Friday, April 30, 2010

Including the Poor

... That they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor. Esther 9: 22b NRSV

The Book of Esther tells the origins of the Feast of Purim. This is the feast that reminds the Jews of their victory over their enemies and when their mourning had been turned into rejoicing. They are not to forget to celebrate and remember.

The celebration includes feasting, sending food to each other and giving gifts to the poor. This really sounds like the Christian celebration of Christmas! Traditionally, we feast, give gifts to each other and gifts to the poor.

It is easy to see why they would want to celebrate with food and gifts, but why the part about giving to the poor?

The poor have really not been mentioned in the Book of Esther. There is no tale of Esther or Mordecai giving to the less fortunate. We don't see the King doing much for the poor unless we count the beginning of the story in which he does hold a seven day banquet for all the people of the city of Susa. So, again, why include the poor?

Perhaps it has something to do with God. (!) Although God is never mentioned by name at any time in the Book of Esther, God is certainly present. And God is concerned with the less-fortunate. In giving thanks and remembering that the Jews were saved, is it not right to give to those who are down-trodden and hungry?

God, we celebrate at Christmas and other times with feasts and gifts. Help us to remember the poor at these times as well. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Such a Time As This

"For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this. " Esther 4: 14 NRSV

This is probably the most well-known scripture from the book of Esther: for such a time as this. But do we really understand what this means? It sounds like Esther is to become the savior of her people (we know this will happen) but there is some danger to her royal person that is suggested as well. Mordecai has asked Esther to go before the King and ask for her people to be spared.

Esther responds with a reality check. Esther has not been invited into the King's presence. To come before the King without being invited, meant certain death unless the King chose to hold out his golden scepter. In addition, Esther has not even been invited to see (visit his bed?) the king for a month. There is no guarantee that the King will hold out the scepter if Esther has in some way displeased him.

However, Mordecai reminds her that she is in danger of losing her life, anyway, when the decree to annihilate all Jews is carried out. He suggests that Esther has been placed on the throne by God so that she can save God's people. Keeping silent will not help her in any way. If she doesn't do it, God will raise up someone else.

Just because you are placed in a position for a particular time to help someone, this doesn't always mean that you will come away unscathed. Your life may not be on the line, but your livelihood could be. Or your reputation. Friendships could be damaged. Any influence or control that you have over others or situations could diminish. God may want to use you, but if you remain silent, God will find another way.

God, have I been placed where I am for such a time as this?

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Now Esther had not revealed her kindred or her people, as Mordecai had charged her; for Esther obeyed Mordecai just as when she was brought up by him. Esther 2:20 NRSV

Even though she was brought to the King's palace, lived in luxury and seclusion, and chosen as the King's new queen, Esther remains faithful to her adoptive father's instructions. She did not reveal that she was Jewish nor that she was related in any way to Mordecai (her uncle turned father). Esther is as obedient now as she was when she was a child.

I have to confess that my obedience is nothing like Esther's. I do follow the rules but I have this rebellious streak and a very stubborn nature. I was probably fairly obedient as a child. Perhaps I am more obedient these days, but I think I am more obedient to God than to my earthly father.

Yet, it is Esther's obedience that will eventually save her, Mordecai, and all the Jewish people under King Ahasuerus' dominion.

How obedient are you? Were you obedient as a child? Certainly, we want our children to obey us but do we really want to obey others? Do you think you are obedient to God? Why or why not?

God, I am your child. You ask for my obedience. May my obedience to you be as Esther's to Mordecai. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What is your weakness?

Did not King Solomon of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God and God made him king over all Israel; nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin. Nehemiah 13: 26 NRSV

What is your weakness? What can easily tempt you away from following God?

For King Solomon, it was foreign women. Perhaps it was not a matter of lust so much as a matter of trying to keep the peace with many surrounding nations (easiest to make a treaty and marry one of their daughters). Then, when these foreign women joined the household, they brought their own religious beliefs and their man-made gods.

Nehemiah sees this as one of the biggest problems in the newly rebuild Jerusalem. He reminds the people (the men) that God commanded them not to marry foreign wives. The reason was that these women would bring their own gods into the households and lead both their husbands and their children away from worshipping God. Nehemiah doesn't want God to exile the people again. He wants them to be holy and set apart.

You know what causes you to sin. You also know that God wants you to be holy and set apart. What do you need to do about this?

God, we are all vulnerable to sin. Help us to chase away our temptations and be holy to you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, April 26, 2010

Response Following the Sermon

And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them. Nehemiah 8: 12 NRSV

Okay, this is how we should respond after the sermon!

First, we should go on our way. We have heard the message and now go out to live it.

Then we should go to eat and drink. Preferably with one another. Have a feast!

Next, we should send something back to take care of our religious leaders. In Nehemiah's day, you sent back part of your first fruits in order to support the Levites. That way, the Levites didn't have to work but could dedicate themselves fully to God.

Finally, they should do all this with joy and happiness because they were able to understand what was said in the message. There should be rejoicing when we understand the scriptures.

The people in the newly walled Jerusalem had heard the law and were helped to understand it with interpretation. It had been quite some time since they had had a sermon. They were asked not to grieve but to treat what they had heard and this day as holy.

Why don't you plan on responding in this way in worship?

God, thank you for your word and those who interpret it for us. Give us ears to hear and hearts that rejoice! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Hammer in One Hand, a Sword in the Other

The burden bearers carried their loads in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and with the other held a weapon. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. Nehemiah 4: 17b-18a NRSV

I pray most mornings for the full armor of God. However, in this passage, the workers are geared for both fighting and building.

Nehemiah is determined that God's work will go on. Yet, he has enemies who try everything from sneak attacks to trickery to stop the work on the wall. But he never gives up. Instead, he looks carefully at the dangerous situation and creates a plan (verse 14) for the work to continue. He reminds the workers not to be afraid because God is on their side. He also encourages them to fight for their families and homes.

Setbacks don't bother Nehemiah. Threats cannot stop him. He knows that he is doing God's will and he is determined to find a way to carry out what God has asked of him.

I know many plans, especially in churches, that never get anywhere because folks are threatened. They become more afraid of other people than God. They pay attention to what humans want rather than what God wants. They lose their determination to see the job done.

But if God truly desires what you are trying to accomplish, there will be a way. It may be difficult and it may mean that you are going to wear different hats (perhaps one for fighting and one for building) but God will provide. Who can shut us down when God is on our side?

God, sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. We cave under threats. We let fear rule our lives. We lack determination to carry out your will and your desires in the world. Help us, God, help us. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What Has God Placed in Your Heart?

So I came to Jerusalem and was there for three days. Then I got up during the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. The only animal I took was the animal I rode. Nehemiah 2:11-12 NRSV

God has given Nehemiah a dream of rebuilding Jerusalem. But he tells no one but the King, whose permission and support he receives. He tours what used to be the walls of this city under cover of darkness so that no one will know what he is planning on doing. He keeps what God has placed in his heart a secret at this time.

I don't know if I have as much restraint as Nehemiah. I would rather tell as many people as possible the plans that God has placed on my heart. I need to listen more carefully to the Spirit's urging when it is the best time to speak and when to hold back.

What thoughts, dreams or goals has God placed on your heart lately? Have you told anyone about them? Do you feel as though you should? Perhaps some of them are to be spoken of while the rest remain in your head.

Nehemiah, though, doesn't stop with his heart. He works in the night to begin his plans by walking the wall. He wants to know how bad it is (and it turns out to be worse than he had imagined). And it is only after his nighttime inspection that he reveals to all the Jewish people and leaders what God has asked him to begin.

Lord, help us to know when to express what you have placed in our hearts, when to do some "secret" inspections of our own and when to reveal your desires. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, April 23, 2010


So we fasted and petitioned our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty. Ezra 8: 23 NRSV

I don't do much fasting, yet it is all over the Bible - Old Testament, New Testament even for those of you who have an Apocrypha in the middle of your Bible. Fasting is a part of prayer, grieving, humility, and repentance. Fasting somehow seems to connect to God's ears in ways regular communication may be lacking. So, why don't I fast?

Part of the reason has been when I have tried to fast I just end up in a bad mood: a BAAAD mood. Dr. Jeckyl, Mr. Hyde kind of bad mood. So, I have a tendency to say no to complete fasting. I might give up a certain type of food for a period of time but that is not true fasting.

I have had some success with complete fasting: mainly if I am by myself. Put me in a regular daily schedule, and everyone around had better take cover! The one exception is Sunday mornings. I actually do well on those days. But I do look forward to lunch!

There are a group of us at my church who are praying through Acts and plan on fasting on Pentecost Sunday from dawn to dusk. One of the suggestions is that we don't wait until then - we need to "practice" our fasting. One idea that I have is to stretch out my own Sunday morning fasts until I can cope with a whole day. I also plan on drinking lots of water with a bit of lemon juice throughout that time.

But the biggest keys evident in this scripture seems to me the petition part to God. Fasting is not to be done just for the sake of giving up food. Fasting is part of an entreaty to God. Fasting should be an extension of my prayers, like kneeling or bowing my head. I need to be combining my prayers and my fasting. I think that is the key.

God, if you lead us to fast, help us to remain in constant prayer to you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Easily Discouraged

Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and made them afraid to build.... Ezra 4:4 NRSV

We are easily discouraged.

We make plans, start working, and truly have a hope and a prayer.

Then along comes the nay-sayers, the doubtful, the discouraging, the jealous and the down-right mean.

We begin to doubt.

We begin to be discouraged.

We begin to complain, make excuses, abandon our plans and just give up.

It really doesn't take much to put us off course, especially when we have been charged with something that is a challenge to accomplish.

We may even wonder what happened to God from the time we embraced our mission to when we became lost and confused.

God is still there. God still desires us to do God's work.

We are the ones who have let fear be our guide.

In the end, we discover that it is easier to give into fear than fight and stick with the plan given to us by God.

We need God's courage and determination in order to do what God is asking of us.

Give us this courage and determination always, God! We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Lord Stirred Him Up

In the first year of the King Cyrus of Persia, in order that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia so that he sent a herald throughout all his kingdom, and also in a written edict declared: "Thus says King Cyrus of Persia: the Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah."  Ezra 1: 1-2 NRSV

God stirs up the spirit of the King of Persia to rebuild Jerusalem. God has used an enemy of God's people to carry out the punishment to the unfaithful of Israel. Now God uses another enemy to bring the people back and rebuild the city of Jerusalem. King Cyrus is not a good person nor does he a worship the one true God. In fact, he is probably trying to pacify all the people under him in order to keep the peace. However, this scripture reminds us that God can use anyone, even our enemies, to carry out God's justice and mercy.

Quickly think of one person whom you consider to be your enemy. What would you do or think if that person did something to benefit Christians around the world? Or even if that person did something that helped you and your church? Would you be able to see God's hand in this? Or would you tend to mistrust that person?

I would have a really hard time trusting. I might be able to see God's hand at work but I still would be very wary of placing my confidence in what that enemy had done. Yet, God works through even the most unlikely in order for God's will to be done. I need to remember that always.

God, we trust you but it is all those other people out there who we distrust. Help us to discern when you are working for good in the world even through those whom we consider to be our enemies. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

God's Message

The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place, but they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words, and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord against his people became so great that there was no remedy. II Chronicles 36: 15-16 NRSV

Has God ever tried to get your attention, sending you messages and messengers? Have you noticed the same ideas, scripture, themes and suggestions coming your way from various sources? Have you found yourself making narrow escapes again and again? And even after all this, were you too busy ignoring, laughing and being perfectly oblivious to what God was trying to tell you?

God comes to us in many ways. However, it often feels like God lies in wait and then hits us over the head with a two-by-four. I think God has probably been sending messengers for awhile and we have not been paying any attention.

The people of Judah were loved by God. God kept on sending prophets and angels (messengers) but the people mocked the messages. So, God finally had enough and uses the king of the Chaldeans to carry out God's punishment: total destruction of the temple and Jerusalem and complete exile in Babylon. This was a devastating time for the Jewish people and God's wrath was truly felt.

But the book of II Chronicles, as our own stories today, ends on a note of hope: the return and reconstruction. For us Christians, Jesus Christ is our hope. He is the one who guides us to return to God and restores our relationship with him.

God, help us to listen to you so that our relationship remains strong. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, April 19, 2010

One Greater With Us

Be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him; for there is one greater with us than with him. II Chronicles 32:7 NRSV

Lord, I want to say that I am strong. I have weathered many of life's storms. I have stood my ground when that was needed. I have stepped aside when called upon to do so.

But how strong am I really on my own? You are the one who makes me strong.

I think I have good courage, yet when the real moral dilemmas occur, I hold my tongue and say nothing. Even when I see an injustice, I am slow to move because I don't want to be hurt instead.

Do I have good courage? Only you give me courage.

As a child I was afraid of the dark. Now I am afraid of losing my job, of not being able to pay my bills, of my spouse leaving me, of being a failure. My fears have grown even as I have.

Do not be afraid? That is not possible. At least not without your help.

Do not be dismayed at the enemy poised at your gates? The worst that could happen is always around the corner. I do feel constantly besieged. I am trapped, sometimes in places of my own making.

But there is one greater than all these. One who gives me courage. One who makes me strong. One who takes my fears and dismays and crushes them into dust.

God, you are that one.

I thank you and praise you forever more.


Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Prayer for Forgiveness

For a multitude of the people, many of them from Ephraim, Manaseh, Isachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the passover otherwise as proscribed. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, "The good Lord pardon all who set their hearts to seek God, the Lord the God of their ancestors, even though not in accordance with the sanctuary's rules of cleanness." The Lord heard Hezekiah, and healed the people.  II Chronicles 30: 18-20 NRSV

I am very accustomed to asking God to forgive me. But how often do I ask God to forgive others?

King Hezekiah asks for God to forgive those who participated in the Passover feast without properly cleansing themselves as the Law required. He did this because he saw that these people were actively seeking God and trying to do the right thing. God then forgives these people. We know this because God also healed them. 

Who do you see as being in need of God's forgiveness? In asking for God to forgive them, know that God's forgiveness will be manifest in their lives in a powerful and highly evident way. Let's pray together:

God, you know our hearts better than we even know ourselves or those we love. We ask your forgiveness for ________________________. Even Jesus on the cross asked that you forgive those who tortured and killed him, even those who mocked him as he died. We invoke that powerful forgiveness - not just for those who have hurt us but for those who have hurt you. In Jesus' powerful name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Tax that Makes You Happy

All the leaders and all the people rejoiced and brought their tax and dropped it into the chest until it was full. II Chronicles 24: 10 NRSV

Well, I was not rejoicing when I paid my taxes this week but this scripture isn't referring to a government tax. This is the tax that Moses and later David and Solomon collected to pay for God's dwelling place. This young king, Joash, is being led to make improvements in the Temple but needs money to do so. A chest is set outside the gate of the house of the Lord and the people are so moved and willing, that the chest is constantly being filled. In fact, the leaders and the people are doing so joyfully.

Every Sunday that plate comes around in front of you and your thoughts are probably those of guilt or duty. Perhaps you feel bad that you aren't giving more or that you just forgot your checkbook. And doesn't it seem like there is a capital campaign for building improvements every time you turn around? There is not much joy these days in giving offerings to God.

Yet, here we have an example that the people were taxed (in other words, this wasn't an optional offering) and they were happy to give their money.  This is because they were giving it to God.

Think about all the bills you pay each month - the power company, the water company, the mortgage company, the credit card companies... are you happy about writing that check or going online to pay those bills? Does it give you a feeling of satisfaction or happiness to know those big conglomerates are getting your hard-earned cash? How much different it is to give to God! Even when giving for building campaigns, we are giving to the One who has give so much to us including this money. Think about the lives being changed, the stories of redemption and your own discipleship journey. That is what your money is going to be paying for when you give your money to God through the church.

Now doesn't that make you happy?

God, give us joy when we give to you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, April 16, 2010

Departing With No One's Regret

He was thirty-two years old when he began to reign; he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. He departed with no one's regret. They buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings. 
II Chronicles 21: 20 NRSV

Well, I have been to many interesting funerals but I have never heard of anyone spoken of who “departed with no one's regret.” I find this to be bible humor. Hope some of you laughed.

Our laughter aside, there was a very clear reason that he departed with no one's regret. Jehoram was a really bad “dude.” He killed all his brothers as soon as he ascended to the throne. He took King Ahab's daughter as his wife and was greatly influenced by that evil household. He set up the high places and made the people of Judah be unfaithful to God. He caused several neighbors to become enemies of Judah. The prophet Elijah wrote him a letter prophesying his downfall and death because of his evil deeds. His country and household were invaded by Judah's enemies and he died in misery and pain. The only thing which saved him from an early demise was that he was of the house of David.

What can we learn from such a man? Not to be bad “dudes” is one possibility. Certainly none of us wants to go to the grave with no one mourning our death. But the worst is God's own condemnation of Jehoram. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and aroused the Lord's anger.

Have you ever done anything in your lifetime that aroused God's anger?

Thank God for the mercy offered to each one of us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ!

God, be merciful to us and forgive us. Be not angry at our deeds and mistakes. Cause your face to shine upon us and be merciful to us. In Jesus' precious name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Taking a Bribe

...And said to the judges, "Consider what you are doing, for you judge not on behalf of human beings but on the Lord's behalf; he is with you in giving judgment. Now let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take care what you do, for there is no perversion of justice with the Lord our God, or partiality, or taking of bribes." II Chronicles 19: 6-7 NRSV

How I wish someone had said this to some of our local and state politicians. I don't think I have picked up a newspaper lately without some new report of a mayor, commissioner, judge, state senator or other government employee taking a bribe. Some of these have been in the forms of campaign contributions or loans but a few have been outright gifts.  There seems to be little fear of the Lord not to mention integrity among those serving in public office.

Why is that? Are people just more greedy these days? Or are they simply apathetic?

In the time of King Jehoshaphat of Jerusalem, the king's responsibilities included bringing folks back to God. In fact, Jehoshaphat was a good king. He got rid of those pagan places of worship and had the book of the law read to the people. His heart was in the right place. But even King Jehoshaphat, as courageous in the ways of the Lord as he was, could be influenced to "help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord (see verse 2)."

It is not just those in public office who need to let the fear of God settle upon them. None of us are above being bribed or turned away from God. Not one of us can truly throw the first stone.  No one is that good.

God, give us courage to remain true to you, letting the fear of you fall upon us so that we can all be courageous in your ways. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Rely on God

Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with exceedingly many chariots and cavalry? Yet because you relied on the Lord, he gave them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the entire earth, to strengthen those whose heart is true to him. II Chronicles 16: 8-9 NRSV

King Asa of Judah relied on God to defeat his enemies. But when he became afraid of Israel because they had set up a town to prevent any more faithful from going to worship in Jerusalem, he made a treaty with them, spending money God's money that came directly from the Temple. When he did this, he not only stopped relying on God but misused God's own treasure.

You and I are often tempted to rely on ourselves rather than God. In fact, I can't tell you how many times in the past my husband and I took what should have been God's tithe and used it to pay bills! We were afraid and, rather than appeal for God's help in our situation, we tried to solve it ourselves. Although we have stopped misusing God's treasure, we still have fears and try to do things ourselves without relying on God.

But how many times has God come to our rescue? How many times does God have to prove to us that God will provide? It seems as though we can't learn this lesson often enough for it to sink in.

What are your fears? Are you tempted to solve all your problems yourself? What would happen if you appealed to God?

God, as your eyes range throughout the entire earth, let them rest on us, your faithful. May you strengthen the hearts of those who are true to you. For in you lie miracles we cannot fathom. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Community of Faith

Those who had set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel came after them from all the tribes of Israel to Jerusalem to sacrifice to the Lord, the God of their ancestors. II Chronicles 11: 16 NRSV

Rehoboam, Solomon's son and heir, planned a greater taxation that his father which made ten of the twelve tribes leave the kingdom and form their own. However, the new King of this Israel did not want the priests, Levites and the faithful to go to Jerusalem to worship for that was where Rehoboam reigned over the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. So, he set up his own religion with his own appointed priests in his kingdom of Israel. Therefore the Levites and priests all fled to the kingdom of Judah. Those who were faithful to God followed them so that they could worship the Lord their God. For the Old Testament Jews, God was present with the Arc of the Covenant which at this time was located in the Temple in Jerusalem.

Is your relationship with God so firm that you would leave your home, kindred and all you know to go where you can worship God faithfully? In other words, would you give up all you had so that you could worship God fully and truthfully?

I doubt there are many Christians who would do the same type of thing. Many Christians today have abandoned the corporate worship in order to worship God privately. They have many good reasons including mistrust of Church leadership, hypocrisy, abuse, lack of time, other priorities, and even just getting out of the "habit" of going to church. For the modern Christian, God is everywhere -- not just in church. Why go to a particular place to worship when one can do it in the privacy of one's own home?

I am convicted that there are many different reasons to find a Body of Christ with whom to be a part. I fully believe that we are not meant to journey with Christ alone, that it does take a congregation or body of believers to help us along the Way. That doesn't mean that sometimes we get distracted or can do really stupid things in the church. But we work together to correct each other, forgive one another and learn to love one another. If we don't learn to love one another in the church, where else will we learn?

God, I pray that each person who reads this devotional is either in a community of faith or that you will lead them to the community in which you would like them to belong. In Jesus' holy name I pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, April 12, 2010

Eyes and Ears of God

Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. II Chronicles 7:15 NRSV

God appears to Solomon in his dreams after the Temple is completed. It is not some happy news but warnings that God has for Solomon's ears. God gives strict guidelines for both the people and for Solomon as well as the consequences if those rules are broken. God will be listening to their prayers -- but also watching their behavior.

I do want God's ears to hear my prayers-- that goes without saying! But do I really want God's eyes to be open when I pray?

When I pray, I usually close my eyes. My prayers are auditory, whether spoken aloud or to myself. What does it mean, then for God to be watching? Is God looking for something? Perhaps God is looking for the right posture (on my knees head bowed or standing with arms raised)? The right attitude? For some reason I see the visual of Jesus coming into the temple and overturning the tables of the merchants. "My father's house is a house of prayer!" Jesus said. Something was not just sinful about what was happening but it was noticeably, visually abhorrent to God. When have my lips or my mind been busy praying while my body was visually unacceptable to God? What has God been seeing about me that prevents God from being attentive with God's ears when I pray?

God, you not only hear our prayers but your eyes are open to us. Help us to be visually in right relationship with you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Walking Before God

He said, "O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven or on earth, keeping covenant in steadfast love with your servants who walk before you with all their heart --." II Chronicles 6: 14 NRSV

"...Who walk before you with all their heart...."

What does it mean to walk before someone? When my son was little, he would always want to walk in front of me which meant that I was usually stumbling over his little feet or having to change my own path in order to keep moving. The benefit was that I could keep an eye on him. Otherwise, he might stop and admire a plant or pick up something from the dirt and I would be several strides ahead. I would not realize that he had been left behind until I happened to look back and realize that I had "lost" him.

What does it mean to give all your heart? In both my son's karate class as well as his Cub Scout oath, he is asked to always do his best. For his age it is good to ask: are you doing your best? This is like saying that someone is giving it their all, they are not holding back and they are doing more than just going through the motions.  To give something or someone all your heart also means that you are giving completely with no reservations.

So, to walk before God with all your heart means that you are keeping yourself completely in God's sight and you are giving all your heart without any reservations to God.

God, I want to walk before you with all my heart. Please keep an eye on me at all times, Lord, and I will do my best to give you my whole heart. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Power Behind the Throne

Solomon son of David established himself in his kingdom; the Lord his God was with him and made him exceedingly great. 2 Chronicles 1:1 NRSV

In the First Book of Chronicles, the establishment of the Israeli monarchy up through King David's rise to power was told.  The Second Book of Chronicles follows what happens after David's death, including the building of the temple and the eventual dissolution of the kingdom, the monarchy and the people.

Here in verse one we see the new king but we also notice who is the true power behind the throne.

Solomon established himself but it was God, who was with him, who made him "exceedingly great."

As we journey through II Chronicles we will notice when God is not with a monarch and how that makes the ruler exceedingly bad if not downright evil.

So, we immediately know that if God is with us, we too can be made exceedingly great.

How well are you established in your own kingdom?

Do you truly believe that God is with you?

In what ways has God made you exceedingly great?

God, we ask for your constant presence and guidance. Keep us from pushing you away or being distracted by the world. We want to be exceedingly great in your eyes. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, April 9, 2010

Giving To God

Then the people rejoiced because these had given willingly, for with single mind they had offered freely to the Lord; King David also rejoiced greatly. I Chronicles 29:9 NRSV

King David, in Chronicles, sets the stage for his son and heir to build a temple for God. David wants to provide the funds to pay for the construction. He doesn't just ask the people of Israel to give: David gives generously first out of his own treasury. Then he asks what the people will offer willingly to help with the expenses and, in doing so, be part of this holy construction. Then the leadership of the houses of Israel come forward, giving freely. This is followed by other leaders and by the people. They give various denominations of money and precious stones. Then everyone rejoices because they money was given freely rather than "taxed."

It is interesting to see that people do follow the example of leaders. When leadership in our churches give generously, then the rest of the congregation will follow. When leaders sacrifice for God's own good, others will happily follow this example.

In this shaky economic climate, how generously are you giving to God?

God, you ask us to give joyfully, not out of our abundance but out of our love for you. Help us to give freely and to lead others in also giving to you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Gated Community

These divisions of the gatekeepers, corresponding to their leaders, had duties, just as their kindred did, ministering in the house of the Lord; and they cast lots by ancestral houses, small and great alike, for their gates. I Chronicles 26: 12 NRSV

I Chronicles spends a lot of time explaining how the Levites were divided and given their duties per  household. It seems kind of silly now, but everyone clearly had a job in their trip through the desert. This included the descendants of Aaron as well as the sons of Moses. Now what is each descendant to do? The Ark of the Covenant has a resting place in the City of David. There is no longer to be any traveling. So, they each must have their duties.

In these verses, the gatekeepers are assigned. These are the descendants of Moses. Although they are not to be priests, they are Levites and are set apart for special duties. They won't be involved with the actual Temple duties but are assigned as guards of the gates of God's house. To decide which family gets which gate, lots are cast. I suppose this makes it "fair" and seemingly under God's decision.

Most churches today don't have gatekeepers but they do have such folk as ushers and greeters. Instead of lots, my church either looks at someone's Spiritual Gifts and/or willingness to have that assignment. This scripture reminds me that our church should probably be more intentional about who becomes our gatekeepers.

Do you have any assigned role in your church? What is it and do you feel that is where God wants you to serve? If you don't, would you like to have one? How would you like to see your church assigning duties and service?

God, you call all of us to serve you. Help us find the best way to know your will for our lives in service to you. In Jesus' precious name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Blame it on the Devil

Satan stood up against Israel, and incited David to count the people of Israel. I Chronicles 21:1 NRSV

Looks like Satan, or "Big Red" as my friend Polly likes to say, was as active in Old Testament times as he is today. In this part of I Chronicles, David's problems don't begin with Bathsheba but with taking a census of the people. This wasn't David's own idea, however, but Satan's interference. Up until now, David was having a relatively positive and growing reign. Obviously, Satan was not happy with this and chose to stand up and incite David.

I can personally say that Satan has stood up and incited me to make wrong decisions and take godless actions. In fact, I would dearly love to blame Satan for a whole host of mistakes, poor decisions and unwise choices throughout my life. However, I must admit that sometimes I don't need Satan's help with these. Okay, most of the time I don't need Satan's influence. I do a fine job of messing up my life on my own.

I think all of us could spend our time blaming Satan for our problems. But perhaps we give the devil too much credit. We need to admit what we have personally done wrong. We need to take responsibility for our own actions. I think when we do this, Satan actually loses power over us.

God, protect us from being incited to do wrong things, no matter who or what is behind them. Help us to take responsibility for our own faults and mistakes. And forgive us whenever we do let you down. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Invoke, Praise and Thank Our God

He appointed certain of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the Lord, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel. I Chronicles 16: 4 NRSV

King David is setting up the ark of the Covenant in the city of Jerusalem. He has blessed the people and given them all gifts of food. Now he is making sure that there are those to serve God and to give God what God is due on a regular basis. These ministers are to call to God, express gratefulness to God and to glorify God through song. Following these assignments, there are several quoted psalms in this chapter -- most likely sung to music.

Do you have those in your church who are especially called to invoke, thank and praise God in music and song? What would it be like if those persons were not in your worship service? How would that change the congregation's feelings of worshipfulness? Perhaps you are one of those who sing or play an instrument. Have you ever realized how important your role in worship is?

Today, let us find at least one person who helps with music in worship. Email, facebook, text or call them and just thank them for their service to our God. And, next time you are in worship singing, think about how you are invoking, praising and thanking our Lord and our God!

God, we thank you so much for the gift of music in worship. We especially thank you for those who bring their gifts of music and song to you and to your services. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, April 5, 2010


Then the spirit came upon Amasai, chief of the Thiry and he said, "We are yours, O David; and with you, O son of Jesse! Peace, peace to you, and peace to the one who helps you! For your God is the one who helps you." Then David received them, and made them officers of his troops. I Chronicles 12: 18 NRSV

David is unsure of the loyalty of these newest warriors who have joined him in his stronghold. Are they friend or foe? Can they be trusted? David leaves the final judgment to God - if they betray him, it is God who will carry out their punishment. However, these men promise peace to David and to God who is David's helper.

How interesting that these warriors proclaim peace to David and to God. What would a warrior know about peace? Peace is the total opposite of what a warrior knows.

Yet, it is possible that peace would be something that a warrior does know intimately. If peace is the total opposite of what a warrior does and who a warrior is - then they would know very well what peace is about. In addition, peace may be what they truly desire -- a rest from constant fighting, even if that means a lack of livelihood.

I'm no warrior. Can I know what peace is? Can I recognize peace when it comes upon me? Can I even bless others with peace?

God, peace be to you this Easter Monday! May we know true peace this day. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, April 4, 2010

You Shall be Ruler

The Lord is Risen! The Lord is Risen, indeed!

Then all Israel gathered together to David at Hebron and said, "See, we are your bond and flesh. For some time now, even while Saul was king, it was you who commanded the army of Israel. The Lord your God said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over my people Israel." I Chronicles 11: 1-2 NRSV

The people of Israel commit themselves to be David's people. They ask for him to be their ruler. And they don't ask just because  David is a good warrior and has been leading the troops. They want David as their King because God has made David the shepherd of God's people.

What kinds of commitments do you have right now? This would include those to people or institutions.

How many of these commitments have you made because God asked you to make them?

What would it look like if you only committed yourself to doing just what God asks you to do?

God, on this Easter Sunday, we re-commit ourselves to what you ask us to do in our lives. Help us to weed out all those commitments that are not of you nor are asked by you. In Jesus' Holy name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, April 3, 2010


The sons of Ephraim: Shuthelah, and Bered his son, Eleadah his son, Tahath his son, Zabad his son, Shuthelah his son and Ezer and Elead. Now the people of Gath, who were born in the land, killed them, because they came down to raid their cattle. And their father Ephraim mourned many days, and his brothers came to comfort him. Ephraim went in to his wife, and she conceived and bore a son; and he anmed him Beriah, because disaster had befallen his house. His daughter was Sheerah, who built both Lower and Upper Bethhoron, and Uzzensheerah. I Chronicles 7: 20-24 NRSV

Among the listing of the descendants of Israel, some of them stand out. This is one of them. It shows Ephraim's sons and grandsons. Ephraim was one of Joseph's sons. However, his family meets with tragedy. All of his descendants are killed. In fact, it isn't clear if the sons and grandsons were raiding the cattle or the people of Gath were doing the raiding. Either way, the outcome is death. Ephraim does have other sons but it is interesting that it is his daughter (or possibly granddaughter) who does well. Sheerah builds two cities. It is the female, in this long list of males, who makes a name for herself.


Here we are in the midst of Easter weekend when the female followers of our Lord make a name for themselves in the midst of stories about the male followers. It is to the women coming to the tomb that the announcement of the Resurrection is first made. And it is up to these women to be the first evangelists.


May we keep our eyes open this weekend for the unexpected while we are actively in the midst of the ordinary.

God, you are the God of surprises -- both great and small. Help keep our eyes open! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Prayer of Jabez

Jabez was honored more than his brothers; and his mother named him Jabez, saying, "Because I bore him in pain." Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, "Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, that you would keep me from hurt and harm!" And God granted what he asked. I Chronicles 4: 9-10 NRSV

Sometimes we must be aware of what we are truly asking of God in our prayers.

Many of us remember the popular "Prayer of Jabez" movement from a few years ago. Everyone was praying Jabez's prayer on a daily basis: enlarge my territory, bless me, protect me. I know of one woman who lost her job right after beginning to pray this prayer. She told me, " I asked God to enlarge my territory but I guess I didn't know what that meant -- I didn't mean for God to enlarge the territory of where I was to work!" She did find a (much better) job after searching for some time.

She prayed; God answered. She just didn't fully comprehend what she was asking.

When I worked in the secular world, one of my co-workers said that she never asked God for patience. "I have been told if I pray for patience, then I'm gonna need it" she explained. She realized how powerful prayers could be. I always wanted to say that I'd rather pray for patience when I'm going to need it rather than be without it.

Our prayers are powerful. God listens and God answers prayer. However, God is not a genie from a bottle. When God answers prayer, God often answers in ways we are not expecting.

What are you praying for?

God, today I ask for: ___________________________________________. I praise you and give you the glory and honor. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Total Defeat

He burned the house of the Lord, the king's house, and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. All the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had defected to the king of Babylon - all the rest of the population. But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest people of the land to be vinedressers and tillers of the soil. II Kings 25:9-12 NRSV

Total defeat.

Jerusalem is not just besieged, it is totally destroyed. The Lord's house, the king's house, all the houses of the rich, the important, the talented and the intellectual are torn down. The last of the city's protection is broken: the walls around Jerusalem. The king, the royal family, the priests and their families, all the ruling upper classes and creative middle classes have already been taken into exile. All the rest, except for the poorest laborers, are now carried away. This is total defeat of God's city.

Was this defeat carried out on the orders of the King of Babylon? Yes. But it was by God's will, God who was so angered by the people's unfaithfulness that he "expelled them from his presence" (II Kings 24:20).

Have you ever felt expelled from God's presence? What did you do about it? What would it look like if you were to be expelled today?

God, we pray that we may never anger you so much that you expel us from your presence. Have mercy on us, dear Lord! In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims