Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires (Nov 19)

forestfires

From Open Up Your Heart by jeff Syverson

November 19
Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 125:1-5 | Ezekiel 39:1-40:27 | James 2:18-3:18 | Proverbs 28:2

Today’s Scripture Focus: James 2:18-3:18

“From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers these things ought not to be so” (James 3:10 ESV).

The tongue is a powerful force for evil or for good. James encourages us to be people who bless rather than curse with our tongues. He does so by illustrating the power of the tongue.

He describes the tongue like a small bit that can turn and guide a large horse. He says it is like the small rudder of a ship that can turn the whole ship and set its course. It is like a spark that sets a whole forest ablaze.

I think we all know the truth of those word pictures. Anyone who has been the victim of gossip knows how a story spreads and gets more outrageous as the process goes on. Truly, gossip is a sin with “forest-fire” like qualities. It gets out of control and creates great devastation.

He also describes the tongue as a poison. Many words hurt, some are deadly to the spirit of an individual. This is especially true of the curses we hold on to (words that have wounded us and we can’t seem to ever leave them behind–at least subconsciously). These have a long-lasting negative effect on our lives.

He points out the inconsistency of a Christian who blesses one moment and then curses the next. It’s like a fig tree bearing olives, or a grapevine producing figs, or a spring pouring out both fresh and salt water.

Yet for all the devastation the tongue can bring, the tongue can be a powerful force for good. Use your tongue to encourage, to bless, to pray, to witness and to praise. Allow your tongue to “put out fires” instead of igniting them.

Lord, I present the members of my body to you today, including my tongue, I dedicate them to your use. May my tongue bless, encourage, witness and praise—building up others rather than tearing them down. Enable me to guard my tongue. Let no careless word spark unintended wildfires. Amen.

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Mirror, Mirror (Nov 18)

mirror

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

November 18
Mirror, Mirror

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 124:6-8 | Ezekiel 37:1-38:23 | James 1:19-2:17 | Proverbs 28:1

Today’s Scripture Focus: James 1:19-2:17

“But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25 NIV).

Did you look in the mirror this morning? What did you see?

Each morning I roll out of bed, and begin my morning ritual. One of the first things that I do is look in a mirror. Usually that is enough to scare me into showering, shaving and getting ready for the day. It’s a daily reminder that I’m not ready to go out into the world yet –-and they certainly aren’t ready for me looking like this.

In a similar way, I need to look into God’s mirror each day. As I look into his word, he shows me areas I need to change, places in need of ongoing transformation. This needed daily ritual gets me ready for the challenges of the day.

Furthermore, James reminds us that we had better apply the Word of God. Imagine looking in a mirror and not changing a thing about your appearance. You see that your hair looks like it has been combed with an eggbeater, but you just don’t quite get around to combing it. To most of us that is unthinkable. Yet we do it all the time. God shows us things in his word and we fail to apply them in our daily lives. James points out to us in this passage how silly that really is.

We need the mirror of the word to rebuke, correct, train and equip us. We need it daily. And we need to remember daily to apply the text to our lives–then we will be blessed in what we do (1:25).

Lord, I open my heart to your word today. Speak to me. Show me the changes I need to make to get ready for this day. Let your word encourage, teach, rebuke, correct and bring transformation. Amen.

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Wisdom (Nov 17)

wisdom

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

November 17
Wisdom

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 124:1-5 | Ezekiel 35:1-36:38 | James 1:1-18 | Proverbs 27:23-27

Today’s Scripture Focus: James 1:5

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him (James 1:5 NIV).

God loves to give us his wisdom. He wants us to ask him for it. He never gets tired of our coming back again and again to ask for it. He never faults us for asking over and over again.

He lays down two conditions. We must ask for it. James tells us in chapter 4: “you do not have because you do not ask.” We often trust our own wisdom and neglect to ask God for his wisdom.

The other condition is faith. “But let him ask in faith, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

God is not going to waste his wisdom on someone who doesn’t have the faith to put it into action. The double-minded person wavers between what he knows in his head he should do, and what he wants to do in his heart. He wavers between the wisdom of God and his own desires. Where there is no willingness to follow God’s wisdom–when there is only instability and wavering–we have not met the condition of faith. We should not expect wisdom from God–or anything else for that matter.

Set your mind fully on knowing and doing the will of God and ask him for it. He promises to give such a person all the wisdom that they need, anytime they need it.

Lord, again I stand in need of your wisdom. Thank you for your willingness to hear my repeated requests and answer with the wisdom I need. Amen.

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Through Us and In Us (Nov 16)

Haystack

November 16
Through Us and In Us

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 123:1-4 | Ezekiel 33:1-34:31 | Hebrews 13:1-25 | Proverbs 27:21-22

Today’s Scripture Focus: Hebrews 13:1-25

Hebrews 13:20-21 (NIV) May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, [21] equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

As the letter comes to an end, the writer of Hebrews gives a blessing. He first blesses them by asking that God would provide everything they need to do the work he has called them to do– everything they need for doing his will.

What tasks has God given you to do today? Do you believe that God will give you everything you need to do his will in all that he calls you to do today? He is always there to provide everything we need if we rely on him for it: the strength, the initiative, the follow through, the gifting, the wisdom, the love, the joy, the resources.

But the blessing goes further, it is not just a blessing for God to give us everything we need to work “through us,” it is also a blessing for him to work “in us.” “And may he work in us what is pleasing to him.” There are areas in each of our lives that require God’s ongoing work of transformation.

The blessing for God to work “through us” and the blessing for God to work “in us” are not isolated blessings. Most of that which will enable us to do his will and work through us, will be provided by the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit “in us”. As he changes us from the inside out, he prepares us for each and everything thing he intends to accomplish “through us.”

May God work “in you” today to equip you for everything he intends to accomplish “through you” today. Amen.

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Practical Holiness (Nov 15)

practicalholiness

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

November 15
Practical Holiness

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 122:1-9 | Ezekiel 31:1 – 32:32 | Hebrews 12:14-29 | Proverbs 27:18-20

Today’s Scripture Focus: Hebrews 12:14-29

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:14-15 NIV).

As Christians, we are called to a life of holiness. But what does that mean? To some it might bring images of life in a monastery rejecting all worldly things to spend the rest of my life in prayer and solitude. To others, it means a rigid life of keeping rules and trying hard. Many of our images of holiness suggest a joyless existence–rigid and austere. But that is not the picture of holiness that the Bible gives.

Holiness is becoming more and more like Jesus: More loving, more joyful, more of a peacemaker, more kind and gentle with others, more patient. Far from a joyless existence, holiness is “life lived to the full,” a life of wholeness and balance. It means becoming a person that lives with a clear sense of purpose. Living a holy life should be a passionate, full adventurous life lived to the glory of God.

The greatest test of our progress in holiness is this: how do I get along with other people? Do you see the connection in our text? “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and be holy.” In practical terms, our growth in holiness is tested and proved through relationships with others.

So how are you doing? Take the time to open your heart to Jesus everyday through prayer and meditating on His word. Spending time with Christ has a way of bringing transformation from the inside out that begins to be seen more and more in your daily life and especially in dealing with people. As you take the time to read and pray, His character and priorities begin to rub off a little more each day.

Heavenly Father, help me to walk in holiness and live in peace with others. May the character of Jesus be reflected in all I do and say today. So Lord, fill me with your Spirit and produce the fruit of your Spirit in my life. Amen.

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Keep Running (Nov 14)

keeprunning

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

November 14
Keep Running

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 121:1-8 | Ezekiel 29:1 – 30:26 | Hebrews 11:32-12:13 | Proverbs 27:17

Today’s Scripture Focus: Hebrews 11:32-12:13

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1b-2 NIV).

The life of faith is a marathon requiring great determination and endurance. The race is filled with difficulties. The heroes of faith at the end of chapter 11 sacrificed much for their faith–sometimes everything.

I suppose we all have times when we feel tired and weary and are tempted to quit. In those times we are, in essence, told by the writer, “Don’t give up, keep running, persevere to the end; keep your eye on the finish line.”

Like it or not, God uses the difficulties of life to test our faith. In those times we “fix our eyes on Jesus” and refuse to give up. We rely on his strength to carry us through to the finish line.

Even Jesus went through such times, and he focused on the “joy set before him.” He looked to the ultimate purpose, the reward that awaited him as he faithfully and patiently endured the pain and shame of the cross.

Don’t give up. Keep running. Your faith is being tested, but that is not a reason to stop or give up. It is a reason for you to look to Jesus for that added measure of faith that will carry you through.

Father God, I run to you today. Strengthen my faith and keep me focused on the joy that is set before me as I persevere through this time of trial. Empower me by your Spirit and enable me to run with endurance until I reach this journey’s end. Amen.

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Faith that Passes the Test (Nov 13)

faiththatpasses

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

November 13
Faith That Passes the Test

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 120:1-7 | Ezekiel 27:1-28:26 | Hebrews 11:17-31 | Proverbs 27:15-16

Today’s Scripture Focus: Hebrews 11:17-31

“By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days” (Hebrews 11:30 NIV).

Your faith will be tested. For Abraham it was a test of “willingness.” Would he be willing to sacrifice his only son even though it made no earthly sense and seemed to contradict everything he knew about God and his promise?

Joseph’s faith was tested in numerous ways. Abandoned by his brothers, imprisoned, forgotten and betrayed. He saw the promise, but it seemed to always be delayed by the circumstances he was in. Finally though, his faith was rewarded.

Moses faced innumerable tests of faith in leading the reluctant, often rebellious, children of Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Leadership can be a big test of one’s faith.

Imagine the test of faith of crossing the Red Sea. Imagine the joy of seeing that faith rewarded.

What of the test of faith at Jericho? Could seven days of marching around a city really result in its fall? Facing our doubts and unbelief is a major test of our faith.

And those are only a few examples of faith being tested. You could add many stories as well, couldn’t you?

In all the tests, God shows that he is faithful and that he can be trusted. Hang in there. Keep pressing on. You may not see the light at the end of the tunnel yet, but God will be with you each step of the way. Trust Him.

Father, thank you for the reminder of your faithfulness. Help me to press on and persevere even in the midst of the trials I am facing. I don’t always understand your ways, but I do trust you. I march forward now, waiting for walls to fall. Amen.

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