Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Words of Hope?

Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest. Psalm 126: 4-6 NLT

These verses seem to be words of hope. If you cry now, you will be full of joy later. Sadness now while you work hard to accomplish something means that you will be greatly rewarded and will be rejoicing in the future. 

Almost sounds like works righteousness. If you work hard, you will reap the benefits. If you work hard in this life, you will be giving that crown with all those jewels in it when you get to heaven. 

For someone who is having a hard time, these words do bring a spirit of comfort. But if you simply live by them, I think you will be in for some major disappointment. I know many people who work hard yet still struggle to get by. The ones who simply have a joy in the Lord -- rather than a joy in results -- are the ones who have the deepest hope. Certainly, we can appeal to God for refreshment and restoration. But our love for God should be deeper and not dependent on God’s rewards. 

God, we praise you and give you the glory -- no matter if we are crying or laughing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What joy!

When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.” Yes, the Lord had done amazing things for us! What joy! Psalm 126: 1-3 NLT

What amazing things has God done for you? 

God made sure I was adopted into a family who loves me. 

God prepared a mate for me and has blessed us in our marriage.

God gave us the miracle of a son who is funny, smart and caring.

God called me to the ministry and has led me to a wonderful church where I feel fulfilled yet challenged in my calling.

God has continued to provide what we need in the face of everyone who simply gets what they want. 

I am extremely grateful to God. When I look back on these things, I realize it does seem like a dream. God has done amazing things for me! What joy!

What amazing things has God done for you in your life?

God, what joy are the amazing things you have done in my life! Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Monday, October 29, 2012

Trust in the Lord

Those who trust in the Lord are as secure as Mount Zion; they will not be defeated but will endure forever. Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, both now and forever. The wicked will not rule the land of the godly, for then the godly might be tempted to do wrong. O Lord, do good to those who are good, whose hearts are in tune with you. But banish those who turn to crooked ways, O Lord. Take them away with those who do evil. May Israel have peace! Psalm 125 NLT

I think of psalm 125 in terms of the Israelites returning to Jerusalem after being in exile for years. The walls and the city needs to be rebuilt. Strangers to the faith have not only taken over the area but many of God’s people intermarried with these pagans and tempted them to leave God’s side. The city seems surrounded by the wicked on every side. Yet, there is something enduring about the whole mountain and the mountains that surround the city. Despite the exile and the time away, Jerusalem is still there. 

There are times in our lives when we are like people in exile from God. We are far away,  blaming God, blaming ourselves, blaming others for our predicament. We moan and complain. We feel emotionless when we talk to God. Where has God gone? What can bring that close relationship back into our lives? Whether due to sinful behavior or a spiritual crisis, these times can be very real. 

Yet, God is enduring. God has not gone away. We must turn ourselves from blaming to trusting. Even if we cannot “feel” God’s enduring presence, God has not left us alone. 

God, surround me with your love and mercy, both now and forever. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Sunday, October 28, 2012

What if God was not on your side?

What if the Lord had not been on our side? Let all Israel repeat: What if the Lord had not been on our side when people attacked us? They would have swallowed us alive in their burning anger. The waters would have engulfed us; a torrent would have overwhelmed us. Yes, the raging waters of their fury would have overwhelmed our very lives. Praise the Lord, who did not let their teeth tear us apart! We escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap. The trap is broken, and we are free! Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 124 NLT

Think for a moment about a time in your recent history when you felt God’s hand upon the situation in your life. Maybe it had to do with your employment or income. Perhaps something personal in your family or relationships. It could have even been a spiritual crisis at church.

What if God had not been with you or been on your side? What would have happened to you?

Take for another moment to imagine if God had not done what God did in your life. Where would you be now? How would you feel? What would have been the results?

But God did help you. God was on your side. God helped you escape like a bird from the hunter’s trap. The trap is broken and you are free!

May you face your upcoming challenges trusting in God’s help.

Our help is from you, Lord, who made heaven and earth. We thank you for your help. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I Lift My Eyes to You

I lift my eyes to you, O God, enthroned in heaven. We keep looking to the Lord our God for his mercy, just as servants keep their eyes on their master, as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal. Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy, for we have had our fill of contempt. We have had more than our fill of the scoffing of the proud and the contempt of the arrogant. Psalm 123 NLT

This is a  great psalm for this election year in 2012! I think I have heard and read more words of contempt and cartoons and jokes full of scoffing than any other election. 

I find it interesting that, instead of blaming others for their contempt, the psalmist simply asks for God’s mercy. In fact, the psalmist not only asks for God’s mercy but is actively looking for God’s mercy. Like a servant would watch their master for clues as to what his mood is or a slave would watch her mistress to see what she can do to help her, the psalmist carefully watches for God’s mercy.

I think that is the most telling part of this election year: there is no attempt on either side to admit to false righteousness or wrong. No one says they are sorry or asks for God’s mercy. They act like their words are right and everyone else is wrong. 

What if we simply ALL ask for God’s mercy. And forgiveness. And reconciliation. And then we really look for it.

God, we lift our eyes to you. We keep looking to you for your mercy. Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy, for we have had our fill of contempt. We have had more than our fill of the scoffing of the proud and the contempt of the arrogant. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pray for the peace in Jerusalem

Pray for the peace in Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper. O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your palaces. For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “May you have peace.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek what is best for you, O Jerusalem. Psalm 122: 6-9 NLT

You would think that the city of Jerusalem would be the most peaceful city on earth. Certainly with the teenage Israeli army walking the streets armed with automatic rifles and the outskirts of any local Arab population surrounded by cement walls and bobbed wire you might think so. But then you take into account the whole Arab/Israeli conflict that easily erupts throughout that region, and you begin to have your doubts.

But the worst anti-peace place in the whole city is in a church and involves Christians.

Yep. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the traditional sight of Jesus’ execution and burial. Within its walls seven different Christian churches have right to worship, walk, stand and move in particular places at particular times. This is probably one of the most violent areas in the whole city because if someone walks or moves into “territory” that is not their own or common ground, a fight will ensue. These are priests as well as believers and they are known to fight all the time -- often resulting in injuries that need to be hospitalized! If the Christians can’t have peace, is there any hope for non-Christians?

Pray for the peace in Jerusalem indeed!

God, we lift up all the official churches represented at this most holy sight in Jerusalem: Easter Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian Apostolic, Greek Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox. Forgive the violence and the fighting we Christians have among one another. We pray for peace! In Jesus’ name.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Let us go to the house of the Lord

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” And now here we are, standing inside your gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a well-built city; its seamless walls cannot be breached. All the tribes of Israel -- the Lord’s people -- make their pilgrimage here. They come to give thanks to the name of the Lord, as the law requires of Israel. Here stands the thrones where judgment is given, the thrones of the dynasty of David. Psalm 122: 1-5 NLT

If you ever have a chance to go to Jerusalem, I highly encourage you to do so. A trip to the Holy Land will forever change the way you read the bible and will enrich your faith. Then you can quote verse two: Now here we are, standing inside your gates! 

But many of you may never be able to go to Israel or stand inside the gates of Jerusalem. Does this mean this psalm cannot apply to you?

For me, the idea of going to the house of the Lord means going to a place of worship. Shouldn’t we be in awe when we enter a house of worship -- whether it is our own or we are simply God’s guests there? We can admire the love and patience that came together to build a place where God can be praised. We can be happy to be invited to come into God’s presence within the walls of a place build for worship. We can give thanks for all who enter here. Even a couple of city blocks can be a pilgrimage to God’s altar. 

Next time you enter a house of worship (hopefully this very weekend) I pray that you may read or repeat these verses from Psalm 122.

God, I am always glad when someone invites me to come to your house. May I continue to praise you when I arrive there and give thanks for all who come to worship you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

From where does my help come?

I look up to the mountains -- does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever. Psalm 121 NLT

Where does your help come from? When you need assistance, who do you turn to? 

I often try to do it all myself. When I need help, I often look to my spouse. Very rarely do I ask someone else to do something. I am stubborn that way.

So, you can imagine how I resist asking God for help.

Or maybe I ask God for help with the wrong things. 

The psalmist reminds us that our help does not come from an army marching over the hills. Our real help comes from God.

Why don’t we try to ask God for more help more often?

God, my help comes from you. You stand beside me as my protective shade. You watch over me. You keep me from all harm and watch over my life. You watch over me as I come and go, both now and forever. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I might as well be living on the moon!

I took my trouble to the Lord; I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer. Rescue me, O Lord, from liars and from all deceitful people. O deceptive tong, what will God do to you? How will he increase your punishment? You will be pierced with sharp arrows and burned with glowing coals. How I suffer in far-off Meshech. It pains me to live in distant Kedar. I am tired of living among people who hate peace. I search for peace; but when I speak of peace, they want war! Psalm 120 NLT

I had to look up where Meshech and Kedar are located. According to Wikipedia, Meshech is located in modern day Georgia (the country, not the state) and Kedar is possibly north east Iraq but could be elsewhere as it was also the name of a large Arabic tribe. So, both places would be roughly north and east of the Holy Land. Although, because the psalms often repeat themselves, I think the psalmist is referring to roughly the same area. And I would imagine it would be considered out in the middle of nowhere. 

I suppose it would be like saying, “How I suffer on the far-off North Pole ! I might as well be living on the moon!” 

Have you ever been in a place where you felt out of sorts? Perhaps you didn’t fit in or everyone else had a completely different agenda. Did you want to get something done but all around you were people who just wanted to argue or complain? 

The psalmist needs God’s help. He is surrounded by people who only want violence. The psalmist wants God. So, the psalmist cries out to God and God answers. 

When you are in a place that feels like the North Pole, don’t forget to pray to God for help. 

God, I take my troubles to you. Rescue me from liars and deceitful people. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

God's Help

O Lord, listen to my cry; give me the discerning mind you promised. Listen to my prayer; rescue me as you promised. Let praise flow from my lips, for you have taught me your decrees. Let my tongue sing about your word, for all your commands are right. Give me a helping hand, for I have chosen to follow your commandments. O Lord, I have longed for your rescue, and your instructions are my delight. Let me live so I can praise you, and may your regulations help me. I have wandered away like a lost sheep; come and find me, for I have not forgotten your commands. Psalm 119: 169-176 NLT

What happens when you fail to follow God’s law? 

For the psalmist in Psalm 119, learning God’s commandments, meditating on them, following them, praising God for God’s law, and loving God’s decrees is not enough. There is one thing missing. And that is God.

The psalmist cannot be as obedient without God’s help.

You see, the psalmist has again and again declared how well they have followed God and learned God’s laws. Yet, there is still something missing. The psalmist is asking for discernment, ability to praise, rescue, and life. These are things that Christians know that can come through the gift of the Holy Spirit. I think that is what the psalmist needs. 

Where have you tried to be the best follower of Christ and find yourself still needing assistance? You cannot do it alone. You need more than just will power and discipline. You must also have the Spirit.

God, I cannot follow you without your help. With the Holy Spirit, let praise flow from my lips and let my tongue sing about your word! Let me live so that I can praise you! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012

You know everything I do

Powerful people harass me without cause, but my heart trembles only at your word. I rejoice in your word like one who discovers a great treasure. I hate and abhor all falsehood, but I love your instructions. I will praise you seven times a day because all your regulations are just. Those who love your regulations have great peace and do not stumble. I long for your rescue, Lord, so I have obeyed your commands. I have obeyed your laws, for I love them very much. Yes, I obey your commandments and laws because you know everything I do. Psalm 119: 161-168 NLT

These verses sound perfect for an election year, especially this one! 

Even though powerful people are harassing you or even one another, you should only be afraid of God’s word. God’s word has lasting power that is deeper than any political party or cause. Although falsehood comes easily from the lips of those who want you vote, God’s instructions only contain truth and are to be loved. In fact, when you discover God’s word it is like finding a great treasure. 

The psalmist wants to praise God seven times a day because all of God’s laws are just. I don’t know a single law that I would want to even think about seven times a day! In any case, seven is a perfect number so it isn’t that you must praise God that many times but that your praise must be done with perfection. Also, that doesn’t mean without mistakes as much as it means with all you are. Don’t hold anything back from praising God who has given us these wonderful commands! God knows when you obey and when you praise. 

God, I want that great peace and a firm foothold. You know everything I do and where I have fallen short. Rescue me from myself and my indiscretions. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Saturday, October 20, 2012

How Great is Your Mercy

Look upon my suffering and rescue me, for I have not forgotten your instructions. Argue my case; take my side! Protect my life as you promised. The wicked are far from rescue, for they do not bother with your decrees. Lord, how great is your mercy; let me be revived by following your regulations. Many persecute and trouble me, yet I have not swerved from your laws. Seeing these traitors makes me sick at heart, because they care nothing for your word. See how I love your commandments, Lord. Give back my life because of your unfailing love. The very essence of your words is truth; all your regulations will stand forever. Psalm 119: 153-160 NLT

Save me because I have followed your word.

The psalmist is in trouble. It sounds as if those who do not follow God are attacking. Would these be non-believers or believers in name only? We know that they don’t bother with [God’s] decrees. However, the psalmist later calls them traitors so I would imagine they are faithful in name only. In fact, just seeing these people makes the psalmist sick to his stomach. 

In comparison, the psalmist wants God to note that he cares for God’s word. The psalmist loves the Lord’s commands. He finds the root of truth in God’s word. All of God’s laws will last forever is what the psalmist realizes. He wants God to see how much he loves God by looking at how well he has followed God’s law.

Would God be able to look at your life and see how much you love God? 

Can you see in your life where you have loved God with all your heart, you mind, your strength and your neighbor as yourself? 

What would have to change to make both of those true in your own life?

God, how great is your mercy. May I not only be revived but refreshed and renewed in my love for you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Friday, October 19, 2012

Praying with all my heart

I pray with all my heart; answer me, Lord! I will obey your decrees. I cry out to you; rescue me, that I may obey your laws. I rise early, before the sun is up; I cry out for help and put my hope in your words. I stay awake through the night, thinking about your promise. In your faithful love, O Lord, hear my cry; let me be revived by following your regulations. Lawless people are coming to attack me; they live far from your instructions. But you are near, O Lord, and all your commands are true. I have known from my earliest days that your laws will last forever. Psalm 119: 145-152 NLT

Prayer is important to the write of Psalm 119. In these verses, he cries out to God with all his heart. He cries out for rescue so that he will be able to obey all of God’s laws. From the moment he awakes, he is petitioning for help. In fact, he is up before the sun in order to place his hope in God’s words and pray for help. He often is up throughout the night, lying in his bed and thinking about all of God’s promises. 

The psalmist is in desperate need for God’s help. He asks that God hear him through the love God has for him. He wants to be revived through God’s word. Others who physically and metaphorically far from God are trying to attack him. But even in his distress, he knows that God is near because God’s commandments and instructions are not far from him and they speak truth to his life. He has known since he was small that God’s laws will last forever.

How important is prayer to your life? Does it keep you up all night? Do you regularly awake before dawn to lift your petitions in prayer? Do you ever pray God’s word? Do you have more hope in prayer or God’s word? 

God, I pray with all my heart. I cry out to you. You are near, God, and your word is true. I give you thanks and praise. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Joy in your Commands

O Lord, you are righteous, and your regulations are fair. Your laws are perfect and completely trustworthy. I am overwhelmed with indignation, for my enemies have disregarded your words. Your promises have been thoroughly tested; that is why I love them so much. I am insignificant and despised, but I don’t forget your commandments. Your justice is eternal, and your instructions are perfectly true. As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands. Your laws are always right; help me to understand them so I may live. Psalm 119: 137-144 NLT

As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.

Would you consider yourself under a lot of pressure lately? Is stress -- positive or negative -- your only true companion? 

I would say yes to both questions in my own life. In fact, I recently took an on-line survey for my health benefits that said the one factor that I need to learn to handle in a better manner is stress. Forget smoking or eating incorrectly -- I need to cut out stress or learn how to relax! And boy do I! Some nights I just can’t seem to wind down because I always have one more chore to do. 

The psalmist recommends handling stress by finding joy in God’s commands.

For me, this means taking time to read scripture. I have a hard time doing that because I am always reading for work. In my life, scripture is not for reading or learning as much as it is for bible study, sermons, devotionals or future retreats. What the psalmist seems to be saying to me is that I need quiet scripture time in order to find my joy in God’s word. This also means taking it slow -- not reading for a goal but to simply immerse myself in God’s word.

God, as pressure and stress bear down on me, help me to find joy in your commands. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Law of Emotions

Your laws are wonderful. No wonder I obey them! The teachings of your word gives light, so even the simple can understand. I pant with expectation, longing for your commands. Come and show me your mercy, as you do for all who love your name. Guide my steps by your word, so I will not be overcome by evil. Ransom me from the oppression of evil people; then I can obey your commandments. Look upon me with love; teach me your decrees. Rivers of tears gush from my eyes because people disobey your instructions. Psalm 119: 129-136 NLT

These verses are full of compassion and feeling. The psalmist uses words like wonder, panting, longing, mercy, love, and tears. This sounds kind of funny when you are talking about God’s law. Shouldn’t this be an emotionless subject? 

When I even hear the word law I think about courtrooms, tight security and uptight people in suits and robes. Law is a cold word to me. 

But is not God’s law all about love? That is certainly an emotion! God’s law is also something deeply desired and it hurts when others reject it. When one is being oppressed by evil, it is harder to follow God’s law. Emotion, emotion, emotion. God’s law or word is of the heart so it is of our feelings not just our heads. 

God, come and show me your mercy, guide my steps and look upon me with love. Thank you for being in my life and in my heart.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I hate every false way

Don’t leave me to the mercy of my enemies, for I have done what is just and right. Please guarantee a blessing for me. Don’t let the arrogant oppress me! My eyes strain to see your rescue, to see the truth of your promise fulfilled. I am your servant; deal with me in unfailing love, and teach me your decrees. Give discernment to me, your servant; then I will understand your laws. Lord, it is time for you to act, for these evil people have violated your instructions. Truly, I love your commands more than gold, even the finest gold. Each of your commandments is right. That is why I hate every false way. Psalm 121-128 NLT

These verses sound the most desperate so far in this psalm. The psalmist seems to feel abandoned. There does not seem to be any hope for him. He strains to see God’s rescue, God’s truth and promises fulfilled, but it seems to be impossible. He keeps speaking of himself as God’s servant, a very humbling position that has no authority or control. He asks not only for rescue but also for blessing, discernment and God’s unfailing love. Even in declaring the greatness of God’s laws, he only hates the false way rather than following God’s commandments. 

Has there been a time in your life when you only wanted to rescue? When you needed God to save you but you couldn’t find it in you to praise God or lift up how well you had been following God? Have you ever felt like a servant of God -- helpless, no control, powerless and at God’s mercy? Did you like being in that position? What blessing do you need right now from God? What discernment do you need?

Take some time to turn these into a prayer asking God for what you need and praising God for what God has already done in your life. 

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012


I hate those with divided loyalties, but I love your instructions. You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope. Get out of my life, you evil-minded people, for I intend to obey the commands of my God. Lord, sustain me as you promised, that I may live! Do not let my hope be crushed. Sustain me, and I will be rescued; then I will meditate continually on your decrees. But you have rejected all who stray from your decrees. They are only fooling themselves. You skim off the wicked of the earth like scum; no wonder I love to obey your laws! I tremble in fear of you; I stand in awe of your regulations. Psalm 119: 113-120 NLT

Take some time right now to think about all the people in your life who even have the possibility to lead you astray. You know, the ones who can tempt you to things that may not be illegal or immoral but are not things God wants you to do. I have this eighth grade memory that I was sitting at a desk or table trying to study or do what the teacher wanted us to be doing. Then I clearly remember my two best friends dancing around in back of my chair, encouraging me to ditch studying and do something fun with them. It wasn’t bad but it also wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing. Okay, I admit I did ditch the studying for the fun. 

But how about today, who would get me to leave the path God has for me -- even it it seems harmless -- and do something else? 

And who would get you to do the same? 

Get out of my life, you evil-minded people, for I intend to obey the commands of my God! Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Lamp and a Light

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. I’ve promised it once, and I’ll promise it again; I will obey your righteous regulations. I have suffered much, O Lord; restore my life again as you promised. Lord, accept my offering of praise, and teach  me your regulations. My life constantly hangs in the balance, but I will not stop obeying your instructions. The wicked have set their traps for me, but I will not turn from your commandments. Your laws are my treasure; they are my heart’s delight. I am determined to keep your decrees to the very end. Psalm 119: 105-112 NLT

Although I am quite familiar with the first verse of this section of Psalm 119, the remainder is not so familiar. Amy Grant sang the first verse in one of her first recordings. Michael W. Smith wrote the song. You can listen to it here.. I don’t hear the remainder of the verses in the song. 

The psalmist speaks of being in trouble (again) and asking for God’s rescue. Yet, even in the midst of danger, the psalmist promises that he won’t turn from God. He is determined to keep God’s decrees until the very end -- no matter what happens. 

Are you so convicted in Jesus Christ that you can promise to keep true to him to the very end -- no matter what happens? What if you were under torture? Or if someone you loved was under threat of being killed depending on what you said? Could you keep true to Jesus regardless? I don’t believe many of us will have that happen to us yet we are as easily mislead from God in the simplest life circumstances. 

Are you determined to keep God’s laws until the very end? 

God, may your word be a light to our path and a lamp to our feet no matter where we travel. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Big Head

Oh, how I love your instructions! I think about them all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are my constant guide. Yes, I have more insight than my teachers, for I am always thinking of your laws. I am even wiser than my elders, for I have kept your commandments. I have refused to walk on any evil path, so that I may remain obedient to your word. I haven’t turned away from your regulations, for you have taught me well. How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey. Your commandments give me understanding; no wonder I hate every false way of life. Psalm 119: 97-104 NLT

These verse remind me of Jesus as a boy in the temple. I can imagine him living these out -- being wiser and having more insight than his enemies and teachers!

However, I don’t think anyone else could do such boasting. 

Is the psalmist getting “the big head?”

Sure, it is good that he is thinking about God’s instructions all day long, using them as his constant guide. It is good that he has refused to walk any evil path or turned away from God’s regulations. It is fabulous that he hates any false way of life.

But I don’t think there is too much room for boasting. Shouldn’t following God be its own reward, without bragging about it? 

Yet, how many times do you and I feel better and more superior when we are reading these devotionals or spending time in prayer? Do we feel like we are wiser or have more insight than others? Even when other people see us as deeply spiritual, we need to be careful to not think of ourselves as better. 

God, protect me from being a boastful and prideful Christian. Give me the gift of humility in all things. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Friday, October 12, 2012

Perfection has its limits

Your eternal word, O Lord, stands firm in heaven. Your faithfulness extends to every generation, as enduring as the earth you created. Your regulations remain true to this day, for everything serves your plans. If your instructions hadn’t sustained me with joy, I would have died in my misery. I will never forget your commandments, for by them you give me life. I am yours; rescue me! For I have worked hard at obeying your commandments. Though the wicked hide along the way to kill me, I will quietly keep my mind on your laws. Even perfection has its limits, but your commands have no limit. Psalm 119: 89-96 NLT

The psalmist of 119 is convicted that God is eternal and everlasting.

God’s word stands firm in heaven.

God’s faithfulness extends to every generation, as enduring as all of creation.

God’s regulations are no less true today than when they were recorded.

God’s instructions are the only thing that can sustain our joy. 

God’s commandments have the power of life. 

Even when perfection has limits, God’s commands have no limit.

But how firm am I standing on God’s word and God’s commandments? I seem to flit to them and away, not seeing their endurance while my life flashes before me. Can I quietly keep my mind on God’s laws while the wicked hide along my way to kill me? I think I would be panicked instead. 

God, help us to work hard at keeping your commandments and remembering how firm and limitless your word is. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

When will you comfort me?

I am worn out waiting for your rescue, but I have put my hope in your word. My eyes are straining to see your promises come true. When will you comfort me? I am shriveled like a wineskin in the smoke, but I have not forgotten to obey your decrees. How long must I wait? When will you punish those who persecute me? These arrogant people who hate your instructions have dug deep pits to trap me. All your commands are trustworthy. Protect me from those who hunt me down without cause. They almost finished me off, but I refused to abandon your commandments. In your unfailing love, spare my life; then I can continue to obey your laws. Psalm 119: 81-88 NLT

How do you follow God when everything and everyone around you is either trying to hurt you or lead you astray? 

In this part of Psalm 119, the psalmist seems to be focused on the attacks rather than on God. 

He is worn out waiting for rescue, straining to see God’s promises fulfilled.

He is withered like a wineskin in smoke.

He is still waiting.

Arrogant people have dug deep traps for him. They are hunting him without cause. They are about to finish him off.

Yet, he has not give up hope. He asks when God will comfort him, when God will punish his persecutors. He still claims all God’s commands are trustworthy. He asks that God spare his life so that he can continue to obey God’s laws. 

He follows God even the face of death and persecution.

God, I will not give hope in you, no matter what others try to do to me. My hope is you, my God and my redeemer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


You have done many good things for me, Lord, just as you promised. I believe in your commands; now teach me good judgement and knowledge. I used to wander off until you disciplined me; but now I closely follow your word. You are good and do only good; teach me your decrees. Arrogant people smear me with lies, but in truth I obey your commandments with all my heart. Their hearts are dull and stupid, but I delight in your instructions. My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees. Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver. Psalm 119: 65-72 NLT

I suppose that the word discipline has become synonymous with punishment in our society. However, it really means to teach.  As a leader in Cub Scouts, I know the important of teaching boundaries and skills, of having rules and consequences, in order to help the boys become the best they can be. Without discipline, we would be lost as a group and the boys would be lost as individuals. I can see this happen with many children in this country today. They drift from activity to activity with no thought about what is the right thing to do or the most important activity to complete first. And no one seems to be giving them any kind of teaching. Instead, they are allowed to do whatever they desire. 

When the psalmist says that he used to wander off until God disciplined him, he means until God actually gave him boundaries, meaning and direction, he would simply drift from action to action. God’s commandments and laws have built up guidelines, rules, and right action in the psalmist’s life. The psalmist understands that God’s rules as well as the punishment that occurs when those rules are broken help him become the best person that he can be -- which is truly more valuable than millions in gold. 

God, you seek to discipline me so that I can become the person you call me to be. Help me not to be stubborn or self-seeking but to listen and obey. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Lord, you are mine!

Lord, you are mine! I promise to obey your words! With all my heart I want your blessings. Be merciful as you promised. I pondered the direction of my life, and I turned to follow your laws. I will hurry, without delay, to obey your commands. Evil people try to drag me into sin, but I am firmly anchored to your instructions. I rise at midnight to thank you for your just regulations. I am a friend to anyone who fears you -- anyone who obeys your commandments. O Lord, your unfailing love fills the earth; teach me your decrees. Psalm 119: 57-64 NLT

The psalmist is becoming more passionate in their beliefs! Lord you are mine! I promise to obey your words! I want your blessings with all my heart. 

The psalmist has been through a rough time and realizes that turning and quickly obeying God is worth everything. Now they are firmly anchored in God, not even evil people can pull them away. They even get up in the middle of the the night just to thank God for God’s promises.

How much to you really want God in your life? With all your heart? Are you sure you aren’t saving just a bit of your heart for something else? 

I am often conflicted by my dreams and desires when it comes to my walk with God. Are these God-given or are they simply Amelia’s wishes? I suppose that is one reason I write these devotionals -- I can write (which is one of my desires) but also write about God’s word and share my thoughts in order to help others on their journey. Not that I am perfect -- sometimes these devotionals seem something I “ought to do” rather than a gift given up to the glory of God. 

What about you?

Lord, you are mine! I promise to obey your words! With all my heart I want your blessings. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Monday, October 8, 2012

This is how I spend my life

Remember your promise to me; it is my only hope. Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles. The proud hold me in utter contempt, but I do not turn away from your instructions. I meditate on your age-old regulations; O Lord, they comfort me. I become furious with the wicked, because they reject your instructions. Your decrees have been the theme of my songs wherever I have lived. I reflect at night on who you are, O Lord; therefore, I obey your instructions. This is how I spend my life: obeying your commandments. Psalm 119: 49-56 NLT

What keeps your hopes up? What gets you out of bed every morning besides the alarm clock? How do you get your second wind of energy during stressful times?

For the psalmist, it is God’s promises that keep the psalmist going. God’s promises give them hope. God’s promises revives him. God’s promises keep her from turning away from God’s instructions, even when she is held in contempt. God’s promises give the psalmist comfort. In fact, those who have rejected God’s promises make the psalmist angry. God’s promises are the theme of the songs the psalmist sings each day. 

What are God’s promises in your life? You may include promises of eternal life but there may be other things as well. In the Old Testament, God’s promises included the gift of land, healthy crops, children and protection. List some of these in your mind.

Spend some time thanking God for all the promises in your life and let God know how you will spend the rest of your life. 


Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Love and Salvation for You

Lord, give me your unfailing love, the salvation that you promised me. Then I can answer those who taunt me, for I trust in your word. Do not snatch your word of truth from me, for your regulations are my only hope. I will keep on obeying our instructions forever and ever. I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments. I will speak to kings about your laws, and I will not be ashamed. How I delight in your commands! How I love them! I honor and love your commands. I meditate on your decrees. Psalm 119: 41-48 NLT

If God gives you God’s unfailing love and salvation, you will be able to answer anyone who taunts you for following God. Your hope will be in God’s commands rather than what the world commands. You will walk in freedom, you will be able to speak to those in power and authority about your faith and you will be filled with joy. 

Have you really accepted God’s love and salvation? I think some of those who regularly attend church have not yet accepted God’s love and salvation. Perhaps they have been regular members or attenders for so long, everyone else just assumes they are believers. I think that is also why some people resist evangelism. They are not sure they get it all themselves and, without that assurance, they cannot fathom how they could ever share the gospel. 

The wonderful part is that God’s love and salvation are always offered to us. For free. We just have to say, “Yes!”

God, I accept your offer of love and salvation. In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Renew my life with your goodness

Teach me your decrees, O Lord; I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions; I will put them into practice with all my heart. Make me walk along the path of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found. Give me an eagerness for your laws rather than a love for money! Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word. Reassure me of your promise, made to those who fear you. Help me abandon my shameful ways; for your regulations are good. I long to obey your commandments!  Renew my life with your goodness.
Psalm 119: 33-40 NLT

The struggle to follow God continues.

Are you wrestling with any of these in your life at the moment?

Looking for happiness anywhere but with God and God’s word.

More eager for money than for God.

Wanting to buy, buy, buy items that are essentially worthless in God’s eyes. 

Continuing to act in shameful ways, despite knowing how they lead you away from God.

The psalmist asks God to give them instruction, understanding, eagerness, life and reassurance. God is willing to give all those to us as well. 

God, how I long to obey your commandments!  Renew my life with your goodness. Give me your joy, your eagerness, your worth, your guidance in my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Friday, October 5, 2012

I told you my plans and you answered

I lie in the dust; revive me by your word. I told you my plans, and you answered. Now teach me your decrees. Help me understand the meaning of your commandments, and I will meditate on your wonderful deeds. I weep with sorrow; encourage me by your word. Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your instructions. I have chosen to be faithful; I have determined to live by your regulations. I cling to your laws. Lord, don’t let me be put to shame! I will pursue your commands, for you expand my understanding. Psalm 119: 25-32 NLT

Even when one wants to follow Jesus, one usually ends up trying to make one’s own path. 

Sound familiar? Instead of following God’s will, we tend to want our own will to end up actually being God’s will. Instead of blessing God, we want God to bless us. Rather than being who God wants us to be, we want God to like us as we have made ourselves. I do this a lot. I think my plans are simply going to be blessed by God, regardless.

I told you my plans, and you answered. Now I lie in the dust....

Okay, so maybe the psalmist, like us, did not do so well in following God. Now they, like us, are sorry for their mistakes. Now is the time to try again, to meditate on what God has done, to keep from lying to ourselves, to cling to God’s will and God’s word. 

Where do you need to begin again and follow God not your own desires?

God, I have chosen to be faithful; I have determined to live by your regulations. I cling to your laws. Lord, don’t let me be put to shame! I will pursue your commands, for you expand my understanding. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Be Good to Your Servant

Be good to your servant, that I may live and obey your word. Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions. I am only a foreigner in the land. Don’t hide your commands from me! I am always overwhelmed with a desire for your regulations. You rebuke the arrogant; those who wander from your commands are cursed. Don’t let them scorn and insult me, for I have obeyed your laws. Even princes sit and speak against me, but I will meditate on your decrees. Your laws please me; they give me wise advice. Psalm 119: 18-24 NLT

Following God is full of challenges. Sometimes we simply don’t understand scripture, life’s lessons or God’s will. We feel ignorant of what God really expects from us. It is like we are a stranger in another country. At the same time, we are pulled by forces outside of our faith. We are ridiculed or put down because of our beliefs. We are tempted to follow society rather than God. 

Throughout all of this, we want God to be good to us, even though we are only a lowly servant.

How does one hang on to God and live in the world? 

It is a daily challenge and not one where I can give anyone a one minute answer. Certainly, scripture can give us wise advice as can others who have walked this road before us. Simply spending time with God -- in prayer and scripture -- can be a big help. 

How do you hang on to God and live in the world? 

Be good to your servant, that I may live and obey your word. Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Beginning our faith journey

How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word. I have tried hard to find you -- don’t let me wander from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. I praise you, O Lord; teach me your decrees. I have recited aloud all the regulations you have given us. I have rejoiced in your laws as much as in riches. I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways. I will delight in your decrees and not forget your word. Psalm 119: 9-16 NLT

I reading Psalm 119, I get the impression that we are looking at the faith story of one individual. These verses sound like they are just at the beginning of their faith journey. 

The psalmist is trying hard to see how they can be good. It seems to them that following God’s laws is the way to stay true. They have begun by trying to internalize God’s word so that they will not sin. They have memorized the text and can recite it perfectly. They are praising and rejoicing over what rules God has given them. They promise to continue to study God’s rules, delight in them and not forget them. 

Sounds pretty cut and dry. Where is the passion and love for God? Where is the struggle to understand the hard bits? Why is there no questions or life lessons being brought to mind? 

God’s word is not sterile. God’s commands are not just something we memorize. We must live God’s will, not just know it. 

God, I have tried hard to find you. Help me when I try to make your love into something that is dry, stiff and lifeless. May your words live in my heart. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Please don't give up on me!

Joyful are the people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths. You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully. Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees! Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands. As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should! I will obey your decrees. Please don't give up on me! Psalm 119: 1-8 NLT

So begins the longest psalm. We will be spending quite sometime in Psalm 119 and be very familiar with its thoughts by the final verse.

Today we begin with God's instructions. It is so hard for me as a Christian to read these from a Hebrew point of view. When the psalmist wrote these words, God's instructions were God's law and the very life of the believing community. The ten commandments and all the instructions of Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus and Deuteronomy were meant to be followed to the letter in order to remain blessed in the land.

This was a big challenge as you can hear from the psalmist: Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees! Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands. As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should! I will obey your decrees. Please don't give up on me! Perhaps they weren't following the commandments. There were times of shame when they fell short of the law. It almost seems as if they are still trying to learn and know by heart all of God's commands.

As a Christian, I hear Jesus' commandment: Love the lord your God with all you have and your neighbor as yourself. I want to say it is easier. In some ways it is easier because it is only one, maybe two sentences compared to several biblical books! Then there is the interpretation of these words. Even when Jesus spoke them, they were challenged. But who is my neighbor? And even when you figure that out, is it really so easy to do all that loving? Perhaps not.

Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees! Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands. As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should! I will obey your decrees. Please don't give up on me! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2012 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, October 1, 2012

Sacrifice of Praise

Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, shining upon us. Take the sacrifice and bind it with cords on the altar. You are my God, and I will praise you! You are my God, and I will exalt you! Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Psalm 118:26-29 NLT

These final verses of Psalm 118 sound like praises to God. God's messenger is blessed. God is compared to a great light shining down on those who follow God. The sacrifice is prepared on the altar.  God is claimed and praised. God is thanked because God is good. God is exalted because God's faithful love goes on forever.

Sometimes we have a hard time praising God. Sure, we may find it easier to thank God, but we don't often praise God. Praising God does involve gratitude but it is a thankfulness that is more general than particular. And we don't have a sacrifice of praise to bind to the altar.

Or do we?

Imagine approaching the altar at the place where you worship. There is something in your hands or you are cradling something in your arms. Is it heavy or light? Do you positively anticipate giving it to God as a sacrifice or do you dread it? Is this something you will miss? What do you imagine that it is?

YOu are going to give this as a sacrifice in order to praise God. That means you will be giving it to God for God's pleasure. This may mean you are giving it up or taking it on. Either way, you will be doing this for God.

How do you feel? Do you think God will be pleased in any way? Give God the praise and the glory!

God, we can do nothing to pay for what Jesus has done for us. However, we do want to give you this, our sacrifice of praise. Please accept our gift in the spirit with which it is given. We praise you and give you thanks. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2012 Amelia G. Sims