Light Check Friday, Nov 30 2012 

Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)

13″You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.14″You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:16  (NRSV) Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

DEVOTION – Jacquelynn Leggett (Virginia)

For more than five years I have taken an elevator that has a burned-out floor-number light.  Each time I enter the elevator I press the third-floor button, expecting it to illuminate.  It doesn’t.  So I press the button again – this time harder.  Still it remains dark.  Glancing at the panel on the other side of the elevator, I see that the third-floor button is lit, confirming that the elevator will stop on the floor I want it to even though the button I pressed is dark.  I relax, confident that I am headed where I want to go because the light tells me so.

The working and non-working elevator lights remind me of two important aspects of my faith journey.  First, if I am to go forward with confidence to my desired destination, my path must be illumined with the Lord’s light to guide me in all situations.  When I stray from the light, I falter and my path is difficult to follow.  Second, I must take care that my light is shining every day.  If I profess to be a Christian but the light of Christ does not shine from me, how can others be drawn to Christ?

The elevator lights remind me to complete a personal “light check”.  Am I walking in the Lord’s light, and am I projecting that light into the world?

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: How am I bringing God’s light to the world?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, especially during the season of Advent, help us to reflect your light into the world, offering hope to those who are hurting and in need. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Those who live where the light of Christ is suppressed

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Growing In Grace Thursday, Nov 29 2012 

JOSHUA 5:10-15 (NIV)

10 On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. 11 The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. 12 The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan. 13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” 14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” 15 The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

JOSHUA 5:12  (NRSV) The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land.

DEVOTION – William Smith (Virginia)

While the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, manna fell from heaven to sustain them each day.  Once they entered the Promised Land, the manna ceased to fall and they became responsible for producing their own food.  As with the Hebrews, at time God supplies our needs without any effort on our part, and at times recognizing and celebrating the grace of God is easy.

However, God is still at work even when we have to take on more personal responsibility.  I’ve seen both types of this grace in my career.  My first two jobs came to me with little effort on my part.  In seeking a third position, I had to interview at several places and suffered multiple rejections.  After starting the job, difficult circumstances made me start thinking that the job wasn’t a good match for me.  However, these difficult experiences built in me qualities of character, resilience, and confidence for which I came to thank God.  I saw God’s grace when it was easy to find work.  Then I saw God’s grace grow richer and fuller when the position came after initial disappointment and much effort.

As loving parents want to see their children mature and take on responsibility, so God wants us to grow in grace.  Effort required on our part does not mean that God’s love is diminished.  Being faithful through our work and our struggles shows gratitude for the grace of God.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Surviving our struggles is a testimony to God’s grace.

PRAYER:  God of grace, help us to understand the ways you want to work with us, in us, and through us. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: To see God’s grace in all aspects of life

A Simple Prayer Wednesday, Nov 28 2012 

PSALM 28:6-9 (NIV)

6 Praise be to the LORD, for he has heard my cry for mercy. 7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. 8 The LORD is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one. 9 Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever.

JEREMIAH 29:13 (NRSV) The Lord says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

DEVOTION – Gloria Graves Gregory (Tennessee)

At times I am sure of God’s presence; I feel God’s love, and I understand God’s will for me.  But in other, “desert” times I feel cold and distant, far from God’s light and guidance.  When I pray during those times, I feel as if I am speaking to the walls.

Still, every night I pray with my 13-year-old son.  My son is not so willing as he once was to pray aloud, but we give thanks for the persons and events for which we are most grateful each day.  It is a lovely way to close the day, welcome the night, and enter into rest.

One recent night, my life seemed to be spinning out of control.  I am a single parent.  I was unemployed, and I was even losing the battle with daily household chores.  All I could think to pray was, “Help!”  My son was delighted; he thought “Help” was a wonderful prayer, simple and to the point.

So I prayed “Help” – for my mom in her fight with acute leukemia, for the family of a band director who suffered multiple strokes overnight and then died, and for my prayer partner who was recovering from her second knee surgery.  God lifted each burden from my heart as I prayed one word:  Help.  By the time I had finished praying, I felt reconnected to God.  Like the psalmist, I can say, “I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me” (120:1).

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: If we ask, God will help.

PRAYER: Dear God, help! Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Children of single parents

More Than A Teacher Tuesday, Nov 27 2012 

PHILIPPIANS 3:7-11 (NIV)

7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

MARK 6:34 (NRSV)  As [Jesus] went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, beause they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teah them many things.

DEVOTION – Rhema Joy Penaflor (Bulacan, Philippines)

I am amazed at how fans sometime go to extremes to see their favorite celebrities.  When a poplar celebrity stages a concert in Manila, people from the farthest provinces try diligently to get there.  When my favorite Christian band came to the Philippines for the first time, I saved money for tickets, reserved seats for my best friend and myself, and got my boss’ approval to leave early so I could attend the concert.

This experience reminded me of the 5,000 people who went out to see Jesus.  Imagine thousands of people from different places traveling on foot to see and hear the famous teacher.  The crowds who followed Jesus wanted to make sure they could see him and hear him teach personally.  But unlike many celebrities today, Jesus was never pretentious.  Perhaps he even looked like any common person of that period.  I wonder what it was about Jesus that made multitudes of people follow him.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the word” (John 8:12).  His wisdom and compassion attracted people wherever he went.  People wanted to know him more and to witness his works of mercy.  May we too follow Jesus, no matter where we are.  He is more than a prophet and a teacher; he is our Lord and savior who sacrificed himself for us.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Whom or what do you seek most in life?

PRAYER: O God, make us hungry to know you more.  Refresh us with your love and grace that we may adore you always. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Celebrities and the example they set

An Illusion? Monday, Nov 26 2012 

JEREMIAH 31:31-34 (NIV)

31 “The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, ” declares the LORD. 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

2 SAMUEL 7:28 (NRSV)  O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true.

DEVOTION – Thomas Dury (Colorado)

My dad has always been able to cut through trivial issues to the heart of a matter.  Knowing how I love to backpack but concerned for my safety, he once asked, “Do you think a lightweight nylon tent will protect you from wild animals?”  I joked that it was rather like toddlers playing peek-a-boo, covering their eyes and declaring, “You can’t see me!”   But in fact a tent doesn’t offer real protections from animals, merely the illusion of safety.

Looking back, I realize that for many years I treated the Bible in much the same way, assuming that merely having one and occasionally reading it would guarantee my spiritual well-being.  However, the story of Kind David caused me to re-evaluate my attitude.  David professed his devotion to God, but his profession was severely compromised by his affair with Bathsheba.  When his sin was revealed, David realized that he had displeased God and so he repented (2 Sam. 11-12).

Simply carrying a Bible or saying that I love it offers only an illusion of spiritual security.  Real spiritual security comes from relationship with God, allowing the message of scripture to sink in to our spirit to make us more like Christ.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: What we believe is revealed more through behavior than words.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, may the sincerity of our obedience match the intensity of our professions of faith. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Those without access to Bibles

Speaking Truth in Love Sunday, Nov 25 2012 

EPHESIANS 4:11-16 (NIV)

11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

2 Corinthians 13:11 (NRSV)  Agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

DEVOTION – David William McKay (Ontario, Canada)

The words quoted above follow Paul’s expression of concern that in his upcoming visit he would find the same problems he had already identified in his first letter to the church of Corinth.  The Corinthians believers had allowed certain teachings to divide them, making some factions believe themselves to be more holy and worthy than others.

This reminds me of a co-worker who attends a different church than I do.  I like him, and we work well together.  But when we talk about our beliefs, I always come away feeling that he views my faith and my church as second-rate Christianity.  He always implies that the worship and spiritual practices at my church are not good enough.  He ends every discussion by inviting me to his church.

Through the words of Paul the apostle, God calls me to discover how to speak truthfully to my colleague in ways he can hear, to build bridges rather than to carry resentment.  This scripture teaches us to live in peace with one another so the grace of Christ Jesus and the friendship of God will be with us and be seen in us.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matt. 5:9)

PRAYER: Holy God, bring us the friendship with you that helps us work out the issues that separate us from one another and from you. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Believers in denominations other than mine

In Step Saturday, Nov 24 2012 

Psalm 13:1-6 (NIV)

1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? 3 Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; 4 my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall. 5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 6 I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.

Psalm 34:4 (NRSV)  I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

DEVOTION – Shirley Smith (Hertfordshire, England)

Every morning I practice a gentle exercise routine that helps my aging joints to keep working.  I have found music to fit in with my movements, which makes the practice even more enjoyable.  This morning, I realized that I was out of step with the music.  For a few moments I had lost my concentration, and the routine had gone all wrong.  I had to start over.

This reminded me of how I feel when other things go wrong and I feel out of step with what is happening.  My son’s cancer, my daughter’s marriage break-up, and my declining health have all happened quite suddenly and shaken my world.  I did not always choose the best ways of coping in these situations.  One way I responded – withdrawing from my normal activities and keeping my pain locked up inside me – did not help me regain my balance.

Thankfully, I now know that having a personal relationship with God, praying about my sorrows and pain, and putting my trust in God will carry me through the bad times.  God sets me back on track.  And when I keep in step with God, I can keep my balance even when events shake me.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Trusting God helps us keep our balance in a chaotic world.

PRAYER: Thank you, Lord, for always being with us so that when we face difficulties, we can turn to you for help. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Families facing great change

The Next Generation Friday, Nov 23 2012 

Genesis 45:1-28 (NIV)

1 Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it. 3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. 4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. 9 Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. 10 You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me–you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. 11 I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.’12 “You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you.13 Tell my father about all the honor accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.” 14 Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him. 16 When the news reached Pharaoh’s palace that Joseph’s brothers had come, Pharaoh and all his officials were pleased.17 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Tell your brothers, ‘Do this: Load your animals and return to the land of Canaan, 18 and bring your father and your families back to me. I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you can enjoy the fat of the land.’ 19 “You are also directed to tell them, ‘Do this: Take some carts from Egypt for your children and your wives, and get your father and come. 20 Never mind about your belongings, because the best of all Egypt will be yours.’ ” 21 So the sons of Israel did this. Joseph gave them carts, as Pharaoh had commanded, and he also gave them provisions for their journey. 22 To each of them he gave new clothing, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five sets of clothes. 23 And this is what he sent to his father: ten donkeys loaded with the best things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain and bread and other provisions for his journey. 24 Then he sent his brothers away, and as they were leaving he said to them, “Don’t quarrel on the way!”25 So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. 26 They told him, “Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt.” Jacob was stunned; he did not believe them.27 But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. 28 And Israel said, “I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”

GENESIS 45:15 (CEB)  [Joseph] kissed all of his brothers and wept, embracing them.  After that, his brothers were finally able to talk to him.

DEVOTION – Dan W. Moore (North Carolina)

When we answered the telephone, we were excited to hear our four-year-old grandson’s voice.  After telling us about preschool, he said, “I need to ask you a question: Why didn’t God help Joseph’s brothers when they were hungry?”  We had talked about Joseph when our grandson was in vacation Bible school.  Our grandson remembered that Joseph’s brothers had taken Joseph’s coat without his permission and had put him in a pit.

I said that God did help Joseph’s brothers by leading them to Joseph.  Since Joseph worked for the king, he was able to give them food and a place to live.  Also, I told him that God helped Joseph to forgive his brothers even though they were afraid that Joseph was still angry with them.

He seemed satisfied with my answer and gave his mom the phone.  She said they had discussed Joseph during chapel at my grandson’s preschool.  Regardless of his reasons for asking, I realized again the joy of being able to follow God’s word in Psalm 78:4: “We will tell the next generation about the Lord’s power and his great deeds and the wonderful things he has done.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: All children need relationships with adults who will hlep them learn God’s stories and God’s ways.

PRAYER: Thank you, God, for opportunities to talk about you with those around us. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Grandparents rearing grandchildren

Before We Vanish Thursday, Nov 22 2012 

Deuteronomy 8:11-20 (NIV)

11 Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. 19 If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. 20 Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God.

James 4:14 (NRSV) What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

DEVOTION – Billy Collins (Texas)

I’ll never forget my first real job – the excitement of responsibility, the energy of new colleagues, the first paycheck with so much promise.  As long as the money kept coming in, the job felt more like play than work.  I was happier than I’d been in a long time.  But it wasn’t long until that excitement, energy, and promise gave way to the world of family, bills, and those unexpected circumstances that keep us awake all night.

The moment I felt confident enough to buy something “for me,” small disasters struck – a fender bender or unexpected medical bills.  Soon I began to feel as if bad things would always happen at the exact time my money started making me comfortable and happy.  It’s easy to take pride in financial gain.  Pride can lead to arrogance, and having money can make us feel as if we have no need for God.

Certainly we are called to give thanks for what we have but all of it is only mist.  The sobering question from James always remains: “What is your life?”  While that thought may be daunting, we are comforted with the thought that God is much greater than, and gives more comfort than, any amount of money or possessions.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: What shall I do with my wealth before it – and my life – vanishes?

PRAYER: God of comfort, teach us to boast not in our wealth but in you. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Those who are rich

The Best Words of All Wednesday, Nov 21 2012 

Psalm 19:7-14 (NIV)

7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple . 8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. 9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. 10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. 11 By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 12 Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. 13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. 14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.art the mouth speaks.

Psalm 119:97 (NRSV) Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all day long.

DEVOTION – Elaine Brown (Perthshire, Scotland)

When I was growing up, the highlight of our week was Friday when Mother bought six sweet buns from the bakery, one for each member of the family. It was the best of weekend treats! As I stepped into the shop with her I always read the Bible quotation that was framed outside the door – Romans 5:8: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this; While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (NIV). Even though I was quite young, the words impressed me and I remembered them long after we moved away.

Some years later, I met a friend who was a “memory verse” enthusiast. As I rode on the back of her motor scooter, she would call out the first half of a verse and wait for me to complete it. Now I’ve memorize quite a number of verses, and I like to recall them as I fall asleep or when I wake in the morning. Sometimes they come to mind when I’m waiting in line or enjoying a walk. They are also a great help when I need the right words to complete a letter or card. More than once I’ve found myself saying, “Thank you, Lord, that I can use your words for the end of this of this note. They’re so much better than mine!”

And there are many more verses yet to discover and memorize. I’ll never come to the end of them all, nor can anyone ever take them away from me. The psalmist put it well: The words of God are “sweeter than the purest honey” (Ps. 19:10, TEV).

LINK2LIFE: To find help memorizing scripture, go to www.devotional.upperroom.org/blog

PRAYER: O Lord, make us hungry every day for your word, and help us to feed on it. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Bible Translators

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