He is Doing a New Thing (Sept 24)

September 24

He Is Doing A New Thing

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 106:13-23 | Isaiah 43:14 – 45:10 | Ephesians 3:1-21 | Proverbs 24:1-2

Today’s Scripture Focus: Isaiah 43-45

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19 NIV).

Your situation is never hopeless with God. He is the God of new things.When there seems to be no hope, he opens a new opportunity.

He is the God who makes a way in the wilderness. In the wilderness you are tried and tested. You may feel alone and desperate. It may seem like you’ll be stuck in the wilderness forever. But God will not leave you there forever. When the time is right, he will make a way.

He is the God who is able to make a river spring up in the middle of a desert. Feeling dry and thirsty? In a moment, he can form a river in the most unlikely place.

He cares for you even in the desert–even in the wilderness. His purpose in all this is that you will sing him songs of praise. “For I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that might declare my praise.”

Maybe you have been waiting for the rain and the thirst is nearly unbearable. Hear his words to you: “Fear not, for I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground.” He hasn’t forgotten about you. The rains will come. He is about to do a new thing. Look for it.

Heavenly Father, open my eyes to all you are doing. When things seem stale, and I seem stuck, I look for you to do something new. When I am desperate and trapped, I need you to do something new. So God, work in my life in a fresh way today that I might drink from the springs of your goodness and that praise might spring up from within me. Amen.

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He Holds Your Hand (Sept 23)

September 23

He Holds Your Hand

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 106:6-12 | Isaiah 41:17-43:13 | Ephesians 2:1-22 | Proverbs 23:29-35

Today’s Scripture Focus: Isaiah 41-43

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flames shall not consume you” (Isaiah 43:1b-2 ESV).

There are times when we really need the comfort and reassurance of our Father’s hand holding on to ours. Remember when you were a child and feeling scared, how good it was to feel the grasp of your father’s loving, strong hand? Life brings many situations where we feel lost and alone. These scriptures remind us that when we don’t know which way to go, God holds our hand as he leads us. And when we encounter difficulties, He protects us from the dangers that surround.

Then with his hand firmly clasped around ours, he comforts us with these words: “Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid for I myself will help you” (41:13-14). “Fear not, for I have redeemed you: I have called you by name, you are mine” (43:1-2).

Whatever your trial, know that your heavenly Father is holding on to your hand. He is there and won’t let you go. Don’t be afraid. He is there to help you. When his hand is clasping yours, any place is a safe place. As we walk together, he brings Comfort and hope to any situation we may face.

He knows your name. He holds your hand. He will lead you through the deep water; and protect you from the fiery trials. Hold on to his hand. He won’t let go. Isn’t it good to know we are not alone?

Father, thank you for walking with me, guiding me and upholding me by your strong and loving hands. Be with me through the trials, strengthen me, help me, protect me. But most of all, remind me that you are with me. Amen.

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Soaring on Eagle’s Wings (Sept 22)

September 22

Soaring on Eagle’s Wings

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 106:1-5 | Isaiah 39:1-41:16 | Ephesians 1:1-23 | Proverbs 23:25-28

Today’s Scripture Focus: Isaiah 40

“But they who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they will mount up with wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31 NIV).

I was by a beach one day looking up into the sky when I noticed an eagle soaring. It was a particularly windy day, and he seemed to be playfully enjoying his strength as he soared against the strong currents of wind. Without a flap of his wings, he would soar until he almost stopped—until he almost lost momentum. Then he would turn around and ride the wind for a while, only to turn again and soar against the wind.

I was immediately reminded of this verse. As we wait in hope—seeking him expectantly—he renews our strength. God gives us the ability to walk when we grow tired—the ability to run when all our strength is gone. He even gives us the ability to soar against all the gusts of wind—the circumstances of life that seem to make it impossible to keep moving forward.

I want to learn how to soar like an eagle: to enjoy the presence and power of God as he enables me to soar against the circumstances of life. Would you like to join me? Then let us wait in hope. Let us seek him with expectation. Let’s soar!

Lord, I wait in hope. Help me to find renewed strength in your presence that I might mount up with wings like eagles, run and not grow weary, walk and not faint. May the wind currents I face–the trials of the day–only help me soar. Amen.

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Where to Turn? (Sept 21)

September 21

Where to Turn

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 105:37-45 | Isaiah 37:1-38:22 | Galatians 6:1-18 | Proverbs 23:24

Today’s Scripture Focus: Isaiah 37-38

“O Lord Almighty, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. [17] Give ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God” (Isaiah 37:16-17 NIV). 

King Hezekiah was confronted by the threat of a huge army with a ruthless reputation. Assyria’s Field Commander (the Rabshakeh) brought a warning in which he mocked God and warned of great devastation. What is a King to do? 

His immediate reaction was to tear his clothes and cover himself with sackcloth. Humbling himself, he sought the Lord in prayer, going into the house of the LORD. He laid out his concerns before the LORD.

God sent word through Isaiah, the Prophet: “Tell your master, ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard–those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. [7] Listen! I am going to put a spirit in him so that when he hears a certain report, he will return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword'” Isaiah 37:6-7 (NIV).

The threats continued. A messenger tried to cast doubt on the Word of the Lord, “Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the King of Assyria.”

In this classic confrontation between the Word of the Lord and the words of the accuser, what would Hezekiah do? He took the letter from the messenger and spread it out before the LORD. In prayer, he takes the situation to the LORD and rests in the character and promise of His God. He appeals to God’s glory and prays that God will work in such a way that all the kingdoms will know that “You alone are God.”

We too are often confronted by threatening circumstances, and words of the accuser who would cast doubt on the promise of God.  Don’t listen. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Take the situation to God, spread it out before him and pray expectantly for God to work in a way that will reveal his glory.

Father, when I don’t know what to do, I cry out to you. I lay it all out before you and seek your wisdom. I am trusting you to work all things out in a way that reveals your glory and demonstrates that “You alone are God.” Amen.

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True Freedom (Sept 20)

September 20

True Freedom 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 105:23-36 | Isaiah 33:13-36:22 | Galatians 5:13-26 | Proverbs 23:23

Today’s Scripture Focus: Galatians 5

“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13 NIV).

“There are two freedoms: The false where one is free to do what he likes and the true where he is free to do what he ought.” –Charles Kingley—

The path to liberty has two equally dangerous ditches that run along either side: legalism (where one fails to find the freedom or allow others to walk in freedom) and license (where one abuses the freedom). Paul has no time for either.

To the legalist he says: “The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” [15] If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Gal 5:14-15) and “let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other” (Gal 5:26).

To the one given to abusing his freedom: “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love” (Gal 5:13).

Both extremes are called back to the “law of love,” the place where service and obedience flows from love: “serve one another in love.”

As the life of Jesus flows in and through us by the power of the Holy Spirit, the very character of Jesus begins to manifest: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” As we walk in the Spirit, the fruit of life lived according to the flesh (sin) is replaced with the fruit of the Spirit.

Living according to a list in one’s own strength and power won’t produce that. Ignoring the moral law to indulge in sin won’t either, of course. But through the Spirit, we can put to death the misdeeds of the flesh. We don’t have to live gratifying the desires of the flesh. The life of Christ in you promises something better: Freedom to do what is good and right.

The secret: a dynamic Spirit-filled life where we are led by the Spirit, controlled by the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit. That is true freedom: the freedom to obey; the freedom to serve in love. That requires relationship and it takes away all the boasting and pride.

Whenever we learn to walk, there are trips and falls; it is hard to find our balance. So with walking  in freedom. But don’t be discouraged, God is there to pick you up and set you back on your path.

Open your heart to Jesus. Spend time in fellowship with him today. Find the place of liberty and freedom in your relationship with Him.

Lord Jesus, live your life in me. Help me to live in the fullness of your Spirit that I might demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit. Help me to find the freedom to serve, to love and to obey. Amen.

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Who is Waiting? (Sept 19)

September 19

Who is Waiting?

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 105:16-22 | Isaiah 30:12 – 33:12 | Galatians 5:1-12 | Proverbs 23:22

Today’s Scripture Focus: Isaiah 30:12 – 33:12

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you…blessed are all who wait for him” (Isaiah 30:18 ESV).

We do a lot of waiting. God does too. There can be many reasons for the waiting, but this passage reminds us that sometimes the reason we are waiting is because God is waiting for us.

“Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you” (30:18). He sometimes waits for us to repent. Sometimes he is teaching us lessons about trust that can be learned no other way. There are lessons in waiting—resting in hope—that can only be learned in the school of waiting (30:15).

Another implication of this text is that God is longing and waiting to bless you, but is waiting for just the right time that he might be most gracious to you. As Wesley Duewel writes: “Waiting on God prepares for greater blessing. God has greater plans than you have realized. Give Him time to do great things. The greater the work He plans, the greater the prayer preparation that may be necessary, including prayer for guidance. God often waits so that He can be even more gracious (Isa. 30:18)” (Wesley Duewel, Let God Guide You Daily, 77).

Waiting brings a greater blessing, as Isaiah reminds us: “Blessed are all those who wait for him” (30:18b). One day the waiting will be over and God will graciously bless us. He is waiting and longing to do that very thing: “The LORD waits (longs) to be gracious to you” (30:18a).

There may be some acts of obedience left undone. There may be some sin yet to be repented of. We may have heard his voice behind us saying “this is the way walk in it” (30:21) and we have been reluctant to follow. In each case there is something we can do, God is waiting on us to take a step.

Sometimes God is waiting on others. The whole nation was in need of “turning back to God’ for these promises to be fulfilled. We can pray for our church family, our nation, and our world. Pray and wait.

But most of the time he is teaching us how to trust Him in the dark—to press ahead in trust when we struggle to understand the path ahead. Don’t be discouraged in the process. Remember that he is gracious and he longs to bless you when the time is right.

Father, walk with me on this path and help me to press ahead even when I don’t know where I am going—even when I’m not able to sense your presence. When I am forced to wait, strengthen me with the faith to persevere. When I am causing you to wait, help me to find courage to take steps of obedience. When I am in a mysterious holding pattern, fill me with wisdom and hope that the day will come when the way will open. I wait in hope. Amen.

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Christ Formed In You (Sept 18)

September 18

Christ Formed in You

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 105:8-15  | Isaiah 28:14-30:11 | Galatians 3:23-4:31| Proverbs 23:19-21

Today’s Scripture Focus: Galatians 3:23-4:31

“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 3:19 NIV).

The law was given to us as our tutor or guardian to lead us to Christ. In Christ, we find freedom as heirs to the promise by faith. We are adopted as sons and the Spirit of God within us cries out “Abba, Father.” The Christian life is not one of bondage to rules and regulations, but a life of freedom and fullness as we live in freedom as the children of God.

While some might try to steal our joy and place us in bondage, Christ has come to set us free. “What has happened to all your joy?” Paul asks (4:15). Imprisoned in a rigid system without freedom and life, we hang on to the form but deny the power of God. The misplaced focus saps us of our joy. Often we steal the joy of others when we try to get them to play our religious game.

Paul points us to the alternative: Christ being formed in them—Christ living his life out through them.  It’s a life lived by grace through faith. It’s a life of freedom and joy. And it’s all found in a dynamic, ongoing, intimate relationship with Jesus. As we spend time with him, as we pursue spiritual disciplines such as prayer and Bible study, we are formed spiritually. We become more and more like Jesus.

Open your heart to Jesus today, enjoy his presence and allow him the freedom to bring life abundant—life lived to the full. There you will find freedom and joy. There you will be formed more and more into the likeness of Jesus.

Jesus, help me to grow in grace and in the knowledge of you that I might truly be formed into your image. I know it is a process, but help me to press forward, step by step, day by day. Help me to find joy in your presence as I walk with you in the yoke of discipleship. Amen.

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Practicing His Presence

September 17

Practicing His Presence

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 105:1-7 | Isaiah 25:1-28:13 | Galatians 3:10-22 | Proverbs 23:17-18

Today’s Scripture Focus: Psalms 105:1-7

Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! (Psalm 105:4 ESV).

Prayer begins as we open our heart to Jesus. We worship, we adore, we share our heart’s deepest burdens and longings, we confess, we listen, we intercede, we ask, we enjoy his presence. We say, “Amen.”

Amen doesn’t have to be the end of our prayer time. It can be only the beginning. If we linger in his presence as we begin the day, we can take his presence with us wherever we go—whatever we do. We can continue to seek his presence—his face. Daily we find Him to be “Emmanuel—God with us.”

Paul spoke of “praying continually.” The Psalmist here describes the same experience of continuing to seek the Lord’s face throughout the day. It is to be a continual experience.  

This praying continually begins by our daily time of finding a solitary place and opening our heart to the Lord. As we find him in those times, he is able to strengthen our hearts to take his presence with us the rest of the day.

Don’t let the presence of CNN or ESPN (TV and the media) crowd out your presence of the Lord. Get started right in the solitary place, it helps bring balance to the rest of your day.

Open your heart to Jesus, enjoy fellowship with Him today. Rejoice in his presence as you begin the day, and you can walk in it the rest of the day.  More importantly, you can walk with Him–Jesus, our Emmanuel.

You can say with David: “I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure (Psalm 16:8-9, NRSV).

Lord, you are always with me whether I sense your presence or not. Teach me to be aware of your presence–to enjoy your presence. Fill me with the joy of your presence. Amen.

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The Real Thing (Sept 16)

September 16

The Real Thing

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 104:31-35 | Isaiah 22:1-24:23 | Galatians 2:17- 3:9 | Proverbs 23:12

Today’s Scripture Focus: Galatians 2:17-3:9

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20, NIV).

The real thing—the heart of the gospel—is Christ living in you and me. The key to living the Christian life is not trying hard to live by the rules in my own strength and power. It is all about a grace based relationship with the one who loves me most—Jesus.

By faith we exchange our life for his; our desires for his; our strength for his. By faith we rely on the power he supplies through the Holy Spirit. By faith we recognize that we are dead to the “self-life”—all of our attempts to do it on our own, all of our selfish motives, even our self-righteous attempts to please God that are filled with pride. Our best attempts to do it on our own get us nowhere. In poverty of spirit, we come to Christ—our prodigal hearts revealed—and in humility, surrender our lives to Him. As we open our hearts to Christ, he comes and fills us with himself. He dwells in our hearts through faith.

We maintain that relationship the same way we enter in by grace through faith. By his grace and power given to us by the Holy Spirit, we can “say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and…live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13). It can’t be done through human effort, only through the power of the Spirit.

It is a life of faith, “The life if I live in the body, I live by faith in the son of God…”. We can always choose to go back to the self-life. We can always choose to go back to the old way but there is no life, meaning or purpose there. It only makes everything a mess. Life lived to the full, life abundant and free, is to be found in an ongoing, dynamic relationship with Christ where he lives and reigns in me; a relationship where I have learned to trust him daily to give me everything I need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

Too many have not entered into this great exchange. They haven’t found the freedom of Christ living his life in theirs. Come to him today. Open your heart to Him. Give him everything and you too can enter in to life abundant—life lived to the full.

Lord Jesus, I open my heart to you. Come live in me—rule and reign. Clean house, remodel my heart and make it new. Train me by your grace to walk in step with the Spirit that I might glorify God in all I do. I take up the yoke to follow you, knowing that you are there to guide and strengthen me on this narrow path that I might find rest for my soul. Amen.

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Stealing Freedom

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

September 15

Stealing Freedom

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 104:19-30 | Isaiah 19:1-21:17 | Galatians 2:1-16  | Proverbs 23:13-14

Today’s Scripture Focus: Galatians 2:1-16

This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. [5] We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you (Galatians 2:4-5 NIV) . 

Be careful of any system that adds requirements to the gospel. One common form of such a system is legalism. Legalism attempts to place people in bondage to a religious system of rules and to take away the freedom that flows from a relationship with Christ. The legalist focuses on appearances—trying hard to impress others (and presumably, God) by how well they keep the rules. It is a system filled with pride and judgment. It is a dangerous religious game that keeps people from the “real thing.”

Legalists always make up a list of rules (and the lists tend to major on minor issues, and totally miss major issues). By trying hard in their own strength to live by their list, they feel they are more spiritual than others.

But real Christianity is not about trying hard to live by the rules. It is about recognizing that I can’t live by the rules on my own and crying out to God for help. Entering into a relationship with Christ, he strengthens me by his Spirit to find the freedom to walk with God on this adventure of faith. As we walk together, I learn, I grow, I fall down, He picks me up, and I learn and grow some more. It’s all about a relationship with Christ.

The focus of true Christianity is not performance, but walking with God in a close intimate relationship. It’s not about rule keeping to look spiritual, but about serving God because I love him. It’s a journey where I know that I am loved by God through it all, and where he comes alongside each step of the way to help me on my way.  

There will always be some who will try to steal your freedom and place you in bondage to a religious system. Don’t let them steal your freedom. Find the joy of living in the freedom of a relationship with Christ.

Father, help me to enjoy the freedom of living out of a relationship with you. May your word be a delight and may my obedience to you bring fulfillment. May your grace train me in your paths and may your Spirit strengthen me each step of the way. Amen.

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