A Heart Set Free (Jul 8)

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

July 8

A Heart Set Free

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 146:1-10 | 1 Chronicles 5:18-6:81 | Acts 26:1-32 | Proverbs 18:20-21 

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Acts 26

“Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:16-18, NIV).

Paul has been through quite an ordeal already. Falsely accused by the religious leaders, he had been imprisoned for some time. They were looking for an opportunity to kill him whether through legal channels or through an ambush. While Festus found no reason to charge him with a crime he continued to hold him in prison, hoping that Paul would bribe him. Paul’s attempts to witness to him were postponed to a more convenient time (Acts 24:25-26). He decided to call in King Agrippa to get another opinion.

Paul took the opportunity to share the testimony of a heart that had been set free by the Risen Christ. He shared about his Damascus road experience in words plain and bold. Then he talked about Jesus and especially his resurrection. Festus told Paul that his belief in such a thing was crazy. “Your great learning is making you mad,” he says. But Paul appealed to Agrippa, who knew full well about the resurrection: “It was not done in a corner.” The resurrection seems to go against everything we know. It seems mad. But Jesus is raised and multitudes were there to see it with their own eyes. King Agrippa knew this and could not deny it.

The resurrection brings the hope of a heart set free from sin and its effects. For Paul it set him free from being a zealous, religious Pharisee who persecuted the church. The chains he had been under were “religious” chains. But he counted them rubbish to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing his sufferings (Philippians 3:1-11). There are many kinds of chains. There are many kinds of bondage to sin. The testimony of Paul and multitudes of  others throughout the ages is that Jesus came to set people free “to open their eyes, so that they will turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God” (vs. 18 CEV).

The songwriter said it well, “You ask me how I know he lives, he lives within my heart.” Paul was bound in physical chains, but his heart had been set free by the risen Christ. They could not keep him from serving the Lord. They could not keep him quiet. He had been set free from the chains that bound his heart and now he was free to be a witness to the life transforming power of the resurrection.

How about you? Open your heart to him. If there is any place of bondage or brokenness, remember that Jesus came to set you free from all that through the power of his resurrection. Enjoy your time in his presence!

Lord Jesus, you are the risen Christ. By your Spirit, set me free today. May the power of the resurrection set me free from all that yet clings to me from my past. Set me free to worship, to serve, to obey you—to walk in newness of life. Amen.

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Open Up Your Heart (Jul 7)

July 7

Open Up Your Heart

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 145:14-21 | 1 Chronicles 4:5-5:17 | Acts 25:1-27 | Proverbs 18:19

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Psalm 145:14-21

“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18 NIV)

What is prayer? O. Hallesby looked to Rev. 3:20 and said: “To pray is to let Jesus come into our hearts . . . All he needs is access. He enters in of His own accord because He desires to come in. And He enters in wherever He is not denied admittance.  As air enters in quietly when we breathe, and does its normal work in our lungs, so Jesus enters quietly into our hearts and does His blessed work there.”

“He calls it to ‘sup with us.’ In Biblical language the common meal is symbolical of intimate and joyous fellowship. This affords a new glimpse into the nature of prayer, showing us that God has designed prayer as a means of intimate and joyous fellowship between God and man.” (O. Hallesby, Prayer, p. 11-12). In a similar way, Today’s Psalm (145) reminds us that our heavenly Father delights in drawing near to us, when we call out to Him.

Meditate on these truths:  He is righteous in all his ways (17), loving toward all he has made, near to all who call on him in truth (18), the fulfiller of desires of those who fear him (19), the one who hears our cries and saves us, and the one who watches over all who love him (20). He loves you and longs to be near you—to be close to you. As you delight in him, he enjoys fulfilling the desires of your heart. When you fall down, he lifts you up and comes along side you to help you on the way (14). When we come in our humility, he opens his hand and satisfies our deepest desires. (16)  

Open your heart to Him today. Tell him what is on your heart. Do not hold anything back. He wants to hear your cries and satisfy your deepest desires. Your pain, your sorrows, your fears, your questions; he wants to hear them all. He wants to draw near to you, but he waits until we call on him—until we call on him in truth.  You do not have to pretend in his presence—you do not have to put on any masks. He can see your heart just as it is. But he wants you to open it up “in truth.”

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” Jeremiah 29:13.

Jesus is waiting at your heart’s door.  He is knocking today. He wants to enjoy fellowship with you. Open up your heart to him and enjoy his presence. He wants to be your friend. Open up your heart. Open it wide. Don’t hold anything back. Enjoy your time with him today.

Lord Jesus, thank you for knocking on my heart’s door seeking fellowship with me today. I open my heart. Come in. Let’s enjoy our time together. Thank you for loving me and allowing me the opportunity to pour out my heart to you today. I always find joy and peace–my faith is strengthened, my hope is restored, I am refreshed by your love. . .

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Psalms, Worship and Prayer (Jul 6)

July 6

Psalms, Worship and Prayer

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 145:8-13 | 1 Chronicles 2:18-4:4 | Acts 24:1-27 | Proverbs 18:16-18

The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. All your works praise you, LORD; your faithful people extol you (Psalm 145:8-10 NIV).

One of the reasons I love to read the Psalms before I pray, is that they prime the pump of worship. They help us to focus on the goodness and greatness of God. As we are awestruck by his glory, we are ready to praise and worship. With wide-eyed wonder we are then ready to pray. Worship and praise affects my praying in every way—it provides right perspective, it prompts faith, it helps us focus and refocus our requests. As we worship, we realize the joy of his presence and we are changed.

Other Psalms prompt us to lament—to pour out our hearts to God with brutal honesty. To bring our questions, our concerns, our fears, our doubts—we just lay it all out on the table. The Psalms teach us to be honest and open in our praying. This too is important to our praying.

What do we learn about our God in this short passage? He is gracious and compassionate. He is slow to anger and rich in love. He is good to all—having compassion on all he has made. Later, we read of the glorious splendor of his kingdom. We are reminded that he is faithful and trustworthy. Each of these truths should give us reason to pause and meditate.

The Psalms have long served the people of God as a prayer book. I encourage you to read them slowly, meditate on the truths you find. Now your heart and mind is engaged and you are ready to pray.

Lord, we praise you because you are gracious and compassionate. We exalt you because you are slow to anger and rich in love. We thank you for you goodness to all and for having compassion on all you have made. We continue to place our trust in you for you are faithful and trustworthy. Amen.

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Meditating on Your Works (Jul 5)

July 5

Meditating on Your Works

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 145:1-7 | 1 Chronicles 1:1-2:17 | Acts 23:11-35 | Proverbs 18:14-15

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Psalm 145:1-7

“On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works I will meditate” (Psalm 145:5 ESV).

It is easy in the busyness of our lives to neglect meditation. It is easy to rush through our devotional times with the Lord; to rush through our prayers. When we do, we neglect the discipline that is most likely to bring a sense of the presence of God to our daily lives: meditation.

When we slow down our reading and praying and take time to meditate and listen, we become more aware of His presence and more sensitive to His voice. Our whole perspective on the day changes as we remember the greatness of the God who loves us and cares for us. As we walk through the day aware of his goodness, we recognize his good works all around us.

Our negative attitudes and thought patterns begin to melt away with the sense of his glorious presence. The trials of life seem more bearable knowing he is with me. Even the most difficult circumstances and people cannot steal our joy when his presence is near, for “in his presence is fullness of joy.”

OK. Now go back and read Psalm 145 again. This time take it slow, chew on each phrase, and allow enough time to sense his presence and hear his voice. Take the time to meditate on these truths:

“Great is the Lord–his greatness is unsearchable”

“The glorious splendor of Your Majesty”

“I will meditate on your wondrous works, your mighty acts, your awesome deeds”

“The fame of Your abundant goodness and righteousness.”

Great are you Lord—your greatness is unsearchable. I worship you in the glorious splendor of Your Majesty. I will mediate on your wondrous works, your mighty acts, and your awesome deeds. I long to magnify the fame of Your abundant goodness and righteousness today and in the days to come. Amen.

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New Songs (Jul 4)

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

July 4

New Songs

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 144:9-15 | 2 Kings 23:31-25:30 | Acts 22:17-23:10 | Proverbs 18:13

Today’s Scripture Focus: Psalm 144:9-15

I will sing a new song to you, my God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you (Psalm 144:9 NIV).

What is your favorite hymn or worship song? Is it a new song or an old song? Why is it special to you?

I have often asked questions like this to people. It is good to hear the stories behind the songs that have taken on special meaning to people. One of the things I have found is that every favorite song is attached to a memory or experience. Sometimes it is the memory of an experience that was instrumental in your spiritual journey. Sometimes it reminds you of people who have been influential in your life of faith. Sometimes it triggers thoughts about ways that you’ve experienced God in worship or prayer.

It is good to cherish those memories and experiences and the songs that go with them. Yet it also points us to the reason why we also need “new songs.” We can’t rely only on past experiences. We need dynamic, fresh experiences with God in our walk of faith; new experiences that will be tied to new songs. If our faith is to grow, there must be new experiences; there must be new songs.

There is nothing wrong with old songs—I grew up with hymns and continue to find great spiritual nourishment through them. Yet, like the psalmist, we should look for the ongoing work of God in our lives that will produce new songs. As we grow in faith, may new songs also spring up in our heart. So take up your instrument and sing. Old songs; new songs; sing them both with passion and joy. We serve a great God and he is worthy of our praise!

Heavenly Father, thank you for music, creativity, and variety.  Thank you for old songs that bring back good memories and new songs that celebrate the fresh things you are doing in my life. May my heart be filled with praise at all times. Amen.

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With All His Heart, Soul and Strength (Jul 3)

July 3

With All His Heart, Soul and Strength

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 144:1-8 | 2 Kings 22:3-23:30 | Acts 21:37-22:16 | Proverbs 18:11-12

Today’s Scripture Focus: 2 Kings 23

“Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses”  (2 Kings 23:25 NIV).

Reading through the book of Second Kings can get tiring. Again and again we see Kings who fail to live up to the calling of their position. Again and again we see people more than willing to follow the compromising example of their leaders. Some of the kings were worse than others, but all told it was a sorry lot. But there are a few bright spots, and Josiah is one of the brightest.

Josiah called for a return to Torah—a return to the covenant God had made with his people. He had the unique distinction of being a ruler who turned to the LORD “with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength.”

After years of evil Kings who refused to lead the people away from the idolatry and compromise back to the covenant God had made with his people, finally Josiah arose and called the people back to himself. While his reforms would not prove sufficient to hold back the judgment of God that has already been declared—Josiah stands tall as a light in the darkness: A man who loved God with all his heart and soul and with all his strength.

God is looking for leaders like Josiah, those who will turn to him—who will worship and serve him with all the heart and soul and all the strength they have. Will he find such a person in you?

Dear Heavenly Father, help me to follow you with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my strength. Give me a heart to love and worship you with such commitment. Amen.

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A Strong Tower (Jul 2)

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

July 2

A Strong Tower

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 143:7-12 | 2 Kings 20:2-22:2 | Acts 21:17-36 | Proverbs 18:9-10

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Proverbs 18:10

“The Name of the Lord is a strong tower;  the righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10 ESV).

God reveals himself through his names. We sometimes choose names because we like they way they sound. But biblical names are given to say something about the person and their character. 

This is especially true of God as he reveals himself through his names. God reveals his names so that we might better understand who he is. Each of them is a reflection of his character. As we call on his names, we are reminded of who he is and we are encouraged. Like a strong tower that protects the city, He reminds us through his names that we are safe in the hands of our loving heavenly Father. He is: 

“The LORD our Healer”

“The LORD our Peace”

“The LORD our Righteousness”

“The LORD our Provider”

He is:

“Our Rock, Our Fortress, Our Deliverer, Our Ever Present Help in times of Trouble.”

He is Almighty God–the one for whom nothing is too difficult.

And we’re only getting warmed up–there are hundreds more.  Search the Scriptures and run to the name of the LORD! Remembering who he is brings comfort–His name is a strong tower; a place of refuge.  Run to His Name and find safety!

Lord God, thank you for revealing your character in your names. We praise you, O Rock, Our Fortress, our Deliverer, Our Ever Present Help in times of trouble. We run to your name as a strong tower—a place of refuge and safety. Be with us today today. Amen.

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