Monday, April 30, 2012

Pilgrimage to Jerusalem

What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises. What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings. They will continue to grow stronger, and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem. Psalm 84: 4-7 NLT

A pilgrimage to Jerusalem is a holy experience. These days, you would not walk all the way there as the psalmist would have known. However, you would certainly walk within the city when you arrived.

I am not certain where the valley of weeping is but it most likely would be in the area around the city. The city is on a hill surrounded by valleys. This particular valley may be referring to where Rebecca's nurse, Deborah, was buried as she was buried in a place named Oak of Weeping. The point for the psalmist is that there would be no crying. Rather, the pilgrim would find refreshment, knowing that they were so close to the Holy of Holies in Jerusalem. Instead of weariness, the pilgrim would be strengthened with joy.

Do you experience joy as you approach your place of worship? Or do you find yourself weeping instead? Are you refreshed even as you journey to the sanctuary or are you filled with dread?

God, give us renewal and joy as we come to worship you in your sanctuary. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2012 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Entering the Sanctuary

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Heaven's Armies. I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O Lord of Heaven's Armies, my King and my God! Psalm 84: 1-3 NLT

This sounds like a prayer of someone who is not allowed into God's temple. In my imagination, this is a woman's prayer. She cannot go into the Holy sight and that is where her longing comes from. She admires and is perhaps a bit jealous of the sparrow who finds a home near God's altar. Even with her distance from God's place, she remains shouting joyfully to God with her whole being. Despite her removal from God's side, she is worshipping God Most High.

You and I can enter God's sanctuary at any time. Where is our desire to be there? How much do we long to enter God's courts? How often are we singing, shouting and proclaiming God's glory wherever we are?

With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to you, the living God. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2012 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, April 28, 2012

God is the Most High

O my God, scatter them like tumbleweed, like chaff before the wind! As a fire burns a forest and as a flame sets mountains ablaze, chase them with your fierce storm; terrify them with your tempest. Utterly disgrace them until they submit to your name, O Lord. Let them be ashamed and terrified forever. Let them die in disgrace. Then they will learn that you alone are called the Lord, that you alone are the Most High, supreme over all the earth. Psalm 83: 13-18 NLT

Violence, terror and disgrace do not make me respect those who hand it out. Yet, the psalmist seems to think if God acts in these ways, those who are defeated will learn who God is. I think they will be too wrapped up in their own shame and death.

For me, being shamed or made to feel belittled just makes me angry at the one who is doing the shaming and belittling. The only lesson I learn is to stay as far away from that person as I can. But I admit that I would celebrate their defeat.

The psalmist knows that God is the only one called the Lord and that God is the Most High, supreme over all the earth. That is the most important point.

God, you alone are called the Lord. You alone are the Most High, supreme over all the earth. Help me to live as though I know and understand this about you. Amen.

Copyright 2012 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, April 27, 2012

To be more like God

Do to them as you did to the Midianites and as you did to Sisera and Jabin at the Kishon River. They were destroyed at Endor, and their decaying corpses fertilized the soil. Let their mighty nobles die as Oreb and Zeeb did. Let all their princes die like Zebah and Zalmunna, for they said, “Let us seize for our own use these pasturelands of God!” Psalm 83: 9-12 NLT

I had to do some research to figure out who these people were. I knew Sisera was a commander in the time of the prophet Deborah and he was killed by a woman. Jabin was his king and he was also killed. Oreb and Zeeb were commanders and their kings were Zebah and Zalmunna. They were all Midianites who were defeated by Gideon. So, all of these were men and countries who tried to overtake God's lands and God's people but they were defeated.

I think the important thing is the idea of the land. The psalmist wants the current enemies to die so that their decaying corpses might fertilize the soil – this cannot be a coincidence with the fact that these same people want to seize God's pasturelands for themselves. Perhaps what the psalmist is saying is that they will have God's lands, but not quite like they think. The will become part of the soil rather than the conqueror.

Or, at least, that is the psalmist's hope.

God, I have dreams of revenge and plans that I want you to fulfill. I want you to raise me up while others are defeated. Am I being just, God, or trying to be you? Help me to be more like you rather than to try to be you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2012 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Our Family, Our Enemy

O God, do not be silent! Do not be deaf. Do not be quiet, O God. Don't you hear the uproar of your enemies? Don't you see that your arrogant enemies are rising up? They devise crafty schemes against your people; they conspire against your precious ones. “Come,” they say, “let us wipe out Israel as a nation. We will destroy the very memory of its existence.” Yes, this was their unanimous decision. They signed a treaty as allies against you – these Edomites and Ishmaelites; Moabites and Hagrites; Gebalites, Ammonites, and Amalekites; and people from Philistia and Tyre. Assyria has joined them, too, and is allied with the descendants of Lot. Psalm 83: 1-8 NLT

The saddest part of this psalm is not that folks are ganging up on Israel, God's own nation. What is sad is that these are all related in some way to the Israelites. Ishmael was Isaac's half brother. Lot was Abraham's nephew. In fact, Abraham originally came from the land of Assyria. These are all relatives who have decided to conspire against God's people.

Sometimes it is our families who become our greatest enemies.

Think for a moment about your own family tree. Are there any black sheep? How about someone with whom you do not get along? A distant relative who can't stand you and often tries to insult you or put you down? Even worse, is there someone you are related to you who tries their best to make your life miserable?

God, you have blessed us with our families and yet sometimes they are our bitterest enemies. Do not be silent, Lord, do not be deaf when we cry to you. Help us, Lord, help us. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2012 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

We are your children

Sorry about such a long time without a written devotional. I hope you have continued to spend at least a minute or more with God each day!

God presides over heaven's court; he pronounces judgment on the heavenly beings: “How long will you hand down unjust decisions by favoring the wicked? Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people. But these oppressors know nothing; they are so ignorant! They wander about in darkness, while the whole world is shaken to the core. I say, ' You are gods, you are all children of the Most High. But you will die like mere mortals and fall like every other ruler.' ” Rise up, O God, and judge the earth, for all the nations belong to you. Psalm 82 NLT

Who does God really care for?

In this psalm, God is judging heavenly beings – I would assume these would be angels. Apparently, the angels weren't going around preventing good people from being hurt or killed. Instead, these heavenly beings were doing nice things for the wicked. Meanwhile, the poor, destitute, helpless and oppressed were being beaten down by these same wicked people. And those that were mistreating them were totally ignorant of the wrongs they were doing. God tells the angels that they are children of God but that they would die like mere mortals because of what they have done, or, rather, what they have not done.

Now, if God so judges angels, are you and I going to come out any better? Are we giving justice to the poor and the orphan? Are we upholding the rights of the oppressed and destitute? Are we helping to deliver the poor and helpless from evil people?

I don't think I am doing any better than the heavenly beings.

God, forgive us for not helping those who are helpless and poor. Forgive us for being as ignorant as the wicked. We want to be your children in more than name alone. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2012 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, April 13, 2012

Oh, that we would listen to God!

“Oh, that my people would listen to me! Oh that Israel would follow me, walking in my paths! How quickly I would then subdue their enemies! How soon my hands would be upon their foes! Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him; they would be doomed forever. But I would feed you with the finest wheat. I would satisfy you with wild honey from the rock.” Psalm 81: 13-16 NLT

We know the cost of not listening to God.

But what happens when we do listen and follow God?

God would quickly subdue our enemies.

God would place God's hands upon our foes.

God would doom those who hated the Lord forever.

God would feed us the finest food.

God would satisfy us with the sweetest of the sweet.

Oh, that we would listen to you, God. Oh that we would follow you. We pray to be those who walk in your path. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2012 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Living according to your own ideas?

“But no, my people wouldn't listen. Israel did not want me around. So I let them follow their own stubborn desires, living according to their own ideas.” Psalm 81: 11-12 NLT

Well, the cost of not listening just went up.

In fact, God says not only do God's people refuse to listen, they didn't want God around in the first place. So, God lets them live according to their own ideas.

You know how that turns out, right?

How often have you lived according to your own ideas rather than God's commands?

Did that work out well for you? Or did you find yourself asking for God to get you out of that mess before it was all over with?

I know I am bad about doing things my way. I get so caught up in my own thoughts and ideas that I don't give God the time to say anything differently. I just go full steam ahead.

The key here is to listen. Listen to God by simply being in silence, in God's presence each day. Listen to God by reading God's word – not for a Bible study or a sermon or any other reason that to hear what God is trying to say to you. Listen to your Christian brothers and sisters. What do they have to say to you? Are you willing to hear it?

For our prayer today, take a minute to clear you mind, invite God in and just listen.

Copyright 2012 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Open up and listen

“Listen to me, O my people, while I give you stern warnings. O Israel, if you would only listen to me! You must never have a foreign god; you must not bow down before a false god. For it was I, the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things.” Psalm 81: 8-10 NLT

Open your mouth wide and I will fill it with good things. I could really use some good things today as I am having a very bad day. At this point I am so stuck in my pity party, I am not sure what those good things would be.

What I do know is that God wants to give us good stuff but we don't listen. We don't open our ears to God's word and we don't hear what God has to say to us. Forget the opening of the mouth – we won't ever do that because we aren't listening to God in the first place.

I like to think I am a good listener. But the One to whom I listen to least is God. I am too busy planning, writing, thinking, answering to hear what God has to say to me. With other people I often find myself preparing what I want to say in response. I don't even give God the time to say anything to me: I am too busy!

What prevents you from listening to God? How wide is your mouth open?

God, help us to listen to you and to be open to all the good you want to bless us with. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2012 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Take a Load Off

I heard an unknown voice say, “Now I will take the load from your shoulders; I will free your hand from their heavy tasks. You cried to me in trouble, and I saved you; I answered out of the thundercloud and tested your faith when there was no water at Meribah.” Psalm 81: 5b-7 NLT

Now I will take the load from your shoulders.

Take a minute right now to picture the load that you are carrying on your shoulders. Visualize it as though it is physically on either side of your neck. Feel the weight it adds to your body. How big is it? Does it have a color? Does your head feel like it is bending down because of this tremendous weight?

Now visualize the hands of God. They are reaching down from heaven and lifting that load off of your shoulders. Feel your body release that burden. See it being taken away from you. Don't you feel a hundred pounds lighter? Are you not sitting up taller?

God says that God will free you from your heavy tasks and lift the load from your shoulders.

God, we want to believe that you are lifting the weight from our shoulders. Help our unbelief and our stubbornness. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2012 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, April 9, 2012


Sing praises to God, our strength. Sing to the God of Jacob. Sing! Beat the tambourine. Play the sweet lyre and the harp. Blow the ram's horn at new moon, and again at full moon to call a festival! For this is required by the decrees of Israel; it is a regulation of the God of Jacob. He made it a law for Israel when he attacked Egypt to set us free. Psalm 81: 1-5a NLT

Have a party!


Take off and enjoy the holiday!

God commands it!


Play the percussion instruments, the stringed instruments, any instrument!

Toot your horn for the God who requires that we take time to have a festival.

God has truly set us free.

Now we can celebrate!

God, we sing praises to you. You are our strength. We give you praise and glory! In Jesus
name. Amen.

Copyright 2012 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Revive us!

Come back, we beg you, O God of Heaven's Armies. Look down from heaven and see our plight. Take care of this grapevine that you yourself have planted, this son you have raised for yourself. For we are chopped up and burned by our enemies. May they perish at the sight of your frown. Strengthen the man that you love, the son of your choice. Then we will never abandon you again. Revive us so we can call on your name once more. Turn us again to yourself, O Lord God of Heaven's Armies. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved. Psalm 80: 14 -19 NLT

Revive us so that we can call on your name once more!

I wonder why we have to be revived to call on God's name. Perhaps if we are dull and lifeless, we have no reason to call. If we are beaten down, carrying a heavy load and seeing no hope in life, it would be hard to have the energy to call on God's name. In the midst of depression, it is hard to see a life without that overwhelming sadness. We can't understand that someone is there to rescue us.

But if we are refreshed and revived, we can see hope and love. We know that God is there and that God loves us. Calling on God's name is therefore not a struggle but a joy and a necessity

God, revive us to call on your name once more! In the name of the Risen Savior, Amen.

Copyright 2012 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Tears by the Bucketful

O Lord God of Heaven's Armies, how long will you be angry with our prayers? You have fed us with sorrow and made us drink tears by the bucketful. You have made us a scorn of neighboring nations. Our enemies treat us as a joke. Turn us again to yourself, O God of Heaven's Armies. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved. You brought us from Egypt like a grapevine; you drove away the pagan nations and transplanted us into your land. You cleared the ground for us, and we took root and filled the land. Our shade covered the mountains; our branches covered the mighty cedars. We spread our branches west to the Mediterranean Sea; our shoots spread east to the Euphrates River. But now, why have you broken down our walls so that all who pass by may steal our fruit? The wild boar from the forest devours it, and the wild animals feed on it. Psalm 80: 4-13 NLT

Drinking tears by the bucketful. How much would you have to cry to produce a bucketful of tears? I don't think we are meant to take this literally as much as picture how many tears have fallen. But the psalmist is not talking about producing those tears. The psalmist is saying that God has put them on a diet of sorrow and tears. Sorrow is what they have eaten. Tears are what they are drinking.

Perhaps this is God's sorrow and God's tears.

Over what we have done.

God has proven time and again to be our savior. Yet, our behavior does not show any kind of recognition of this fact. No wonder all who pass by steals our fruit!

God, do not be angry any longer over our prayers. We ask for forgiveness and mercy. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2012 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, April 6, 2012

Turn me to You

Please listen, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph's descendants like a flock. O God, enthroned above the cherubim, display your radiant glory to Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh. Show us your mighty power. Come to rescue us! Turn us again to yourself, O God. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved. Psalm 80: 1-3 NLT

Turn us again to yourself. Have you ever felt like you were facing away from God? That nothing you did brought you any closer to God or turned you back?

I have felt that way. It feels like no matter what you do, you can't seem to be facing God. It is as though the air is molasses and you can't move from the direction you are headed. Soon, it becomes a hopeless endeavor and you stop trying to turn.

The psalmist asks God to turn them back. If God can shine God's face on the people, they will be saved.

In other words, sometimes it is not something you can do, turning back to God. Sometimes it is something you have to ask God to do for you.

Are you with me?

God, please turn yourself back to me, back to us. Make your face shine upon me, upon us. Only then will we be saved. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2012 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Where is your God?

Why should pagan nations be allowed to scoff, asking, “Where is their God?” Show us your vengeance against the nations, for they have spilled the blood of your servants. Listen to the moaning of the prisoners. Demonstrate your great power by saving those condemned to die. O Lord, pay back our neighbors seven times for the scorn they have hurled at you. Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will thank you forever and ever, praising your greatness from generation to generation. Psalm 79: 10-13 NLT

How would you like God to prove Godself to those who scoff and don't believe? Does revenge come to mind? Striking out at unbelievers and sinners would prove something. Not sure if that would prove God exists or that our thoughts of revenge have taken on a power and life of their own. I kind of think that would be more evil than God-like.

God allowed Jesus to die on the cross. Rather than getting revenge on the Romans, Pilate, Judas, the Sanhedrin or anyone else who was responsible for his death, God gave the opportunity for belief and forgiveness. Not everyone took what God gave. But for those who did, the reward is beyond comprehension.

Truly we can praise God's greatness from generation to generation.

God, thank you for not getting revenge on everyone who tortured and executed Jesus. Thank you that you gave the possibility of forgiveness and new life instead. In His name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2012 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Forgive me

Help us, O God of our salvation! Help us for the glory of your name. Save us and forgive our sins for the honor of your name. Psalm 79: 9 NLT

Instead of asking that God saves them for their sakes, the psalmist asks that God save them for God's sake. Save them from death and forgive their sins. Don't hold what they have done in the past against them. Give them life and give it abundantly!

What sins are you guilty of? Don't like to think about them, do you?

If you were truly repentant, what reason would you give for God to forgive you? Would you say, God forgive me for the simple honor and glory of our name? Or would you say, God forgive me and I will be a better Christian, a better spouse, a better parent, etc.?

God wants to forgive you – no matter your reasoning.

God, help me! Help me for the glory of your name. Forgive my sins. I lift them up to you and confess each one. I want to be closer to you each day. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2012 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Meeting your Needs

Pour out your wrath on the nations that refuse to acknowledge you – on kingdoms that do not call upon your name. For they have devoured your people Israel, making the land a desolate wilderness. Do not hold us guilty for the sins of our ancestors! Let your compassion quickly meet our needs, for we are on the brink of despair. Psalm 79: 6-8 NLT

Let your compassion quickly meet our needs....

When typing this, I thought of one of the ministries I support called Compassion International. Through this agency, I sponsor a child. This means that I pray for her, pay a monthly fee to insure her education, after school care, food and clothing. I also give gifts on her birthday and at Christmas. And I write to her. It isn't much but it does meet her needs. Through Compassion International, she has a chance to rise above the poverty and neglect that is often found in her country. I am trying to give her the skills and faith she needs to have a productive life.

I'm not removing her from poverty or paying huge sums to make her family rich. I am simply doing a small thing to make sure she has what she needs – including self-confidence and a relationship with God.

Often we ask God for what we want when his compassion is all about what we need. Our needs are far more simple than we realize.

God, let your compassion quickly meet my needs. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2012 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, April 2, 2012

What is God Jealous of?

O God, pagan nations have conquered your land, your special possession. They have defiled your holy Temple and made Jerusalem a heap of ruins. They have left the bodies of your servants as food for the wild animals. Blood has flowed like water all around Jerusalem; no one is left to bury the dead. We are mocked by our neighbors, an object of scorn and derision to those around us. O Lord, how long will you be angry with us? Forever? How long will your jealousy burn like fire? Psalm 79: 1- 5 NLT

If God is a jealous God, then right now think of some things in your life that God may be jealous of:

Your family?

Your job?

Your relationship(s)?

Your church?

Your hobbies?

Your favorite sport?

Where have you put others first over your relationship with God?

God wants you. All of you. Now. Don't make God jealous!

God, help me to stop making you jealous of all the things I give high priority to in my life. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2012 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Your Job Description

He chose his servant David, calling him from the sheep pens. He took David from tending the ewes and lambs and made him the shepherd of Jacob's descendants – God's own people, Israel. He cared for them with a true heart and led them with skillful hands. Psalm 78: 70-72 NLT

God needed a shepherd for his God chose a shepherd. Literally. That is what David was – a shepherd.

Talk about a great job description and fit!

God needed someone to care for God's people. God needed someone who had a true heart for the people and would lead them skillfully. Why not a shepherd? It was a natural match.

What is God calling you to do with your life? Perhaps, if you look carefully at your own life, you will see that what you are naturally, the skills you learned early on, are what God needs now. How can you respond to God's call?

God, help me to see where you are calling me in my life. Help me to accept my own talents and skills that I already have and know where to put them for your use. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2012 Amelia G. Sims