He Will Reign (Sept 11)

Quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

September 11

He Will Reign 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 103:6-19 | Isaiah 8:1-9:21 | 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 | Proverbs 23:4-5 

Today’s Scripture Focus: Isaiah 9 & Psalm 103 

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. [7] Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever (Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV).

“The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.” Psalm 103:19

On the one-year anniversary of 9-11, I went with some friends to minister to the families of victims of the 9-11 tragedy. Most of the debris had been cleaned up, but the reminders of the tragedy were very evident all around. One of the most striking scenes was to see two intersecting pieces of steel, remaining in the form of a cross right in the middle of the gaping hole that was the World Trade Center.

One of the friends with me took a picture and later gave me a copy with these words written underneath: “When everything around us falls… the cross still stands.”

When our world seems to spin out of control, we must run back to this truth, that the Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. In the midst of tragedy, we must look forward to the day when Christ will return to right all the wrongs and to reign with the government on his shoulders. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.

Until that day, we live in a battle zone. Evil is very much a part of our reality. Yet God is still on the throne and he is still accomplishing his purposes, even in making good of tragedy (Romans 8:28). Yet all creation looks to the day Christ will return to rule and reign with justice and righteousness forever and ever.

“When everything around us falls…the cross still stands.”

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, we bow our knee to you and declare that you are Lord. We look forward to your return, the Kingdom in its fullness, and your righteous rule. Amen.

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Holy Love (Sept 10)

September 10

Holy Love 

Today’s Scripture Readings:  Psalm 103:1-5  | Isaiah 6:1-7:25 | 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 | Proverbs 23:1-3 

Today’s Scripture Focus: Isaiah 6 & Psalm 103 

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” Isaiah 6:3 (NIV).

Understanding both God’s holiness and his loving goodness brings a balanced focus to our lives. Like Isaiah, we need a vision of the holiness of God. Like the psalmist, we also need to understand God’s heart of love towards his people. While they seem to be in stark contrast, they come together in a unity that brings balance to both.

In Isaiah’s vision, angels are awestruck by the holiness of God and continually cry out, “holy, holy, holy.” Isaiah too, is struck by the holiness of God. To get a true vision of God is to see Him in holiness—to be awestruck by the beauty of his holiness. 

To see and worship God in holiness brings to light our true condition. We become painfully aware of our weakness and sin. It leads us to confession and repentance that brings us to the joy of forgiveness and cleansing. 

Just like Isaiah, when we see and worship God in his holiness our whole life orientation and purpose changes. We are no longer living for ourselves, but for Him. We must give ourselves to him and to his call on our lives. We cry out with Isaiah, “Here am I, send me”. 

To see and worship God in his holiness puts us in the place to really hear and communicate with God. It opens our blinded eyes and hearts to truth (9-10). 

The Psalmist reminds us in Psalm 103:1-5 of the benefits of loving and serving God. While he is transcendently holy, he is also loving, gracious and benevolent. He desires to reach out to us in our need. He is gracious and compassionate and brings forgiveness and healing to his children. He redeems us from the pit and crowns us with love and compassion. He even satisfies our desires for good things so that our youth is renewed like the eagle’s. 

God is holy, perfectly holy. God is love, unfailing steadfast love. Understanding the first truth (his holiness) makes the second truth (his love) even more amazing.

Holy, Loving Father, we worship you with the angels crying out “Holy, Holy, Holy.” We also stand in awe of your steadfast love. You are great and worthy of praise. Help me to live this day amazed by your holiness and your love. Amen.

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Boasting in Weakness (Sept 9)

September 9

Boasting in Weakness 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 102:18-28 | Isaiah 3:1-5:30 | 2 Corinthians 11:1-15 | Proverbs 22:28-29

Today’s Scripture Focus: 2 Corinthians 11

“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:30 NIV).

Most of us spend a lot of energy trying to keep up a good front– to appear strong. We try very hard to pretend that everything is perfect. We try very hard to hide our weaknesses. Paul said, “I boast in my weakness.”

A number of years ago I heard John Maxwell, a powerful communicator, share that one of his most dynamic messages was to a group of pastors when he spent the whole message sharing the worst mistakes he had made in ministry. They laughed and cried and related to him at a deeper level than they might otherwise have. Then they were ready to really listen. His weakness enabled the audience to relate to him on a deeper level.

Someone once prayed over me, “your scars are a badge of your spiritual authority.” I think that is true. The comfort we receive in our weakness, becomes a ministry of comforting others who’ve gone through similar times of weakness

In our weakness, God’s strength shines through clearly and brightly. We are jars of clay in which God chooses to dwell. As he does, the clay is reworked and molded into a piece of beautiful craftsmanship, designed to do the good works he has called us to do (Ephesians 2:10).  Yet often he seems to leave visible scars, reminders of our weakness–these are left only to show how weak we are in ourselves, and how strong He is.

Don’t be afraid to boast in your weakness. Don’t waste your energy pretending you don’t have any (there are more than enough hypocrites to go around–we don’t need another). Look to God to be strong in your times of weakness. Allow him to shine through your weakness for all the world to see His strength and to stand amazed.

Jesus, your scars are graphic reminders of the incredible love of God. My scars, too, are marks of grace—reminders of your goodness. So we boast in weakness, because that is where we are most likely to look to you for strength. Strengthen me by your Spirit and use me for your glory. Amen.

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Demolishing Strongholds (Sept 8)

Quote from Open up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

September 8

Demolishing Strongholds

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 102:12-17 | Isaiah 1:1-2:22 | 2 Corinthians 10:1-18 | Proverbs 22:26-27

Today’s Scripture Focus: 2 Corinthians 10:1-18

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds (2 Corinthians10:4 NIV).

The enemy of our souls is sneaky. Knowing our weaknesses, he sets temptations before us. In our pain—our weakness—they appear to be castles of refuge, safety and pleasure. So we run to them to ease our pain, to meet our needs and desires or, sometimes, just for the fun of it.  

The castle that promises pleasure becomes a prison from which we can’t seem to escape. We feel hopeless and defeated and wonder if we will ever find freedom and victory. Underneath the addictive behaviors are twisted patterns of thinking that need to be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. The good news is that we can demolish these strongholds, but not with the weapons of this world.

When we give the devil a foothold, he doesn’t want to let us go. He is a master of blinding our eyes and dulling our ability to see the glory of God and his word. But there is hope. These twisted patterns of thinking can be made obedient to Christ if we stand firm and resist the devil—the enemy of our souls.

We must stand firm against his attacks by putting on the armor of God (see Ephesians 6). The armor protects, but also enables us to take the word of God praying in such a way as to defeat the enemy in our lives, and demolish his strongholds. He has no rightful place in our lives, and we can resist him through the promises of the word and through the command of faith in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we command him to flee, he must. For greater is he that is in us than he who is in the world. We stand in Christ’s authority, and he has won the battle.

God is our “mighty fortress.” All other fortresses/strongholds, are merely delusions that entrap and keep us in a place of hopeless defeat. Stand firm in your armor and resist the enemy. Don’t give him a foothold. Take back any ground he has stolen in the powerful name of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Be a student of the word and allow the word to dwell in you richly and you will be able to stand your ground and walk in victory–it is a powerful tool in taking thoughts captive and making them obedient to Christ.

Father, equip me with the armor of God that I might stand against all the schemes of the enemy. Enable me to stand strong and resist temptation. Give me the mind of Christ that I might take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. I stand in your strength and victory today in the powerful name of Jesus. Amen.

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Tired of Waiting (Sept 7)

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

September 7

Tired of Waiting 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 102:1-11 | Song 5:1-8:14 | 2 Corinthians 9:1-15 | Proverbs 22:24-25

Today’s Scripture Focus: Psalm 102:1-11

Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.  (Psalm 102:2 NIV)

Can you relate to the Psalmist? Have you ever had a time when you grew tired of waiting for the answer to your prayer? Maybe you are like me and you feel that way most every day.

It is so good to be able to just pour out our heart to God. It is good to let him know our struggles and frustrations. It is good to lament and tell him how we feel. Perhaps you can relate to the Psalmist’s description of waiting in prayer:

Because of my loud groaning I am reduced to skin and bones. [6] I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. [7] I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof. Psalm 102:5-7 (NIV)

Except for the skin and bones part, I know I can relate. In times of waiting, we feel alone and abandoned; we feel helpless and hopeless. Our anxious thoughts cause sleepless nights and poor eating habits. Times of waiting can feel downright devastating at times.

But the Psalmist knows that when the time is right God will answer.

But  you, O Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations. [13] You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come (Psalm 102:12-13, NIV).

O.K. I admit it, I read ahead a few verses (tomorrow’s verses), but those are the verses I needed to hear. When I desire a quick answer and am tired of waiting, I need to remember that God will arise when the appointed time comes. He is still seated on the throne, and He is gracious and compassionate. When the time is right, he will answer. Maybe that’s what you need to remember too.

Father, I don’t like to wait. Yet, I realize that there are lessons to be learned in the school of faith that can be learned no other way. So, I wait and look for the answer. Amen.

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Oh Be Careful Little Eyes (Sept 6)

Quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

September 6

Oh Be Careful Little Eyes

Today’s Scripture Reading: Psalms 101:1-8  | Song 1:1-4:16  | 2 Cor. 8:16-24 | Proverbs 22:22-23

Today’s Scripture Focus: Psalm 101:1-8

“I will set before my eyes no vile (wicked, vain, evil, worthless) thing” (Psalm 101:3).

Images are powerful. One ancient tradition says that a picture is worth a thousand words. Indeed, we know it is true. Television is a powerful medium. So are movies. So is the Internet. Each is powerful for good or for evil.

Many become captivated by images only to become addicted to them. The epidemic of internet pornography is one example (and it is an epidemic). I know one person who has placed this verse (Psalm 101:3) above his computer monitor as a reminder not to surf into sin. Not a bad idea.

But it happens in more subtle ways, no less dangerous. Images form our thinking and values. Television and the movies shape our lives more than we know. I’m reminded of the wisdom of the prophet Jeremiah who wrote: “They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves.” Another translation puts it: “walked after emptiness and became empty?” In other words, we become like the images we watch. Scary thought.

If images shape our thinking, then Paul’s teaching regarding the thought life applies to the images we place before our eyes as well: 

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  [9] What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philip. 4:8-9 (ESV). 

What images are filling your mind and heart?  How are they affecting your values, beliefs and lifestyle?  We do well to consider these things as we replace the worthless images with truth and beauty.

God of Glory, help me to dwell on thoughts and celebrate images which are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy. Keep me from those images and thoughts that are empty, vain, worthless, evil and degrading. Make me aware of your glorious presence and seek your glory in all I do. Amen.

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Shout for Joy (Sept 5)

September 5

Shout for Joy

Scripture Readings for Today: Psalms 100:1-5 | Ecclesiastes 10:1-12:14 | 2 Corinthians 8:1-15| Proverbs 22:20-21    

Today’s Scripture Focus: Psalms 100:1-5

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness;come before him with joyful songs (Psalm 100:1-2 NIV).

The most enthusiastic worship experience I’ve ever seen took place in the fall of 1987. I lived in Minnesota then. The Metrodome in Minneapolis, now long gone, was the site of the worship experience. For weeks leading up to the event, there was talk about the possibility of this event happening. As the day arrived, it was all that people could talk about. People waited in long lines in order to get tickets to be a part of the experience, but there were too many people and not enough seats.  The rest of us had to worship at home in front of our TV’s.

Usually stoic Minnesotans were screaming, shouting, jumping up and down in excitement. They clapped, they “high-fived,” they waved banners. They were really into it. They were pegging the needles on the decibel meters. Everyone talked about how loud it all was—how exciting it all was.

For weeks following the worship event, it was all that people could talk about. It had made quite an impression. Unfortunately it was not the worship of our God.  It was the worship of another kind, the worship of baseball: The World Series where the unlikely Twins surprised everyone and won it all.

Now I have no particular problem with people enjoying sports, I do too. But the irony in this situation is that if you were to see the same people in their churches, there would be no excitement–no joyful shouting. I often wonder why.  

In light of the greatness of our God, in light of what Christ has done for us, should there not be a little shouting when we get together to celebrate his greatness and declare his worth?

Worship is not a time to mumble. It’s a time for joyful shouting—a time for joyful singing. We serve a great and awesome God and he is so worthy of our praise. Let us come with thanksgiving and praise in our hearts and let’s celebrate the greatness of our God!

Lord, when I think of your majestic splendor, my heart is filled with joyful songs of praise. I sing of your lovingkindness, I declare your glory, I shout the wonders of your grace. Lord, it is good to praise you! Amen.

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