Busy or Abiding? (May 26)

From “Open Up Your Heart,” by Jeff Syverson. Now available at Amazon.com.

May 26

Busy or Abiding?

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 120:1-7 | 2 Samuel 9:1-11:27 | John 15:1-27 |  Proverbs 16:1-3

Today’s Scripture Focus: John 15

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 NIV

You were created to live a “fruitful” life. We all want that: to make a difference; to accomplish something important; to leave this life with a legacy of significance.  But how do we get there? How do we live the “fruitful life”? How do we “bear much fruit”?

One thing is certain; it won’t come just from being busy. We are a society that prides itself on busy-ness. We talk about being busy all the time. And many of us are really busy. We have come to believe that to be “busy” is to be significant.

Jesus tells us that if we want to live fruitful lives, we must start by “abiding.”  At its heart to abide is to “spend time with.” Abiding requires slowing down and spending time in the presence of the Father. Abiding requires slowing down long enough to abide in his word—to get our marching orders for the day. Abiding requires spending time meditating on scripture and enjoying time in the presence of God—times of abiding in his love.

Prayer, time spent in the Word of God, meditating on scripture, taking the time to bask in the love of God. These are the “tools” that enable us to slow down for a while and abide. They are the tools that enable us to “sharpen the saw” to become more productive and fruitful.

I love the story of the man who was sawing trees in the woods and was getting nowhere. Someone sees him working feverishly trying to cut through his first tree and encourages him to “sharpen the saw.” The first man’s reaction: “I’m too busy to sharpen the saw.”  Too often we are just the same, we are so busy trying to do important things, but we are not fruitful because we do not take time to sharpen the saw.

Slow down and abide in the presence of Jesus. There you will find joy. There you will find strength. There your priorities will be adjusted. There you will be sharpened to accomplish greater things so that you may bear much fruit.

Jesus, help me to slow down and find the time to abide. I am tempted to find significance in being busy. Remind me that without you—and without time spent with you—I cannot do a thing. But as I abide in you, I find strength to obey, I love, I see answers to prayer, I find joy, I bear fruit. Time spent with you changes me and enables me to become more like you. Thank you for the opportunity to abide in you today. Amen.

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Make Your Home in Me (May 25)

Quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

May 25

Make Your Home In Me

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 72:15-20 | 2 Samuel 7:1-8:18 | John 14:15-31 | Proverbs 15:33

Today’s Scripture Focus: John 14:15-31

 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them (John 14:23 NRSV).

Lord, make my heart your home. Is that the cry of your heart? Do you long for the intimacy with God that Jesus describes in our text?

Jesus tells us that intimacy with God comes through expressing our Love for God through obedience to his word and will. “Those who love me will keep my word and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” As we express our love for God through obedience, he pours out his love into our hearts. God comes and makes his home with us.

That might seem a little frightening—or more than a little—but we learn elsewhere that abiding in his presence brings fullness of joy. Intimacy with God means being deeply loved by God and experiencing the joy of his presence.

Abide in his presence through prayer, abide in his word through obedience and you will find intimacy with God and the joy of his presence.

Maybe you are feeling dry; maybe you feel distant. Press into his presence and abide in his word. Obey his commands. This is the pathway to intimacy and joy.

Jesus, draw me close. As I spend time with you—abide in you—fill me with the joy of your presence. Refresh and restore me as I abide in your love. Give me the strength to obey and walk in a way that pleases you. Amen.

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David Danced (May 24)

Worship calls for celebration

May 24

David Danced

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 72:8-14  | 2 Samuel 4:1-6:23 | John 13:31-14:14 |Proverbs 15:31-32

Today’s Scripture Focus:  2 Samuel 4:1-6:23

David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals. [14] David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might (2 Samuel 6:5, 14 NIV). 

Worship is a time for celebration.  It is a time for us to break out the instruments and sing with all our might. It is not a time for half-hearted singing or mumbling words.  It is a time for us to enter in with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.

David sets a great example in leading the people of Israel to celebrate the greatness of their God: “David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals” (6:5).  They worshiped with all their might–they didn’t hold anything back. That’s the kind of celebration God deserves each week as we gather together.

The story of Uzzah reminds us that worship also calls for an attitude of reverence. He treated the “holy” as common and suffered the punishment. Reverence need not dampen our enthusiasm or our celebration—but it does sharpen our focus in the midst of the celebration.  We are not celebrating to entertain ourselves. We are celebrating to declare the worth of our God.  He is the focus, and we dare not lose sight of that.  Worship calls for celebration, but always keeps us focused on him and should lead us to a sense of wonder and awe.

Worship is a time to focus on God, not to judge others for the way they express themselves.  Michal learned that lesson the hard way.  She saw David dancing and celebrating before the Lord with all his might, and she was embarrassed by it.  There is often a temptation to judge others during worship—their attitudes, their behaviors.  This is a dangerous distraction that keeps us from worshiping God as we ought.  Don’t worry about other people. Focus on God and worship him with all your might.

God, give me a heart to worship you with an abandon. Keep my eyes off of myself, and help me not to be distracted by the opinions of others. Instead, let me focus intensely, intentionally on you. Amen.

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The Humble King (May 23)

May 23

The Humble King

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 72:1-7 | 2 Samuel 2:12-3:39 | John 13:1-30 |Proverbs 15:29-30

Today’s Scripture Focus:  John 13:1-30

When Jesus had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:12-15 NIV).

He was clear about his position. “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.” But that didn’t keep the King of Kings and Lord of Lords from taking the place of a servant.

In a day of sandals and dirt roads made for walking, foot washing was a common practice. The servant of the house would be expected to be the “foot washer.” It was a job for servants, a rather unpleasant and undoubtedly smelly job requiring a great deal of humility.  

Jesus knew all that, of course. So did the disciples. It made for a powerful teachable moment. He would demonstrate his love for them and give them an unforgettable lesson in humility. The King, the Lord, the Teacher would wash the feet of his subjects, his servants, his students.

It was a lesson that Jesus repeatedly taught the disciples. It’s not an easy one to learn. But he demonstrated it repeatedly. It was humility that brought him to earth in the first place; humility that caused him to be born a baby; humility that caused him to take on human flesh; humility that would soon be most fully demonstrated by his death on the cross.

The way of greatness in the kingdom is found in the towel. It is the way of the King who humbles himself to meet the needs of the servant. It is an example he intended for us to follow.

Heavenly Father, I long to be like Jesus. Give me a humble heart as I follow his teaching and example. Amen.

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Out of the Shadows (May 22)

May 22

Out of the Shadows

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 71:19-24 | 2 Samuel 1:1 – 2:11 | John 12:20-50 | Proverbs 15:27-28

Today’s Scripture Focus:  John 12:20-50

Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Those who walk in the dark do not know where they are going. Put your trust in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of the light” (John 12:35-36 TNIV).

Jesus came as the Light of the world to bring us out of the darkness and into the light.  His signs showed forth the glorious light that we might believe. Yet people reacted in different ways to the light.

Some were hardhearted (37-40). They saw the miracles, but didn’t get it. Their hearts were hard and they were unable to see or hear. They were unable to believe. A heart darkened by sin, a heart that has lingered in the shadows for too long finds it hard to believe. Jesus calls the hardhearted to come out of the dark and into the light.

Some were half-hearted. “Many even of the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue for they loved human glory more than the glory of God” (42-43). They believed but were not willing to come out of the shadows and into the light. They didn’t want to be too upfront about their faith because they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. Jesus calls the half-hearted to come fully into the light and follow him completely.

Others were whole-hearted. They were the ones who trusted Jesus completely and followed him whatever the cost. These were the children of the light who took Jesus at his word. Like kernels of wheat they were wiling to die to themselves to enter into the life that is really life. They lived the reality of Jesus words: “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it will produce many seeds. Those who love their life will lose it, while those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

God will honor the children of the light—those who come out of the shadows and live wholeheartedly for Christ. Those servants who follow Christ whatever the cost may not receive the praise of men in this life, but they can be sure to be honored by God in the next.

Dear Heavenly Father, help me to live whole-heartedly for you. Let me walk in the light and shine the light wherever I go. Amen.

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Extravagant Worship (May 21)

May 21

Extravagant Worship

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 71:15-18 | 1 Samuel 29:1-31:13 | John 11:54-12:19 | Proverbs 15:24-26

Today’s Scripture Focus:  John 11:54-12:19

“Lazarus and his sisters invited Jesus to dinner at their home. Martha served. Lazarus was one of those sitting at the table with them. Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house” (John 12:2-3 The Message).

Worship takes many forms. Martha worshipped by serving. Service is a valid form of worship–and someone needed to do it. We can work without worshipping of course—at times our work keeps us from enjoying the presence of Jesus (Martha in another text is gently rebuked for that).  But serving in love as unto Jesus is an act of worship. Service done with the right attitude and focus is a sweet smelling fragrance to the Lord.

Lazarus just enjoyed the presence of Jesus—reclining at the table and talking to him friend to friend. This is another form of worship. Imagine the joy Lazarus felt in being reunited with the one who had raised him from the dead. Often worship brings times of the joy of God’s presence as we converse with him and enjoy our fellowship with one another.

Mary, one who was already given to enjoying Jesus presence, in this case goes a step further.  She enters into extravagant worship. She anoints Jesus feet with an expensive perfume—even wiping his feet with her hair.  In this beautiful, expensive and extravagant act she expresses her love and devotion to Jesus. She went the extra mile—her worship was costly. You can be sure that the beautiful aroma of the act of worship went beyond the room and into the presence of the Father. Extravagant worship always does.

Judas missed out on the worship. He was the practical one—the selfish one. Why waste so much good money on such an extravagant and expensive act? His selfish motives kept him from entering into the beautiful acts of worship that were taking place.

Don’t miss the opportunity to worship Jesus: practically, joyfully and extravagantly. Focus on Jesus, not yourself, and find joy in his presence. He is worthy of our worship in its many forms and expressions.

Lord Jesus, I long to enjoy your presence and worship you today. I long to enter into extravagant worship—let my worship rise to you as a beautiful aroma. Amen.

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Sometimes God Waits (May 20)

May 20

Sometimes God Waits

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 71:9-14 | 1 Samuel 26:1-28:25 | John 11:1-53 | Proverbs 15:22-23

Today’s Scripture Focus:  John 11:1-53

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again” (John 11:5-7a ESV).

Often God waits. Why? Perhaps Jesus gives us some clues as he waits to raise Lazarus from the dead.

Jesus waited because he wanted to bring God greater glory.  A healing would certainly have brought glory to God. But Jesus waited in this instance to perform a greater miracle. He raised Lazarus from the dead. Often God waits so that he may bring greater glory. “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (4).

Jesus waited because he wanted to give a greater opportunity to believe. He waited to stretch faith and help it to grow. “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe” (14-15). The testing of our faith as we wait on God causes our faith to be stretched and helps it to grow. Often he waits so that we will learn to trust Him in greater measure.

Jesus waited because he loved them. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again'” (5-7).  The implication of the word “so” in the passage is that Jesus waited because he loved them. He loved them so he stayed two days longer. Sometimes God waits because he loves us. When the time is right he will answer us, but in “tough love” he sometimes waits because he is accomplishing something through the waiting that he could accomplish no other way.

Had Jesus not waited, there would have been no opportunity to raise Lazarus from the dead. No opportunity to bring the greater glory that would show his love and teach them to believe.

Sometimes God waits. Sometimes this is because he wants to bring greater glory. Sometimes it is because he wants to stretch our faith and teach us to trust him more deeply. Sometimes it is because he loves us and has something he wants to accomplish in our lives that he requires us to wait.

Heavenly Father, I don’t like to wait. Thank you for reminding me that you have purposes in waiting. Build my faith, show your love, bring greater glory to yourself and let your working be a testimony that draws others to see your greatness. I now wait in hope. Amen.

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