Where Can I Go? (Dec 11)

wherecanigo

Quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson.

December 11
Where Can I Go?

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 139:7-12 | Amos 4:1-6:14 | Revelation 2:18-3:6 | Proverbs 29:21-22

Today’s Scripture Focus: Psalm 139:7-12

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you (Psalm 139:7-12 NIV).

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” Sometimes we try to hide from God’s presence. Adam tried that. It didn’t work then, it still doesn’t work. Jonah tried it too. Waking up in the mouth of a big fish is a pretty good reminder that running from God is a hard thing to do. “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”

Sometimes we think God is hiding from us. Depending on our feelings to guide our perception, we forget the objective reality spoken of by the psalmist. Wherever we go, he is there. There is no place where God is not present. There is no circumstance we encounter where he is not near. “If I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me.”

Even in the deepest darkest circumstances of life, where we might feel abandoned by God, know that God is there and even the darkness is not dark to him. You may have trouble seeing clearly under the stresses of your circumstances. He sees and understands. He is with you whether you are able to sense it or not. “Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

Don’t run from his presence. You can’t hide. Don’t worry if you can’t feel his presence. Wherever you are, he is there.

Father, where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? Even when I am not aware of it, you are present with me. Thank you for your presence. Help me to walk with you today. Amen.

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Your First Love (Dec 10)

Yourfirstlove

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson. Available on Amazon.com

December 10
Your First Love

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 139:1-6 | Amos 1:1-3:15 | Revelation 2:1-17 | Proverbs 29:19-20

Today’s Scripture Focus: Revelation 2

You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. [4] Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love (Revelation 2:3-4 NIV).

The Ephesian church was doing many things right. For the most part, they receive words of praise as Christ evaluates their progress. They were working hard, and persevering in the faith. They dealt with false teachers in the proper manner. They showed their perseverance by remaining true to the faith while enduring hardships because they were Christians.

Yet there was one glaring fault in the Ephesian church. They had lost their first love.

It’s easy to do. We do the right things, but it becomes more of a ritual rather than a relationship. We go through the motions, but have lost the intensity of feeling and devotion we had at first.

Christianity is more than just “going through the motions.” It is an intimate relationship with one who loves you with an everlasting love.

Take the time to cherish your relationship with Christ. Spend time “abiding” in his love- meditating on how much he loves you. Believe it. Receive it. Soak in it. Spend time praising and adoring Christ. Tell him how much you love Him. Demonstrate it through your actions by loving obedience and by loving others. As he pours out his love in your heart and as you express it back in heartfelt praise, the love is rekindled and grows.

Father, pour out your love into my heart. Let me experience again the height, the breadth, the depth and the length of this love, this love that surpasses knowledge. As I abide in your love, enable me to express that love back to you and to others. Restore to me that first love. Amen.

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The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Dec 9)

Revelation

December 9
The Revelation of Jesus Christ

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 138:1-8 | Joel 1:1-3:21 | Rev. 1:1-20 | Proverbs 29:18

Today’s Scripture Focus: Rev. 1

“Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18 NIV).

How does one approach a book like Revelation? Some treat it as an exercise in speculation. They are fascinated about interpreting all the details and symbols in light of today’s news and trying to set dates for Christ’s return. Other people get confused by it all, and just try to avoid it.

Let me suggest another approach, one that I have found helpful. Try reading Revelation as a book of worship. Stand in awe of the revelation of Christ in his glory. Stand in awe of the wisdom of God as we get glimpses of Christ’s rule and reign. Long for more of a revelation of His presence here even as we wait for his coming in great glory as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Learn of Him. And worship and adore Him.

Let’s try it. Meditate on the truths that are revealed about Jesus, just in the first chapter. As you ponder his names and attributes, allow them to lead you to praise him for who he is.

In Revelation 1, Jesus is revealed as “the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the Kings of the earth” (5). He is the “one who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and has made us to be a king and priests to serve his God and Father–to him be glory and power forever and ever!Amen” (6).

We look with anticipation for, “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”(7).

He is the “Alpha and the Omega who is, and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (8).

He is revealed as one “like a son of man” in glorious brilliance and beauty (13-16).

He is the one who speaks saying, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

Don’t be afraid to read and meditate on this glorious revelation of Jesus Christ. May you grow in your knowledge of Him. Where the details are clear, rejoice. Where they seem a little fuzzy: stand in awe and worship (later you can come back to gain a fuller understanding of the details). When you see elders and angels and creatures worshipping, allow them to lead you to stand in awe and worship the Lord Jesus. He is the focus of this revelation and of our worship.

Father, open my eyes to the glory of Jesus. May your word open my heart to a fuller revelation of his glory. Let those things that I understand lead me to worship. Let the things that I don’t cause me to stand in awe. Amen.

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Grumblers and Faultfinders (Dec 8)

December 8
Grumblers and Faultfinders

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 137:1-9 | Hosea 10:1-14:9 | Jude 1-25 | Proverbs 29:15-17

Today’s Scripture Focus: Jude 1-25

“These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires, they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage” (Jude 1:16 NIV).

Jude, in his one chapter, gives us one of the starkest warnings in the New Testament. He reminds us of the judgment of God in places like Sodom and Gomorrah. He uses strong word pictures: “they are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind, autumn trees without fruit and uprooted–twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame, wandering stars, for who the blackest darkness has been reserved forever.” He warns the faithful to stay away from these “godless men” who should expect to be judged in like manner.

What had these men done to deserve such strong words? Why did the people need to be so careful about their influence?

Of course, there was immorality, rejecting authority and slandering celestial beings. But that is not all. They were also “grumblers and faultfinders,” boasting about themselves and “flattering others for their own advantage.”

Do “grumbling” and “faultfinding” really demand such stark warnings? Boasting and flattery? We often tolerate the “sins of the tongue” and treat them as “not as big of a deal” as other sins. But they have devastating effects on people and in the life of the church. Perhaps that is why Jude includes them on his list of serious offenses.

Use your tongue to bless and not to curse. Allow it to encourage and lift up instead of grumbling and faultfinding. Don’t allow others to draw you into grumbling and faultfinding. It’s a contagious disease with devastating effects.

Father, help me to speak from a heart of gratitude that I might bless others through my words. May my tongue always bless and never curse. May it bring words of healing, not words that wound and hurt. Let my words always bring you honor and glory. Amen.

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Forever (Dec 7)

Forever

December 7
Forever

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 136:10-26 | Hosea 6:1-9:17 | 3 John 1-15 | Proverbs 29:12-14

Today’s Scripture Focus: Psalm 136

Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever (Psalm 136:26 NIV).

Repetition can be a powerful rhetorical device. It brings emphasis making the point crystal clear. It enables the reader or listener to remember.

Repetition can be a powerful liturgical device. It helps us slow down and focus on a key theme long enough to let it sink in. It gives time for the truth to engage not only the mind, but the heart.

This Psalm is a great example. The love of God (Hebrew: hesed) is the focus. This Hebrew term, actually is much fuller than is suggested by the word love. It is certainly that, but so much more. It is the relentless love of God who is completely faithful to the people of the covenant; it is faithfulness, love, kindness and mercy all wrapped up in one word. It is the essence of God’s love for and commitment to his people. It is a wonderful word that is very well worth taking the time to meditate on.

Each of the phrases of the Psalm focuses on the character and actions of God that demonstrate his hesed (loving kindness). Then the congregation joins in; “His love endures forever.”

God loves you with the same kind of relentless, faithful love. Take the time to meditate on that. Remember something that God has done for you and then say, “His love endures forever.” Allow God to move that truth deeply into your heart.

Father, thank you for your ongoing faithfulness in my life. Your actions demonstrate your loving-kindness over and over and over. Indeed, your love endures forever. Amen.

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Love and Obedience (Dec 6)

loveandobedience

December 6
Love and Obedience

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 136:1-9 | Hosea 4:1-5:15 | 2 John 1-13 | Proverbs 29:9-11

Today’s Scripture Focus: 2 John 1-13

“And this is love that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” (2 John 1:6 NIV)

John makes several connections repeatedly throughout his letters. He repeatedly connects love for God to our obedience—especially obedience to the two great commandments (to love God and to love our neighbor). “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome” 1 John 5:3.

He also repeatedly suggests that if we love God, we will walk in love toward brothers and sisters. Love for God will manifest itself in love for other people.

Here again, in verse 6, John reminds us of the connection of love and obedience to God’s commands. Loving God is the true motivation for obedience. We obey because we love Him. And to truly love Him is to obey Him. Every act of disobedience, then, comes from a lack of love for God.

Love for God is not measured so much by our words or our feelings as it is by our obedience to Christ’s command to love others. Do you love God? Are you demonstrating it by your obedience to his commands? Do you love others? Do you demonstrate that in practical ways–through action and truth, not just words? These are the true marks of love for God.

Father, fill my heart with your love and help me to love others as you do. Help me to make it practical—not just flowery words, but love in practical actions. Use me today to bring your love to others. Amen.

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Faithful to the Unfaithful (Dec 5)

faithfultounfaithful

December 5
Faithful to the Unfaithful

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 135:15-21 | Hosea 1:1-3:5 | 1 John 5:1-21 | Proverbs 29:5-8

Today’s Scripture Focus: Hosea 1:1-3:5

The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes” (Hosea 3:1 NIV).

Sometimes God calls a prophet to do something unusual as a prophetic action. Among the most difficult is the command of the Lord to the prophet Hosea. He is to marry Gomer, a prostitute who will repeatedly prove to be unfaithful. And he is to always take her back and love her faithfully.

In this extraordinary prophetic act, God is demonstrating his unrelenting faithfulness to his people in spite of their repeated acts of unfaithfulness.

The whole of the Hebrew Scriptures is a testimony to the truth God is demonstrating through Hosea’s prophetic words and action: his people have a tendency toward unfaithfulness—a tendency toward worshipping other gods—and they go through cycles of disobedience leading to judgment leading to repentance and return. But the cycle never seems to stop. After a while, they drift back into indifference and unfaithfulness.

Yet despite the repeated acts of unfaithfulness, he calls Hosea to demonstrate faithfulness to Gomer. In the same way, God has remained faithful to his often-unfaithful people and he holds out hope that one day they will return. In the final words of the book, God lays out his ultimate intention: that his people will one day return in faithfulness: “Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days.”

Old Testament or New, despite our wavering faithfulness, God always remain faithful. As Paul wrote to Timothy: “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, since he cannot deny himself” (2Tim. 2:13 ESV). Open up your heart to your faithful God and praise him! Despite the fact that we sometimes prove unfaithful, he never gives up on us: he remains faithful! His love endures forever.

Father God, great is your faithfulness. Great is your steadfast love toward your people. Forgive us for times when we are unfaithful, when we drift and compromise. Thank you for always receiving us with love as we return from our prodigal ways. Give us a steadfast spirit and enable us by your Spirit to demonstrate faithfulness and perseverance as we continue on in faith. Amen.

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