A Good Example (Oct 19)

October 19

A Good Example

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 118:1-4 | Jeremiah 33:1-34:22 | 1 Timothy 4:1-16 | Proverbs 25:23-24

Today’s Scripture Focus: 1 Timothy 4:1-16

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12 NIV).

Paul had mentored young Timothy and sent him out on a mission to Ephesus to stand up to some false teachers. There is some indication that he was timid by nature, so this may not have been an easy job for him. Nonetheless, he was Paul’s choice for the job. He tells him not to be intimidated by others, but instead to set an example for them.

First, he was to be an example in speech—the tongue betrays the true condition of our hearts. His whole lifestyle, too, was to set an example and was to show the reality of the truth within. He was to be an example in love—especially showing love to those who were opposing him and causing controversy. His example also was to extend to issues of faith and to purity.

Paul also urges him not to neglect his spiritual gifts. He should preach and teach and read the scriptures publicly. He cannot do this in his own power; he needs to rely on the Lord for his strength and empowering.

Perhaps you are a young person, like Timothy. Don’t be intimidated. Set an example in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. You will be a shining light to your generation—and an encouragement to us all.

Yet whatever your age, the principle rings true (Indeed, it would have been a given to Paul that we should look to the example of those older than us). We live in a day looking for people of integrity—examples we can follow. Take Paul’s advice to heart:

“Set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”

Father God, help me to set an example to others believers in my speech, in my life, in my love, in my faith and in purity. Amen.

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The Praise of All Peoples (Oct 18)

October 18

The Praise of All Peoples 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 117:1-2 | Jeremiah 31:27-32:44 | 1Timothy 3:1-16 | Proverbs 25:18-19

Today’s Scripture Focus: Psalm 117:1-2

“Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him all you peoples. For great is his love toward us and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever” (Psalm 117:1-2 NIV).

Why is missions  important? It is important because God loves the world–all the nations, all the peoples. He longs for each nation and each people group to hear the message of good news. He rejoices as each person comes to know and trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord.

All the cultures of the world with their own languages, music, arts and craftsmanship have a unique beauty. Each in a unique way shows us a glimpse of what it means to be created in “His image.” All the races, languages and cultures reflect the wisdom and glory of their creator. He finds beauty in each one and looks to the day when people from all nations will gather around his throne in heaven and all that beauty will come together to create a glorious symphony of praise:

“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).

God loves the nations; he loves all peoples. He shows his faithfulness to all peoples. That is the primary reason why prejudice has no place in his Kingdom or in his Church. It is also the driving force of evangelism and missions–the reason we must pray, give and go.

Father, thank you for the diversity of the body of Christ. Thank you for the New Creation which breaks down barriers, eliminates prejudice and brings deep unity amidst diversity. Break down barriers and walls until we all reach unity and fill our hearts with your love. Amen.

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Devoted to Closeness (Oct 17)

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

October 17

Devoted to Closeness 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 116:15-19 | Jeremiah 30:1-31:26 | 1 Timothy 2:1-15 | Proverbs 25:18-19

Today’s Scripture Focus: Jeremiah 30:1-31:26

“Who is he who will devote himself to be close to me?” (Jeremiah 30:21b NIV).

Jeremiah speaks the word of God to the people of Judah. He reminds them that though they will go through a time of judgment, God will not forget them. One day, he will break their bonds of oppression and bring them back to Judah. Their captivity will not last forever.

God offers them hope of a fresh start. He extends another chance to live in the blessings promised to God’s chosen people when they live according to the covenant.

One of the things he promises them is a leader like David, a man after God’s own heart; A ruler who followed God with his whole heart. “They will serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them” (9).

He describes the leader this way: “He will be one of their own; the ruler will arise from among them. I will bring him near and he will come close to me.” Then God asks a haunting question: “Who is he who will devote himself to be close to me?”

What is God looking for in his people? He is looking for people who are devoted to be close to Him. What is God looking for, especially in leaders? He is looking for leaders who are devoted to be close to Him.

God continues to look for those who walk close to him. He continues to draw near to those who are men and women “after His own heart.” Those who are devoted to closeness are those who walk closely to Him, who hear his voice and feel his heartbeat. They are the ones who can dream God’s dreams and see God’s vision. They are the ones who walk in the authority that flows from intimacy. It is a necessary quality for great leadership.

“Who is he who will devote himself to be close to me?” I want to answer, “I will.” I hope that you will answer the same.

Lord, I long to devote myself to prayer that I may grow in your grace and in knowledge of Jesus Christ. Help me to be devoted to be close to you. Amen.

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How Could We Ever Repay the Lord for His Goodness? (Oct 16)

Quote from Open Up Your heart

October 16

How Could We Ever Repay the Lord for His Goodness?

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 116:7-14 | Jeremiah 28:1 – 29:32 | 1 Timothy 1:1-20 | Proverbs 25:17

Today’s Scripture Focus: Psalms 116:7-14

“How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord” (Psalm 116:12-13 NIV).

I am always excited when I see God answer prayer. Especially when he does something I’ve been praying about for a long time. In such times we say with the Psalmist: “Be at rest, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.”

God is good. He is benevolent, loving and generous in his nature.  He loves to do good things for his people. “I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul” Jeremiah 32:41 (ESV). He has good plans for his people (Jeremiah 29:11). He demonstrates that goodness in many ways, but especially by answering prayer.

When he shows his goodness and answers our prayers, often in ways more gracious and wonderful than we have asked or imagined, we ask (like the psalmist) “what can I do to repay you?”

The question is rhetorical, in one sense. There is nothing we can do to repay him of course. You just can’t “outgive” God. How could we even try?

Thanksgiving would be an appropriate response, and nothing in his response takes away from that, but even it just doesn’t seem adequate to express all the gratitude we feel in our hearts in such times.

So what can we do to repay him? We can “lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.”  In other words, we can continue to honor him as God, not only by rejoicing in his answer (his salvation), but also by continuing to cry out to him for further answers to prayer (call on his name).

Isn’t that an amazing answer? The only real repayment is found in our continuing to come back to him again and again with our needs. When we do so, we rejoice in his goodness and honor him as God. He is glorified and his name is lifted up as we continue to call out him in prayer for even more of his goodness in continuing to answer our prayers. Our continued prayerful dependence—our longing for his continued goodness—brings him delight.

“Thanks Lord for the answer, now I lift up my cup again and call out to you for another answer to my prayers.”  Isn’t he good?

Father, how can I repay you for all your goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. Amen.

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Open Doors and Open Hearts (Oct 15)

Quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

October 15

Open Doors and Open Hearts 

Todays’ Scripture Readings: Psalm 116:1-6 | Jeremiah 26:1 – 27:22 | 2 Thessalonians 3:1 – 18 | Proverbs 25:16

Today’s Scripture Focus: 2 Thessalonians 3:1-18

“Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you” (2 Thessalonians 3:1 NIV).

What are your prayer priorities? Where do you spend your time in prayer? Many focus most of their prayer time on their shopping list of personal needs. If they do pray for others it is mostly prayer for physical and financial needs.

There is certainly a place for your personal petitions, and it is important to intercede for others in the body of Christ for healing and finances, but we must also be interceding for those who have not responded to the good news of Jesus Christ. That is the neglected but very important priority of prayer.

Paul’s prayer request, “Pray that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored,” is a reminder to us that an important focus of our prayers should be effective evangelism—for our pastors, for our churches, for our missionaries and especially for ourselves.

Pray for your co-workers, friends, neighbors and relatives to hear and honor the message of the Lord. Pray for those you know in ministry that their ministry efforts will be fruitful—that the message of the Lord will spread rapidly and be honored among those to whom they minister. Pray that God will open doors for you to share the love and message of Christ to those you know who need to hear it.

God wants to use you to share his message of good news. He wants to use your prayers. Prayer lays the foundation for effective sharing. Prayer opens doors and opens hearts.

Father, teach me to pray. Teach me to struggle in prayer for those who have not heard or responded in faith to the good news. I pray for open doors for the gospel as it is presented and preached today. I pray for open hearts ready to respond. May the message of the Lord spread rapidly and be honored. Amen.

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Never Ending Encouragement (Oct 14)

October 14

Never Ending Encouragement

Today’s Scripture Readings Psalms 115:14-18 | Jeremiah 23:21-25:38 | 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 | Proverbs 25:15

Today’s Scripture Focus: 2 Thessalonians 2

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, [17] encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV).                                                                                        

The Thessalonians were going through difficult times of suffering and persecution. They were beat up and bruised by the circumstances of life. They hoped that Jesus would return quickly, but were beginning to wonder if they had missed out somehow.

Paul writes them words of comfort and encouragement. He assures them that they should not lose hope; that they should continue to look forward to Christ’s coming. They should continue to minister and encourage each other in the midst of all their suffering.

Paul also prays a blessing for them: “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thessalonians. 2:16-17 NIV) .  

He reminds them that God loves them and has graced them with encouragement and hope that is eternal. He prays that they might continue to experience more of that encouragement. He prays that they would be strengthened in every thing they do and say.

Perhaps you need a fresh touch of God’s love and encouragement. Maybe you need God to give you a clearer sense of the good hope that is yours in Christ. Maybe you need his strengthening power in every good deed and word today. I pray that Paul’s blessing for the Thessalonians may be yours today. Receive it!

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage our hearts and strengthen us in every thing we do and say. Amen.

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Beyond Good Intentions (Oct 13)

October 13

Beyond Good Intentions

Today’s Scripture Readings Psalm 115:9-13 | Jeremiah 22:1-23:20 | 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12 | Proverbs 25:11-14

Today’s Scripture Focus: 2 Thessalonians 1

“We constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you and you in him” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 NIV).

Here is another of Paul’s great prayers. Again, I encourage you to make these prayers a regular part of your prayer life.  

Note Paul’s consistency: “we constantly pray for you.” Paul understood the need for prayer–persevering prayer. So often we grow tired and give up. Paul kept on praying for them. His prayer life is an example to us–and a challenge to us.

His petition is that “God would count them worthy of his calling.” They were undergoing “persecutions and trials” (4). Paul’s prayer is that they would remain faithful and persevere even through the difficult times, the trials of life are where our faith is tested and proved. It is especially in those times we need this prayer, “God enable me to walk in a way that is worthy of my calling. It’s not easy right now, I need your help.”

Paul then gets specific in his praying. Here is how I’m asking God to do this: “by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.” He is asking God to give them the power of the Holy Spirit to follow through and be obedient. They want to live lives that are worthy, but they need the power of the Holy Spirit to do so.  

In our own strength, we have many good purposes and many good intentions, but little follow through. Paul is praying for the strength to follow through and accomplish all the good things we intend to do for the Lord. Paul is praying for these Christians to not only be people of good intentions, but people who follow through to finish all that God has called them to do–and to finish well.

The reason for this prayer? “We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The “so that” of Paul’s prayer–the reason–is that he wants the name of Jesus to be glorified as we live in intimate fellowship with Him by his grace.  Following through and living lives in a way that glorifies Jesus, especially when it difficult to do so–when life is hard–that’s real Christianity. That’s the kind of Christianity that offers hope to the world. It’s what we all need.

Father, count us worthy of your calling that by your power you may fulfill every good purpose we have and every act prompted by our faith so that the name of Jesus may be glorified in us and we in him. Amen

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Always (Oct 12)

October 12

Always

Today’s Scripture Readings Psalms 115:1-8 | Jeremiah 19:1-21:14 | 1 Thessalonians 5:4-28 | Proverbs 25:8-10

Today’s Scripture Focus: 1 Thessalonians 5

Be joyful always; [17] pray continually; [18] give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV).

We all have times where we are joyful, times when we pray, and  times when we are thankful. But are we always joyful? Do we pray continually (without ceasing)? Are we truly thankful in all circumstances? Words like all and always make these verses difficult. Yet, this is God’s will for you.  

God’s intention for you is that you would find joy in all things. Happiness often eludes us in the tough times. But God’s deep down gladness can be found even when times are tough. But it is a choice. “Count it all joy,” James reminds us, “when you face trials of many kinds.”

Joy is produced in us by the Holy Spirit. It flows from our times in the presence of God in prayer and worship. As we spend time in his presence, he fills us with his joy. The overflow of that joy creates a reservoir of the heart. When facing difficult times, dry times, frustrating times, we draw from that reservoir.  We are able to find joy in the most unusual times and places. Yet we must keep the reservoir full, and that comes from daily fellowship with the one who loves us.

That leads us to Paul’s second command. Pray continually. Always live “practicing the presence of God.” Our daily times set aside for prayer are necessary. They invite his presence into our lives and into the events of our days. But the “Amen” doesn’t have to be the end of the prayer. We can walk through the day with a sense of his presence wherever we go. When a need develops, we find it easy to move back to prayer—our ongoing conversation partner still very much with us. This brings joy and leads us also to thanksgiving.

God’s will is also that you will be thankful in all circumstances.  If “all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28), and that is the testimony of scripture, then God is working good even out of the difficult time you are going through now.  There is reason to be thankful. Look to see how God will use this circumstance and thank him for that.

Life is not always easy, but the one who walks in the presence of God continually can find joy and be thankful in each and every circumstance. Take time to open your heart to Jesus everyday in prayer. Walk with him. Enjoy his presence. Allow thanksgiving to fuel the sense of his presence and intensify the joy. Don’t allow the circumstances to take your joy!

Lord, help me walk with you today relying always on your joy, praying continually, and giving thanks in all things. Amen.

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Clay in the Hands of the Potter (Oct 11)

Quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

October 11

Clay in the Hands of the Potter 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 114:1-8 | Jeremiah 16:16-18:23 | 1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:3 | Proverbs 25:6-7

Today’s Scripture Focus: Jeremiah 16-18

“So I went down to the potter’s house; and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” (Jeremiah 18:3-5 NIV).

In the hands of the master potter, our heavenly Father, we are shaped and formed. We start out as marred vessels–marred by our own sin, beaten up by the sins of others. Then the potter goes to work.

He begins shaping us into a vessel that he can use. In salvation, he recreates us and remakes us. We become “His workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Ephesians 2:10).

The shaping process is hard and long. Trials come to shape us. Our faith is stretched and tested. But in all the stretching, pulling and shaping his one design is to make us into a vessel he can use for His glory.

Little by little we take on the intended shape and are filled to overflowing with the Spirit who energizes us to do that which we are called to do.

Sometimes the clay wishes to cry out to the potter: “Enough, I’m tired of this process of being reshaped and remolded.” But who are we to talk back to the Potter?

His will is best; the work continues. The process may seem painful at times, but the Potter knows what he is doing. Trust Him to bring shape and significance to you. Trust Him to make you into a beautiful vessel that he will delight in using to display His glory.

Lord, you are the Potter and I am the clay. Mold me, shape me, fill me, use me. As your work of craftsmanship, may I bring you delight and may I prove useful in accomplishing your will. Amen.

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What a Blessing! (Oct 10)

October 10

What a Blessing!

Today’s Scripture Readings Psalms 113:1-9 | Jeremiah 14:11—16:15 | 1 Thessalonians 2:10-3:13 | Proverbs 25:1-5

Today’s Scripture Focus: I Thessalonians 2;10-3:13

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (1 Thessalonians 3:13 NIV).

Paul’s prayers and blessings are always instructive to us as we learn to pray. This prayer is in the form of a blessing. He blesses them by asking God to fill them with love for each other. He has already commended them for their love, but here he prays for even more of it. “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other.” There is always need to pray for God to give us increasing and overflowing love for each other. 

Then He asks God to fill them with love for those they are to reach out to. “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow . . . for everyone else.” The love God pours out into the lives of believers cannot be contained, it needs to spill out into the world as well. Love compels us to share the good news with others. Love enables us to share in a way that is attractive and “seasoned with salt and full of grace.” It is not enough to just love each other, our love must extend to those in the world as well. Christ has given us a commission to be his hands and feet to share his love with “everyone else.”

He blesses them by asking God to strengthen them so that they will lives holy lives. “May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” We need his grace and strength to live holy lives as we live our lives in anticipation of his return.

May you too experience God’s love increasing and overflowing in your relationships with other Christians, and in your relationships with those whom you are sharing the good news of Christ. May he strengthen your hearts and keep you holy and blameless as we wait for his return. Amen.

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