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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Real Faith Means Hard Work (Oct 9)

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

October 9

Real Faith Means Hard Work

Today’s Scripture Readings Psalms 112:1-10 | Jeremiah 12:1-14:10 | 1 Thessalonians 1:1-2:9 | Proverbs 24:30-34

Today’s Scripture Focus: 1 Thessalonians 1:1 – 2:9

“We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:3 NIV).                                   

Paul thanks God continually for the Thessalonian church. They are a church that is evidencing the supreme Christian virtues of “faith, hope and love.” Interestingly, they evidence those virtues through their work, labor and endurance.

First, their faith is evidenced by their hard work. Paul speaks of his own hard work, “Surely you remember brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preaching the gospel of God to you” (2:9) as an example to them. Here, he commends them for their hard work. Faith, real faith, shows itself by its actions. Faith, true faith, is willing to sacrifice and work hard for the sake of the kingdom. There’s a lot of work to be done in the church. I challenge you to be like these Christians who evidenced their faith through hard work.

Secondly, their love evidenced itself in their labor. If we really love God and each other, we will be willing to serve one another in love. Our love, just as our faith, will be evidenced by our labor. Love is shown not just by our words, but also by our works—by our willingness to serve and minister to one another.

Thirdly, their hope produced endurance in the midst of difficult times and persecution. It’s not easy to be a Christian. There is often a cost to follow Christ. Hope focuses our attention on the eternal perspective and enables us to press forward even in the midst of difficulties.

We’ve got a lot of work to do. There are billions who’ve not yet heard the gospel–Thousands within miles of most of us. Faith, hope and love are not theoretical virtues that we hold in our heart. They show themselves by working hard for the sake of the gospel—by our willingness to sacrifice all for the sake of our mission. We all have been gifted by God to be a part of the team. So let’s get to work.

Father, give me  works produced by faith, labor prompted by love and endurance inspired by hope in Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

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Scarecrows in a Melon Patch (Oct 8)

Quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

Oct 8

Scarecrows in a Melon Patch 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 111:1-10 | Jeremiah 10:1-11:23 | Colossians 3:18-4:18 | Proverbs 24:28-29

Today’s Scripture Focus: Jeremiah 10:1-11:23

Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good” (Jeremiah 10:5 NIV).

Something within each of us cries out for the eternal. As Pascal wrote, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in each of our hearts.” Yet many of us, instead of worshiping and serving the Creator, worship and serve created things. We, then, exchange the glory of the Almighty God for lesser gods.

I’ve been inside temples on numerous occasions and have watched people bow down to idols made by human hands. I often think of the words of Jeremiah, “They cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.”

Like a scarecrow in a melon patch: That’s a great picture, isn’t it? It’s hard to imagine bowing down and worshiping a created thing.

But what tears me up even more is the realization that we, who would not think to bow down to an idol, create “idols of the heart.” We worship and serve many things. Paul shows us that even misplaced values like greed and materialism can become idols. So can entertainment, sports, music or a political cause. The list could include most anything that becomes our preoccupation. Only God can bring security and meaning. He is the only rightful object of worship.

So, whether our false gods are created by hands or by hearts, they are nothing compared to the glory of the one who is “maker of all things.” Don’t exchange his glory for idols (Romans 1). Worship and exalt and magnify the LORD who is the true God, the living God, the eternal King (10:10).

“No one is like you, O LORD, you are great, and your name is mighty in power. Who should not revere you, O King of the nations?” (Jeremiah 10:6-7).

Father God, we stand in awe of you. No one is like you, you are great and your name is mighty in power. How could we not revere you, O King of the nations? Forgive us when we chase idols whether those made by human hands, or those adored by human hearts. Root out our idolatry and help us to worship only you. Amen.

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