Refreshing (Aug 25)

August 25


Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 92:9-15 | Job 16:1 – 19:29 | 1 Corinthians 16:1-24 | Proverbs 22:1

Today’s Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 16

I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence,  [18] for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such men (1 Corinthians 16:17-18 ESV).

Some people refresh the soul. Others drain it of all energy. Paul here admonishes the Corinthians to give recognition to three who were “soul refreshers.” Why? Because “they refreshed my spirit as well as yours.”

In contrast we have been reading about Job’s “miserable comforters” who are probably trying their best, but still end up draining Job of any remaining energy his soul might have.

It’s good to have people like Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus. We all need the encouragement that such people bring. An encouraging word, a helping hand, a willingness to serve where needed: these things refresh the soul of one who is in ministry.

Life has a way of sapping our energy. There are more than enough “Soul drainers”. Be a soul refresher. An encouraging word goes a long way toward refreshing a tired soul.

Lord, refresh my soul today that I might refresh others. Encourage me that I might be an encourager. Amen.

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Worthless Physicians (Aug 24)

Quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

August 24

Worthless Physicians

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 92:1-8 | Job 12:1 – 15:35 | 1 Corinthians 15:29-58 | Proverbs 21:30-31

Today’s Scripture Focus: Job 12-15

“You are worthless physicians, all of you! If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom” (Job 13:55 NIV).

Too many words spoken too soon. Too many cliches. Not enough answers. Job needed some friends to be there for him. But the counsel he got didn’t seem to bring any relief from the pain he was feeling. The words seemed empty and false.

When we see a friend in pain, we are often quick to spout cliches.  Yet these are the very times we would usually do well to just be there and to be a good listener. James tells us to be slow to speak and quick to listen. That’s good advice.

When we rush in with words, we usually fail to appreciate the true situation and often our words ring hollow. Even when the words are true, the one who needs comfort may not be in a place to listen just yet. We do well to listen and understand. We do well to allow the suffering person to vent their feelings and frustrations. We do well to just be there.

Job’s friends rushed in with words before really understanding the situation. Their words didn’t bring the needed healing and only seemed to bring additional frustration.

Father, help me to encourage others. Help me to discern when a word would help. In all cases, let me be there, fully present. Amen.

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No Easy Answers (Aug 23)

Quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

August 23

No Easy Answers 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 91:9-16 | Job 8:1-11:20 | I Corinthians 15:1-28 | Proverbs 21:28-29

Today’s Scripture Focus: Job 8-11

“So what’s new? I know all this” (Job 9:1 The Message).

“God’s wisdom is so deep, God’s power so immense, who could take him on and come out in one piece?” (Job 9:3 The Message).

Job’s friends came with all the easy answers. In many cases, what they were saying would be true. But there are seldom “one size fits all” answers to life’s big questions. Job is a book about struggling with life’s mysteries when all the “right answers” don’t seem to fit.

We grow up learning the “Sunday school answers” to all of life’s questions. But life’s questions sometimes require more than just a simple answer. Especially when we are dealing with the mystery of suffering. Even more so when we are dealing with trying to figure out God’s purpose in our suffering.

“God’s wisdom is so deep.” Job had it right there. Trying to understand the mystery of suffering would require us to understand the mystery of God and his wisdom. Our brains would short-circuit for sure if we got close to perfect understanding of God and his wisdom.

We all have times when the easy answers just don’t seem to fit our questions. They ring hollow. What do we do? Like Job, I believe we take our questions to God. He doesn’t always give us the answers. But we do a lot of learning in the process. As our faith is stretched, as our character is developed, as we search for deeper answers, and as we just stand in awe of the God whose mind and purposes are beyond our understanding we come to know Him in a deeper way. As we learn to trust him even when the answers don’t come and when we don’t sense his presence, we learn the fellowship of sharing in Christ’s sufferings. These are lessons of trust we could learn no other way.

Father, I don’t know why you have taken me on this path. I don’t know why I sometimes feel so alone—abandoned. The cliches ring hollow. So I pour out my questions, my objections, my fears, my doubts, my worries. I wrestle, I struggle, I wait. Even if the answers must wait, meet me here. Amen.

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Under His Wings (Aug 22)

August 22

Under His Wings 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 91:1-8 | Job 4:1-7:21  | 1 Cor. 14:18-40  | Proverbs 21:27

Today’s Scripture Focus: Psalm 91

“Under his wings you will find refuge” (Psalm 91:4 ESV).

I was struck by the contrast between Psalm 91, which looks with hopeful expectation for God’s protection and blessing and the readings in Job where he is trying to make sense of a situation where he feels abandoned and beat up by the circumstances of life.

Psalm 91 is filled with wonderful promises of God’s protection and blessing for the one who loves him and holds fast to him. He describes his protection like a bird gathering up her young in her wings to protect them from danger. “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.”

It’s a beautiful picture of God’s protection and faithfulness. And we’ve all walked with the Lord long enough to know that what the Psalmist says is absolutely true. God does watch over us. He does protect us. He is faithful.

Job reminds us that while all that is true, life is difficult.  It’s sometimes hard to understand.  We may love God deeply and be holding fast to him, only to find the trials of life intensify rather than diminish.  Job wrestles with the questions brought on by his devastating circumstances but he refuses to lose hope; he continues to trust God even when he doesn’t understand. It didn’t come easy, and his friends weren’t much help in the process.  But we all know that Job ultimately perseveres in his faith.  And in the end, God’s blessings were poured out into his life.

Somehow I wonder if it isn’t in the circumstances like Job’s where the truth of Psalm 91 becomes most obvious.  It is when life becomes dangerous and hard when protection is needed.  It is then that the mother hen gathers her chicks and covers them with her wings.  So in our lives, it is in the midst of the trials that God gathers us close and protects us in the refuge of “his wings”.

“It doesn’t matter, really, how great the pressure is; it only matters where the pressure lies. See that it never comes between you and the Lord–then the greater the pressure, the more it presses you to His breast.” –Hudson Taylor–

He is our refuge.  Let him pull you close today.

Jesus, draw me near today, pull me close. Protect me. Pour out your love into my heart. Prepare me for the day. Thank you for the place of refuge I find in you. Amen.

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The Good Shepherd Guides

Week 2 of the Good Shepherd Series

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Hard Times (Aug 21)

Aug 21

Hard Times

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 90:11-17  | Job 1:1 – 3:26 | 1 Corinthians 14:1-17 | Proverbs 21:25-26

Today’s Scripture Focus:
Job 1-3

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21, NIV).

Bad things do happen to good people. Job is a perfect case in point. He was a blameless and upright man who feared God and shunned evil. Scrupulous about sin, he tried hard to follow God. God had blessed him with a great family. He lived comfortably and well. Then one day he lost it all.

Similar things happen everyday. People who seem to be living well, feeling secure, find themselves dealing with unimaginable tragedy. It all seems so unfair; a point that this book seems quite willing to concede.

How do we handle unimaginable tragedy? What do we do when our worst nightmares come true? This is the stuff that Job had to deal with. This is the stuff that this book deals with.

Some would like to follow Job’s wife’s advice: “Curse God and die.” When things get this bad, it may not seem like a crazy option at all. But Job would have nothing to do with her advice. He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (2:10).

Instead of following conventional wisdom, Job fell down to the ground and worshiped God: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (1:21).

That doesn’t mean he didn’t struggle. That didn’t mean he didn’t have questions. That didn’t mean he didn’t cry and lament the loss. He certainly did. He struggled, a lot. His friends try to comfort him with weak advice and empty clichés. They didn’t help. 

If the book didn’t already raise enough questions, God shows up and asks Job a bunch of his own. In the end, the book gives no easy answers. Are there any? But it does demonstrate the struggles, the questions and the ultimate perseverance of a man of faith. A man who demonstrates how to open one’s heart to God in the midst of the worst this life has to offer.

Father, when life seems unfair help me to fall to the ground and worship you, May I reject the voices of those who say to curse you. May I not be too disturbed by the empty cliches of friends. Help me not to lose hope in spite of the questions, the doubts, the fears. Help me to press forward in persevering faith. Amen.

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If. . . (Aug 20)

Quote From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

August 20

If. . . 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 90:1-10 | Esther 8:1-10:3 | 1 Cor. 12:27-13:13 | Prov. 21:23-24

Today’s Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 13

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. [2] If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. [3] If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NIV).

Love is the glue that holds the body of Christ together despite the differences of our background, beliefs or experiences. Often people get “bent out of shape” regarding spiritual gifts. Love enables us to work together and learn from each other. Some in the body bring discernment to extremes; others help bring openness to the true working of God. As we love each other, we learn from each other. Gifts are given to build up the body, not to tear it apart. As we serve in love, that is exactly what happens.

Love is also the necessary motivation for using spiritual gifts. If we are motivated out of pride or insecurity (another form of pride–seeking attention), we lift up ourselves rather than Jesus. If we are focused on ourselves rather than on serving those we minister to in love, our service will bear no lasting fruit.

Of course, the principles of love described in 1 Corinthians 13, apply in the context of any relationship and this text is rightly read at weddings where it is applied in marriage. Yet I am always struck that in its original context, Paul was speaking of love in the church. The topic under discussion when Paul penned these words was the issue of the use of spiritual gifts.

Until Jesus comes, we have much to do. That work needs to be done in the power and gifts of the Spirit. As we seek for His fullness, motivated by love, we will be the kind of stewards who will hear, “well done” when we see him face to face.

Father, fill my heart with love so that I might serve  you well. Fill me with your Spirit and stir up the gifts within me. Help me to serve in humility as I look to you for strength. Amen.

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