Monday, May 31, 2010

Light in the Dark Places

Have regard for your covenant, for the dark places of the land are full of the haunts of violence. Psalm 74:20 NRSV

Remember what you promised, God?

If we followed your covenant, you would give us the promised land.

How can you give us the promised land when there are still parts of this land that belong to the unbelievers?

How can we become stewards of your promised land of milk and honey when some parts of the land are still violent and chaotic in nature?

Did you not promise us peace?

Have we failed in some way?

Have we broken your covenant, forgotten your love for us and your saving grace?

Have we not learned our lessons already?

Why are we so forgetful?

Sometimes we are the ones who still have dark places within us that are full of the haunts of violence.

Cleanse us from our sins.

Wash us clean of our iniquity, Lord.

Make us white as snow on the inside.

Remove those parts of our being that are full of violence and darkness.

Fill us with your light and life, even into the darkest corners of our souls.

Set us apart and fulfill your promises.

Let us be your people just as you are our God.

So be it.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Old Age and Gray Hair

So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to all generations to come. Psalm 71:18 NRSV

This psalm is in two parts. The first is a plea to God. In this petition, the one who prays asks God not to leave them even when they become old. Even when I'm old, wrinkled and feeble, don't forget me, God!

The second part of this psalm qualifies the first part. Don't forsake me, God, until I have told all the succeeding children, grandchildren, etc. about you.

At first this may seem like there will come a time when God will leave that person: just as soon as they've evangelized all the young people. However, when can any person say that they have told everyone in the succeeding generation about God? Is there an end to evangelism? Can one put a cut-off on telling about God's might? The answer to all three is: no. There can be no end to telling of the wonders and might of God.

So, because we cannot stop telling about God, God will not forsake us.

Thank you God, that you will never leave us, even to old age and gray hairs. May we understand our responsibility to tell all succeeding generations about your might. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tested By God

You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs; you let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place. Psalm 66: 11-12 NRSV

The verse before these speaks of being tested or tried by God. These two verses pretty much place a great deal on God's shoulders. It has been God who let us walk into the trap or the net. God has been the one to place this weight upon our shoulders. God has allowed others to step on us (I love the visual of letting people ride over our heads!). We go through both fire and water - even though they are opposites to one another, they can both be deadly by themselves. God never stops this from happening.

However, God brings us out to a wonderful place that is spacious. God give us room to breathe and stretch out after all that tortuous testing. God may allow those bad things to happen but that is not the end of the story for God.

This is not a comforting thought when we are actually being tested. I recently went through a trying time and I kept hearing folks say that God had a purpose to all that I was going through. Intellectually, I understood that. Faithfully, I was able to take what those folks were saying to heart. But there was an emotional and spiritual part of me that couldn't deal with it. I didn't want to hear that there was going to be a great ending. I was suffering and I was suffering right then. When you are feeling that burden on your shoulders, when people are walking on you, when you are going through fire or water, you don't really see the end of the story. All you can see is what is happening right then and there.

God brought the Israelites to a wonderful place. But they had to be threatened by the Egyptians, literally walk through water, be thirsty, be hungry and spend years wandering in the desert before they could come to the promised land. God did bring them to the promised land. However, they had to be tried and tested first.

What trials or tests do you see God giving you lately?

What do you think your spacious place is going to be?

Hang in there! God will not forget you or forsake you.


Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, May 28, 2010


Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God .... Psalm 62: 11 NRSV

Power belongs to God.

How often we forget that!

We are so self-involved, that we think we are the ones with the power. Or perhaps we think other people have power over us. Sometimes we allow others to have power over us. At other times we are forced to endure the power someone else has over us.

We think to be rich means to have power. We see those who have fame and notoriety as having power. Politcal power is something many of us see each day in the media. People who deal with our finances seem pretty powerful. People who treat us for medical reasons hold lots of power. Supervisors, managers, bosses - all these folks at work have tremendous power over us because they can make decisions about our jobs, benefits and pay checks.

Even our relationships with other human beings sometimes become another type of power. Even if they are dependent on us, their good opinion, reciprocity and welfare hold an indecent amount of power over us.

Yet, God is more powerful than any of these types of power in our lives. We tend to gloss over this fact when we see all these other powers affecting our lives. Instead of appealing to God who has the ultimate power, we try to contort ourselves in such a way to free us from earthly power.

God wants us to see how powerful God is over us and our lives. In this Psalm, the writer says that God has not told them once but twice that it is God who has the power. Power belongs to God. We need to remember that.

God, help us to remember that YOU have the power! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Higher, Deeper, Stronger

Sorry this is yesterday's devotional. The one for today will be posted at 5 PM EST.

For your love is as high as the heavens, your faithfulness extends to the clouds. Psalm 57:10 NRSV

When we tell someone we love them, we do mean it. But how deep or high is our love? Would we die for them? Be willing to watch them fail -- knowing it would make the stronger -- without stepping in to "help?" Could we give up everything for their sake without a guarantee that they would recognize our own sacrifice? Can we allow the ones we love complete control over all we have created with our own hands, trusting that they will eventually do their best on our behalf?

That is the kind of love that God has for us.

A love that is completely steadfast. There is nothing we can do to end God's love for us.

A love that is higher, deeper and broader than we can contemplate or imagine. God's love will always go beyond what we think God is capable of in loving us.

A love that we can only emulate without truly coming close.

That is God's love for you and me.

God, thank your for constant and deep love. I am truly in awe. In Jesus' holy name I pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Are there any who are wise?

God looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God.
Psalm 53: 2 NRSV

God, could you just look away for a moment? Perhaps Saturn needs your attention at this time. Or maybe there is lots to celebrate in the heavenlies. Just don't be looking for any wise people here, Lord!

The reason, God, is that it is the election season. The local primaries are coming up and, well, God I am just not hearing much wisdom around here.

Let alone any who are seeking after you.

The foolish are running and the wicked are not far behind. It is pretty close in the poles. And these are supposedly the ones who will lead and govern us locally. But there is much malice, hatred, and lying going on here. It is all about power and corruption. The money trail is pretty convoluted. So are the advertisements.

Perhaps, Lord, if they were really seeking your face they would not be running for election. I don't know.

I pray that the rest of us try to continue to search for you, to seek after the living God. May we be counted among the wise.

Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy.


Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

You Can't Take It With You

For when they die they will carry nothing away; their wealth will not go down after them. Psalm 29:17 NRSV

You can't take it with you.

But most of us act like we can.

Why do we have so much stuff? Why are we not content with what we have? Why do we have to keep getting more and more? And why do we focus so much on getting more money so that we can buy more stuff?

There are several secular "movements" going on that focus on simplicity. But I am always astounded that it seems a person is going to have to fork over a great deal of cash in order to really simplify following those methods. I always glance at them and decide I am not wealthy enough to live simply!

I think of the story of Jesus and the rich young ruler. Remember that one? The young man wants to know what else he should do in order to receive the kingdom of God. He has followed all the commandments. Jesus gives him his instructions: go sell all you have, give to the poor, and follow me. The young man goes away sad because he has a lot of stuff. Then Jesus announces how hard it will be for those with lots of stuff to get into the kingdom. Perhaps trying to enter with all that stuff could be a problem.

So why don't we Christians all sell what we have and give to the poor? Certainly in the book of Acts the very first followers of The Way did this. And everyone shared in the money brought in. It was a community effort and was led by the Holy Spirit. Today we are most like Ananias and his wife - they kept some of the money, lied about it, and fell down dead.

Why are we still holding on to our wealth?

God, we have so much stuff and we really like our stuff. But is our stuff interfering with our relationship with you? Help us, Lord, help us! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, May 24, 2010

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? Psalm 42: 2 NRSV

This is a psalm for a people in exile. The Hebrews are in Babylon and are far from Jerusalem. For them, it is if they are far from God. The Temple is where God dwells and the land is where God's promise and protection lies. The living God is in Israel. When will they get to go back? When will they see God's face? They are completely cut off from God.

This verse speaks to me in light of the story of a woman in my church. She was recently diagnosed with stomach cancer. As a woman who has lived through much in her 84 years, she took the news rather calmly. However, her biggest disappointment was really when she was told that the cancer was contained and was fully operable. She says that she was actually looking forward to going to be with the Lord. "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?"

I am not sure I have ever been that far away from God. I am also unsure if I have ever thirsted so hotly for the living God. Am I wanting to be with God that I would accept death gladly?

Part of me reacts to the word living God as the God who is in the here and now. Is not God's face visible right now? Is God's face only seen in death? I certainly don't believe God is only in the land of Israel or on the Temple Mount, so I shouldn't be thinking of God being available after death.

And if I don't have to wait to behold God's face, why am I not panting after God right now?

God, create in us a thirst for you, the living God. May you be seen in our lives this very day. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, May 23, 2010

I held my peace to no avail

I was silent and still; I held my peace to no avail; my distress grew worse, my heart became hot within me. Psalm 39: 2-3a NRSV

I find this Psalm confusing. At first it seems the psalmist is trying to keep silent because of all the evil people around. Perhaps the psalmist wishes to convict them of their sins? Yet, the psalm goes on as if there is great guilt on the heart of the psalmist and the wish is to keep silence so that the wicked don't know of the individual's own sin.

Finally, it is a bit much for the one trying to hold their tongue. The mouth may be closed, but the heart is burning. The psalmist can no longer keep silence.

And the words spoken are then addressed to God.

God, why are you punishing me?

God, forgive me of my sins!

God, my only hope is in you!

Hear my prayer, God, and take this misery away from me!

At this very moment, would you say you could be silent because of the sinfulness of others or because of your own sins?

God, forgive us, we pray. Help us to keep silent when appropriate and set our hearts on fire when we need to speak. In Jesus'  name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Be still before the Lord

Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices. Psalm 37:7 NRSV

Okay, I really need this scripture!

This psalm tells us clearly not to be jealous of those who seem to have so much yet live wickedly. In fact, the psalmist is very specifically saying that we should not concern ourselves over these evil people as they will receive vindication from God. Don't fret or spend any time thinking of these people -- they are not worth it and will receive God's righteous judgment.

Instead, we need to wait on God with patience.

God is not going to come in and "take care" of those who are evil on our timeline. Rather than worry about them or being jealous over all they seem to have, we need to focus ourselves on our relationship with God. Delight in God. Commit yourself to the Lord. Trust in God. Keep God's law in your hearts, God's wisdom in your mouths, and keep to all of God's ways. Wait on God.

It is God who will rescue and provide your inheritance.

Turn away from feeling envy.

Walk with God instead.

God, it seems like those who are wicked have so much -- fame, power, money and prestige. Yet, you ask us to wait patiently for you and to walk in your ways. May we spend our time and energy on our relationship with you rather than our feelings of envy. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, May 21, 2010

Let us exalt his name together

O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. Psalm 34: 3 NRSV

It is interesting that the majority of the psalms come from a single person's point of view. There are a lot of I's and me's in the psalms. Yet, this verse is an invitation to join the psalmist in the exultation of God's name. "Won't you join me in praising God?" the psalmist says.

There are times when it is important to praise God as a group rather than a individuals. Certainly, we pray together in worship, whether through song, liturgy or the pastor's prayer on behalf of the people.
I think that is part of the power of the Lord's Prayer -- we usually say this prayer as a community. Even when we may begin a prayer that sounds individualistic, we end up with a prayer that is said in unison.

But the psalmist specifically speaks not of praying but of praising. The point is to magnify or make God seem bigger and look at God in more detail. The community is invited to join together in lifting up God's name and giving God praise and glory. In my own church we often get so caught up in intercession that we skip the glorification part of our worship.

The remainder of this psalm helps to focus us on God's wonderful qualities. God answers us, delivers us, helps us to live with every good thing and guides us away from evil. God provides the ultimate redemption. May we learn to praise God together.

God, you have answered us, delivered us, heard our cries and provided protection in our darkest hours. You continue to guide us in goodness and keep us from being crushed by a broken spirit. You offer absolute redemption. Together, we give you the glory forever and ever! Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, May 20, 2010

God's Voice over the Gulf

The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over mighty waters. Psalm 29: 3 NRSV

I have been pretty upset about this oil spill in the Gulf. I know the media focuses on the loss of property value and summer revenue. But I find myself upset over two things: the unwillingness of ANYONE to take responsibility and the loss of sea life. Folks who live near the Gulf are collecting pet hair in order to help contain the oil and yet the oil companies won't lift a hair to say they will accept the burden of this awful tragedy. Ugh.

Then I read Psalm 29 which speaks of God's mighty sovereignty and power over all creation - including the seas. God's voice is supreme over the waters. God's voice is mightier than the oil companies and the oil spill combined. So why am I not praying for God's miraculous power to heal this spill and the sea life caught in the crossfire?

If I truly believe that God is that all-powerful, then I am not praying correctly. I invite you to join me in praying this prayer. Let us all give this up to God whose voice is over the Gulf of Mexico.

God, it is your voice that is over the waters, your voice and majesty that thunders over the seas and your might that reigns over the Gulf of Mexico. God, a great and terrible accident, some say mistake, has occurred in the Gulf. No one, God has taken responsibility for any of this. No one seems to be in charge. Yet, life, precious life of the seas you reign gloriously over is being destroyed. The devastation is such that it may be years before this ocean can recover. But you, you dear God, are mightier than the biggest oil company. You are stronger and more lasting than the oil pumping into the Gulf. You are more powerful than any dispersant. You can change hearts, turn people around, redirect malice and misuse of power, work miracles, and do more than we can ever hope or imagine. God, we need you to thunder over the waters of the Gulf. We need you to plug up the leak on the bottom of the ocean. We need you to convict people and companies to take responsibility for their actions. We need you to work in a mighty way to contain the oil which has already seeped into the waters so that lives of fish, sea plants and animals will be saved today and in the future. God, we don't know how you will do this but we trust that you can do this. Help us to know how we can be a part of your mighty work. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Forgive Me

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. Psalm 25: 16-18 NRSV

The psalms were meant to be sung or at least recited like poetry. But we tend to forget this and read them more like prose. Certainly they can be prayed but there is so much creative imagery and feelings expressed through the psalms. Often ideas are repeated in different ways using different words. Those of us who do not speak or read Hebrew also miss out on how the poetic verses sound.

These three verses are really saying the same thing: God, help me to feel better for I am depressed. The psalmist asks for God's attention, God's grace, relief from heartache and stress, and God's understanding while the psalmist is in misery. However, the last verse also gets to the heart of the matter: forgiveness of sins.

What do loneliness and affliction, troubles and distress have to do with our sins?

Can admitting my sins and asking for forgiveness help me to feel less depressed?

This past week I made a comment on facebook that hurt someones feelings. I quickly deleted the comment and messaged the person with my apologies for posting the comment. However, I never heard back from them. The next day I was very depressed. It was hard for me to get even the simplest tasks accomplished because I could only think about my mistake. However, I don't think I have yet to ask for God's forgiveness for this. Maybe that is the key -- receiving God's forgiveness.

I don't think this will work every single time we are down. But I do think our troubles often come about because we have done that which is displeasing to God -- sometimes just thinking too much about our afflictions can be displeasing! God wants our attention, our praise and our gratefulness. Kind of hard to give God all that when we are feeling lonely and distressed.

God, forgive me of my sins. Relieve me from my affliction and my troubles. For to you belong all glory and praise. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

For The Hypocrites

Do not drag me away with the wicked, with those who are workers of evil, who speak peace with their neighbors, while mischief is in their hearts. Repay them according to their work, and according to the evil of their deeds; repay them according to the work of their hands; render them their due reward. Because they do not regard the works of the Lord, or the work of his hands, he will break them down and build them up no more. Psalm 28: 3-5 NRSV

Recently a church member told me how ill they were over hypocrites they saw in the church. Well, I hate to break it to them but we've had hypocrites among believers long before Christ!

Hypocrites are those people who say one thing but then turn and do something else. They may act loving and kind but they are always stirring up trouble and trying to hurt others. Many times they do this in order to have control or power over others or situations. Other times it is simply their nature.

Jesus was often preaching against hypocrisy. He saw it as a rampant problem among the faithful. He would rather eat with the sinners than with the hypocrites!

The psalmist calls those who are hypocrites wicked and workers of evil. God is asked to repay them as they have behaved toward other people. Perhaps this would include being counted among the righteous up until the day of judgment. In the psalmist's eyes, hypocrites actually have no respect for God. Their behavior shows that they do not fear God or honor God's creation.

How do you think we should pray for the hypocrites among us?

God, we pray for hypocrites among us -- including ourselves. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, May 17, 2010

For Our Graduates

May he grant you your heart's desire, and fulfill all your plans. Psalm 20: 4 NRSV

I have been thinking about those who are graduating this May. What wonderful words to say over someone who is graduating from either high school or college! To pray that God will grant someone their heart's desire and fulfill all their plans would be a powerful prayer indeed.

But will God always grant us our heart's desire?

Will God make sure all my plans are fulfilled?

Is there not something missing in this verse?

Well, this psalm is asking God for victory. This is a psalm used before or in the midst of battle. The words of this psalm remind God of the speakers' own faithfulness and trust in the God who can get the believer out of trouble. The assurance that God will help God's people is overwhelming. The psalmist puts trust in God rather than armaments or the number of horses.

So, perhaps we should be praying this verse over our graduating seniors with the stipulation that is through God's power, not our degrees or diplomas that will give us victory and success. Trust in this powerful God is what we need along with our own faithfulness to our Lord.

God, may those who are graduating trust in you, not in their knowledge or the piece of paper they will receive from their school. For you will give them the victory, you alone can truly grant their heart's desire, and you alone will fulfill the plans of the faithful. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Words of My Mouth

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19: 14 NRSV

Psalm 19 is really about God's words. It begins by exclaiming that even nature, although it does not speak with words, proclaims God's creative being. Then it goes on to say that God's laws and scripture should be our guidance and our way all the time. We should not just follow God's words but live out God's words. God's holy commandments keep us from trouble and give us rewards.

But what about our own words? The psalm ends with this verse, emphasizing that our own words need to be in tune with all creation and scripture. And the best way to do this is to make sure our hearts, our inner most being, rests on God alone as our source of strength and stability.

I pray this verse right before I preach every Sunday. I find that it gives me focus and reminds me that my words are not just words but need to be pure and acceptable to God. My inner being also needs to be in tune with the Almighty -- it is not just words but my attitude that should be acceptable.

Perhaps I need to pray this prayer every time I am about to open my mouth because my speech and my heart certainly are far from God's acceptance much of the time outside the pulpit!

How often is your attitude/heart acceptable in God's sight? How often are your words based upon God as your rock and redeemer?

God, may the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Forgetting the Poor

In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor -- let them be caught in the schemes they have devised. Psalm 10: 2 NRSV

What are we teaching our children with our own attitudes and opinions?

I helped with the children's program the other night and realized how we have communicated to our children a lack of compassion to those less fortunate. Of course, we have covered it up by saying that the poor actually are trying to take advantage of us. Our children hear us saying that those people "begging" on the exit ramp actually use the money given to them for alcohol and drugs.  Or they are just too lazy to work and expect a hand out.

Yet, time and again in the bible, God is seen as wanting the faithful to give hand outs. In Old (and New) Testament times, there was no welfare sytem, no retirement, no surviving spouse benefits and no medicaid. If you were an orphan, a widow or too ill to work, you were often forced to beg just to have food and clothing.

At no time does God give us clear parameters on who we should help or how we should help. God doesn't tell us to give only to those who meet certain criteria or who can prove they aren't alcoholics. God just expects us to help those who are poor and less fortunate. God tells us again and again that the wicked take advantage of those who are needy. And God takes note of this. God will make sure there is justice for the poor, and punishment for those who have abused them.

I am not saying that we are abusing the poor. But I am wondering, with our own attitudes, if we are taking away compassion for the poor from our children. And I also wonder if this will create injustices on their part... or on ours.

God, you ask us to help the needy. But we have so often been scammed that we have lost our compassion for those less fortunate. Rekindle in us and in our children compassion for the poor. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, May 14, 2010

I Have Sinned

If one does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and strung his bow; he has prepared his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts. Psalm 7:12 NRSV

If you don't repent, you will become God's target.

Ouch. I am not good at admitting that I have done wrong. I don't like to examine my own sins. I am much better at listening to the faults and foibles of others. I can pronounce God's forgiveness to others who repent but I am the last to admit my own faults.

But if I am to be set apart, holy to the Lord, a follower of Christ Jesus, then I need to first admit that I am a sinner.

Yes, I do sin.

I'm not gloating about it, either. In fact, I will also admit that I can take any one of my faults or sinful behaviors and convince myself and everyone else that that behavior was not actually a sin. I will spend more energy trying to rationalize my sins as non-sins than what it would take to fall to my knees and ask for forgiveness.

This psalm reminds me that God has me in His sight. Although Jesus has died for my sins, God still sees my wrongdoings and is perfectly capable of punishing me. As a follower of Christ, I sometimes forget this and think I am above being reprimanded. I need to know that I can become just as much a target as the next person.

God, forgive me for my sins. I lift up to you these things that I have done wrong: ________________.  Forgive me, God, forgive me. In Jesus' precious name I pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sleep in Peace

I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety. Psalm 4:8 NRSV

I wish my childhood babysitter had prayed this verse over me rather than "If I should die before I wake...." which scared me so much I was afraid to go to sleep!

The thought that we both lie down to sleep and go to sleep in God's arms is both appealing and very relaxing. If God's in charge, what else can I do? If God preserves my safety, then I have no worries. This will allow me to sleep deeply and securely.

In fact, this is a verse to embroider on my pillow, I think! Or at least have it handy for those nights when sleep is elusive.

What is most interesting is that this is the closing verse of a psalm asking for God's deliverance from enemies.  Danger is very real and all around. The psalmist is asking for protection and relief from suffering. The psalmist is reminded that God listens, God has set the faithful apart, and God gives us more joy than a feast. The person praying this psalm is also cautioned not to go to be disturbed or angry. Instead, lie down and think about what is concerning you rather than taking action. Perhaps the thought is that a solution will be provided by the morning - or at least the problem won't be causing such consternation.

In addition, this verse reminds us that it is God who allows us to lie down in safety. Safely is not provided by an alarm system or locked doors or even knowing how to shoot a gun. God alone can give us true safety so that only God helps us to sleep in that place of trust and rest.

Before you go to bed tonight, I invite you to pray/say this verse.

God, I will both lie down and sleep in peace tonight for you alone make me lie down in safety. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Praying for Friends

And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Job 42:10 NRSV

Job is rewarded once he has prayed for his friends. God has asked the friends to offer up seven bulls and seven rams and for Job to pray for the men. The prayer that God requests Job to pray is for God not to deal with the friends according to their folly. For God has admitted that Job understood God best; it was the three friends who had it all wrong. They would have been better off keeping silent.

The issue is not that Job prays for his friends but that, in the act of prayer, Job is forgiving his friends for their hurtful words.

Have you ever been hurt by a really good friend?

It takes a lot more to reconcile with a good friend than with an acquaintance. This is because our friends know us best and they can hurt us the most.

Do you have any "former" best friends that need your forgiveness? What kind of offering would help to heal your friendship? How would you best pray for them?

Or perhaps you are one of the friends who needs to ask for forgiveness and to give an offering. Are you courageous enough to do this?

Remember that Job is rewarded because he forgave his buddies. What kind of reward do you think God will give to you if you reconcile with your friend?

God, whether we need to forgive or ask for forgiveness, help us realize our own folly in keeping estranged from our friends. May your healing power come upon our relationships. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

No Answer on Suffering

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind.... Job 38:1 NRSV

Job is righteous. We know this from the beginning. We also know that it is not God but Satan who is testing Job. God allows this to happen because God trusts that Job will never turn from God (God has been bragging about Job to Satan). Job never curses God, although he does seem to curse his own existence. Job wants God to explain to him why he has been treated so roughly when he has never strayed from God's side. How come Job has not been rewarded for his good behavior?

God finally responds to Job's request. He appears in a whirlwind to say that, as God, he is more powerful, more knowledgeable than Job or any of his so-called friends. What can these puny humans do as God has done or can do? Does God need to explain himself? Can any of these men before God really give a good argument about sin, righteousness or God?

Here is where the Book of Job fails to answer any of our own questions about suffering. I remember a man in one of my former churches saying that he couldn't wait to stand before God's throne and ask how giving Job more riches and more family could really satisfy the suffering over his other losses. Job, the book, does not clearly help us to understand suffering unless it simply reminds us that there is no answer to suffering. We cannot fathom God and we cannot ever understand suffering.

God, you are too great and marvelous in our sight. We can do nothing as you can do. We want so badly to understand suffering, yet you leave us struggling. Help us in our struggles, Lord, just as you are there when we suffer. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, May 10, 2010

Being Angry

Then Elihu son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became angry. He was angry at Job because he justified himself rather than God; he was angry also at Job's three friends because they had found no answer, though they had declared Job to be in the wrong. Job 32: 2 NRSV

Elihu is not one of Job's friends. In fact, it is unclear where he comes from or really why he is there. Perhaps he is an opportunist that sits at the city gates: when he heard about Job's troubles and saw his friends going to see him, he may have thought this was a great opportunity to perhaps take Job's place in the honor of the people.

Elihu is young. He has not learned to dampen his anger. He probably sees his anger here as righteous anger. His anger at Job stems from the fact that Job keeps trying to justify himself. Job keeps saying he is innocent, which Elihu doesn't believe for a minute. Job also keeps saying he wants God to come talk to him and explain why he is suffering so deeply. Elihu finds this to be insulting. On top of this, Job's friends cannot seem to counter Job's arguments. Even though they disagree with him, Job's friends stop trying to convince Job of the error of his ways. Elihu thinks this is worse than Job's blasphemy.

So now Elihu will try to put Job down and defend God. This will be worse than inserting his foot in his mouth as his words will prompt God showing up and focusing his anger at Elihu.

Anyone else out there have a temper?

I have a temper. I can get very angry at the drop of a hat. I also have a really hard time keeping my mouth shut when I get angry. Age and experience have dampened that tendency, but it it still there when my temper rises. God's never shown up like in the Book of Job but there have been those persons in my life who have been God's soothing presence in face of my anger.

God, keep my temper in check! Guard my mouth -- and my thoughts -- so that I do not provoke your anger nor lose my self-respect. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, May 9, 2010


And he said to humankind, "Truly, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding." Job 28:28 NRSV

Which one of your friends would you consider to be a wise person? Is there someone in your immediate family to which you would go for advice? Do you have a coworker that has the experience and the trustworthiness to be your advocate?

In your opinion, do any of these people fear God?

I can agree with Job that not doing evil is wise. But I really struggle with the fearing God part of wisdom. Of course, Job is telling us that God says to fear him is the wise part!

I guess it goes back to my understanding -- or perhaps my need -- to love God, not fear God. A healthy respect is good in my relationship with God. I probably should fear God as God pretty much holds the key to, well, to me. God is my maker, my sustainer, my provider. I suppose I come close to fearing God but not the quaking-in-my-boots kind of fear.

How do you handle fearing God? Do you fear God? Do you think you can be a wise person without fearing God?

God, are we really supposed to fear you? How can I fear you and yet love you? In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, May 8, 2010

As God lives, who has taken away my right, and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter, as long as my breath is in me and the spirit of God is in my nostrils, my lips will not speak falsehood, and my tongue will not utter deceit. Job 27: 2-4 NRSV

Even if the worst should happen to me, as long as the Holy Spirit sustains me, I will not lie or mislead with my words.

Have you ever cursed God?

Seriously, has life ever been so bad for you that you blamed God for it all?

Have you ever been so deep in depression and felt that God was carrying out ultimate judgment on your soul so that you completely gave up seeing God as good?

Doing a yearly Bible story is just skimming the surface and the emotions that Job is feeling. If you or anyone close to you has ever suffered from depression, you know that you can't just tell them to snap out of it. Their feelings are very real and go very deep. Their soul is quite "bitter." Much of what they say may be from their heart, but from an outsider's point of view, their words may sound far fetched. For those not in their downward spiral, what the depressed person says can seem misleading.

Job is deep into depression -- he is actually lamenting even being born -- yet he never curses God. He knows that if the Spirit is in him, he will not be misleading or deceitful. He has not sinned against God. He just wants to talk (perhaps argue his case) to God.

I think we all should make sure we are having honest and open communication with God at all times. God knows our hearts and God wants to hear even the most bitter words out loud.

God, may I have the courage to always speak openly and honestly with you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, May 7, 2010


But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold. Job 23: 10 NRSV

Are you following God?

Even if you cannot see God, are you on the path God has set for you?

Does God know the way that you are taking?

If God tested you right now, would you come out like gold?

Job is pretty confident that, even when he cannot perceive God, that God is aware of where Job is. That is a real GPS - God Personally Sees!

That is why Job really wants a meeting with God. God knows that Job is innocent. God knows that, if Job is tested, he will be more than righteous. He will shine and be as valuable as gold!

Job struggles in being right and righteous yet suffering.

Are you in the right?

Are you following the path of righteousness?

What would it take for you to come out like gold if you should be tested?

God, make my paths straight. Guide me on the road of righteousness. Even when I cannot perceive you, may your GPS keep me from getting lost. I want to come out like gold, God! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My Redeemer Lives

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth.... Job 19:25 NRSV

I was going one way with this devotional but ended up somewhere else!

This verse is sung in countless songs, especially those hymns that are sung at Easter. I love these kinds of songs and I am thrilled at the thought that my Redeemer does live!

However, we have taken this verse out of context. In other words, we have taken a verse that meant one thing in the book of Job and used it to mean something entirely different. Of course, we Christians often do that sort of thing. Most of the time, it is a harmless practice but I have seen some Bible verses used in very hateful and non-Christian ways.

In any event, this verse is actually not speaking about God but about a type of lawyer or representative to share Job's case in God's presence. A redeemer is actually a relative who will buy back your property/ get you out of slavery if you get into trouble, pay off your debts if you lose your financial standing or even provide restitution if you kill someone. Hmmmm... well I thought I knew what this was about but it seems to suggest that the Redeemer is actually Christ. I always hesitate to jump from the Old Testament to the New but I can't seem to help myself here.

If we have been adopted by God, then Christ is our relative. Christ has paid our debts. Christ has made restitution for our killings. Christ has gotten us out of slavery to sin and death. In fact, it will be Christ who stands beside us or perhaps in front of us and pleads our case before God.

What is really interesting is that Job knows he is righteous. He doesn't really need a redeemer. What he needs is for someone to talk to God on his behalf just to get an understanding of why he had to go through all this suffering.

Job just wants to talk to God face-to-face.

God, we are thankful that we can speak with you in prayer. Please listen to our requests even as Jesus puts in a good word for us! In His name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What do you know?

What do you know that we do not know? What do you understand that is not clear to us? Job 15: 9 NRSV

Are you the first of the human race? Have you had your own meetings with God? Are you the only one who has wisdom? Why do you think you know more than us? We have been trying to tell you that you have sinned and that is why you are suffering. It is punishment for your sins. How dare you suggest differently! You are saying that the wicked do not suffer for their deeds. We know that this is not true. God punishes those who do evil. Therefore we know you have done something bad.

Or so says Eliphaz, Job's friend.

Job has essentially attacked Eliphaz's belief system. Eliphaz is certain that suffering is a punishment for doing evil. God punishes the wicked. The good are rewarded and live lives of abundance and good health. God does not arbitrarily cause people to lose property or family members. If you remain faithful, God will reward you. Period.

Job is countering this understanding. Job is suggesting that there is no reason for suffering. Job has come to believe that faithfulness does not guarantee a care-free life.

Job is essentially attacking Eliphaz's religion.

How do you handle yourself when you find that what you believe is not what others believe? Can you be friends with someone who has a different religion (or even a different denomination!)? Or understanding of God? Perhaps you can be good friends until something major happens - a death in the family or cancer or loss of a job. How then can you support one another? What will you be praying for? Our understandings of God can often cause us to break off relationships with others.

God, none of us really has a complete understanding of you. Help us to be able to listen to one another without judgment or hatred. May our faith be strong without being brittle. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Keep Silent

If only you would keep silent, that would be your wisdom! Job 13: 5 NRSV

Job's three friends come to be with him when he is in the midst of his troubles. They don't even recognize him when they arrive because he is so overcome with his suffering. The three friends are there to give him comfort. And for seven days and nights they simply sit in silence with him. What great friends!

Until they open their mouths.

If only they had kept them shut, then they would be true friends.

It is when they open their mouths, trying to explain Job's suffering (it is because of the sins of your children, your sins, you are not as innocent as you claim) that they are no longer true friends.

They go from comforting to arguing. They go from wisdom to foolishness. We know this because, as the readers, we have been clued in from the beginning that Job is blameless. If only they had kept their silence! Instead, they try to be know-it-alls by explaining the whys of Job's suffering.

Have you ever had a time in your life when you were attempting to comfort or console a friend and you said the wrong thing? Did you wish you could take the words back? Perhaps you wanted to insert your foot in your mouth!

Sometimes it is out silent presence that is the most helpful in times of suffering.

Kind of like God's own silent presence.

God, thank you for being there when we suffer. Help us to be wise in our friendships and know when to keep silent as well. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, May 3, 2010


I am blameless; I do not know myself; I loathe my life. It is all one; therefore I say, he destroys both the blameless and the wicked. When disaster brings sudden death, he mocks at the calamity of the innocent. The earth is given into the hand of the wicked; he covers the eyes of its judges -- if it is not he, who then is it? Job 9: 21-24 NRSV

Job's friends try to convince him that he has sinned. They are sure that if he will just admit his guilt, he will be forgiven and all the suffering will end. But Job has no such guilt; he is entirely innocent. So, he struggles to understand a God who is in control allowing bad things to happen to good people. He sees this as being proof that God somehow enjoys all this suffering and calamity. There is no meaning to this, Job tries to explain.

I like things to make sense. If I am to suffer, then I want a good explanation. I cannot stand it when others say, "It is just God's will." If I am going through trials in life, I tend to see them as ways God is either preparing me for something else or testing to see if I have learned my lessons so far in life. I want a real reason. For suffering or hardships to be a part of God's omnipotent will is not a comfort for me in the least.

I know, however, that there are times when there is no explanation. There will be times in my life that I will be like Job -- hating my life and wanting to speaks directly to God to plead my case. Perhaps you have been there yourself. How did you handle it? What words of wisdom can you share for those who suffer?

God, sometimes we don't understand. We want a reason. We want to know why. Yet, you are silent while our suffering goes on. Help us to wrestle with you with respect and love. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, May 2, 2010

God's Attention

What are human beings, that you make so much of them, that you set your mind on them, visit them every morning, test them every moment? Job 7: 17-18 NRSV

In Job's response to his best friend's assumption that Job has sinned, Job takes a line from the Psalms (Psalm 8:4) and makes it a complaint. It is not a wonderful and amazing thing that God notices us humans. Instead, it is dreadful because God seems to be trying to catch us humans being bad. For Job, God seems to be watching us to see if we make mistakes. Job doesn't like this because he wants just a moment to get away from God's powerful eye. Job wishes just to take a breath after all that has happened to him.

Job has done nothing wrong and he knows this. He is trying to make sense of why God would allow all his crops and cattle to be destroyed. He wants to know why God would notice Job so much to allow all his children to be killed. Job struggles to make sense of why his own faithfulness is being rewarded by his ill health.

"Stop looking at me!" Job laments. "Why do you notice me? This is not a great thing at all!"

Have you ever felt like a bug under God's microscope? Have you ever wished that God would stop noticing you if only for a moment? Perhaps you have never been there. Right now you may enjoy God's attention. Suffering, however, can seem like God's punishment for something you may feel you have or haven't done. In either case, to be noticed by God when it comes to tragedy is not a good feeling.

God, we like your attention when it is protective and loving. When we feel you are searching our hearts and minds for things we have done wrong, it is not so great. Thank you for continuing to love us regardless. You attention is really an amazing thing. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Man from Uz

Sorry this one is so late today...!

There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. Job 1:1 NRSV

So begins the book of Job (pronounced with a long "o").  It almost sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale, yet this book comes very close to real life. It is the one book which tries to explain suffering. I say tries because even the most brilliant of scholars are not able to fully understand and explain suffering through these scriptures. 

The book of Job raises more questions than gives answers. Even if you are not reading through the Bible with us this year, I encourage you to read through Job. Two of the best points about Job is that 1) he complains to God without cursing or turning from God and 2) we get a better idea of how to be with our friends when they are suffering. And, certainly, all of us will face suffering during our lifetime, if we have not done so already. 

The best place to begin, however, is to be blameless and upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. No matter what, we all can strive to begin there. 

God, why is there so much suffering in the world? How can we respond to others and to our own suffering? Guide us, Lord, guide us. In Jesus' precious name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims