Clay in the Hands of the Potter (Oct 11)

potterandclay

Quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

October 11
Clay in the Hands of the Potter

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 114:1-8 | Jeremiah 16:16-18:23 | 1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:3 | Proverbs 25:6-7

Today’s Scripture Focus: Jeremiah 16-18

“So I went down to the potter’s house; and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” (Jeremiah 18:3-5 NIV).

In the hands of the master potter, our heavenly Father, we are shaped and formed. We start out as marred vessels–marred by our own sin, beaten up by the sins of others. Then the potter goes to work.

He begins shaping us into a vessel that he can use. In salvation, he recreates us and remakes us. We become “His workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Ephesians 2:10).

The shaping process is hard and long. Trials come to shape us. Our faith is stretched and tested. But in all the stretching, pulling and shaping his one design is to make us into a vessel he can use for His glory.

Little by little we take on the intended shape and are filled to overflowing with the Spirit who energizes us to do that which we are called to do.

Sometimes the clay wishes to cry out to the potter: “Enough, I’m tired of this process of being reshaped and remolded.” But who are we to talk back to the Potter?

His will is best; the work continues. The process may seem painful at times, but the Potter knows what he is doing. Trust Him to bring shape and significance to you. Trust Him to make you into a beautiful vessel that he will delight in using to display His glory.

Lord, you are the Potter and I am the clay. Mold me, shape me, fill me, use me. As your work of craftsmanship, may I bring you delight and may I prove useful in accomplishing your will. Amen.

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What a Blessing! (Oct 10)

whata blessing

October 10
What a Blessing!

Today’s Scripture Readings Psalms 113:1-9 | Jeremiah 14:11—16:15 | 1 Thessalonians 2:10-3:13 | Proverbs 25:1-5

Today’s Scripture Focus: I Thessalonians 2;10-3:13

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (1 Thessalonians 3:13 NIV).

Paul’s prayers and blessings are always instructive to us as we learn to pray. This prayer is in the form of a blessing. He blesses them by asking God to fill them with love for each other. He has already commended them for their love, but here he prays for even more of it. “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other.” There is always need to pray for God to give us increasing and overflowing love for each other.

Then He asks God to fill them with love for those they are to reach out to. “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow . . . for everyone else.” The love God pours out into the lives of believers cannot be contained, it needs to spill out into the world as well. Love compels us to share the good news with others. Love enables us to share in a way that is attractive and “seasoned with salt and full of grace.” It is not enough to just love each other, our love must extend to those in the world as well. Christ has given us a commission to be his hands and feet to share his love with “everyone else.”

He blesses them by asking God to strengthen them so that they will lives holy lives. “May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” We need his grace and strength to live holy lives as we live our lives in anticipation of his return.

May you too experience God’s love increasing and overflowing in your relationships with other Christians, and in your relationships with those whom you are sharing the good news of Christ. May he strengthen your hearts and keep you holy and blameless as we wait for his return. Amen.

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Real Faith Means Hard Work (Oct 9)

realfaith

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

October 9
Real Faith Means Hard Work

Today’s Scripture Readings Psalms 112:1-10 | Jeremiah 12:1-14:10 | 1 Thessalonians 1:1-2:9 | Proverbs 24:30-34

Today’s Scripture Focus: 1 Thessalonians 1:1 – 2:9

“We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:3 NIV).

Paul thanks God continually for the Thessalonian church. They are a church that is evidencing the supreme Christian virtues of “faith, hope and love.” Interestingly, they evidence those virtues through their work, labor and endurance.

First, their faith is evidenced by their hard work. Paul speaks of his own hard work, “Surely you remember brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preaching the gospel of God to you” (2:9) as an example to them. Here, he commends them for their hard work. Faith, real faith, shows itself by its actions. Faith, true faith, is willing to sacrifice and work hard for the sake of the kingdom. There’s a lot of work to be done in the church. I challenge you to be like these Christians who evidenced their faith through hard work.

Secondly, their love evidenced itself in their labor. If we really love God and each other, we will be willing to serve one another in love. Our love, just as our faith, will be evidenced by our labor. Love is shown not just by our words, but also by our works—by our willingness to serve and minister to one another.

Thirdly, their hope produced endurance in the midst of difficult times and persecution. It’s not easy to be a Christian. There is often a cost to follow Christ. Hope focuses our attention on the eternal perspective and enables us to press forward even in the midst of difficulties.

We’ve got a lot of work to do. There are billions who’ve not yet heard the gospel–Thousands within miles of most of us. Faith, hope and love are not theoretical virtues that we hold in our heart. They show themselves by working hard for the sake of the gospel—by our willingness to sacrifice all for the sake of our mission. We all have been gifted by God to be a part of the team. So let’s get to work.

Father, give me works produced by faith, labor prompted by love and endurance inspired by hope in Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

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Scarecrows in a Melon Patch

scarecrows

Quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

Oct 8
Scarecrows in a Melon Patch

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 111:1-10 | Jeremiah 10:1-11:23 | Colossians 3:18-4:18 | Proverbs 24:28-29

Today’s Scripture Focus: Jeremiah 10:1-11:23

Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good” (Jeremiah 10:5 NIV).

Something within each of us cries out for the eternal. As Pascal wrote, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in each of our hearts.” Yet many of us, instead of worshiping and serving the Creator, worship and serve created things. We, then, exchange the glory of the Almighty God for lesser gods.

I’ve been inside temples on numerous occasions and have watched people bow down to idols made by human hands. It always tears me up inside to see that happen. I often think of the words of Jeremiah, “They cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.”

Like a scarecrow in a melon patch: That’s a great picture, isn’t it? It’s hard to imagine bowing down and worshiping a created thing.

But what tears me up even more is the realization that we, who would not think to bow down to an idol, create “idols of the heart.” We worship and serve many things. Paul shows us that even misplaced values like greed and materialism can become idols. So can entertainment, sports, music or a political cause. The list could include most anything that becomes our preoccupation. Only God can bring security and meaning. He is the only rightful object of worship.

So, whether our false gods are created by hands or by hearts, they are nothing compared to the glory of the one who is “maker of all things.” Don’t exchange his glory for idols (Romans 1). Worship and exalt and magnify the LORD who is the true God, the living God, the eternal King (10:10).

“No one is like you, O LORD, you are great, and your name is mighty in power. Who should not revere you, O King of the nations?” (Jeremiah 10:6-7).

Father God, we stand in awe of you. No one is like you, you are great and your name is mighty in power. How could we not revere you, O King of the nations? Forgive us when we chase idols whether those made by human hands, or those adored by human hearts. Root out our idolatry and help us to worship only you. Amen.

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A New Wardrobe (Oct 7)

newwardrobe

October 7
A New Wardrobe

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 110: 1-7 | Jeremiah 8:8 – 9:26 | Colossians 3:1-17 | Proverbs 24:27

Today’s Scripture Focus: Colossians 3:1-17

“Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself. . .”(Colossians 3:12 NIV).

Sometimes the old clothes just don’t fit anymore—but I don’t mean that the clothes are too small. Sometimes we need a new wardrobe because we change positions. The young lawyer fresh out of law school usually has a major wardrobe update, for example. He could get by with Jeans and T-shirts in school, but not in the courtroom. The old way of dressing just doesn’t suit him anymore in his new position.

When we become Christians, similarly, we change positions. What may have seemed natural and appropriate before we were Christians is no longer appropriate. Since Christ lives in me, I need to eliminate the clothes that are not in keeping with who he is, and who I am in him.

The clothes I speak of are the behaviors and attitudes described in Colossians 3. Paul uses terms such as “put off” or “rid yourself” in relation to a whole list of sinful behaviors. They range from sexual immorality to “anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language,”

We are hidden with Christ in God, We are dead to sin and have been raised to new life. We are to put on qualities that are in keeping with “who we are” in our new position as God’s “holy, chosen, dearly loved people.”

What shall we put on? What will our new wardrobe look like? “Clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Each one of those attitudes and behaviors sounds a lot like Jesus, doesn’t it? Of course, what else would we expect? Jesus lives in us, and as we let the Word of Christ dwell richly in us, we should expect a new wardrobe—behaviors and attitudes that reflect the life of Christ within us.

Some of us have some clothes in our closets that just don’t fit anymore. It’s time to replace them with some clothes that will more beautifully reflect, on the outside, the life of Jesus, on the inside.

Heavenly Father, help me to take off the old clothes—the behaviors and attitudes of my old way of life—and put on the new clothes—the Christ-like attitudes and behaviors of the new life. Help me to get out of the way so that Jesus can rule and reign in me. Amen.

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Let Them See Your Hand (Oct 6)

yourhand

Quote from open up your heart by Jeff Syverson

October 6
Let Them See Your Hand

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 109:16-31 | Jeremiah 6:15- 8:7 | Colossians 2:8-23 | Proverbs 24:26

Today’s Scripture Focus: Psalms 109:16-31

But you, O Sovereign Lord, deal well with me for your name’s sake; out of the goodness of your love, deliver me. [22] For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me (Psalm 109:21-22 NIV).

The psalmist finds himself in a difficult place. He describes his situation: “I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.” Beaten up by circumstances and, especially by people—accusers, he calls them— he fasts and prays and desperately seeks the Lord (23-25). But he hasn’t given up hope. He looks to the God of hope.

I was moved by one part of his petition especially. He prays that God will work in such a way that everyone will see that the hand of the Lord has done it: “Let them know it is your hand, that you, O LORD, have done it.”

I like that. It’s a prayer that looks for God to be glorified—for his name and reputation to be magnified. In essence, he prays, “God answer this prayer in such a marvelous way that everyone will know that you have done it. Let there be no doubt that your hand has accomplished this.”

That’s praying with faith. That’s praying with expectation. That’s the kind of praying that gets us through impossible circumstances (not to mention the grace to deal with difficult people).

Heavenly Father, work in a way that shows forth your glory. Do something that will cause us to recognize your hand at work in this situation. Let others see your working and be drawn to know you. Amen.

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Fully Mature in Christ (Oct 5)

FullyMature3

October 5
Fully Mature in Christ


Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 109:1-15 | Jeremiah 4:19-6:16 | Colossians 1:21-2:7 | Proverbs 24:23-25

Today’s Scripture Focus: Colossians 1-2

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me (Colossians 1:27-29 NIV).

Why is Paul struggling and working so hard to teach and preach and plant churches? This passage makes his motivation clear. He wants the believers to grow up in their faith and become fully mature in Christ.

What would that look like? He tells us: “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

One of the signs they are reaching maturity is that they are encouraged in heart. They are not easily discouraged by the difficulties of life. They do not easily lose hope. They remain rooted in the joy and peace that are found in Christ. They also seek to encourage others along the path of suffering—they allow their encouragement to overflow.

Another sign of their maturity is that they are united in love. Dissension and conflict among believers is a sign of lack of maturity. Truly mature believers bring Christ-like attitudes (humility) and behavior (the fruit of the Spirit), which leads to peace.

Also, the mature live out of the full riches of complete understanding that are found in knowing Christ—knowing him deeply and intimately. This requires the discipline of spending time with him; spending time in his word—to know it and apply it and live it out (2:5). It also requires the strength that comes by the Spirit (1:29).

The whole of this process to maturity takes place through grace and by faith—just as the beginning of our life in Christ.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

Lord Jesus, live in me, live in your fullness that I might come into maturity. Help me to abide in your word, in your love, and in your presence today that I might continue to be transformed into your image. May my life, my behavior, my countenance, reflect the Christ who lives in me. Amen.

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