Experiencing the Devotional Readings
To help you experience each day’s reading and devotion, it’s suggested that you read the Scripture passage and read it more slowly a second time. Then, read the devotion and reflect upon how God is speaking to you through the passage. Finally, take the time to pray, using the exhortation that closes each devotion.
Nov. 24, 2014 Psalm 119:133-154
This passage begins with “Guide my steps by Your word, so I will not be overcome by evil” (NLT). Cherishing God’s words in our hearts and living by them will give us hope in the face of evil and direct our steps from an evil path. Verses 136 & 139 beg the question of us – are we saddened and indignant when we see God being mocked and His commands being heartlessly and defiantly disobeyed? The only way to combat evil is to continue to trust the Lord, obey His word, and spread His love and truth. We read that, even when “pressure and stress” (v. 143 NLT) invade our lives, we can find joy and gladness in the Lord’s commands. Obedience to His word will bring us indescribable joy so that we can overcome the stresses of this world. The Psalmist acknowledges that God is near, a comforting truth in the midst of the tumult and chaos of this world. The closing verse of this passage refers to our sinfulness and God’s redemption. The English Standard Version translates it as – “Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to Your promise.” 1 John 2:1 tells us that we do have a defender when we sin – “Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (NIV). Thank God for all of His blessings in your life and commit to being a blessing to others.
Nov. 25, 2014 Psalm 119:155-176
This final passage from Psalm 119 begins with recognizing God’s great mercy. We, likewise, are expected to be merciful in our dealings with others (Luke 6:36) and we will be blessed by the Lord (Matthew 5:7). God’s words are our standard of truth, standing forever. His truth is part of the armor of God, helping us to combat the evil one (Ephesians 6:14). Loving and obeying the Lord’s instructions brings us peace and keeps us from stumbling in our walk with Him. We’re reminded that God is all-knowing, and this should encourage us to be obedient and serve Him wholeheartedly. The Psalmist asks God to “let me live so I can praise You” (v. 175 NLT). Peter notes that because we, as believers, “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God”, we praise the Lord who brought us “out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV)! Let’s thank God for His unending mercy, for the steadfast truth of His words, for the peace He gives us, for knowing all about us, and for the gift of praise.
Nov. 26, 2014 Psalm 120
Do you ever feel like the anonymous writer of this Psalm? Like the world is against you? Like your Christian beliefs and lifestyle just don’t really fit into the world’s lifestyle of greed, “if it feels good, do it”, and pleasure-seeking self-satisfaction? Well, I have news for you – YOU ARE AN ALIEN! Not the science fiction type, but a stranger in the world, searching for a better home. It says so right in the Bible, in the Book of Hebrews, chapter 11. Dubbed the “faith chapter”, it tells about notable people of faith in the Old Testament, who trusted the Lord and lived extraordinary lives of faith in a world that rejected them and their God-believing ways. In verses 13-16 (NIV), we’re told that they were “aliens and strangers on earth”, “looking for a country of their own”, “a better country – a heavenly one.” Sound like you and I? Verse 38 says that “the world was not worthy of them” (NIV). Jesus Himself, in His prayer for His disciples in the Gospel of John, said that “the world has hated them” (17:14 NIV) and “They are not of this world” (17:14, 16 NIV). Guess what? The world hates us, too, because of what we believe. In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1:18 NIV) and that “We are fools for Christ” (4:10a NIV). But, he also writes that “the foolishness of God is greater than man’s wisdom” (1:25a NIV). So, if you sometimes feel like a square peg in a round hole, it’s because you’re yearning for a far better home, in eternity, with your Savior and Lord. Like Paul, we can proclaim to the world that “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21 NIV). Let’s all ask the Lord to help us live for Him in a hostile world, to spread the Good News, and to look forward to our heavenly home with Him.
Nov. 27, 2014 Psalm 121
Happy Thanksgiving! We all have so much to be thankful for. This Psalm reminds us that “(our) help comes from the Lord” (v. 2 NLT). We may look to the hills and mountains, to our family and friends, to our material possessions, even to ourselves for help. Ultimately, however, our help comes from God. He may use our family and friends to help us, or some other means, but He’s the One who sets it all in motion. He made Heaven and earth and the whole universe; He is the Creator and the earth and everything in it are His (Psalm 24:1). Speaking through His prophet Isaiah, God said “I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand” (41:10b NLT). Isaiah also proclaimed – “See, the sovereign Lord is on my side” (50:9a NLT). All we have to do is believe and trust and have faith and hope in our Lord and Savior. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (NIV). Our faith reassures us that the hope we have in God’s help is certain, even though we can’t see Him nor understand how He’ll provide that help. For that, we are truly blessed, according to Jesus (John 20:29). Let’s thank the Lord for His help, for watching over us, and for faith that enables us to believe in Him, even when the world tells us otherwise.
Nov. 28, 2014 Psalm 122
“Let us go up to the house of the Lord” (v. 1 NLT). What comes to mind when you read or hear the words “House of the Lord?” Do you think of our Sanctuary at Bethany, where we worship on Sunday mornings? Or, do you see a Heavenly Sanctuary, as David refers to in Psalm 23:6, where he will dwell forever? Either vision brings with it being in the Lord’s presence along with the community of saints, worshipping together and celebrating His love and mercy. David was glad when he was asked to go to the Lord’s house. Think of our worship services at Bethany. We get to greet each other, hear a Scriptural call to worship, confess our sins and be assured of God’s pardon in Christ, give back to Him a portion of what He’s given us, listen to and sing uplifting and joyful music, offer up prayers, and hear God’s word read and proclaimed. Are we glad to be in worship, and in His holy and loving presence? Hopefully, if we come with a heavy heart, at least some of that burden will be lifted during the service. And, if need be, a person can find a Pastor or another worshipper to pray with them after the service. That’s why it’s called the community of saints – a group called together by the Lord for worship and building each other up in faith with the love of God. Are you looking for more joy in your life? Come to worship regularly – you’ll be glad you did! Dear Lord, we thank You for the opportunity to freely meet together in worship. Help us to be joyful at the prospect of being in Your presence and help us to always receive Your grace and mercy. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.
Nov. 29, 2014 Psalm 123
Some of you may remember Eric Perrell, an assistant Pastor at Bethany from the late 1980’s through the early 1990’s. I remember a children’s message he gave one Sunday morning, when he told the kids to “focus on Christ.” He demonstrated this by making a small circle with his thumb and index finger on one hand and reminded the children to concentrate their focus in life on Jesus and His love for them. Isn’t that what the Psalmist is doing in our passage for today? He’s lifting his eyes and persistently looking for God and His mercy. He’s focused his attention, his beseeching and pleading, his very life’s desire, on the tender mercies of the Lord. This same writer may have also penned Psalm 121, where he starts out with: “I look up to the mountains – does my help come from there” (NLT), as if to say “No, my help does not come from there…”My help comes from the Lord (v. 2). Our God is sovereign, and will have mercy and compassion upon whom He sovereignly gives it (Exodus 33:19). Where does your help come from? Focus on God, who is “a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15 NIV). Acknowledge the Lord’s tender mercies upon Bethany Presbyterian Church for our first 200 years, and seek His mercy and compassion individually and collectively as we prepare for ministry into the future.