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. 22, 2014 Psalm 142
“You, O Lord…are all I really want in life” (v. 5 NLT). If only I prayed this consistently and lived by it, and I daresay, if only all of us did! If we did pray this and truly want it, we’d be shielded from the world’s temptations and snares. Our decisions would be guided by the Lord’s Spirit and His word. We would fulfill 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, to “Be joyful always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances” (NIV). We would gladly offer our bodies to God as holy and living sacrifices (Romans 12:1b). We would believe all of His promises and live by them. We would treat others as we’d want to be treated, being merciful and compassionate. We’d be peacemakers, willingly sharing the Good News wherever we go. In other words, we’d be fulfilling and living according to God’s will for us, “which is good, and pleasing, and perfect” (Romans 12:2b NLT)). Then, as David prayed, we’d be brought “out of prison” (v. 7 NLT), freed from our self-imposed captivity to sin and its devastating effects in our lives. Jesus said that “If you hold to my teaching…you will know the truth, and (it) will set you free” (John 8:31-32 NIV). Dear Lord, we thank You for Your longsuffering patience with us. Please give us a fresh desire to give ourselves to You willingly and completely. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Dec. 23, 2014 Psalm 143
Asaph begins Psalm 77 similarly to how David starts this one. Both are beseeching God to hear their prayers and deliver them from trouble. Asaph longs for the “good old days” when he was joyful (77:5 NLT) and he recalls the Lord’s “wonderful deeds of long ago” (77:11 NLT). David also longs for the “days of old” and “ponder(s) all (His) great works” (143:5 NLT). Interestingly enough, the Book of Ecclesiastes holds a different and more practical view of “the good old days”, telling us – “Don’t long for the ‘good old days.’ This is not wise” (7:10 NLT). Remembering God’s mighty deeds in the past reinforces our faith and assures us that He will act on our behalf today (as He did in Asaph’s and David’s lives as well). However, simply longing for the good old days, for reasons apart from God’s blessings, does not help us deal with life today and in the future. We can’t change the past, but we can trust the Lord to help us through the good and bad days now. As Paul wrote to the Philippians – “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” (3:13b-14 NIV). Let’s remember how God has worked in our lives before, and trust Him to work in that same way in the future as we press on toward His Heavenly goal for us.
Dec. 24, 2014 Psalm 144
This Psalm reminds us that it’s just as important and necessary to give praise to God for His great blessings in our lives as it is to make our supplications known to Him. We praise the Lord for Who He is – our rock, ally, fortress, tower of safety, rescuer, and shield. We humble ourselves before Him and wonder why He even notices us. He notices us because He loves us so very much that He sent His only Son to bear the punishment for our sins so that we could be forgiven. We then ask Him for his blessings upon our families, for His providence to sustain us, and for His protection. In the middle of his prayer, David writes that “I will sing a new song to You, O God!” (v. 9a NLT). Think about that for a moment. Why can we sing a new song to the Lord? Because His blessings are always new and exciting. The writer of Lamentations puts it this way – “Because of the Lord’s great love…His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (3:22-23 NIV). The third stanza of the wonderful hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” also expresses this so well – “Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside.” Forgiveness, an enduring peace, the Holy Spirit to guide us, strength and hope, all ours with many more to come! What new song will you sing to the Lord? Tell the Lord – Great is thy faithfulness! You are worthy of all praise and honor and worship and glory! Thank You for blessing my family, providing for our every need, and for Your protection. In the precious name of Your Son, Amen.
Dec. 25, 2014 Psalm 145
A BLESSED AND MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL! What a great Psalm to read and meditate upon on Christmas day. We are celebrating the birth of the Savior, our Savior, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). The Lord is great and most worthy of praise for the gift of His Son to us. We will tell our children the story of Jesus and His birth and they will proclaim it to their children. God’s mercy, compassion, and unfailing love is demonstrated by giving us a Savior to take away our sins and give His life for our forgiveness. Through our faith in Christ, we have citizenship in Heaven, His everlasting kingdom. The Lord keeps His promises, fulfilling the prophets’ messages that a Savior would be born unto us, and “He is gracious in all He does.” “For it is by His grace you have been saved, through faith…it is the gift of God – not by works” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV). Jesus is God’s gift to us on Christmas day! Jesus Christ is able to satisfy the hunger and thirst of all those who humbly come before Him and seek His salvation. The Lord draws close to everyone who calls on Him in truth, recognizing and acknowledging Him as Lord and Savior. “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32 NIV). What is the best gift that we can give to God at Christmas? “I will praise the Lord…and bless His holy name” and I will love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, and mind. Thank You, Lord, for the gift of Your Son to me, to us. In His precious and holy name, Amen.
Dec. 26, 2014 Psalm 146
Our God is eternal, all-knowing, all-present, all-seeing, and almighty, just a few of His many attributes. This anonymous Psalm mentions some others. He is the maker of Heaven and earth and everything visible and invisible. The Lord is the original promise-keeper, and, if He said it, you can be assured that it will happen. He administers justice and mercy to the downtrodden, and provides food for the needy. The Lord gives freedom to the prisoners, trapped in the web of sin, and forgives them because of the shed blood of God the Son. He opens the spiritual eyes of the blind, and helps them to see Him at work in the world and see life unfold with new meaning and purpose. God encourages those who are weighed down with life’s burdens, and gives them the hope of Jesus’ yoke, which is light and helps to ease their burden. The Lord cares for orphans and widows, two groups of people who have lost the covering and protection of parents and husbands. As we read this Psalm, it becomes apparent that God uses His body of believers, the church, to minister to those in need in the world. We are to lift folks up with mercy and love and feed the hungry. We free the prisoners of sin by loving them and telling them about a Savior who died for them and will forgive their sins, if they’ll just call on His name. We can help the spiritually blind to see God and understand the workings of His Kingdom on earth. We can ease peoples’ burdens with a hug, by listening to their stories, and by telling them about trusting Christ. And, the Bible teaches that God views our care of orphans and widows as “pure and genuine religion” (James 1:27 NLT). As members of Bethany, let’s be doing Kingdom work and Kingdom building, making a real difference for the Lord! Let us pray – “Praise the Lord! Let all that I am praise the Lord. I will praise the Lord as long as I live” (v. 1-2a NLT). In His holy name, Amen.”
Dec. 27, 2014 Psalm 147
God values humility. His only Son humbled Himself before His Father, being born in a human body, and enduring suffering and humiliation after His arrest and dying on the cross. Proverbs 3:34 tells us that “The Lord mocks the mockers, but is gracious to the humble” (NLT). How does He show grace to the humble? “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way” (Psalm 25:9 NIV). He promises that “I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts, who tremble at my word” (Isaiah 66:2b NLT). We read in this Psalm that God is delighted with those who fear Him, who revere, respect, and honor Him (v. 11a). Is that possible to do without a humble heart, without being selfless and wanting to be His servant? Being humble, having an attitude of humility, helps to rid our minds and hearts of any desire to please ourselves, to think that we are more important or more accomplished, and to take ourselves too seriously. We are then free to follow God’s lead, serve Him without reservation, and put His will and plan for our life ahead of any worldly desires. The rest of verse 11 continues to describe what delight’s the Lord – He delights in “those who put their hope in His unfailing love” (v. 11b NLT). The implication of the entire verse is that those who fear Him also put their hope in His unfailing love. Humbling ourselves before Him encourages us to have hope that His love will never end. Let’s all trust the Lord for a humble attitude that leads us to fear Him, serve Him, and give us hope in His unfailing love.