Time to Celebrate (Aug 17)

Time2Celebrate

Quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

August 17

Time to Celebrate 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 89:14-37 | Nehemiah 12:27-13:31 | 1 Cor. 11:3-16 | Proverbs 21:17-18

Today’s Scripture Focus: Nehemiah 12:27-13:31

“The singers, directed by Jezrahiah, made the rafters ring.  That day they offered great sacrifices, an exuberant celebration because God had filled them with great joy. The women and children raised their happy voices with all the rest. Jerusalem’s jubilation heard far and wide” (Nehemiah 12:41-42).

A major work has been completed. The walls have been rebuilt.  Despite opposition and numerous setbacks, the job has been completed.  It was time to celebrate.

They gathered the choirs and “made the rafters ring.” They had an exuberant celebration.  They were filled with great joy.

Notice that it was God who filled them with joy. He had worked behind the scenes moving on the hearts of pagan kings and officials. He had chosen the leaders and given them direction. He had been there to give them the strength to complete the project. From first to last, God made a way for the impossible to be done.  He had shown himself faithful again and again. As they remembered his goodness, they were filled with joy.

In a similar way, we are able to find joy in the Lord.“Rejoice in the Lord and again I say it: Rejoice!” says Paul in Philippians. As we grow in our relationship with Christ, as we walk with him through the trials of life, he produces joy in the most unusual places and at the most unexpected times. As we begin to see his hand at work in our lives, our hearts are filled with joy.

God is faithful; He is good. His love endures forever. He is with us through it all, loving us always. Sounds like a reason for joy–sounds like a reason to celebrate!

Father, help me to complete the tasks you have given me for this day. Help me to celebrate their completion with great joy and bring you praise and glory. Amen.

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I Could Sing of Your Love Forever (Aug 16)

ICouldSingofYourLove

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

August 16

I Could Sing of Your Love Forever 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 89:1-13 | Nehemiah 11:1-12:26 | 1 Cor. 10:14-11:2 | Proverbs 21:14-16

Today’s Scripture Focus: Psalm 89:1-13

I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.[2] I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself (Psalm 89:1-2 NIV).

“Jesus loves me this I know” is a simple but profound truth. That the creator of all things loves me with a steadfast, undying love, is positively amazing. It was that truth, God’s love, that set the Psalmist’s heart to singing, and singing, and singing.

It’s a song worth singing forever and ever. It’s also a truth that needs to be passed down through the generations. Realizing that we are loved by God is a life-altering truth. It is the open door that can lead us into a personal relationship with Christ.

It’s also a life-sustaining truth. “Your love has always been our live’s foundation, your fidelity has been the roof over our world.” (2, The Message).  God’s love for us is a truth that provides a firm foundation. There are many things in this world that we do not understand, or cannot understand. God’s love and faithfulness is the foundational truth through which we filter the questions in our attempts to make sense of the tough times.

God’s love is a roof of protection from the unkind and hateful words and deeds of others. When all the world seems against me, I know that God loves me. Abiding in his love brings healing to the wounds I have suffered. It restores my soul and brings hope. It enables me to come and find rest for my soul.

The psalmist just couldn’t get that song about God’s love out of his head. He had to sing it over and over again, forever. Open your heart to Jesus and his love, and allow him to pour out his love into your heart. Then you too will sing of his love forever.

Lord,  thank you for your unfailing love. I take the time now to abide in your love. Pour it into my heart and let it wash away the hurts and wounds. Fill me to overflowing that I might know that I am your beloved child and that I might overflow with your love today in all my interactions with others. May they too be touched by your love flowing out through me. Amen.

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All Things to All People (Aug 15)

allthingstoallpeople

Quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

Aug 15

All Things to All People

Today’s Scripture Readings:

Psalms 88:8-18 | Nehemiah 9:22-10:39 | I Cor. 9:19-10:13 | Proverbs 21:13

Today’s Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 9:19-10:13

To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. [21] To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. [22] To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some (1 Cor. 9:20-22, NIV).

The gospel is a message for all people of all languages and cultures. God’s message of love must be communicated to each of those cultures in a way that they can really understand it. Paul, like any good missionary, understood this principle. He went out of his way to communicate the gospel to each group in ways they would be able to better understand it. He became all things to all people so that by all possible means he might save some.

We must be careful not to put stumbling blocks in the way to understanding the message. We often use language that doesn’t communicate clearly. Even more often we use methods that just aren’t relevant to the audience we seek to reach. Sometimes our methods betray the message and we miscommunicate the gospel.

The gospel should be communicated differently in Mali, Africa than in Manila, Philippines.  Different means will be necessary in Lima, Peru than Lima, Ohio. We must seek to understand our target audience if we are going to relate the message to them in a way that really communicates the gospel. The more we can communicate in the “heart language” of the people (their music, their stories, their language, their culture), the better they will understand.

Of course, we must be careful not to compromise the gospel in the process—to water down or change the substance of the message. We must speak the message of the gospel loud and clear.

We have a message for all ages, for all peoples, for all languages and cultures. Let us seek to understand those we are communicating with, so we can better relate the gospel to them in ways that best communicate the truth.

God, give us wisdom to communicate your truth relevantly, simply, and truthfully. Help us to communicate it in grace and truth. May others see the truth of the gospel in even the manner of our presentation. Amen.

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Strengthened by Joy (Aug 14)

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August 14

Strengthened by Joy 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 88:1-7 | Nehemiah 7:61-9:21 | 1 Corinthians 9:1-18 | Proverbs 21:11-12

Today’s Scripture Focus: Nehemiah 7:61 — 9:21

“For the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10 NIV).

“And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them” Nehemiah 8:12 (ESV).

It was quite a scene. After years and years of neglect, the scripture had been uncovered. Ezra got all the people together in one place and began to read the law. He along with some of the other priests read and explained the law to the people. How did the people react to hearing the Word of God?

They worshiped.  “All the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen,’ lifting up their hands. ‘And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground’”(8:6).

They also wept. “For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law” (8:9).  Confronted by the law, they could clearly see their disobedience and sin. Conviction of sin brought tears.

But Nehemiah encouraged the people to find joy. They were hearing the law and understanding it. This was reason for celebration. There would be a time for weeping, but this was a time for celebration: the celebration of understanding God’s word.

Each day is an opportunity for celebration as we hear and understand God’s word. Understanding it brings joy, and that “joy of the Lord is our strength” (8:12).  God teaches us principles that enable us to live “life to the full.” His promises give us hope that strengthens us through the most difficult of times.

As you spend time in His word today, look for understanding and find joy knowing that the principles will strengthen you for the day ahead.

May the Joy of the Lord be your strength! Open your heart to him and live in his joy today!

Heavenly Father, I look to you to replenish the fountain of joy in my life. Fill me with joy in your presence that I might find strength for the trials of the day. In all I do today, may I find joy in doing it for the purpose of your glory. Amen.

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Building Up or Tearing Down? (Aug 13)

BuildingUp2

August 13

Building Up or Tearing Down?

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 87:1-7 | Nehemiah 5:14 — 7:6 | 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 | Proverbs 21:8-10

Today’s Scripture Focus: Nehemiah 5:14- 7:60 

“I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you? Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer” (Nehemiah 6:3-4 NIV).

Tearing down is simple. Building up is an art. Anyone can criticize; it takes no great skill to see the problems. It takes a real leader not to be distracted by the words that tear down; to keep to the task despite criticism.

The world is filled with critics (so is the church–when will realize that there is no “gift of criticism” listed in scripture?).  They are good at seeing the obvious, and get stuck on the problem rather than trying to be part of the solution. Nehemiah had his critics. They kept harassing him with their complaints.

Anyone in a leadership role must learn to deal with criticism. Nehemiah was in the midst of this leadership lesson.  I love his response to the criticism: “I am carrying out a great project and I can’t come down.” He refused to be distracted by the criticism of Tobiah and Sanballat.

Tobiah and Sanballat had evidently gone to the school of Telemarketing, and kept pestering Nehemiah again and again. Nehemiah remained devoted to the task and undeterred from his vision of rebuilding the walls. He would not stop building just because a few words were aimed his way to tear him down.

When the criticism became almost unbearable, he took it to the Lord. “But I prayed, ‘now strengthen my hands” (6:10). When the criticism seems too much to bear, take it to the Lord and ask him to fill you with his strength to stick to the task he has called you to do.

Lord, keep me so focused on the project you’ve called me to, that I’m not tempted to fall prey to criticism. Instead, may the voices of encouragement keep me pressing forward in obedience to your gentle whisper. Amen.

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Bending God’s Ear (Aug 12)

bendingear

Quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

August 12

Bending God’s Ear 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 86:8-17 | Nehemiah 3:15-5:13 | 1 Cor. 7:25-40 | Proverbs 21:5-7

Today’s Scripture Focus: Psalm 86

“Bend an ear, God; answer me” (Psalm 86:1 The Message).

“Teach me, your way O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name. I will praise, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever” (Psalm 86:11-12 NIV).

We’ve looked for God’s eye to watch over us and his hand to bless us. Today, David is looking for God’s ear. He is looking for God to hear and answer his prayer. He finds himself in a desperate situation, and he is looking for someone to talk to, someone who can protect and save him.

David knew where to turn. He knew the greatness of his God:

“You are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you” (5). “You are great and do marvelous deeds, You alone are God” (10) “Great is your love toward me” (13) “You, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”

Awestruck by his greatness, amazed by his abounding love toward him, David always knew where to turn.  No matter how difficult the circumstances or the opposition, he knew his God was greater; he knew his God loved him.

Open up your heart like David.  Tell him all your troubles and look to his loving heart to bring the deliverance you need.

Teach me your way O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. Amen (Psalm 86:11-12).

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Constructive Praying (Aug 11)

constructivepraying

Quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

August 11

Constructive Praying 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 86:1-7 | Nehemiah 1:1 — 3:14 | 1 Corinthians 7:1-24 | Proverbs 21: 1-2

Today’s Scripture Focus: Nehemiah 1-3

“O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” (Nehemiah 1:11 NIV)

 

Cupbearers tend to be men of prayer (being the guinea pig for possible poisoning will bring on that tendency). Contractors tend to be men of action. Nehemiah was both. A Burdened heart led to powerful intercession. The struggle of prayer led to an open door by the blessing of God. A praying cupbearer was given opportunity to put feet to his prayers.

The King saw Nehemiah’s distress and asked him why he looked the way he did. Nehemiah, because the hand of the Lord was upon him, grew bold and not only told the king the reason for his distress but also made some major requests. The praying cupbearer became the contractor on a major project: Rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.

The foundation for his work was laid in prayer. It always is. Men of action must also be men of prayer. To try to do God’s work without laying the prayer foundation will lead to frustration and walls that won’t stand for long. As one seasoned prayer warrior said, “We must do more than pray, but not until we have prayed.”

Men of prayer must always be men of action. While men of prayer know how to wait until the right time, they don’t procrastinate their obedience when God opens the door. They step out in faith expecting the hand of the Lord to be upon them. They expect God to already be at work, preparing the way for their steps of obedient faith.

Nehemiah’s story also reminds us that it isn’t only the pastor’s job that is important. Whatever we do should be done for the glory of God. Ezra (the ministry role) and Nehemiah (the contractor role) had to work together to get the job done (not to mention prophets like Zechariah). If you are a cupbearer, God can use that for his glory. If you are a contractor, he can use that too. Whatever your vocation or calling, God would have you do it with all your heart unto him (bringing him great glory).

Like Nehemiah, lay the foundation of prayer and look for the opportunity to act. This is the way to glorify God and to accomplish great things for him.

Heavenly Father, continue to teach me that prayer should be the foundation of all I do. Continue to teach me that I must also act as you open doors and empower me to do the things you have called me to do. Help me to be a leader who balances prayer and action. Amen.

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