How Many Times? (Apr 14)

April 14

How Many Times?

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 54:1-7 | Josh 9:3-10:43 | Luke 16:19-17:10 | Proverbs 13:4

Today’s Scripture Focus: Luke 16:19-17:10

“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:3-5 NIV).

Whenever we deal with people, there is a good chance that someone will say or do something hurtful or unhelpful. Everyday life brings plenty of opportunities for offense. This is why learning to forgive is so important.

Learning to forgive may be one of the more difficult lessons in the life of following Christ. Forgiving too early, or too often, seems unfair. Forgiving so easily seems to diminish the importance of the hurt we feel. Yet Jesus tells us that if a person comes back to us in repentance, even seven times in one day, we still ought to forgive them.

Forgiveness powerfully releases the one who has sinned against us. It also releases us as we forgive – it’s an important part of the healing process in our own lives. It helps us deal with anger and bitterness. It also reminds us of the never ending love and grace of God—who never tires of us returning to him in repentance saying, “Forgive me, father, for I have sinned.”

Forgiveness is powerful, and as we learn to release forgiveness to those who have sinned against us, we release ourselves from negative attitudes and patterns of behavior that keep us trapped. Forgive and find freedom.

Like the disciples, this teaching may seem difficult. They said, “Increase our faith!” Sometimes we need the same. Ask God to give you the strength to take the offense to the cross and leave it there. It may seem too difficult for you—but nothing is too difficult for God.

Heavenly Father, thank you for forgiving me. Help me to forgive those who have hurt me. Help me to take these wounds to the cross and leave them there. Amen.

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Guard Your Lips (Apr 13)

April 13

Guard Your Lips

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 53:1-6 | Josh 7:16-9:2 | Luke 16:1-18 | Proverbs 13: 2 -3

Today’s Scripture Focus: Proverbs 13:2-3

“Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3 NIV).

One of the common themes of Proverbs is the importance of choosing our words wisely. Wise words bring blessing and delight. Ill chosen words bring trouble and ruin.

Sometimes the most important thing we can say is nothing at all. “Those who guard their lips preserve their lives.” In a heated moment, we say so many things we regret. In a careless moment, we say things that hurt and offend. Without even realizing it, a word that was on our tongues before we had carefully considered it in our minds brings unintended consequences.

Sometimes the most important thing we can say must wait for another day. Maybe this is not the moment where it can be received. In the heat of a battle of words, our ears and minds take a back seat. Cooler heads may be required before words become conversation (listening, hearing and then speaking).

Often we speak too quickly. We engage mouth before mind. Listen, think, and then sometimes use words.

Heavenly Father, give me the grace to guard my lips and choose my words carefully. When my words would be unhelpful, help me to remain quiet. May my words always bless and never curse. Amen.

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The Walls Came Tumbling Down (Apr 12)

April 12

The Walls Came Tumbling Down

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 52:1-9 | Josh 5:1-7:15 | Luke 14:1-32 | Proverbs 13:1

The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city!  (Joshua 6:16 NIV).

This story always takes me back to my Sunday School roots. As a kid, I always liked this story—maybe because it was fun to act out: marching around city walls, trumpets and shouts, walls falling down. From my earliest days I’ve held on to principles I learned first from this story: the need to take steps of faith, the importance of obeying God implicitly, the hope of God’s intervention when the walls seem too big.

Joshua was a young leader, taking over for the only leader the people had ever known—Moses. They had arrived at the promised destination—now they had to conquer and inhabit the land. The mighty, fortified walls of Jericho were the first stop on the journey ahead.

How would they do it? They did it by listening to God and obeying his rather unusual instructions. They were called to trust and obey their way to victory.  A week of marching around the walls, then the trumpets and the shout bring the unconventional battle to an end. The walls crumble through God’s might—no military might needed.

Over the years I’ve encountered a lot of walls—obstacles in the path of life. Each time I wonder, “How is this going to turn out?” Each time I wonder what God will do to make this wall crumble. One thing I do know: a wall is not an obstacle to God.  They fall freely at his command.  For us, they are opportunities to press ahead in faith and obedience and in patient expectation for the intervention of God. 

Are you up against a wall? Keep an ear to the ground for the whisper of the Spirit. Then press ahead in faith and obedience and expectation. Perhaps this is the day that the walls will come tumbling down.

Faithful God, I am thankful that no wall is an obstacle to you, no matter how big. Help me to follow you completely trusting in your promises. When I become discouraged because the wall seems too big, remind me of how walls have crumbled down in the past. Guide me, direct me, give me the strength to keep marching and to keep trusting that you will act in keeping with your promise—that when the time is right, this big wall is gonna fall. Amen.

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Looking Forward, Looking Back (Apr 11)

April 11

Looking Forward; Looking Back

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 51:13-19 | Josh 3:1-4:24 | Luke 14:7-35 | Proverbs 12:27-28

Today’s Scripture Focus: Joshua 3-4

And Joshua set up in Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken from the Jordan.  21 He charged the Israelites as follows: “In time to come, when your children ask their fathers, ‘What is the meaning of those stones?’  22 tell your children: ‘Here the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry land.’  23 For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you crossed, just as the LORD your God did to the Sea of Reeds, which He dried up before us until we crossed.  24 Thus all the peoples of the earth shall know how mighty is the hand of the LORD, and you shall fear the LORD your God always” (Joshua 4:20-24 TNK).

The Jordan River was the first big test of Joshua’s leadership. While God was guiding him and the people on a road they had not travelled before, this incident certainly brought to mind another significant crossing: the crossing of the Red Sea under Moses’ leadership.

The Jordan River becomes an opportunity for God to affirm the leadership of Joshua. He had promised that he would be with him just as he had been with Moses. What better way to affirm that than by bringing them up to a barrier that appeared impossible to cross? As Joshua followed the advice of the LORD and did not deviate from it, God opened up the waters and they were able to go across.

The Jordan river was an opportunity for the people to look ahead to God’s continued blessing on their journey as they followed their new leader: Joshua. It was a major reassurance to Joshua that indeed the LORD was with him and was giving him the land.

The Jordan River was also an opportunity for looking back, for remembering what God had done. The first of the “stone piles” is built in this text. There will be others in Joshua–places where stones are built as a memorial of God’s intervention–but this is the first. They were a people who quickly forgot the miracles of God (as we all do). A physical memorial was needed to pass the story on to the generations that followed.

Don’t forget to remember the ways God has been at work in your life. Don’t forget to pass those stories on to the next generation. Allow those stories to be an encouragement to you on your journey as God asks you to take other steps of faith along the way.

Father, help me to be aware of your working in my life. Help me to remember how you’ve been with me in the past so that I might trust you for today and for the days to come. Amen.

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Be Strong and Courageous (Apr 10)

April 10

Be Strong and Courageous 

Today’s Scripture Readings:

Psalm 51:1-12 | Deuteronomy 34:4- Josh 2:24 | Luke 13:22-14:6 | Proverbs 12:26

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Joshua 1

Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them.  Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:6-9 NRSV).

Joshua was faced with an amazing challenge. He was to follow in the footsteps of Moses and lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land. Not an easy task on either count: Moses was a great leader and the people of Israel were notorious for being difficult to lead.

He had proved himself a man of faith and a capable leader, but this is the kind of task that looked overwhelming. God knew that, and gave him the encouraging words he needed to hear.

He gave him words of reassurance: “Don’t be afraid, be strong and courageous.”

He gave him words of instruction: Meditate on my word, be careful to do everything it says, don’t turn to the right of the left.

He gave him words of promise: “I will give you every place you step” “You will be prosperous and successful.” And perhaps the most reassuring of all: “I will be with you wherever you go.”

Whenever faced by an opportunity that seems too big, too difficult or overwhelming the most important thing to realize is that we are not alone in the task. When God calls us to do something, he will be with us. In the final analysis, that is the only thing that really matters.

Hear God’s words of encouragement to you today: Be strong and courageous. Meditate on my word and don’t turn to the right or left but do exactly what it says. When you are feeling overwhelmed remember that I am with you and will be with you every step of the way!

Almighty God, help me to meditate on your word and carefully obey it. As I do, fill me with courage and strength for this day. I do not know what challenges await me, but I trust that you are with me and will go before me to prepare the way. Amen.

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Resting Between His Shoulders (Apr 9)

April 9

Resting Between His Shoulders

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 50:7-23 | Deuteronomy 33:1-20 | Luke 13:1-21 | Proverbs 12:25

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Deuteronomy 33:1-20

About Benjamin he said: “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders” (Deuteronomy 33:12 NIV).  

Moses throughout his life was one to bless others. The end of his life was no different. Here we see the various blessings he gives to the different tribes.

I especially like his blessing to Benjamin. It begins, “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him.” Like Benjamin, we too are the Lord’s beloved–his dearly loved children who are secure because we are loved.

Not only are we secure in his love, we are shielded by God all day long, “For he shields him all day long.” Nothing can separate us from his love. Nothing will steal his attention from us. He is there loving us, shielding us, protecting us.

He places us between his shoulders, carrying us as a child. Resting between his shoulders, we are safe, secure and deeply loved. What a beautiful picture of the kind of love our Heavenly Father has for each of us.

Find delight in God’s incredible love for you as he picks you up and places you on his shoulders. Meditate on that truth–abide in that truth. There you are secure, protected, shielded, loved. May Benjamin’s blessing be yours today.

Heavenly Father, thank you for reminding me today that I am your beloved child and that you guard, protect and shield me. I am secure resting between your shoulders. Help me to live in the reality of your love and care today. Amen.

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Accountable (Apr 8)

April 8


Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 50:1-6 | Deuteronomy 32:28-52 | Luke 12:35-59 | 

Proverbs 12:24

Today’s Scripture Focus: Luke 12:35-59

The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns (Luke 12:42-43 NIV).

Everything we’ve been given—our possessions, our talent, our gifts—all of it has been given to us by God. We are stewards of his good gifts. One day we will give an account for how well we have managed what we have been given.  

Twice in my life I have been in charge of caring for a home while the owner was away.  In both cases they were beautiful homes with scenic views. I enjoyed both of those homes to the fullest. Yet I knew that at some point the “master” of the home would return and I would be accountable for how well I took care of the home.

In a similar way, Jesus tells us that we are accountable for the way we use the gifts of this life—and not just the possessions—we are also stewards of our time, our talents and our relationships.

Make the most of this life. Make the most of the gifts God gives. Be a wise and faithful steward of what God gives you. There are blessings that await those who prove themselves to be wise and faithful in this life.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the blessings you have poured out in my life. Help me to remember that I am a steward of all I have received from you—time, talents, resources, gifts, and the rest—help me to be a good and faithful steward. Amen.

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Where is Your Treasure? (Apr 7)

Quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

April 7

Where is Your Treasure?

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 49:14-20 | Deuteronomy 31:1-32:27 | Luke 12:8-34 | Proverbs 12:21-23

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Luke 12:8-34

But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Luke 12:31-34 NIV).

Nothing reveals the state of our heart like our attitude toward possessions. As Jesus put it: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This is true for the one who has little and for the one who has much—and everyone in between.

Worry and anxiety are common to us all. Some wonder where the next meal will come from. Others fear that they won’t have enough money to pay the rent. Worry seems the natural reaction. Yet, Jesus tells us not to be anxious but to trust God—doesn’t he care for the birds and the flowers? Doesn’t he care about you? 

Of course, those with wealth and possession also have the worry that they might lose what they have. There is no foolproof way to provide security through wealth and possessions. Life takes unexpected turns. Markets often prove to be unpredictable. Wealth is easily stolen. Homes and possessions are easily lost in a fire. In any case, the end of life comes too quickly—and what do we do then?

Hold possessions lightly—don’t grasp on to them. Be quick to give when you see a need. Invest in people and causes that extend the kingdom and enjoy a storehouse of riches in the life to come.  This is the way to live this life abundantly—and prepare for the life to come.

Lord, help me to seek first your kingdom and righteousness knowing that all these things I need you will add as they are needed. Teach me to trust you and not to give in to anxiety or worry. When you bless, help me to remember to be grateful. Amen.

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Religious Games (Apr 6)

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

April 6

Religious Games

Today’s Scripture Readings:

Psalm 49:1-13 | Deuteronomy 29:1-30:20 | Luke 11:37-12:7 | Proverbs 12:19-20

Today’s Scripture Focus: Luke 11:37-12:7

Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? (Luke 11:39-40 NIV).

When it comes to religion, there are some who play the game better than others. They come dressed in their Sunday best. They never miss a service. They are there every time the church door is open. They work hard making sure that everything looks good on the outside. They never admit failure. They try to do all their “religious acts” out in the open so everyone can see. Scrupulous about the details of their performance; every “t” is crossed—every “i” is dotted.

Then Jesus shows up and tells the people in the lead that they are playing by the wrong rulebook. They are playing “charades” and doing quite well—but they are supposed to be playing “hearts.”  Play-acting might be fine for charades, but Jesus isn’t concerned about the external performance. He wants to deal with issues of the heart.

The Scribes and Pharisees had play-acting down. The other name for it, of course, is hypocrisy. It is never a pretty thing: Trying hard to impress others; using our privileged position to manipulate the rules in our favor; looking down our noses at others who haven’t learned the secrets of the insiders; working hard at keeping things looking good on the outside, all the while neglecting the more difficult work of dealing with our heart.

Jesus called the Scribes and Pharisees to come clean—to deal with the internal mess of their lives. Only then is it possible to “play the game” as it was meant to be played. Only then do we see the mess we are in and cry out to God for his forgiveness and grace—only then do we turn in repentance and faith.

Open your heart to Jesus. No holding back. No religious games. Authenticity is the road to life lived to the full.

Father, search me and know me, see if there be any wicked way in me. Then purify my heart and make it new. Cleanse me. Root out any hypocrisy. Let my words and actions flow from a pure heart that desires to follow you wholeheartedly and please you in every way. Amen.

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Reckless Words, Healing Words (Apr 5)

April 5

Reckless Words, Healing Words

Today’s Scripture Readings

Psalm 48:9-14 | Deuteronomy 28:1-68 | Luke 11:14-36 | Proverbs 12:18

Today’s Scripture Focus: Proverbs 12:18

“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18 NIV).

The Proverbs are filled with wisdom regarding our words. This one is particularly insightful. Reckless words pierce and wound like swords. Wise words bring healing.

Reckless words come easily: When we’re tired; when we’re stressed; when we are caught off guard by the comments of another. As easy as they are to say, they are very difficult to take back. 

The wound of a sword doesn’t heal in a day. Neither do wounding words. It usually takes time—and more than that—it requires releasing forgiveness to the one who has wounded you. Further, healing is aided by words of affirmation and encouragement.

For some reason, we tend to hold onto reckless words that have wounded us. They are difficult to forget. Worse, they often cause us to retaliate with another set of reckless words. The battle of words—back and forth—cuts, wounds and, ultimately, destroys relationships. Such is the wounding power of reckless words.

Words also have the power to heal. Encouraging, affirming words of a friend are salve to the wounds left by reckless words. Wise words from a godly counselor can likewise have healing power. Wisdom and insight that brings affirming words through prayer by a seasoned, wise prayer warrior can bring deep healing to a soul wounded by reckless words.

In a world of reckless words, we do well to ask God to train our tongues to speak wise healing words rather than words that wound. When wounded we are wise to find the healing that comes through taking our hurt to Jesus who was wounded for our healing and who is able to strengthen our hearts to forgive so that we might find healing.

Heavenly Father, forgive us of our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. In particular, forgive us for wounding others with our tongue, and give us the strength to release forgiveness to those who have wounded us. Replace words that wound with words that bless and heal. Enable me to bring healing to the wounded through prayer and blessing. Amen.

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