Under His Wings (Aug 22)

UnderHisWings2

August 22
Under His Wings

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 91:1-8 | Job 4:1-7:21 | 1 Cor. 14:18-40 | Proverbs 21:27

Today’s Scripture Focus: Psalm 91

“Under his wings you will find refuge” (Psalm 91:4 ESV).

I was struck by the contrast between Psalm 91, which looks with hopeful expectation for God’s protection and blessing and the readings in Job where he is trying to make sense of a situation where he feels abandoned and beat up by the circumstances of life.

Psalm 91 is filled with wonderful promises of God’s protection and blessing for the one who loves him and holds fast to him. He describes his protection like a bird gathering up her young in her wings to protect them from danger. “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.”

It’s a beautiful picture of God’s protection and faithfulness. And we’ve all walked with the Lord long enough to know that what the Psalmist says is absolutely true. God does watch over us. He does protect us. He is faithful.

Job reminds us that while all that is true, life is difficult. It’s sometimes hard to understand. We may love God deeply and be holding fast to him, only to find the trials of life intensify rather than diminish. Job wrestles with the questions brought on by his devastating circumstances but he refuses to lose hope; he continues to trust God even when he doesn’t understand. It didn’t come easy, and his friends weren’t much help in the process. But we all know that Job ultimately perseveres in his faith. And in the end, God’s blessings were poured out into his life.

Somehow I wonder if it isn’t in the circumstances like Job’s where the truth of Psalm 91 becomes most obvious. It is when life becomes dangerous and hard when protection is needed. It is then that the mother hen gathers her chicks and covers them with her wings. So in our lives, it is in the midst of the trials that God gathers us close and protects us in the refuge of “his wings”.

“It doesn’t matter, really, how great the pressure is; it only matters where the pressure lies. See that it never comes between you and the Lord–then the greater the pressure, the more it presses you to His breast.” –Hudson Taylor–

He is our refuge. Let him pull you close today.

Jesus, draw me near today, pull me close. Protect me. Pour out your love into my heart. Prepare me for the day. Thank you for the place of refuge I find in you. Amen.

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Hard Times (Aug 21)

HardTimes2

Aug 21
Hard Times

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 90:11-17 | Job 1:1 – 3:26 | 1 Corinthians 14:1-17 | Proverbs 21:25-26

Today’s Scripture Focus: 
Job 1-3

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21, NIV).

Bad things do happen to good people. Job is a perfect case in point. He was a blameless and upright man who feared God and shunned evil. Scrupulous about sin, he tried hard to follow God. God had blessed him with a great family. He lived comfortably and well. Then one day he lost it all.

Similar things happen everyday. People who seem to be living well, feeling secure, find themselves dealing with unimaginable tragedy. It all seems so unfair; a point that this book seems quite willing to concede.

How do we handle unimaginable tragedy? What do we do when our worst nightmares come true? This is the stuff that Job had to deal with. This is the stuff that this book deals with.

Some would like to follow Job’s wife’s advice: “Curse God and die.” When things get this bad, it may not seem like a crazy option at all. But Job would have nothing to do with her advice. He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (2:10).

Instead of following conventional wisdom, Job fell down to the ground and worshiped God: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (1:21).

That doesn’t mean he didn’t struggle. That didn’t mean he didn’t have questions. That didn’t mean he didn’t cry and lament the loss. He certainly did. He struggled, a lot. His friends try to comfort him with weak advice and empty clichés. They didn’t help.

If the book didn’t already raise enough questions, God shows up and asks Job a bunch of his own. In the end, the book gives no easy answers. Are there any? But it does demonstrate the struggles, the questions and the ultimate perseverance of a man of faith. A man who demonstrates how to open one’s heart to God in the midst of the worst this life has to offer.

Father, when life seems unfair help me to fall to the ground and worship you, May I reject the voices of those who say to curse you. May I not be too disturbed by the empty cliches of friends. Help me not to lose hope in spite of the questions, the doubts, the fears. Help me to press forward in persevering faith. Amen.

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If. . . (Aug 20)

If

Quote From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

August 20
If. . .

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 90:1-10 | Esther 8:1-10:3 | 1 Cor. 12:27-13:13 | Prov. 21:23-24

Today’s Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 13

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. [2] If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. [3] If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NIV).

Love is the glue that holds the body of Christ together despite the differences of our background, beliefs or experiences. Often people get “bent out of shape” regarding spiritual gifts. Love enables us to work together and learn from each other. Some in the body bring discernment to extremes; others help bring openness to the true working of God. As we love each other, we learn from each other. Gifts are given to build up the body, not to tear it apart. As we serve in love, that is exactly what happens.

Love is also the necessary motivation for using spiritual gifts. If we are motivated out of pride or insecurity (another form of pride–seeking attention), we lift up ourselves rather than Jesus. If we are focused on ourselves rather than on serving those we minister to in love, our service will bear no lasting fruit.

Of course, the principles of love described in 1 Corinthians 13, apply in the context of any relationship and this text is rightly read at weddings where it is applied in marriage. Yet I am always struck that in its original context, Paul was speaking of love in the church. The topic under discussion when Paul penned these words was the issue of the use of spiritual gifts.

Until Jesus comes, we have much to do. That work needs to be done in the power and gifts of the Spirit. As we seek for His fullness, motivated by love, we will be the kind of stewards who will hear, “well done” when we see him face to face.

Father, fill my heart with love so that I might serve you well. Fill me with your Spirit and stir up the gifts within me. Help me to serve in humility as I look to you for strength. Amen.

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Finding Your Place (Aug 19)

August 19
Finding Your Place

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 89:46-52 | Esther 4:1 – 7:10 | 1 Cor. 12:1-26 | Proverbs 21:21-22

Today’s Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 12:1-26

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; [5] and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; [6] and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. [7] To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7 ESV)

Every one of God’s children is gifted and is an important part of Christ’s body, the church. We all are important; we all have a part to play.

Sometimes people think that because they prefer to serve “behind the scenes” that they aren’t as important as those who serve with the “up front” gifts. Not so. All the places of service are important; all of the gifts necessary.

A body missing the eyes cannot see, a body missing a leg walks with a limp, a body missing an ear cannot hear well. Know that whether you are an eye, an ear, or even a gall bladder in the body of Christ, you are important to the proper function of your local church. Your church will not be as fruitful as it could be if you aren’t using that gift to the fullest.

God has a place of service for you. A place where your passion, experience, and giftedness comes together to meet a need. You are a unique but important piece of the puzzle that will not be complete until you find your place.

God, help me to find the place where my passion, experience, and giftedness finds a need. Help me to find that unique but important place where I fit in my local body of believers. Gift, empower, and use me I pray. Amen.

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Behind the Scenes

behindthescenes

Quote From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

August 18
Behind the Scenes

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 89:38-45 | Esther 1:1-3:15 | 1 Cor. 11:17-34 | Proverbs 21:19-20

Today’s Scripture Focus: Esther 1-3

She was taken to King Xerxes in the royal residence in the tenth month, the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. [17] Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti (Esther 2:16-17 NIV).

While the book of Esther never mentions the name of God, his working is seen throughout the book. While he may not be “front and center,” he is clearly working behind the scenes.

Unfortunately there are too many people like Haman. Their love for sin and hatred for God translates into hatred for God’s people. Human history is evidence that Haman is not alone. Hate and prejudice are all too abundant in our world. There are always some whose twisted hearts would seek to lash out at God and his people.

But we are also reminded that God is at work thwarting the work of the enemy. He has Godly men like Mordecai who are willing to stand up to the evil without compromise. He has Godly women like Esther who are willing to risk it all for the sake of what is right and good.

Yes, there is an enemy who seeks to steal, kill and destroy. But God is at work behind the scenes using people like you and me to accomplish his purposes. He has placed us where we are “for such a time as this.” We may live in a land of compromise, but we do not have to compromise. God will use us “in such a time as this” as we stand strong with a willingness to risk it all for the sake of the Gospel.

God, help me to live up to the call you have on my life. Help me to stand up like Mordecai against hate, and evil, and compromise. Help me to stand up like Esther for what is right and good, especially in such a time as this. Amen.

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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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