Mercy Triumphs (May 19)

Quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

May 19

Mercy Triumphs

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 71:1-8 | 1 Samuel 24:1-25:44 | John 10:22-42 | Proverbs 15:20-21

Today’s Scripture Focus:  1 Samuel 24-25

“You are more righteous than I…you treated me well, but I have treated you badly. You have just now told me about the good you did to me; the LORD delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the LORD reward you well for the way you treated me today” (1 Samuel 24:17-19 TNIV).

David had his chance. He had been chased by Saul and his armies for a long time now. And now Saul entered the same cave that David and his men had made their place of refuge. David was encouraged by his men to take the opportunity to kill Saul while he had the chance.

David approached Saul but was unable to kill him. Instead, he cut off a piece of his clothing.

Even this caused David’s conscience to haunt him: “Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.”

Rebuking his men and insisting that they not attack Saul, he followed Saul out of the cave and called out to him and showed respect by bowing down and prostrating himself with his face to the ground.  He tells Saul how he has had opportunity to kill him, but chose rather to show mercy.

Instead of taking things into his own hands, David leaves judgment to the Lord.

Saul recognizes the act of mercy.  He admits to David that he has treated him badly and is astonished that David would treat him well.  Saul asks for continued mercy for his family and leaves David with a blessing: “May the LORD reward you well for the way you treated me today. I know that you will surely be king and that kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands.”

How often we would take things into our own hands instead of leaving them to the LORD.  David exemplifies the biblical attitude: “mercy triumphs over judgment!”

Because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment! James 2:13 (NIV)

There will come a day when you too will need mercy.  David will find that out all too soon.  Those who are merciful are the ones who receive the blessing of God’s mercy when it is needed.

Merciful God, I bow before you in gratitude for your steadfast love, your mercies which are new every morning. I come to you again today for the mercy and grace that I need. Allow your mercy to wash over me and overflow to others. Amen.

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The Good Shepherd (May 18)

May 18

The Good Shepherd

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 70:1-5 | 1 Samuel 22:1-23:29 | John 10:1-21 | Proverbs 15:18-19

Today’s Scripture Focus: John 10:1-21

“The sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:3b-4 TNIV).

Welcome to the sheep pen. You have heard the voice of the Shepherd and have entered through the gate to life lived to the full.

The good shepherd, Jesus, knows your name. He knows you intimately and fully. He loves you completely—so much so that he laid down his life so that you can live. He calls you by name to follow him into life as it was meant to be: life in green pastures; life lived to the full.

Get to know the shepherd. Learn to know his voice. You don’t want to follow the thief. He comes to steal, kill and destroy. You don’t want to follow a careless hired hand. Listen for the voice of the good shepherd. You can trust him. He leads you in and out to the best pastures. He gently cares for you, always knowing exactly what you need.

He knows your name. He cares for you lovingly. He guides you into the best that life has to offer. Don’t go back to wandering aimlessly—going your own way. Learn to hear and trust the voice of the Good Shepherd.

Good Shepherd, thank you for guiding me, caring for me, protecting me, and watching over my way. You are always loving, gentle, and kind. Speak now, I long to hear your voice and follow your direction. I wait upon you now. . . Amen.

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Speculation or Expectation? (May 17)

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)

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: they were to completely destroy the Amalekites (because of their wickedness) making war on them until they were wiped out (15:18). Saul nearly 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 on Now, Let’s Go! (May 13)

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 and risk it all. 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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