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.

August 20 – God Can Help Me

Psalm 40: 1 – 8   NLT

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
    and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
    out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
    and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
    They will put their trust in the Lord.

Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord,
    who have no confidence in the proud
    or in those who worship idols.
O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
    Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
    You have no equal.
If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds,
    I would never come to the end of them.

You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings.
    Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand –
    you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.
Then I said, “Look, I have come.
    As is written about me in the Scriptures:
I take joy in doing your will, my God,
    for your instructions are written on my heart.”

David is thankful. He’s been through really hard times, and God has stayed right with him.

 He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
    out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
    and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
    a hymn of praise to our God.

David is struggling with depression, despair. What does he do? Where does he go? When I was in my thirties and early forties, I went through some years with depression and anxiety. It may have been triggered with post-partum depression, but there were also a lot of other things in my life that needed straightening out. I tended to have a list of high expectations for myself, and being at home with three young children demanding my time and energy was so frustrating. How can you ever get anything done? When I realized I needed help, I called my doctor and he started me on meds and referred me to a Christian counsellor. That started me on a new course as I began “lifting out of the pit of despair”. 

I had been raised in a Christian home, and had been active in my church throughout my life. I knew a lot about Christian doctrine and expectations, but what I learned through those hard years was I needed a personal, close relationship with God. God was the one who could reset my life on a new and better path. Like David, I learned not to depend on all the advice I got from people at work, from the latest social/psychology books on the market, people who had no relationship with God at all. I also realized that my help from God didn’t depend on the hard work I was doing. I didn’t have to live up to some high expectation for God to love me. Just like David – “You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings. Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand – you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.”

Instead:

He set my feet on solid ground
    and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
    a hymn of praise to our God.

Life always brings hard times. It is a good idea to look for help to get us through them. Sometimes just talking with friends or family helps us get perspective and encouragement. Sometimes medication and counselling are needed. But there is one foundation, solid rock that we definitely do need, and that’s our relationship with God. 

“O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
    Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
    You have no equal.” (v. 5)

“I take joy in doing your will, my God,
    for your instructions are written on my heart.” (v. 8)

Keeping that conversation with God going throughout each day helps give us that steady, solid ground to face whatever comes.

Our song for today is Rescue by Lauren Daigle.

August 19 – Be Still

Psalm 46     (NLT)

God is our refuge and strength,
    always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
    and the mountains crumble into the sea.
Let the oceans roar and foam.
    Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! 

 4 A river brings joy to the city of our God,
    the sacred home of the Most High.
God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
    From the very break of day, God will protect it.
The nations are in chaos,
    and their kingdoms crumble!
God’s voice thunders,
    and the earth melts!
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
    the God of Israel is our fortress. 

Come, see the glorious works of the Lord:
    See how he brings destruction upon the world.
He causes wars to end throughout the earth.
    He breaks the bow and snaps the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
    I will be honored by every nation.
    I will be honored throughout the world.”

11 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
    the God of Israel is our fortress. 

As Covid numbers begin to rise again, Psalm 46 is a good one to read.  We need to know that our God is in control and that we can get help from Him.  I love the first verse in this psalm: “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.”  That is a fact, and that is true.  But, how do we experience that strength?  Personally, I think verse 10 contains the answer.  “Be still, and know that I am God!”  There are times when we need to literally stop right where we are standing, and say out loud, “God, I know You are there, and You are willing to help me, so I’m taking a deep breath and waiting on You”.

I have that verse on a wall hanging in my bedroom.  It used to hang in the entranceway of the home where I raised my kids.  Both those locations are ones that I needed to have that verse located.  I needed to know as I came in my front door with arms loaded with stuff and kids whirling about my feet that I was coming home to a place where God lived as well.  Now as I wake and start each day, I need to be aware that God is with me in whatever comes my way that day.  I need to know that God is there and that He is all the wonderful things recounted in this psalm.

The words “be still” are translated a variety of ways depending on the version you read.  The King James Version says, “be still” and that seems to be the most popular one.  The NASB says “cease striving”.  It can also be translated ‘let go’ or ‘relax’.  One thing that stands out to me in all of those translations is the idea that I need to stop and get in touch with God.  There needs to be action on my part – my willingness to let go.  I don’t know about you, but I suspect that you may identify with me.  I do strive.  I do try my best to do all the things on my schedule. I do care that I’m doing a good job.  See that striving?  See that busyness?  See all that tension?  I need to stop that and consult God much more.  When things happen that mess up my plans (my strivings), I need to stop and know who is really in control.  

So that takes me back to verse 1. “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble”.  And to verse 10.  “Be still, and know that I am God!”

And that’s something to think about today.

Our song for today is Take Heart by Matthew West.

August 18 – Who Wins?

Psalm 37

(This psalm is a Hebrew acrostic poem; each stanza begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It’s a long psalm of 40 verses, but I’m going to shorten it for our daily devotions as I try to keep to the main ideas of the psalm.)

A psalm of David.

Don’t worry about the wicked
    or envy those who do wrong.
For like grass, they soon fade away.
    Like spring flowers, they soon wither.

Trust in the Lord and do good.
    Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Commit everything you do to the Lord.
    Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
    and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

Be still in the presence of the Lord,
    and wait patiently for him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
    or fret about their wicked schemes. …

12 The wicked plot against the godly;
    they snarl at them in defiance.
13 But the Lord just laughs,
    for he sees their day of judgment coming.

14 The wicked draw their swords
    and string their bows
to kill the poor and the oppressed,
    to slaughter those who do right.
15 But their swords will stab their own hearts,
    and their bows will be broken. …

23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.
24 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
    for the Lord holds them by the hand.

25 Once I was young, and now I am old.
    Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned
    or their children begging for bread.
26 The godly always give generous loans to others,
    and their children are a blessing. …

30 The godly offer good counsel;
    they teach right from wrong.
31 They have made God’s law their own,
    so they will never slip from his path.

32 The wicked wait in ambush for the godly,
    looking for an excuse to kill them.
33 But the Lord will not let the wicked succeed
    or let the godly be condemned when they are put on trial.

34 Put your hope in the Lord.
    Travel steadily along his path. …


39 The Lord rescues the godly;
    he is their fortress in times of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them,
    rescuing them from the wicked.
He saves them,
    and they find shelter in him.

Do you ever look around you and wonder ‘what the world is coming to’?  Do you wonder if the lines between good and bad seem to be very blurred these days? Do you think it’s hard to believe anything you hear anymore? Certainly, all the conflicting messages we’ve received during the pandemic haven’t helped reassure us that people know what they’re doing or saying. Do you sometimes think there are actually ‘bad people’ out there who seem to be flourishing? (That doesn’t seem fair.) Do you sometimes wonder if you stick to believing what the Bible says, you’ll be looked down on? People will think you are naïve and foolish? Well, David had those same thoughts. 

But David also realizes that when we start questioning whether those ‘anti-God’ people seem to be doing just fine, we need to know that God is in control. Things might be tough, but God is on our side. 

Let’s look back over the psalm and look at what being on God’s side actually looks like:

Trust in the Lord and do good.
    Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.


Commit everything you do to the Lord.
    Trust him, and he will help you.


Be still in the presence of the Lord,
    and wait patiently for him to act.


Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
    or fret about their wicked schemes. …

23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.
24 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
    for the Lord holds them by the hand.

30 The godly offer good counsel;
    they teach right from wrong.
31 They have made God’s law their own,
    so they will never slip from his path.

34 Put your hope in the Lord.
    Travel steadily along his path. …

Now, that’s a positive way of looking at our lives with God. Who wins? God does.

Our song for today is In Control by Hillsong.

August 17 – Praise

Psalm 33: 1 – 11; 20 – 22  NLT

Let the godly sing for joy to the Lord;
    it is fitting for the pure to praise him.
Praise the Lord with melodies on the lyre;
    make music for him on the ten-stringed harp.
Sing a new song of praise to him;
    play skillfully on the harp, and sing with joy.
For the word of the Lord holds true,
    and we can trust everything he does.
He loves whatever is just and good;
    the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth.

The Lord merely spoke,
    and the heavens were created.
He breathed the word,
    and all the stars were born.
He assigned the sea its boundaries
    and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs.
Let the whole world fear the Lord,
    and let everyone stand in awe of him.
For when he spoke, the world began!
    It appeared at his command.

10 The Lord frustrates the plans of the nations
    and thwarts all their schemes.
11 But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever;
    his intentions can never be shaken.  …

20 We put our hope in the Lord.
    He is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice,
    for we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord,
    for our hope is in you alone.

Sometimes, we just need to praise God. He is so powerful, so creative, so beyond our understanding. There are no words to describe him, although David certainly tries as he writes these psalms. I love the first three verses:

“Let the godly sing for joy to the Lord;
    it is fitting for the pure to praise him.
Praise the Lord with melodies on the lyre;
    make music for him on the ten-stringed harp.
Sing a new song of praise to him;
    play skillfully on the harp, and sing with joy.”

You can almost see David trying to figure out just what he can do to praise God. Sing! Play a musical instrument!

You may think you don’t have a great voice. In church, you sing quietly – or not at all, in case someone hears you. You don’t know how to play a musical instrument. But …

Right now, you’re likely at home – or maybe, by yourself in your car. You can sing all you want. You can talk out loud all you want. Praise God today. Don’t worry about all the things you want to ask him for, for the help you need from him.  Just praise him! Just enjoy knowing him!

Put a good CD on your player. Tune in to a Christian radio station and sing along. If you have Alexa or Siri, ask them to play some praise music. Go on your computer and look up ‘Christian music praising God’. You’ll find some websites you can click on that play music for over an hour.  

Figure out some way you can praise God and enjoy his presence today.

Our song for today is Praise My Soul the King of Heaven, a hymn written in 1834 by Henry Francis Lyte. It is sung by a British choir and posted on the BBC. 

August 16 – Please, Forgive Me

Psalm 32

Oh, what joy for those
    whose disobedience is forgiven,
    whose sin is put out of sight!
Yes, what joy for those
    whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,

 whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
When I refused to confess my sin,
    my body wasted away,
    and I groaned all day long.
Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
    My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Interlude

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
    and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”
    And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Interlude

Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time,
    that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment.
For you are my hiding place;
    you protect me from trouble.
    You surround me with songs of victory. Interlude

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
    I will advise you and watch over you.
Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
    that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”

10 Many sorrows come to the wicked,
    but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord.
11 So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him!
    Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!

Have you ever done something you’ve regretted a lot? Have you ever done something you absolutely knew was wrong, but you did it anyway? Is there something in your life that you have asked for forgiveness for – but it still bothers you? Those moments when you think, “If only I had …, Will I ever get over this? Is there any way to fix what I’ve done? If people really knew, they’d … .”

David understands how you feel. He did some things in his life, that if he had the chance, he definitely would do over again. Sometimes, we can dwell in the past too often. We let our mistakes, our sin, bog us down in the present. We think down deep that God can’t really use us now, that somehow, we have to continue doing penance.

David lived in Old Testament times, times before Jesus came and paid the price of our sin. Yet look what he says in this psalm. 

“Oh, what joy for those
    whose disobedience is forgiven,
    whose sin is put out of sight!
 Yes, what joy for those
    whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt.”

Even David realized that God is willing to forgive when we confess our sin to him. Even more so now, we have assurance that God does forgive. God wants us to admit to him what we’ve done wrong, but he also wants us to know that forgiveness, a new start is ours when we do. One of my favourite chapters in the Bible is Romans 8 – I know I quote it a lot in the devotions. It’s one of those chapters in the Bible that assures me that I am loved by God, that I am forgiven, that I don’t have to live under a cloud of my past, present or future sins. 

If you struggle with those feelings of guilt, of not being good enough – read what God says to you. 

Romans 8:

“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. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit” … (v. 1 – 4)

“But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature,[f] you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children[g] of God.

15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory’ … (v. 13 – 17)

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (v. 31 – 19)

Our song for today is Forgiven by Sanctus Real

August 13 – The Lord is My Light

Psalm 27: 1 – 6 and 14

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
    so why should I tremble?
When evil people come to devour me,
    when my enemies and foes attack me,
    they will stumble and fall.
Though a mighty army surrounds me,
    my heart will not be afraid.
Even if I am attacked,
    I will remain confident.

The one thing I ask of the Lord—
    the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
    delighting in the Lord’s perfections
    and meditating in his Temple.
For he will conceal me there when troubles come;
    he will hide me in his sanctuary.
    He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
Then I will hold my head high
    above my enemies who surround me.
At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy,
    singing and praising the Lord with music. …

14 Wait patiently for the Lord.
    Be brave and courageous.
    Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

In his online commentary, Warren Wiersbe says that this psalm was likely written when David was hiding from Saul. It was a time in David’s life that was difficult, full of danger. He wasn’t living at home, but rather in caves and forests. How do you survive in those frightening circumstances?

This past year has been a difficult one for all of us. Right now, we look forward to a more “normal” life, yet nervous about a possible fourth wave. Our country – and even our families – have been so divided over how to deal with this pandemic, over wearing masks, over vaccinations, over meeting despite restrictions. Some of us have lost jobs, or if we were in the medical field, had very stressful jobs.  … It’s been a hard year.

How did David deal with his fear, with his challenging life? 

The first thing I noticed was his confidence in God.  

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
    so why should I tremble?”

In spite of difficult circumstances, David was confident that God was with him. He was still in hiding and making sure Saul didn’t find him, but he knew God was on his side. 

But then I noticed that David also counted on his personal relationship with God. 

“The one thing I ask of the Lord—
    the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
    delighting in the Lord’s perfections
    and meditating in his Temple.”

How do we get that confidence that David had in God’s plans for him? He spent time with God. It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life – work, taking care of family and our homes, sports, volunteering, travelling … Time alone with God in prayer and reading the Bible is hard to find. Yet, it’s in those times that we develop the confidence we need to live well. 

So today, let’s think about our personal relationship with God. Am I taking the time to really connect with him so that I can honestly say, “The Lord is my light and my salvation”.

Our song for today is Be Still and Know by Steven Curtis Chapman

August 12 – Expectations

Psalm 24    (NLT)

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.
    The world and all its people belong to him.
For he laid the earth’s foundation on the seas
    and built it on the ocean depths.

Who may climb the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
Only those whose hands and hearts are pure,
    who do not worship idols
    and never tell lies.
They will receive the Lord’s blessing
    and have a right relationship with God their savior.
Such people may seek you
    and worship in your presence, O God of Jacob. Interlude

Open up, ancient gates!
    Open up, ancient doors,
    and let the King of glory enter.
Who is the King of glory?
    The Lord, strong and mighty;
    the Lord, invincible in battle.
Open up, ancient gates!
    Open up, ancient doors,
    and let the King of glory enter.
10 Who is the King of glory?
    The Lord of Heaven’s Armies—
    he is the King of glory. Interlude

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.
    The world and all its people belong to him.
For he laid the earth’s foundation on the seas
    and built it on the ocean depths” 

How often do you start a prayer or thoughts about God with praise? Throughout the day, a person or situation often comes to my mind, and I pray for them. Even when I take a specific time during the day to pray, I often start with my concerns and worries, my desperation to know God’s presence in my life. As I read this psalm in preparation for writing, it struck me how many times David begins his psalms with praise, psalms that are David’s prayers.  Right now, perhaps take a moment and praise God for something he has done. 

David goes on to say that he needs to meet some qualifications to have a “right relationship with God” (v. 5). He says, “Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies.” (v. 4) That makes me halt right there. I can’t say that my actions and emotions have always been pure. I can’t say I’ve never told a lie.  I am so thankful that I know for sure that I’ve been forgiven. I can’t thank God enough for sending Jesus to pay the penalty for my sin, your sin. 

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3: 16)

“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.” (1 John 1: 9)

Are you confident that you are God’s child? That you are forgiven? Or do you have a tendency to wonder if you haven’t really lived up to the qualifications you think are necessary for God to accept you? In watching the Olympics over the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen athletes who are amazingly qualified in comparison to most people in the world – everyone of them. Some were beyond excited when they won a medal; others were in tears because they didn’t make it. That notion that we have to live up to someone’s expectations – or even our own expectations – permeates our culture. 

As a follower of Jesus, I can get bogged down wondering if I’m good enough. Sometimes, I think that is what stops us when we sense God nudging us to step up and get involved in someone’s life, in a church activity, in a community project – whatever or wherever we feel that God can use us. We hesitate because we think we’re not good enough.  Or we are not sure God really loves us and will work through us, because maybe we are not good enough.  But we can come confidently before him because of what he has done for us. We can volunteer in those areas the Holy Spirit is nudging us toward.

We can also live with confidence because our God is mighty. He will fight those battles right along with us. 

“Who is the King of glory?
    The Lord, strong and mighty;
    the Lord, invincible in battle.
Who is the King of glory?
    The Lord of Heaven’s Armies—
    he is the King of glory.”

If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8: 31)

Our song for today is Surrounded (Fight My Battles) by Michael W. Smith

August 11 – A Shepherds Pursuit

Psalm 23 – The Lord IS MY Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
    He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
    forever.

This is such a familiar psalm, it is easy to skim over it and not really take in the details. What I want you to do right now is read the psalm again slowly and look for a word or phrase that jumps out at you.  This is how God speaks to you. What is God telling you today? Before you read on, stop for a moment and think about those words that God brought to your mind.

 “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all I need” jumps out at me. I am more on the introverted side of personalities, so I have always thought being by myself is a good thing. However, when we were told to stay at home and not go out unless it’s necessary, keep to your small household “bubble”, I’ve discovered a sense of unquiet in this ‘aloneness’. I know the extroverts need other people, and I suspect they have found social isolation really difficult. We need the company of others. Does God realize this?

“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid for you are close beside me”. Knowing that God is near me is so comforting!  I can talk to him any time of the day or night. He’s with me, so he is very aware of my circumstances. He knows how I am feeling. We are sharing this moment in time together. He’s not even across the room; he is “close beside me”. Stop and think about that. Pause and think. God is “close beside you”.

“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life.”  Pursue!  Now there’s an amazing word. God pursues me. I don’t have to go looking for him. He is looking for me. And in what way does he pursue me?  With “goodness and unfailing love”. Think for a moment about a loving relationship you have experienced. It may be with a parent, sibling, a good friend, a child, a husband or wife …   When you were having a tough time, was that person there for you?  Every time?  I had an amazing marriage for almost 50 years, and my husband definitely took care of me in so many ways. But sometimes he was too busy with work to be there when I needed him. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be with me, he just had other demands on his time. Sometimes he was just too tired and wanted to be alone. Sometimes he didn’t understand why I was upset, and couldn’t fully relate to how I felt …

BUT, God isn’t like that!!!!  God pursues me with “goodness and unfailing love”.  “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.”  God is right there all the time! You may be going crazy with little ones racing around your house.  You may be living alone and still feeling isolated. You may be feeling edgy and nervous about what will happen over the next month of two. Will there be a fourth wave? Stop and reread Psalm 23.  Look for those words that your Heavenly Father is speaking to you. Take a deep breath and know he is close beside you.

Our song for today is The Lord is My Shepherd by Stuart Townend.

August 10 – Insight for Living

Psalm 19: 7 – 14  NLT

The instructions of the Lord are perfect,
    reviving the soul.
The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.
The commandments of the Lord are right,
    bringing joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are clear,
    giving insight for living.
Reverence for the Lord is pure,
    lasting forever.
The laws of the Lord are true;
    each one is fair.
10 They are more desirable than gold,
    even the finest gold.
They are sweeter than honey,
    even honey dripping from the comb.
11 They are a warning to your servant,
    a great reward for those who obey them.

12 How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
    Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant from deliberate sins!
    Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt
    and innocent of great sin.

14 May the words of my mouth
    and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Today’s verses are the ending verses of Psalm 19 – the psalm we started looking at yesterday. What a contrast! The creator of the universe has some personal advice for us. If we truly comprehended who is talking here – this God:

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
    The skies display his craftsmanship.” (v. 1)

Following his advice would definitely make sense. So, what does God tell us? The psalmist uses these words to describe what God says – “perfect, trustworthy, right, clear, pure, true, more desirable than gold, sweeter than honey, and a warning.” As we read our Bibles, we can count on what it says to be accurate and helpful.

In fact, David tells us that following God’s instructions will “revive our souls”. It will help us be “wise” and bring “joy to our hearts’. We will have “insight for living”. God’s laws are “true, each one is fair”. Honestly, isn’t that what you want in life? To be wise, full of joy, and have great insight into how to deal with what life brings your way?

David is brutally honest. He knows all those things about God are true and trustworthy, but it doesn’t mean he always follows God’s advice. 

“How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
    Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
Keep your servant from deliberate sins!
    Don’t let them control me.”

I am so glad that the Bible is realistic. We can admit our failures and messes. God knows what we are like. And … we can ask that amazing creator God to help us deal with our imperfections. 

As we read Psalm 19, we become aware of how majestic God is. He is a creator God who has made a unique universe and planet earth. He is also a personal God who can be trusted to give us advice that will lead to a joy-filled life. Let’s pause a moment right now, and slowly pray David’s prayer:

May the words of my mouth
    and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Our song for today is Perfect Wisdom of Our God by Keith and Kristen Getty.

August 9 – Creator God

Psalm 19: 1 – 6  NLT

The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
    The skies display his craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
    night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word;
    their voice is never heard. 

Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
    and their words to all the world.

God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.
It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding.
    It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race.
The sun rises at one end of the heavens
    and follows its course to the other end.
    Nothing can hide from its heat.

I looked up some facts on Space-facts.com to find out some scientific data about the sun that God created:

“The Sun is the star at the centre of our solar system. It is an almost perfect sphere of super-hot gases whose gravity holds the solar system together. The energy produced by the Sun is essential for life on Earth and is a driving force behind the Earth’s weather.

  • The Sun is all the colours mixed together; this appears white to our eyes.
  • The Sun is composed of hydrogen (70%) and Helium (28%).
  • The Sun is 109 times wider than the Earth and 330,000 times as massive.
  • One million Earths could fit inside the Sun.
    A hollow Sun would fit around 960,000 spherical Earths. If squished inside with no wasted space, then around 1,300,000 would fit inside. The Sun’s surface area is 11,990 times that of the Earth’s.
  • Light from the Sun takes eight minutes to reach Earth.

We shouldn’t be surprised that David says, 

The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
    The skies display his craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
    night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word;
    their voice is never heard.

God’s creative ability is way beyond our understanding. My husband was a science teacher, and he was passionate about learning anything to do with science. As our kids grew up, we had lots of conversations about their school science projects, and new science discoveries that showed up on the news. We also had lots of conversations about whether the Bible could be trusted from a science point of view. I loved the fact that he always said you could trust the Bible. 

In our 21st Century culture, many people don’t think there is actually a God at all – and many of us likely have those moments when we wonder if that might be true. Take a look around you, and draw in a deep breath. Who created this beautiful world? Who created that amazing sun? It didn’t just happen. There is a Creator God who is way beyond our human understanding. We can see the evidence all around us. 

And even more important, that creator God cares about you – yes, you!

Romans 8: 38 – 39

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[p] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Our song for today is Indescribable by Chris Tomlin.

August 6 – So Thankful!

Psalm 18

For the choir director: A psalm of David, the servant of the Lord. He sang this song to the Lord on the day the Lord rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul. He sang:

I love you, Lord;
    you are my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
    my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
    and my place of safety.
I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
    and he saved me from my enemies. …

28 You light a lamp for me.
    The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.
29 In your strength I can crush an army;
    with my God I can scale any wall.

30 God’s way is perfect.
    All the Lord’s promises prove true.
    He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.
31 For who is God except the Lord?
    Who but our God is a solid rock?
32 God arms me with strength,
    and he makes my way perfect.
33 He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
    enabling me to stand on mountain heights.
34 He trains my hands for battle;
    he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.
35 You have given me your shield of victory.
    Your right hand supports me;
    your help has made me great.
36 You have made a wide path for my feet
    to keep them from slipping. …

David finally knows Saul has been defeated and he will become the next king. Psalm 18 is actually a long psalm as David recounts how difficult life has been for him in the last while. But today, I want you to concentrate on the praise David gives to God for his help during that tough time.

We’ve been through a hard year with the pandemic. Some of us have been through difficult times over our lives quite apart from Covid. As you look back over your life, can you remember a time when God came through for you when you were feeling down and anxious? Stop for a minute or two and think about that time. Remember God’s faithfulness to you. 

Now go back and reread the verses from Psalm 18. Look for words and/or phrases that you can use to praise God yourself. Spend some moments praying and thanking God for his help. Use the words you found in this psalm.

Our song for today is 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman

August 5 – Good Character Qualities

Psalm 15

A psalm of David.

Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?
    Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?
Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right,
    speaking the truth from sincere hearts.
Those who refuse to gossip
    or harm their neighbors
    or speak evil of their friends.
Those who despise flagrant sinners,
    and honor the faithful followers of the Lord,
    and keep their promises even when it hurts.
Those who lend money without charging interest,
    and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent.
Such people will stand firm forever.

Here is a description of what people who love God are like. This behaviour is not the way we are accepted by God. The New Testament and Jesus’ death and resurrection tell us clearly what we need to do to be accepted completely by God. 

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3: 16)

“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.”   (Romans 8: 1 – 2)

Suppose you were describing a Christ-follower to a friend, would they look like the person described in this psalm?

You could count on that person to tell the truth – not in a harsh way, but with kindness and care for others. That person would never gossip. They will keep their promises even when it is very inconvenient for them. You can count on them! They will lend you money without trying to make money off you. Self-interest in not their motivation. And they can’t be persuaded to lie or “stretch the truth” to help someone else out, or gain someone’s favour. 

I appreciate psalms like this. They keep me on my toes as I take a look at myself. Are those characteristics true of me? Hmm … especially the gossiping one?

Our song for today is New Wine by Hillsong Worship

August 4 – God Do You Listen?

Psalm 13

For the choir director: A psalm of David.

O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
    How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
    with sorrow in my heart every day?
    How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
    Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
    Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

But I trust in your unfailing love.
    I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
    because he is good to me.

I suspect over the past year, you have had days like the one described by David in this psalm. Days when you were just discouraged and wondered if God cared. The pandemic and its restrictions have been hard on all of us.

This psalm was likely written after David had been anointed by Samuel as the next king of Israel, but Saul was still on the throne and actively pursuing David. David knew what God had promised, but it wasn’t happening …

“O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
    How long will you look the other way?”

David’s question “how long?” wasn’t wrong or sinful. He was depressed and wondering when God was going to act, to do something. We all have days like that, days when we are experiencing tough situations and wonder when will things improve. We can be honest in our relationship with God. We can tell him we don’t understand what he is doing, and that we are afraid.

But notice after David vents his feelings, he states that God is good.

“But I trust in your unfailing love.
    I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
    because he is good to me.”

And that is what it comes down to – we are upset, but we still trust God. We may not feel great, but we can concentrate on who God really is. The Book of Lamentations tells us the same thing. Remember who God is during tough times.

Lamentations 3: 20 – 25

20 I will never forget this awful time,
    as I grieve over my loss.
21 Yet I still dare to hope
    when I remember this:

22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
23 Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
    therefore, I will hope in him!”

25 The Lord is good to those who depend on him,
    to those who search for him.

Our song for today is The God Who Listens by Chris Tomlin

August 3 – God is Faithful

Psalm 12

Help, O Lord, for the godly are fast disappearing!
    The faithful have vanished from the earth!
Neighbors lie to each other,
    speaking with flattering lips and deceitful hearts.
May the Lord cut off their flattering lips
    and silence their boastful tongues.
They say, “We will lie to our hearts’ content.
    Our lips are our own—who can stop us?”

The Lord replies, “I have seen violence done to the helpless,
    and I have heard the groans of the poor.
Now I will rise up to rescue them,
    as they have longed for me to do.”
The Lord’s promises are pure,
    like silver refined in a furnace,
    purified seven times over.
Therefore, Lord, we know you will protect the oppressed,
    preserving them forever from this lying generation,
even though the wicked strut about,
    and evil is praised throughout the land.

It appears that David lived in a time similar to ours today. Do we believe what our Prime Minister says? Our provincial Premier? Our local politicians? Do we even believe what our medical leaders tell us? There have been so many conflicting ideas and facts presented throughout the pandemic. (I do understand that Covid is a new virus, and that research is ongoing, so facts do change as new information is found.) But I think we’d all agree that confusion and distrust seem to be running rampant these days. David’s comments resonate with us – “speaking with flattering lips and deceitful hearts.”

Who can we trust? I am so thankful that we can trust God. When we read our Bibles, we can be assured that what it says is true. 

The Lord’s promises are pure,
    like silver refined in a furnace,
    purified seven times over.

Proverbs 3:5 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.”

Psalm 19:7 – “The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.”

Psalm 28:7 – “The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.”

Romans 15:13 – “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Our song for today is Do It Again by Elevation Worship

August 2 – Your Majestic Name Fills the Earth

Life is starting to look a tiny bit more like the “normal” we used to have. As the last month of our summer begins, I am taking a break from Luke and concentrating on various psalms. This month we can start visiting friends and family, and maybe even fitting some vacation time in. We’re not so “stuck at home”. So, the devotions will be more like a thought for the day, and not following through a book of the Bible.

Psalm 8   (NLT)

“O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!
    Your glory is higher than the heavens.
You have taught children and infants
    to tell of your strength,
silencing your enemies
    and all who oppose you.

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
    the moon and the stars you set in place—
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
    human beings that you should care for them?
Yet you made them only a little lower than God
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You gave them charge of everything you made,
    putting all things under their authority—
the flocks and the herds
    and all the wild animals,
the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
    and everything that swims the ocean currents.

O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!”

It is so easy to think of ourselves as insignificant – just one person among the billions on the planet.  When I think of how “busy” God must be running the universe and caring for all those people, my issues don’t seem that important.  Does God really care?

This psalm makes me want to shout with joy and wonder in praise – not that I would actually do such an uninhibited thing.  Shouting around the house is not my thing, but feeling inside like I might is the best this introvert can manage.  God is so mighty – we are loved by a mighty and creative God.  

I love the first few words of this psalm.  O LORD – an acknowledgement of how big our God is.  I think of a chorus my kids used to love to sing – “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty; there’s nothing my God cannot do”.  I can still picture their enthusiasm as they sang the song and did the actions, making their little arms go as wide as they could to illustrate how big God is.  But then “our Lord” – this big, mighty God is my God.  He made the universe, but He has a personal relationship with me.  How amazing is that!

We go from the God of the universe to the God who cares for babies, the most vulnerable of the human race.  Yet it’s interesting how the psalmist says that little children can tell of God’s strength most effectively.  There is an interesting story in Matthew 21.  The chief priests were having a really bad day.  First there was the triumphant entry to Jerusalem with Jesus riding on a donkey, and hordes of people were praising him and shouting Hosanna in the highest.  Then Jesus drove out the people buying and selling in the temple courtyards as He declared the place a robbers’ den.  Jesus also healed some people in the temple. Children were shouting Hosanna to the Son of David in the temple as well.  The chief priests came to Jesus and said, “Do You hear what these children are saying?” Jesus replies with verse 2 of this psalm.  End of story.  What can you say to the truth spoken by children?  

Then there is the contrast in verses 3 and 4.  When we look at the creation God has made, it does fill us with awe and it does make us feel insignificant in comparison.  Why would God even think about us when He can do whatever He wants?  The last part of verse 4 gets to the heart of the matter – why would He even care about us?  The rest of the psalm talks about this.  We are not insignificant; we are made “only a little lower than God”.  The Bible tells us we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26).  We were created to rule over planet earth, and to have a relationship with God.  Is God way greater than we are? Yes! But we are not insignificant to God. And we have a job to do in caring for our world – a whole other topic. 

We can be so thankful that God loves us and we are on his radar. As our world begins opening up a little, we can know he has plans for us. So let’s start thinking about how we can share God’s greatness with those around us.

“O LORD, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!”  

Creator God!     Personal God!

Our song for today is Good God Almighty by the Crowder Band

July 30 – Facing Jesus

Luke 12: 35 – 48  NLT

“Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks. 37 The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat! 38 He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn. But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready.

39 “Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would not permit his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”

41 Peter asked, “Lord, is that illustration just for us or for everyone?”

42 And the Lord replied, “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. 43 If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. 44 I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. 45 But what if the servant thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? 46 The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant in pieces and banish him with the unfaithful.

47 “And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. 48 But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.”

As we make decisions in life, we look back on what has happened before. Our past experience likely gives us insight on what would be the best decision now. We also take a good look at the present circumstances as we figure out what we should do. But we also look ahead. What we do now, can affect what happens in the future. For example, we may decide to buy a more expensive item since we think it will last longer, or we save money to help our children with education costs, or we save money for retirement. 

Jesus asks us in these verses we read today to concentrate on looking forward. Decide what we do today based on the future. He starts with a story of a man who is attending a wedding feast. In that time, wedding feasts could last a week. A person may stay the whole week or may return home anytime during that week. So, the servants at the man’s house need to be ready for his return whenever that may happen. 

In usual circumstances, when the master returns home, the servants spring into action. They would have had the house ready, but now they would prepare a meal or do whatever the master asked them to do. But in Jesus’ story, when the master returns to a well-kept home, “he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat! He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn. But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready.” (v. 37 – 38) 

This story reflects the day when Jesus returns to earth again – his second coming. When Jesus left, He gave us some instructions about what we are to do in his absence. These verses in Acts reflect the story Jesus told his disciples in today’s verses: Jesus “replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1: 7 – 8)

Peter wanted to know if this story about being prepared applied to everybody or just a few chosen people (servants). Jesus goes on to talk about what will happen when he returns to earth. The servants who totally ignored the master’s instructions and partied it up will be “banished with the unfaithful”. Those are people who reject Jesus outright, who could care less about God. The master actually means nothing to them. Then we get a list of people who do serve the master, but don’t do it that well.  Depending on how much they understood about the master’s requirements, their punishment will vary from more severe to very light. 

Jesus asks you and me to make decisions in this life based on the future. When Jesus comes again, and you meet him face to face – what will you say? “I’ve lived a good life, and raised some great kids, had a lovely home and did well in my job. I’ve been a respected person in my community, attended church regularly … Or will you fall at his feet and thank him for all he has done for you, and how he has made your life full of meaning and joy – and you loved to share that with the people you met?

Our song for today is To Be Pleasing You by Maranatha Singers.

July 29 – How Effective is Worrying?

Luke 12: 22 – 34  NLT

“Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. 23 For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. 24 Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! 25 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 26 And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

27 “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 28 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

29 “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

32 “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

33 “Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. 34 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

Jesus is very blunt about worrying. “I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. 23 For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing.” (v. 22) The basics of life shouldn’t be something we worry about. Unfortunately, in our culture, the basics tend to be more luxurious than in many places in our world. We don’t worry about literally having little to eat or wear. We worry about having a nice home, a decent car, good clothes, vacation time, etc. We want a lifestyle that is enjoyable. In fact, we tend to look for improvements – a better job with higher pay, a bigger house, a new car …

Jesus tells us that the basics of life will be provided, and that’s actually all we need – the basics. He goes on to say that we are so much more important to God than birds and flowers. Intervarsity Press’ online commentary explains why Jesus used the ravens as an example: “Ravens refers to a wide variety of crows that inhabited Palestine. Interestingly, they were unclean creatures in Old Testament thinking. They were among the least appreciated of birds, so the example is important because of the cultural perception of these creatures. Jesus has gone to the “bottom of the creature barrel” for this example. God cares for them by giving them food, and just think how much more valuable you are than birds! In other words, if he cares for them, he certainly will care for you.”

Jesus even asks if we can prolong our lives by worrying. Our current medical folks would tell us that worrying actually shortens our lifespan. Intervarsity Press goes on to say: If worrying is futile in adding even a small increment to your life span, why do you worry about the rest? Worry is wasted energy, an emotional investment that yields nothing. Worry actually reflects the tension we have when we feel that life is out of our control.”

Over the past year, I suspect that worry has increased for many of us. We’re used to “controlling” our lives in our culture. Being told to stay home, stay away from people, discovering our jobs are at risk, worrying about our family members getting Covid … It’s been hard, a big learning curve. 

Jesus goes on to say that we should “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.” (v. 31). Our focus is to trust God, to focus on our relationship with him. In fact, if we stop worrying about doing well in this life, we might even be a more generous person. The Apostle Paul repeats what Jesus said in a different way:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”  (Philippians 4: 6 – 8)

Intervarsity Press summed up these verses well:

“Jesus is talking about our basic approach to life. Are we anxious and lacking trust in God, constantly trying to gain control of things that often are beyond our control? Or do we trust God to provide and concentrate on honoring relationships by pursuing righteousness and serving others with our resources? Two things tell us the answers to these questions: our heart and our pocketbook. Our heart can tell us if we are anxious, and our pocketbook can tell us if we are generous. Both tell us if we are trusting God.”

Our song for today is In Control by Hillsong Worship.

July 28 – What is Most Important?

Luke 12: 13 – 21  NLT

13 Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.”

14 Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” 15 Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

16 Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. 17 He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ 18 Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. 19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’

21 “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

“Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.” (v. 13) This was the question that started Jesus’ talking about wealth. In those days, the rabbis were often asked to help solve disputes since they would go by Old Testament rules and Jewish customs. Jesus declines to get involved, but his reaction seems to indicate this man was more interested in getting his share of the estate than a fair division.

Jesus starts with this statement: “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” I wonder if the pandemic has helped many of us to agree with that statement. Maybe we’ve realized how much family and friends mean to us as we’ve not been able to be with them. But … I also wonder how many of us are excited about things being open – that we can buy new things, go on vacation … 

The man in this story seems to be very self-centered. If you go back and count the number of times he uses the words – I and my – you’ll find 11 of them in the 4 verses (16 – 19). He’s excited that his crops are more than he ever dreamed of, and he has plans to build bigger barns. In fact, he thinks he could retire from working and concentrate on eating, drinking and partying – words that are associated with a hedonistic lifestyle.

Charles Swindoll retells this story in modern language in his commentary, Living Insights: Luke. “The business of a wealthy entrepreneur was off the chart. Every idea worked. Every decision succeeded. He added new accounts each month, and the money rolled in. He began thinking. This is a gold mine. My major problem is out-of-control growth. I’m running out of space. There seems to be no end in sight. This is my plan: I’ll enlarge headquarters and multiply my staff. I will add a warehouse nearby and open several branches each year for the next ten years

, exactly as my consultant has suggested. As the business continues to grow, I will slip further and further out of the picture and leave the work in the hands of my efficient executive staff, and I will just take the profits and enjoy them. I might even retire early!  (page 360)

One thing you may have noticed is that Swindoll is talking about a rich man who is obsessed with his wealth. The man Jesus talked about was also excited about how wealthy he was. The Bible never says you can’t be wealthy. Look at Solomon. It’s not the wealth; it’s the attitude. “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” (v. 21) Where are my priorities?

As a person living in a wealthy country, I find these verses difficult to process. Can I live in a lovely home, drive a new car, pay attention to HGTV and all its beautiful décor suggestions, take costly vacations …? Should I live a simpler lifestyle? How much should I give away? 

What Jesus seems to be stressing is our priorities. Life could end at any moment, and as we face God, will we regret our focus in life? Is loving God and my relationship with him my goal in life?  I may be wealthy, I may be “middle-class’, I may be struggling financially – but what do I base my decisions on? What do I care about the most?

What are my priorities in life?

What would Jesus say?

Our song for today is First by Lauren Daigle.