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.
Dec. 1, 2014 Psalm 124
The first two verses start with, according to the New Living Translation – “What if the Lord had not been on our side?” Is that a question worth pondering for us in 2014? Since Christ’s death and resurrection, when the Holy Spirit was freely given to believers, we’ve been living in the age of grace – God’s undeserved merit and favor bestowed upon a sinful world. That grace includes forgiveness of our sins and eternal life for those who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. As Paul wrote to Timothy, God “wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4 NLT)). Under the New Covenant sealed with Christ’s blood, the Lord is rooting for all of us to turn to Him for forgiveness and eternal life. He’s on our side – we don’t have to ask “what if He wasn’t?” We can rejoice, along with the Psalmist, that “our help is from the Lord” (v. 8 NLT). Our life, faith, skills, abilities and talents, families, possessions – everything we are and have – is from the Lord God Almighty! As the Advent season begins, let’s all thank the Lord for being on our side, for His grace, and for being an ever-present help in troubled times.
Dec. 2, 2014 Psalm 125
We read that the mountains surrounding Jerusalem are likened to His protection of “His people” (NLT). At the time of this Psalm’s writing, His people were the Israelites, His chosen people. They were guided by the Lord’s commandments and laws, including animal sacrifices for sins, all of which comprised the Old Covenant. God’s plan for the Hebrew nation was for them to be His ambassadors to the rest of the world, encouraging folks to turn from idols and evil behavior and follow Jehovah. The Israelites failed to do this, turning to idol worship themselves, and were sent into captivity in Assyria and Babylon. However, God still wanted a faithful people who would do His will, and, through Christ’s death on the cross, He gave people who trusted Christ as Savior and Lord His Holy Spirit power to evangelize the world. Are the Jews still God’s chosen people? Yes, but God also offered salvation to Gentiles (non-Jews). Who are the true Jews under this New Covenant? According to Romans 2:28-29, we are! A true Jew is not born of Jewish parents or one trying to follow the Old Covenant, but “a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God” (v. 29a NLT). Paul also wrote to the Galatians (3:6-7) that “the real children of Abraham are those…who put their faith in God (NLT – citing Genesis 15:6). Sounds a lot like us at Bethany, who have put our faith in Jesus Christ and believe God’s promises. May we, true Israel, have peace! Let’s all pray for peace in Israel and pray for their salvation according to God’s perfect plan.
Dec. 3, 2014 Psalm 126
“When the Lord brought back His exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream!” (v. 1 NLT). Let’s do a little dreaming, or, maybe, a little meditating. God had a plan for these exiles, a remnant of the Hebrew nation (see Zephaniah 3:14-20). He wanted to restore the Hebrews to His good graces. Isn’t that what He’s done for us? We were exiled, if you will, because of our sins; God still loved us, but we could not have a lasting relationship with Him (He is holy, we’re unholy). But, by God’s grace through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we who were far away from God are now brought near (Ephesians 2:13). We’ve been washed by Christ’s blood and given the Holy Spirit – the Counselor and Comforter. Back to the returning exiles for a minute. The Psalmist asks the Lord to restore their fortunes, one of which would be His blessing upon the land to produce an abundant harvest. Where before they sowed their seed in tears, they will now reap songs of joy and will return with sheaves of wheat and other grains (NIV). Since we’ve been given the Holy Spirit, we can now reap an abundant and joyful harvest of souls for the Lord, by sharing the Gospel message of salvation and redemption with a dying and lost world (see Jesus’ promise in Luke 24:45-49)! That’s why Bethany PC exists – to make disciples for Jesus Christ and build His kingdom on earth! Are you ready for some dreaming? Thank the Lord for His salvation and His Holy Spirit, and for the mission He’s given each of us to expand His kingdom.
Dec. 4, 2014 Psalm 127
Can we accomplish anything without God being with us? Yes, things are accomplished every day apart from God’s will and partnership. The real question is – can anything of lasting and eternal value be accomplished without God’s blessing and counsel? The answer to that question is a resounding NO! For a person who has deeds but no faith, his deeds will perish when he does. But, the deeds of a person with true faith will go ahead of him or her into Heaven, and where their treasure is, so will be the desires of their heart (see Matthew 6:19-21). The Lord blesses hard work; but, working hard just for hard work’s sake, without faith, is futile. God also provides a time of rest for the hard worker, so he or she can be thankful and prayerful, trusting His promise of provision, and renew his or her energy. The Psalmist even uses children to prove his point. God provides them, and they are a reward, they support their parents later in life, and they bring joy. Having children without acknowledging God’s gift of them and His blessing upon the family because of them prevents the family from enjoying all of the spiritual benefits associated with a loving relationship with Him. The bottom line for us – don’t try to go it alone in life, but walk with the Lord always and forever! Ask God to help you to establish a firm foundation of faith upon which to base your life and accomplishments, so you will always give Him the thanks, praise, and glory He deserves.
Dec. 5, 2014 Psalm 128
True joy comes from fearing God and following His ways. One of the Lord’s blessings is prosperity. How will we prosper? Our family will be blessed, our spouses will flourish, and our children will be vigorous and grow strong like an olive tree. Some may say that these are simple blessings, because wealth and honor are not mentioned. However, aren’t our spouses and children precious to us, as living and breathing blessings from God who enrich our lives and encourage us to live according to God’s will and plan? Aren’t they infinitely more valuable that riches and honor? Of course they are. God may choose to bless us financially and with great honor, as He did King Solomon. Maybe He hasn’t blessed us with a spouse and children, but maybe He’s given us a loving family with brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles. Maybe He’s blessed us with wonderful friends or a loving church family. All of these blessings, which may appear simple in the world’s eyes, are truly great blessings from the Lord’s riches of His grace. Let’s all thank God for His blessings of family and friends, and let’s extend God’s grace to them in love and by telling them about Jesus Christ.
Dec. 6, 2014 Psalm 129
The Psalmist writes about persecutions he has suffered and how God has delivered him. We may also have been persecuted for our faith, even more so in this dying and sinful world. But, the Lord has delivered us and confounded our enemies. Paul wrote about this in his letters to the Corinthians. How has God helped him and other believers to triumph when persecuted? When cursed, they bless; when abused, they are patient; when evil is spoken of them, they endure it patiently (1 Corinthians 4:12-13). When hard pressed, they are not crushed; when perplexed, they are not in despair; when struck down, they are not (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NIV). God’s church, the body of Christ, has also been persecuted for over 2,000 years, but has survived and thrived. The Lord Himself has protected it (Matthew 16:18). What has enabled this endurance and perseverance in the face of wickedness? God’s grace has done it, for He so loved the world that any who believe will not perish (including His true church) but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Today’s Psalm speaks of His grace in verses 3 & 4, alluding to Jesus’ torturous whipping and God’s goodness. Isaiah 53:5 tells us that by His wounds, we are healed and therefore able to stand up to persecution. Praise the Lord for His help in times of persecution and rely on His strength and deliverance.