You Are an Overcomer

December 4

You Are an Overcomer 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 135:8-14 | Daniel 11:36-12:13 | 1 John 4:1-21 |Proverbs 29:2-4

Today’s Scripture Focus: 1 John 4:1-21

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4 NIV).

You are an overcomer. There is no reason to wallow in defeat. Your greatest enemy, the devil, is a defeated foe. Greater is the one who is in you (Christ) than he who is in the world (Satan).

True, your enemy does slander and accuse. But you don’t have to listen to his lies. You are a new creature, forgiven and redeemed. There is no reason for you to remain defeated by false guilt; no reason to hang on to something God has long ago forgiven.

True, your enemy does know your weak spots. He does his best to tempt and lure you into those places of weakness. But Jesus lives in you—and his power is greater than the temptations of the evil one. Stand strong.

True, he will try to steal your joy. Rejoice that you serve the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!

You are a child of the King. You are an overcomer. Jesus lives in you. Greater is he who lives in you than he who is in the world.

Jesus, help me to walk in victory today through the victory you gained in the cross and in resurrection. Enable me to be an overcomer this day and in the days to come. Amen.

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Love in Action

December 3

Love in Action 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 135:1-7 | Dan 11:2-35 | 1 John 3:7-24 | Proverbs 29:1

Today’s Scripture Focus: 1 John 3:7-24

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. [17] If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? [18] Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:16-19 NIV).

The identifying mark of a true follower of Christ is love.This love, always more than a feeling that comes and goes, is evidenced in practical ways through our actions.

Christ is our example. He gave his very life to prove his love for us. That kind of sacrificial love is the standard he set for us to follow. His sacrificial act of laying down his life for us is the very definition of the love; the standard he calls us to follow with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

When a brother or sister in Christ is in need and we fail to have pity on him or her–when we fail to do what we are able to do to sacrificially meet the need—how can the love of God be in us? God sees the need and expresses his heart through the hands and feet of his people through acts of sacrificial love—laying down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

This is not to say that we have no discernment about those who would take advantage of our generosity. There are some for whom a handout could be counterproductive and keep them from living responsibly. There are undoubtedly times when tough love is necessary for the good of the individual who takes advantage of the generosity of others, yet in all cases the heart of God for us is that we follow the way of Christ’s sacrificial love.

We should not grasp too tightly to money and possessions. We are stewards of the good gifts we have been given. If the love of God is in us, we will demonstrate that love not just through words but also with actions and in truth.

Words are not enough. True love is demonstrated by practical actions when we bring the compassion and love of the father to those in need.

Good and Gracious Father, we delight in your generosity to us. We stand amazed by your grace and love. Fill us with a heart of generosity that we might demonstrate the love of Christ to each other and to those who most desperately need our help. Let our love be seen in practical ways, in actions and in truth. Amen.

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Dearly Loved Children

December 2

Dearly Loved Children 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 134:1-3 | Dan 9:1-11:1 | 1 John 2:18-3:6 |  Proverbs 28:27-28

Today’s Scripture Focus: 1 John 2:18-3:6

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. [2] Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:1-2 NIV).

A great theologian was asked what he thought was the most profound thought he had ever had. He replied, “Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so.” The words of a simple children’s hymn were more stunning, more profound to him than any of the theological work that he had written or read. To ponder the thought of God’s love toward us–that God lavishes his love on us, calling us his children–is truly amazing.

To truly comprehend the greatness of the Father’s love for you is to be forever changed. That’s why Paul prayed: “I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19).

To experience deeply God’s love–a love that surpasses knowledge–is to be forever changed.

Open your heart to your Father’s love today. Allow him to “pour out his love by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). Abide in it–spend some time there just meditating on how much you are loved. Allow him to reveal how wide and long and high and deep is his love for you. You are his child–his dearly loved child. You are His beloved.

Father, help me to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is your love. Help me to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that I may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Amen.

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Worldliness

Quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

December 1

Worldliness 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 133:1-3 | Dan 8:1-27 | 1 John 2:1-17 | Proverbs 28:25-26

Today’s Scripture Focus: 1 John 2

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. [16] For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world (1 John 2:15-17 NIV).

John’s insistence that we should not love the world or anything in the world is easily misunderstood or misapplied. For some it signals a dualistic way of life that views life in categories where spiritual is prized over earthly, sacred is valued and secular is rejected. This rejection fails to recognize that “the Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (1 Cor. 10:26).

It is common in some Christian circles to view worldliness as a style (music or dress, for example) to be rejected—a style that is typical of those outside the norms of the community. Thus, we tend to define worldliness in ways that it applies to someone else. But defining worldliness in that way often keeps us from seeing the worldliness of our own hearts. Focusing too much on the minor issues keeps us from seeing the real issue: the pride within each of us.

Worldliness is an attitude of the heart. At its core, worldliness is pride focused in three ways: “the lust of the eyes,” “the lust of the flesh” (cravings of the sinful man), and “the boasting of what he has and does.” Instead of finding my satisfaction in God, I find myself allowing the things of this world to gain too much significance in my life. My desire gets out of control and becomes a “lust.” The good gifts of God become my source of significance and the focus of my boastful speech. I fall into the endless cycle of trying to conform to the lifestyle of my neighbors in their materialistic pursuits and I become the focus rather than God.

Embrace life in its fullness under the Lordship of Christ. Enjoy the good gifts of the Father with gratitude, but do not allow your affections that rightly belong to the Giver to be focused on the gifts. Do not allow the focus of praise to turn from God to yourself.

Father, keep me hungry and thirsty for you. Help me to enjoy the good and perfect gifts you give without making them objects of worship. Enable me to live free of sinful cravings, the lust of the eyes, and from prideful boasting. Amen.

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Real Fellowship

November 30

Real Fellowship 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 132:13-18 | Daniel 7:1-28 | 1 John 1:1-10 | Proverbs 28:23-24

Today’s Scripture Focus: 1 John 1

“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3-4 NIV).

Fellowship is more than casual conversation over coffee and cookies. Fellowship is the deep connectedness we have with one another because of our common bond, our relationship with Christ. That isn’t to say that the casual conversation is unnecessary or unimportant, but true fellowship will always go deeper.

True fellowship is our partnership and connectedness because we have a relationship with Christ. He is the common link that brings us together whatever our differences may be. The body of Christ is diverse, but it is held together by what we have in common: our relationship with Christ. We are free to share deeply our problems, our concerns, our heart’s desires with those we partner with on this life’s journey. We live life together, doing our best to help each other in our times of need.

True fellowship is strengthened when we live lives of obedience. “If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.” This obedience is centered in love for God and love for our neighbor.

True fellowship is enhanced when we confess our sins and live in the purity God brings through forgiveness. Those who’ve experienced God’s grace deeply, tend to show grace to others more freely.

True fellowship is enhanced by an attitude of humility and hindered by a “holier than thou” attitude. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (8). Deep fellowship cannot take place in an environment where people pretend to be more holy than they truly are.

God’s design is for us to live in true fellowship: fellowship with Him through a personal relationship with Christ, which leads to a deep sharing, and connectedness with one another. He desires authentic Christians who are honest about sin and longing to walk in the light. In communities like that we are free to open our hearts to one another and minister to one another as the body of Christ.

Father, thank you for fellowship—both fellowship with you and fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Help us to grow deeper in fellowship knowing that we really do need each other. May we be an encouragement to each other as we seek to follow Christ on this journey of faith. Amen.

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Trouble

November 29

Trouble 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 132:6-12 | Daniel 6:1-28 | 2 Peter 3:1-18 | Proverbs 28:21-22

Today’s Scripture Focus: Daniel 6

“My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king” (Daniel 6:22 NIV).

“It’s a great comfort to know that God’s faithful people have always been in trouble. In fact it’s the sure sign we’re following God, and not men.” –Lloyd Ogilvie–

King Darius recognized Daniel’s integrity and his excellence in everything he did. He had promoted him already to become one of the three administrators over his kingdom. Daniel had so impressed King Darius that he intended to set him over the whole Kingdom.

Daniel’s life was a beacon of integrity without any hint of compromise. This was a problem for his rivals whose testimony was “we will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”

They knew his pattern was to pray 3 times a day and decided to use that against him. Of course, Daniel refused to compromise his principles and found himself in trouble–trouble of the most dangerous sort–a lion’s den.

But God was with Daniel and even the worst plans of evil men could not touch him. For God sent his angel to shut the mouths of the lions.

Standing strong in a world of compromise will often mean being out of step with others. They often will not understand. They may even persecute you. But know that whatever trouble you find yourself in, God will not forget you. He sees your integrity and will be there through it all. He can even shut the mouths of lions, if necessary. So stand strong. Be of good courage. Press forward with integrity and keep trusting in your God.

“And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God” (6:23).

Father, thank you for the discipline and integrity of Daniel. Help me to be such a person. As I step out in faith and courage, protect and use me. Amen.

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The Power of a Good Reputation

November 28

The Power of a Good Reputation

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 132:1-3 | Daniel 5:1-31 | 2 Peter 2:1-22 | Proverbs 28:19-20


Today’s Scripture Focus: Daniel 5

There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners. He did this because Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar, was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means” (Daniel 5:11-12 NIV).

Confronted by a mystery that could not be solved by the wisest advisors of the kingdom, King Belshazzar seeks for another source of insight. The Queen tells him about Daniel who had proved his integrity and wisdom under King Nebuchadnezzar. In glowing terms, the reputation of this man of integrity is presented to the King.

David is brought in to read the mysterious words written on the wall: Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsen. Daniel must have known that the words of judgment he needed to give would not be easily received. Still with characteristic integrity and boldness, even rejecting the promised gifts of the King, he reads and interprets the words confronting King Belshazzar for his pride and sin.

He reminds Belshazzer how Nebuchadnezzar was brought down from his place of power because of his pride. But he had not learned the lesson of Nebuchadnezzar’s downfall. His ultimate act of arrogance would be to set himself up against God Almighty himself. He desecrates the sacred vessels from the temple by toasting false gods rather praising the Almighty God. This act of defiance would be his downfall. 

He is told the meaning of the words: Your days are numbered and soon coming to an end. You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. Your kingdom will be divided among the Medes and the Persians.

Pride, arrogance and abuse of power find their day of reckoning. God sees and he will make it right. Integrity, obedience and courage likewise come to light before God and men and find their reward.

Heavenly Father, help me to walk in integrity, obedience and courage. Help me to speak truth even when it is difficult to do so. Use me today for your glory. Amen.

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Everything We Need

All We Need

November 27

Everything We Need

Today’s Scripture Readings:  Psalm 131:1-3 | Daniel 4:1-37 | 2 Peter 1:1-21 | Proverbs 28:17-18

Today’s Scripture Focus: 2 Peter 1:2-8

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:2-8 NIV).

God, by his divine power has given us everything we need for living a godly life. Sometimes the idea of a “godly life” or a “Christ-like life” seems so far off—so impossible. Perhaps that is why we settle for so little and don’t pursue godliness.

We don’t need to settle. God has given us his word, filling it with promises of the good things he would do in and through us as we grow in our “knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 

Begin to seek out the promises of what God would do in and through you. Begin to “plead the promises”—praying for God to work in you and in other believers you know. As you pray and intercede, God will begin to work out those promises in your life.

Then you will see the spiritual growth that is described in these verses: faith and goodness and knowledge and self-control and perseverance and godliness and mutual affection and love. Possessing these qualities in greater and greater measure will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in our walk with Christ. Or to put it the other way: as these qualities, promised by scripture, are produced by God’s power we will live effective and productive lives as Christians. We become participants in the divine nature. Don’t settle for anything less. He has given us everything we need!

Lord, help me to press forward toward Christlikeness. Give me everything I need to take the steps you put before me today that I might continue to grow in grace and truth. Help me to possess these godly qualities in increasing measure. Amen.

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Cast All Your Cares

November 26

Cast All Your Cares

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 130:5-8 | Daniel 2:24-3:30 | 1 Peter 4:7-5:14 | Proverbs 28:15-16

Today’s Scripture Focus: I Peter 4:7-5:14

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast (1 Peter  4:6-10 NIV).

What do you do when life gets tough? How do you handle the curve balls thrown at you by life? 

Peter gives some good advice. First, from the place of humility look with expectation for God to lift you out of this pit when the time is right. Humbled by life’s experiences you may be tempted to despair. But the humbling is meant to get you looking up to the source of our hope. 

This leads us naturally to Peter’s next point: “cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Recognizing that God loves and cares for you, what could be more natural than to cry out to God—to bring him all your cares and anxieties? 

It is also a reminder that we have an enemy that must be resisted. The same trial that God would turn around into a blessing, can be the source of frustration and temptation by your enemy the Devil who prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour. Don’t let it be you. Don’t give into discouragement. Don’t give into undue worry. Don’t despair. These are the tools of your enemy. Resist him and stand in firm in your faith. 

Peter gives us the wonderful promise that when the time is right, God “will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

You may be struggling now to see light at the end of the tunnel. Know that the God you serve is a God of hope. He hasn’t forgotten you. Look for his hand to rescue and strengthen you. Cast all your cares on the one who cares for you!

Heavenly Father, I humble myself before you and cast all my anxiety on you. Thank you for caring for me, protecting me. Enable me to be alert and to stand firm against all the plots of the evil one. Make me strong, firm and steadfast. Amen.

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Standing Strong

November 25

Standing Strong 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 130:1-4 | Dan 1:1-2:23 | 1 Peter 3:8-4:6 | Proverbs 28:14

Today’s Scripture Focus: Daniel 1

“But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs” (Daniel 1:8-9 ESV).

Daniel is an example of integrity in the midst of a culture of compromise. His own people, the people of Judah, had drifted from God and were suffering the consequences of being under judgment: Nebuchadnezzar’s armies had taken them into exile. Still, the compromise and iniquity of Judah paled in comparison to the wickedness Daniel found in pagan Babylon. In the midst of this spiritual darkness, the integrity of Daniel and his friends stands as a beacon of light.

The depth of his integrity and unwillingness to compromise is seen already in the first chapter when he refuses the king’s food and wine. Offered the best the King had to offer, Daniel refused to compromise his principles. So he asked to be given vegetables and water.

God granted Daniel favor. His request was granted. His integrity was further rewarded by God’s favor in the good health Daniel and his friends enjoyed. Amazingly, his vegetarian diet was making him “better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food” (15).

God further blessed them with learning, skill and wisdom. Even at their young age and with this limited (though extensive) training, the king found them “ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom” (20).

The world in our day needs men and women like Daniel who will be people of integrity–who will stand up for their beliefs at any cost. They too may expect the blessing of God to do great exploits for God. Daniel 11:32b (KJV): “the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.”

Heavenly Father, help me to stand strong and demonstrate integrity amidst the struggles and temptations of this world. Make me like Daniel, who refused to compromise and remained strong in his faith despite the pressures of the world around him. Amen.

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