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. 8, 2014 Psalm 130
When we, as believers, sin, we immediately know it, because the Holy Spirit convicts us. And the longer we wait to confess it to God, the more we languish in despair and guilt. We know that we’ve sinned against the Lord and Him alone, doing what is evil in His sight (Psalm 51:4). Thankfully, as Christians, God does not keep a record of our sins. Accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are washed clean by His blood shed on the cross. That forgiveness teaches us to fear the Lord, to revere and honor Him. When we initially believed in and accepted Christ, and were so convicted of our sins against a holy and righteous God, the knowledge of His mercy overwhelmed us – that God, in all His power and majesty, could actually forgive us. We then realized that we’d been declared innocent of such grievous acts, words, and thoughts, and God was therefore worthy of our reverence and worship. All of this is not to be taken lightly, because it came at an unspeakable and terrible cost – the life of God’s one and only Son. Let’s all tell the Lord, in prayer, that “I am counting on the Lord; I have put my hope in His word” (v.5 NLT).
Dec. 9, 2014 Psalm 131
David writes that he’s not proud or conceited, doesn’t think more highly of himself than he should, and he likes to keep it simple. Pride and conceit focus our attention on ourselves and our accomplishments, and cause us to look down on others as lesser human beings than we (think) we are. Avoiding lofty and worldly matters allows us to focus more on God and His will for us. This all basically is describing a humble attitude, which makes it easier to relate to God and understand His love for us (see Matthew 23:12). David’s humility before the Lord enabled him to be calm and quiet, having settled in his heart that God loves him and that he was comfortable in his obedience of His laws and commandments. We should also strive to be more humble, and, like David, wean ourselves from worldly temptations and concerns so that we can rest in our faith and be content with what God has given us. This helps us mature in our relationship with the Lord, as we are “growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of His body, the church” (Ephesians 4:15 NLT). Finally, we’re encouraged to put our hope in God and His firm foundation, the anchor of our souls. In this Advent season, let’s all joyfully anticipate the birth of our Savior and Lord, as we humble ourselves before God and put our hope and faith in His Son.
Dec. 10, 2014 Psalm 132
David wanted to honor God by building a permanent house for Him. However, God told him that, because he had shed much blood in battle, he would not build the Temple; his son Solomon would build it (1 Chronicles 22:6-8). How does this story apply to us today? We, as believing Christians, can give the Lord a home – in our hearts (Ephesians 3:17)! When the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come, He told them that it is already within you or among you (depending upon Bible version, Luke 17:21). He said that you won’t be able to say “Here it is” because it starts in a person’s heart when he or she first believes (Romans 10:10a). Paul wrote that God has poured out His Holy Spirit into our hearts (Galatians 4:6) to be our Counselor and Comforter. The Bible exhorts us to “Love the Lord our God with all your heart and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:6 NIV). Since we believe with our hearts, and are given God’s Spirit in our hearts, and are to love God with all our heart, we should guard our hearts against becoming hard and unresponsive to the Lord’s will (Proverbs 4:23). How do we do that? By praying and being thankful to God, and God’s peace, which is beyond all understanding, “will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV). Thank the Lord that He’s in your heart, and trust that His peace will guard your heart always.
Dec. 11, 2014 Psalm 133
As members of Bethany, we are to be salt and light, loving our enemies, giving to the needy, bearing spiritual fruit, worshipping in spirit and truth, servants of all, trusting in Jesus, loving like Jesus, growing in Jesus, telling others about Jesus. Can we do any of this effectively if we are not unified in faith and purpose? We’ve all been given certain skills, talents, and spiritual gifts by God. Can we fulfill our mission to the extent desired by the Lord if we are not all putting our skills, talents, and gifts to good use in service to God? Do we all support our church mission statement, pray for its fulfillment, and do our part to make it a reality? Are we joyful always, praying without ceasing, and giving thanks in all circumstances? Do we gossip and complain about our leaders and members at Bethany, or do we pray for them and ask God to equip them for meaningful service to Him? Are we trying to read our Bibles every day, searching for truth and assurance in God’s holy word? These are all valid questions for every member at Bethany, because our enemy, the devil, is working feverishly to steal our unity, kill our passion for God, and destroy our faith. How can we prevent this? “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7 NIV). We haven’t survived and thrived for 200 years without harmony and unity, so let’s get together and start building a great future for Bethany, for God! Let us pray – May the Lord bless us and keep us; may the Lord make His face to shine upon us and be gracious to us; and may the Lord turn His face toward us and GIVE US PEACE (based upon Numbers 6:24-26 NIV).
Dec. 12, 2014 Psalm 134
God’s word is awesome, fascinating, and life-giving. The messages and truth conveyed by just one verse illustrate the scope of the effectiveness and application of Scripture. Take verse 1 for instance, where praise and worship are intertwined with serving God. In other words, our acts of service in the Lord’s kingdom offer praise to and worship of God. He’s given each of us special abilities and gifts so that we can honor Him with our effort (see Exodus 35:30-35). Paul wrote to slaves in Ephesians 6:7-8 that they should perform their duties as if they were working for the Lord. This is good advice for us, too. When we perform our jobs in that manner, we will take our work more seriously and make sure that it is done completely and correctly, using the talents He’s blessed us with, so that we please God (and our supervisors). Of course, this also applies to our good works of service in ministry for the Lord. God has given each of us spiritual gifts to serve others in the body of believers and build up the church (1 Peter 4:10). Some of these spiritual gifts are wisdom, healing, miracles, and prophesy (1 Corinthians 12:8-10); to be pastors, teachers, and evangelists (Ephesians 4:11); serving others, encouragement, giving, leadership, and kindness and hospitality (Romans 12:6-8). We, as believers, have been given one or more of these gifts by God, through His grace, to be used for serving in His kingdom on earth. So, let’s praise the Lord and offer Him the worship He deserves by serving Him always with the abilities and gifts He’s given us!
Dec. 13, 2014 Psalm 135
This Psalm is structured like many other Scriptural songs of praise, beginning with a call to praise the Lord and then a recounting of the reasons for that praise. One might say that you don’t need a reason to give praise to God, but that we should offer our praise just because of who He is. That may be true. However, the reason we celebrate communion at Bethany is to help us remember what Jesus did for us in the hours after His arrest, the torture and ridicule, and then His agonizing death on the cross. It’s also good for us to meditate upon the great and mighty works of our Lord, recognizing what He did for the nation of Israel and what He’s done in our lives and the lives of others. Doing this will build us up in our faith and strengthen our witness and testimony. We find in verses 4-14 the main reason for this Psalmist to praise God – because He is the Savior of Israel. He writes that the Lord chose Israel for Himself, He sent the life-giving rains, performed miraculous signs and wonders, struck down great nations and gave their lands to the Hebrews, endures forever, and He gives justice and compassion to His servant people. We praise and thank God for giving us His Son as our Savior and Lord. He has chosen us, given us many blessings, miraculously saved us by His grace, is our Rock and Refuge, and has given us His compassion and justice. During this season of Advent, let’s joyfully anticipate our celebration of our dear Savior’s birth, and pray for a rebirth in our lives of a willingness to praise the Lord for all He’s done for us.