heart
    and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
    You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
    and when I rest at home.
    You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
    even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!

I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
12     but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.

Isn’t that a love letter from God to you? God knows you intimately. He knows absolutely everything about you. “You have examined my heart and know everything about me.”  Just read those first 6 verses again and soak them in. 

God knows where you are whether you are resting or standing up. He knows when you are on the road and when you are at home. He knows your thoughts – even what you are going to say before you actually say it. Isn’t that incredible? In some ways, you may find it rather frightening that someone knows you that well. We know we’re not perfect and have a tendency to make mistakes, so maybe we’d rather God didn’t know about it. Yet David also says, 

You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Even with His knowledge of that flawed you, God wants to bless you. 

In the next verses, David talks about God knowing you in more difficult moments. In the first verses he talks about God’s presence in everyday situations. But now, David talks about those moments when we are excited beyond belief – “If I ride the wings of the morning”, you are there. God is aware when we are facing painful moments – “If I dwell by the farthest oceans” or “If I go down to the grave’. What will God do for me in those challenging moments?

“even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me”  (v. 10)

Spend some time today thinking about how God knows you completely, and loves you totally. 

“Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!”

But, give it a try. As we try to comprehend how much God loves and accepts us, it makes life so much worthwhile.

Our song for today is He Knows by Jeremy Camp.

September 15 – I am Counting on the Lord

Psalm 130

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.

From the depths of despair, O Lord,
    I call for your help.
Hear my cry, O Lord.
    Pay attention to my prayer.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
    who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
    that we might learn to fear you.

I am counting on the Lord;
    yes, I am counting on him.
    I have put my hope in his word.
I long for the Lord
    more than sentries long for the dawn,
    yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
    for with the Lord there is unfailing love.
    His redemption overflows.
He himself will redeem Israel
    from every kind of sin.

I wish I hadn’t ….   I’ve messed up so much ….  I try to do good things, go to church regularly, give money to worthy causes, but have I done enough for God to forgive me ….  

When this psalm was written, Jesus hadn’t come to earth, died and risen from the dead. Yet even back then, this psalmist realized that God was a forgiving God. Today we know for sure that God listens when we call on him for forgiveness. The Book of Hebrews was written for Jewish believers who still were trying to figure out what had happened to the Temple sacrifices for sin. What exactly did they need to be sure their sin was forgiven?

Hebrews 10: 19 – 23  NLT

19 And so, dear brothers and sisters,[a] we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By his death,[b] Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 

“God can be trusted to keep his promise.”  Or the psalmist says, 

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
    for with the Lord there is unfailing love.
    His redemption overflows.

Romans 8: 1 – 2  NLT

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.

If you struggle with wondering if you are good enough for God to accept you, you need to understand that He is a forgiving God. His love was so great that Jesus was willing to leave Heaven and come to earth to pay the penalty for what each one of us has done wrong. In accepting Jesus’ sacrifice for you, you are forgiven. A new day begins. 

Our song for today is Forgiven by Crowder

September 14 – God Wants to Build Your House

Psalm 127

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem. A psalm of Solomon.

Unless the Lord builds a house,
    the work of the builders is wasted.
Unless the Lord protects a city,
    guarding it with sentries will do no good.
It is useless for you to work so hard
    from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
    for God gives rest to his loved ones.

Children are a gift from the Lord;
    they are a reward from him.
Children born to a young man
    are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.
How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!
    He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.

Life is busy!  The kids are back in school.  You need to make sure they are up in the morning, dressed, eat breakfast, and get out the door to be in school on time. You need to get to work on time yourself. You and your wife/husband talk about who is taking which kid to which activity tonight – hockey practice, gymnastics, etc. You mom needs some help with a lamp that isn’t working even though she bought a new bulb. One of your friends asked if you could go for coffee; they need your help with a problem in their family. Tomorrow isn’t any less busy.

Where do you find that inner rest to cope with a busy life?

Unless the Lord builds a house,
    the work of the builders is wasted.

Aah. I need to be aware that I need God in my everyday life. I need to be asking for His advice in all my busy daily plans. It’s not just one more thing on my to-do list. It’s realizing that I need that time to be with the Lord to keep the rest of my day somewhat sane. As the pressures mount, and you get that cramped feeling in your gut caused by stress, it’s time to stop and remind yourself that God is with you. God is there wanting to keep you calm, wanting you to know that you are loved and special.

It is useless for you to work so hard
    from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
    for God gives rest to his loved ones.

Learn to stop in those moments of frenzy and say a prayer. Remind yourself that God is with you and helping you every day.

Our song for today is Be Still My Soul (In You I Rest) by Kari Jobe

September 13 – The LORD Himself Watches Over You

Psalm 121

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.

I look up to the mountains—
    does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;
    the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
    never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you!
    The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm
    and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
    both now and forever.

Do you ever feel quite alone? You might even be in a crowd of people, or at home with your family. But for some reason, you just feel alone. Maybe you’ve experienced a difficult situation at work, and you’re not sure how you should react. You wish there was someone you could talk with about the situation. Maybe you’re a young mom with little ones, and your husband’s work demands way too much of his time. You wish your mom lived in the same city so you had someone you could run to who would reassure you that you were doing a great job with the new baby. Perhaps your last child just moved out, and now you and your wife/husband are on your own for the first time in years. You suddenly realize that you’ve been so busy with work and family, that you don’t know how to spend evening after evening alone with each other. Ah, that empty nest.

This psalm reassures us that we are actually never alone. 

“The one who watches over you will not slumber.” …
“The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
    both now and forever.”

Isn’t that incredible!  God is watching over you every moment of the day and night. You are not alone! No matter what situation you are going through – he knows all about it. Read the psalm again, and as you read look for the words and phrases that reassure you that God is concerned about you. He is your protection. He is more than able to help you in any situation.

My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!

If you are struggling with feeling alone for any reason, pray this psalm. 

Our song for today is God Will Take of You sung by Lisa and Neil Rondina

September 10 – God’s’ Dwelling Place

Psalm 84

For the choir director: A psalm of the descendants of Korah, to be accompanied by a stringed instrument

How lovely is your dwelling place,
    O Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
I long, yes, I faint with longing
    to enter the courts of the Lord.
With my whole being, body and soul,
    I will shout joyfully to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
    and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young
at a place near your altar,
    O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God!
What joy for those who can live in your house,
    always singing your praises. Interlude

What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord,
    who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
When they walk through the Valley of Weeping,
    it will become a place of refreshing springs.
    The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.
They will continue to grow stronger,
    and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.

O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, hear my prayer.
    Listen, O God of Jacob. Interlude

O God, look with favor upon the king, our shield!
    Show favor to the one you have anointed.

10 A single day in your courts
    is better than a thousand anywhere else!
I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God
    than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is our sun and our shield.
    He gives us grace and glory.
The Lord will withhold no good thing
    from those who do what is right.
12 O Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
    what joy for those who trust in you.

The author of this psalm may not have been able to make the trip to Jerusalem for one of the usual celebrations each year. He “faints with longing to enter the courts of the Lord”. He’s rather jealous of the sparrows and swallows who can make their nests in the Temple. I think we all can actually say that we know exactly how he feels. Over this past year, we haven’t been able to attend church frequently. Or, when the churches are open, the number of people permitted is low, so many just stay home. We’ve been very fortunate to be able to “attend church” online. Some of us may even find it more relaxing to stay at home in front of the computer or TV. 

But nothing can actually replace worshipping together. There’s a strength that comes from being with other Jesus followers. “What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises. What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem” (v. 4, 5) “A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else!” (v. 10) We need those times of fellowship and praise.

Even this psalmist knows that being apart from other Christ followers is difficult. He talks about going through the “Valley of Weeping” as they set their minds on going to Jerusalem and the temple. But during these hard times, “the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory.”  (v. 11) It’s important in our lives now to keep our relationship with God strong personally. God, Himself, gives us the light (sun) we need to stay upbeat and positive. He alone is our protection (shield) in these challenging times.
We need that personal relationship, but we also need the stability and fortitude that comes from worshipping together. Let’s pray that this upcoming 4th wave of the pandemic isn’t bad enough to close our churches again.

Our song for today is One Day is Better by Matt Redman.

September 9 – Brilliance

Psalm 119: 97 – 105   NLT

Mem

97 Oh, how I love your instructions!
    I think about them all day long.
98 Your commands make me wiser than my enemies,
    for they are my constant guide.
99 Yes, I have more insight than my teachers,
    for I am always thinking of your laws.
100 I am even wiser than my elders,
    for I have kept your commandments.
101 I have refused to walk on any evil path,
    so that I may remain obedient to your word.
102 I haven’t turned away from your regulations,
    for you have taught me well.
103 How sweet your words taste to me;
    they are sweeter than honey.
104 Your commandments give me understanding;
    no wonder I hate every false way of life.

Nun

105 Your word is a lamp to guide my feet
    and a light for my path.

Want to be smart? Well, the writer of Psalm 119 has some advice. Knowing God’s laws have made him smarter than his enemies, his teachers, and his elders. That is actually quite amazing. 

As I look back over my life, can I say that I’m smarter than many of my teachers, my university professors, the administration of the Board of Education, my bosses in my various jobs? Can I say I was smarter than many of the older people who’ve given me advice over my life? Can I say I was smarter than those difficult people who’ve crossed my path who have been very successful financially and in positions of power?

If we’re talking about IQ, then likely not. Science News for Students, a computer website says, “IQ, short for intelligence quotient, is a measure of a person’s reasoning ability. In short, it is supposed to gauge how well someone can use information and logic to answer questions or make predictions. IQ tests begin to assess this by measuring short- and long-term memory. They also measure how well people can solve puzzles and recall information they’ve heard — and how quickly.” I wouldn’t want an IQ test these days. I suspect my IQ has taken a dive over my life-span. 

But, I don’t think the psalmist was talking about high intelligence when he wrote those verses.  He was talking about living well, living wisely with insight, making good decisions. Where do we get that? “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (v. 105) Honestly, do you believe that meditating on what God says will give you the wisdom you need to live well? 

“How sweet your words taste to me;
    they are sweeter than honey.
 Your commandments give me understanding;
    no wonder I hate every false way of life.” (v. 103 – 104)

Think about that. Maybe it’s time to get to know our Bibles well, to take God’s instructions seriously. With God’s help, living by his words just might make my life very special.

Our song for today is Word of God Speak by MercyMe. 

September 8 – Time

Psalm 119: 33 – 40  NLT 

He

33 Teach me your decrees, O Lord;
    I will keep them to the end.
34 Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions;
    I will put them into practice with all my heart.
35 Make me walk along the path of your commands,
    for that is where my happiness is found.
36 Give me an eagerness for your laws
    rather than a love for money!
37 Turn my eyes from worthless things,
    and give me life through your word.
38 Reassure me of your promise,
    made to those who fear you.
39 Help me abandon my shameful ways;
    for your regulations are good.
40 I long to obey your commandments!
    Renew my life with your goodness.

The words that jumped out to me as I read this section of Psalm 119 are:

“Give me an eagerness for your laws
    rather than a love for money!
 Turn my eyes from worthless things,
    and give me life through your word.”

I started thinking about the percentage of time in my life that I’ve devoted to “worthless things”. God created this amazing, beautiful world for us. I’m sure he wants us to enjoy it. I don’t think we have to spend every waking moment reading our Bibles and praying, or doing something good for others. I guess what strikes me the most when I read those verses is figuring out the amount of time spent in actually useless things.

How much time do I spend watching TV? How much time do I spend reading the crime, mystery stories I love? How much time do I spend cruising through stores, or browsing my computer? Again, none of those things are wrong, but do they take up huge chunks of my time? 

When I look at my life and remember the special moments with my family, at my job, in my church, or in pastimes such as gardening, decorating, music, or sewing … those are the moments when I’ve been at peace the most, the moments when I’ve connected with God, the moments when I’ve felt God was using me for his plans and purposes. 

So, I encourage you today to take a look at how you spend your time – and I’ll do the same. Let’s reread those 8 verses as we start to think.

Our song for today is Take My Life by Chris Tomlin.

September 7 – How Can a Young Person Stay Pure?

Psalm 119 is a long psalm divided into sections with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet; each section has 8 verses. Its emphasis is on God’s Word, how knowing God’s Word makes our lives special and helps us deal with the difficult things life throws at us. 

Psalm 119: 9 – 16  NLT

Beth

How can a young person stay pure?
    By obeying your word.
10 I have tried hard to find you—
    don’t let me wander from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against you.
12 I praise you, O Lord;
    teach me your decrees.
13 I have recited aloud
    all the regulations you have given us.
14 I have rejoiced in your laws
    as much as in riches.
15 I will study your commandments
    and reflect on your ways.
16 I will delight in your decrees
    and not forget your word.

It’s the first day of the new school year. Life changes as the streets fill with school buses in the mornings. Days become more scheduled as parents work around school times. Today, kids are on our minds more than many days of the year. 

“How can a young person stay pure?”  As a parent, that verse was something I worried about. I suspect most parents would be concerned about the same thing. We want the best for our kids. We don’t want them to pile up experiences that mess them up, things they will always regret. So, how can we help them learn to make those good decisions?

I have hidden your word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against you.

There is the key to living well – hiding God’s word in our hearts. It’s important for us personally since our relationship with God flourishes when we read and contemplate what He says on a regular basis. 

How do we “hide God’s word in our children’s hearts”? Start at a very early age – when they first start finding books interesting. There are Christian books for toddlers they can start looking at when they are 1 year old. Preschoolers love reading stories and singing. If you’d like some advice on what is good to buy contact Megan Ditty who is in charge of Kids’ Cove (mditty@lsachurch.net). There are so many good Christian books and music out there for kids – and Megan can help you.

As your kids get older, it gets more complicated. Bringing them to Sunday School on a regular basis helps since they hear about God from someone other than you. Our youth program starts at grade 6 – one night of the week that’s loaded with fun and helps them keep learning about God. LSA’s programs for kids/young adults go from grade 6 right up to age 26. (Chaos, Strive and ReGEN) Encourage your kids to stay involved. If you have questions about those programs contact Shane Davis, our Youth Pastor. (sdavis@laschurch.net).

At home, find a time several days of the week to have a family devotions time. It might be right after supper, right before bed – whenever it works for your family schedule. Read the Bible and pray together. When they are young, read Bible story books so they learn the major stories of the Bible. As they get older, read the Bible itself. Get ready to discuss lots of difficult questions. Let them know they can question their faith. Be open and honest with them as they try to figure out what being a child of God means.

“How can a young person stay pure?”

“I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

Our song for today is Sing Hosanna – My God is So Big by Bible Songs for Kids.

September 6 – Labour Day

Colossians 3: 23  NLT

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”

Labour Day in Canada began in 1872 as a celebration of workers’ rights that had been put into law after a printers’ strike in Toronto. Today, union leaders often make speeches on that day outlining what they think needs to change to protect workers. But for most people, it confirms the end of summer and the beginning of the new school year. It’s the last day for rest and fun before ‘work’ becomes a way of life for all ages.

Labour Day celebrates the many benefits that workers have fought for over the years.  I remember the many strikes by secondary school teachers in the 1970’s. Those strikes nailed down pay raises, and the number of classes each teacher was responsible for They also nailed down the necessary qualifications that teachers needed to teach a course and the size of the classes. Those were all things that made life easier for teachers, and actually better for students. But I also remember the strikes at the auto plants. Those strikes made the working conditions much safer. So, we can celebrate those advances in workplaces that demonstrate the importance of workers. This world couldn’t function without all the hard work of the people.

Now, look at Colossians 3: 23 – “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Honestly, how many days did I go into work with the mindset that what I would do that day, I was doing for Jesus? Not much.  And I suspect that might be true of you too. 

But stop and think for a moment. If every day as you parked your car at your workplace, you prayed before you got out – Please, Lord, help me to think of you today as I make decisions, as I work. Help me to do whatever is expected of me today the way I would want to do it for you.” Would that change your day, your attitude?  I know it would mine. 

Have fun today. Rest and enjoy your family. But tomorrow … stick Colossians 3: 23 on your bathroom mirror, or in your car, and pray as you start your work day. Lord, help me to work willingly at whatever comes up today aware that you are right there with me. I want my work to reflect you to my co-workers. 

Amen

Our song for today is Lifesong by Casting Crowns.

September 3 – God Cares Even When Things are Hard

Psalm 94

O Lord, the God of vengeance,
    O God of vengeance, let your glorious justice shine forth!
Arise, O Judge of the earth.
    Give the proud what they deserve.
How long, O Lord?
    How long will the wicked be allowed to gloat?
How long will they speak with arrogance?
    How long will these evil people boast?
They crush your people, Lord,
    hurting those you claim as your own.
They kill widows and foreigners
    and murder orphans.
“The Lord isn’t looking,” they say,
    “and besides, the God of Israel doesn’t care.”

Think again, you fools!
    When will you finally catch on?
Is he deaf—the one who made your ears?
    Is he blind—the one who formed your eyes?
10 He punishes the nations—won’t he also punish you?
    He knows everything—doesn’t he also know what you are doing?
11 The Lord knows people’s thoughts;
    he knows they are worthless!

12 Joyful are those you discipline, Lord,
    those you teach with your instructions.
13 You give them relief from troubled times
    until a pit is dug to capture the wicked.
14 The Lord will not reject his people;
    he will not abandon his special possession.
15 Judgment will again be founded on justice,
    and those with virtuous hearts will pursue it.

16 Who will protect me from the wicked?
    Who will stand up for me against evildoers?
17 Unless the Lord had helped me,
    I would soon have settled in the silence of the grave.
18 I cried out, “I am slipping!”
    but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me.
19 When doubts filled my mind,
    your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.

20 Can unjust leaders claim that God is on their side—
    leaders whose decrees permit injustice?
21 They gang up against the righteous
    and condemn the innocent to death.
22 But the Lord is my fortress;
    my God is the mighty rock where I hide.
23 God will turn the sins of evil people back on them.
    He will destroy them for their sins.
    The Lord our God will destroy them.

This psalm was likely written during the reign of Manasseh who reigned for 55 years and reintroduced the worship of Baal after Hezekiah had destroyed all the altars of Baal. (2 Kings 21) It was a time when followers of God felt they were being mistreated and pushed aside by an evil government. There are times today when Christ followers wonder if things will get more difficult as our culture turns its back on Christianity. 

The first 7 verses reflect the despair of the people wondering if God cares. Can he see what is going on and if so, why isn’t he doing something about it? Verses 8 to 11 remind us that God does know what is going on in our world. I love the wording in verse 9: 

“Is he deaf—the one who made your ears?

 Is he blind—the one who formed your eyes?”

No, God is acutely aware of what is happening to you, to me, to everyone. “The Lord knows people’s thoughts.” (v. 11)   There will be a time when God will judge people, but right now, he is patiently waiting. “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent”.  (2 Peter 3: 9)

As we look around our world today, a lot of frightening things are happening. We might be nervous about what the future holds. This psalm gives us some insight on how to deal with those troublesome things we have to face. First, we need to realize that God can use difficult things to teach us and grow us in our relationship with him. “Joyful are those you discipline, Lord, those you teach with your instructions”. (v. 12) Think back over your own life. When have you experienced tough times that grew your faith? I’ve mentioned in other devotions how my time of depression grew my faith. Living with my husband’s serious health issues for several years made us dependent on God’s strength. Getting a job that was challenging and turned out to be exciting also made me realize God was watching over me. 

During those moments of panic, we also need to remind ourselves that God “has our backs”. We can do that by reading verses like these:

18 I cried out, “I am slipping!”
    but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me.

19 When doubts filled my mind,
    your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.

22 But the Lord is my fortress;
    my God is the mighty rock where I hide.

So, if you have moments of doubt, wondering if God knows the hard time you are facing. If you have moments when you feel overwhelmed. If you have moments when you feel prejudice because of your Christian faith. Believe what the Bible tells you about God. Write some reassuring verses on a paper and put it where you can see it. Know that God is teaching you and supporting you as you grow closer to Him.

Our song for today is Raise a Hallelujah by Bethel Music

September 2 – God’s Unfailing Love

Psalm 103: 7 – 18

He revealed his character to Moses
    and his deeds to the people of Israel.
The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
    slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
    nor remain angry forever.
10 He does not punish us for all our sins;
    he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
    is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
12 He has removed our sins as far from us
    as the east is from the west.
13 The Lord is like a father to his children,
    tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
14 For he knows how weak we are;
    he remembers we are only dust.
15 Our days on earth are like grass;
    like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
16 The wind blows, and we are gone—
    as though we had never been here.
17 But the love of the Lord remains forever
    with those who fear him.
His salvation extends to the children’s children
18     of those who are faithful to his covenant,
    of those who obey his commandments!

These center verses of Psalm 103 are so comforting. On those days when it feels like everything is too hard, or too depressing, or just too mixed up – we can know for sure:

“The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
    slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.”

“For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
    is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.”

“The Lord is like a father to his children,
    tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
For he knows how weak we are.”

Isn’t that amazing! He knows you intimately. He knows when you fail. He knows when you are sad. He knows when you are confused. He knows when you are frustrated. He knows when you wish you had done something better. 

God is willing to be patient with you. He is not waiting for you to fail and punish you. He is not like us sometimes when we yell at our kids because they make us so frustrated and angry. He is “compassionate and merciful, and filled with unfailing love.” He is willing to forgive us and “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west”. Just stop and think. Every day is a new day – a day when we can start the day with asking him to forgive the mess that was yesterday and know that we have a clean slate. 

Some of us really struggle with past sin. We tend to face the future knowing we messed up in the past. We’re afraid we’ll do it again. Or, we’re afraid our mistakes of the past make us ineffective now. If you have a tendency to compare yourself with others, and let your past shadow the present and future, read these verses again.  In fact, place these verses somewhere where you can see them every day. You are forgiven, loved and treasured!

Our song for today is Here in His Presence by Elevation Worship.

September 1 – Bless the Lord, O My Soul

Psalm 103: 1 – 6 and 19 – 22

A psalm of David.

Let all that I am praise the Lord;
    with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Let all that I am praise the Lord;
    may I never forget the good things he does for me.
He forgives all my sins
    and heals all my diseases.
He redeems me from death
    and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
He fills my life with good things.
    My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!

The Lord gives righteousness
    and justice to all who are treated unfairly. …

19 The Lord has made the heavens his throne;
    from there he rules over everything.

20 Praise the Lord, you angels,
    you mighty ones who carry out his plans,
    listening for each of his commands.
21 Yes, praise the Lord, you armies of angels
    who serve him and do his will!
22 Praise the Lord, everything he has created,
    everything in all his kingdom.

Let all that I am praise the Lord.

Psalm 103 is one of my favourite psalms and we’ll be looking at it over 2 days. Maybe it’s because of a year and a half of Covid, but I’ve discovered that I tend to look more on the down side of things these days. As I read the paper or watch the news on TV, I wonder how much the 4th wave of the pandemic is going to prolong this strange “stay at home” life we have. To reassure you, I’m not depressed, just not bubbling over with joy at what might happen today.

Then I read Psalm 103. 

What can I be excited about? “Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.”  What are some of the things God has done for me, for you?

“He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.”  I am forgiven – forgiven for all the deliberate sins I’ve committed and all the ‘mistakes’ I’ve made. God assures me of that in 1 John 1: 9: “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” 

But he also has healed “all my diseases”. That word “disease” doesn’t necessarily mean a physical one. It can also refer to our attitude and faulty thinking. In our fallen world, there are physical diseases that can cause suffering and even death. They don’t go away. Sometimes God does step in to this world and heals physical disease. I experienced that when my husband lived for 8 more years after the doctors told him he had 2 weeks to live. But until we meet God in heaven, our bodies will get sick and die.

 But God also brings things into our lives to heal the disease of our sinful, fallen nature. Think of all the times you’ve realized you had a bad attitude, or you figured out you were being too proud, or you had a tendency to ‘stretch the truth’. You discovered you were too much of a controller, or you get angry too quickly. God sends those people or situations into our lives to help us realize we need him to help us change.

“He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.” We are so blessed to know that is definitely true, since Jesus came to earth, died and rose again. 1 Thessalonians 4: 14 – 18 says:

“For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.

15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died.[a] 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died[b] will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. 18 So encourage each other with these words.”

We have that wonderful assurance that death is not the end. God “crowns me with love and tender mercies” during this life and in my life to come. “He fills my life with good things.” (v. 5) Difficult things will happen, but God is with me. So we agree with the psalmist, David and repeat these words:

19 The Lord has made the heavens his throne;
    from there he rules over everything.

20 Praise the Lord, you angels,
    you mighty ones who carry out his plans,
    listening for each of his commands.
21 Yes, praise the Lord, you armies of angels
    who serve him and do his will!
22 Praise the Lord, everything he has created,
    everything in all his kingdom.

Let all that I am praise the Lord.

Our song for today is How He Loves by David Crowder Band.

August 31 – How Am I Doing These Days?

O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.  (Micah 6: 8)

That verse strikes me as a condensed version of what God expects of me. It is similar to what Jesus said: ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22: 37 – 39)

In Psalm 101, David expresses his desire to live in a way that pleases God. He gives some very explicit statements about what we need to do. 

Psalm 101

I will sing of your love and justice, Lord.
    I will praise you with songs.
I will be careful to live a blameless life—
    when will you come to help me?
I will lead a life of integrity
    in my own home.
I will refuse to look at
    anything vile and vulgar.
I hate all who deal crookedly;
    I will have nothing to do with them.
I will reject perverse ideas
    and stay away from every evil.
I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors.
    I will not endure conceit and pride.

I will search for faithful people
    to be my companions.
Only those who are above reproach
    will be allowed to serve me.
I will not allow deceivers to serve in my house,
    and liars will not stay in my presence.
My daily task will be to ferret out the wicked
    and free the city of the Lord from their grip.

Notice that David starts with his commitment to God. “I will sing of your love and justice, Lord. I will praise you with songs.” And that’s where we start too. We acknowledge God’s power over our world, and also his love for us – for you, for me. In our everyday lives, we want to show those around us that our relationship with God changes the way we interact with everyone.

“I will lead a life of integrity in my own home.” What a start! I will be honest with my husband/wife and my children. I won’t try to hide where I go, what I spend my money on, how I spend my time … 

“I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar.” What books and magazines are in my home? What do I watch on TV? What movies do I watch?

“I hate all who deal crookedly; I will have nothing to do with them.” Am I careful and honest in all my business dealings?

“I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. I will not endure conceit and pride.” No gossiping. I need to watch my attitude. Do I have a tendency to think that I’m doing better than others? That I’m right most of the time?

“I will search for faithful people to be my companions.” Who are my closest friends? Do I get my advice and help from people who love God?

As I’m reading through the psalms looking for ones for the devotions, I tend to skip over ones like Psalm 101. They’re kind of “ouchy”. But actually, sometimes I need to take a look at my life and figure out if I’m living the way God wants me to. It’s hard, but necessary.

Our song for today is Word of God Speak by Mercy Me.

August 30 – Praise!

Psalms of Praise

Today, I’m doing something different. I’ve chosen verses from several psalms that praise God, that show how mighty and creative He is. I love the imagery some lines have – “Let the rivers clap their hands in glee!” I’ve never thought about rivers clapping, but then I think of the roar of Niagara Falls. So, as you read today, soak in the words, the comparisons. Try to actually picture in your mind what those words say.

Psalm 95

Come, let us sing to the Lord!
    Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come to him with thanksgiving.
    Let us sing psalms of praise to him.
For the Lord is a great God,
    a great King above all gods.
He holds in his hands the depths of the earth
    and the mightiest mountains.
The sea belongs to him, for he made it.
    His hands formed the dry land, too.

Psalm 96

11 Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice!
    Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!
12 Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy!
    Let the trees of the forest sing for joy

Psalm 97

The Lord is king!
    Let the earth rejoice!
    Let the farthest coastlands be glad.
Dark clouds surround him.
    Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire spreads ahead of him
    and burns up all his foes.
His lightning flashes out across the world.
    The earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
    before the Lord of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his righteousness;
    every nation sees his glory.

Psalm 98

Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!
    Let the earth and all living things join in.
Let the rivers clap their hands in glee!
    Let the hills sing out their songs of joy

We’ll finish with the complete Psalm 100.

Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!
    Worship the Lord with gladness.
    Come before him, singing with joy.
Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
    He made us, and we are his.
    We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
    go into his courts with praise.
    Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good.
    His unfailing love continues forever,
    and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

As you go about your day today, try thinking up creative phrases to praise God. God you are ….         So often, my prayers are full of requests, of expressing what I’m worried and concerned about, etc.  I suspect my day would be much brighter if I spent some time praising God and thinking up special words and phrases to describe my awe of him. 

Give it a try.

Our song for today is God of Creation (100 Billion X) by Hillsong

August 27 – God Speaks to You

Psalm 91: 9 – 16   NLT

If you make the Lord your refuge,
    if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
    no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
    to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
    you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.”

When I write the devotions, I often use the lectio divina method of trying to decide what to write. Sometimes, especially when we’re going through a book of the Bible, the devotions are more like a study as we also look at the circumstances surrounding the verses, and check other Bible passages to make sure we are clear of what is being said. But even on those days, I often pray about the words and phrases that stand out to me. What is God saying to me about my life? Then I often decide that what he is saying to me is helpful for anyone … so I write.

But God talks to you too. God wants a personal close relationship with you. So today, I’m not going to write what he is saying to me. I want you to use the lectio divina method of looking at our verses today. Remember … 

First of all, you quiet yourself with prayer, asking God to speak to you as you read.

Then you read these verses again. As you read, concentrate on what the verses are saying. You are just trying to get a general idea of what is said. Read them slowly again, and see if a word or phrase stands out to you. 

Take some time to think about that word or phrase. What thoughts does it bring to mind? It can be a variety of thoughts and feelings. Mull them over as you think about your life and experiences.

Pray again, asking God to show you what he wants to say to you today as a result of those verses, word or phrase. It might be something you realize you should do.. It might be an attitude of yours that needs adjusting. It might be a personal reassurance from God.

Then spend some time in prayer asking God to be with you as your day unfolds, as you try to live the way he is leading you. 

Are you willing to share what God placed in your mind today? What thought really “jumped out” at you?

Our song for today is Living Word by Jeremy Camp.

August 26 – How Can I Read My Bible Effectively?

Psalm 91: 1 – 8  NLT

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
    nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side,
    though ten thousand are dying around you,
    these evils will not touch you.
Just open your eyes,
    and see how the wicked are punished.

Today, I want to introduce you to lectio divina.  I first became aware of this practice at the LSA women’s retreats many years ago. Like prayer examen, this practice helps you to have a closer relationship with God. What is lectio divina? It’s a way of reading scripture and applying it to your personal life and behaviour.

First of all, you quiet yourself with prayer, asking God to speak to you as you read.

First, you read the verses you’ve chosen for the day. As you read, concentrate on what the verses are saying. You are just trying to get a general idea of what is said. Next, you read them slowly, and see if a word or phrase stands out to you. 

Take some time to think about that word or phrase. What thoughts does it bring to mind? It can be a variety of thoughts and feelings. Mull them over as you think about your life and experiences.

Pray again, asking God to show you what he wants to say to you today as a result of those verses, word or phrase. It might be something you realize you should do. It might be an attitude of yours that needs adjusting. It might be a personal reassurance from God.

Then spend some time in prayer asking God to be with you as your day unfolds, as you try to live the way he is leading you. 

Let’s try this now. You’ve already read the verses from Psalm 91 and have caught the general idea of the verses – so you have already taken one of the first steps in lectio divina. As you read this time, look for words or phrases that stand out to you. Choose one(s) that strikes you the most.

Take some time to pray and ponder over what you’ve chosen. What thoughts and memories do those words bring to your mind?

Pray again and ask God where he is leading you as a result of this. 

Here is an example of how I used lectio divina in Psalm 91. 

The words that jumped out at me are “He will cover you with his feathers” and “His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”  Feathers – armor – protection. Feathers are so light; you can hold one and not feel any weight at all. They belong to birds, some of the smallest creatures. When I watch the gold finches at the feeders in my backyard, I notice they will take flight at the tiniest noise, the moment they sense the presence of another bird arriving. They are so sensitive and appear nervous about their safety. 

Yet that word “armor” is a strong word. I think of steel and iron – strong metals. It’s heavy and clumsy to wear, but it does protect you. Any arrows or bullets will just go “ping” off its surface. God promises he will cover me with his feathers, but he also promises me protection like armor gives. Hmm …

There are so many promises in the Bible of God’s love and faithfulness. There are certainly enough promises to cover my life completely. I often read them and go “oh, yeah” inside my head, and then continue to worry and fret over what’s happening that day. Those “feathers” are my “armor”. I need to stop worrying and turn the situation over to God. I need to pray through my day today, and ask God for his leading when I start stressing. I need to comprehend and accept that his promises are my armor and protection. 

Our song for today is Draw Me Close by Michael W. Smith

August 25 – Sturdy Tree or Windblown Dust?

Psalm 1

The Message

How well God must like you—
    you don’t walk in the ruts of those blind-as-bats,
    you don’t stand with the good-for-nothings,
    you don’t take your seat among the know-it-alls.

2-3 Instead you thrill to God’s Word,
    you chew on Scripture day and night.
You’re a tree replanted in Eden,
    bearing fresh fruit every month,
Never dropping a leaf,
    always in blossom.

4-5 You’re not at all like the wicked,
    who are mere windblown dust—
Without defense in court,
    unfit company for innocent people.

God charts the road you take.
The road they take leads to nowhere.

New Living Translation

Oh, the joys of those who do not
    follow the advice of the wicked,
    or stand around with sinners,
    or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
    meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
    bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
    and they prosper in all they do.

But not the wicked!
    They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
    Sinners will have no place among the godly.
For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
    but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.

Read the psalm carefully two or three times.  Before you read my reflections, stop and think about what in this psalm strikes you today.  Which words or phrases stood out to you?  Make sure you stop and read this psalm again now.

Psalm One outlines two choices or decisions I can make as a Christ follower. Am I aligned with God, or with those who ignore God?  Where are my priorities? The contrasting pictures given in this psalm contain a clear message for me.

Am I a flourishing tree, or am I windborne dust and plant debris?

Something that strikes me when I read this psalm is the delight in knowing God and in reading the Bible; being in God’s Word is the source of “success”. The person who delights in Scripture is like a tree firmly planted by water which produces fruit at the right time. This tree is prospering; it’s evident by the lush foliage. At times in my life when I feel frustrated and adrift in a thousand things I need to be doing, I realize that I have not taken time to meditate in God’s Word. The business of life has taken over quiet times with Him, and I have lost His presence and leading in my daily activities. After many years of walking with God, you’d think I’d learn my lesson, but thankfully, God’s Spirit keeps nudging me to get back on track.

The tree in Psalm One is “firmly planted”; it’s no accident.  When you accepted Jesus as your personal sacrifice for sin and turned your life over to God’s leading, you were firmly planted by God in His family. (But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to them who believe on His name – John 1: 12)  Like the tree with its water source nearby, you belong to Him with your “water source”, the Scripture, to help keep you thriving.  

When I designed the gardens around my home, I thought carefully about which plants to choose, which colours I wanted, and how to place the plants for the best visual results.  None of my garden plants were accidentally placed.  I considered how much space each plant needed for its optimum growth, and which location would give it a place to be noticed.  When I think of God planting my life, I also think that He has placed me where He thinks I can flourish and grow best. Sometimes those placements have been easy ones – working at a job I loved, volunteering in places where I was needed.  But sometimes those placements were very difficult – a very challenging job, facing life-threatening illnesses with my husband.  Yet in looking back, I can say God planted my life in places that helped me flourish; they were no accident.   

When I read words like wicked, sinner, and scoffer, I think of terrible people – people who would indulge in all kinds of morally depraved behaviour. Certainly not me!  Yet I also realize that the Bible makes it clear that there are essentially two positions a person can take – you are for God or against Him. You can’t have it both ways. When I look at the first verse of this psalm, I realize it is talking about people who are against God. They can be nice people by our culture’s standards, but they do not acknowledge the leadership of God in their lives. If my life is shaped by their standards, advice, and lifestyle, I will be like the chaff which the wind drives away. What a picture of a useless life!  Yet so often, if we are honest, we have to admit our days are filled with work-related activities, chatting with our fellow employees or neighbours, watching TV, social events – you name it. We can be completely submerged in our secular culture with hardly a thought of God crossing our minds. I realize that if I let that pattern of living chart the course of my life, I will be like the people I denounce so casually when reading verses one and four.

Meditating and delighting in God’s Word is essential to a purposeful and thriving life. God is calling us to a relationship with Him, and He will provide what we need to be a “thriving tree”.  One of the biggest challenges is to find the time to do that.  I challenge you to figure out a way to grow your relationship with God by reading and thinking about His Word – praying.  I’m sure some of you have figured out a way to do that.  Perhaps you would be willing to share with all of us the way you’ve discovered to find time with God.

Our song for today is Word of God Speak by MercyMe.

August 24 – God Helps in Hard Times

Psalm 4

Answer me when I call to you,
    O God who declares me innocent.
Free me from my troubles.
    Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

How long will you people ruin my reputation?
    How long will you make groundless accusations?
    How long will you continue your lies? Interlude
You can be sure of this:
    The Lord set apart the godly for himself.
    The Lord will answer when I call to him.

Don’t sin by letting anger control you.
    Think about it overnight and remain silent. Interlude
Offer sacrifices in the right spirit,
    and trust the Lord.

Many people say, “Who will show us better times?”
    Let your face smile on us, Lord.
You have given me greater joy
    than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine.
In peace I will lie down and sleep,
    for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.

This psalm was likely written when David was dealing with his son Absalom’s rebellion and attempted take-over of Israel. Can you imagine what a situation like that would be like? If your child did something to completely upset you in some major way? You would be so angry. You’ve tried your best to raise that child and get him/her what they’ve needed to live well? How could they do this? You’d even be sad and depressed in the middle of your anger.

Notice in the middle of his anger, David also trusts God in this situation. He wonders how long this mess will go on, but … “You can be sure of this: The Lord set apart the godly for himself. The Lord will answer when I call to him.” He understands that God is the source of his peace and security. “You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine.  In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.” 

David even takes a moment to reflect on his own response to this difficult situation. He knows he’s angry, but also knows he can’t let that anger control him. He tells himself to think about it for a while – over night for sure. In the meantime, he needs to keep quiet. Keep his mouth shut. He needs to trust the Lord. (v. 4 – 5)

As we look at this psalm, I also want you to think back to yesterday’s devotions on the prayer of examen – that prayer where you go back over your day and think about what happened, what your response was, and if you experienced God’s presence in that day. As we read various psalms, we see David thinking about what is going on in his life, and where God fits in. Do you do that? Do I do that?

I read about prayer of examen a few weeks ago, and I’ve been trying to do that in my early morning walks. Life, in general, brings difficult moments along with wonderful times. In reflecting over special moments and how God has blessed me, I’ve sensed more peace in my life. In thinking about difficult situations and how I handled them, I’ve also realized I’m depending on God’s leading much more than I used to. 

I encourage you to try the prayer of examen on a regular basis for a while. Take a deep breath and start going over your day. Look for the bright moments, look for the harder moments. Take a longer look at just one of those moments that seems to stand out. Ask God to show you what he wants you to learn from that. Praise God for his love and faithfulness.

Our song for today is Pray by Sanctus Real.

August 23 – Prayer

Before you read today’s psalm, notice that some words are in regular print; some are in italics. The words in the regular print are David’s pleas for God’s help. The ones in italics are words of belief and confidence in God. 

Psalm 86

Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer;
    answer me, for I need your help.
Protect me, for I am devoted to you.
    Save me, for I serve you and trust you.
    You are my God.
Be merciful to me, O Lord,
    for I am calling on you constantly.
Give me happiness, O Lord,
    for I give myself to you.
O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive,
    so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.
Listen closely to my prayer, O Lord;
    hear my urgent cry.
I will call to you whenever I’m in trouble,
    and you will answer me.

No pagan god is like you, O Lord.
    None can do what you do!
All the nations you made
    will come and bow before you, Lord;
    they will praise your holy name.
10 For you are great and perform wonderful deeds.
    You alone are God.

11 Teach me your ways, O Lord,
    that I may live according to your truth!
Grant me purity of heart,
    so that I may honor you.
12 With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God.
    I will give glory to your name forever,
13 for your love for me is very great.
    You have rescued me from the depths of death.

14 O God, insolent people rise up against me;
    a violent gang is trying to kill me.
    You mean nothing to them.
15 But you, O Lord,
    are a God of compassion and mercy,
slow to get angry
    and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
16 Look down and have mercy on me.
    Give your strength to your servant;
    save me, the son of your servant.
17 Send me a sign of your favor.
    Then those who hate me will be put to shame,
    for you, O Lord, help and comfort me.

Today, I want to introduce you to the “Prayer of Examen” developed by Ignatius of Loyola, a 15th Century priest who became the founder of the Jesuit Order of priests. In many ways, Psalm 86 reflects what a prayer of examen is. 

What is a prayer of examen? The information I’m giving you comes from the website jesuitresource.org. It is a daily reflective prayer that helps us be aware of the presence of God in all of our life. As you begin, take a deep breath and ask God to help you to know Him better and to see yourself as God sees you as you review the events of the day. This prayer is best in the morning as you reflect on the previous day, or at night as you go over your day.

You ask yourself: Where have I felt true joy? What has troubled me? What has challenged me? Have I noticed God’s presence in any of this? In response to what has come to mind, how should I respond to God? Should anything change as I face tomorrow?

Notice how David has several requests of God. In looking over his life, he knows he needs God desperately. He knows he’s under fire from enemies who would love to kill him. He trusts God, but he is also frightened. (Do you remember our pastor’s message on Psalm 42? Being frightened and anxious is human.) David is also aware that he flounders and messes up his life on his own. He knows he needs to live a purer life, a life that is more pleasing to God. David is asking for God’s help in many ways. I suspect that’s why he ends the psalm with “Lord, help and comfort me.”

But, David is also aware of God’s presence and power. As he prays for God’s help, he also realizes that God is with him. Just look at these statements:

O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive,
    so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help

I will call to you whenever I’m in trouble,
    and you will answer me.

For you are great and perform wonderful deeds.
    You alone are God.

for your love for me is very great.
    You have rescued me from the depths of death.

But you, O Lord,
    are a God of compassion and mercy,
slow to get angry
    and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness

As you look back over your day, or look ahead to what is coming – ask God for his help as you reflect on the things and events that have happened to you. Also look for God’s presence in your life, those moments when you felt secure and loved by him. Remind yourself about who God is. Concentrate on his care for you.

Our song for today is Lord, I Need You by Matt Maher.