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Psalm 118:1 (ESV) Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!

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Week One Day 1 Psalm 118:1 (ESV) Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever! The Psalm begins by showing us where the living of our lives for God must begin, in
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Week One Day 1 Psalm 118:1 (ESV) Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever! The Psalm begins by showing us where the living of our lives for God must begin, in gratitude and thanksgiving. We will not live for God by just being told to do so. This goes against our grain and we do not want to have to serve God. It isn t until we see the goodness of the Lord and experience His steadfast love that we become motivated to give our lives as a sacrifice of praise for what He has done for us. When a woman of questionable character poured expensive perfume on Jesus feet at a dinner party the religious leaders of His day objected. She was a sinner and her actions were out of place. Jesus responded by telling them that those who are forgiven much, love much, and it shows by their actions. (Luke 7:37-47) Our gratitude is translated into outward acts of service to God and to others. No wonder Psalm 118 repeats the statement of God s goodness and love four times in the opening verses to make sure we don t miss it. What a difference it makes when we view our lives and livelihoods not as something we achieve, but rather as a gift we receive. Greed is replaced with gratitude. Getting is replaced with giving. Our selfish attempts to build up our own reputations and fortunes are replaced by a commitment to say with our lips and our lives, His steadfast love endures forever! Prayer: O Lord, grant that I may not seek to be consoled, as to console. To be understood, as to understand. To be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned. It is in dying that we are born to eternal life. (Prayer of St. Francis.) For personal reflection or family discussion: What are some specific ways a person can express their gratitude to God in living for Him today? Why is our motive (why we do something) so important? What is the difference between have to and want to when it comes to living for God today? Week One Day 2 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. Psalm 118:8 (ESV) This is the middle verse of the Bible. That s right; there are 31,174 verses before verse eight and 31,174 verses after it. Although the chapter and verse divisions are not part of the inspired text (they came much later as a tool to help us find things in the Bible), one cannot help but wonder if God didn t have His hand in this. The very center verse of the Bible tells us to take refuge in the Lord! I think that all of us have had experiences where people have let us down. Perhaps it was a trusted friend who broke a promise. Or maybe it has been a loved one, like a spouse, son or daughter, who has broken their relationship with you. Perhaps you have become a victim of a scam. What had once seemed so promising and true has now ended in bitter disappointment. Yes, human beings are fallible creatures. You are one of them. But God is different. He can be trusted by you no matter what. This is what makes living for God today so great. Because God is our foundation of trust we can go forth in His service without having to worry about what the future may hold. When things take a turn for the worse Christ is our refuge and help in the time of need. Jesus disciples found this to be true as they spent their time with Him. One day they got caught in a terrible storm on the Sea of Galilee. There was nothing they could do to save themselves. Christ was asleep within their boat. When they awoke Him He calmed the wind and the waves by His command. He can do the same for you. Prayer: Lord Jesus, I want You to be the center of my life. Too often I have put my trust in other people, or other things, only to find that they have let me down. Lord, be my refuge in the storms of life and enable me to serve You without fear. In Your name and power. Amen. For personal reflection or family discussion: Psalm 118:8 is the center verse of the Bible. Is trust in the Lord at the center of your life? How so? If not, how can it become more so? Can you think of other Bible stories that illustrate taking refuge in the Lord? Week One - Day 3 Psalm 118:22-23 (ESV) The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. There is an old Jewish story told about Psalm 118:22 that goes like this: When Solomon s temple was being built, it was forbidden for the sound of hammers to be heard at the job site because it was a holy place of worship. What this meant for the construction was that each of the 20 ton stones had to be shaped several miles away in the quarry. Every stone was carefully cut for its exact spot in the temple and hauled to the temple site. The very first stone to be delivered seemed to be an oddly shaped stone. The builders said, What is this? This doesn t look like any stone we can use. So they rolled it to the edge of a cliff and pushed it down into a valley were garbage was disposed of. Years later, when construction on the temple was nearing completion, the builders said, Send us the cornerstone. Word came back from the quarry, We already did. They were confused. Then someone remembered what they had done with the very first stone sent to them. It was then hauled up from its lowly position, where it had been forgotten, and was honored at the final ceremony to complete the temple. It fit perfectly! Thus the Psalm says, The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. When the religious leaders of Jesus day rejected Him, Jesus identified Himself with that stone. Even though they did not accept Him, God had placed Him in His position as Messiah! (Matthew 21:42) In living for God today, our God can take what may be viewed as unimportant and turn it around to become the most important thing. The image of the rejected stone is a reminder of that possibility. In living your life for God today do you live by faith in His promises? Are you willing to take risks for God s sake? Do you sometimes feel rejected? Do you allow others opinions about you to affect the way you see yourself? God, in Christ, is calling you to step out in bold faith. Take your stand on the Rock of Ages! You might feel that you do not have much to offer. But remember, God can take that odd cut stone and make it into something very special to be used in amazing ways within His kingdom. Prayer: Christ is our cornerstone, on Him alone we build; With His true saints alone the courts of heaven are filled. On His great love our hopes we place of present grace and joys above. (Eighth century Latin Hymn. Lutheran Service Book #912) For personal reflection or family discussion: What does it mean to have Christ as your cornerstone? Do you feel bullied by life s circumstances or by someone in particular? By taking your stand on Christ and in His strength what can you do about that? Where is God calling you to step out in bold faith today? Week One Day 4 Psalm 118:24 (ESV) This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. This oft quoted verse is a reminder to us that every day is a gift from God for which we should rejoice and be glad. This is a good Bible verse to begin each day with. It is all the more significant that our Lord Jesus Christ sang this on His way to His suffering and death. After instituting the Lord s Supper with His disciples on the Thursday evening of Holy Week they sang this Psalm as they headed to Gethsemane where Jesus would begin His steps to the cross. We know this because this last Psalm of the Egyptian Hallel was sung as a hymn at the close of the Passover meal. (Matthew 26:30) Just imagine Jesus singing, This is the day that the LORD has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it., as He faced what He knew would be the greatest suffering the world had ever known. Because Jesus did this on our behalf He gives us the ability to say these words too even when we face impossible and trying circumstances. In His grace every day is a day we can rejoice in. What a difference this makes in living our lives for God today! The Gospel is lifeaffirming and death-defeating. Serving God becomes a joy no matter how hard the task. We can learn, as did the Apostle Paul, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 Prayer: Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. (The Common Doxology. Attributed to Thomas Ken 1674) For personal reflection or family discussion: Take time to praise God for this day, for His presence in your life, and for His many blessings. Make a list if necessary. This praise will help you realize the goodness of God in your life. Think about, or talk about, how rejoicing in the Lord is different from just trying to have a positive attitude? Week One Day 5 Psalm 118:25-26 (ESV) Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD. Every summer since 1995 the town of Whalans, Minnesota has had a rather unusual parade. It is called a Standstill Parade. The parade does not move, the spectators do. The color guard and American Legion members are always seated at the beginning of the parade, with all other units following. The units are placed on each side of the street as well as down the center. Floats are parked and musicians perform while standing in place. Because of the unusual nature of this parade it has drawn national attention, even being covered on The CBS News. There once was another parade that also received a lot of attention but for a different reason. This parade took place in Jerusalem at the beginning of Holy Week. We call it Palm Sunday. Jesus was the main attraction. He entered the city riding on a donkey in fulfillment of Zachariah s prophecy that this would be the way the Messiah would announce Himself. (Zachariah 9:9) Far from standing still, Jesus rode along while the people took branches from palm trees, waving them and shouting, Hosanna!. Actually they were quoting Psalm 118: (See John 12:12-13) Hosanna is the Hebrew for Save us, please!. And the meaning of, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! is self-evident. The religious leaders knew exactly what the crowds meant and it made them mad. They were saying, Jesus is the promised Messiah. He has come to save us. And that is exactly what Jesus Christ did. It wasn t until Jesus accomplished the salvation of the world on Calvary that people could be set free to serve Him. And it wasn t until His people were filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost that they were empowered to do so. (Acts 1:8) Living for God today means being set free through the salvation Christ has given you and being daily empowered by the Holy Spirit to put His love into action. The people who have served God with their lives set apart form a long parade through history that will one day end in heaven. O Lord, I want to be in that number when the saints go marching in! (American Gospel Hymn) Prayer: Lord, I don t want my life to be a slow walk through time, following the path of least resistance. I want it to be a celebration of service to You and Your kingdom even if that means receiving criticism from the world around me. Give me grace, Lord, to join in Your parade shouting my Hosannas to You, my servant king. Amen. For personal reflection or family discussion: What was the most memorable parade you have ever attended? What made it so? Describe what you think the Palm Sunday parade must have been like. What does Being set free to serve God. mean to you? Week One Day 6 Psalm 118:28-29 (ESV) You are my God, and I will give thanks to You; You are my God; I will extol You. Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever! Martin Luther, the great reformer, wrote: This is my Psalm, my chosen Psalm. I love them all;. But this Psalm is nearest my heart, and I have a peculiar right to call it mine. It has saved me from many a pressing danger, from which nor emperor, nor kings, nor sages, nor saints, could have saved me. It is my friend; dearer to me than all the honors and power of the earth... And would to God that all people would claim this Psalm as especially theirs too! (From Luther s Dedication of his Translation of Psalm 118 to the Abbot Frederick of Nuremberg.)1 Luther even had a copy of verse 17 written on the wall of his study: I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD. This Psalm truly became his when he faced charges of false teaching at Worms, Germany. As he prepared for his journey his friends warned him not to go. But Luther, quoting Psalm 118:6 said, The Lord is for me, so I will not be afraid. I am determined to go though as many devils should oppose me as there are tiles upon all the houses. At his trial Luther made his famous statement: I cannot and will not recant; here I stand, I can do no other! 2 We will soon be celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation on October 31, (Luther nailed his 95 Theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, which began the Reformation, on October 31, 1517.) Just think of the influence this one man had on the Christian Church, not only in his day but down to today as well. I m sure that none of us will accomplish what God called Martin Luther to do, but the fact is that God has called each of us to serve Him in our own special way. We may never be aware, this side of heaven, just what impact our living for God has had. Nor should we! Our service to God is not motivated by recognition or reward, but by gratitude and thanksgiving. Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 118:29 Prayer: Give thanks to the Lord, O my soul. Worship Him and trust His mercy and truth; for they are as great as He Himself is, and they endure forever. Let the Lord be your meditation and your song in the house of your pilgrimage because He has given you strength, and has set before you the hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ. Amen. (Prayer by Martin Luther in Reading the Psalms with Luther CPH 2007, Psalm 118) For personal reflection or family discussion: What do you remember about the life of Martin Luther? How might his example of faith encourage you to live for God today? 1. Quoted from Luther s Works, Vol. 14: Selected Psalms III, by Ronald M. Hals, Psalm 118, Interpretation 37 (1983);277, Adapted from, The One Year Book of Psalms Devotionals by William J. Peterson and Randy Peterson. Tyndale House Publications, Inc. 1999, Psalm 118:1-9 Week One - Conclusion Conclusion to Psalm 118 The opening words, and the closing words, of Psalm 118 are: Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! These words are used as a closing prayer after a meal. Luther s Small Catechism refers to this as Returning Thanks. (CPH 1986, page 34) We have now come to the conclusion of our first week of our Living for God Today! devotions. We have discovered that we have ended where we began with praise to the Lord! Keep on now with the next leg of your journey. You have only just begun!
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