Becoming Like the One You Worship (Jun 19)

Quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

June 19

Becoming Like the One You Worship

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 135:15-21 | 1 Kings 20:1-21:29 | Acts 12:24-13:15| Proverbs 17:16

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see.  They have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths.  Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them (Psalm 135:15-18).

The Psalmist suggests that we become like the one we worship. The idols of the nations were sometimes beautifully crafted in precious metals, but they remained the lifeless works of human hands: having mouths but not able to speak; having ears but being unable to hear; having mouths but being unable to breathe. They were often beautiful, but always lifeless.

He is suggesting that these gods made by human hands have no life in themselves. They don’t bring any life to those who make them. They don’t bring any life to those who trust in them. In fact they leave their worshipers just as lifeless as they are.

Few in the western world worship such idols. We are more sophisticated (or so we think). I believe it was Calvin that called our hearts an “idol making factory”—on that point I would firmly agree. The gods we dream up—greed, materialism, hedonism and the like—have neither eyes nor ears. They are just as lifeless—and bring us no more life than the more traditional idols. As we trust in them, we become more like them.

There is another alternative, of course. We can worship and serve Jesus Christ. To trust in him, to worship, is to become more and more like him. The one who trusts him finds life abundant and eternal.

Who do you trust?

Lord Jesus, I want to be like you. Uproot the idols of my heart and rule as Lord and King. Transform me into your image. Amen.

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Surprise! (Jun 18)

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

June 18


Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 135:8-14 | 1 Kings 19:1-21 | Acts 12:1-23 Proverbs 17:14-15

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Acts 12

“Peter is standing at the door!””You’re out of your mind,” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel. “Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally went out and opened the door, they were amazed (Acts 12:14b-16 NLT).

James had already been killed. Now Peter was in prison and a similar fate was expected. The church called a special prayer meeting.

They gathered and prayed at Mary’s house (mother of John Mark): “the church prayed very earnestly for him” (5).

Despite their earnest praying, they all stood completely amazed when Peter showed up at the door—Alive! Let’s be honest, we too are sometimes amazed when God answers our prayers.

Often we pray more out of desperation than in expectation. We pray more because we feel overwhelmed than because we are overflowing with hope. Their disappointment at the death of James, perhaps also weighed in—when we feel confused and overwhelmed by that which we do not understand it is sometimes hard to hold on to hope.

Still, whatever deficiency there may have been regarding their expectation, God did answer their prayer. An angel of the Lord awakened Peter. His chains fell off and he was led to safety.  Peter went to tell the others.

He knocked on the door and the servant girl answered. She was so amazed and overjoyed that she left Peter at the door knocking while she told the news to the others. Despite their fervent praying, they couldn’t believe their ears.  

Finally they had to see for themselves. Opening the door, they were completely amazed to find Peter without a scratch.

God answers prayer. Pray fervently and expectantly. And don’t be too surprised when the answer you are seeking comes knocking at the door.

Lord, help us to pray with expectation. May we never lose hope or give up. And when the answer comes knocking on our door, fill our hearts with gratitude and praise. Amen.

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The God Who Answers (Jun 17)

June 17

The God Who Answers

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 135:1-7 | 1 Kings 18:1-46 | Acts 11:1-30 | Proverbs 17:12-13

Today’s Scripture Focus:  1 Kings 18:1-46

“How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21 TNIV).

“LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again” (36-37 TNIV).

His bold faith brought him to a dangerous place.  Elijah took on King Ahab and the prophets of Baal. He called them to reject Baal worship for the living God. He challenged them to a “duel” where the true God would answer by sending fire.

The prophets of Baal did everything they could to get their god’s attention. Louder, even louder, they cried. Then they took desperate measures, even cutting themselves to try to gain Baal’s attention. But there was only silence. “But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.” (29)

Elijah rebuilt the altar of the LORD. He placed the sacrifice on the altar and then to make it harder, he had them pour water–lots of water–on the sacrifice. Then he prayed.

This time, there was an answer. The living God showed himself to be a God who hears and answers prayer. He answered by fire, consuming the sacrifice.

We often find it convenient to worship other gods—often gods of our own making or imaginations.  These gods bring us some pleasure or satisfaction, but in the end they cannot save—they bring no real hope.  When we really need someone to be there, someone to answer, we are left with silence.

How good it is to know that there is a God we can always turn to, one who always listens.  He is able to save us no matter where we find ourselves. It is time to stop wavering between false gods and the living God.  It is time to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the one who loves us and hears and answers our prayers.

God, give us the faith of Elijah. Help us to stand bold and strong for you. May our prayers be as powerful and effective as Elijah’s. Amen.

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Always Enough (Jun 16)

June 16

Always Enough

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 134:1-3 | 1 Kings 15:25-17:24 | Acts 10:23b-48 | Proverbs 17:9-11

Today’s Scripture Focus:  1 Kings 15-25-17:24

“So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her son continued to eat from her supply of flour and oil for many days. For no matter how much they used, there was always enough left in the containers, just as the LORD had promised through Elijah” (1 King 17:15-16 NLT).

God has revealed himself in scripture as “The Lord our Provider.” The story of Elijah is a reminder of how God is able to provide in extraordinary ways.

At first God used ravens to feed Elijah. Each morning and evening they would bring meat and bread to Elijah. After a period of time, though, God used another method. This new method required an even greater measure of faith and obedience.

He was told to go to a widow in Zaraphath. God would provide for Elijah’s need through someone in need. Apparently God had already spoken to her about the situation. Still it was quite the test of faith for all involved.

She had only enough flour and oil to feed her son and herself. They were expecting it to be their last meal. Then Elijah comes expecting to be fed as well. The timing just didn’t seem right.

Elijah encouraged her that God would provide if she would feed him, in faith and obedience to God. So she took the step of faith. And of course, God supplied. He supplied again and again each day. The flour and oil containers refused to be depleted. There was always enough!

God is our provider. Follow his instructions carefully. Walk in obedience and faith. Trust him to provide. He is the God who makes sure there is always enough!

Father, you are my Lord, my Provider. Those who trust you lack no good thing. So we wait for your provision. We wait for you to provide for all our needs. Give us the faith to trust you to supply in both ordinary and extraordinary ways. Amen.

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Unity Brings Blessing (Jun 15)

Quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

June 15

Unity Brings Blessing

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 133:1-3 | 1 Kings 14:1-15:24 | Acts 10:1-23a | Proverbs 17:7-8

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Psalm 133

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! [2] It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. [3] It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing even life forevermore (Psalm 133:1-3 NIV).  

It is the heart of the Father for his people: Unity. It was expressed powerfully through Jesus prayer that his people may be one. Jesus passion for it was seen in his zeal for the temple to be a place of prayer for all people. The church is a diverse group with people from every language, nation, and people group. Yet God’s desire is that we would live together in the unity of his love.

Jesus prayer will find ultimate fulfillment in the consummation of the ages when in heaven we gather around the throne to worship. “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9).  Yet every time God’s diverse people gather in unity, Jesus’ prayer finds fuller expression. God’s heart to show the world his love, is extended further.

There is a blessing in unity, when we lay aside our differences and come together around the one we worship—the source of all true unity. God pours out the anointing oil. The power and presence of his precious Holy Spirit dwells in a fresh way. The refreshing dew of his presence brings blessing and life forevermore.

Do you long for more of the blessing of God? Do you long for more of his presence and power? It flows when his people come together in unity, laying aside their personal prejudices and agendas to love each other deeply from the heart. That expression of love then overflows to a world that stands in need of the Father’s heart.

Lord, thank you for the diversity of the body of Christ. Help us to accept each other, love one another, and learn from one another. Pour out your anointing oil upon us as we gather in unity to worship and pray. Amen.

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The Encourager (Jun 14)

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

June 14

The Encourager

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 132:13-18 | 1 Kings 12:20-13:34 | Acts 9:26-43 | Proverbs 17:6

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Acts 9:26-43

“When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles” (Acts 9;26-27 NIV).

One of the greatest gifts we can give to another is the gift of encouragement. Barnabas was one that could always be counted on to be an encouragement to others.

He came to Saul’s side when he needed someone to stand by him. He trusted him.  He stood by him and presented him to the disciples. He brought his case before the disciples, when everyone else was afraid.

When Paul set out on his first missionary journey, Barnabas was there at his side–his right hand man. Given all the challenges Paul faced in those journeys, it turned out to be a wise choice. Having an encourager on your team is always a good idea.

We all need encouragers: people who will believe in us, people who will stand by us, people who will stand up for us, people who will plead our case.

Look for an opportunity to be a Barnabas—an encourager. There are undoubtedly many people in your path today that need some encouragement. It is an important ministry.

“….encourage one another daily as long as it is called ‘today.'”  Hebrews 3:13

Heavenly Father, thank you for words of hope and encouragement, thank you for the people in my life that bring encouragement. Help me to encourage others today and every day. Amen.

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There’s Always Hope! (Jun 13)

June 13

There’s Always Hope!

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 132:6-12 | 1 Kings 11:1-12:19 | Acts 9:1-25 | Proverbs 17:4-5

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Acts 9:1-25

“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with the authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”  But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.” (Acts 13-15 TNIV)

Ananias had reason to be skeptical. He had reason to be fearful.  Saul had been at the forefront of the persecution of Christians. He had been there to give approval to Stephen’s death. Was the Lord really telling him to go and speak to Saul?

Yes, God was telling him to speak to Saul because Saul had undergone a radical transformation.  The one who had been leading the cause of persecuting Christians had an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus–a life changing encounter.  

Paul’s conversion is a reminder that there is no one beyond hope. If Saul could become a Christian, then there is every reason for us to hope and pray for the salvation of the most unlikely—the hardest cases.

Paul’s call to ministry is a reminder that there is no one whom God cannot use for his glory. Yes, God could use one who had persecuted and killed Christians. He could so redeem and turn around his life that he could be called as a “chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel? Do you suppose Paul had doubts about that at first? “Could God really use me after all I’ve done?” I would bet that he did. But yes, God forgives and he was able to use Paul. He can use you too.

Don’t give up on praying for the most unlikely people to come to know Jesus. One real encounter with Jesus can alter a person’s destiny.

Don’t give up believing that God can use you, in spite your past, in spite of your failures. In fact, those struggles and failures might be the very experiences he uses most for his glory.

God of hope, fill me with expectation as I pray for others who need an encounter with Jesus. Fill me with hope that you can use me as your chosen instrument this day. Amen.

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