Friday, November 30, 2012

Take Control of What I Say!

Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips. Don’t let me drift toward evil or take part in acts of wickedness. Don’t let me share in the delicacies of those who do wrong. Let the godly strike me! It will be kindness! If they correct me, it is soothing medicine. Don’t let me refuse it. But I pray constantly against the wicked and their deeds. When their leaders are thrown down form a cliff, the wicked will listen to my words and find them true. Like rocks brought up by a plow, the bones of the wicked will lie scattered without burial. I look to you for help, O Sovereign Lord. You are my refuge; don’t let them kill me. Keep me from the traps they have set for me, from the snares of the those who do wrong. Let the wicked fall into their own nets, but let me escape. Psalm 141: 3-10 NLT

The first verse of this psalm should be my life’s motto: take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips. I need this on two counts: for my preaching and for my everyday words. I need God to control what I say when I preach. In fact, I long for God’s Spirit to infuse me and speak through me. I don’t want to share my ideas but God’s message. 

It is too bad that I don’t want that same infusion when I speak every day. Sometimes, when words have left my mouth, I can’t believe I just said what I did. Many times my words are critical, hurtful and full of malice. My heart is angry or burdened or just cannot see the good to say. Instead of simply keeping my mouth shut, I say hurtful things. Often I am the wicked one who needs to fall into my own net.

What do you think your life’s motto should be?

Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips. Don’t let me drift toward evil or take part in acts of wickedness. Keep me from hurting others with my words. I look to you for help, O Sovereign Lord. You are my refuge. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Please hurry!

O Lord, I am calling to you. Please hurry! Listen when I cry to you for help! Accept my prayer as incense offered to you, and my upraised hands as an evening offering. Psalm 141: 1-2 NLT

I don't know about you, but these verses are the perfect prayer for the upcoming busy season. How many times will we ask for God's presence, help and consolation when we feel overwhelmed by what is supposed to be "the most wonderful time of the year?" There is no better time to praise God and give ourselves as an offering.

The best part is the offering part. For, if we really admit to ourselves, it is our own fault for being so busy. We are the ones who either made the plans or said yes to someone else's plans. In some instances, we get a wake up call and are able to say "No!" quite firmly.

For me, this Advent and Christmas season will be a time to say "No." My mother-in-law needs to have around the clock care for several weeks so she is staying with us. Believe me, the "in-law" part of that statement is not what I am talking about. Having to care for someone -- beyond just having another person in the home -- takes more energy and time. The stress level is bumped up. This year, I am really considering what is absolutely necessary and what can be let go.

Therefore, when I call on the Lord and ask God to hurry up, I am not the one at fault for getting into this mess in the first place!

How about you?

O Lord, I am calling to you. Please hurry! Listen when I cry to you for help! Accept my prayer as incense offered to you, and my upraised hands as an evening offering. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2012 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Living in God's Presence

O Lord, rescue me from evil people. Protect me from those who are violent, those who plot evil in their hearts and stir up trouble all day long. Their tongues sting like a snake; the venom of a viper drips from their lips. O Lord, keep me out of the hands of the wicked.  Protect me from those who are violent, for they are plotting against me. The proud have set a trap to catch me; they have stretched out a net; they have placed traps all along the way. I said to the Lord, “You are my God!” Listen, O Lord, to my cries for mercy! O Sovereign Lord, the strong one who rescued me, you protected me on the day of battle. Lord, do not let evil people have their way. Do not let their evil schemes succeed, or they will become proud. Let my enemies be destroyed by the very evil they have planned for me. Let burning coals fall down on their heads. Let them be thrown into the fire or into watery pits from which they can’t escape.  Don’t let liars prosper here in our land. Cause great disasters to fall on the violent. But I know the Lord will help those they persecute; he will give justice to the poor. Surely righteous people are praising your name; the godly will live in your presence. Psalm 140 NLT

The psalmist spends most of the psalm ranting about evil people and how they should be punished. But even while spewing violent endings for those that have hurt him, the psalmist reveals that God has already protected him during the war and that God always gives justice to the poor, the righteous and the godly. 

There has been an increase of hateful spewing by people who see the latest national election results in America to be an outcome of evil in the land. Just like the psalmist, many people are calling for violent and destructive means in order for them to be rescued from evil people. This makes me sad because I am happy to live in a country where we can all exercise our right to vote as well as give voice to our opinion. However, we seem to have all fallen short on what is really appropriate in terms of what we say. And what happened to our trust that God will prevail -- hasn't God already proven that to us time and again? 

O God, you are the God of justice, righteousness and true freedom. Help us to know what your priorities are for us. Help us to see your purpose even when things seem bleak. Guide us in righteousness, justice and love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Prayer from Psalm 139

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! 

I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me,  and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night -- but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you. 

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous -- how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. 

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me! 

O God, if only you would destroy the wicked! Get out of my life, you murders! They blaspheme you; your enemies misuse your name. O Lord, shouln’dt I hate those who hate you? Shouldn't I despise those who oppose you? Yes, I hate them with perfect hatred, for your enemies are my enemies. 

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139 NLT


Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Sunday, November 25, 2012

For this I give thanks

I give you thanks, O Lord, with all my heart; I will sing your praises before the gods. I bow before your holy Temple as I worship. I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness; for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name. As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength. Every king in all the earth will thank you, Lord, for all of them will hear your words. Yes, they will sing about the Lord’s ways, for the glory of the Lord is very great. Though the Lord is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud. Though I am surrounded by troubles, you will protect me from the anger of my enemies. You reach out your hand, and the power of your right hand saves me. The Lord will work out his plans for my life -- for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me. Psalm 138 NLT

For what can I give thanks?

For a place to worship.

For God’s unfailing love and faithfulness.

For God’s encouragement which comes when I am strengthened.

For the thankfulness of world leaders.

For God’s glory.

For God’s protection when I surrounded by troubles and the anger of my enemies.

For God will work out God’s plans for my life.

These are things are can give thanks for.

God, don’t abandon me, for you made me! I give you thanks and praise! Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Saturday, November 24, 2012

When we suffer and weep

Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept as we thought of Jerusalem. We put away our harps, hanging them on the branches of the poplar trees. For our captors demanded a song from us. Our tormentors insisted on a joyful hymn: “Sing us one of those songs of Jerusalem!” But how can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a pagan land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget how to play the harp. May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I fail to remember you, if I don’t make Jerusalem my greatest joy. O Lord, remember what the Edomites did on the day the armies of Babylon captured Jerusalem. “Destroy it!” they yelled. “Level it to the ground!!” O Babylon, you will be destroyed. Happy is the one who pays you back for what you have done to us. Happy is the one who takes your babies and smashed them against the rocks! Psalm 137 NLT

This psalm ends with a very violent verse that turns many of believers’ stomach. Would God really want to kill innocent children? 

Certainly, this psalm comes from a place of pain. The Israelites are in exile which to them means being totally separated from God. God is only found in Jerusalem. They are asked to sing their songs of praise but they cannot in this foreign land. They want their captors to suffer.

But should they want innocent children to suffer as well?

These days a lot of Americans are getting very verbal about supporting Israel’s agenda. But what about all the innocent people -- babies included -- that are suffering in Gaza? Do we want the innocent to suffer just because think our political ideals are the same as our theological ones? 

God, when we suffer and weep, help us to keep from asking that others suffer as well. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

Give Thanks

Give thanks to him who struck down mighty kings. His faithful love endures forever.
He killed powerful kings-- His faithful love endures forever.
Sihon king of the Amorites, His faithful love endures forever.
and Og king of Bashan. His faithful love endures forever.
God gave the land of these kings as an inheritance --His faithful love endures forever.
 a special possession to his servant Israel. His faithful love endures forever.
he remembered us in our weakness. His faithful love endures forever.
He saved us from our enemies. His faithful love endures forever.
He gives food to every living thing. His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven. His faithful love endures forever.
Psalm 136: 17-26 NLT

Although we may not be comfortable with the idea of God doing violence on our behalf (I hope, anyway), we can agree that God has done remarkable things on our behalf. 

God created the world. 

God provided a means to know and love God. 

God gave us God’s only son, Jesus, who died for us and was resurrected for our benefit. 

In America today, many people are thankful for family, friends, food and freedom. However, you don’t have to be an American to celebrate and give thanks for all that God has done for you. 

Thank you, God! For your faithful love endures forever! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A too familiar story

Give thanks to him who killed the firstborn of Egypt. His faithful love endures forever.
He brought Israel out of Egypt. His faithful love endures forever.
He acted with a strong hand and a powerful arm. His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who parted the Red Sea. His faithful love endures forever.
He led Israel safely through, His faithful love endures forever.
but he hurled Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea. His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who led his people through the wilderness. His faithful love endures forever.
Psalm 136: 10-16 NLT

Some of us may have heard the story of the Israelites’ escape from Egypt so many times that it does not strike us as very engaging anymore. 

Death of the firstborn? Yawn! Parting of the Red Sea? Oh, yea, I saw that movie. Leading people through the wilderness? Look how that turned out!

We have become a bit cynical and jaded.

Yet, the story of God’s liberation of God’s people is a story that is told each year by Jewish families at Passover. For them, they are expected to see themselves in this story and to claim it as there own. Through this telling and re-telling they can again see how God’s faithful love endures forever. 

For Christian’s, the death and resurrection story is where we understand God’s faithful love enduring forever. We need to take more time to think about that story, see ourselves as part of that story and share it with others. Then, I think we too will understand  how God’s faithful love endures forever. 

God, your faithful love endures forever. Thank you. Amen.

Copyright 2012 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Creator God

Give thanks to him who made the heavens so skillfully. His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who placed the earth among the waters. His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who made the heavenly lights --His faithful love endures forever.
the sun to rule the day, His faithful love endures forever.
and the moon and stars to rule the night. His faithful love endures forever.
Psalm 136: 5-9 NLT

God is our creator. Some of us may believe that happened in exactly seven days. Others of us may believe it happened over millennia. Yet, I think we can agree that God is at the center of all of creation. It is God who directed, controlled and watched over with love. God called it all good. 

Look out a window, if you can. Do you see anything outside that you can attribute to God’s creative power? Of the objects in your line of vision, what can you give God thanks for? Take some time right now to give God thanks.

God, thank you. Your faithful love endures forever. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Why do we thank God?

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. 
Give thanks to the God of gods. His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords. His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who alone does mighty miracles. His faithful love endures forever. Psalm 136: 1-4 NLT 

Why do we thank God?

Is it because God has done something for us -- given us a family, food on the table or a place to live?

Is it because God has healed, saved or changed lives in our immediate family or friends?

Is it because God is bigger than all our problems and God is the one who is really in control?

Or perhaps we are thanking God because that is what we are to do on the fourth Thursday in November. 

The psalmist thanks God because God’s faithful love endures forever. 

God, your faithful love endures forever. Thank you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

Why aren't you praising?

O Israel, praise the Lord! O priests -- descendants of Aaron -- praise the Lord! O Levites, praise the Lord! All you who fear the Lord, praise the Lord! The Lord be praise from Zion, for he lives here in Jerusalem. Psalm 135: 19-21 NLT

Does the psalmist have to tell everyone in Zion -- from the religious leaders and priests to those who life in and near the temple -- to praise God? God is right there, according to their beliefs! God lives there in the temple at Zion. If God is that close by, do you need prompting to praise God?

Sounds like me on Sunday mornings -- I am so focused on doing worship, leading worship and keeping worship moving that I don’t really find myself worshipping. Perhaps that is what has happened with the priests: they are just doing their jobs and not really praising God.

The psalmist wants to emphasize the praise of God, not just the duties to God.

What kinds of things pull you away from praising God?

Is God with you where you are?

If God is with you, why aren’t you worshipping God?

God, I praise you and magnify your awesome name. You are wonderful, our mighty creator, our sustainer in times of sorrow and our redeemer from sin and death. I praise you! Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Avoiding Idol Worship

Your name, O Lord, endures forever; your fame, O Lord, is known to every generation. For the Lord will give justice to his people and have compassion on his servants. The idols of the nations are merely things of silver and gold, shaped by human hands. They have mouths but cannot speak, and eyes but cannot see. They have ears but cannot hear, and noses but cannot smell. And those who make idols are just like them, as are all who trust in them. Psalm 135: 13-18 NLT

I have always pictured idols as these little dolls made of clay with gold or silver paint on them. But when I read these verses today, this is what I heard:

The idols of the nations are merely things of silver and gold....

Of course, the idols of today are silver and gold! People worship money and the power and fame that comes with money. 

And so many people are working for more money so that they can buy things that do not make them happy. Then they have to make more money to buy more stuff. That’s the “shaped by human hands” part. Also, they become just like the money -- they are things rather than human beings. 

But how does one prevent such idol worship? Does that mean we have to quit our jobs and remove ourselves from both silver and gold? No, I don’t think that is the answer. However, we have to be careful that we are not allowing our livelihoods to become our pursuit over money. Does that make sense? We are to make money in order to live off the money (as well as save it and give it away) but we should not be working to make more money to buy stuff that will never make us happy. 

God, you want us to know you and worship you. Your main competition seems to be money -- making more and more of it. We don’t seem to know how to stop because it feels like we need so much. Yet, you are all we truly need. Help us to change our priorities and focus on you rather than on money. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Saturday, November 17, 2012

God is so great!

I know the greatness of the Lord -- that our Lord is greater than any other god. The Lord does whatever pleases him throughout all heaven and earth, and on the seas and in their depths. He causes the clouds to rise over the whole earth. He sends the lighting with the rain and releases the wind from his storehouses. He destroyed the firstborn in each Egyptian home, both people and animals. He performed miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt against Pharaoh and all his people. He struck down great nations and slaughtered mighty kings -- Sihon king of the Amorites, Og king of Bashan, and all the kings of Canaan. He gave their land as an inheritance, a special possession to his people Israel. Psalm 135: 5-12 NLT

Do you know the greatness of God? How has God shown you greatness in your own life? In your community of faith?

The psalmist remembers how God has shown greatness in the earth and in the lives of the Hebrew people. It pleased God to create the earth, the seas, clouds and rain, wind and lightening. God loved God’s people so much that God was willing to strike down the first born in each household -- both people and animals. God showed miraculous signs to Pharaoh and all of the people. God struck down those rulers who stood in the way of God’s people receiving their gift from God. These are the ways the psalmist remembers God’s greatness.

I hope you and I can remember less violent ways that God has shown greatness in our lives. However, I do admit that Jesus’ own death was pretty violent. But the resurrection was a nonviolent way in which God showed God’s greatness. Can you recall some others in the Bible? How about in the history of your community of faith? In your family’s history? In your own life story?

God, you are so great! Amen!

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Lord is Lovely

Praise the Lord! Praise the name of the Lord! Praise him, you who serve the Lord, you who serve in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God. Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; celebrate his lovely name with music. For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel for his own special treasure. Psalm 135: 1-4 NLT

Do you really think that those who are serving God in God’s house really need to be reminded to praise God?

I think they do.

I’m a pastor and sometimes prayer is the last thing I think to schedule in my week. Sure, I will make sure to plan lots of sermon preparation and visitation. But does prayer rate highly on my to-do list? Most weeks it is more of an afterthought than anything. However, today I was reminded (by myself) that prayer should be central to every week -- and that doesnt mean just petitions. This means praising God.

I don’t know where you serve in your church or community of faith. You are considered a minister, too. I hope that you will spend more time in prayer. In fact, I hope you will make prayer your number one priority every week. 

Keep me accountable and I will keep you accountable as well!

God, I give you praise and glory. Your name is good. In fact,  your name is lovely! You have chosen me for yourself. I am your special treasure. I admire and honor you and all that you are for me and for the world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Praise the Lord!

Oh, praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, you who serve at night in the house of the Lord. Lift up holy hands in prayer, and praise the Lord. May the Lord, who made heaven and earth, bless you from Jerusalem. Psalm 134 NLT

Praise the Lord!

Lift up your hands to God right now and simply praise God for how wonderful, majestic, awesome, powerful, loving, forgiving, creating and sustaining God is!

Give God a blessing, bless God and do so with joy. Lift up your hands in prayer and praise. Don’t be shy -- this is God you are praising and glorifying. God knows you, knows your heart and your innermost secrets. And God still desires your praise and adoration!

Oh, praise the Lord! May all the servants of the Lord, those who serve at night in the house of the Lord, those who serve each day on the streets, praise the Lord. Lift up holy hands in prayer, and praise the Lord! May the Lord, who made heaven and earth, bless us all. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting. Psalm 133 NLT

I cannot read this psalm now without remembering the time I was helping with a worship service in another city. The congregation was reading this psalm responsively but when we came to the verse where the oil was running down Aaron’s beard, the secretary had typed “bread.” Only the other pastor and I caught it during the first service and he corrected it before we read it in the other service. 

It really seems strange to think of oil running down a man’s head, into his beard and onto his shoulders as pleasant. Most of us would think that is gross or even dirty. Who would want oil all over their head? But in the ancient world, water was precious and baths were few. Oil was more plentiful -- olive oil, not a petroleum product! Oil could cool you down as well as moisturize in the dry desert. And when someone was anointed as priest, the finest oil was used to anoint them. This oil was indeed precious and not used on anyone but the most godly of people. 

And that is how precious harmony was for the psalmist.

After this last presidential election, I too am seeking harmony between people. I have heard of too many friendships broken up by people who have spoken, texted or posted words that have hurt others and made them angry. I suppose harmony this day would be like people coming together to help others in need -- like victims of Hurricane Sandy or Katrina. 

God, how wonderful and pleasant it is when people live together in harmony! Help us to live together in unity and harmony. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

God's Home

For the Lord has chosen Jerusalem; he has desired it for his home.”This is my resting place forever,” he said. “I will live here, for this is the home I desired. I will bless this city and make it prosperous; I will satisfy its poor with food. I will clothe its priests with godliness; its faithful servants will sing for joy. Here I will increase the power of David; my anointed one will be a light for my people. I will clothe his enemies with shame, but he will be a glorious king.” Psalm 132: 13-18 NLT

Quick: what is your favorite city? Why? 

Do you think God rests there? Why or why not? 

The psalmist clearly would chose Jerusalem. This is because the psalmist sees that God has chosen it for his home. God has decided to rest there -- no more wandering in the wilderness for God. This is the home that God has always wanted. Because God is there, God will bless the city and give it prosperity. Not only that, but the poor within the city will always have enough to eat. The religious leaders will be godly men and all who serve the Lord will do so gladly. The king, David, will be triumphant and glorious. 

The words of this psalm can make us forget that the city of David was no more than 5 square acres in size. We also forget that God includes the poor in the blessings of prosperity. We can also get so wrapped up in how David was so glorious and forget his weaknesses and his sins. 

Just like our favorite city probably does have a crime rate, homeless people and corrupt government officials. 

But we like to think of the positive side, don’t we?

God, thank you for our favorite city. Thank you that I can see the positive side of the place that attracts my heart. I know you are there just as you are in other cities of the world. Help me to make the city where I live better in your name. Amen. 

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012

There is always a catch

The Lord swore an oath to David with a promise he will never take back: “I will place one of your descendants on your throne. If your descendants obey the terms of my covenant and the laws that I teach them, then your royal line will continue forever and ever.” Psalm 132: 11-12 NLT

There is always a catch. 

God swears (the courtroom kind of swearing) that David will always have a descendant on the throne.




Only if the descendants continue to follow God and all of God's laws.

Then they will always have someone on the throne.

Even when our country began, it was not unheard of for leaders to gather the people for days of fasting and prayer. And the prayers always included times of confession of sins. They didn't just ask for God's help, they confessed what they had done wrong and how they had hurt God.

What promises do you think God has made to you in your lifetime?

How have you held up your end of the bargain?

God, you have given me promises and asked for all my love with every part of my being and my love for neighbor and self. I have let you down time and again. Please forgive me. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Sunday, November 11, 2012

God's Power

We heard that the Ark was in Ephrathah; then we found it in the distant countryside of Jaar. Let us go to the sanctuary of the Lord; let us worship at the footstool of his throne. Arise, O Lord, and enter your resting place, along with the Ark, the symbol of your power. May your priests be clothed in godliness; may your loyal servants sing for joy. For the sake of your servant David, do not reject the king you have anointed. Psalm 132: 6-10 NLT

What, to you, is the symbol of God’s power? 

A storm? The cross? The changing seasons? A newborn? 

I am not sure that I have just one, so I would have to say: all of the above!

As Christians, I don’t suppose we have one central symbol of God’s power, just as we have no central place that God “rests.” Although we tend to see God more in our sanctuaries, we also understand that God is throughout the universe. God is not limited to one place. 

At the same time, we probably all associate an event, an object or a place with God. Perhaps we had an experience of God’s presence or power in a particular place or while holding a common object. Now we can remember God and what God has done each time we hold that object or spend time in that place. That event may have symbolized God’s power to us personally, but we don’t universalize that symbol. 

For the psalmist, God’s power is symbolized by the Ark. And the Ark is in a place: God’s sanctuary. And God can only be found in that sanctuary.

God, we are so glad that we have not limited you to a place or one symbol. We give thanks for your continuing power and presence in our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Lord, remember David and all that he suffered. He made a solemn promise to the Lord. He vowed to the Mighty One of Israel, “I will not go home; I will not let myself rest. I will not let my eyes sleep nor close my eyelids in slumber until I find a place to build a house for the Lord, a sanctuary for the Mighty One of Israel.” Psalm 132: 1-5 NLT

Somehow, the picture I have of David, even before he was king, is not one of suffering. Sure, he fought the biggest Philistine. Sure, his king tried to kill him. Sure, he went and recruited a rebel force in the wilderness. And sure, he had to fight for his throne most of his reign. But did he suffer? I guess when his son Absalom was killed. That is not how I think of him, though. I think of David as a man who had difficulties but also a great trust in God. And he ended up a great King. 

In looking back on your life have you suffered? Are you suffering now? 

I suppose most of us can point to at least one time in our lives when we suffered. Some of us more times than others. 

Do you think others would look at you and your life and see you as someone who has suffered? 

God, thank you for getting me through all the suffering and rough times of my life. I know that you are my God and you will continue to get me through such times. In Jesus’  name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Friday, November 9, 2012

Calm and Collected

Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’ t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp. Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord -- now and always. Psalm 131 NLT

How do you stay calm and collected? 

I am a person who is easily excited so I have to try really hard to remain calm. Over the years, I have learned how to do that -- my immediate family being my main exception. 

The psalmist remains calm because he does not concern himself with things that are beyond his control, too big for him to handle or to awesome to understand. I know a lot of people who get worked up about national or international events and causes so that they become angry, overbearing, loud and obnoxious. I don’t think it is wrong to talk about these things but to act as though you could handle it yourself or know the best solution is really too much. Who knows more than God?

Our hope should be in God. Our trust should be in God’s power. Our faith should be in God almighty.

God, sometimes we think it is all up to us, as though we need to decide the world’s fate or that the control of the future is in our hands. Help us today to realize that you are truly the one in control. Not us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Thursday, November 8, 2012

From the depths of despair

From the depths of despair, O Lord, I call for your help. Hear my cry, O Lord. Pay attention to my prayer. Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you. I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on him. I have put my hope in his word. I long for the Lord more than sentries long for the dawn, yes more than sentries long for the dawn. O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is unfailing love. His redemption overflows. He himself will redeem Israel from every kind of sin. Psalm 130 NLT

Do you long for God to forgive your sins? Or are you more likely to want God to forgive them but you are either too ashamed or too lazy to admit your wrongdoings? Perhaps you don’t want to think about your sinful nature. 

The psalmist longs for God and God’s forgiveness more than sentries who wait for the dawn. What imagery! Soldiers guarding the campsite: standing in the dark, damp and dangerous forest just wanting the night to end. Time creeps by, and their desire for the first lightening of the sky slowly builds. Will dawn ever arrive? 

The psalmist longs for God more than that. In fact, the psalmist is counting on God and God’s forgiveness. The psalmist knows of God’s love because of what God has done for Israel.  Not only will God redeem him from all the psalmist’s sins, but God will redeem the whole people of Israel from every kind of sin. God’s forgiveness and mercy is that wide and deep.

God wants to forgive you, too. Will you let God show you that kind of mercy?

God, I long for your forgiveness. You know I hold back, and don’t admit my shortcomings. I suppose I need to add that to the list of my sins. Forgive me, forgive me, forgive me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


May all who hate Jerusalem be turned back in shameful defeat. May they be as useless as grass on a rooftop, turning yellow when only half grown, ignored by the harvester, despised by the binder. And may those who pass by refuse to give them this blessing: “The Lord bless you; we bless you in the Lord’s name.” Psalm 129: 5-8 NLT

I am struggling to understand this psalm. It feels like there has been some challenge from folks -- whether God’s people or not -- to Jerusalem’s honor and respect. Are these  Samaritans who lived here during the exile or enemies of all God’s people who want to destroy the holy and political city? 

No matter who is the enemy, the psalmist uses agricultural imagery (as we have seen in several psalms lately) to describe the wish of the psalmist. The psalmist wants to see these Jerusalem haters to be useless, dying, ignored and despised by God. The imagery of grass that is on a rooftop (totally unwanted and unnecessary) or the harvest that didn’t mature and turned yellow while halfway grown would both be ignored when it came time to harvest. And while the binders are gathering the produce, they would despise the time and energy spent sowing those half grown and dying plants. 

What areas in your life seem to be hated by others? Do you want them to be useless, dying, ignored or despised? How can you be full of life in God’s eyes? 

God, we love you and ask for your help in being full of life. May we not be despised, ignored or forgotten by you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

But the Lord is good

My back is covered with cuts, as if a farmer had plowed long furrows. But the Lord is good; he has cut me free from the ropes of the ungodly. Psalm 129: 3-4 NLT

This psalm is very powerful when you think about it. The psalmist has been whipped -- he has physically been harmed. He speaks of the marks of the whip as being plowed on his back. There are long gashes in his skin, like the furrows a plow makes in a field. Imagine the pain and the shame; what has he done to deserve such punishment?

Yet, all this physical and mental suffering has not lessened his faith in God. God is still pronounced to be good. There is no blame placed on God. Instead, God has given him freedom from the imprisonment of being an ungodly person. 

What pain and suffering are you enduring right now? How would you describe it? 

Are you able to continue to claim God’s goodness? Do you still feel free in God’s sight? 

God, you are good. You have cut me free from the ropes of the ungodly. Even as I suffer, I give you praise and glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012

Persecuted but not Defeated

From my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me. Let all Israel repeat this: from my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me, but they have never defeated me. Psalm 129: 1-2 NLT

I have been persecuted but not defeated!

I really like that! Sometimes, as a female clergyperson, I am persecuted for responding to God’s call on my life. I know that I will always have to endure snide remarks, being ignored or put down, or even made to feel ashamed. 

But I will never be defeated because the call on my life comes from God, not from human beings. Human beings can persecute me all they like but I will always stand firm in God’s call. 

How are you persecuted? How has God kept you from being defeated?

From my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me. Let me repeat this: from my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me, but they have never defeated me. Thank you, God! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Sunday, November 4, 2012

May you enjoy your grandchildren

May the Lord continually bless you from Zion. May you see Jerusalem prosper as long as you live. May you live to enjoy your grandchildren. May Israel have peace! Psalm 128: 5-6 NLT

What does your future look like? What kinds of things, what countries or laws or places do you want to be still standing when you are older? What people do you want to enjoy when you are no longer young(ish)?

The psalmist hopes that God will continue to bless God’s people from Zion and that Jerusalem may continue to be prosperous. Obviously, this is after the exile. The psalmist does not what that kind of thing to happen again in his lifetime -- nor in the lifetime of the people he is blessing. The psalmist wants peace!

For some reason this reminds me of a church I knew fairly well at one time. The neighborhood was changing and many of the members were moving away or aging. Right behind the church was a cemetery. The focus for many of the members was not reaching the neighborhood for Christ but making sure that the cemetery had plenty of money to last for their lifetime...and beyond. The members set up an impressive endowment fund to ensure the cemetery’s future even while they struggled to meet bills and keep up with building repairs. 

What kind of thinking is that?

Would it not be better to reach out to the children of the neighborhood and be able to enjoy them when the members age? 

What are your priorities for your future?

God, we ask for your blessing both now and in the future. Help us to get our priorities straight now so that we can enjoy spending time with the children of our future. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Character of a Family

How joyful are those who fear the Lord -- all who follow his ways! You will enjoy the fruit of your labor. How joyful and prosperous you will be! Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home. Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table. That is the Lord’s blessing for those who fear him. Psalm 128: 1- 4 NLT

The previous psalm spoke of the number of children as a reward from God. This psalm begins by speaking of the character of the whole family.

The father follows God’s ways because he fears the Lord. I don’t believe that means quaking in his boots kind of fear. I think this fear is more of a heightened respect for God
That is why he follows God’s commandments -- because he sees God has is Lord and gives him his total allegiance and obedience. The reward for this behavior is prosperity and joy.

In addition to being rewarded for following God’s ways, the father is rewarded in the character of his family. The wife is like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing in the home. I kind of like this imagery when I think of healthy grapevines in the sun, full of ripe and fragrant fruit. And, hey, they are fun because you can make wine out of them! 

In addition, the children around the table are like vigorous young olive trees. Olive trees take a long time to grow but the reward for healthy trees is lots of olives that create oil for so many necessary tasks: light, cooking (flavor, heat and grease), skin lotion, hair tonic, and soap. Think of all the possibilities that are in each child around the table!

The rewards of following God are not quantitative as much they are qualitative.

God, help me to fear you with joy and to follow all your ways. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Friday, November 2, 2012

Children are a Gift but are they a Reward?

Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates. Psalm 127: 3-5 NLT

I get this psalm. I understand that, in those days, your children were your eternal life. I know that most children did not live until age 12, so the more you had, the more chances of your children living until adulthood. 

But I have also been in a very bad place when I was unable to carry a pregnancy to term. There was no medical reason. Was God punishing me or my husband? We certainly both wallowed in those feelings for a time. We have since been blessed with a child. 

But what about all those good people who don’t have children? 

And what about those crazy people who have a house full of children -- and no business having one? 

God, sometimes life does not seem fair. Do you reward us with children? Are we to be put to shame at the city gates? Is the number of children we have or don’t have to be counted in our favor or not? Help us to find joy in you, not in the number of our progeny. 
In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Wasting Time

Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects the city, guarding it with sentries will do no good. It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones. Psalm 127: 1-2 NLT

Are you wasting your time? 

Are you trying to do it all yourself? Are you letting God do anything? Have you even considered asking what God wants you to do? 

Unless the Lord builds it, the work is wasted. Unless the Lord is protecting it, it will not be safe. Unless you work for God, you will not have rest as your work will produce nothing.

Here in America we have a real work ethic that says if you work hard enough, you will be rewarded. 

The psalmist says you can work as hard as you want but, without God, your work will be in vain.

How can you invite God into you work? Would you live your life differently if God was in control? What would your workweek look like if God was in it? 

God, you give rest to your loved ones. Forgive us when we try to do all the work. Will you guide us and be a part of the work you want us to be about? In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright Amelia G. Sims 2012