See a Victory

Psalm 137-138

As we close our week of devotions together, it’s fitting to end with the words of David himself. Known for his incredible Psalms (though he surprisingly didn’t write them all), David is a perfect example of what it means to be a worshipper of God. 

In the first verses of Psalm 138, we see David connect to Psalm 136. “Give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness”. David follows the pattern of thanking God for who he is before thanking God for what he had done in his life. 

This is key. God didn’t have to do anything for you for him to be worthy of praise. He gave you life and breath. He gave his Son. He gave you the hope of eternal life. Our creator did it all. Regardless of the blessings he has brought to you in your life (which are awesome, please don’t misunderstand me), God has earned gratitude and praise from you. He deserves it. Don’t forget to show gratitude and recognize that he is God when you come before him in prayer. 

David follows in verse three showing how God answered prayer in his life. This wasn’t the first, nor the last time David called and God answered, but I love how simple this prayer is. 

“On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.” (v 4 Ps. 138)

How beautiful is that? I called and you answered. That is such a rich picture. David is wanting everyone to understand the power of prayer. More importantly, he wants God to know that David heard God answer his call. God wants to know when we recognize how he works and moves in our life. It brings him joy when we get it. It’s like a father seeing his kids opening up a gift he gave them. Our father loves it when we love the gifts he brings us.

Reading down, David proclaims that all of the kings that have heard God’s word shall praise you. I believe this is a calling to us as well All of us that have tasted and seen the works of God are called to sing his ways–because his glory is great. 

But for us, we know more of the story than David did. Which gives us an even greater calling. We have the Son of Man who died on a cross, was raised from the dead, and sits at the right hand of God. Jesus gives us access to the throne room. He is our victor. Our forerunner. Our king. 

Though David never met Jesus, he still understands the power that the anointed one holds…

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,

    you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies;

you stretch out your hand,

    and your right hand delivers me.

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;

    your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.

    Do not forsake the work of your hands.    -Psalm 138:7-8

I can’t help but think that David is seeing a picture of the Christ at the right hand of God in this. As Jesus is a descendant of David, it is incredible to see the connection between these two men. 

The right hand of God delivers us as well. How gracious and miraculous is that? 

I have loved going through these scriptures with you this week. I hope your devotions continue to draw you closer to the LORD and his Son. I hope you feel inspired to praise and sing to our God. He hears each moment. And, he will answer your call.

Our final song is: See a Victory by Elevation Worship. Because, I think David would bring his drum and sing this one with us. 

-Leslie Jones

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Psalm 137-138 and Daniel 1-2

His Steadfast Love Endures Forever

Psalm 136

I hope you all had a wonderful thanksgiving. We are continuing in Psalms today with Psalm 136. Here, we see a proclamation of God’s great works for this people through history. The author expresses how the LORD struck Egypt and brought freedom to Israel (Ps 136: 10-11).  That same God also parted the Red Sea, overthrew Pharaoh and his army, struck down famous kings, and gave the land of those kings to Israel. 

The author is proving that the LORD is righteous and steadfast. The God of Genesis 1:1 who created all things  endures forever. He ALONE is the God of Heaven. He is the one who performed those miracles the author exclaims in this Psalm. And, he is the same God that the apostles honored and praised. He is the same God that our Messiah, Jesus, relies upon, heeds to, and loves. 

This same God will rescue you too. He isn’t finished yet. As long as you have breath in your lungs, God isn’t done with you. He gave each of us a purpose. It’s our job to bow low and follow his lead. 

Start with giving thanks. If you take anything away from these devotions this week, I hope that you recognize that God has earned every ounce of gratitude and praise we can give. 

After thanking him, remember this: “You are the only you God has.” (Sadly, not my quote. I wish I could take credit for this, but alas). This means that you have work to do! You have to walk through the seas God parts for you. You have to be willing to move. Be brave. 

Today’s song doesn’t directly quote this Psalm. However, it encourages you to pray for God to move in your life as he did for the Israelites discussed in Psalm 136. Pray that God will mold you into the man or woman you need to be for him. He knows what’s best for you. 

Listen to “Canvas and Clay” originally written by Pat Barrett. My favorite version is sung by Katie Torwalt (The live version). If you have time, listen to  both! 

“When I doubt it Lord remind me, I’m wonderfully made. You’re an artist and potter. I’m the canvas and the clay…

-Leslie Jones

You can read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Psalm 136 and Ezekiel 47-48

Thank You, LORD!

Psalm 134-135

“Your name, O Lord, endures forever,

    your renown, O Lord, throughout all ages.

For the Lord will vindicate his people,

    and have compassion on his servants.” -Psalm 135:13-14

Who better to be thankful for than God? 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Ah yes, the day where Americans all over come together, filled with gratitude as they gather with their families. It helps that amazing food is normally involved…

I hope you are enjoying your thanksgiving morning and that your hearts are full of gladness. There is SO much to be thankful for this year, good health, family, job security, new friendships, the list is endless. 

My encouragement to you today is to not forget to be grateful for the one who brought you all of those blessings and more today. God is worthy of our praise! He deserves it! 

The Psalmist for Psalm 134-135 does an incredible job expressing his love and spirit of thanks for the LORD. 

“Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,

    who stand by night in the house of the Lord!

Lift up your hands to the holy place,

    and bless the Lord.

May the Lord, maker of heaven and earth,

    bless you from Zion.” Psalm 134 

Wow, what an exhorter this author is. I wish I could have been there to raise my hands with him when he first proclaimed those words. 

Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;

    sing to his name, for he is gracious.

For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself,

    Israel as his own possession.   Psalm 135: 3-4 

God is gracious. He freed the Isrealites. He raised his Son from the Dead. He knows you by name! And he has a spot for you at his table to come and dine with him.

So, today, as you likely gather around a table with a feast of your own, praise the LORD and thank Him for the table he has for you in the Kingdom of God. And get excited for how rich it will be. 

Today’s song is a classic. “Thank You, Lord” by Don Moen. It’s a perfect morning energizer.

With a grateful heart, with a song of praise, with an outstretched arm, I will bless your name… Thank you, Lord! 

-Leslie Jones

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Psalm 134-135 and Ezekiel 45-46

Give Thanks to the LORD!

Psalm 107

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His mercy is everlasting. The redeemed of the LORD shall say so…” (Psalm 107:1, 2a NASB2020)

We, the redeemed of the LORD, are to give praise to our God! This seems obvious when we think of the good things He has done for us. However, when we think of the struggles of life we tend to forget about the many blessings we have from above. It can be easy to get caught up in the stress of a job, the race of paying off debt, the chaos that is a college campus, the extra-curricular activities of high school, or even the pleasures of pet ownership. Some of these are good, some are not so good, and others depend on the day and context; but we find that anything that takes our eyes away from the LORD is a problem. The Psalmist here tells us that we need to give thanks in all situations. 

We will see that if we turn from the ways of the world and walk in the ways of God we will find peace and reason to give thanks! First, he says we are redeemed from the hands of our enemy and gathered from foreign lands. Although it is not as common now, in ancient culture it was quite common for citizens of defeated nations to be carried off and scattered to prevent the nation from rebuilding. This happened to Israel many times in the Old Testament; time and time again God promised he would gather His people and He did just exactly that. For this His people would give thanks to the LORD!

God also delivers His people from hunger, thirst, unjust imprisonment, foolishness, and even illness. This is not to say that we will always be delivered from these situations but we do find that God takes pleasure in caring for us. When we are in these scenarios we need to call to Him to deliver us and give thanks to Him for His goodness. 

There are certainly times that we can feel like we are tossed here and there as if by the waves of the sea during a storm. Your waves may come from any number of areas of life but what we hold in common in these times is that we can be found at our wits’ end as it says in the 2020 NASB. The Psalmist says that when we find ourselves here we can cry out to Him and He can cause the storm to be still and bring us to the end of our distresses. Once the wind and waves stop we must not be tempted to just think, oh the storm died down. We must acknowledge and give thanks to God for stopping the storm. 

In the last 5 verses of Psalm 107 we read of a concept that Jesus taught his disciples. Jesus said the first shall be last and the last shall be first, while here the proud will be humbled and the humble will be exalted. I find this to be encouraging because even when the world punishes us for doing what God has called us to do, we can have faith that God will raise us beyond the judgment of the world. For that we should alway give thanks to the LORD!

-Bill Dunn

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 15-16 and Psalm 107

Wages and Gifts

Romans 6

When I was a child, I had the chance to make some extra money in the summer. About 8-10 of us would work in the fields around our neighborhood. It was hard work in the hot summer sun and our wage was .50 an hour. Some of the older kids made a dollar an hour. No, we didn’t care about minimum wage laws, because we received a bonus of a free soft drink after a couple of hours of work in the fields. That was exhausting work in the heat, but at the end of the day we received our wages. Our wages were exactly what we earned and deserved. We knew ahead of time what we would be paid for our work.

I was reminded of this by today’s reading. The first part of Romans 6:23 states, “For the wages of sin is death.” We understand that sin means missing the mark. It is from a Greek archery term meaning to miss the bulls-eye. Everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We all realize that we deserve punishment for our sin, but living in a life of sin can deceive us. When we open ourselves to sin, we start believing the lies. We justify and reason away our wrong behavior.  Remind you of some kings we have been reading about? We read their stories, and say to ourselves, “What are you doing? Just stick with God. He will deliver your nation like He has done before.” God would give the kings victory and peace, but they forsook Him because of sin and pride.

 We know that sin leads to death, so let’s make a commitment to a life that is interwoven with God. When we are close to God, we are going in the right direction and following His commands. We are experiencing His love and blessings every day.

The rest of Romans 6:23 continues “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Thank you God for this gift!

-Rebecca Dauksas

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Chronicles 13-14 and Romans 6

In Suffering – surrounded by enemies

Psalm 69

We’re going to take a little break from discussing Joshua today to look at Psalm 69. This is one of the Psalms which is most often quoted or referenced in the New Testament (probably coming in 3rd after Psalm 110 and Psalm 22). Similar to Psalm 22, it is a portrait of a suffering servant. In the New Testament these verses will be used to describe Jesus, the ultimate suffering servant. But most likely, there have been a time or two when you thought theses verses could have been describing you, too.

Have you ever felt like you were sinking? Your troubles choking out your breath? The saddest picture I find is from verse 3 “I am worn out calling for help, my throat is parched, my eyes fail, looking for my God.” You can tell someone needs a hug! They are feeling so desperate. Their suffering is so great!

But this is not the cry of someone who has just had a couple bad days in a row – flat tire, sickness, general stress mounting. No, this is David, Jesus, or you surrounded by enemies. You know you aren’t perfect, certainly God knows that (verse 5) but these enemies don’t want to destroy you for something evil you have done, but for the very God you serve. They don’t understand you or your God so they hate you without reason and seek to bring you down for who and what you stand for. “For I endure scorn for your sake…zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me…people make sport of me. Those who sit at the gate (the town elders, ie – politicians, city councils, professors and principals) mock me” (Psalm 69:7a, 9, 11b, 12a).

Just this week I heard of the 3rd grader in trouble for wearing her favorite mask to school. It said Jesus Loves Me and the principal didn’t like that. Or the college student who was told he had to reserve a small “free speech zone” on campus from which to speak to others about his Christian beliefs and excitement. And when he complied with their rules he was once again told by campus police that he had to stop because some of the students were still complaining. Luckily the Supreme Court had something to say about that one recently.

Surrounded by enemies. We, in America, are watching our nation slip (or free-fall nosedive) from being a nation of “In God we Trust” where the large majority claimed Christianity to a foreign feeling country where our rights are being restricted at every turn. Suddenly “Dare to be a Daniel” means something to us. As new laws and policies develop, we have a new-found appreciation for what our brothers and sisters in Pakistan and other Christian hostile nations have endured for generations. Surrounded by enemies – for our faith? It feels so strange to us – but we are not the first to feel this way. Remember Paul, repeatedly thrown in jail for the crime of speaking the name of Jesus? David, Daniel, Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul and the disciples, the list goes on and on and includes many modern and Biblical role models and even martyrs. Hopefully you didn’t sign up to be a follower of Christ because you thought it was always going to be easy and pleasant. Surrounded by enemies – for our faith! Christians unite, and take up our armor of God (but that takes us into another devotion for another day).

Back to Psalm 69 – After saying his eyes fail looking for God, and all he does see is enemies who insult God surrounding him, he says, “But I pray to you, O LORD”. He is NOT throwing in the towel. Even though it is sometimes hard to see God in the suffering, we keep on praying to Him, knowing He is the Creator, the Sustainer, our Loving and Powerful Rock. Even when it looks bleak, we know the war is far from over. And, we know who does indeed win the war. And, that is why we don’t give up and don’t give in. We are not swayed by the town elders or those who mock us or try to destroy us because of our God. Our God is bigger.

There is one verse towards the end of the psalm that says, “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” (Psalm 69:30). Doesn’t that sound like he is having a good, sunny, easy day! It’s almost like this verse landed smack dab in the wrong Psalm. Singing, praising, glorifying, thanking. What happened to the enemy surrounds and I am scared and suffering? Oh, it’s still there. In fact, the verse IMMEDIATELY proceeding the praising, singing, glorifying, thanking says, “I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me.” (Psalm 69:29). The trouble isn’t over, but David is still praising. It reminds me of Julie Andrews/ Maria (yes, The Sound of Music was my favorite growing up). Anytime she needed a confidence boost, when she was scared in a thunderstorm, or when the dog bit or the bee stung – she burst into song. We have something much better to sing about than girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes. We have a God who saves, even though we suffer. When we are caught in the storm we have a God who saves. And even while the winds blow and our enemies surround we can pray and lift our voice in song. Jesus did, too. After the Last Supper, before going to the Mount of Olives knowing that is where he would be physically surrounded by his enemies, he sang a hymn.

Keep praying. Keep praising. Keep singing. Keep glorifying. Keep thanking.

The enemy surrounds but they don’t win in the end. Our God saves.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here –Joshua 15-16 and Psalm 69

Church Potlucks

Deuteronomy 15-16

“Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose…No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed: Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.” – Deuteronomy 16:16-17

Church potlucks! We at Lakeshore Bible Church in Tempe, AZ, love our potlucks. 

By my estimation, in the last 12 months, due to the pandemic, I figure that we have missed out on at least four or five regularly calendared potlucks. 

Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, plus two church congregational meetings/potlucks. I miss the casseroles, the crockpot meatballs, the pies and cakes. Who doesn’t love potlucks?!?

As I was reading through Deuteronomy 16 today, it struck me that the festivals that God commanded His people to celebrate were week-long church potlucks!

Here are the similarities:

1 – Church-wide Community. God called the Israelites to gather together at specific times each year at a specific place for a special occasion. 

  • The Feast of Unleavened Bread was to remember how God brought the Israelites out of Egypt without much notice.
  • The Feast of Weeks is also known as the Feast of Pentecost or the Feast of the Harvest. During this seven day celebration, the people were to show joy and thankfulness for the blessing of the year’s harvest.
  • The Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths) is for remembering the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, when the Israelites lived in tents for 40 years.

Likewise, we get together today, we often gather to celebrate a special holiday or occasion.

2 – Food! What is a celebration without food? During the three festivals mentioned in today’s reading passage, people are instructed with what to eat and how to prepare it. 

3 – Ceremony of Remembering. At each of the festivals mentioned in Deuteronomy 16, part of the time was dedicated to remembering what God had done for His chosen people. 

What I so appreciate about church potlucks today is the opportunity to sit down with others and spend time in conversation over a meal. Sometimes, these conversations are about current life events. But other times, these conversations include recollections of years gone by; how God acted on our behalf; and how our lives changed as a result. 

While we may not have special ceremonies of remembrance during a church potluck, God’s prior interventions and current activities in our lives certainly are exchanged.

So while I might be stretching it a bit to do a direct comparison between the three feasts and today’s modern church potlucks, let’s not forget that it is God’s intention for His people to gather regularly and remember all the things He has done for us!  

-Bethany Ligon

You can read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway here – Deuteronomy 15-16 and Luke 16

A Pattern for Prayer

Today’s Bible Reading – Genesis 31 & 32 and Matthew 16

After Jacob had served Laban in Padan Aram for 20 years, God told him to go back home.  It was finally time for him to face his past.  Remember, he had cheated his brother Esau, and had run for his life.  He had about 500 miles to go to get home.  He sent some servants ahead to let Esau know he was coming home.  When the servants returned, they told Jacob that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men.  Jacob was terrified, and prayed a beautiful prayer that is recorded in Genesis 32:9-12.

He started, “Oh God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac…”.  In this section, I see Jacob acknowledging the history his family had with following God, ever since God called Abraham in Genesis 12.

He continued, “O Lord, who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and to your relatives, and I will make you prosper’. ”  In this section, I see Jacob acknowledged what God had told him to do, and he had followed what God had told him to do. 

Next, he acknowledged his own unworthiness, praying,  “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant.  I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups.”  And he acknowledged what God had done for him, even though he was unworthy.

He continued, “Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children.”  In this section, he admitted his fear to God, and then he finally got around to begging God for what he needed help with – “save me”.   Note that he didn’t give God suggestions as to how God could solve the problem.  He just turned it over to God.

He concluded with, “But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’.”  He closed with reminding God of His promises.

In this prayer, I see a potential model for our own prayers.  It goes sort of like this:

  • Start by thanking God for his provision until now for our family, including for our ancestors.
  • Today, God speaks to us through His word.  I think it is important to be familiar with his word and follow his word.  And I think that’s a perfectly fine topic to bring up in prayer, “God, you said to …, and I have done that as you commanded.”
  • I believe we need to humble ourselves before God, and acknowledge that we don’t deserve all he has done for us.  I think it also helps to remind ourselves in our prayers what God has done for us.  (We don’t need to remind God.  He already knows.)
  • We should admit whatever we’re feeling to God.  (He already knows anyway, but it helps us maintain an open channel of communication with Him.)
  • We are finally at the point in our prayer where we should clearly lay out the problem we’re facing.  And we don’t need to offer God suggestions as to how He could solve our problems.  He can come up with solutions better than we can even imagine.
  • I think in the closing of Jacob’s prayer, he was not just reminding God of the promises God had made.  I think he was also looking forward to those promises himself.  We should do the same.

And I think it’s fine to pray something like, “God, you promised that everything works for the good of those who love you.  I don’t understand how that is possible in the situation I’m in right now.  Please open my eyes to understand that, or at least to accept it as truth.  I know you have promised that nothing can separate us from your love, not even death.  God, things aren’t looking very good from my perspective right now, but I’m holding on to your promise that when Christ returns, you will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.  God, I’m really wanting that now.  Please keep me focused on you, and living for you.  And please send Jesus soon.  Amen.”

–Steve Mattison

In Need of a Shepherd

John 9:1 – 10:21

Imagery of sheep and shepherd are found all throughout the Bible, in both the old and the new testaments. Because of this, I think we sometimes forget some of the metaphorical imagery that comes with the sheep and shepherd dynamic. Sheep are not an intelligent animal in any sense of the word. They often wander off and get themselves in trouble. When threatened by predators, sheep will often clump themselves together in such a tight pack, that sheep in the center will often suffocate. All in all, sheep are fully reliant on their shepherd for protection, food water, and for their own survival.

Here in John 10, when Jesus is speaking about sheep, and he being the good shepherd, the people probably would have seen it as insulting when he compared them to sheep. But the point that Jesus is trying to make, is that like sheep we could not depend on ourselves for salvation from the consequences of our bad choices. God had to send us a shepherd who would “lay down his life for his sheep”. So he sent us His son Jesus. And as Jesus said, no one took his life from him, but he laid it down of his own accord. I don’t think we could have asked God to send us a better shepherd than who He sent us, His one and only son, Jesus. In just over a week, the Thanksgiving season will begin, and I think that this year we need to spend time thanking God, for the gift of the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life willingly, for us his sheep.

Jonny Smith

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – John 9:1 – 10:21

Tomorrow’s passages will be the rest of John 10 and Luke 10.

Feasting on His Word

Nehemiah 8-10

Now that the wall of Jerusalem was completed the people gathered together at the Water Gate to have Ezra read from the Book of the Law of Moses on the first day of the seventh month (which was actually last weekend on the Jewish calendar and the Feast of Trumpets. It’s not really the Jewish New Year, that was adapted from a later time in exile. The first month of the Jewish year is Passover). It states NINE times that “all the people” are included in the events happening in chapter 8.  The priests even helped the people to understand the readings, (8:8) and the people responded with WEEPING (8:9). Nehemiah encouraged them to go and “eat fat and drink sweet” for this day is holy to the Lord. They weren’t to be sad, for “the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (8:10) They knew the words were declared to them.

 The second day they gathered again to hear the Law and learned that in the seventh month they were to dwell in booths for a week.  They were to go to the mountains and gather olive branches, myrtle, palm, and leafy branches to make a booth.  The other day on my fast walk in the neighborhood I plucked various leafy bushes to add to the pop-up booth card I’m making to send to our grandson next week. 😊   I’m going to also include some fruit snacks he can enjoy by his “booth” as a celebration of the end of the harvest season. In Israel today, where we lived for many years, they still make and “dwell” in booths during this weeklong holiday.  They’re on rooftops, balconies, and yards.  They’re decorated with paper chains, lights, and pictures. Our kids liked to sleep in them some nights with their friends.  The people in Nehemiah’s time hadn’t celebrated the Feast of Booths/Tabernacles since the time of Joshua, so it was a time of “great gladness” (8:17), and still is to this day. Although, this year might be different as they’re on a full lockdown in Israel during these holiday times because of Covid.   

            They continued to read the Book of the Law for a ¼ of the day and for another ¼ of the day they confessed their sins and worshipped the LORD their God. (9:3) Some of the Levites stood up and recalled God’s work through Moses, Egypt, Wilderness, and how He brought them into a good land.  However, they “cast His Law behind their backs and killed prophets sent to them.” (9:26) So God “gave them saviors” when they cried out for help and many times delivered them. (9:27) “For many years You had patience with them and testified against them by Your Spirit in Your prophets, yet they would not listen.” (9:30)

Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and awesome God, who keeps covenants and mercy… (9:32) You are just in all that has befallen us.” (9:33) How patient God was and is with His peopleIt says not the kings, princes, priests, or fathers have kept God’s Law.( 9:34)  How important it was for all the people to gather together and recall God’s work over time and their own lack of commitment, and thus to refocus their love and service for the LORD their God for the future.  Now that the wall of Jerusalem had been rebuilt, they needed God’s protection over them. Instead of blaming God for failures, it’s good they acknowledged they were wrong and refocus on Him as they move forward.  We too, can learn from their example in our lives today.

Stephanie Schlegel

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Nehemiah 8-10

Tomorrow we will finish the book of Nehemiah and read Psalm 126 as we continue seeing God’s faithfulness in our

%d bloggers like this: