Psalm 100

psalm 100 5 (1)

I chose to write about Psalm 100 because of how much we can learn from it despite its shortness. This is a great chapter to read, and it only takes a minute of your whole day. The first thing I would like to point out is that in verse four it says, “Bless his name.” This verse is talking about God and how we should give thanks to him and bless his name. Now if you’re like me you might be thinking, why should we bless God’s name? Well, God blessing us and us blessing God are not the same thing at all. God does not profit from us blessing him. It’s not like he gets stronger or better anytime someone blesses him. On the other hand, when God blesses us, we benefit from it. In this verse, it is talking more about how we should praise him.


Throughout the whole Psalm, it talks about how we should praise God. As a church, I believe we should be more joyful, and excited. This Psalm is a great example of how we should praise God. It tells us we should serve God with gladness, shout joyfully, enter his gates with thanksgiving, and give thanks to God.


Usually when we think of ‘good’ we use it to mean something between ok and great. But in this passage, it is saying that he is righteous and about how great God is. This reminds me of the popular song below:


God is good, all the time

And all the time, God is good.


This Psalm is a great one to meditate on. Here are some points from Psalm 100 that you can meditate on.

God made us

We are the sheep in his pasture

The Lord himself is God

His lovingkindness is everlasting

The Lord is good

His faithfulness continues to all generations

Throughout the whole book of Psalms, it says, “His lovingkindness is everlasting”. In fact, it says it 34 times. Of those 34 times, 26 of them are all in Psalm 136. It even says it in every single verse.

Even in this short Psalm we can take so much from it.

-Makayla Railton


Step Back and Praise Him

Psalm 66

psalm 66 1

I think the hardest part about writing this week will be picking which Psalm to write about each day.  There are just so many great ones!  After looking at lots of options I went back to my first choice for day 2 –  Psalm 66.  It begins like so many of the other psalms – with praise.  “Shout with joy to God, all the earth!…Make his praise glorious!  Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds’ ”  (Psalm 66:1,3a)  You can read or listen to the rest of this great Psalm here:

Our God is a great God and so worthy of our praise.  All the time.  As the verse says – and the psalmist repeats later – His deeds are awesome!  May I repeat that?  HIS DEEDS ARE AWESOME!!  But, have you ever been in a place where that was difficult to see?  If you haven’t yet, you might find yourself there later.  It is like looking at a picture of a beautiful sunrise on a gorgeous beach – with a 3-D microscope.  There may be times when all that is in focus is a giant wave coming crashing down on top of you, or the tentacles of a poisonous jellyfish reaching toward you.  Life can be scary!  Life can be stressful!  Life can be sorrowful!  Life can be unfair!  Especially when you are looking up-close at one moment, one day, one season in time.

I am sure the Israelites felt a lot of fear, stress and uncertainty as they were hemmed in with the Red Sea in front of them and the advancing army of Pharaoh closing the distance behind them.  Praises probably weren’t the first to pop to mind.  When Joseph was sentenced to prison for a crime he didn’t commit after being sold as a slave by his brothers he may have been seeing up close some very tough, unfair circumstances.

I love how this psalm says over and over again to praise God, and not because life is always easy and he pampers and shelters his children.  No, this psalm includes several rough instances where God’s children were in tough spots – at the water’s edge, in prison, through fire and water, subjected to enemies.  And, not only were they in the midst of these trials that God certainly allowed, but sometimes He even brought these trials upon His children – testing us, refining us.

But – the trial is NOT the big picture – but just one snapshot in time, one zoomed in macro image of the great big beautiful scene God is creating in our lives when we seek to follow Him.  It’s like looking at this one somewhat gross looking image


instead of seeing the delicious fruit salad this strawberry can become.

fruit salad

Sometimes we need to take a step back and readjust our focus.   Thank God for what He is doing in our lives, even through the painful trials.  As the psalmist says after listing several suffering situations, “But you brought us to a place of abundance.” (Psalm 66:12).

Thank you, God, for your presence through the storms and for using them to better our lives.  Better, not bitter.  “How awesome are your deeds.” (Psalm 66:3a)

-God Bless – Marcia Railton



Building Your Prayer Life

James 5_16b

Another common resolution of Christian’s is that they want to pray more. What does that mean though? Does this mean that they will pray more during meals, or they will remember to pray before bed? Does this mean praying at random times or scheduled times during the day? What exactly is prayer, and how do you have more? If your goal this year is to grow closer to God, then this topic is something you should really consider and maybe work on. (I am also not claiming that I am good at this, I know that this is something I plan to work on this year.)

Some passages to read this week: Matthew 6:5-13, James 5:13-18

Prayer is conversation with God. It is a time for you to talk with him and tell him what is going on in your life and to ask him for guidance or support or help. Prayer is for you to build your relationship with God. It is a way for you to give him praise and thanks for everything that he has done in your life. Besides these, prayer is for you to ask for what you desire and what you need. God is pretty awesome and he loves to give us what we want as long as it is good for us and it is in accordance with his plan for our lives. Matthew chapter 6 talks about how and where to pray. It says not to be like the hypocrites who pray in front of the synagogues so that people could see them and what they were doing. It says to pray in your room alone, because prayer is for you and God, and between you and God. Now do I think that you can only pray in your room alone? No, you can absolutely pray wherever and whenever you want, but the motivation behind your praying should not be to get attention from other people, but to converse with God. In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us the Lord’s prayer, he was giving a simple prayer that people could remember, and it covers a lot of different things in there, but your prayers do not all have to be like the Lord’s prayer.

Different ways to pray. There are as many different ways to pray as there are people on earth, and even more than that. Every single person of faith has their own relationship with God, and this means that their prayers are going to be their own, and different from anyone else. If you are trying to add more praying into your life and you do not know where to start, here are some ideas.

Just start praying; tell God anything and everything that is going on in your life. Talk out loud, or quietly to yourself and just thank God for the little things, or ask him questions, or ask for things in your life. Start a conversation, and listen for the response. Look for it in the world around you. God will make things clear when they are meant to be clear and known to you.

Listen to music, or sing a prayer. I personally feel closest to God when I am singing, or when I am listening to praise music. Is that praising? yes, but for me it is also how I talk to God, and I often get chills that tell me God is hearing me. My favorite prayer is actually a prayer that my family sings before meals. It goes like this; “Be present at our table Lord, be here and everywhere adored, these mercies bless and grant that we, may feast in fellowship with thee. Amen.” It is a tradition that I have always loved, and it is where I feel closest to our heavenly father.

Write in a journal. Again, prayer is meant to be a conversation between you and God. Maybe talking and singing is not comfortable for you, or you do not feel God’s presence when you do those. Try writing and journalling. Write your thoughts down and then just give them to God. He can still understand what you are asking of him, and this is still a form of communication. I sometimes journal and write down my thoughts, and it helps me in that moment. However, sometimes I re-read what I wrote and it helps me again later.

James 5:13-18 This passage talks all about when to pray. I’ll let you in on a little secret, it basically says to pray all the time, in any and every circumstance. We should pray when we are sick, troubled and lost. We should pray and sing praise in the joyous times. When we have wronged someone we need to tell our brothers and sisters in Christ and ask them to pray for us and with us. We should being praying in EVERY circumstance. I know I pray to God when I am really having a hard time, but I sometimes forget to pray in the good times and thank him for everything that he has done for me and given to me. This is on me, and I should do better about this.

James 5:16 talks about confessing your sins to your brother and praying for each other. To me, this also talks about accountability. Sometimes with the business of life it is difficult to remember what we promised, or to pray. If prayer is something you want to take more seriously in your life, or have more of, think about asking for an accountability partner. Ask a friend if they are willing to pray with you daily, or if they are willing to send you a text asking if you have been praying. Whatever an accountability partner would mean for you, I encourage you to seek that out. You will deepen your relationship with God, and you may even build deeper connections with fellow believers as well.

-Jana Swanson


How to Change: Pray!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Conclusion and Recap

We started the week with a memory verse: 2 Corinthians 5:17. I’ve been trying to show why this verse, to me, is so closely tied with prayer. So let’s go over everything from earlier this week and try to tie it all together.

2 Corinthians 5-17

We started by talking about why we need to pray. The main reason I pointed out is that Jesus explicitly commands it. According to our verse in 2 Corinthians, if we are doing what Jesus said to do, then we will become a new creation, leaving our old selves behind.


Then we moved on to talking about what we should do with our bodies when we pray. This was a little different because the Bible doesn’t tell us how we should or shouldn’t pray, although it does give us some examples. Jesus would pray alone, some people prayed in front of others, some prayed in their hearts and some others prayed kneeling. Find the way that you can have the most productive prayer time and follow through with it.


On a similar note, we talked about what things we should pray for and what our words should sound like. Our prayers should consist of praises (things we love about God), petitions (things we want and need from God) and Repentance (asking for forgiveness and pledging to turn from our error filled ways). It’s important to hit all three categories and not exclude one because this is how Jesus himself taught us how to pray. We also need to be sure to pray, not to be heard (like the hypocrites who babble) because God already knows all of your prayers, but rather to make these prayers known to yourself.


Making the prayers known to yourself is what I claimed the entire purpose of prayer is. When we prayer, it’s not like God thinks “Oh, so that’s what Nathaniel needs from me!” No. He already knows what I need. We pray to remind ourselves of the greatness of God, to change ourselves and also to be able to turn from our sin. This is how the change comes about; it is how we become a new creation.


And finally, I tried to tackle a very big, very difficult question: Why do some prayers go unanswered? My thoughts on this are that the way God set up the world to work many years ago was to be able to function without his direct influence. He created humans with the capacity to learn and to love and he created a universe that makes sense and follows logical rules. I believe that he very rarely chooses to intervene and grant miracles to those who pray for them. Instead, he gave us, his servants, the tools to carry out his will. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail.


All of this together wraps up my thoughts on prayers. Maybe you have additional thoughts or even different opinions. That’s great! Just keep studying and looking to Jesus, because when we are in him, we are a new creation.

-Nathaniel Johnson


(Editor’s Note: We apologize for the picture that was included on Sunday.  It gave an incorrect reference for the verse.  Today’s is accurate.  Thank you for reading!)



Psalm 145-150


Friday, January 20

A few years ago my wife and I went on a driving tour of Ireland.  We had the opportunity to see beautiful and wonderful things, many of them being the untouched creation of God.  Each morning we would leave our bed and breakfast early, then ride around and visit as many sites as we could fit in between dusk and dawn, making sure to get to our next bed and breakfast before the sun went down. Why? It was near impossible to navigate the streets and backroads of the smaller towns of Ireland in the evening.


It was the fourth or fifth night into our journey, and we were having an exceptionally hard time finding our resting place for the evening.  We were driving (unknowingly) in the wrong direction, as the sun was starting to set.  There was a faint mist in the air and mountains ahead.  I watched as the sky and mountains turned from shades of gray to the most vivid reds, purples, yellows, oranges, and more.  It is not hyperbole to say that it was the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen in my life.  I was focused on how beautiful the sunset was, and I kept on oohing, awing, and driving in the wrong direction; however, my wife was focused on getting us safely to our destination, pouring through papers and maps.  I begged her to look up and take at look at the wondrous sight, but she wouldn’t have it; she told me to turn around (in the opposite direction of the sunset!) because we had made a wrong turn.  I turned around to avoid a fight (or more of one), but stopped when I saw a decent pull off.  I said, “You have to look at how beautiful the sunset is!”  We both got out of the car.  We oohed and awed together.  We snapped a photo or two that did not do the scene justice, and we drove off with a memory.


In that moment, I saw something that I wanted to give praise to.  I was amazed and astounded.  I thanked God, but that did not do it justice.  I had to share it.  I had to tell someone (now several someones) about it.  In fact, it was hard to think or speak of anything else.  C.S. Lewis says in Reflection on the Psalms ,


“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation….It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with… Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”


God has called us to enjoy His many wonderful attributes throughout the Psalms.  He is patient, kind, caring, merciful, just, faithful, and unrelenting.  While He is exalted in the highest heavens with knowledge too lofty to attain, He is a personal, close, and specific Father who gives us every opportunity to allow Him to work and act in our lives.  The highest of praise goes to an infinite God who has loved us so much! BUT, praise is far beyond acknowledgement.  Praise is an immersive experience. It may be great to see something praiseworthy, but to fully experience praise, we must share it.  Praise is not only see to see the sunset, it is to let others know and share in the moment.  When we experience His blessing, His healing, His power, His comfort, or His love, we cannot be silent or accept; we cannot let it go under the radar. We must let others know.  In this, we have then offered praise.


“Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; This splendor is above the earth and the heavens. And he has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his faithful servants, of Israel, the people close to his heart” Psalm 148:13-14.

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.” 150:6

-Aaron Winner

(Photo credit: Aaron Winner – most beautiful sunset)


Few Words

Psalm 116 – 118


Sunday, January 15

Every Tuesday that school meets, I get the opportunity to musically accompany a student who leads a song for our school’s Fellowship of Christian Students.  This takes some minor coordination, as a student sends me an email at some point during the week to make sure that I am familiar with the song he/she wants to sing, and he/she might arrange a quick practice if need be.  There is really nothing special about these emails.  More times than not, all the information is in the subject line, and there is no actual message.  One such email came not long ago:


Subject: Singing good good father on Tuesday


At first glance this is far from spectacular.  In fact, it is an English teacher’s nightmare.  Lack of punctuation, capitalization, or salutation, yet this may have been the most powerful prose that has ever been written by one of my students.  These six words have a concealed connotation that are revealed with a reflection on the text.


To say it mildly, this school year had been a bumpy one for the sender of this email.  Along with the many other complications that come from being in middle school, this student had faced many a giant outside the school walls.  Two months prior, she had suddenly lost a very close grandmother to an unexpected illness.  Then, it was only a month later when her grandfather decided he could no longer deal with the tremendous vacancy left by his wife; he took his own life.  This left the student floundering, dealing with depression and her own darkening desires, all while trying to do drama-and-hormone-filled middle school as a typical preteen.


I was moved, because out of all the songs she could have picked….this one.  Not a song asking God to give her comfort.  Not a song asking God to give her strength.  Not a song asking God to give her peace, joy, lift the burden, make it go away, overcome, change, deliver, or go before her.  Not a song asking God to give her anything she did not already have.  Only the reflection upon a few simple words about who he is, and his undeniable, unfaltering, unconcealed relationship with us, that will, in turn, bring all of those things and more.


“You’re a Good, Good Father, it’s who You are

And I’m loved by You, it’s who I am”

“You are perfect in all of your ways to us”


In today’s reading we experience an equally brief but equally powerful message.  Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter of the Bible.  Depending upon your translation, it is simply twenty words or so.

Upon glancing over it, you have undoubtedly read similar words in other Psalms, and it would be easy to breeze by and never notice its power-packed message:


“Praise the Lord, all you nations,

Praise Him, all you people of the earth.

For his unfailing love for us is powerful

The Lord’s faithfulness endures forever.

Praise the Lord!”


These words were written well before the act of Jesus Christ became our propitiation, yet we are promised partakers in his love and faithfulness.  A love and faithfulness that has been and is working for ALL (not Israel, or even Christians)  but ALL people of ALL nations at ALL times.  Only reflecting upon a few words dramatically affects the reading of this passage. These words, which possibly  sound repetitive, general, or generic after reading through the Psalms, are chosen specifically to show that He is and has been working specifically, powerfully, and faithfully in your life much longer than we could have ever expected or known.

-Aaron Winner

“You’re a Good, Good Father”, “Praise the Lord”

(Photo credit:


Praying through the Ups and Downs

Psalms 25-30: Praying through the Ups and Downs


As an English major, I have come to be a voracious reader, and one of my favorite past-times is cuddling up with a good novel and a cup of coffee. In all my reading, I’ve come to see patterns in books.  I am now able to discern what I will like to read and what I won’t. A common thread through all the books I like is how they display a wide range of emotions of humanity, not just the good aspects. Instead of painting a glossy, rose-tinted picture, the novelists try to capture how broken the world is, and by doing so, show something much deeper, a common humanity.

I love novels and reading, but I will be the first to say that I do not look to these things for my hope and salvation. When I want to look to something that speaks to my life now, I look to the Bible. As I read through the Psalms, I recognize in scriptures the same thing I love in literature through these prayers and praises. The Psalms we read for today, Psalms 25-30, were all written by David. In these Psalms, David pleads to God for vindication and deliverance and praises God when he does so. These wonderful prayers model for us how we can come to God in all our pain as well as our joy. In both of these places, God longs to hear from us.

Like novels and books help the author to communicate to us, Psalms shows us how we can communicate with God and the many ways that God can communicate back, through His word, nature, and more. These prayers show us how to come to God in a way that is pleasing to Him and open up our hearts to what He wants from our lives.

God longs for us to pursue Him with prayer, and the New Testament focuses on this heavily. Jesus gives us an example of prayer in Luke 11 with the Lord’s prayer. Paul says in Ephesians 6:18 and 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to pray constantly. These examples and admonitions about prayer point to the same thing that David’s psalms do: we should communicate with God all the time. James says it best in his letter, chapter 5 verse 13, “Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises.”

As we can see in the Psalms and through the life of Jesus, prayer is the backbone of our faith. To know and pursue God we need to communicate with Him, and prayer is where that communication, that relationship, begins. We don’t have to gloss over our problems or focus on them solely. God longs for our whole humanity, and we, like David, can bring it to Him.

-Cayce Ballard