Psalm 131 ~ Psalm Study

Read Psalm 131 here

Image

This is a short but powerful and beautiful psalm. There is a sense of a somber and deeply reflective heart. It is a prayer of humility and trust in God. The psalmist has “Calmed and quieted his/her soul” and simply comes to God with perhaps a heavy heart and, one that desires to rest and trust in God.

Have you ever had those moments? Maybe you have had those times when life is hard to describe but you know that your heart is carrying much, and you desire to simply come and be with God? Not many words are said here, but the psalmist is quieting and stilling his/her soul to simply be in the presence of God.

Don’t miss the words, “I am content.” What does it take to be content? Sometimes we are so busy in the midst of our own troubles or in the pursuit of “happiness” that we can miss the quiet, calm contentment that God brings into our lives.

At the end is a plea for the community to have hope in God. I love that. We live in a world that is in desperate need of hope. Many times in our own lives we can feel  a sense of hopelessness. Yet, the psalmist becomes still and reverent in the presence of God and invites us into a hope “From this time and forevermore” that can only come from God. May we still our selves before God and believe in this amazing hope offered by putting our trust in God.

Daily Devotional Week 2 ~ Telling Your Story ~ God is Faithful ~ By Rev. Dr. Wade Martin

talk-about-it

Day 1                                                  Follow Where God Leads                                         James 4:13-15

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” NIV

Do you wake up each day wondering what God has in store for you? I know I like to wake up, create my “To Do List,” and be in control of my day, but God has taught me (and continues to teach me every day) that what I think I need to do and what God thinks I need to do can be remarkably different. Years ago, a colleague shared with me his morning prayer, he said, “I ask God to give me an open mind to be able to hear from God what I should do and with whom I should connect today.” That simple prayer has stuck with me over the years and has become part of my prayer life as well. As a result I have encountered people and opportunities that I never had considered before.

Building the future offers us opportunities to witness to our faith every day. It is not hard. If we share our story and allow God to do the rest, amazing life-change can and will occur.

Reflection: Are you open to the leading of God and what God’s plan is for you? Or do you go your own way, in your own power, remaining focused on what you hope to achieve?

Prayer: Gracious God, help me to place my “To Do List” in your hands. Give me the courage to share my story with others, to your glory not mine. In Christ Jesus I pray. Amen.

Day 2                                                  Perseverance                                                 1 Timothy 6:11-12

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” NIV

Sometimes our past or a part of our past is something we would like to forget. But our story is incomplete if we do not include the good, the bad, and the ugly. No one has a perfect past. We all have sinned, and thus have fallen short of the glory of God. This is why God sent God’s Son Jesus to serve as the unblemished sacrifice for each of us who believe.

Because of this truth, as we receive Christ as our Lord and savior we can know with all assurance that sins are forgiven, past, present, and future. This assurance ought to give us the desire to persevere regardless of what we are going through. Even when things seem dire, persevere by holding on to the promise and truth of Scripture. The Apostle Paul tells us, “I can do all things through Him [Christ] who strengthens me.”[1]

The ultimate end for our lives ought to be living as true disciples of Jesus, so much so we will follow Jesus through anything. We need to accept our past without regret and learn to lean into God’s grace for the future. We need to quit beating ourselves up and allow the Holy Spirit to heal our hearts. As we build the future, God does not want us to focus on our past in an unhealthy way. Rather, God wants us to learn from our past, and then let God reconcile our past by redeeming it. “Fight the good fight,”[2] Paul says, and focus on the gift and reward of eternal life.

Reflection: Are there things from your past for which you need to seek forgiveness? Are you willing to turn any guilt and shame over to the Lord so that you can move forward to build a strong future?

Prayer: Almighty One, I know I have fallen short of your glory and ask to be forgiven. Use me, Lord, as your disciple to build a future focused on you. In your precious name I pray. Amen.

Day 3                                      Embrace the Basic Things                            1 Corinthians 13:13

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” NIV

Growing up, I really only knew one grandparent, my mother’s mother. My father’s parents died before I was born and my mother’s father was an alcoholic who pretty much stuck to himself in the basement. My grandmother, whom I have come to admire over the years, was a woman of basic means. My grandmother never learned to drive and I am not sure she ever even wanted to learn. She grew most of her food in her large gardens, and she walked to the small store just up the hill from her house to get other needed items.

Whenever we would visit my grandmother, she always had a smile on her face and a kind word to say (even when we broke her flowers). When she worked in the garden she would hum her favorite hymns and talk to her flowers like they were friends. Of course as a young boy, I thought she was crazy. But as I look back on her life I have come to appreciate how my grandmother really appreciated the basic things in life. In reality, she embraced faith, hope, and love in all she said and did.

Conversely, many have made life today overly complicated and complex. We do not seem to appreciate the basic things as we once did. As a result we can tend to push God out of our lives easily. Other “more important” activities have taken priority away from our relationship with God: sports, sleeping in, work, and even family.

As we think about building the future, it all hinges on where we place God on our priority list. If God is not number one on our list, our future cannot be all that God wants it to be. We must embrace the basic things of life: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.[3]

Reflection: We are bombarded daily with things from this world that keep us from focusing on God. Do not allow your life to become unnecessarily complicated. Keep it basic and keep God first in your life. Live by faith, embrace hope, and witness to God’s love.

Prayer: Lord God, have I managed to push you off the top of my list? Forgive me, and help me to return to the basics of life. Empower me to reprioritize what it is I give my attention to, so that you are number one. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

Day 4                                                  Inspiration                                                      Hebrews 12:1-2

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” NIV

As a pastor I have attended or officiated many funerals over the years. After some of the funerals I have said to myself, “I never knew that about the person” or, “I wish I had known them better.” I get great inspiration from those who have lived the faith and have now gone on to be with the Lord. The stories of our ancestors can serve to inspire and encourage us as we navigate life’s journeys to build a faithful future.

The Christian life is an endurance race, which includes many hills and valleys. But in the midst of this sometimes roller coaster ride, remembering the lives of those who have gone on before us can offer us inspiration and hope. The hope and promise of those who died in the faith is eternal salvation. Jesus opened the way to eternal salvation, and God’s new Covenant will never be superseded. God creates our faith by God’s grace through the Gospel and sacraments, and then the Holy Spirit brings us to the consummation of our salvation. As we cling to the memories of those who have gone on before us, may we build a better future so that all may come to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Reflection: Are there people from your past who have died, yet continue to inspire you to this day? Are you living a life that can serve as an inspiration for those in your sphere of influence, or for those still to come?

Prayer: Lord, bring to my mind those individuals I know from my past who have had a tremendous impact on me. Remind me of how they lived so that I may be inspired to live a life that might inspire others. Amen.

Day 5                                                              All In                                       Philippians 3:12-14

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” NIV

One of the attributes that keeps us connected to the saints of the past, present, and future is our willingness to be all in for the Lord. In Paul’s encouraging word he speaks of “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.”[4] What this passage encourages is that Christians who go “all in” for the Lord, cultivate a discipline of:

  • Focus on striving for the goal which Christ has set before us, until it is fulfilled, while not allowing the obstacles of this world to derail us.
  • Making the decision to let go of past sins, and refusing to be paralyzed or rendered complacent by them.
  • Following, by powerfully pursuing the calling of the Christian life, until the final victory has been won and the crown of glory is yours.

As powerful as the stories and witness of the past can be, we now have the opportunity to continue writing the story, a glorious story of Christ and Christ’s relationship with us. Most of what is handed down to us comes from story, and many of these stories serve to encourage us to “press on toward the goal.” As you consider your story, begin by going all in for the Lord and then allow your story to be counted among the many that will encourage generations to come.

Reflection: We all have a story, and it is part of God’s greater story. How has or can your story encourage others? Have you truly gone all in for the Lord or do you walk around the fringes of faith?

Prayer: Holy God, I want to go all in for your son Jesus. Empower me to let go of those things that keep me on the fringes of faith and lead me to an all in relationship with Christ. It is in Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

 

Day 6                                                  Trust and Obey                                              Psalm 84:11-12

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.” NIV

Following Jesus into the future often requires recapturing the innocence of our childhood. When we were young, we accepted much of what we were taught at face value. And, in spite of a temper tantrum or two, we followed our parents and did what we were told to do, mostly without question. We had a level of trust in our parents.

As we march forward to building the future, we need to have that same level of trust, the trust of children, as we follow where God leads us, knowing that God will provide what we need and will show us the way forward. The first verse of the great hymn “Trust and Obey,” written by John H. Sammis, puts it like this:

 

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,

What a glory He sheds on our way!

While we do His good will, He abides with us still,

                                   And with all who will trust and obey.

Reflection: Have you placed your whole trust in the Lord? What do you continue to hold on to that prevents you from giving your whole self to “trust and obey?”

Prayer: God of the past, present, and future. Create in me a heart of trust and obedience so that I might serve you. Remove any doubt I may have about your abilities. Give me a steadfast faith so that I may be the servant you have called me to be. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Day 7                                                  Vision of the Future                                       Proverbs 29:18

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” KJV

Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us that God has a purpose for each of us. The prophet writes, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” (NIV). What is your personal vision of the future based on God’s purpose and calling on your life? As our Scripture reminds us, “Without vision the people perish.” Without direction it is hard to know where we are going. When I speak, especially to young adults, it is disheartening to hear how many of them have no idea what they are going to do with their lives. When I ask about spiritual giftedness or God’s calling on their lives, many give me a blank stare because they either do not know what I am talking about, or had not considered what God has gifted or called, them to do.

As disciples of Jesus Christ there is a call on our lives, a call that must be Spirit-led and Spirit-fed. A disciple’s commitment is more than words, it is active, and it is a way of life. Like the prophets and saints who have gone on before us, disciples have heard the voice of God asking: “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And they have boldly responded: “Here I am—send me!”[5]

Reflection: Have you heard or sensed the voice of God calling you (maybe nagging you) to go and do such and such? Have you turned away? What is your personal vision of your life? Is it in sync with your giftedness and God’s call?

Prayer: Lord, there are some days I just feel like I am going through the motions with no clear vision of where I am headed. Through your Spirit, please give me clarity of heart and mind, so that I might see clearly where you are pointing me to go. In the name of Jesus the Christ I pray. Amen.

[1]   Philippians 4:13, ESV.

[2] 1 Timothy 6:12, NIV.

[3] 1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV.

[4] Philippians 3:13, NIV.

[5] Isaiah 6:8, NIV.

Psalm 130 ~ Psalm Study

Read Psalm 130 here

Image

In today’s psalm we begin to see a different shift in the psalmist’s prayers. We see deep emotion and a deep cry for God’s mercy and listening ear. These types of psalms, called psalms of lament, are some of my favorites because they give us permission to be real with God.

We are able to come to God with our questions, fears, angers, and deep heart-felt emotions. Even in the midst of the psalmist’s crying out, there is still a rooted belief that God is good, God is loving, and that God has the power to redeem!  It’s an acknowledging that even in uncertain times, we can believe that God is at work and that God listens to us and meets us with forgiveness and strength. God is faithful!

Today be real in your prayers between you and God. If you are grateful and joyfilled then praise God in that. If you are sorrowful, hurting, or struggling express that to God from your heart. The psalms give us permission to come to God in the fullness of where we are in life: in joy and in pain, in assurance and in questioning. God is a big God and can handle our deep emotions. If the psalmist can be real with God, then what is stopping us from being real as well?

Psalm 129 ~ Psalm Study

anti-rascism-211x218
Read Psalm 129 here

A first read of this psalm can leave one a bit confused and scratching their head. It seems to be a psalm that doesn’t make much sense to us and so we can easily think to just skip over this one.

Yet, there is some power and beauty in this psalm hidden in its context. This is a community song of thanksgiving and/or trust. The communal people are recounting their long history of being oppressed and how God has freed them from their evil oppressors.

What does this mean for us today? That can a difficult question, perhaps this is another reminder that God has a heart for the oppressed. God sees, God hears, and God knows the cry of the oppressed. (Exodus 3) God is in the process of bringing liberation and freedom to those who are being oppressed by poverty, human trafficking, racism, classism, sexism or any other form of societal evil. America is currently in the midst of a break down between races that, at the heart, needs fresh eyes and willing hearts to work together. Pay particular attention to verse 8: What can we DO to help those who are feeling the pain of being oppressed? We are reminded that God uses us to be the instruments to bring freedom and justice in this world. May we celebrate the ways in which God is bringing freedom and may we find ways of how we can join in God’s work of liberation so that all will be able to offer a psalm of thanksgiving for God’s deliverance.

Here is a great song by Tim Hughes that reminds us that God is a God of justice.

Psalm 128 ~ Psalm Study

mp581

Read Psalm 128 here

This psalm gives instruction about the rewards of living in obedience to the Lord. It carries forward the themes of fruitful work and the blessing of children. This psalms speaks of a joy and happiness that comes from walking in the ways of God.

Though faith is challenging, and following Christ is never easy, it does and can give us great joy. The more we allow God to shape our hearts the more our hearts rejoice in doing what God desires. The more we continue to seek after God the more we long to walk in the ways of God and our hearts becomes more grateful and excited to please God.

Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and the Lord will give you the desires of your heart.” Often we think that if we can love God more then God will give us the things we want. Perhaps we can be challenged to think differently. What if we think about taking delight in God, and therefore God will give us the DESIRES that our hearts SHOULD have? Taking delight in God is beautiful in itself for we experience the life-giving presence of God, and through that, God shapes and molds our hearts to have God-like desires. We can have a true desire to follow and live like Christ lived, and love all people. We, too, can have this joy and happiness to walk in the ways of God that our psalmist speaks of today.

May we seek after that joy in happiness in walking in the ways of God. We might ask, “What ask are those ways?” Comment on ways you believe God calls us to walk. What ways are we to walk in love? Who is our neighbor with whom we should walk in the ways of love?

Psalm 127 ~ Psalm Study

Image

Read Psalm 127 here

I love the beginning of this psalm. It speaks some amazing truth to our work as the church. So many times it’s easy to get caught up in trying to do ministry and seeking to reach out all on our own efforts. Even though we may give our best efforts and our best intentions, we can forget that we are meant to partner with God in the carrying out of our ministry. This psalm reminds us that we are to partner with God in the work of ministry. God must be involved if our work is to see fruits. For if God is not involved, working in, and leading our efforts then we are working in vain.

I love this picture posted above. We can look at the map two ways: a map of the world reminding us that the world is our parish and that there are many in the world in need; or we can view it as map of our own journey. We are traveling on this road and seeking to connect our stories to God. Perhaps we should look at the picture in both ways, or maybe one way speaks to us more than another. Either way it is a reminder that our work and our story must be shadowed by the Christ and by God’s grace. The cross reminds us that we are to die to self and let Christ live through us so that our work is not in vain and allow God to be leading our work.

Psalm 126 ~ Psalm Study

jura-and-paris-010

Read Psalm 126 here in the New Living Translation

This is a powerful psalm of praise and renewal of life. It was written to celebrate the return of the Hebrew people from exile in Babylon. This event was a dream come true. They couldn’t believe the good news that they could return home to Jerusalem. They were so happy that they were singing and shouting for joy. Most importantly, they gave all the credit and glory to God.

How many times in our lives has the amazing thing that we dreamed about come true? This could be a wedding, a good job, a baby,  a good grade, a new friend, whatever seemed to be the impossible. Did we shout for joy? Did we dance? Did we give the credit and glory to God?

This was true renewal of life itself. The writer tries to describe this renewal as best as possible. Then the writer begs for more. Lord, now restore our fortunes like a stream flowing and giving life in the desert.

We are reminded that the people of God live “by both memory and hope.”(Clinton McCann’s words)  Even if you are in a time of tears now,  new possibilities await. God is the author of all good things. You might be planting in tears now, but the harvest will come. Be patient and continue to make your request to God in faith that through God, all things are possible.

 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.Romans 8:28