Fertile Soil

fertile soil = bountiful harvest

March 28

Fertile Soil

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 44:17-26 | Deuteronomy 9:1-10:22 | Luke 8:4-21 | Proverbs 12:2-3

Today’s Scripture Focus: Luke 8:4-21

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown” (Luke 8:5-8 NIV).

Is God’s word growing and producing a bountiful harvest of righteousness in you? What is the condition of the soil of your heart?

Jesus tells us that God’s word sometimes ends up on a rocky path where it is trampled upon and eaten by the birds. This is a heart where the seed is stolen before it can take root and grow. The word doesn’t have a chance in such a heart.

Other times God’s word is planted in rocky ground. These hearts initially hear the good news, but their roots are unable to go down deep and they quickly dry up in the time of testing.  When things get tough, they haven’t allowed the word of God to grow deep and they quickly dry up and wither on the vine.

Other times God’s word is planted in thorny soil. The weeds of prosperity, pleasure and the worries of life come and choke the word. The pursuit of pleasure and things keeps the word from maturing, as it should. It stunts the growth and we prove to be unproductive in our faith.

But thankfully for others, God’s word takes root in good soil that represents “those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” (15).

Don’t allow God’s word to be stolen from you. Don’t allow times of testing to choke out the word. Don’t allow the pursuit of pleasure or wealth or the worries of this life keep you from being productive. Open up your heart to God: hear, retain and persevere in obedience to produce an abundant crop.

Dear Heavenly Father, may your word sprout and bring forth fruit in my life. Help me to tend to my heart that your word will not be stolen by the evil one, or wither in times of testing or be choked out by the prosperity, pleasures and concerns of this life. I long to be fruitful, to bear much fruit. So by your grace and in the power of your Spirit, help me to grow and be fruitful. Amen.

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Remember the Long Way

March 27

Remember the Long Way 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 44:9-16 | Deuteronomy 7:1-8:20 | Luke 7:36-8:3 | Proverbs 12:1

Today’s Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 7-8

Remember the long way that the LORD your God has made you travel in the wilderness these past forty years, that He might test you by hardships to learn what was in your hearts: whether you would keep His commandments or not (Deuteronomy 8:2 TNK).

Remember the long way—remember God’s work in your life over the years.  It’s so easy to get caught up with what we are doing—become too busy to even notice God’s work in our lives.  It’s easy when things get tough to forget all the ways that God has proved himself faithful over the years.

I remember the testimony of a second-generation missionary; she told how her mother had kept a journal of answered prayers from their time in Africa. Whenever times got difficult, the family would gather together and she would read the stories of God’s faithfulness. Remembering what God had done before, brought hope to press forward in the most difficult of present circumstances. It’s important to remember when we’re going through difficult times.

The people of Israel were warned of the complacency that could set in once they were settled in the land and began to enjoy their houses and things. This is a temptation that we are quite familiar with today as well. When things are going well, it is easy to forget that the source of all the blessings we enjoy is God. We do well to remember the way he provides “manna on the way,” how he gives us even “daily bread.” When things are going well, we dare not forget the faithfulness of God “on the long way.”

Whether this leg of the journey is easy or difficult, don’t forget the “long way.” Remember the numerous ways that God has helped you on the journey so far.  Let the thanksgiving that flows encourage you to move ahead to further adventures of his grace.

Heavenly Father, give me eyes to see your hand at work in my life. Enable me to remember all the places where your grace has touched my life so that I might live in gratitude. Remind me of answered prayers, straightened paths, unexpected encounters, and all the blessings you have brought into my life. When life gets tough, help me to remember the “long way” that repeatedly demonstrates your faithfulness. Amen.

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When the Victory Comes

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

March 26

When the Victory Comes

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 44:4-8 | Deuteronomy 5:1-6:25 | Luke 7:11-35 | Proverbs 11:29-31

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Psalm 44

In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever (Psalm 44:8 NIV).

How do you handle victory and success? The human tendency is to allow our successes and victories to go to our heads. We boast; we revel in the praise of others. We give little thought to the one who stands behind the victory and success.

In contrast, the Psalmist knew that every victory, every success, is an opportunity to boast in the Lord. Real strength and security lie not in his own abilities but come from the Lord.

It was a lesson that God had been teaching the people of Israel from their very beginnings as a people until now: when God is the object of their trust, he brings victory. 

When victory comes, it is an opportunity to boast: to boast in the Lord. From the moment of desperation where we first cry out to God all the way through to the place of victory, we do well to keep the spotlight shining on the one who is the source of our strength—the victor behind every victory: Almighty God.

It was a lesson the Apostle Paul had also learned well. He reminds the churches: “Let the one who boasts boastin the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31). In times of victory, we always do well to look to the source of our strength and give all the praise to him.

Dear Heavenly Father, help me to turn every victory into praise and thanksgiving. For you are the one deserving of any boast—any praise. May I always re-direct the spotlight to you. Amen.

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Becoming Like Our Teacher

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

March 25

Becoming Like Our Teacher

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 44:1-3 | Deuteronomy 4:1-49 | Luke 6:39-7:10 | Proverbs 11:28

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Luke 6:39-7:10

“A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40 NIV).

The goal of a disciple is to become just like his or her teacher. For the disciple of Jesus, it means that when we are fully trained we will be like Him. Jesus gives us a few of the lessons we will learn, as we become more like Him.

We will grow in truth (41-42). Instead of playing games that reveal our hypocrisy, we will “get real” and allow Jesus to get the planks out of our eye. Our self-righteous attempts to judge and show ourselves superior, are revealed as we attempt to take a speck out of others eyes while we have a plank coming out of our own.

We will bear good fruit (43-45). “Each tree is recognized by it’s own fruit.” Our words and actions reveal what is truly inside of us.  As we grow more and more like our master teacher, our words and actions will reveal, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control,” the fruit of the Spirit.

We will put Jesus words into practice and demonstrate that he is Lord (46-49). “Why do you call me, Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” We will build our lives on the firm foundation of God’s word and the storms of life will not be able to topple us. “I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.”

I’m learning, but I’ve got more to learn. Teach me Jesus. I want to be like you.

Jesus, I am learning to follow you. Give me the grace I need to abide in you and live a life characterized by obedience. Give me a vision of the abundant life lived in union with Christ. Fill me with intention to follow. Strengthen me by your Spirit as I utilize the spiritual disciplines as a means toward transformation of character. I know I can’t do this alone, but Jesus, I take up your yoke and look forward to each step on this narrow road. I want to be like you. To the glory of God and in your name I pray, Amen.

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Choosing Leaders

March 24

Choosing Leaders

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 43:1-5 | Deuteronomy 2:1 – 3:29 | Luke 6:12-38 | Proverbs 11:27

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Luke 6:12-38

One day soon afterward Jesus went to a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles (Luke 6:12-13 NLT).

Jesus lived a life of prayer. So it is not surprising that when he came to critical junctures in his life that he would spend extended time in prayer. It is not surprising that when a critical decision was to be made that he spent the whole night in prayer.

As Jesus looked at his disciples and chose twelve to become apostles, he was identifying the team he would spend the bulk of his time discipling. These were the ones who would help him carry out his earthly ministry; the ones that would be handed the leadership of the ministry when his work was completed.

Such a decision requires much prayer. Having the wrong team members can be disastrous.  Having a team of leaders that are able to work together is essential to accomplishing your purposes.

We may wonder why Jesus chose the twelve he did. By the world’s standards they were probably not the ones we would have chosen. We generally choose the popular, the powerful, the wealthy, and the successful. Jesus picked the humble, the average, the ones likely to be neglected.  Yet through prayer he was able to see their potential. He saw persons pliable enough to become the team he needed. He saw individuals humble enough to depend on God.

As you make decisions, look to the Lord for his wisdom. Don’t rush into it. As you choose leaders, pray that God will enable you to make the right choices. And don’t be surprised if he points you to unlikely choices. He is a God who often uses the unlikely and the unlovely to accomplish great things for his glory.

Heavenly Father, I need your wisdom daily. Give me insight to make good choices. Remind me to humble myself and pray and not to rush ahead without your direction. As you give the wisdom and direction, give me the grace to follow through and be fruitful in all that you call me to do. Amen.

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Moving On, Moving In

March 23

Moving On, Moving In

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 42:6-11| Numbers 36:1 – Deuteronomy 1:46 | Luke 5:29 – 6:11 | Proverbs 11:24-26

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Numbers 36:1 – Deuteronomy 1:46

The Lord our God said to us at Horeb, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. [7] Break camp and advance into the hill country . . . go to all the neighboring peoples . . . [8] See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land that the Lord swore he would give to your fathers–to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob–and to their descendants after them” (Deuteronomy 1:6-8 NIV).  

Sometimes we get stuck in a rut in our spiritual journey. We struggle again and again with the same things. We become content and complacent with the status quo. God is calling us, like his chosen people in this text, to move on from this place and move in to the Promised Land.

God has victories ahead. His plan for you is good. He is preparing the way for you to take possession of all that he has promised. You have wavered in doubt long enough. Now it is time to take the bold steps of faith that will enable you to enter into the land of promise.

What led to the time of wilderness wandering? For them it was doubt (lack of faith), grumbling (lack of contentment), and rebellion (lack of obedience). Those are common reasons for us to wander around aimlessly, without focus, without purpose, without victory.

Egypt was a place of bondage. The wilderness was a place of testing.  All of it had a purpose, of course, but God’s desire for them was the land of promise–the same is true for you.  A few steps of faith and obedience are all that separate you from the place of blessing. Move on, move in, and move up!

Lord God, help me to never get stuck in a rut in my relationship with you. Time in the wilderness is needed and is not lost on you—you use those times to bring growth and maturity. Now help me to step out in faith to the fullness of your blessing this day and in the days to come. With your help, I’m moving on, I’m moving up. Amen.

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March 22


Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 42:1-5 | Numbers 33:40 – 35:34 | Luke 5:12-28 | Proverbs 11:23

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Psalm 42:1-5

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.   [2] My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? [5] Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and [6] my God (Psalm 42:1-6 NIV).

We are created with a need for water, a thirst that must be satisfied.  This truth, obvious in the physical realm, is just as true in the spiritual realm.  Like the Psalmist, we are created with a thirst for “living water.”

We often try to satisfy that thirst with other things–seeking to find satisfaction in money, entertainment, popularity, power, relationships, etc.  But there is a thirst that can only be satisfied by drinking deep at the river of living water.  Like the woman at the well (John 4), we all need to enter into this stream of living water that wells up to eternal life.

But we must do more than enter in; we must also drink often at this stream.  Our souls are beat up and bruised.  We become downcast and discouraged.  We need the refreshment that comes from intimacy with God.  Drink deeply, drink long, drink often.

God is your hope, your desire, your satisfaction.  Pant after him, seek him out, and allow him to fill you to overflowing with his living water.  He is refreshment and life to your soul.

Heavenly Father, I am thirsty. Fill me with living water–a water that satisfies deeply yet makes me thirsty for more. May I always pant after you God. May I always thirst for time spent in your presence. May my soul always find hope in you. Amen.

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Everything Changes

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

March 21

Everything Changes

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 41:10-13 | Numbers 32:1 – 33:39 | Luke 4:31- 5:11 | Proverbs 11:22

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Luke 4:31-5:11

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” [5] Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:4-5 NIV).  

The disciples had been up fishing all night and hadn’t caught a thing. Tired, frustrated and at the end of their patience they heard Jesus words: “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

But instead of second guessing him, there was obedience. These seasoned fishermen knew that the chance of finding fish after a night of failure was not great. But they also knew that everything changes when Jesus enters the picture.  

In response to their obedience, God provided an abundance of fish. The nets were filled to overflowing. In fact there were so many fish that the boat began to sink.

Don’t become weary in well doing. You may not see the results yet, but keep taking the steps of obedience–keep following the instructions of Jesus. Keep expecting the unexpected.

When Jesus steps into the boat everything changes.

Father, sometimes we grow weary and are tempted to quit. Remind us that when Jesus gets into the boat, everything changes. Lord, I invite you into my life today and I am filled with expectancy at what might develop. Amen.

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March 20


Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 41:4-9 | Numbers 30:31-54 | Luke 4:1-30|   Proverbs 11:20-21

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Luke 4:1-30

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry” (Luke 4:1-2 TNIV).

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin  Hebrews 4:15 (ESV). 

 Jesus knows the power of temptation—he has been tempted in every respect as we are—and demonstrates the power of the Spirit to overcome the temptation.

Satan too knows our weakness. He knows our vulnerable places. When Jesus was hungry, he used that opportunity to tempt him. He always seems to know where we are weakest and exploits that to defeat us.

Satan knows how to twist scripture. He is a deceiver and it is easy to fall prey to his confusion. He tried the same with Jesus–but to no effect.

Satan is a master of pointing us toward short cuts. He offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. Of course, Jesus would one day become heir of all those kingdoms. But Satan offers the kingdoms now, without the pain of the cross. He works the same way in our lives. He promises the easy way, the short cut, the glory without the pain.  

Satan waits for just the right moment. “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time” (13). He waits for the time we are most susceptible to temptation. He lies in wait to attack us when we are most vulnerable.

Jesus demonstrates the way to victory. He stands on the promises of scripture—combating deception with the truth of God’s word rightly interpreted. He resists in a context of solitude, silence, fasting and prayer. Spiritual disciplines build us up and provide spiritual formation that keeps us strong to resist the temptation of the evil one. He relies always on the power of the Spirit to lead him and give him the strength to resist (1).  

We are weak, but Christ is there to help us. Follow his example.  He knows the power of temptation—but he also demonstrates the power of God to resist and stand in victory.

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:18 (ESV)

Heavenly Father, strengthen me to resist temptation. Help me not to fall for the enemy’s shortcuts. Help me to abide in you and walk in your strength and power. Amen.

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Generous Hearts are Blessed

March 19

Generous Hearts are Blessed

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 41:1-3 | Numbers 28:16-29:40 | Luke 3:23-38 | Proverbs 11:18-19

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Psalms 41:1-3

“Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him; The LORD protects him and keeps him alive; He is called blessed in the land; You do not give him up to the will of his enemies” (Psalms 41:1-3 NIV).

God has compassion on all he has made and a special place in his heart for the poor and needy. So it is not surprising that God promises to bless those who bless the poor. 

The generous hearted person is promised deliverance in the day of trouble. They are promised protection from their enemies. God even promises to bring healing and life when they are sick: “The LORD sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health.”

On the other hand, the one who is stingy has no reason to expect the blessing of God. If you see a brother and sister in need and do nothing to help them, you are not being sensitive to the Father’s heart. Those who love the Father will love their neighbor in practical ways. They will look to meet the need in any way they can because His heart of love and compassion will flow into them and through them.

Bless those you know who are in need. The generous heart is sure to blessed by God. For he blesses those he knows will look for the opportunity to be a blessing.

God of grace and mercy, pour out your love into my heart. Remove selfishness, greed and stinginess and replace it with mercy and generosity. Make me a gracious, merciful, loving and generous person. Amen.

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