Everything Changes

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

March 21

Everything Changes

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 41:10-13 | Numbers 32:1 – 33:39 | Luke 4:31- 5:11 | Proverbs 11:22

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Luke 4:31-5:11

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” [5] Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:4-5 NIV).  

The disciples had been up fishing all night and hadn’t caught a thing. Tired, frustrated and at the end of their patience they heard Jesus words: “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

But instead of second guessing him, there was obedience. These seasoned fishermen knew that the chance of finding fish after a night of failure was not great. But they also knew that everything changes when Jesus enters the picture.  

In response to their obedience, God provided an abundance of fish. The nets were filled to overflowing. In fact there were so many fish that the boat began to sink.

Don’t become weary in well doing. You may not see the results yet, but keep taking the steps of obedience–keep following the instructions of Jesus. Keep expecting the unexpected.

When Jesus steps into the boat everything changes.

Father, sometimes we grow weary and are tempted to quit. Remind us that when Jesus gets into the boat, everything changes. Lord, I invite you into my life today and I am filled with expectancy at what might develop. Amen.

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March 20


Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 41:4-9 | Numbers 30:31-54 | Luke 4:1-30|   Proverbs 11:20-21

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Luke 4:1-30

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry” (Luke 4:1-2 TNIV).

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin  Hebrews 4:15 (ESV). 

 Jesus knows the power of temptation—he has been tempted in every respect as we are—and demonstrates the power of the Spirit to overcome the temptation.

Satan too knows our weakness. He knows our vulnerable places. When Jesus was hungry, he used that opportunity to tempt him. He always seems to know where we are weakest and exploits that to defeat us.

Satan knows how to twist scripture. He is a deceiver and it is easy to fall prey to his confusion. He tried the same with Jesus–but to no effect.

Satan is a master of pointing us toward short cuts. He offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. Of course, Jesus would one day become heir of all those kingdoms. But Satan offers the kingdoms now, without the pain of the cross. He works the same way in our lives. He promises the easy way, the short cut, the glory without the pain.  

Satan waits for just the right moment. “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time” (13). He waits for the time we are most susceptible to temptation. He lies in wait to attack us when we are most vulnerable.

Jesus demonstrates the way to victory. He stands on the promises of scripture—combating deception with the truth of God’s word rightly interpreted. He resists in a context of solitude, silence, fasting and prayer. Spiritual disciplines build us up and provide spiritual formation that keeps us strong to resist the temptation of the evil one. He relies always on the power of the Spirit to lead him and give him the strength to resist (1).  

We are weak, but Christ is there to help us. Follow his example.  He knows the power of temptation—but he also demonstrates the power of God to resist and stand in victory.

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:18 (ESV)

Heavenly Father, strengthen me to resist temptation. Help me not to fall for the enemy’s shortcuts. Help me to abide in you and walk in your strength and power. Amen.

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Generous Hearts are Blessed

March 19

Generous Hearts are Blessed

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 41:1-3 | Numbers 28:16-29:40 | Luke 3:23-38 | Proverbs 11:18-19

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Psalms 41:1-3

“Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him; The LORD protects him and keeps him alive; He is called blessed in the land; You do not give him up to the will of his enemies” (Psalms 41:1-3 NIV).

God has compassion on all he has made and a special place in his heart for the poor and needy. So it is not surprising that God promises to bless those who bless the poor. 

The generous hearted person is promised deliverance in the day of trouble. They are promised protection from their enemies. God even promises to bring healing and life when they are sick: “The LORD sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health.”

On the other hand, the one who is stingy has no reason to expect the blessing of God. If you see a brother and sister in need and do nothing to help them, you are not being sensitive to the Father’s heart. Those who love the Father will love their neighbor in practical ways. They will look to meet the need in any way they can because His heart of love and compassion will flow into them and through them.

Bless those you know who are in need. The generous heart is sure to blessed by God. For he blesses those he knows will look for the opportunity to be a blessing.

God of grace and mercy, pour out your love into my heart. Remove selfishness, greed and stinginess and replace it with mercy and generosity. Make me a gracious, merciful, loving and generous person. Amen.

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Change Brings Fruit

March 18

Change Brings Fruit

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 40:11-17 | Numbers 26:52-28:15 | Luke 3:1-22 | Proverbs 11:16-17

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Luke 3:1-22

“He [John] went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” 

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Luke 3:3,8 TNIV).  

Repentance is all about change. To repent is to change one’s mind about sin, which leads to a change of direction and behavior. Ultimately it brings a fruitful life: a Christ-like life. If you don’t change: you will never grow and you will miss out on the abundant life that could be yours.

Some resisted change. John’s message was harsh to those he called “a brood of vipers”: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our Father,’ for I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (8-9). To resist the change God intends for your life is to miss out on the fruit he intends to produce in and through you.

We should not presume that we have gone far enough with God. We should not presume that he doesn’t want to bring further growth in our lives. We all have so far to go in our pursuit of living like Jesus.

Don’t resist God. Don’t resist the changes he wants to bring into your life to make you more like Jesus. Don’t be afraid of the change that comes from repentance. It is the way to a fruitful, abundant life.

Heavenly Father, search my heart and reveal those areas where I need to change. Give me the grace I need to make those changes. Help me never to fear the changes you would make in me. Lord, have your way, change me that I might bear more fruit. Amen.

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A Life of Devotion

March 17

A Life of Devotion

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 40:6-10 | Numbers 26:1-51 | Luke 2:36-52 | Proverbs 11:15

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Luke 2:36-52

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin,  [37] and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day (Luke 2:36-37 ESV). 

Anna turned a tragedy into an opportunity to serve God. She had been married only 7 years when her husband died, leaving her in a difficult situation. What would she do?

She turned the difficult situation into an opportunity to serve God.  She spent the rest of her life (84 years of it) developing her walk with the Lord.  She focused her life on fasting and prayer at the temple.  

Some might have grown bitter. Others would have felt hopeless. She chose to speak with God about her struggles. And that conversation led to a life of devotion.

That life of devotion led to the blessing of being one of the first to see and recognize young Jesus as the promised Messiah. This woman of discernment was given the opportunity to praise God and tell others what she had seen.

What are your struggles? Take them to the Lord in prayer. Develop your relationship with Him. After years of intimate conversation, you too may develop a life of intimacy like Anna. You too may gain the insight and discernment of one who has long walked with God.

Ancient of Days, help me to live a life of devotion—faithful all my days. As I bring my concerns to you, may I grow in intimacy and fellowship with you. Amen.

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Waiting and Waiting and Waiting

March 16

Waiting and Waiting and Waiting

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 40:1-5 | Numbers 24:1-25:18 | Luke 2:1-35 | Proverbs11:14

Today’s Scripture Focus: Psalm 40:1-5

“I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked; finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip. He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God” (Psalm 40:1-3a The Message).

I waited and waited and waited. Waiting for God’s answer seems overwhelming sometimes.

God’s timing and our timetable don’t ever seem to match. We find ourselves at the point of despair–the slimy pit filled with mud and mire (vs. 2). Just about to give up. Sure that we’ve been abandoned.  

Then God shows up. He does hear us. He does listen to our cries. He hears and finally answers our prayers.

He stands up on a solid rock and steadies us to make sure we don’t slip back into the slimy pit of despair. He gives us a new song. We can sing again.

Hold on to hope. Continue to cry out to God. He is listening. When the time is right, he will hear and answer. Even now I hear the faint sound of a new song off in the distance. Do you hear it?

Heavenly Father, help me to hold on to hope even while I wait for the answer. Help me to realize that character is being developed during the waiting. I continue to wait, please don’t let me slip into the slimy pit of despair. I know that when the time is right you will answer. I wait in expectation, and look to you for a new song. Amen.

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When Donkeys Talk

March 15

When Donkeys Talk

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 39:7-13 | Numbers 22:21-23:20 | Luke 1:57-80 | Proverbs 11:12-13

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Numbers 22-23

“Why have you beaten your poor donkey these three times? I have come to block your way because you’re getting way ahead of yourself.  The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times.  If she hadn’t, I would have killed you by this time, but not the donkey. I would have let her off” (Numbers 22:32-33 The Message).

God is very creative in communicating with his people. But when God starts to speak to you through a donkey, you know you are in trouble. God’s servants, especially prophets or preachers, are wise to learn the lessons of Balaam. 

Don’t let people influence you—whether through money or power or position—to compromise your message. There are those who would like to influence your message—to make it more comfortable. Balaam knew that he would prove a false prophet if he didn’t say exactly what God wanted him to say. There is no place for changing or compromising the message.

Don’t get ahead of yourself. Do what God wants you to do when he wants you to do it. Don’t run ahead or behind God and his leading. You’ll only get yourself in trouble.

Don’t forget to take the time to develop your “spiritual ears and eyes” to hear his voice and see his working. Ministry requires sensitivity to God’s voice. It also requires us to see where he is at work that we can join in him in the work. It has to be embarrassing to have God speak to you through a donkey. Keep your spiritual eyes and ears open. Don’t miss out on all he has to say, or on all he is doing.

Dear Heavenly Father, May I never be be so bull-headed that you need to talk to me through a donkey. Give a sensitive heart and ears to hear you speak clearly. Give me the strength to never compromise the message, but always communicate the words you intend me to speak. Amen.

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Truly Blessed

March 14

Truly Blessed

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 39:1-6 | Numbers 21:1 – 22:20 | Luke 1:26-56 | Proverbs 11:9-11

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Luke 1:26-6

“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:18-20 NIV).  

Blessed indeed. A young Jewish woman could hope for nothing greater than to be the mother of the promised Messiah. Mary was chosen by God to do the impossible: to become mother to the Son of God.

Why Mary? The text hints at some of the reason God chose her. She was humble. She was obedient. She trusted God to fulfill the promise. She was a woman who knew how to pray and how to praise. She was willing.

Her beautiful song of praise says much about her intimate knowledge of God. She found joy in her relationship with one who is holy, mighty, merciful and filled with grace and blessing.

Are you a willing servant? Are you willing to suffer disgrace? Are you willing to take on a task that seems impossible?

Mary was willing to serve God in any capacity. She was willing to be a servant. God is looking for that same attitude of humility expressed in availability.

Let him know you are willing. He is always looking for humble, willing servants.

Heavenly Father, continue your work of forming me and preparing me for what you have prepared me to do. Fill my heart with praise, with hope, with anticipation. I long to be your willing servant and live a life worthy of the call you have placed on my life. Here I am, Lord, send me. Amen.

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Lessons of Faith

March 13

Lessons of Faith

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 38:13-22| Numbers 19:1 – 20:29| Luke 1:1-25| Proverbs 11:8

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Luke 1:1-25

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” [19] The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. [20] And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time” (Luke 1:18-20 NIV). 

He was a godly man; faithful and diligent in the service of the Lord. Yet even Zechariah wavered in doubt when confronted by the impossible thing God intended to do.

He and his wife were never able to have a child. Now they were old and well past hope that they would ever have a child. In his service of the Lord at the temple, he was confronted by an Angel who brought the most amazing news: “your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.”

I’m sure he wanted to believe it, but it was a stretch of even his faith.  The mixture of hope and doubt is revealed in his words, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

Because he was unable to believe the words, he was mute until the promise was fulfilled.

Truly nothing is impossible with God. Yet it is difficult for us, even those who have walked long on the path of faith, to believe when the circumstances all seem to point us in the other direction. Zechariah struggled with this test of faith, and we must admit that we have times where lesser things cause us to struggle.

Wherever we are on the path of faith, there are new challenges and tests of our faith.  Zechariah is a reminder that even a seasoned man or woman of faith, is not through learning and growing in the school of faith.

Faithful and Loving Lord, I praise you that there is nothing too difficult for you. I thank you that I am not walking this journey of faith alone but in union with you as I take up your yoke. Grow my faith, strengthen my faith, enlarge my faith when what I face seems impossible. Remind me that with you nothing is impossible and allow me to walk ahead in confident trust in your ability to get me through. Amen.

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He Has Risen!

March 12

He Has Risen!

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 38:1-12 | Numbers 16:41- 18:32 | Mark 16:1-20 |  Proverbs 11:7

Today’s Scripture Focus:
Mark 16

“‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said, ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you’’” (Mark 16:6-7 NIV).

There is hope! The resurrection is a reminder of the undying hope that is ours in Christ. Even death couldn’t conquer the Lord Jesus. When things are darkest, he brings light. When things seem impossible, he brings hope.

There is a second chance! Note that Peter is singled out as especially needing to hear this message. He had denied Christ, but Jesus wanted him to know that He had not given up on him. The resurrection story is the reminder that even after our failures, Jesus calls us back into fellowship with himself. He was not done with Peter. He is not done with you either.

There is no reason for fear! “Don’t be alarmed” (6). The unexpected, the unknown and the unseen can be causes for fear. The resurrection is the reminder that he is with us through it all. He has not forgotten about us. He is there. There is no reason for fear.

God of Hope, thank you for the realization that when things are darkest you bring hope. When we feel that we’ve failed you bring a second chance. Replace our fears with hope, our doubts with faith and expectation. Amen.

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