Unity Brings Blessing (June 15)

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Quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

June 15
Unity Brings Blessing

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 133:1-3 | 1 Kings 14:1-15:24 | Acts 10:1-23a | Proverbs 17:7-8

Today’s Scripture Focus: Psalm 133

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! [2] It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. [3] It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing even life forevermore. (Psalm 133:1-3 NIV)

It is the heart of the Father for his people: Unity. It was expressed powerfully through Jesus prayer that his people may be one. Jesus passion for it was seen in his zeal for the temple to be a place of prayer for all people. The church is a diverse group with people from every language, nation, and people group. Yet God’s desire is that we would live together in the unity of his love.

Jesus prayer will find ultimate fulfillment in the consummation of the ages when in heaven we gather around the throne to worship. “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9). Yet every time God’s diverse people gather in unity, Jesus’ prayer finds fuller expression. God’s heart to show the world his love, is extended further.

There is a blessing in unity, when we lay aside our differences and come together around the one we worship—the source of all true unity. God pours out the anointing oil. The power and presence of his precious Holy Spirit dwells in a fresh way. The refreshing dew of his presence brings blessing and life forevermore.

Do you long for more of the blessing of God? Do you long for more of his presence and power? It flows when his people come together in unity, laying aside their personal prejudices and agendas to love each other deeply from the heart. That expression of love then overflows to a world that stands in need of the Father’s heart.

Lord, thank you for the diversity of the body of Christ. Help us to accept each other, love one another, and learn from one another. Pour out your anointing oil upon us as we gather in unity to worship and pray. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

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The Encourager (June 14)

TheEncourager

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

June 14
The Encourager

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 132:13-18 | 1 Kings 12:20-13:34 | Acts 9:26-43 | Proverbs 17:6

Today’s Scripture Focus: Acts 9:26-43

“When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles.”(Acts 9;26-27 NIV)

One of the greatest gifts we can give to another is the gift of encouragement. Barnabas was one that could always be counted on to be an encouragement to others.

He came to Saul’s side when he needed someone to stand by him. He trusted him. He stood by him and presented him to the disciples. He brought his case before the disciples, when everyone else was afraid.

When Paul set out on his first missionary journey, Barnabas was there at his side–his right hand man. Given all the challenges Paul faced in those journeys, it turned out to be a wise choice. Having an encourager on your team is always a good idea.

We all need encouragers: people who will believe in us, people who will stand by us, people who will stand up for us, people who will plead our case.

Look for an opportunity to be a Barnabas—an encourager. There are undoubtedly many people in your path today that need some encouragement. It is an important ministry.

“….encourage one another daily as long as it is called ‘today.'” Hebrews 3:13

Heavenly Father, thank you for words of hope and encouragement, thank you for the people in my life that bring encouragement. Help me to encourage others today and every day. In Jesus name, Amen.

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There’s Always Hope! (June 13)

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June 13
There’s Always Hope!

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 132:6-12 | 1 Kings 11:1-12:19 | Acts 9:1-25 | Proverbs 17:4-5

Today’s Scripture Focus: Acts 9:1-25

“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with the authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.” (Acts 13-15 TNIV)

Ananias had reason to be skeptical. He had reason to be fearful. Saul had been at the forefront of the persecution of Christians. He had been there to give approval to Stephen’s death. Was the Lord really telling him to go and speak to Saul?

Yes, God was telling him to speak to Saul because Saul had undergone a radical transformation. The one who had been leading the cause of persecuting Christians had an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus–a life changing encounter.

Paul’s conversion is a reminder that there is no one beyond hope. If Saul could become a Christian, then there is every reason for us to hope and pray for the salvation of the most unlikely—the hardest cases.

Paul’s call to ministry is a reminder that there is no one whom God cannot use for his glory. Yes, God could use one who had persecuted and killed Christians. He could so redeem and turn around his life that he could be called as a “chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel? Do you suppose Paul had doubts about that at first? “Could God really use me after all I’ve done?” I would bet that he did. But yes, God forgives and he was able to use Paul. He can use you too.

Don’t give up on praying for the most unlikely people to come to know Jesus. One real encounter with Jesus can alter a person’s destiny.

Don’t give up believing that God can use you, in spite your past, in spite of your failures. In fact, those struggles and failures might be the very experiences he uses most for his glory.

God of hope, fill me with expectation as I pray for others who need an encounter with Jesus. Fill me with hope that you can use me as your chosen instrument this day. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Expect the Unexpected (June 12)

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Quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson (now available at Amazon.com)

June 12
Expect the Unexpected

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 132:1-5 | 1 Kings 9:1-10:29 | Acts 8:14-40 | Proverbs 17:2-3

Today’s Scripture Focus: Acts 8:14-40

“As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, ‘Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ So he did, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah.” (Acts 8:26-28 NLT)

The one who is led by the Spirit is in for an adventure. You never know what unexpected opportunities you will encounter. Such was the life of Philip.

He had been preaching in Samaria and had the unexpected opportunity to find the Samaritans receptive to the gospel.

Now he was given specific direction to take a certain road. He found an Ethiopian official sitting in a carriage reading aloud from Isaiah. Again, Philip gets his direction from the Spirit, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.”

Hearing what the man was reading, Philip was given the unexpected opportunity to explain that scripture and many others that pointed to Christ as the Messiah. It became an unexpected opportunity to share the gospel with a man from Ethiopia.

You never know what opportunities lay ahead when the Spirit leads you. Learn to know his voice through walking intimately with him. Take the time to be quiet and listen. Solitude and silence are two disciplines that are often neglected in our busy and noisy lives. Then led by the Spirit, expect the unexpected.

All wise God, give me the sensitivity to be led by the Spirit today, to hear your voice, to see you at work, to recognize open doors. Give me the faith to expect the unexpected this day and in the days to come. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Scattered on Purpose (June 11)

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June 11
Scattered On Purpose

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 131:1-3 | 1 Kings 8:1-66 | Acts 7:51-8:13 | Proverbs 17:1-33

Today’s Scripture Focus: Acts 7:51-8:13

“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria…Those who had been scattered preached the gospel wherever they went.” (Acts 8:1, 4 TNIV)

The stoning of Stephen was just the beginning of a wave of persecution against believers in Jerusalem. Saul and his associates went from house to house dragging Christians from their homes and putting them into prison. What would happen to the young church?

Even while Satan seemed to be getting the upper hand, God remained sovereign. The believers’ willingness to suffer for the sake of the name only made their witness more powerful. Their boldness in spite of threat and persecution only amplified the words they spoke.

The persecution also was a means of fulfilling the Great Commission. The church was moving beyond the walls of Jerusalem into all of Judea and Samara—just as Jesus said it must.

God uses the tough times in our lives to show forth his power in our weakness. Sometimes God uses the tough times to move us to another place, sometimes spiritually, sometimes physically, sometimes both.

When you are feeling beat up, lost, and like your world is out of control, know that God is still watching over you. He has a plan to use even this tough time for his glory. His design is that in this you would trust him and continue to proclaim his goodness to others. There is a purpose in the tough time. There is a purpose in pushing you out of the comfortable nest and into a new place in your walk with Him.

Almighty God, in this tough time show forth your power in my weakness. Use this tough time to move me from the comfortable nest of where I am to the adventure of where you want me to be. Remind me that you are using this trial to refine my character. I trust in you through it all. Amen.

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Waiting and Watching (June 10)

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June 10
Waiting and Watching

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 130:5-8 | 1 Kings 7:1-51 | Acts 7:30-50 | Proverbs 16:31-33

Today’s Scripture Focus: Psalm 130:5-8

I pray to God—my life a prayer—and wait for what he’ll say and do. My life’s on the line before God, my Lord, waiting and watching till morning, waiting and watching till morning (Psalm 130:5, 6 The Message).

The watchman spent the night in the tower on the city wall watching and waiting. Of course, he was looking for any sign of danger. Yet ultimately, he was looking for the morning to come–hoping for another peaceful night awakened by a beautiful sunrise.

Intercessors serve as watchmen. They often spend late nights and early morning hours waiting on God–watching for him to work. Alert to the dangers; alert to the enemies movements, the watchman is focused especially on the coming dawn when God’s light breaks forth—the long awaited answers that result from watching and waiting.

Watching and waiting: “counting on the Lord” and “longing for Him.” It requires being utterly dependent on him. Seeing only darkness now, but waiting in expectation for the light to break forth and awaken a new day.

Don’t give up. Keep waiting. Keep watching. Keep your hope focused on God and his promises. Keep praying. The dawn is coming.

Lord, I wait with earnest intention. I persevere in waiting and watching, always with hope and expectation. I intercede and wait for your provision, your protection, your power and presence. I look to your promises and pray with insight as you fill me with spiritual wisdom and understanding. I look for the dawn. Amen.

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What Does it Cost? (June 9)

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June 9
What Does it Cost?

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 130:1-4 | 1 Kings 5:1-6:38 | Acts 7:1-29 | Proverbs 16:28-30

Today’s Scripture Focus: Acts 7:1-29

At this point everyone in the council stared at Stephen because his face became as bright as an angel’s. Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these accusations true?” (Acts 7:1 NIV)

Stephen was quite a man of God. He is described as a man “full of faith and the Holy Spirit,” “full of God’s grace and power” and one who spoke with “wisdom and the Spirit.” He was a powerful preacher and God used him to accomplish incredible signs and wonders. He walked in intimacy with Jesus to such an extent that his face radiated the glory of God—so much so that it amazed his accusers.

But his accusers unfairly charged him with false teaching and blasphemy. They brought out false witnesses and stirred up the crowds and religious leaders against him.

How would Stephen handle the pressure? He became the fulfillment of the prayers of the church for boldness rather than safety. He stood up to the accusers and preached the truth boldly, full well knowing that it might cost him his life. Indeed it did.

What would cause a man like Stephen to risk it all for the sake of the Gospel? He had a relationship with the Risen Christ. He knew the reality of his resurrection power. He was willing to risk it all to share the good news with others who needed to encounter the one who is the truth—Jesus.

Also, he was already living with eyes focused on the life that is eternal. The one with the eternal perspective knows that the troubles of this life are not worth being compared to the glory that is to be revealed in the next.

In the words of a 20th century martyr, Jim Elliot: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Such a perspective gives us the boldness we need to risk everything for Jesus.

Father, thank you for the example of Stephen who risked everything for the sake of the gospel. Give us boldness and courage to stand strong for truth. In Jesus name, Amen.

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