Never Ending Cycle (Apr 24)

Neverending2

April 24
Never Ending Cycle

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 59:6-13 | Judges 2:10-3:31 | Luke 22:14-34 | Proverbs 14:22

Today’s Scripture Focus: Judges 2

Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the LORD’s commands. (Judges 2:16-17 NIV)

What happens when God’s people turn away from God’s commands and do whatever is right in their own eyes? That seems to be the question that the writer of Judges is trying to answer. The answer? In short: Chaos. The pages of Judges are filled with missed opportunities, deceit, destruction, and death.

There is a pattern in Judges that we see over and over again and it is clearly laid out in chapter two verses twelve to nineteen. First the people forsake the LORD and worship the gods of the people around them. This arouses the LORD’s anger that results in God giving them over to their enemies. Because of their idolatry and sin, when they go out to fight, they end up fighting not only an opposing army, but the LORD himself (vs. 15). Eventually God’s people become distressed and begin to cry out to God. Then he sends a judge to rescue and save them from their enemies once again. Their gratitude for God’s saving action does not last long. Soon they drift off into idolatry and disobedience once again. When the judge dies, their disobedience and rebellion are taken to new heights. This triggers the cycle again. Each time, things only get worse and worse. If you understand this section, you get the point of Judges.

There is much to be learned from the cycles of disobedience and repentance found in Judges. The church has not been immune from these cycles. There are times of revival and religious fervor and there are times of compromise and drifting. There are times of repentance that are sometimes quickly forgotten as we drift back to our old ways and worship the gods of our culture. Perhaps it is a time for us to cry out to the LORD for his deliverance.

In our individual lives, drifting back into old patterns of disobedience comes easily. We are easily lured into compromise, just as they were in Judges. We must cry out to God in true repentance and seek his deliverance. We must walk in the fullness of his Spirit to break the old patterns and move forward into the abundant life he offers.

Judges is a powerful reminder of how easy it is to drift; how easy it is to compromise; how easy it is to miss out on God’s best for our lives. It is a reminder that “everyone doing what is right in their own eyes” is a recipe for chaos that causes hurt and harm. Open up your heart to Jesus. Cry out to him for deliverance and break the cycles of compromise.

Lord God, let my life be characterized by doing what is right in your eyes and not my own. Keep me focused and following you and not drifting off the way you set before me. Deliver me from the gods of this age and give me whole hearted devotion to you. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Time Well Spent (Apr 23)

TimeWellSpent

April 23
Time Well Spent

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 59:1-5 | Judges 1:1-2:9 | Luke 21:29-22:13 | Proverbs 13:24-25

Today’s Scripture Focus: Luke 21

Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, Luke 21:38 and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple. (Luke 21:37 NIV)

The cross was drawing nearer and nearer. Ministry was taking place daily. After a day of teaching in the temple, Jesus finds one of his favorite places to pray. He gets away to the Mount of Olives to spend the night in fellowship with his Father through prayer.

Likely weary from a day of teaching and ministry, Jesus finds a solitary place—and as was his practice—he spends extended time in prayer. Clearly this is a pattern rooted in delight rather than duty—this is a time and place set apart to enjoy fellowship with his Father in prayer.

In so doing, Jesus once again reminds us of the importance of prayer. It was clearly a priority in his life, even when life was busy with ministry activity; even when life was stressful. Even when he must have been weary after a full day of teaching, he shows deep commitment to finding time to pray.

Surely Jesus commitment to pray is also a testimony to the delight Jesus found in prayer. Such commitment reveals a heart that is motivated by delight more than duty. Prayer is intimate fellowship with the Father: an opportunity to pour out his heart; an opportunity to listen; a time to be refreshed and refocused in preparation for the ministry of the coming day.

May you find the delight that Jesus did in finding a quiet place to pray. Enjoy time in the presence of the father. Pour out your heart, listen, be refreshed and refocused in the presence of the Father who loves you deeply and who also delights in such times of fellowship.

Dear Heavenly Father, let me find the joy and delight of time spent in your presence. Like Jesus help me to find quiet places where I can spend time in fellowship with you. As I pour out my heart to you, refresh me and prepare me for the day. Refocus me, give me direction and empower me for the day ahead. In Jesus name, Amen.

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As For Me and My House (Apr 22)

as for me

quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

April 22
As For Me and My House

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 58:1-11 | Josh 24:1-33 | Luke 21:1-29 | Proverbs 13:20-23

Today’s Scripture Focus: Joshua 24:1-33

“Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Josh 24:14-15 NIV)

They had, more or less, conquered the land. Nearing the end of his life and time of leadership, Joshua calls the people together. First he reminds them of the way God has been with them in giving them this land. He doesn’t hesitate to go into details. He concludes his review of God’s intervention on their behalf: “So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant” (24:13).

After reminding them how God had fulfilled his promises and had been faithful to the covenant, Joshua calls them to commitment: “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (24:14-15).

Already many had forgotten the law and the covenant; many had already fallen into idolatry. Joshua calls them to wholehearted devotion to God. As a good leader, he makes the first commitment; “as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD!” Yet he gives them the choice.

The people declare their intention to follow the LORD. But Joshua slows them down making sure they carefully consider their choice. He even taunts them, “You are not able to serve the LORD!” Joshua wants to make sure they understand the consequences. Still the people reaffirm their commitment to serve the LORD.

Then Joshua reminds them of the conditions of the covenant. He once again has the law read in the hearing of the people. Then he has a reaffirmation ceremony. He set up a stone of remembrance—a witness to the people of their commitment to God.
It is good to remember the blessings of God—to retrace our paths to see the footprints of God. It is good to seriously consider the cost of commitment. It is good to set up memorial markers (some record of our commitment). Most importantly, we must choose wisely and follow through on that commitment with God’s grace in the power of the Holy Spirit. Choose this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD!

Faithful God, let my heart be filled with gratitude because of your faithfulness to your promises. May gratitude lead to renewed commitment to follow you, to trust you, to obey you. Give me the grace I need for this day and the days to come. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord! In Jesus name, Amen.

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Every Promise (Apr 21)

everypromise

April 21
Every Promise

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 57:7-11 | Joshua 22:21-23:16 | Luke 20:27-47| Proverbs 13:17-19

Today’s Scripture Focus: Joshua 22:21- 23:16

“You know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed. But just as all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the Lord will bring upon you all the evil things, until he has destroyed you from off this good land that the Lord your God has given you, if you transgress the covenant of the Lord your God.” (Joshua 23:14-16 ESV)

“Not one word of his promise has failed–they have all been fulfilled.” With these words, Joshua reminds the people of Israel of the faithfulness of God. God has been with them. He has fought for them. He has given them the land he promised.

God’s dealing with the Israelite people is a reminder of the trustworthiness of the promises God makes to his people. Despite the ups and downs of the people’s obedience, God’s promises do not fail. They are fulfilled.

This text is also a reminder that the promises have conditions. Failure to meet those conditions has consequences. “But just as all the good things have been fulfilled, so the Lord will bring upon you all the evil things . . . if you transgress the covenant.” Promises may appear to be unfulfilled, but often God is waiting for conditions to be met.

God never fails and his promises can be trusted. But we do often fail. Our procrastinated obedience or deliberate disobedience can make it seem that the promises are not being fulfilled. How quickly we forget the conditions of the promise. How often we “turn to the right or the left” (6). Delays may also be the result of other people who have yet to meet the conditions of obedience.

Through his promises, God has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3-4)–everything. But we often forget that God’s promises have conditions–and those must be met.

Love God and walk in his ways, don’t turn to the right or the left but do exactly as he says. Then plead the promises and pray with expectation. You will find that all his promises are faithful–and all his words will be fulfilled.

Faithful God, thank you for your commitment to uphold your promises. Help me to walk in obedience and not turn to the right or the left. Help me to to remember your promises and trust you to fulfill them. Fill me with hopeful expectation when a promise seems far from fulfillment. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Rest (Apr 20)

rest

April 20
Rest

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 57:1-6 | Joshua 21:1 -22:20 | Luke 20:1-26 | Proverbs 13:15-16

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Joshua 21-22

And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their ancestors; not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands.  45 Not one of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. (Joshua 21:44-45)

God promised that if they would obey him, he would give the children of Israel the Land. While their obedience was far from perfect, God fully fulfilled his end of the bargain. Not one of all his good promises had failed; they all came to pass.

How like us, our obedience is usually far from perfect, yet God is always faithful. His promises are true. He never fails.

After years of struggle and battle in taking the land, now they were given rest in the Promised Land: rest from the battles, rest from the journey, and rest from their striving. They were finally home and at peace, now they can rest.

Jesus too, calls us to give up our striving and find rest in our relationship with him. Hear his words:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Finding our home in his grace, we can stop striving in your own strength and power. Finding our security in being his dearly loved child, we are free to take up his yoke and learn from him. Giving up on our futile self-effort, we find rest; rest for our souls.

Heavenly Father, help me to stop striving in my own strength and find rest for my soul. I am weary and tired of carrying a heavy burden. Jesus, I take up your yoke and long to learn from you and your humble and gentle heart. Spirit, empower me that I might indeed find that the yoke is easy and the burden is light. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Robbing the Purpose (Apr 19)

robbed2

April 19
Robbing the Purpose

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 56:9-13| Joshua 19:1 – 20:9| Luke 19:28-48| Proverbs 13:12-14

Today’s Scripture Focus: Luke 19:28-48

Then he entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling. [46] “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer;’ but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'” (Luke 19:45-46 NIV)

The temple was designed by God to be a place of worship and prayer for all of God’s people. It was to be a house of prayer for all nations. But somehow it lost its focus; it was robbed of its purpose. Jesus cleared the temple and declared that the house of prayer had become a den of robbers. So, how does a “house of prayer” become a “den of robbers?”

In part it was because of pride and prejudice. The Israelite people saw to it that their needs were being met, but lost sight of God’s concern for the nations. They began to think that God only cared about “people like us.” So the court of the gentiles seemed unnecessary–and it became a place to sell merchandise to make their lives easier. Personal convenience became more important than God’s heart for all people.

In part it was because of personal agendas. Some were motivated by money and saw the opportunity to turn the temple into a place to make a profit. Others were motivated by convenience. Instead of carrying the animals for sacrifice from their home, they could just buy what they needed right in the temple. Whatever the agenda, it was not Gods.

Like the people of Israel, people in churches today, sometimes place personal convenience ahead of God’s purpose. They begin to think that the church is only for “people like us.” When churches cease to care about reaching out to new people–when they forget about God’s heart for all nations–the church loses focus and purpose.

When personal agendas are more important than God’s agenda, when our personal convenience is more important than the needs of the lost, we fall prey to the same temptation. When my personal preferences are holding the church hostage to God’s design to reach out effectively, then the church has been robbed of its purpose for existence. The house of prayer becomes a den of robbers.

Dear Heavenly Father, give me a heart to pray for the broken and the lost, to be concerned and care. Give me the humility to set aside my personal comfort and agendas so that my church can become a house of prayer for all people. In Jesus name, Amen.

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To Seek and to Save (Apr 18)

whodoyoueatwith

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

April 18
To Seek and to Save

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 56:1-8 | Josh 16:1-18:28 | Luke 19:1-27 | Proverbs 13:11

Today’s Scripture Focus: Luke 19:1-27

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:9-10 NIV)

Who do you eat with? Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. This was a major problem for the Pharisees and other religious leaders of Jesus’ day. Jesus seemed more than willing to fuel the fire of their accusations that he was a “friend of sinners,” and someone who “eats with tax collectors and sinners.”

For the Pharisees, scrupulous observance of religious law was prioritized over love for people who needed the message. Jesus prioritized people—especially those that good society rejected—those that weren’t really welcome in the place of worship.

The story of Zachaeus is one more example of Jesus concern to reach out to those that society typically rejects. Jesus’ message of grace seemed especially welcome as meal-time conversation with those who were outcastes and sinners. Jesus love for them seemed to overcome the awkwardness that some feel around religious professionals.

Who do you eat with? Do your meal time conversations show you to be a “friend of sinners?” Or are you more like the Pharisees—filled with judgment and condemnation—refusing to enter into intimate conversation with those who most need the message of God’s grace? To often Christians are known more for their condemnation than their love for “sinners.”

To be Christ-like is to become a “friend of sinners.” The true follower of Christ will seek to find ways to eat with “tax collectors and sinners” demonstrating the good news in mealtime conversation. Consider those that Jesus came to spend time with:

“Jesus comes for sinners, for those as outcast as tax collectors and for those caught up in squalid choices and failed dreams. He comes for corporate executives, street people, superstars, farmers, hookers, addicts, IRS agents, AIDS victims, and even used car salesman. Jesus not only talks with these people but dines with them–fully aware that his table fellowship with sinners will raise the eyes of the religious bureaucrats who hold up the robes and insignia of their authority to justify their condemnation of the truth and their rejection of the Gospel of Grace.” –Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel, p. 20-

So with whom will you be eating this week?

Heavenly Father, keep my eyes open to opportunities to be a friend to sinners, to listen, to care, to converse, to serve, to pray, to love. May those conversations move naturally to the source of my hope and joy—my relationship with Jesus. Go before and prepare the way and use me to share good news in gentleness when the time is right. In Jesus name, Amen.

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