Cast Your Cares (Apr 17)

April 17

Cast Your Cares

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 55:16-23 | Joshua 15:1-63 | Luke 18:18-43 | Proverbs 13:9-10

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Psalm 55:16-23

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall (Psalm 55:22 NIV). 

David laments the wounds caused by the betrayal of a close friend. He is filled with anguish, fear and troubled thoughts. He wishes he could fly away like a bird–escaping the hurt. But realizes a better course is to takes his burden to God.

He places his burden in God’s strong hands. He pours out his wounded heart to the God who hears: “Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress and he hears my voice. . . . God who is enthroned forever will hear” (16-19). God is working out all things according to his plan and purpose. He is enthroned forever and he is listening. Matthew Henry wrote: “He, who bore the burden of our sorrows, desires us to leave to him to bear the burden of our cares, that, as he knows what is best for us, he may provide it accordingly. Why do not we trust Christ to govern the world which he redeemed?”

David casts his cares on the LORD and finds that the LORD sustains him. He knows that God will never let the righteous fall. He reaffirms his trust: “But as for me, I trust in you.”

The wounds from a friend or loved one can be especially painful. Take them along with your other wounds and concerns to the LORD; cast your burden upon him. Rest in his promises and find his sustaining power. As you cast your cares upon Him, you learn the healing truth that he loves you and cares for you–and he will never betray you or let you fall.

“Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders–he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out. He’ll never let good people topple into ruin” (The Message).

Compassionate God, thank you for loving and caring for me. When I am tempted to carry my own burdens, help me to learn to bring them to you. Help me to cast them upon you and find peace and freedom. I trust you to care for these concerns and never let me fall. Amen.

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We Should Not Give Up (Apr 16)

April 16

We Should Not Give Up

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 55:9-15| Joshua 13:1-14:15| Luke 18:1-17|Proverbs 13:7-8

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Luke 18

“Then Jesus told them a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1 NIV).

Persistent prayer and persevering faith are missing elements in much of our prayer. Jesus reminds us in this parable how important it is not to give up in our praying. He also shows us that it is not only being persistent in prayer that is important, but also persevering in our faith when we pray.

When our prayers are not immediately answered, our faith is stretched and tested. It is easy to give up. It’s easy to throw in the towel and not make the effort to persevere in prayer. But Jesus reminds us that even an unjust judge will eventually answer the persistent cries of the one who is bothering him for justice. How much more, he asks, will our Heavenly Father who is just and loving answer our cries for help?

But perhaps the most important part of the story is the final question, “But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?” (The Message). Even more important than the persistent prayers is the faith that perseveres despite the delays and apparent denials. You see, even our persistent prayers can be made without faith–we just go through the motions with little expectation of the answer. God is looking for our faith–and is especially pleased with a faith that perseveres despite what it sees–a faith that refuses to die even as it presses in expectantly despite months or years with no apparent answer.

Your persistent prayers will one day be rewarded. As your faith is refined through the testing, you will grow and mature. That is often a big part of the answer (and the reason for the wait). But know that the answer is coming. Don’t give up on your praying. Never stop expecting. Your heavenly father is just and loving—and he is listening.

Loving Father, thank you for hearing my prayers. Help me to understand that the delays are opportunities for my faith to be stretched and to grow. I wait in hope. I wait expectantly. I look forward to the answer when the time is right. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Where Are the Other Nine? (Apr 15)

April 15

Where Are the Other Nine?

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 55:1-8 | Josh 11:1-12:24 | Luke 17:11-37 | Proverbs 13:5-6

Today’s Scripture Focus: Luke 17:11-37

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner? Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:15-19 NIV).

Ten men, feared and ostracized because of their dreaded disease, came to Jesus to be healed. Jesus wasted no time in bringing healing to their leprous bodies. He told them to search out the priest so that they could be declared clean.  

One of the men, upon realizing he had been healed returned to Jesus, praising God in a loud voice! He threw himself at Jesus feet and thanked him. 

Jesus responded, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”

On the one hand, it is hard to imagine how someone who has been a despised outcaste by society, and who had been given a fresh start in such a miraculous way would not respond in praise and thanksgiving. Yet it is easy to take the blessings of God for granted. It is easy for us to think we deserve the good things God has given us. It is easy to get so caught up in the celebration that we forget to give thanks. How quickly we forget to thank and praise God for his blessings; how quickly our rightful gratitude is neglected as we move on in the everyday details of life. 

One detail that comes through clearly in Luke’s account is that the one who returns is a Samaritan. The implication is that the other nine were probably Jews. Perhaps they took their status as God’s chosen people for granted and failed to appreciate the blessings. Or maybe they just got so caught up in the celebration that they failed to think about making an appropriate response to the one who had brought healing. In any case, it was the Samaritan—who remained an ethnic outcaste, even as the social stigma of his disease had faded—that went the extra mile and expressed his gratitude in a tangible way. 

Don’t take the blessings for granted. Don’t get so caught up in the celebration that you forget to express your gratitude.

Father, thank you for your grace. Thank you for your provision and care each day. May I never forget to thank you for your abundant blessings. Amen.

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How Many Times? (Apr 14)

April 14

How Many Times?

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 54:1-7 | Josh 9:3-10:43 | Luke 16:19-17:10 Proverbs 13:4

Today’s Scripture Focus: Luke 16:19-17:10

“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:3-5 NIV).

Whenever we deal with people, there is a good chance that someone will say or do something hurtful or unhelpful. Everyday life brings plenty of opportunities for offense. This is why learning to forgive is so important.

Learning to forgive may be one of the more difficult lessons in the life of following Christ. Forgiving too early, or too often, seems unfair. Forgiving so easily seems to diminish the importance of the hurt we feel. Yet Jesus tells us that if a person comes back to us in repentance, even seven times in one day, we still ought to forgive them.

Forgiveness powerfully releases the one who has sinned against us. It also releases us as we forgive – it’s an important part of the healing process in our own lives. It helps us deal with anger and bitterness. It also reminds us of the never ending love and grace of God—who never tires of us returning to him in repentance saying, “Forgive me, father, for I have sinned.”

Forgiveness is powerful, and as we learn to release forgiveness to those who have sinned against us, we release ourselves from negative attitudes and patterns of behavior that keep us trapped. Forgive and find freedom.

Like the disciples, this teaching may seem difficult. They said, “Increase our faith!” Sometimes we need the same. Ask God to give you the strength to take the offense to the cross and leave it there. It may seem too difficult for you—but nothing is too difficult for God.

Heavenly Father, thank you for forgiving me. Help me to forgive those who have hurt me. Help me to take these wounds to the cross and leave them there. Amen.

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Guard Your Lips (Apr 13)

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

April 13

Guard Your Lips

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 53:1-6 | Josh 7:16-9:2 | Luke 16:1-18 | Proverbs 13: 2 -3

Today’s Scripture Focus: Proverbs 13:2-3

“Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3 NIV).

One of the common themes of Proverbs is the importance of choosing our words wisely. Wise words bring blessing and delight. Ill chosen words bring trouble and ruin.

Sometimes the most important thing we can say is nothing at all. “Those who guard their lips preserve their lives.” In a heated moment, we say so many things we regret. In a careless moment, we say things that hurt and offend. Without even realizing it, a word that was on our tongues before we had carefully considered it in our minds brings unintended consequences.

Sometimes the most important thing we can say must wait for another day. Maybe this is not the moment where it can be received. In the heat of a battle of words, our ears and minds take a back seat. Cooler heads may be required before words become conversation (listening, hearing and then speaking).

Often we speak too quickly. We engage mouth before mind. Listen, think, and then sometimes use words.

Heavenly Father, give me the grace to guard my lips and choose my words carefully. When my words would be unhelpful, help me to remain quiet. May my words always bless and never curse. Amen.

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The Walls Came Tumbling Down (Apr 12)

April 12

The Walls Came Tumbling Down

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 52:1-9 | Josh 5:1-7:15 | Luke 14:1-32 | Proverbs 13:1

The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city!

Joshua 6:16 NIV

This story always takes me back to my Sunday School roots. As a kid, I always liked this story—maybe because it was fun to act out: marching around city walls, trumpets and shouts, walls falling down. From my earliest days I’ve held on to principles I learned first from this story: the need to take steps of faith, the importance of obeying God implicitly, the hope of God’s intervention when the walls seem too big.

Joshua was a young leader, taking over for the only leader the people had ever known—Moses. They had arrived at the promised destination—now they had to conquer and inhabit the land. The mighty, fortified walls of Jericho were the first stop on the journey ahead.

How would they do it? They did it by listening to God and obeying his rather unusual instructions. They were called to trust and obey their way to victory.  A week of marching around the walls, then the trumpets and the shout bring the unconventional battle to an end. The walls crumble through God’s might—no military might needed.

Over the years I’ve encountered a lot of walls—obstacles in the path of life. Each time I wonder, “How is this going to turn out?” Each time I wonder what God will do to make this wall crumble. One thing I do know: a wall is not an obstacle to God.  They fall freely at his command.  For us, they are opportunities to press ahead in faith and obedience and in patient expectation for the intervention of God. 

Are you up against a wall? Keep an ear to the ground for the whisper of the Spirit. Then press ahead in faith and obedience and expectation. Perhaps this is the day that the walls will come tumbling down.

Faithful God, I am thankful that no wall is an obstacle to you, no matter how big. Help me to follow you completely trusting in your promises. When I become discouraged because the wall seems too big, remind me of how walls have crumbled down in the past. Guide me, direct me, give me the strength to keep marching and to keep trusting that you will act in keeping with your promise—that when the time is right, this big wall is gonna fall. Amen.

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Looking Forward; Looking Back (Apr 11)

April 11

Looking Forward; Looking Back

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 51:13-19 | Josh 3:1-4:24 | Luke 14:7-35 | Proverbs 12:27-28

Today’s Scripture Focus: Joshua 3-4

And Joshua set up in Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken from the Jordan.  21 He charged the Israelites as follows: “In time to come, when your children ask their fathers, ‘What is the meaning of those stones?’  22 tell your children: ‘Here the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry land.’  23 For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you crossed, just as the LORD your God did to the Sea of Reeds, which He dried up before us until we crossed.  24 Thus all the peoples of the earth shall know how mighty is the hand of the LORD, and you shall fear the LORD your God always” (Joshua 4:20-24 TNK).

The Jordan River was the first big test of Joshua’s leadership. While God was guiding him and the people on a road they had not travelled before, this incident certainly brought to mind another significant crossing: the crossing of the Red Sea under Moses’ leadership.

The Jordan River becomes an opportunity for God to affirm the leadership of Joshua. He had promised that he would be with him just as he had been with Moses. What better way to affirm that than by bringing them up to a barrier that appeared impossible to cross? As Joshua followed the advice of the LORD and did not deviate from it, God opened up the waters and they were able to go across.

The Jordan river was an opportunity for the people to look ahead to God’s continued blessing on their journey as they followed their new leader: Joshua. It was a major reassurance to Joshua that indeed the LORD was with him and was giving him the land.

The Jordan River was also an opportunity for looking back, for remembering what God had done. The first of the “stone piles” is built in this text. There will be others in Joshua–places where stones are built as a memorial of God’s intervention–but this is the first. They were a people who quickly forgot the miracles of God (as we all do). A physical memorial was needed to pass the story on to the generations that followed.

Don’t forget to remember the ways God has been at work in your life. Don’t forget to pass those stories on to the next generation. Allow those stories to be an encouragement to you on your journey as God asks you to take other steps of faith along the way.

Father, help me to be aware of your working in my life. Help me to remember how you’ve been with me in the past so that I might trust you for today and for the days to come. Amen.

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