The Lord is My Shepherd (Feb 10)

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

February 10

The Lord is My Shepherd

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 23:1-6 | Exodus 30:11-31:18 | Matthew 26:47-68 | Proverbs 8:27-32

Today’s Scripture Focus: Psalm 23

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul, He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23: 1-3 NIV).

The Lord is our shepherd, our good shepherd, who cares for us. His aim is for our souls to be at rest and for our paths to be right and straight.

Jesus promises to take care of all the things that cause our soul to be restless, to be anxious, or disturbed. He promises to care for every need. He will bring comfort as he walks with us through difficult times. He is there with us even in the presence of our enemies.

The Shepherd desires rest for your soul. He wants to take you to quiet places beside the still waters, places of rest in green pastures. Yet in all of busyness—our hurrying and scurrying—we often resist the paths that will bring rest to our souls.  

Your soul shrivels and dries up without sufficient times of rest that restore the soul. Find a quiet place and spend time with your good Shepherd. Allow him to restore your soul and “revive your drooping head” (vs 5, The Message).

Then follow the paths of righteousness, the paths of obedience. Your shepherd knows what is best. Obedience, too, brings rest to the soul.

Those who follow the lead of the shepherd can expect goodness and mercy to follow them all the days of their life; they can rest assured that his path will lead them to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Good Shepherd, teach me to trust you, teach me to follow. Thank you for restoring my soul and guiding me in paths of righteousness. Amen.

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Falling to Pieces (Feb 9)

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

February 9

Falling to Pieces

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 22:19-31 | Exodus 29:1-30:10 | Matthew 26:14-45 | Proverbs 8:14-26

Today’s Scripture Focus: Matthew 26:14-45

“Before the night’s over, you’re going to fall to pieces because of what happens to me.” Peter Broke in: “Even if everyone else falls to pieces on account of you, I won’t . . . even if I had to die with you, I would never deny you” (Matthew 26:31 The Message).

The cross and the events leading up to it were going to be difficult ones for the disciples. Jesus knew that and warned them.  

In one case, there was outright betrayal. But they would all “fall to pieces” and be like sheep without a shepherd.

Peter would have nothing of it. “Even if everyone else falls to pieces… I won’t.”  

Jesus cautioned Peter, “Don’t be so sure . . . This very night, before the rooster crows up the dawn, you will deny me three times.”

With even more bravado Peter replied, “Even if I had to die with you, I would never deny you.”

Of course, as Jesus would remind them in the garden, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Peter, despite his best intentions, found his flesh weak and gave into the temptation as Jesus had predicted. He denied he even knew Jesus.

Following Jesus isn’t always easy. And despite our best intentions–even our bravado–we will have times when we fail him. There will be times when we fall down.

But we can be thankful that Jesus is eager to give us a second chance.  Just as Jesus sought out Peter after the resurrection to encourage and reaffirm his leadership, so he affirms us, even when we fail.  

We walk daily only by his amazing grace. We walk humbly knowing that even Peter “fell to pieces” under trial. We walk hopeful knowing that he is there to take us by the hand when we fall and help us on our way–just as he did with Peter.

Lord, give us your grace and enable us to stand firm. Forgive us when, despite our best intentions, we fall. Thank you for being a God of second chances. Thanks for seeking us out, affirming us, and encouraging us to press on, even after we’ve fallen to pieces. Amen.

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To the Least (Feb 8)

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

February 8

To The Least

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 22:1-18 | Exodus 28:1-43 | Matthew 25:31-26:13 | Proverbs 8:12-13

Today’s Scripture Focus: Matthew 25:31-26:13

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40 NIV).

Jesus’ parables have a way of cutting right to the heart of the issue. In his parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus reminds us that love for God is evidenced by our love for one another–especially as we express that love practically in meeting needs.

True love is feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, taking in the stranger, visiting the lonely prisoner. The amazing part is that Jesus says when we do these practical acts of love and kindness to the “least of these,” it’s like we are doing it for Him. God cares about the poor, the hungry, the immigrant, the prisoner, the hurting. He cares about those who are in need. To show God’s love to them, is to express love to Christ himself.

To fail to show love through practical acts of love and kindness when we are able, is to ignore Christ– to fail to express our love to Him. Either choice has eternal consequences (46). 

John makes a similar point in his first Epistle:

“This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another” “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:11, 17-18 NIV).

Jesus could not make it any more clear: love for God must be expressed by loving others–especially those in need. We cannot close our heart to those in need. We cannot forget the “least of these.”

God of Mercy, give us eyes to see this world through your merciful, compassionate eyes. May we see the poor, the needy, the immigrant, the prisoner, the hungry, the hurting, as you do. May we always open our hearts to those in need. Give us wisdom and insight in doing what we can to show your love in practical ways. Amen.

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Wise or Foolish (Feb 7)

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

February 7

Wise or Foolish

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 21:8-13 | Exodus 26:1-27:21 | Matthew 25:1-30 | Proverbs 8:1-11

Today’s Scripture Focus: Matthew 25:1-30

“The master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”(Matthew 25:21 NIV).

We have two choices: live for the moment or live for eternity. The story of the wise and foolish virgins is an encouragement to always live our lives with the eternal in mind. The wise virgins planned ahead and entered into the wedding banquet. They got in on the celebration because they lived their lives in preparation for it.

The foolish virgins didn’t live with the big picture in mind. They were more focused on the immediate moment. When the moment for the wedding banquet came, they proved unprepared and missed out on the wedding celebration. To live focused only on the present moment is to miss out on all that could be ours in eternity.

The story of the talents reminds us that we will be called to account for the way we’ve used the resources we’ve been given. A life of faithful service will be rewarded in eternity with great reward and the “smile of the Father.” The one who is faithful with what they have been given will be put in charge of much more in the life to come.

This life is not all there is. It’s just the warm up act to life that goes on forever. We do well to always live in light of the eternal realities. What we do down here will make a difference as to how we live our life that goes on forever.

All Wise God, help me to live with eternity in mind. May I prove faithful with those things you have entrusted to my care—my talents and gifts, my resources, my time—that I might be rewarded with the joy of your smile when I one day stand before you and give an account. Amen.

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Wise, Faithful and Always Ready (Feb 6)

February 6

Wise, Faithful and Always Ready

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 21:1-7 | Exodus 23:14 – 25:40 | Matthew 24:29-51 | Proverbs 7:24-27

Today’s Scripture Focus: Matthew 24:29-51

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (Matthew 24:42 NIV)

“So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (44).

Right after college, I was the house sitter for a retired medical doctor. A roommate and I were placed in charge of taking care of his house so that the doctor could hunt and fish and travel to his heart’s content. We had use of the whole house, except for two rooms that were kept ready at all times for the doctor’s return. What made our arrangement unique is that he would return from time to time and we would not ever know when.  

When I read these stories of readiness, I am often reminded of those days. Just as we had to be “on our toes”—always making sure that things were cleaned up, the dishes washed, the lawn well cared for—so we who are Christ’s stewards are to be watching, waiting, and working hard in preparation for his coming.

We are given stewardship of our time, our talents, our gifts, our money, and other resources. The wise and faithful stewards will make the best use of these knowing that we will one day be held accountable for our stewardship.  Thinking that the day is a long way off, we may get sloppy with what has been given—we may forget to be diligent our stewardship.  

Each day, we need to live in the realization that one day we will give an account for our stewardship. One day the master will come on a day when we don’t expect him and at an hour we are not aware of. The wise and faithful steward lives each day in light of “that day.”

Come, Lord Jesus, remind me that this could be the day I give an account, this could be the day of your return. May I live in readiness. Enable me to watch, wait, and work hard in preparation for “that day.”Amen.

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Watching and Working (Feb 5)

February 5

Watching and Working

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 20:1-9 | Exodus 21:22 – 23:13 | Matthew 24:1-28 | Proverbs 7:6-23

Today’s Scripture Focus: Matthew 24:1-28

“Because of the increase in wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:12-14 NIV).

The Disciples wanted a timeline. They wanted a detailed roadmap of prophetic events. Jesus gave them a few general characteristics of the “end times,” but seemed more concerned to give them an exhortation: “be ready, be prepared, be working to bring back the King.”

Yes, there would be wars, famines and earthquakes. There would be great deception. There would be persecution. Most telling of all the signs: “because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.”

We certainly do live in an age where wickedness seems to be increasing–an age where the love of many seems to be growing cold. We can certainly see the other signs as well. So shall we set a date for his coming? That is never a good idea. Not even Jesus knows the day or hour—it’s going to be a surprise.

I’m reminded of the words of the great preacher, C.H. Spurgeon: “A man says to me, ‘Can you explain the seven trumpets of the Revelation?’ No, but I can blow one in your ear, and warn you to escape from the wrath to come.”

I think that is exactly Jesus point.  He doesn’t give us a specific day or hour–and the implication is that it is not our job to be concerned about such speculation.  What he does make clear is this:

  • We need to be ready at all times. “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”
  • We must fight the complacency and apathy of our age that causes our love to grow cold.  Wickedness may increase all around us, but we dare not let it take away our spiritual passion.  We must not let our love grow cold.
  • We must stand firm to the end.  Whatever happens, we must persevere.  We must press on.  We may endure persecution or suffering.  We will certainly be misunderstood. There will be trials of our faith. But whatever happens, we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and press forward.
  • We must work hard for the sake of the Kingdom.  There is a job to be done before the end will come.  The gospel must be preached to every people group, then the end will come.  As we pray, give and go, we work to bring back the King: “And this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Coming King, help me to live in light of eternity. May I live and serve with readiness. Help me to do everything I can to bring the gospel to as many as I can. Fill my heart with hope and anticipation as I long for your coming. Come, Lord, Jesus. Amen.

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Sweeter than Honey (Feb 4)

February 4

Sweeter than Honey

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 19:7-14 | Exodus 19:16 – 21:21 | Matthew 23:13-29 | Proverbs 7:1-5

Today’s Scripture Focus: Psalms 19:7-14

“The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; They are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping of them there is great reward” (Psalms 19:9-11 NIV).

In our Exodus reading we see that God gives the Law to the people through Moses. The essence of the moral law—The Ten Commandments—is an expression of a way of life that flows out of love for God and for neighbor and reflects the perfection of our holy God. While it can be misused (a point well established in both the Old and New Testaments), the law was intended as a God-given expression of the will and wisdom of an all knowing, all-wise God. The law laid out a way of life for those whom God had entered into covenant.

In Matthew we read about the Pharisees who had misused the law as a tool for legalistic self-righteousness and as an intolerable burden placed upon others. That was never God’s intent—and the hypocrisy of the Pharisees is clearly spelled out by Jesus.

But the Psalmist views the law as the revealed will of God–principles that keep us on the right road. He views the law as a delight, a treasure and as something that brings great joy to the one who fears the Lord and walks in his ways. It gives us a foundation for knowing right and wrong. We also know that it reveals our sin and points us to Christ—the one who is the fulfillment of the law.

The law points out our need for Christ’s death on the cross. He lived a perfect, sinless life and died for us so that we can have eternal life–a gift of his grace (Ephesians 2:8-10). It also points out our need for the empowering of his Holy Spirit to live our lives daily to the Glory of God. Yet we can rejoice in meditating on it and allowing it to develop a reverential fear of God that will guide us on the right path–the delightful path that leads to joy.

Open your heart to God’s word today; find it to be your delight. May it be sweeter than honey from the honeycomb.

God of Truth, help us to love your word. Help us to cherish the time we spend in your word. May we recognize how precious and how sweet are your promises. Make us doers and not just hearers of your word. For your word is truth and brings life. Amen.

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