Bring some Spirit-filled peace into your hectic schedule every weekday morning with this new Daily Devotional.
- Start your day with God
- Renew your spirit
- Refocus your faith
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'All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance – an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.'
I am greatly helped when thinking of blessing, both as an act of praise to God (and therefore to “bless God”) and as a receiving of help from God through the prayers of the Church (the act of giving and receiving blessings). It is in these ways that we “become blessings” for one another and offer blessings to God – by living true to who God has made us as his people.
'Sing a new song to the Lord! Let the whole earth sing to the Lord! Sing to the Lord; praise his name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.'
One of my life’s great challenges is to avoid stagnation; the tendency to put off decisions, avoiding what must be done, to let relationships and activity drop, which in the past I compensated for by comfort eating or investing a lot of time in meaningless activities. In such a slough, I realised that a lot of my ‘purpose’ was defined by what I did and was measured against how other people navigated life. I was losing self-confidence and any reason for living. I needed to reassess who and where I was in life and rediscover my primary reason for living.
'I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety.'
Unlike the psalmist, I cannot with authentically claim that “I will not be shaken”. At times, I really struggle with the challenges life brings. Clinging to God, I acknowledge God is “right beside me”, even if I cannot always sense that presence. This is the nature of faith; something unseen, yet factual and reliable. So, I place my confidence in this unseen truth ahead of my perceptions and their many attendant anxieties. For every crisis I survive, and there have been so many, while I give thanks and even formulate a testimony of gratitude, I know further tests lie around some future corner.
'Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!'
It is very easy to bless God with only a certain percentage of my “heart”. Much of the rest of it is distracted by a series of less profound anxieties and desires. Who hasn’t realised part way through a time devoted to God, that actually their mind has strayed and in fact the past minutes have actually been occupied by their own thoughts and worries? In some ways, this can be identified as prayers, yet not prayers that are consciously being brought to God. I certainly don’t criticise myself in such circumstances, yet I have learned that to bless God “with my whole heart” is something else, and learned practice.
'…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.'
You may know that the word “blessing” means “happy”, as in the Sermon on the Mount. Yet, it has its roots in the idea of blood sacrifice from Proto-Germanic roots, as well as it’s Hebrew meaning of “to bow the knee”. As such, it is highly appropriate as we respond to God’s blessing with an act of humble acknowledgement of God’s authority.
'I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night. Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.'
It is easy to agree with the sentiment that God is “my helper”. However, my submission to God leads me into contexts I would never have chosen for myself. Yet, God remains my friend, and friends stick with us through thick and thin.
'I will praise you for as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy.'
Last autumn I woke one day with a sensation of being bathed in love. I felt a rich and deep inner contentment and well-being. I knew I was with God and this was God’s love. I lay in bed, a smile in my heart, which was reflected on my face. I prayed with hands uplifted. I was deeply satisfied and I took those waking minutes fully to enjoy this state of grace.
'Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you!'
Knowing myself has helped immensely in developing my appreciation of God. Knowing my strengths and weaknesses means I can develop skills to avoid the worst excesses of my character, which otherwise might prove self-destructive.
'I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you!'
Declarations of love trip easily from the lips. However, they can depend on circumstances. I once relished in the beauty and power of declarations such as we have here from the psalmist. I found it much harder to feel any empathy with today’s verse when Katey, my first wife, was struck down with a neurological disease that would take her mortal life. Until then, nothing had seriously challenged my simple understanding of the Bible. Slowly I discovered that it was far more than having an understanding and appreciation of God’s love and acceptance. I required an encounter with the living God in each experience, every day. Somehow, my worship and faith, while sincere, had been a projection of my hopes rather than an experience lived regardless of circumstance. While I yearned to return to the undisturbed rhythms of the past, my new reality was here to stay. Would I find God in my chaos? Or would I cut and run from a God I partly blamed for my circumstances?
'O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.'
I only go in search of what I really want. Too often, more pressing needs relegate my search for God to whatever spare time I can muster. Like reaching for the small change in my pocket for the homeless individual I pass, it is a non-priority and more a spontaneous reaction, often provoked by guilt. I believe that one reason Jesus fasted in the wilderness was that he might experience the power of human appetite and then direct that towards the bread of life rather than the baker’s provision. Forty days and nights represents extreme fasting, but if this is the degree to which Jesus wanted to awaken his hunger for God, I’d best pay attention.