Speculation or Expectation?

May 17

Speculation or Expectation?

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 69:29-36 | 1 Samuel 20:1-21:15 | John 9:1-41 | Proverbs 15:15-17

Today’s Scripture Focus:  John 9:1-41

And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:2-3 ESV).

The disciples saw an opportunity for speculation. Jesus saw an opportunity for expectation.

Jesus and his disciples saw a man blind from birth. The disciples began speculating about it.  They wanted to know why he was born blind. Was it because his parents sinned or because of his sin? Jesus viewed it from a whole different perspective; he looked at the potential of the situation to bring glory to God.

When things go wrong in our lives, don’t we do the same thing? We wonder, “What did I do to deserve this?” But Jesus reminds us that the bigger question is, “God, how will you work in this situation so that the works of God will be displayed in this?”

There are times that call for evaluation, but we could speculate endlessly about the “whys?” of any situation. Eventually that speculation must turn to expectation: “how are you going to work?”.

God is good and his plans are good. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28 ESV). The “Why?” question must turn into the “How?” question. Even the difficult place you are in right now is an opportunity for God to work on your behalf. This is an opportunity for you to trust Him.

Dear Heavenly Father, help me to turn my “why?” questions into “How?” questions. Help me to look with expectation for the way you will work in my present circumstances remembering that you will work things out for good and for your glory. Amen.

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Disciples Find Freedom

May 16

Disciples Find Freedom

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 69:19-28 | 1 Samuel 18:5-19:24 |John 8:31-59 | Proverbs 15:12-14

Today’s Scripture Focus:  John 8:31-59

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

“Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:31b-32; 34-36 TNIV).

What is a disciple? Elsewhere Jesus tells us that a disciple is a student who becomes like his or her teacher. His teaching here amplifies that by suggesting a disciple is one who becomes like Christ by the discipline of hearing and obeying his commands. He further shows that the disciple, who is a “son” by rights and relationship, is able to find freedom from sin.

But how does he find freedom? Such freedom is found in relationship. Jesus spoke of his own relationship with God the Father this way: “I do know him and obey his word” (55). Knowing God—entering into a relationship with him—is that which brings us from the domain of the “Father of Lies” to the kingdom of God. It is that which sets us free from our slavery to sin. We are no longer slaves, but children of God.

The freedom is also found in the discipline of hearing and obeying God’s word. Because we are God’s children freed from the realm of sin, we are enabled to hear God’s word. We are no longer captive to the “Father of Lies.” By his grace and power, we are also enabled to obey it. To truly hear God’s word is to obey it. This discipline of hearing and obeying brings freedom.

God’s word is given to set us free as we hear it and as we obey it in his strength and power. As we train (discipline) ourselves unto godliness, we become like our teacher more and more. True freedom requires discipline. It requires hearing and obeying God’s word. It requires the muscles of faith to be built up in the gym of hearing and obeying God’s word daily.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (36).

Jesus, I want to be like you. You are the master teacher and I am your disciple. Help me to follow. Help me to hear and obey. Amen.

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Big Problems

May 15

Big Problems

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 69:13-18 | 1 Samuel 17:1-18:4 | John 8:21-30 | Proverbs 15:11

Today’s Scripture Focus:  1 Samuel 17:1-18:4

“The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37 TNIV).

“I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied” (1 Samuel 17:45b TNIV).

Problems come in all sizes. David had faced some big ones already—lions and bears, for example. But this problem was “Super-sized”—bigger than big. He stood nearly 10 feet tall and he had a mouth to match. He kept taunting and insulting Saul’s armies and they were absolutely overwhelmed.  

Young David was sent on a mission to bring some food to his “brave brothers” on the front lines.  He heard the taunts. He wasted no time in offering his services. He had seen God deliver him before and he had confidence that God could do it again: “The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine. (17:37, TNIV).

Saul tried to suit David in the best armor. It did not fit. David went back to his usual attire and found his ammunition in a water brook: 5 smooth stones. And with his sling shot in tow, he went to battle against his biggest problem yet: Goliath.

His trust is seen in his bold words: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin. I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s and he will give all of you into our hands.”

Before Goliath could finish laughing, David had landed a stone in just the right location.  Goliath fell to the ground.

The battle is the LORD’s! No problem is too big for him (or too small for him to notice). Come with the confident trust of David and watch those problems fall.  Come in the name of the LORD and see the victory he brings.

Father God, help me to stand strong whatever giants I might face. Remind me that the battle is the Lord’s. Remind me that there is no problem too big for you. I rest in your presence and stand in your might. Amen.

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Fear of God vs. Fear of Man

May 14

Fear of God vs. Fear of Man

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 69:5-12 | 1 Samuel 15:1-16:23 | John 8:1-20 | Proverbs 15:8-10

Today’s Scripture Focus:  1 Samuel 15:1-16:23

Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obedience to the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice and to heed is better than the fat of rams….Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them” (1 Samuel 15:22, 24 TNIV).

God had given clear instruction to Saul through Samuel. Saul mostly followed the instructions, but he made two exceptions. He did not follow through with Agag the King and he kept the best of the plunder.

These two areas of disobedience became the source of the Lord’s anger and the consequent dismissal of Saul as King of Israel.  

Saul had come up with an alternate plan to appease his troops.  He would bring back the plunder and make a sacrifice to God.  Samuel reminded Saul that God delights in our obedience more than sacrifices.  

When questioned about it, Saul admitted that he had disobeyed out of fear of his men (24). This is a common problem and it keeps many leaders from greatness.  When we fear man more than we fear God—when we give in to the whims of the people instead of holding true to what we know God has called us to do—we give in to a spirit of fear and intimidation and God’s will is abandoned for something more to the people’s liking.

Fear of God leads to obedience to his will. Fear of man leads to compromise and loss of leadership. A true leader will follow God’s will even when it is unpopular. He will speak God’s word to a situation even when it’s not what “itching ears” want to hear.  

By fearing men more than fearing God, Saul abdicated his role of leadership and disobeyed God. Therefore God rejected him as King of Israel with the intention of replacing him with David—a man after God’s own heart.

Holy God, I stand in awe of you. I revere you. I fear you. As I walk in the rightful fear of God, help me to overcome any wrongful fear of man. Amen.

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Come Now, Let Us Go!

May 13

Come On Now, Let’s Go!

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 69:1-4 | 1 Samuel 13:23-14:52 | John 7:30-52 Proverbs 15:5-7

Today’s Scripture Focus:  1 Samuel 13:23-14:52

“Come on now, let’s go . . . Maybe God will work for us. There’s no rule that says God can only deliver by using a big army. No one can stop God from saving when he sets his mind to it” (1 Samuel 13:6  The Message).  

Does God require a big army to accomplish his purpose?  Not at all.  “Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few” (1 Samuel 13:7 ESV).

Are you a risk taker? God often calls his people to move beyond their comfort zones to a place of risky faith. This is the story of how God used a risk-taking leader and one loyal armor bearer.

Saul’s son Jonathan was the risk taking leader. He said: “Let’s go . . . it may be that the Lord will work for us.” In some cases those would be words of presumption, but in Jonathan’s case, they were words of risk taking faith. He trusted that God would go with them and do amazing things.

We see the same risk taking faith as he seeks the Lord for confirmation. He says, “If they ask us to stay here, we will not go up to them.” But if they tell us to come up the cliff we will know that the Lord has given them into our hands. I don’t know about you, but going up a cliff to meet a waiting army seems like quite a dangerous strategy. But Jonathan trusted God that if that was the reply of the Philistines, God would give the army into his hands. What a risk taker for God!

But Jonathan wasn’t alone. He had a loyal, courageous armor bearer. I love his response to Jonathan’s risk taking faith: “Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul.” That kind of loyalty and sacrifice is what any leader would love to find in those he works with.

Of course, God came through. They went up the cliff, and God threw the Philistines into confusion. God brought an incredible, miraculous victory.

Don’t be afraid to be a risk taker for God. Don’t be afraid to be a loyal, sacrificial armor bearer who follows the risk taker wholeheartedly. “It may be that the Lord will work for us.”

Almighty God, help me to follow and be willing to take risks of faith. Help me become a loyal follower who walks with courage and faith. Amen.

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He Remains Faithful

May 12

He Remains Faithful

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 68:28-35 | 1 Samuel 12:1-13:22 | John 7:1-29 | Proverbs 15:4

Today’s Scripture Focus: 1 Samuel 12-13

“For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own” (1 Samuel 12:22 TNIV).

“If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Timothy 1:13 TNIV).

The children of Israel proved themselves unfaithful again and again. Yet God remained faithful to them.

Samuel reminds them of their pattern of unfaithfulness. While they had cried out the LORD for help in Egypt (12:8), when they got to the Promised Land, “they forgot the Lord their God” (9). A time of judgment led to them once again to repent: “they cried out to the Lord” (10). He delivered them again.

Despite God’s protection and blessing, the people of Israel wanted a King they could see. They wanted an earthly King. Once again, they proved less than loyal; less than faithful.

Yet God proves faithful to his people over and over again. They may be unfaithful but he is always faithful.  Why?  Samuel tells us: “For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own.”

His faithfulness is rooted in the glory of his name. He had by his own good pleasure chosen these people and made them his own.  For the sake of his glorious name, he would not abandon them or forsake them. He would show them and all the world the greatness and glory of his name (and the character it reveals) as one who is loving, good and faithful even to those who prove unfaithful. His chosen people may not always be a glorious reflection of his character and name, but the perfections of his character must never be doubted. His faithfulness is made all the more glorious as it is revealed in his dealing with imperfect, unfaithful Israel.

How often the same thing is true in our lives. We prove unfaithful. Yet for the glory of his name, he will not forsake those he has chosen and made his own. We are his holy, chosen and dearly loved ones and he will remain faithful to us for the glory of His name. Indeed we proclaim with Jeremiah, “Great is Thy Faithfulness!”

Dear Heavenly Father, we rejoice in your faithfulness. Thank you for your relentless lovingkindness–for not giving up on your children. You always treat us better than we deserve with abundant grace and mercy. We come again to your throne asking for the grace and mercy we need for this day and trusting in your faithfulness to give us all that we need. Amen.

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He Bears Our Burdens

May 11

He Bears Our Burdens

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 68:19-27 | 1 Samuel 10:1-11:15 | John 6:43-71 | Proverbs 15:1-3

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Psalm 68:19-27

“Praise be the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves”(Psalm 68:19-20).

The old gospel song says it best: “What a friend we have in Jesus. All our sins and griefs to bear.  What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.”

We carry our burdens to our Lord and Savior who promises to daily bear our burdens.

Listen to his words of invitation:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)  

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philip. 4:6-7 (NIV)  

We do not carry our burdens alone. We have a God and Savior who is there to help us bear our burdens daily. We have someone to turn to each and every day.

What burdens are you trying to carry on your own? Find the peace and rest of taking them to Jesus and leaving them there. He is our Lord and Savior. He is the one who daily bears our burdens; the God who saves.

Lord God, I am so tempted to carry around burdens that wear me down. Right now, I cast my burdens and concerns upon you. I know that you care and that there is rest in walking with you in the easy yoke. I receive your peace which guards my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Help me to make this a daily practice. I cannot bear this burden alone, but you can, today and every day. Amen.

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Are You Hungry?

May 10

Are You Hungry?

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 68:7-18 | 1 Samuel 8:1-9:27 | John 6:22-42 | Proverbs 14:34-35

Today’s Scripture Focus:  John 6:22-42

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35 TNIV).

Bread: The staple of life; the most basic source of nourishment that sustains life. Jesus points to himself as the bread of life. He is the source of spiritual nourishment and life eternal.

Within each of us is a deep hunger. A hunger to know God and find our spiritual hunger filled; a spiritual thirst for something eternal. Jesus comes as God in human flesh to bring the life abundant and eternal we truly seek.

We often fill ourselves with junk food that does not truly satisfy. We seek to fill the hunger within through possessions, through pleasure, through power or one of the many other substitutes vying for our attention. But Jesus is the only “staple of life”; the only one who can truly satisfy our spiritual hunger.

How do we enter into this life eternal—life lived to the full here and in eternity? We enter in by faith. He invites us to come follow and we trust him and follow the call into the adventure of faith.

Come eat the bread of life.  Find the satisfaction to your deep spiritual hunger. Come drink the living water. Find your spiritual thirst quenched by the life that is eternal.

As the deer pants for the water, so my soul pants after you O God. Fill me with the bread of life and with living water. Amen.

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Let Him in the Boat

May 9

Let Him in the Boat

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 68:1-6 | 1 Samuel 5:1-7:17 | John 6:1-21 | Proverbs 14:32-33

Today’s Scripture Focus:  John 6:16-21

When they had rowed about three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading (John 6:19-21 TNIV).

The disciples found themselves in a dangerous place. They had rowed their boat three and a half miles from shore and a storm was brewing.  The strong winds started blowing and the waters were growing rough. Despite the seasoned fishermen that were among them, they seemed to be getting nowhere and were growing frightened.

Then Jesus shows up walking on the water. At first it made them even more frightened. But then they heard his encouraging words: “It is I; don’t be afraid.”

Immediately fear turned to hope and they took him on board.  Immediately they reached their destination.  They were instantly transferred to the desired shore. That must have been quite a ride.  

In their own strength, it all seemed impossible.  With Christ in the boat, all things are possible.

When we find ourselves in difficult places, even frightening places, we need to let Jesus in the boat. In his presence we find joy and strength. When he is there, fears are turned to hope.  In his strength we reach our destination despite the wind and waves.

Are the seas of circumstance getting rough and choppy? Do all your best attempts seem to be getting you nowhere? Don’t give up. Don’t be afraid. Let Jesus in the boat.

Jesus, I let you into my boat today. Calm the storm of my soul; the anxiety, the worries, the fears. I know that when you are near, everything changes. I put my hope in you today. Apart from you I  can do nothing, but with you all things are possible. Amen.

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Speak Lord, Your Servant is Listening

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

May 8

Speak, Lord, Your Servant is Listening

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 67:1-7 | 1 Samuel 2:22-4:22 | John 5:24-47 Proverbs 14:30-31

Today’s Scripture Focus:  1 Samuel 2:22- 4:22

So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. [10] The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9-10 NIV). 

“I suspect that the difference between a person of seasoned prayer and one of smaller prayer experience is the amount of time they spend talking rather than listening.” Calvin Miller

Are we listening?  Are we really listening?  Are we taking the time to know the heart of the Father so that we know—really know—his voice?

In Samuel’s day, the word of the Lord was rare. Not many were hearing from God. Not because God was not speaking.  It was because the people were preoccupied with other things—and they weren’t seeking or listening.

Even Samuel needed to learn how to listen.  And the key to learning to listen is take the time to know the Father’s heart, to know him deeply and intimately.  And of course, we must wait expectantly, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

We are very good at talking, but not so good at taking the time to wait in God’s presence and listen. We, too, need to learn the lessons of young Samuel.  Take the time to wait in his presence.  Say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” and then enjoy the fellowship of a two way conversation with God.

“Those whose prayers are unending monologues make themselves a giant mouth while making God a small ear. The best prayers are dialogues of rapport.  Presence is being ‘with God.’ It is neither talking nor listening. It is abiding in the presence of God.” Calvin Miller

Speak, Lord, your servant is listening . . .

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