Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holding Fast to God

He trusted in the Lord the God of Israel; so that there was no one like him among all the kings of Judah after him, or among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following him but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. II Kings 18:5-6 NRSV

At this point in 2 Kings, it sure is nice to see that there was at least one king that did as God commanded.

In fact, Hezekiah did more than just keep God's commandments -- he also removed every idol and worship place in Judah. He was thorough in his obedience. He kept God's commandments and under his rule the people did as well. So, they all prospered and lived well under his reign.

Today's reading reminds us how thoroughly God asks us to obey. God does not want us just to go to worship; God wants us to live Christian lives. God does not want us just to tithe; God wants us to love our neighbor. God doesn't just want us to obey 9 out of 10 commandments or to love God but not love ourselves. God wants all of us, all of the time.

Are you holding fast to God?

God, you ask us to fully obey you and follow your commandments. Sometimes that is so hard! We try, Lord, but often we fall short. Help us to be more obedient in all areas of our lives. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Doing Evil in the Sight of the Lord

He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, yet not like the kings of Israel who were before him. King Shalmaneser of Assyria came up against him; Hoshea became his vassal, and paid him tribute. But the King of Assyria found treachery in Hoshea; for he had sent messengers to King So of Egypt, and offered no tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year; therefore the king of Assyria confined him and imprisoned him.  II Kings 17: 2-4 NRSV

Here we see the continuation of the kings who followed Solomon - both those in the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Even the kings who did not do evil in the sight of the Lord still never got rid of all the idol worship in their country. Then we get to Hoshea. He not only does evil but begins to let Israel fall under the vassalage of Assyria. In trying to get out of that situation, Hoshea ends up making it worse for himself and he is put into prison.

Hopefully, if you are reading this devotional, you would not be considered doing "evil in the sight of the Lord!" However, neither you nor I can say we are following God 100%. We both probably have some idols still around our house and in our lives.  We must continue to do what God asks of us, following in God's footsteps each day. And if we find ourselves becoming vassals of something or someone other than God, may God help us from digging ourselves into an even worse situation!


Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, March 29, 2010

Resurrection Power

As a man was being buried, a marauding band was seen and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha; as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he came to life and stood on his feet. II Kings 13: 21 NRSV

This story has an almost Monty Python feel to it. Can you envision it? There are the mourners, weeping and moaning, covered in sackcloth and ashes. They are carrying the body on a bier, covered with a cloth. There is a procession making its way through the cemetery to the grave for this man. Suddenly, over the wall comes a group of violent criminals, brandishing weapons and spitting threats. The mourners scatter, screaming. The men holding the bier stop, one lets go and runs. Another says, "Let's just drop him here!" Another says, "Let's find another grave near here where we can quickly throw him!" Elisha's grave is just to the right. Quickly, the body is tossed in while the bier is thrown to the side. Everyone has scattered. The marauders have given chase. After a moment, their screams fade into the silence. Birds resume singing. And the dead man rises to his feet, brought back to life at the touch of Elisha's bones.

I think we are to laugh at the scene, then cheer when the man is brought back to life.  Even after death, Elisha's power has not abated.

Even after the death of God's only Son, God's power has not abated. In fact, it is stronger. With the resurrection comes hope and salvation for all of us.

Thanks be to God!


Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Deception on God's Behalf

The Lord said to Jehu, "Because you have done well in carrying out what I consider right, and in accordance with all that was in my heart have dealt with the house of Ahab, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel." II Kings 10:30 NRSV

From the moment of his anointing, Jehu uses deception as God's instrument of justice:

The killing of the King of Israel on Naboth's former vineyard.

Encouraging the eunichs to throw Jezebel to the ground where the dogs licked up her blood.

Tricking the advisers to kill all 70 of the previous king's sons, then killing all the advisers.

The complete slaughter of the Baal worshippers with the destruction of their temple, after commanding all of them to attend a sacrifice.

How has God asked you to be deceptive on God's behalf in order to bring about justice?

God, although you don't ask me to kill on behalf of justice, you may sometimes ask me to be deceptive. Please guide me, Lord, so that whatever I do is your will not mine. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Windows In the Sky

Then the captain on whose hand the King leaned said to the man of God, "Even if the Lord were to make windows in the sky, could such a thing happen?" But he said, "You shall see it with your own eyes but you shall not eat from it." II Kings 7:2 NRSV

II Kings is full of stories about Elishah who has certainly received double the Spirit of Elijah. In fact, I find it interesting that many of the miracles Elishah does are mirrowed by Jesus' miracles. The biggest exception has to be the  prediction of disease and death most closely associated with disbelief.

Here the King of Israel' captain doesn't see any way out of the seige of Samaria, not even if God opened up windows in the sky to provide food for the starving people.

How confident are you of God's miraculous solution to your challenges or obstacles? What kind of siege are you experiencing right now? What would it look like if God provided a miracle in your life right now?

God, please excuse us and forgive us when we doubt that you can do a miracle in our current situation. We lift our current sieges up to you now. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, March 26, 2010

What's Your Jar of Oil?

She came and told the man of God, and he said, "Go sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your children can live on the rest." II Kings 4:7 NRSV

Elisha is providing protection for the widow of a prophet so that the son is not taken into slavery. We don't know how they got in this situation but to get out they must look closely at what they have. Elisha tells them to take the small jar of olive oil, get every vessel they can get their hands on (including their neighbors') and start filling these vessels with oil. The oil keeps on pouring out until all the vessels are used up. They are able to pay off their debts and live on the remainder.

Oh, how many of us could use one of Elisha's miracles right now! I would love to be able to pay off our debts. And to live off the rest!  My family has been trying hard to become debt-free but it seems like an uphill battle most days.

However, no one is threatening to come take my child as their slave.

What could you gather and sell in order to prevent yourself or your family members from becoming slaves ... to the credit card companies? It may be simpler than you think and so essential to your future.

God, it doesn't seem like we are in such desperate situations as the widow and her son but perhaps we are closer than we think. We ask for your provision, protection and salvation. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Are you surrounded by "yes" people?

But Jehoshaphat said, "Is there no other prophet of the Lord here of whom we may inquire?" The King of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "There is still one other by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah son of Imlah; but I hate him, for he never prophesies anything favorable about me, but only disaster." Jehoshaphat said, "Let the King not say such a thing." I Kings 22:7-8 NRSV

We all like it when people agree with us or always treat us favorably. However, if no one ever questions our ideas or decisions, we can lose our perspective. We may think we are always right.

We all need checks and balances!

How often has God provided a word to your life which you dismissed because it was not favorable?

God, help us to keep our ears open even when the message is not one we want to hear. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Just When I Think It is Time to Give Up...

He answered, " I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away." I Kings 19:14 NRSV

Look, God, have I not been very zealous for you?

I have done as you asked, following your Way, forsaking that which can mislead and influence yet clinging to you.

I have given up a life of power, glamor and riches.

I have become your servant.

I have obeyed your commands.

Yet, Lord, I am being hounded on all sides by the enemy. I have been cut down, betrayed and forsaken: all for your sake.

Now all I have left is my life and I fear that too will soon be taken from me.

Then God responds: "Go!..."


Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


... And he proclaimed to the man of God who came from Judah, "Thus says the Lord: Because you have disobeyed the word of the Lord, and have not kept the commandment that the Lord your God commanded you, but have come back and have eaten food and drunk water in the place of which he said to you, 'Eat no food, drink no water,' your body shall not come to your ancestral tomb." I Kings 13:21 NRSV
The man of God listened to God when he was with King Jeroboam. He refused food and drink and returned by a different path. But when a prophet claimed that an angel said it was okay for the man of God to eat and drink what the prophet gave him, the man of God stopped obeying God's direction. This led to his death. He was deceived by someone whom he thought he could trust.

Sometimes we think we have listened to God and followed God's direction. However, we have merely followed God halfway. Others whom we trust come to us with a different message. We are deceived.

Have you ever been deceived from following God's direction?

God, even while we think we are following you, we are often led astray. Direct our steps, Lord, and if we should stray have mercy on us. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, March 22, 2010

Trust not Lust

For when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. I Kings 11:4 NRSV

With age comes wisdom.

But not in the case of Solomon.

Instead, Solomon loves his foreign wives who turn him away from God. He loses his wisdom.

In fact, Solomon has been unwise in his choices of spouses. He probably married these foreign women to keep the peace with the surrounding countries. Treaties were often sealed through advantageous marriages. Did Solomon not trust in God? Shouldn't peace have been something to depend upon God for? Perhaps his lust (for peace or for women) overcame his trust. Certainly it clouded his wisdom.

What in our own lives have we allowed to cloud our own wisdom? What do we lust after? What things do we allow to get between us and God? Is there something in our lives that has turned our hearts from God?

God, even our relationships can lead our hearts away from you. Guard our relationship with you so that our lusts do not lead us away. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Test

When the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon (fame due to the name of the Lord), she came to test him with hard questions. I Kings 10: 1 NRSV

Even though Solomon was wise, even though his wisdom (and more) was given to him by God, and even though the purpose of the gift of wisdom was given for Israel, Solomon still faced challenges and tests by those not among his people.

Even when God answers our prayers and the proofs of God's blessings are upon us, we will still be challenged by those who are not part of our community, whether they are believers or not.

We need God's direction when we are tested. And we shouldn't blame others for challenging us. It is human nature to be doubtful!

When God answers your prayers, remember that not everyone will accept what has been done by God. You will face questions. Try not to get angry or defensive - remember the queen of Sheba and that God's continued presence and guidance.

God, we just ask for your guidance when we are challenged about answered prayer. Help us not to be angry or hurt. Give us a balance of wisdom and empathy. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, March 20, 2010

God is Present

But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built! I Kings 8: 27 NRSV

The Israelites believed in God being in a certain place. For them, God had been in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle.  But here, Solomon is sharing his wise opinion that a dwelling of any type truly cannot contain God. In fact, neither the earth nor heaven can contain God. God is just that big. God cannot be contained or limited to any one place.

Yet, Solomon appeals to God to be very present in this temple Solomon has built. Solomon asks that God listen to the prayers lifted up to God in this place of worship. Solomon asks for God's presence and blessing for this place of worship.

I agree with Solomon that God cannot be contained in any one place. Yet, I know that I find my church to be a place where God has been very present and I always feel closer to God when I am there. Kneeling at the altar is a special and holy time for me in that particular place.

Do you have a place that is particularly holy for you, where you feel God lingers and listens even more closely to your petitions? I encourage you to spend some time this weekend in that place, listening and being listened to in God's holy presence.

God, thank you for your presence in the holy places I am able to visit. Thank you also for listening to my prayers. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, March 19, 2010

God Answers Prayers

People came from all the nations to hear the wisdom of Solomon; they came from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom. I Kings 4: 34 NRSV

Solomon asked to be wise for the sake of his kingdom of Israel. However, his wisdom became so well known that even foreigners came to Israel to hear him. This is an example of God's answer to our prayers; often God answers our prayers more than we could ever wish or imagine.

On a personal note, I have really been struggling lately with a life situation. My struggle has been so great that I have had a hard time even asking for anything from God. Yet, I know that God has answered my prayers in the past - even beyond what I could hope or imagine. Why am I so reluctant to ask again?

What prayers has God answered in your life? Did God do more than you had envisioned? What kinds of things are you asking God about right now?

God, you listen to our prayers. You answer them beyond what we can wish or imagine. Help us not to lose our trust that you will answer our prayers again. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What would you ask for?

I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. I Kings 3: 13 NRSV

Think about this for a minute: if God promised that you could have anything you wanted, what would you ask for?

Although I am unsure what I would ask for I don't think wisdom would come to mind. But the more I think about it, I think Solomon already had wisdom. Consider this: without wisdom, would Solomon have asked for wisdom? Maybe he really needed confidence in his ability to be wise. Perhaps he did not realize that wisdom was a quality he already possessed. He realized that he had been thrust onto the throne and was now in the position of leading the people of Israel. Wisdom would be something essential.

And because he didn't ask for something frivolous, he received more than he had asked for. 

What has life thrown at you recently? Is there a particular personality trait or quality that you feel you need to meet life's challenges? Perhaps you already have it but need more. Or you need the confidence to use your abilities. God is here to listen to your request.

God, I need ________________________. This is my prayer. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Worship With a Price

But the king said to Araunah, "No, but I will buy them from you for a price; I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing." So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. II Samuel 24:24 NRSV

I remember hearing of a family who wanted to give our then current church some property on which to build a new sanctuary. The church decided to decline the offer, and the land ended up being given to another church. I think our church made the correct decision for a variety of reasons. But the biggest has to be entitlement. Wouldn't the giver always expect something more from the church because of the size of the gift? Would we want our place of worship to be beholden to an individual rather than to God?

King David negotiates for land for a worship center as one of his last acts. The owner wishes to simply give the land to the King. But David says, "No!" I think if the land had been accepted without payment, the original owner would have always had influence over the worship. The worship needed to be about God, not land ownership. There was a price for worshipping God and it was given joyfully and gladly.

In our economic climate, many churches are probably tempted to take advantage of all kinds of free offers. But we cannot let the giver have power over God. Worship of God does come with a price.

God, you want us to freely come before you. But when we do, we must take into consideration that we must pay the fair trade amount for all the elements of worship. Help us to be beholden only to You. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Price of Growing Old

But Abishai, son of Zeruiah came to his aid, and attacked the Philistine and killed him. Then David's men swore to him, "You shall not go out with us to battle any longer, so that you do not quench the lamp of Israel." II Samuel 21:17 NRSV

I haven't gotten there yet but I know someday I am going to have to give up some things because I am just not capable of doing them anymore.

David is not capable of fighting because of his age. His advisers are frightened that he will be killed in battle (rather than dying in his bed of old age) and the morale of the Israelites will be greatly compromised.

My parents, who are in their late seventies, are beginning to think about giving up their house for a smaller dwelling. They just can't keep up with it as they used to. For me, it is an easy choice. However, I am not having to make that decision!

How humiliated David must have felt, possibly ashamed as well. He has always been known as a warrior - he has fought the ten thousands- yet now he must rely on others. An essential part of who David is has been lost. King David is not the man he once was.

Do you have a loved one who has had to give up something recently because of age or illness? I invite you to spend some time with them, asking how they are doing and feeling with this change in their lives. Show them empathy as well as appreciation for who they are right now.

God, thank you for always being with us, no matter our age or our abilities. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, March 15, 2010

Saving Face

So Joab set off, went to Geshur, and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. II Samuel 14: 23 NRSV

In hindsight, David would have been better off carrying out justice against his own son. However, he cannot seem to get out of the depression of having his favored son in exile. Recognizing that the King is useless as long as Absalom is gone, Joab tries to help this situation. In this scene David is able to use the actions of Joab to mask his own intent of forgiveness and mercy. To the outsider, it seems as though David allows Absalom back from exile as a favor to Joab, the commander of his armed forces. But Joab's clever ploy means that David is simply saving face.

Saving face can sometimes mean we don't face up to our responsibility. Instead of admitting we were wrong or taking the fall for a mistake, we are somehow let off the hook. We come out looking good and still being respected.

I can't see how God really approves of that kind of behavior. Doesn't God see us as we are? Does God not want us to be true to ourselves and honest in our actions? Isn't that what loving our neighbor is about?

I don't have the answers, just lots of questions.

God, sometimes it seems I don't know what you really want of me. How honest am I to be? How transparent are you calling me to be? God me, shape me, mold me into the person you desire. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Love For Your Children

When King David heard of all these things, he became very angry, but he would not punish his son Amnon because he loved him, for he was his firstborn. II Samuel 13:21 NRSV

This is a really hard scripture for me to tackle, but it has been on my heart lately. What do you do when your children make you really, really angry? I don't mean breaking a valuable object, I am talking about doing something morally or socially wrong and making you angry.  I think the question is, how can you show your children love yet punishing them for their behavior? That is tough love and it isn't always easy. This can be especially true if you have let them get away with small things when they were younger. Sometimes our children need boundaries and we are unable to set firm boundaries. Our excuse is often our love but really it is about how hard it is to keep firm boundaries.

David is not a good boundary setter when it comes to his kids. Amnon raped his sister (!) Tamar and David did nothing to punish him, even though he was angry. Here is a man who is supposed to dispense justice in the entire kingdom and he can't even act justly in his own household. In the end, all of this will come back to haunt David and cause some great divisions in the country.

Sometimes God calls us to show tough love. And it isn't easy.

God, you have set boundaries for us, even as you deeply love us. Help us to do the same with our own children. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Assuming the Worst

The princes of the Ammonites said to their lord Hanun, "Do you really think that David is honoring your father just because he has sent messengers with condolences to you? Has not David sent his envoys to you to search the city, to spy it out and to overthrow it?" II Samuel 10:3 NRSV

David is sincere in offering his condolences to the new king of the Ammonites. But the advisers to this new king are trying to convince him that these messengers of sympathy are actually spies. The advisers end up shooting themselves in the foot as their humiliation of David's emissaries causes them to eventually be defeated by Israel. The advisers assume the worst rather than accepting these condolences on face value.

When have you assumed the worst?

As for me, I do it on a daily basis.

You don't return my phone call; you are therefore mad at me. [You have been in a meeting all day.]

You don't respond on Facebook; I have made a comment that deeply hurt your feelings. [Your computer has crashed.]

My son frowns as he gets in the car at carpool; he has had a rough day in school. [He saw me frowning first and thought I was mad.]

My husband begins asking me about my day; he needs me for a task for which I have no time. [He just wants to know what my day is going to be like.]

I always assume the worst. [Thank you, Jesus, that you don't assume the worst of me.]

God, thank you for loving us and not assuming the worst of us. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, March 12, 2010

Who Am I?

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and said, "Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?" II Samuel 7:18 NRSV

God has established his covenant with David and David's descendants. David responds by sitting down and praying to God. Even though he is a great man, David realizes that he is no one to whom God should have paid any mind, much less brought such victory and accomplishment. Even though he is God's anointed, David has not lost his humility.

Who are you?

What has God done for you?

What have you done to deserve God's blessings?

Sometimes it is a good practice to sit before God and admit who we really are. God certainly knows but when we are humble before God, we can truly see what remarkable things God has done for us and is continuing to do for us.

I invite you to take 10 minutes today to sit before God and realize who you really are. Then spend the remainder of the day in gratitude for God's good gifts poured out for you.

God, I invite your presence in these next few minutes as I ask myself: "Who am I?" Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pleasing All the People

All the people took notice of it, and it pleased them; just as everything the king did pleased all the people. II Samuel 3:36 NRSV

I have never been able to please all the people. In school, I might be one teacher's favorite student and another teacher's worst nightmare. In my secular career, I might please the client and disappoint upper management...or perhaps the other way around. As a pastor, I have tried to please all the people but I find it to be an impossible if not torturous task. These days, the only One I try to please is God. Some days I find that I am merely pleasing myself but I try for pleasing God.

At the beginning of II Samuel, David seems to be pleasing all the people, all the time. However, we know it won't last. Bathsheba, Joab, Absalom -- all of these folks are coming into David's life in just a few pages. David will stop pleasing all the people and do his fair share of displeasing God. But in the end, he will try his best to make right his relationship with God.

Who are you trying to please?

God, help us to try and please you, only you. In pleasing you, we will find peace and joy. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Seeing the Truth Hurts

Achish replied to David, "I know that you are as blameless in my sight as an angel of God; nevertheless, the commanders of the Philistines have said, 'He shall not go up with us to the battle.' Now then rise early in the morning, you and the servants of your lord who came with you, and go to the place that I appointed for you. As for the evil report, do not take it to heart, for you have done well before me. Start early in the morning and leave as soon have light." I Samuel 29: 9-10 NRSV

Ever have anyone write "an evil report" about you? Has anyone ever verbally blamed you for something you had not done?

How did that feel?

Even when we don't have physical evidence that we are being made a scapegoat, the feelings of betrayal do not go away easily nor quickly.

The most interesting thing here is that David is living among his enemies and the enemies of the people of Israel. He has been playing a most deceptive game. He goes out with his own followers and attacks those who are enemies of Israel yet he tells the King of the Philistines that he has attacked Israelites. David leaves no person alive so that no one can tell what he has actually done. He therefore receives favor from King Achish while destroying Israel's enemies.

The evil report was probably closer to the truth than King Achish realized.

We don't want those evil reports or blaming to be true - we would deny it all if asked directly. But we must be aware of when there are parts of the reports or the spirit of the blame may fall on our own actions or inactions. Ouch.

God, we want to be seen as blameless in the eyes of others. But more important we need to be blameless in your eyes. Help us to recognize our own responsibility and to see the truth as you see it. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Opportunity for Revenge

The Lord rewards everyone for his righteousness and his faithfulness; for the Lord gave you into my hand today, but I would not raise my hand against the Lord's anointed. I Samuel 26: 23 NRSV

God truly did give Saul into David's hand. God caused a deep sleep to fall on everyone in Saul's camp and David and Abishai snuck in and stood over Saul. They had every opportunity to kill Saul in his sleep. Certainly, David had every right to kill Saul; wasn't Saul after David's own life? David had done nothing to deserve Saul's hatred. Didn't Saul just kill the priestly family and town where David had taken Goliath's own spear? With an opportunity such as this, I don't think there are many of us who could have held back from taking our revenge.

But David is a man after God's own heart. He refuses to kill the King. And it isn't just about a question of honor - killing a man while he sleeps verses in a battle or fight. It is all about God. God's hand is on Saul. Saul is God's anointed king. God chose Saul and David is not about to second guess God's decision. Even though David knows he too has been anointed, he doesn't see that as negating the first anointing. In taking Saul's spear and water jug, David proves for a second time what an honorable and God-fearing man he is. Instead of killing Saul, he shows all the people that he, David, is the better man.

What situation is before you where God has given you an opportunity to do something? Will you do it or do you feel God holding you back? Listen carefully to God's own heart.

God, you provide opportunities for us. Some of them we need to grasp and others we need to let slip by. Help us to know the difference. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, March 8, 2010

Distress, Debt and Discontent

Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain over them. Those who were with him numbered about four hundred. I Samuel 22: 2 NRSV

We think of David the King. What we fail to imagine is David's life as Saul's Most Wanted. David is now a refugee. And in gathering this group around him, he also begins to take on the appearance of a terrorist.

Think about it.  Who comes to him? Those who are in distress - are they murderers or simply those unhappy with their lives? Those who owe money come to them - perhaps escaping from being made a slave. Those who are discontent - they are not happy with the current administration, life or God.

David is a natural leader - of men and armies. He is well-liked by all but Saul (and that is perhaps because of the evil spirit upon Saul). He is now running from the King. He naturally draws those who are escaping something in their own lives.

If you could escape from something in your own life right now, what would it be? Let's pray to God for deliverance from that thing in our lives.

God, we pray for deliverance from the thing(s) in our lives that we would very much like to run away from. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Being Clever

So Michal let David down through a window; he fled away and escaped. Michal took an idol and laid it on the bed; she put a net of goats hair on its head, and covered it with the clothes. I Samuel 19: 12 NRSV

Jacob and Issac.

Rebeccah And Laban.

Joseph and his brothers.

Rahab and the people of Jericho.

Joshua and the Gibeonites.

Deception, trickery, cleverness: no matter what you call it, you can find it in the Old Testament.

Yet, these acts of deception end up being for the good.

Jacob gets the blessing. Rebeccah gets wealth for her family. Joseph helps his brothers repent. Rahab helps the spies. Joshua...well, I can't think why that one time was a good deception! But lives were spared.

Now Micah, David's wife, saves his life.

How can you use your own cleverness in solving your daily problems? And if you do, would God approve?

God, do you really want us to use deception? It is hard to follow your commandments when so many of the people in the bible seem to do what we don't see as right. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, March 6, 2010

What more can he have?

Saul was very angry, for this saying displeased him. He said, "They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands; what more can he have but the kingdom?"
I Samuel 18:8 NRSV

Up until this point, Saul has loved David. But the bitter seed of jealousy has arisen and now will be planted and grow in Saul.

But who can Saul blame but himself? He has made David his commander over all his army, even above his own relatives. He sends David out to fight for him, but Saul himself remains at home. When David returns victorious, the women sing of both their victories but David is shown in a greater light.

The sad thing is that Saul has finally let someone else help out but can't stand for that other person to receive the glory and honor.

Perhaps that is what Saul's problem is. He is handsome, taller than most other people, a great warrior, and to top it all off he is Israel's first king! But he lacks one important thing: self-confidence.

Where in your life do you desire glory and honor? What will happen with you if someone else receives that glory and honor instead? What more can you have?

God, how can we feel your love and affirmation when it seems everyone else around us is honored and admired? How can we base our self-confidence on you? Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, March 5, 2010

Following Advice

When Saul had taken the kingship over Israel, he fought against all his enemies on every side - against Moab, against the Ammonites, against Edom, against he kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines; whever he turned he routed them. He did valiantly, and struck down the Amalekites, and rescued Israel out of the hands of those who plundered them. I Samuel 14: 47-48 NRSV

Saul was a great warrior. He knew how to win a battle. He was good at choosing the best men to fight on his behalf. He must have been good at motivating and planning, leading troops and making decisions. He wasn't so good at following directions.

I know how that is. I am like Saul in that I really like to do things myself. I have learned over the last few years that the best work I can do is with the help of a great many people. But I still have a tendency to do it myself, while ignoring the best God-filled advice.

Saul hid from Samuel when he was summoned. Saul did not wait for Samuel and did the sacrifice himself. Saul did not see how well his own son, Jonathan, could fight. Saul gave oaths rashly without thinking through the consequences. Saul plans to kill Jonathan because of something Saul himself did, without consulting God. The list of Saul's lack of listening and being open to God's advice just goes on and on.

How about you? Are you good at listening to others? Do you follow expert advice? Do you share the burdens with others? Or do you try to do everything yourself?

God, help us to listen and to follow your directions. Guide our footsteps, Lord! Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Looking Great in God's Eyes

He had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; he stood head and shoulders above everyone else. I Samuel 9:2 NRSV

Why wouldn't you want your royalty to look good and be literally heads above everyone else? How many magazines did Prince Charles ever sell before his first marriage? Then along came Diana....

Here we have one of the most tragic figures of the Bible. Yet, he looked the part of a king - he was handsome and tall. He stood out from the crowd. What a great king this was! But he lacked one crucial ingredient: obedience to God.

Now this same lack of obedience was a wide-spread disease for God's people as a whole, Samuel's own sons included. Good looks are not enough to gain God's favor. Being taller than everyone else is not going to win you over to God's side. Even having a religious parent is not enough. Obedience to God is what counts.

How good looking are you?

How much taller are you than the people around you?

How obedient are you being to God?

God, good looks and a great physique are great for everyone else. You desire for us to be obedient to you.
In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Raising the Ebenezer

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer for he said, "Thus far the Lord has helped us." I Samuel 7:12 NRSV

When singing the hymn, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" [Words by Robert Robinson, 1758, based on this verse] I always think of two things: Ebenezer Scrouge and a mug of beer. Okay, I think you can see why  "A Christmas Carol" - but the beer? Well, when we raise the Ebenezer, I think of raising a drink to toast God's health or something.

But the scripture is not something out of an 18th century tavern. Instead, the word ebenezer actually means Stone of Help. Samuel is using a rock to remind the people that it is God who helps. You see, the people were fighting against the Philistines and they got scared. They cried out to Samuel, their religious leader (but not a fighter) to keep praying to God on their behalf. Samuel got busy and not only prayed but offered up a special sacrifice. The Israelites were victorious, running their enemies from their lands much farther than they had hoped. Samuel is reminding them whose victory this really was.

What ebenezer do you need to remind you that God is your source of help? Perhaps you are right now looking for help so that you can lift up an ebenezer. In either case, we need to pray and to remind ourselves that it is God who is the source of all our help and victory.

God, thank you for helping me in the past but please don't stop! I recall all of the times when you have been the helper of my life. Help me now! In Jesus' Holy name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell over backward from his seat by the side of the gate; and his neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man, and heavy. He had judged Israel forty years.
I Samuel 4: 18 NRSV

I really have a hard time feeling sorry for Eli.

He accuses Hannah of being drunk while she is praying on the steps of the temple. Had he never seen anyone praying earnestly? Did he immediately think she was drunk because, well, he was usually drunk?

His sons are scoundrels and he doesn't seem to notice until someone tells him about them. Or maybe he knows but doesn't say anything until others get restless. The saddest thing is that they are the religious leaders and are abusing the people!

He is told by a prophet and later by Samuel that God is angry at his sons (and, I think, Eli as well) and all his family but one is going to die. Eli never acts remorseful, he just accepts God's pronouncements and goes on doing what he has been doing. Isn't the point to be contrite and try to make up for these things?

Eli is overweight. Obviously, he has been fattening himself at the cost of the people of God. It is Eli, not God who has been receiving the better portions.

Eli is more concerned about the ark of God than about his own sons. Or even his own obedience to the Law contained in the ark! It is the object he worships, not God.

Eli has judged Israel for 40 years -- that is a huge sign that God is building something new out of the sinful ashes of the Israelites.

Is there anything about Eli in which you can see yourself?

God, forgive me for _______________________________________. Help me to turn from this and turn to you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, March 1, 2010

Your God Shall Be My God

But Ruth said, "Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God." Ruth 1:16 NRSV

Why was Ruth so attached to Naomi? Why did she want to become, for all intents and purposes, Naomi's adopted daughter? Could it have been out of love?

Sometimes we hear this verse read in a wedding ceremony, but this has nothing to do with marital love.

If something happened (or had happened) to all of your family accept for your in-law, do you (or did you) love them enough to give up everything and go wherever they go?

Although I love my in-laws, I am afraid I am too independent (translation: controlling) for that to be a healthy relationship.

But we know the outcome: Ruth's act of love, above and beyond what was expected of her, ended up producing the man whose heart was after God's own heart: David.

It does take a special heart, a special love, for one's own heart to be after God's heart.

God, you gave up all out of love for us. Can we do no less? In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims