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Songs
of
Ascents

Weekly Devotional

 

Psalm 132

March 29 - April 2

 
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Day 1

Psalm 132: 1-5 (NIV)

Lord, remember David
    and all his self-denial.

He swore an oath to the Lord,
    he made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob:

“I will not enter my house
    or go to my bed,

I will allow no sleep to my eyes
    or slumber to my eyelids,

till I find a place for the Lord,
    a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

Jesus came into the world to set up a house for God. There were already lots of houses for God. If God wanted, every hilltop was already full of houses people had built trying to attract God into them. Yet none of them were satisfactory, not even the Jewish temple in Jerusalem was fit. Instead he chose to make a house in the person of Jesus. As John 1:14 puts it:

“The Word became flesh and blood,

    and moved into the neighbourhood.

We saw the glory with our own eyes,

    the one-of-a-kind glory,

    like Father, like Son,

Generous inside and out,

    true from start to finish.” (The Message)

King David wanted to build a house for God, but God told him, “No, don’t build a house, I am going to make you into a house.” (2 Samuel 7) David’s descendant Jesus was the fulfilment of that promise; Jesus was literally the house of God among us. Instead of everyone pilgrimaging to the temple, the temple was pilgrimaging towards them.

Prayer: Promise fulfilling God, thank you for not waiting for me to find a way to you, but making a way to me. Thank you for Jesus and that through him you may dwell in and with me.

 
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Day 2

Psalm 132: 6-9 (NIV)

We heard it in Ephrathah,

    we came upon it in the fields of Jaar:

“Let us go to his dwelling place,

    let us worship at his footstool, saying,

‘Arise, Lord, and come to your resting place,

    you and the ark of your might.

May your priests be clothed with your righteousness;

    may your faithful people sing for joy.’”

Ephrathah most likely is referring to Bethlehem, the place where David was born and anointed to be king of Israel. After David became the anointed one, he had had to go through many trials and wait a long time before his house was established. You can read the 16 chapters account of it in 1 Samuel 16 to 2 Samuel 2. In time David became king and decided to make the city of Jerusalem his home. Yet David’s house was not completely established yet, it couldn’t be unless God also made his home there too.

For the Jewish people, the ark of God was the place where God dwelled, and the ark had been resting in the fields of Jaar for twenty years. So David decided to move it to Jerusalem so his house could truly be established. You can read the account of it in 2 Samuel 6. After a little mishap, which came from the priests putting the ark on a wagon pulled by oxen instead of carrying it on their shoulders like the law commanded, they brought the ark properly to Jerusalem with much rejoicing and celebration. David even puts on a priestly robe and starts dancing with all his might in front of everyone. God coming to dwell in Jerusalem was worth celebrating, even dancing for. That same God wants to dwell in our life and in our home.

Prayer: Lord, help us to not miss the miracle that the God of the universe has chosen to dwell with us.

 
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Day 3

Psalm 132: 10-12 (NIV)

For the sake of your servant David,
    do not reject your anointed one.

The Lord swore an oath to David,
    a sure oath he will not revoke:
“One of your own descendants
    I will place on your throne.

If your sons keep my covenant
    and the statutes I teach them,
then their sons will sit
    on your throne for ever and ever.”

I remember driving by and visiting my Oma and Opa’s old farm after they moved into the city. We stopped at the driveway, not sure if we should intrude on the new owners. It was a mix of emotions; there were so many wonderful memories of building forts, walking through the fields, family dinners and important moments in my childhood. But there was also a deep sense of loss, that things were not as they were supposed to be. When you are a child you assume your Oma and Opa will always live on the farm and you will aways be able to be there.

As the pilgrims made their way to the temple after exile, I wonder if they too experienced a sense of loss. This was not the temple of old that they were going to. I am sure as they returned the feeling of uneasiness only increased. Wasn’t the household of David supposed to last forever?

As Jesus was nailed to the cross, I am sure his followers wondered the same thing. Was this not the anointed one? Isn’t his household supposed to last forever? But right now everything seems to have gone the wrong.

Prayer: Lord, your ways are not my ways, neither are your thoughts my thoughts. Help me hold fast to you when I don’t understand.

 
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Day 4

Psalm 132: 13-16 (NIV)

For the Lord has chosen Zion,
    he has desired it for his dwelling, saying,

“This is my resting place for ever and ever;
    here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.

I will bless her with abundant provisions;
    her poor I will satisfy with food.

I will clothe her priests with salvation,
    and her faithful people will ever sing for joy.


The crucifixion is not the royal enthronement ceremony any of us were expecting. Yet the Bible presents it as exactly that, the very establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. The king is crowned with a crown of thorns. Jesus is given royal robes. He is high and lifted up on a cross. A plaque is written above his head, “King of the Jews.” He makes the ground his resting place. He makes the grave the place where he is enthroned.

When Jesus the King showed up on a donkey at the gate of the city of kings, all the rulers smirked. The king was supposed to arrive on a horse and challenge the reigning king. Little did they know that is exactly what Jesus was doing, he was coming to fight the power and principalities of death and sin itself. Caesar and all his men were only pawns of the one Jesus was truly after. Jesus was not distracted with death’s pawns, although they too will have to face Jesus in their own time. He was after the power of sin that ruled over them. He then took the castle of the grave and enthroned himself king over every power and principality in this world.

Prayer: King of Kings and Lord of Lords, thank you that you have conquered the grave, that there is now no longer any power or government that is not accountable to you.

 
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Day 5

Good Friday

Psalm 132: 17-19 (NIV)

“Here I will make a horn grow for David

    and set up a lamp for my anointed one.

I will clothe his enemies with shame,

    but his head will be adorned with a radiant crown.”


Today is the end of our pilgrimage together with this devotional. We end at the cross of Christ. We have come seeking God’s peace and presence, and I hope you have found in the journey that his presence and peace have been with us the whole time.

Yet our God is on the move, and he is doing something new in this world and in our lives right now, if we are willing to follow. The reality is if you truly want to experience God’s peace and presence to the full you must now follow him to the grave. God is making all things new through death and resurrection. If you want to become a person of peace and the presence of God, you must follow him into death that leads to resurrection. The spiritual practice for today is possibly the last of our journey but maybe the first of another, if you choose to accept it.


Spiritual Practice (If you choose to accept it)

Make the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ the spiritual practice of your life. Place your life under the kingship of Jesus, and make every thing you do the spiritual practice of following Jesus.

 

Psalm 131

March 22-26

 
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Day 1

Psalm 131 (Rob Alter)

Lord my heart has not been haughty,

Nor have my eyes looked too high,

Nor have I strive for great things,

Nor for things too wondrous for me.

But I have calmed and contented myself

Like a weaned babe on its mother-

Like a weaned babe I am with myself.

Wait, O Israel, for the LORD,

Now and forevermore.

The line, “No, you can’t eat that right now, it is too close to supper,” alway frustrated me as a child. Now as a parent I find myself using the line over and over again. I know my children and I know if they fill up on snacks, they will not have a big appetite for more nutritious food at supper. They have to go hungry for a time, because then they can truly eat their fill later. They are learning to be weaned and content.

The Psalmist in Psalm 131 is learning the same discipline with God. To trust in the waiting and be content even when hungry, knowing in time God will provide a feast.

The early church had a practice to help them become like a content weaned child, it was called fasting. Before feasts like Easter in the church calendar, the church would go through a season of fasting. By fasting before a feast they would gain a greater appetite for the coming feast.

Spiritual Practice (If you choose to accept it)

Make some space in your life for the coming feast of Easter by ceasing something for lent. The lent season is almost done and if you are already doing something, good job you are already doing this practice. For the rest of us, let us choose to put something aside for this time, to help create a greater appetite for Easter.

 
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Day 2

Psalm 130 (NIV)

My heart is not proud, Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.

But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord
    both now and forevermore.


Before Hannah became the mother of the great prophet Samuel, she wept bitterly at the temple pleading with the Lord for children. In many ways she was praying Psalm 129 and 130.

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD,

hear my cry!”

Hannah vowed, that if the Lord gave her a son, she would give him to the Lord. Eli the priest saw her praying and assumed by the way she prayed that she was drunk. When he confronted her for her drunkenness, she replied that she was not drunk but greatly troubled. He then blessed her petition. Hannah then conceived and gave birth to Samuel. She raised him until he was weaned and then gave him to the temple to be used by God.

Hannah, after praying Psalm 129 and 130, prayed psalm 131. Although she thought having children was too wondrous for her, she calmed and contented herself to the will of God. As she offered her weaned son to the Lord she herself was a weaned child before the Lord.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord
    both now and forevermore.

Prayer: Miracle making God, may I like Hannah, be content to place my dreams and ambitions in you.

 
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Day 3

Psalm 131 (Message)

God, I’m not trying to rule the roost,
    I don’t want to be king of the mountain.
I haven’t meddled where I have no business
    or fantasized grandiose plans.

I’ve kept my feet on the ground,
    I’ve cultivated a quiet heart.
Like a baby content in its mother’s arms,
    my soul is a baby content.

Wait, Israel, for God. Wait with hope.
    Hope now; hope always!

In Matthew 18 the disciples hoping to secure a great position in God’s kingdom ask Jesus,

“who is the greatest in your kingdom?”

Jesus turned from the disciples and called over a child in the distance to come to him. The child came and stood in front of the disciples. Jesus said,

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

The kingdom of heaven is for those who quiet their heart and are content. Who don’t try and rule the roost or become king of the mountain as Psalm 131 puts it. The kingdom of heaven is for those who are willing to take lowly positions and follow Jesus’ voice just like the small child did.


Prayer: Jesus your kingdom is not one of upward mobility, but of downward mobility. Help me put aside childish games, like king of the castle, so that I can become great in your kingdom. Being your child, obeying your voice.

 
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Day4

Psalm 131 (NLT)

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

Weaning is not a fun process. It is not fun for the parent nor is it fun for the child. Yet the agony is worth it, because although a child’s cry for it’s mother’s milk can be hard to endure, it is better than an adult crying for it’s mother’s milk. As precious as those newborn moments are, somethings just have to change for the betterment of parent and child. The change is often difficult though.

In this psalm the psalmist is being weaned from ambitions and from lofty dreams. Weaning is not a fun experience. Yet the agony is worth it, because although submitting our dreams to God is hard, it is better than growing up to be arrogant and entitled. Through the pain of waiting for God, we mature into children who can contently sit in God’s lap. And there is a significant difference between a non-weaned child and a weaned child sitting in its mother’s lap.


Prayer: God, who cares so deeply for your children. May I be like a weaned child in your lap. Content to simply be with you and not to chase after my own ways and ambitions.

 
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Day5

Psalm 131 (ESV)

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
    my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
    like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
    from this time forth and forevermore.


Spiritual Practice Reflection


Reflect on the season of lent and Psalm 131 with someone who is doing the devotional. It can be your family or a friend.


What has been your experience with fasting, (giving up something for a season to make space to pay attention to God)? Has it been hard, beneficial, or something completely different?



What are the difficult parts about fasting?




What do you think are the potential benefits?





Prayer: God of feast and fast, you are the one that brings us through every season.  You have made us to be perennial flowers, to flower and persevere in every season and not be annuals who flower once and then disappear.

 

Psalm 130

March 15-19

 
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Day 1

Psalm 130 (Rob Alter)

From the depths I called you, LORD.

Master, hear my voice.

May Your ears listen close to the voice of my plea.

Were you, O Yah, to watch for wrongs,

Master, who could endure?

For forgiveness is Yours,

So that You may be feared.

I hoped for the LORD, my being hoped,

And for His word I waited.

My being for the Master -

More than the dawn-watchers watch for the dawn.

Wait, O Israel, for the LORD,

For with the LORD is steadfast kindness,

And great redemption is with Him.

And he will redeem Israel

From all its wrongs.

So often we take for granted the miracle that the sun rises every day. Imagine if one day it did not rise. Life would cease to function and flourish. So the spiritual practice this week is to pay attention to the miracle of the dawn, that darkness will not prevail.

Spiritual Practice (If you choose to accept it)

On one of the days this week, wait for the dawn. Now technically the dawn is about a two hour period from the first glimpse of light until the sun appears on the horizon. This practice does not need to be legalistic or a burden; my hope is for us to simply pause and wait for at least a brief moment to reflect on God’s miracle of the dawn. On Tuesday the 16th dawn begins at 5:44 and ends at 7:42 and on Friday the 19th it begins at 5:38 and ends at 7:37. Here is my suggestion: take 15 minutes at some point during the dawn,  read Psalm 130 and then wait in silence as night becomes light.

Prayer: God of the dawn, fill my life with your light.

 
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Day 2

Psalm 130 (NIV)

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;

O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.

If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.

My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.

He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.


I don’t think I know anyone who truly loves to wait. I have never gotten excited about being put on hold on the phone, or waiting at a long red light, or seeing a line-up at a till. Waiting is extremely inconvenient, and much of our society is built on reducing it as much as possible. I hear in New York you can hire people to wait in line for you at popular destinations. Waiting is considered one of the great evils of our society.

Yet God doesn’t seem to mind it so much. It has been said, “Sometimes we need to slow down, to catch up with God.” While I am quick to anger, he is slow. While I am quick to write off people, God waits for them. And I am thankful he is so seemingly slow and doesn’t mind the wait. For if he was not, I would be lost and doomed to the poor decisions I make. God is waiting for us to turn to him, and sometimes turning to him means simply waiting for him.

Prayer: Thank you God that you are patient and  wait for me. Help me wait for you.

 
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Day 3

Psalm 130 (Message)

Help, God—I’ve hit rock bottom!
    Master, hear my cry for help!
Listen hard! Open your ears!
    Listen to my cries for mercy.

If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings,
    who would stand a chance?
As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit,
    and that’s why you’re worshiped.

I pray to God—my life a prayer—
    and wait for what he’ll say and do.
My life’s on the line before God, my Lord,
    waiting and watching till morning,
    waiting and watching till morning.

O Israel, wait and watch for God—
    with God’s arrival comes love,
    with God’s arrival comes generous redemption.
No doubt about it—he’ll redeem Israel,
    buy back Israel from captivity to sin.

I still remember going for my road test to get my driver’s licence. Wow, was I ever nervous. I really did not want to mess up, and sitting beside me was my evaluator with his clipboard. As we drove every once in awhile his pen scribbled on the paper attached to his clip board. Did I miss something, did I do something wrong, did I fail? He didn’t smile, nor did he really speak.

Sometimes I think that’s the way we think God is. God has got a list of all the things we have done wrong and maybe, just maybe we haven’t messed it up so bad that he will give us a pass. Thankfully that is not the way the Bible portrays God. Our list of sins are done away with through Jesus on the cross, and instead of God sending us an evaluator, God sent us a helper in the Holy Spirit. Oh, and by the way, I did pass on my first driving test.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for wiping my record clean and that this journey is not one I have to do alone.

 
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Day 4

Psalm 130 (CEV)

From a sea of troubles, I call out to you, Lord.

    Won’t you please listen as I beg for mercy?

If you kept record of our sins, no one could last long.

    But you forgive us, and so we will worship you.

With all my heart, I am waiting, Lord, for you!
    I trust your promises. I wait for you more eagerly
    than a soldier on guard duty waits for the dawn.
Yes, I wait more eagerly than a soldier on guard duty
    waits for the dawn. Israel, trust the Lord!
    He is always merciful, and he has the power to save you. Israel, the Lord will save you from all of your sins.


The Israelites were not great sea voyagers. There are only two stories I can think of from the Old Testament about voyages on the sea. Jonah, who almost dies in the sea, and Noah, who survives the sea but everyone else dies in the sea. Understandably, the Israelites had a fear of the depths of the sea. In Psalm 130, when the psalmist calls out from the depths, it could be referring to the depths of the sea. In other words, the psalmist is calling from a place of sure death and fear. Their voyage of life, has turned into a voyage out at sea.

Yet Psalm 24 tells us God makes his foundations in the sea. God has made the foundations for life in the depths of death. Romans 6:5 tells us if we share in Jesus' death we also share in his resurrection life. When we submit our lives to Jesus, the foundation of our life becomes formed. It is by putting ourself to death in Christ that we begin living life to the full. Our voyage out at sea becomes the foundation of a life secure on the rock of Christ.

Prayer: God of sea and land, thank you that even when I find myself lost out at sea I am not forgotten. In fact I might be in the very place you want me to be so I can make you my foundation.

 
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Day 5

Psalm 130 (ESV)

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!

    O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
    to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    O Lord, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness,
    that you may be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I hope;

my soul waits for the Lord
    more than watchmen for the morning,
    more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
    For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
    and with him is plentiful redemption.

And he will redeem Israel
    from all his iniquities.


Psalm 130 Reflection


Reflect on Psalm 130 with someone else who is also reading the devotional. Hopefully by this point in the devotionals you have found someone to reflect on the devotions with.


How frustrating is waiting for you? Why do you think you hate waiting so much?

Is there something you are waiting for from the depths of your soul?


Prayer:  Pray together along the lines of Psalm 130. Cry out to God for the longings of your heart. Wait on the Lord.

 

Psalm 129

March 9-12

 
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Day 1

Psalm 129 (ESV)

“Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth”

— let Israel now say—

“Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth,

    yet they have not prevailed against me.

The plowers plowed upon my back;

    they made long their furrows.”

The Lord is righteous;

    he has cut the cords of the wicked.

May all who hate Zion

    be put to shame and turned backward!

Let them be like the grass on the housetops,

    which withers before it grows up,

with which the reaper does not fill his hand

    nor the binder of sheaves his arms,

nor do those who pass by say,

    “The blessing of the Lord be upon you!

    We bless you in the name of the Lord!”


I remember one Sunday visiting an inner city church in Winnipeg. One of their congregants had recently been murdered. That Sunday I heard angry outbursts at injustice and sobs of lament at the loss of a brother. At first I was taken aback at the yelling and angry outbursts in the middle of a Sunday morning worship service. But then there is Psalm 129, full of lament and anger. Written not for private worship, but written to be sung as a congregation.

“— let Israel now say—“

If Sunday morning worship is not the place to be angry at the injustices of the world, then what place is? If only we really believed that worshiping our God was the antithesis to injustice.

Prayer: God of justice, I am so often overwhelmed by the injustices of the world, but you are not. Help me neither be apathetic or burdened by evil; help me walk justly with you.

 
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Day 1

Psalm 129 (ESV)

“Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth”

— let Israel now say—

“Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth,

    yet they have not prevailed against me.

The plowers plowed upon my back;

    they made long their furrows.”

The Lord is righteous;

    he has cut the cords of the wicked.

May all who hate Zion

    be put to shame and turned backward!

Let them be like the grass on the housetops,

    which withers before it grows up,

with which the reaper does not fill his hand

    nor the binder of sheaves his arms,

nor do those who pass by say,

    “The blessing of the Lord be upon you!

    We bless you in the name of the Lord!”


I remember one Sunday visiting an inner city church in Winnipeg. One of their congregants had recently been murdered. That Sunday I heard angry outbursts at injustice and sobs of lament at the loss of a brother. At first I was taken aback at the yelling and angry outbursts in the middle of a Sunday morning worship service. But then there is Psalm 129, full of lament and anger. Written not for private worship, but written to be sung as a congregation.

“— let Israel now say—“

If Sunday morning worship is not the place to be angry at the injustices of the world, then what place is? If only we really believed that worshiping our God was the antithesis to injustice.

Prayer: God of justice, I am so often overwhelmed by the injustices of the world, but you are not. Help me neither be apathetic or burdened by evil; help me walk justly with you.

 
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Day 1

Psalm 129 (ESV)

“Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth”

— let Israel now say—

“Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth,

    yet they have not prevailed against me.

The plowers plowed upon my back;

    they made long their furrows.”

The Lord is righteous;

    he has cut the cords of the wicked.

May all who hate Zion

    be put to shame and turned backward!

Let them be like the grass on the housetops,

    which withers before it grows up,

with which the reaper does not fill his hand

    nor the binder of sheaves his arms,

nor do those who pass by say,

    “The blessing of the Lord be upon you!

    We bless you in the name of the Lord!”


I remember one Sunday visiting an inner city church in Winnipeg. One of their congregants had recently been murdered. That Sunday I heard angry outbursts at injustice and sobs of lament at the loss of a brother. At first I was taken aback at the yelling and angry outbursts in the middle of a Sunday morning worship service. But then there is Psalm 129, full of lament and anger. Written not for private worship, but written to be sung as a congregation.

“— let Israel now say—“

If Sunday morning worship is not the place to be angry at the injustices of the world, then what place is? If only we really believed that worshiping our God was the antithesis to injustice.

Prayer: God of justice, I am so often overwhelmed by the injustices of the world, but you are not. Help me neither be apathetic or burdened by evil; help me walk justly with you.

 
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Day 2

Psalm 129 (NLT)

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. 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. 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.”


The first line of the psalm is singular, “they have afflicted me.” But then the Psalmist calls all of Israel to say together what the one person said alone. Just as the congregation takes up the cause of the afflicted individual so too the church is called to take up the cause of the afflicted.


One of the charities we support is International Justice Mission, a Christian mission dedicated to fighting slavery and restoring lives. They say there are more than 40 million people in slavery today, and 25% are children. Human trafficking is a 150 billion dollar industry. There needs to be a counter voice praying,


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 their blessing


Prayer: May those who sow injustice, reap no harvest. May the ways of human traffickers not prosper. God of liberty, come to the aid of your people.

 
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Day 3

Psalm 129 (Message)

“They’ve kicked me around ever since I was young”
    —this is how Israel tells it—
“They’ve kicked me around ever since I was young,
    but they never could keep me down.
Their plowmen plowed long furrows
    up and down my back;
But God wouldn’t put up with it,
    he sticks with us.
Then God ripped the harnesses
    of the evil plowmen to shreds.”

Oh, let all those who hate Zion
    grovel in humiliation;
Let them be like grass in shallow ground
    that withers before the harvest,
Before the farmhands can gather it in,
    the harvesters get in the crop,
Before the neighbours have a chance to call out,
    “Congratulations on your wonderful crop!
    We bless you in God’s name!”


The psalmist begins with a lament and then Israel echos it back. But the echo is not completely the same; the end is different. They add, “but they never could keep me down.”  The voice of lament turns into a voice of hope as all of Israel joins with their voice. Today’s spiritual practice is to add our voice to those who lament, turning lamentation into hope.


Spiritual Practice


Pray for the afflicted and those who have been “kicked around.” Pray that the way of the wicked will cease and that injustice will end. Be as specific as you can.

 
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Day 4

Psalm 129 (NIV)

They have greatly oppressed me from my youth-- let Israel say--

they have greatly oppressed me from my youth, but they have not gained the victory over me.

Plowmen have plowed my back and made their furrows long.

But the LORD is righteous; he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.

May all who hate Zion be turned back in shame.

May they be like grass on the roof, which withers before it can grow;

with it the reaper cannot fill his hands, nor the one who gathers fill his arms.

May those who pass by not say, "The blessing of the LORD be upon you; we bless you in the name of the LORD."


Before World War II my great grandfather had been a successful farmer. As Psalm 128 puts it, “he ate from the fruit of the labour of his hands.” After World War II, the fields he owned were no longer his and others plowed, seeded and harvested from it. The fruit of that land was no longer his.


“Plowmen have plowed my back and made their furrows long.”


I wonder if he ever prayed Psalm 129 in those days? I never got to meet him, but the story passed on by his children was this:


They have greatly oppressed me from my youth, but they have not gained the victory over me.


Prayer: Thank you Lord that you have the victory. That you have cut the cords of the wicked, that though they may plow my back they will not have the victory.

 
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Day 5

Psalm 129

(Stephen’s Loose Translation)

I have been beaten and knocked down ever since I was young.

Everyone all together now say:

I have been beaten and knocked down ever since I was young,

But they could never keep me down.

They have plowed my back,

drying out the soil

But God is faithful,

he has cut their hydraulic lines.

Let all those who hate Zion,

be turned around.

Let them be like dried out sod,

that has never taken root.

May their swathers never turn their wheels,

May their combines never fire up,

May no one driving by say,

“What a good crop,

The Lord has blessed them.”


Jeff Kern helped me write this loose translation. My favourite part is the hydraulic lines. I can just imagine someone driving up and down a field, burning fuel and putting in long hours and all the while the hydraulic lines have been cut on their seeder and their implement hasn’t sunk into the soil. They might have plowed my back, but they won’t have any need for a swather or combine. Nobody driving by is going to marvel at the crop they put in on my back.


Jesus on the cross cut the hydraulic lines to sin and death. Drive all they want, they won’t get a harvest.


Prayer: Praise the name of the Lord, for he has cut the cords of sin, and death has lost its sting.

 

Psalm 128

March 1-5

 
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Day 1

Psalm 128 (ESV)

Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,
    who walks in his ways!

You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
    you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
    within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
    around your table.

Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
    who fears the Lord.

The Lord bless you from Zion!
    May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
    all the days of your life!

May you see your children's children!
    Peace be upon Israel!


In the creation story God tasks humanity to work and keep creation and to eat its fruit (Gen 2:15-16). God also declares that creation is blessed when it is fruitful and multiplies as well as when it rests ( Gen 1:28, Gen 2:3). But when humanity chooses to follow after their own ways instead of God’s ways the blessing becomes cursed. Humanity now toils and sweats and in pain works and eats (Gen 3:17-19). The fruit of the womb now only comes through pain and there would be tension between the relationship between husband and wife (Gen 3:16). Walking in our own ways leads to a cursed life, walking in God’s ways leads to a blessed life. Psalm 128 is painting a picture though the story of creation of what the blessed life looks like. The blessed life is to join God in his work of creating a good world, to eat the fruit of your work and to have a flourishing family.

Prayer: Living God, you are the breath of life that causes all things to flourish, guide my life.

 
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Day 2

Psalm 128 (Robert Alter)

Happy all who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways.

When you eat the toil of your hands, happy are you, and it is good for you.

Your wife is like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your house, your children like young olive trees and round your table. Look, for it is thus that the man is blessed who fears the LORD. May the LORD bless you form Zion, and may you see Jerusalem’s good all the days of your life. And may you see children of your children. Peace upon Israel!


I remember a number of years ago when Kirstin and I were recruited by another couple in our church to join a pyramid style business. After a nice meal together and some wonderful conversation the sales pitch came. “Would you be interested in only working part time and earning a six figure income?” At the time I was working part time at the church and doing renovations on the side and Kirstin had just started work as a nurse. Our answer came with almost no thinking and it completely floored them. “No, not really. We think our current work is important and we are happy.” They didn’t like our answer. “How can you be happy?” Little did we know, but we were quoting Psalm 128 at the time.


When we are walking in God’s ways, toiling with our hands, resting in his promises and pursuing what he declares is good, we become happy. Happiness is not a six figure income or a work free life that requires no toil. Happiness is witnessing the miracle of God graciously turning the toil of our hands into fruit.


Prayer: Lord grant me the vision to see the miracle you have made me to be, that the work of my hands is not meaningless toil, but is part of what you call good.

 
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Day 3

Psalm 128 (Message)

All you who fear God, how blessed you are!
    how happily you walk on his smooth straight road!
You worked hard and deserve all you’ve got coming.
    Enjoy the blessing! Soak in the goodness!

Your wife will bear children as a vine bears grapes,
    your household lush as a vineyard,
The children around your table
    as fresh and promising as young olive shoots.
Stand in awe of God’s Yes.
    Oh, how he blesses the one who fears God!

Enjoy the good life in Jerusalem
    every day of your life.
And enjoy your grandchildren.
    Peace to Israel!


Psalm 128 uses the imagery of plants and gardens to talk about our family. We cultivate gardens and we cultivate farms, but are we cultivating our family? Todays spiritual practice is all about caring for the family and people he has placed in our lives.


Spiritual Practice

Just as farmers plan their crops and the gardener thinks about what they will plant in spring, plan out how you will care and cultivate your family. Children, how do you plan to care for your parents? Parents, how do you plan to care for your children? Aunts and uncles, how do you plan to care for your nieces and nephews?


Here are three categories to plan for:

Physical needs - It might be hugs, it might be diapers, it might be suppers.

Relational needs - Do they know they are loved? Do they have space to grow in their own way?

Spiritual needs - The greatest gift you can give them is the person you are becoming.

 
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Day 4

Psalm 128 (NIV)

 Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in obedience to him. You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Yes, this will be the blessing for the man who fears the LORD. May the LORD bless you from Zion; may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life. May you live to see your children’s children— peace be on Israel.


I have added a spiritual practice to my devotions in the morning, baking bread. There is a lot about God you can learn from baking bread. I could’t help but notice the contrast of “eating the fruit of our labour” in Psalm 128 and “eating the bread of anxious toil” in Psalm 127. Making bread is labour, but the secret to great bread is rest. Bread made with anxious toil doesn’t turn out very good. Because I make sour dough bread, it typically takes about 19 hours from when I first start making bread to the time I eat the fruit of my labour. Baking bread takes work, planning, discipline and rest. Most of those 19 hours my job is to be disciplined to not rush the dough and let it rest and mature. But too much rest for bread isn’t good either, it takes the right balance of work and rest to turn out perfect.


The fruit of our families is kind of like baking bread. It takes work, planning, discipline and rest. It also takes time and is best when it is not rushed with anxious toil.


Prayer: Bread of life, teach me to eat the fruit of my labour in its proper time. Help me fast from the bread of anxious toil so that I might have appetite to eat your bread, life to the full.

 
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Day 5

Psalm 128 (NKJV)

Blessed is every one who fears the Lord,
Who walks in His ways.

When you eat the labor of your hands,
You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
In the very heart of your house,
Your children like olive plants
All around your table.

Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
Who fears the Lord.

The Lord bless you out of Zion,
And may you see the good of Jerusalem
All the days of your life.

Yes, may you see your children’s children.

Peace be upon Israel!


Spiritual Reflection

Either as a family or with someone else from church reflect on the spiritual practice of this week. Go for a walk if you can.


Do you feel like the family you grew up in was a flourishing family? What made it either flourish or not flourish? Do you feel like you are currently flourishing?



Who are the people you are intentionally caring for?



What are some of the things you are intentionally doing with your family to help cultivate a loving relationship?



Prayer: Father God, you intentionally care and cultivate me through the Holy Spirit. Help me, as your child, cultivate and care for the people you have placed in my life.

 

Psalm 127

February 22-26

 
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Day 1

Psalm 127 (ESV)

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.

It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
    are the children of one's youth.

Blessed is the man
    who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
    when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.


Eugene Peterson wrote an article titled “The Unbusy Pastor” that has deeply convicted me. He puts it this way, pastors become hurried and busy for one of two reasons. Either; the pastor has put his identity in his work or the pastor is lazy and lets their schedule be dictated by others. So often we don’t get a good night sleep because either our identity is in our work or we have been lazy and let the day get away from us. Whether we are hard working or lazy we get the same result, anxiety and exhaustion. Anxiousness and exhaustion are signs something in our life is in disorder.

Jesus says, “come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28) Jesus’ way is neither the way of the sloth nor the workaholic.

Prayer: God of work, you tasked us in the garden of Eden to work and care for your creation. Yet so often I am exhausted. Help me work as you work, creating rest and new life instead of exhaustion.

 
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Day 2

Psalm 127 (Living Bible)

Unless the Lord builds a house, the builders’ work is useless. Unless the Lord protects a city, sentries do no good.  It is senseless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, fearing you will starve to death; for God wants his loved ones to get their proper rest.

 Children are a gift from God; they are his reward. Children born to a young man are like sharp arrows to defend him.

 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them. That man shall have the help he needs when arguing with his enemies.


One of the telltale signs that you and I are Jesus followers is that we become rested people. Yet so often we willingly enslave ourselves to our work and work schedules. Jesus wants us to be free from slavery and be people who live out of His rest. This week’s first spiritual practice is all about being disciplined in getting proper rest.


Spiritual Practice #1

To the best of your ability get a good night's sleep. Now I realize that some of us have small children or work shift work or have mental or physical reason why we can’t get a good nights sleep. The goal of this practice is not to achieve a certain amount of sleep, but to do our best to be rested people. Do what we can to be rested and leave the rest to God. Perhaps that means not watching tv late into the evening or perhaps it means turning off your brain from work before we try and fall asleep. Do what you can to wake up rested and get a good night’s sleep.


Prayer: God of rest, I am weary and heavy burden. Give me rest and life in the way that only you can. As I close my eyes tonight I give you my sleep, my thoughts and my life.

 
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Day 3

Psalm 127 (Message)

 If God doesn’t build the house,
    the builders only build shacks.
If God doesn’t guard the city,
    the night watchman might as well nap.
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
    and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoys 

giving rest to those he loves?

Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?
    the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows
    are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
    with your quivers full of children!
Your enemies don’t stand a chance against you;
    you’ll sweep them right off your doorstep.


One evening a few years before Eugene Peterson, author of the Message Translation and over thirty other popular books, passed away his children asked him what he would like his legacy to be. He told them he had never thought about it. The next morning while they were making breakfast together Eugene said, “I have been thinking about the question you asked me, about what I want my legacy to be and I think I know what I want it to be.” They stopped, pulled out a pad of paper and asked him to tell them.

He looked into their eyes and said, “you.”

God has chosen to make his legacy not in the highest mountains or the mysterious depths of the sea or even the Bible that reveals who he is.

He has chosen to make his legacy you. For you to be his image bearer, for you to be his child.


Prayer: Father, I feel so in inadequate to be called your child. Yet, you insist that through your son Jesus I am yours. Help me bear your image.

 
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Day 4

Psalm 127 (NIV)

 Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.  In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves. 

Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.


I don’t understand how in the same psalm there can be the verse “he gives sleep to those he loves” and also the verse “ children are a reward.” The psalmist must have never had children. Children can be a handful and they sure give sleepless nights, both when they are young and when they are teenagers. But they are a blessing and we are blessed to have a church who’s quiver is full of them.


Spiritual Practice #2

Pray for the children of our church. For unless the Lord builds their lives we labour in vain and unless the Lord watches over them we watch in vain.

 
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Day 5

Psalm 127 (KJV)

Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.

Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.

 Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.


Spiritual Reflection


Either as a family or with someone else from church reflect on the spiritual practices of this week.


Is getting a good night sleep difficult for you? What are some of the things that make it difficult?



What does being a rested person mean to you?



Is there certain children that are on your heart and need your prayer?




Prayer: Lord, thank you that you have made a way through your son Jesus Christ for me to enter into your rest. As I follow you today, may I experience a foretaste of that great rest that we will some day experience in person with you.

 

Psalm 126

February 15-19

 
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Day 1

Psalm 126 (ESV)

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dream.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”

The Lord has done great things for us;

we are glad.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
    like streams in the Negeb!

Those who sow in tears
    shall reap with shouts of joy!

He who goes out weeping,
    bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
    bringing his sheaves with him.


Like the psalmist who has a dream and longs for a time where there will be shouts of joy, on August 28, 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous speech about his dream for black Americans and when they will shout for joy. He looked forward to the “day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning: My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims' pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.” Like the psalmist called for streams in the Negeb, Martin Luther King in his speech called for justice to “roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” In many ways Martin Luther King preached Psalm 126 that day.

What are you dreaming of that when it comes true you can shout, “The Lord has done great things!”


Prayer: Lord, give me the courage to dream in you.

 
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Day 2

Psalm 126 (Rob Alter)

When the LORD restores Zion’s fortunes,

We should be like dreamers.

Then will our mouth fill with laughter

And our tongue with glad song.

Then will they say in the nations:

“Great things has the LORD done with these.”

Great things has the LORD done with us.

We shall rejoice.

Restore, O LORD, our fortunes

Like freshets in the Negeb.

They who sow in tears

in glad song will reap.

He walks along and weeps,

the bearer of the seed bag.

He will surely come in with glad song

bearing his sheaves.


The Negeb was a dry area south of Jerusalem that for much of the year would be dry. But occasionally a rain would come and cause a flash flood, also known as a freshet. These floods of waters would rejuvenate the landscape and make  barren land bud with new life.

Have you ever thought of your tears as a freshet? That your tears are the moisture that seeds of joy need to mature? Those who sow tears will reap songs of joy! The question is do we dare to care about someone or something enough to lament and cry over them? Do we dare to trust God enough to give him our tears?

Do we want to be people of joy? Then let us first sow our tears of sorrow in Christ Jesus, for at the right season he turns our tears of sorrow into tears of joy.

Prayer: Weeping God, you have wept for us. May our tears be like a freshet which brings buds of joy to the landscape of our lives.

 
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Day 3

Psalm 126 (Message)

 It seemed like a dream, too good to be true,
    when God returned Zion’s exiles.
We laughed, we sang,
    we couldn’t believe our good fortune.
We were the talk of the nations—
    “God was wonderful to them!”
God was wonderful to us;
    we are one happy people.

And now, God, do it again—
    bring rains to our drought-stricken lives
So those who planted their crops in despair
    will shout “Yes!” at the harvest,
So those who went off with heavy hearts
    will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.

This last Sunday Julianne sang a new song she wrote recently and it fits so well with this psalm. The chorus goes like this:

Renew, restore,

you want much more

than I could ever dream of.

Your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.


When God renews and restores our lives from the tears we have sown we become like people who dream. We become people who could never have imagined what God has done with a desolate landscape that now is green and budding. We become people who experience heaven coming down on earth.


Prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

 
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Day 4

Psalm 126 (NIV)

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, LORD, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.


One of the most important skills we develop when we are growing up is imagination. Only through our imagination are we able to see things unseen, that you and I see we are part of a bigger story than meets the eye. It is only through imagination that we can see past the depravity of humanity and that God is up to something good in each of us.


But imagination is in jeopardy. The arch enemy of imagination is hurry, and we have become more hurried as a society than ever before. They say that for kids to develop a good imagination, it requires them to be bored; in their boredom they begin to develop new ways to imagine. So often we have become so busy we have no time to be bored and dream new dreams.


Spiritual Practice

I want you to take 5 minutes and do nothing, but dream and imagine. It can be about spiritual matters or not at all, I just want you to reawaken imagination! It might be boring at first, but that is ok; that’s the beginning of dreaming.


Prayer: Lord, give me a sanctified imagination to see things unseen, to dream as you dream.

 
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Day 5

Psalm 126 (NLT)

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 has done amazing things for us!
    What joy!

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.


Spiritual Practice Reflection


If you did the spiritual practice as a family, reflect on it together. If you did the spiritual practice by yourself call someone else from church who may have also done the practice.


When do you feel like your imagination is most active? Is there a time of day? Is there something you do that sparks your imagination?


What hinders your imagination?


Have you ever thought (imagined) about using your imagination for Jesus? What that might look like?


What ways has God specifically gifted you to imagine and dream with God?


Prayer: Lord, grant me the insight to see my thoughts and dreams not as foolish or vain, but as the very tools you which to use.

 

Psalm 125

February 8-12

 

Day 1

Psalm 125 (Message)

Those who trust in God

    are like Zion Mountain:

Nothing can move it, a rock-solid mountain

    you can always depend on.

Mountains encircle Jerusalem,

    and God encircles his people—

    always has and always will.

The fist of the wicked

    will never violate

What is due the righteous,

    provoking wrongful violence.

Be good to your good people, God,

    to those whose hearts are right!

God will round up the backsliders,

    corral them with the incorrigibles.

Peace over Israel!


One of the benefits of climbing mountains is the perspective you get of the magnificence and immense scale of the mountains. Whenever I stand on a summit there is always a keen sense that humans were not made to stay there long term. Standing on the summit I am exposed and vulnerable to weather, there is no food and there is no shelter. Humans have to retreat to the valley to live, but the mountain will continue to stand unmoved against everything that is thrown at it. When we submit out lives to God, he encircles us like the mountains encircle Jerusalem. Like the mountains that I stand on which have stood the test of time and the elements, we too become people that stand unmoved against everything that satan can throw at us. Submission to God becomes an unmovable foundation, because the mountain of God becomes our foundation.


Prayer: Unmovable God, move me so that I may stand unmoved against the storm of time and sin.

 

Day 2

Psalm 125 (ESV)

Those who trust in the LORD

Are like Mount Zion never shaken, settled forever.

Jerusalem, mountains around it,

And the LORD is around His people

now and forevermore.

For the rod of wickedness

will not rest on the portion f the righteous,

So that the righteous not set their hands to wrongdoing.

Do good  O LORD, to the good

and to the upright in their hearts.

And those who bend to crookedness, may the LORD take them off with the wrongdoers. Peace upon Israel!


Most translations use the word abide or endure instead of settled at the beginning of this psalm. But the word settled is more consistent with how that same word is translated elsewhere in the scriptures. What I like about the word settled is that it helps give the perspective that God is not simply out there, but he is rooted down here on earth. Mountain Zion is settled on earth forever. We too, like Mount Zion, are to become settled people. Those who trust in God become settled.

Spiritual Practice

Do something that helps you settle into the place where you live right now, even if you have lived there for many years. Perhaps it is to put up a picture, or perhaps it is to call a neighbour, or perhaps it is fixing that thing in your house you have been putting off for a while. This simple act can be an act of faith, that you trust God to keep you and settle you even in the face of uncertainty.   

Prayer: Lord I trust that you have a purpose for me in this place and in this time. Help me rest in you so that I may see it.

 

Day 3

Psalm 125 (ESV)

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,

    which cannot be moved, but abides forever.

As the mountains surround Jerusalem,

    so the Lord surrounds his people,

    from this time forth and forevermore.

For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest

    on the land allotted to the righteous,

lest the righteous stretch out

    their hands to do wrong.

Do good, O Lord, to those who are good,

    and to those who are upright in their hearts! 

But those who turn aside to their crooked ways

    the Lord will lead away with evildoers!

    Peace be upon Israel!


The songs of ascents were most likely written in a time when Israel was either in exile or returning from exile. The psalmists assertion  that Mount Zion will last forever and that the rule of the wicked will not last, is not a promise made in the good times, but a promise made when the future was uncertain. Jeremiah in Jeremiah 29 writes to the exiles of Israel,

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce … seek the prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.”

Israel can be settled even when physically uprooted, because Jerusalem is not simply a city, it is a people. They are to be Mount Zion even in exile. So how can we be settled in times of trouble? By living as His people. What makes us a settled people is not our circumstances, but the type of person we are becoming. When God’s people become settled in times of trouble, we become a light of hope to the nations.

Prayer: Lord, I am unsettled in these turbulent times. Ground me, root me in your love, so that  in your time I many produce fruit for others.

 

Day 4

Psalm 125 (NIV)

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,

which cannot be shaken but endures forever.

As the mountains surround Jerusalem,

so the Lord surrounds his people

both now and forevermore.

The scepter of the wicked will not remain

over the land allotted to the righteous,

for then the righteous might use

their hands to do evil.

 Lord, do good to those who are good,

to those who are upright in heart.

 But those who turn to crooked ways

the Lord will banish with the evildoers.

Peace be on Israel.


In many ways the first verse of Psalm 125 says this.

“Those who trust in God become like God”

Psalm 135:15-18 puts it this way,

“The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them and so will all who trust in them.”

We become what we trust. Those who trust the creator of life, become life even in the face of death. Those who trust in the work of humanity become like their creations, broken down and discarded in time. What type of person will you become when life gets tough? Just look at what you trust.


Prayer: Lord you did not design me to be an antique in a museum, but someone who becomes more vibrant with life every day that I trust in you. Scrape off the rust in my life and make me new as a I trust in you.

 

Day 5

Psalm 125 (KJV)

They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever.

 As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.

 For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity.

Do good, O Lord, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts.

As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity: but peace shall be upon Israel.


Spiritual practice Reflection

Either phone up someone from church or talk as a family about the spiritual practice from Day 2.


What does being a settled person mean and look like for you?



What does being settled in your neighbourhood mean to you?



In our fast paced society, is being a settled person counter cultural? How so?



Prayer: Lord when everyone around me is searching for something new to fulfill them, help me be settled and content in you. May your steadfastness root me and settle me in this particular place you have sown me.

 

Psalm 124

February 1-5

 

Day 1

Psalm 124 (Living Bible)

If the Lord had not been on our side (let all Israel admit it), if the Lord had not been on our side, we would have been swallowed alive by our enemies, destroyed by their anger. We would have drowned beneath the flood of these men’s fury and pride.

 Blessed be Jehovah who has not let them devour us. We have escaped with our lives as a bird from a hunter’s snare. The snare is broken and we are free!

 Our help is from the Lord who made heaven and earth.


In 2 Kings 6:8-16 there is a great story about how God rescued his prophet Elisha and Israel from their enemy Aram.


The king of Aram was trying to set up traps and raids against Israel, except God would tell Elisha their plans and he would in turn tell the king of Israel. Frustrated, the King of Aram turned on his advisors, thinking they were misleading him, but they said it was Elisha who was spoiling the king’s plans, so the king planned to trap Elisha. An army crept up at night around the city where Elisha was staying and surrounded it. When Elisha’s servant saw the army he was dismayed, but Elisha told his servant, “Those who are with us are more than who are with them.” He asked God to open his servant’s eyes and the servant saw the hills were filled with horses and chariots of fire. Elisha asked God to blind the enemy and guided the entire army to the king of Israel. The king asked Elisha what he should do with the army of his enemy. Elisha told him to feed and water them. So the king threw a feast for the army of his enemy, and Aram stopped raiding Israel.


Prayer: Present but hidden God, open my eyes so I may see how you are present, even in my times of trouble. You are my help in times of trouble.

 

Day 2

Psalm 124 (ESV)

If it had not been the Lord who was on our side

— let Israel now say—

if it had not been the Lord who was on our side when people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us; then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us; then over us would have gone the raging waters. Blessed be the Lord, who has not given us as prey to their teeth! We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped! Our help is in the name of the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.


I like how there is an interruption at the beginning of this psalm. It is almost like the psalmist started speaking and noticed no one was participating and had to interject, ‘come on everyone, don’t be silent, let us all together say…!’

But if we are honest with ourselves, often we are the silent ones. We listen to testimonies about God from others and we read stories about His saving work in the Bible, but we don’t speak our own testimony and story. So often we discredit our story as not being relevant enough, or we don’t want to bother anyone.

The psalmist says, ‘Come on everyone, don’t be silent, let us all together say, if it had not been for the Lord…”

Spiritual Practice 1 (If you choose to accept)

Step 1

Fill in the blank: If it had not been for the Lord…


Step 2

Craft a prayer of thankfulness to the Lord. Write it down if you can.

 

Day 3

Psalm 124 (Message)

If God hadn’t been for us
    —all together now, Israel, sing out!—
If God hadn’t been for us
    when everyone went against us,
We would have been swallowed alive
    by their violent anger,
Swept away by the flood of rage,
    drowned in the torrent;
We would have lost our lives
    in the wild, raging water.

Oh, blessed be God!
    He didn’t go off and leave us.
He didn’t abandon us defenseless,
    helpless as a rabbit in a pack of snarling dogs.

We’ve flown free from their fangs,
    free of their traps, free as a bird.
Their grip is broken;
    we’re free as a bird in flight.

God’s strong name is our help,
    the same God who made heaven and earth.


What I find depressing is how often the titles of Christian books I see in stores sound like self-help books with a Christian spin. Titles that sound like, “Unlock the Truths of the Bible for Yourself” and “Make the Most of Your Prayer Life.” Behind the titles is the idea that if you just do a certain thing or learn a certain secret you can unlock a relationship with God. But the whole gospel story is that God has already unlocked himself for us in Jesus Christ. The secret of the Gospel is that God is actually for us and not against us, and if it wasn’t for Him we would have been swallowed alive. The only lock which needs to be unlocked is the one we put on our own heart.


Prayer: Warrior God, when everyone was against me, you were for me. Here is the key to my heart. May I love you as you love me.

 

Day 4

Psalm 124 (Robert Alter)

Were it not the LORD Who was for us

-let Israel now say-

Were it not the LORD Who was for us

When people rose against us,

Then they would have swallowed us alive

When their wrath flared hot against us.

The the waters would have swept us up,

The torrent come up past our necks.

When it would have come up past our necks-

the raging waters.

Blessed is the LORD,

Who did not make us prey for their teeth

Our life is like a bird escaped from the snare of the fowlers. The snare was broken and we escaped.

Our help is in the name of LORD,

Maker of heaven and earth.


What is interesting about the psalmist’s metaphor about the bird is the bird doesn’t avoid the trap; the trap doesn’t work. When Jesus died on the cross Satan thought he had Him trapped; surely death would finally conquer the creator of life. But the trap was broken and it was not just Jesus who escaped, but all those who follow Him. The trap became the trapper's trap.


Unforgiveness is Satan’s trap for us. When someone wounds us it is easy to be caught in the trap of unforgiveness. But when we choose to forgive, we break the trap. Jesus has already broken all the traps of Satan, all we need to do is turn to Him and His forgiveness and we too will escape the traps Satan has laid for us.


Prayer: Forgive us Lord, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Break the snare the enemy has set for us.

 

Day 5

Psalm 123 (Living Bible)

 If the LORD had not been on our side— let Israel say— if the LORD had not been on our side when people attacked us, they would have swallowed us alive when their anger flared against us; the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away. Praise be to the LORD, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. We have escaped like a bird from the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.


This psalm is all about God’s people proclaiming to each other where they have seen God at work, thus the spiritual practice today is exactly that.


Spiritual Practice 2 (If you choose to accept)

Step 1 -Think of somewhere you have seen God at work this past week, somewhere you can say, “If it were not for the LORD…” It might be hard to think of something at first, but the more you do it the easier it becomes.

Step 2 - Share it with someone. Now I know this probably sounds crazy and makes you feel uncomfortable, but it is kind of like when my kids don’t like what I made them for supper. My response is, “I am not asking you to like it, I am asking you to eat it.” So if this makes you feel uncomfortable, I am not asking you to like it, I am just asking you to do it. If you are doing this devotional as a family you can do it together, and if you are doing it by yourself call up someone else from church who you think might be doing it as well.


Prayer: Lord give me eyes to see you in my day, and a mouth to proclaim your glory day after day.

 

Psalm 123

January 25-29

 

Day 1

Psalm 123 (NIV)

I lift up my eyes to you,

to you who sit enthroned in heaven.

As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,

as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress,

so our eyes look to the Lord our God,

till he shows us his mercy.

Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us,

for we have endured no end of contempt.

We have endured no end

of ridicule from the arrogant,

of contempt from the proud.


At first glance it may seem odd to consider ourselves to be slaves. We live in a time and place that offers more freedoms than almost any other time or place in history. Yet Paul says in Romans 7:18-19:


I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.


Although we have seemingly become masters in so much of our life and world, deep within us sin and evil still master us. Instead of being mastered by God’s love and mercy we become mastered by pride, greed and lust. We look free, but inwardly we are slaves to sin.


There is only one solution, to look to the master who sits enthroned over the cosmos and make Him the master of our life. Choose today who will be your master. The God of mercy and humility or the master of arrogance and pride?


Prayer: Creator of heaven and earth, I look up to you as a servant looks to their master. Give me the direction and strength to walk in your ways and to put aside the ways of sin and death.

 

Day 2

Psalm 123 (Message)

I look to you, heaven-dwelling God,

    look up to you for help.

Like servants, alert to their master’s commands,

    like a maiden attending her lady,

We’re watching and waiting, holding our breath,

    awaiting your word of mercy.

Mercy, God, mercy!

    We’ve been kicked around long enough,

Kicked in the teeth by complacent rich men,

    kicked when we’re down by arrogant brutes.


The first verse of this psalm is singular, “I look up.” The rest of the psalm is plural, “We look up” While the gospel is something that affects each one of us individually and is a personal decision we make. It is also something that happens as a group of people and affects groups of people.

The Psalmist says,“We have been kicked around long enough.” This psalm in many ways is a Jewish lament about how the Jewish people have been ridiculed and abused. Just like their ancestors were slaves under the oppression of Egypt, so once again they call out to God asking for him to become their master.

We too live under a system that kicks those who are down, while the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. We too, along with the Jewish people can cry out for a new master and seek to live under a system of mercy instead of arrogance.  Jesus is offering us a new way, a new system. Will we seek to be His servants?

Prayer: God of Mercy, so often I have thought this journey is just between you and me. Help me see that this journey is a journey of ‘us’. A people that hurt together, but also heal together, a people unified in death and life in you.

 

Day 3

Psalm 123 (ESV)

To you I lift up my eyes,
    O you who are enthroned in the heavens!

Behold, as the eyes of servants
    look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
    to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
    till he has mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
    for we have had more than enough of contempt.

Our soul has had more than enough
    of the scorn of those who are at ease,
    of the contempt of the proud.


Although Jesus was God himself he always took the posture of a son following a father. When he hung on the cross he cried, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And when he died "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Like a servant looks to his master Jesus died. Like one who sings, “we have had more than enough of contempt. Our souls have had more than enough of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud.”


Just like Jesus we sometimes find ourselves in places where we cry, “Lord I have had more than enough of this!” There is a temptation often to doubt the faithfulness of God in those times. But He has not abandoned us, just as He did not abandon His son. When Jesus had enough He lifted up his eyes. So too it is appropriate for us to lift up our eyes and cry out, Lord have mercy!


Prayer: Lord have mercy! I have had enough of contempt and sin! Come Lord, come quickly. Our eyes look to you. We long for your mercy.

 

Day 4

Psalm 123 (Robert Alter)

To You I lift  up my eyes,

O Dweller in the heavens.

Look, Like the eyes of slaves to their masters,

Like the eyes of a slavegirl to her mistress,

So are our eyes to the LORD our God

until he grants us grace.

Grant us grace, LORD, grant us grace.

For we are sorely sated with scorn.

Sorely has our being been sated

With the contempt of the smug,

The scorn of the haughty.


If we are followers of the way of Jesus, and if His way is the way of mercy and forgiveness, then our life and the way we live should also be defined by mercy and forgiveness.


Spiritual Practice 1 (If you choose to accept it)

Have mercy for yourself. You are not perfect, none of us are and guess what, God doesn’t require you to be perfect. All He requires is that you look to Him and turn and follow Him.


Step 1: Take a piece of paper and write down the things you are disappointed in about yourself.


Step 2: Fold up the paper. Pray: Jesus, as I fold this paper I give you all the disappointments I have written on this paper. They are no longer mine, they are yours. Forgive me.


Step 3:Destroy the paper. These things no longer define you. They are not yours anymore. Jesus bought them for a price when He died on the cross and they are no longer yours to bear.


Step 4: You are a new person so celebrate! Mercy is always worth celebrating.

 

Day 5

Psalm 123 (Living Bible)

O God enthroned in heaven, I lift my eyes to you.

We look to Jehovah our God for his mercy and kindness just as a servant keeps his eyes upon his master or 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 and of the scoffing of the rich and proud.


God’s love for us is always tied to how we love our neighbour. Today’s practice is very similar to the practice yesterday. So if you have not done yesterday’s practice do it before you do todays practice, the order matters.


Spiritual Practice 2 (If you choose to accept it)

Have mercy for someone else. Like water that turns stagnant without movement, God’s mercy must move or it will turn stagnant in our soul.


Step 1: Take a piece of paper and write down the names of people who have hurt you Whether they meant to or not.


Step 2: Fold up the paper. Pray: Jesus, as I fold this paper I give you all the people I have written down and the ways they hurt me. They and the wounds they have given me are no longer mine. I am now making the choice to forgive them even though what they did hurt me deeply.


Step 3: Destroy the paper. Though there will still be pain and scars. Jesus paid a price for these wounds and people just as he did for yours and they are now His and no longer yours.


Step 4: You are a new person so celebrate! Mercy is always worth celebrating.

 

Psalm 122

January 18-22

 
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Day 1

Psalm 122 (NLT)

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 stand the thrones where judgment is given,
    the thrones of the dynasty of David.

Pray for 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.


The pilgrims have arrived in the gates of Jerusalem, what joy! The first thing they do is give thanks and the second is they pray for the peace of the city. They have come on a journey to receive blessing, but in turn they give blessing. The spiritual practice for this week is to pray for the peace and prosperity of our church.


Spiritual Practice (If you choose to accept it)

If you have a church phone book, go through the phone book and over the span of this week pray for as many people as you can individually. If you pray for twenty nine people each day you will make it through in five days.


Prayer: Jesus, may all who call Wiesenthal home experience your peace and prosperity in their home. For the sake of our family and friends we pray for your peace and blessing in their lives.

 

Day 2

Psalm 122 (Message)

When they said, “Let’s go to the house of God,”
    my heart leaped for joy.
And now we’re here, O Jerusalem,
    inside Jerusalem’s walls!

Jerusalem, well-built city,
    built as a place for worship!
The city to which the tribes ascend,
    all God’s tribes go up to worship,
To give thanks to the name of God—
    this is what it means to be Israel.
Thrones for righteous judgment
    are set there, famous David-thrones.

Pray for Jerusalem’s peace!
    Prosperity to all you Jerusalem-lovers!
Friendly insiders, get along!
    Hostile outsiders, keep your distance!
For the sake of my family and friends,
    I say it again: live in peace!
For the sake of the house of our God, God,
    I’ll do my very best for you.


Jesus’ relationship with Jerusalem was complicated. Jerusalem was the destination for pilgrims, a place for worship, the city of David and the place where the messiah would be enthroned and rule. But it was also the city Jesus lamented, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” (Matt 23:37)

You and I are like Jerusalem. We are built for worship, we are the place in which the messiah king reigns and yet we are also people who sin and resist the will of God. Oh that there would be inner peace! The King of peace is standing in our gates, waiting to reign. Will you open your gates?

Prayer: King Jesus, King of glory, I open up my gates and my life that you may enter and be king. Rule my life with your peace and presence.

 

Day 3

Psalm 122 (ESV)

I was glad when they said to me,
    “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”

Our feet have been standing
    within your gates, O Jerusalem!

Jerusalem—built as a city
    that is bound firmly together,

to which the tribes go up,
    the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for Israel,
    to give thanks to the name of the Lord.

There thrones for judgment were set,
    the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
    “May they be secure who love you!

Peace be within your walls
    and security within your towers!”

For my brothers and companions' sake
    I will say, “Peace be within you!”

For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
    I will seek your good.


This Psalm tells us that it was decreed for Israel to make a pilgrimage to give thanks. Thankfulness was not an option or a suggestion for Israel, it was law. If thankfulness was not an option for those under the law, how much more should thankfulness define our lives for those of us who are no longer under the law but in Christ Jesus who is the perfecter of the law.


When Israel gave thanks, they did not mumble it under their breath, but went on a long and financially costly journey to express it.


What does thankfulness look like for you and me today as people who live under Christ’s extravagant love?


Prayer: Thank you Jesus …

 

Day 4

Psalm 122 (KJV)

 I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.

Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together:

Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the Lord.

For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.

Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.

For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee.

Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good.


Jerusalem is built compactly together, or in other words there are a lot of people in a small space. Everyone is shoulder to shoulder.


I long for the day when our church can once again be shoulder to shoulder. When we can have potlucks, picnics and close conversation. But until then we can still walk shoulder to shoulder in prayer and still be close together in conversation over the phone.


Spiritual Practice Part 2

As you have been praying for our church has there been a name that has stood out to you? Give this person a call just to see how they are doing, if you like you can tell them you were praying for them, but you don’t have to.


Prayer: Lord you have built us and designed us to be compacted full of your love and the love of others. Give me the courage to squeeze my way into the hearts and lives of those that I love.

 

Day 5

Spiritual Practice Reflection

If you did the practice in day one together as a family, debrief and reflect on the practice as a family together. If you did the spiritual practice by yourself, I would encourage you to call someone else from church who has been doing the devotion and reflect and debrief together.

How did the practice of prayer go for you this week? Did you feel overwhelmed? Were you able to spend as much time in prayer as you would like?



Were you able to call someone you prayed for? Did you feel nervous? How did it go?




Is there a list of people that you feel God is prompting you to pray for either daily or weekly?




Do you have people in your life that pray for you daily or weekly?




Prayer: God of peace and prosperity, I long to see your peace and prosperity in the lives of those I love. Help me to see my role in passing on your peace and prosperity, either through my prayers, actions or simply my time.

 

Psalm 121

January 11-15

 

Day 1

Psalm 121 (NIV)

 I lift up my eyes to the mountains

where does my help come from? 

My help comes from the LORD,

the Maker of heaven and earth. 

He will not let your foot slip

he who watches over you will not slumber; 

indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 

The LORD watches over you

the LORD is your shade at your right hand; 

the sun will not harm you by day,

nor the moon by night. 

The LORD will keep you from all harm

he will watch over your life; the

LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.


The Songs of Ascents were most likely used in pilgrimages to Jerusalem and the temple. Psalm 121 in particular is about traveling and is often referred to as a traveling psalm. The spiritual practice this week is meant to help us pay attention to how we are traveling in our life and faith.


Spiritual Practice (If you choose to accept it)


Go for a walk. It can be to a particular destination or just a loop back to the place you started. If you are able to do so do it as a family. You can do it once this week or you can try and do it every day, it is up to you. While you walk pay attention to how the physical can be connected to the spiritual. Pretend your walk is a sermon analogy for one of the kids’ moments.


Prayer: Oh God who walked in the Garden of Eden and walked with Enoch and Moses, guide my steps as I walk, so that I may walk with you.

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Day 2

Psalm 121 (Message)

 I look up to the mountains;
    does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God,
    who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.

He won’t let you stumble,
    your Guardian God won’t fall asleep.
Not on your life! Israel’s
    Guardian will never doze or sleep.

God’s your Guardian,
    right at your side to protect you—
Shielding you from sunstroke,
    sheltering you from moonstroke.

God guards you from every evil,
    he guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return,
    he guards you now, he guards you always.


The entirety of Psalm of 121 is really an answer to the question, “does my strength come from ascending mountains?” In ancient times as well as today, temples were always built on the highest places in a city. Temples are built on mountains.

Where does our help and strength come from? Do they come from ascending mountains, from going to temples, from doing all the right things for God? No our help and strength come from the God who is with us in the valley, who as the psalmist says, “is with us in our coming and going and with us now and forever more.”

You don’t need to ascend a mountain to get to God, but if you seek and follow Him, you will find yourself ascending and traveling over mountains.

Prayer: Lord you are the mountain and the guide who walks me through dark valleys, steep cliffs  grand vistas and green meadows. Guard me and protect me as I walk life’s journey with you.

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Day 3

Psalm 121 (Robert Alter Translation)

I lift up my eyes to the mountains:

From where will my help come?

My help is from the LORD,

Maker of heaven and earth.

He does not let your foot stumble.

Your guard does not slumber.

Look, He does not slumber nor does He sleep,

Israel’s guard.

The LORD is your guard,

The LORD is your shade at your right hand.

By day the sun does not strike you,

Nor the moon by night.

The LORD guards you from all harm,

He guards your life.

The LORD guards your going and your coming.

Now and forevermore.


The Psalmist is in the valley and is looking up at the mountain tops where all the gods would have been displayed. He begins to wonder, how can I get out of this valley? Perhaps if I just ascend one of these mountains, then I can finally be out of the valley and have arrived.


So often in our lives we are in a hurry to get to the next stage in life. We think, “if only I can get to the next mountain top, then I will feel fulfilled, then I will have arrived in life.” It is easy for our career, family or having economic stability be the next mountain top for us. Our fulfillment in life doesn’t come from mountain tops though. It comes from the one who made us, the maker of heaven and earth. He is the one that guards and gives life, even in the valley.


Prayer: Forgive me Lord for always looking at the next mountain top instead being content in the valley with you. May I find life in the simple fact that I am your beloved child.

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Day 4

In many ways the gospels are the story of Jesus’ pilgrimage to the cross. As he ascended that hill I can imagine him reciting this psalm.


Psalm 121 (ESV)

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?

My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.

The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.


If Jesus did not rise from the grave this Psalm would be a farce. God deals with evil in our world not by running away from it, but by absorbing its full weight on the cross and then reversing it in his resurrection. God’s protection over you does not mean you will never stumble, but that no stumble or evil thing can separate you from His healing love. As Eugene Peterson puts it, you can flood a boat with all the water in the world, but as long as the water doesn’t get inside, it will float.


Read Romans 8:31-39

Prayer: Thank you Jesus that your love conquers all. When I grow faint and weary on the journey, strengthen me with the hope of your resurrection love.

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Day 5

Spiritual Practice Reflection

If you did the practice in day one together as a family, debrief and reflect on the practice as a family together. If you did the spiritual practice by yourself, I would encourage you to call someone else from church who has been doing the devotion and reflect and debrief together.

How did your walk go? Did you do it once, or more than once? Did you enjoy it?


Were you able to think of any sermon analogies about walking from your walk?


What do you think are some of the benefits to the practice of walking and pilgrimage?


What do you think are some of the benefits to the practice of walking with someone else?


Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy and

to walk humbly with your God.


Prayer: Lord you are always on the move, you do not stand still, nor do you slumber. May I too always be on the move with you, not growing stagnant, but slowly step by step growing in you.

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Psalm 120

January 3-9

 

Day 1

Psalm 120 (NIV)

I call on the Lord in my distress,
    and he answers me.
Save me, Lord,
    from lying lips
    and from deceitful tongues.

What will he do to you,
    and what more besides,
    you deceitful tongue?
He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows,
    with burning coals of the broom bush.Woe to me that I dwell in Meshek,
    that I live among the tents of Kedar!
Too long have I lived
    among those who hate peace.
 I am for peace;
    but when I speak, they are for war.


When the Psalmist cries out “save me, Lord, from lying lips,” it could be interpreted as either, “save me from other peoples lying lips” or “save me from my own lying lips.” It is unclear, probably because both are applicable. As James 3:9-10 says:

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father,

and with it we curse human beings,

who have been made in God’s likeness. 

Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.

My brothers and sisters, this should not be.


The solution, as the psalmist suggests, is to call out to the Lord in our sin and distress.


Prayer: Father, when you created the world you spoke it into being, but so often my words tear down and curse instead of build up and heal. Forgive me Lord for my untamed tongue. May my tongue, that used to curse, be used for your glory, praising you and proclaiming your coming kingdom of peace.

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Day 2

Psalm 120 (Message)

 I’m in trouble. I cry to God,

desperate for an answer:

“Deliver me from the liars, God!

They smile so sweetly but lie through their teeth.”

Do you know what’s next, can you see what’s coming,
    all you barefaced liars?
Pointed arrows and burning coals
    will be your reward.

 I’m doomed to live in Meshech,
    cursed with a home in Kedar,
My whole life lived camping
    among quarrelling neighbours.

I’m all for peace, but the minute
    I tell them so, they go to war!


Meshek was located in the far North West of Israel, near the Black sea and Kedar in the far south east in the Arabian peninsula. Most likely this Psalm was also written when much of Israel was displaced and in exile. The Psalmist mentioning both Meshek and Kedar as his dwelling place gives the reader a sense of being displaced and a foreigner in his own land. When Jesus came into this world, in many ways he came as a foreigner to the world he created. As we follow Jesus and become more like him we begin to experience the world like he did. Feeling displaced is not always a bad feeling, sometimes feeling displaced is a sign that our hearts are yearning for more than what our sinful self and world have to offer.

Prayer: Creator God, through my decisions and deceitful tongue I have sometimes made you look like a foreigner in the very world you created. But the truth is that I have only alienated myself from you, forgive me for my sins, so I can walk as you in this world, offering peace not war.

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Day 3

Psalm 120 (Robert Alter Translation)

To the LORD when I was in straits
I called out and He answered me.
LORD, save my life from lying lips,
from a tongue of deceit.
What can it give you, what can it add,
a tongue of deceit?
A warrior's honed arrows
with broom-wood coals.
Woe to me for I have sojourned in Meshech,
dwelled among the tents of Kedar.
Long has my whole being dwelled

among those who hate peace.

I am for peace, but when I speak,

they are for war.


The nails of the cross were like honed arrows that pierced Jesus hands, the thorns on his brow like burning embers. Though Jesus spoke no deceitful word, he took on the result of our sins and our deceitful hearts. Jesus took our penalty so that wars may cease and peace may reign.

Sometimes we find that the world’s wars and conflicts have found their way into our hearts, words and agendas. As Christians we are not to neglect the wars and conflicts of our world, but we are also not to join them either. We like Jesus are called to walk into their midst, even though it may cost us our life and offer a way of peace through Jesus. For it is only through Jesus and the cross that our world will find peace in the midst of war.


Prayer: Lord, sometimes my heart, thoughts and words have been for war, not peace. Forgive me for being lured into the world’s conflicts and wars, may I neither be a soldier nor a bystander in our world’s troubles, but Christ in the midst of conflict.

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Day 4

Psalm 120 (Amplified Bible)

In my trouble I cried to the Lord,
And He answered me.

Rescue my soul, O Lord, from lying lips,
And from a deceitful tongue.

What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you,
You deceitful tongue?—

Sharp arrows of the warrior,
With the burning coals of the broom tree.

Woe to me, for I sojourn in Meshech,
and I live among the tents of Kedar!

Too long my soul has had its dwelling
With those who hate peace.

I am for peace, but when I speak,
They are for war.


If Psalm 120 suggests that we are being bombarded with voices that cause war not peace, it would be helpful to have a practice that helps us identify and silence the many voices that are constantly vying for our attention.

Spiritual Practice (If you choose to accept it)


Fast from media for 24hrs. That means no TV, news, or social media. Turn your smart phone into a dumb phone, let there be silence in your life so you can hear the still voice of God's peace. If possible do it as a family exercise. Day 5’s devotion will be about debriefing and reflecting on this practice.

Prayer: Lord, grant me the wisdom and insight to notice the words and voices that are shaping my life.

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Day 5

Spiritual Practice Reflection

If you practiced day 4 together as a family, debrief and reflect on the practice as a family together . If you did day 4 by yourself, I would encourage you to call someone else from church who has been doing the devotion and reflect and debrief together.


How was fasting from media? Was it easy or hard?


What did fasting from media reveal to you about the voices that are in your life?



Was it difficult to stop listening to one particular form of media? Why?



Going forward, is there any adjustments you want to make in your media consumption?



Prayer: God of peace, be the voice that guides my thoughts, life and actions.

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