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. 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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From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

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. Amen.

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What Would You Ask For? (June 8)

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June 8

What Would You Ask For?

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 129:1-8 | 1 Kings 3:4-4:34 | Acts 6:1-15 | Proverbs 16:26-27

Today’s Scripture Focus:  1 Kings 3-4

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you” (1 Kings 3:5 NIV). 

So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:9 NIV).   

What if God were to ask you the same question he asked Solomon?  What would you ask for?

Solomon chose wisely. Instead of long life or riches, he chose wisdom.

God was so pleased with the choice that he gave Solomon more than he had asked for: riches and long life too.

The book of Proverbs is a reminder that God’s answer to Solomon—giving him wisdom—has benefited us all.

We all need God’s wisdom–everyday. How good to know that God is delighted to give the gift of wisdom to all who ask for it. You do not have to be a king or a religious leader, he gives it freely to all of us when we ask.

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).  

If God were to say to you, “Ask me for anything,” what would you ask for?  Solomon chose wisdom. The choice pleased God. We do the same each and every time we take the time to ask for wisdom.

All wise God, I stand in need of your wisdom. So give me a discerning heart and fill me with your wisdom. Amen.

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For the Sake of the Name (June 7)

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From “For the Sake of the Name” in Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

June 7

For the Sake of the Name

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 128:1-6 | 1 Kings 2:1-3:3 | Acts 5:1-42 | Proverbs 16:25

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Acts 5:1-42

 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 5:41-42 NIV). 

As persecution came, the disciples prayed and became even bolder. When opposition came, they became even more determined to teach and preach the good news. When suffering came, they rejoiced because they considered it an honor to be counted worthy to suffer for the Name of Christ.

Such boldness challenges us. Why are we so timid? Why are we so easily intimidated? Why do we find it so hard to share the good news?

Others looked at the disciples and were amazed that God took ordinary, unschooled men and used them to boldly proclaim the truth. They recognized that the secret to their transformation was that “they had been with Jesus.”

Perhaps that is what we are lacking too. As we spend time in the presence of Jesus, waiting eagerly—expectantly—for His Spirit to empower us, we too will find the boldness we need to face our fears and live our lives willing to sacrifice all for the sake of the Name.  

Are we willing to suffer disgrace for the sake of Christ?

Father, help me to be bold in teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ. I abide in your presence today asking for you to empower and transform me into the likeness of Jesus. Help me to live this day for the sake of Christ and his name. Amen.

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In Trouble (June 6)

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June 6

In Trouble

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 127:3-5 | 1 Kings 1:1-53 | Acts 4:1-37 | Proverbs 16:24

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Acts 4

“And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give your servants great boldness in their preaching. Send your healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:19-20 NLT).

Peter and John were preaching with boldness and healing with God’s power.  This upset the religious establishment.  Whatever hopes they had about the message of Jesus being silenced by his crucifixion were being dashed by the power of the Risen Christ as he poured out his Spirit on his body (the Church) and they continued his work.

It was especially the message of Christ’s resurrection that troubled the leaders. Yet this was the life-transforming message of the gospel and Jesus’ followers could not keep silent about it.

So what would the young church do in face of opposition? They got together to pray!

And what did they pray? Protection? Safety? No! They prayed for more boldness to stand strong in the face of the persecution.  They also prayed for God’s spirit to be poured out on the church in power. They prayed for signs and wonders that would proclaim the power of Jesus to an unbelieving world. Note that they prayed for a fuller demonstration of what had already gotten them into trouble in the first place.

Truly this was a church on fire. Bold. Filled with faith. Ready to sacrifice everything for the cause of Christ. What was their secret? It was their commitment to unite together to pray.  They lived adventurous, faith-filled lives empowered by the Spirit.  They knew where their strength and boldness came from. They knew how to pray! They were devoted to it!

Lord, teach us to pray. In all situations help us to continue in prayer. Give us the boldness of these early Christians and help us live adventurous, faith-filled lives as we are empowered by your Spirit. Make our churches houses of prayer, devoted to prayer. Amen.

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