By Word and Deed Thursday, Jan 31 2013 

Job 2:11-13 (NIV)

11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

Romans 12:15 (NRSV)

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

DEVOTION – Irina Ivanova (Pskov, Russia)

I was deeply concerned about someone who is dear to me.  The gray, cold day of constant rain made me feel even worse.  At work as I stood by the window and sobbed, one of my colleagues came up to me.  He told me that everything would be okay.  However, these words did not comfort me.  In fact, they made me feel worse.  A while later, another person came up to me.  Seeing that I was suffering, he did not say anything but simply gave me a hug and stayed with me.  This silent sympathy and empathy did far more for me than words.

He did what the Apostle Paul urges us to do: “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).  Today’s reading in which Job’s friends mourned with him reminded me that words of comfort can be important but also important is another kind of consolation – to simply be quiet together.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Which should I choose today to show God’s love and comfort: words, or ations?

Link2Life: Visit someone who is grieving.

PRAYER:  Dear Lord, thank you for the comfort you send us through our friends.   Help us to be sensitive to others’s pain and to accompany them through hardship. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Someone Concerned Aout ALoved One

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In The Beginning Wednesday, Jan 30 2013 

Genesis 1:1-5 (NIV)

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning–the first day.

Revelations 22:21 (NRSV)

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints.  Amen.

DEVOTION – Mary Van Keuren (New York)

I breathed a satisfied sigh as I closed the Bible.  It had taken me three years, but I had read every word, working slowly to be sure I understood what I was reading.  What a rich experience it had been!  By going to the true source, I had learned a great deal about my own faith and about the experiences of those before me.

Throughout my reading, I was struck by how blessed we are to be the beloved children of God.  It isn’t something we deserve in any way but instead is the gift of a loving and gracious God who cares for us even when we sin.  Time after time as we read in the Old and New Testaments, we see people reject God; but still God’s love for them never wavers.

After finishing the Bible, I wondered where I would go next for my spiritual reading.  Of course, many wonderful books can help us grow in faith and in the knowledge of God.  But at that particular moment in my life, the answer was simple: I opened to Genesis and began to read, “In the beginning…”

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: As we grow in love for the Bible, we embody its truth in ever-deepening ways.

Link2Life: Read through the Bible in a year.

PRAYER:  Loving God, help us to learn about you from the wisdom of the Bible. As we read, give us not just understanding but the will to embody your truth. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Those Without Access to the Bible

Becoming a Butterfly Tuesday, Jan 29 2013 

Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV)

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

DEVOTION – Sandra Hastings (Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany)

Have you ever watched a butterfly working its way out of a chrysalis?  The process requires an amazing struggle.

Anyone who does not understand the purpose of the struggle might in sympathy snip the chrysalis.  This would make it easier for the butterfly to get out, but the butterfly would likely be underdeveloped and never fly.  The struggle is part of the process of developing strong wings.

For many years of my Christian life I felt like a butterfly trapped in a chrysalis – a chrysalis of secular values, philosophy, and standards.  Struggling through my feelings of inferiority, fear, and failure was agonizing and time-consuming.  However, shortening this spiritual metamorphosis would have resulted in a weak, superficial Christian life.

I became a new creature when I accepted Christ as my personal Savior.  Slowly, like an emerging butterfly, I was freed – I found spiritual freedom in Christ.

Christ desires that every one of his followers live unencumbered by our old nature and develop strong wings to fly free as new creations.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Gaining our freedom is worth the struggle it may take to get there.

PRAYER:  Dear Lord, give us strength and courage to grow into spiritual freedom. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Those Going Through a Spiritual Struggle

Hospitality Monday, Jan 28 2013 

Genesis 18:1-15 (NIV)

1 The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.3 He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. 4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way–now that you have come to your servant.” “Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.” 6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread.”7 Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. 8 He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree. 9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said. 10 Then the LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing.12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?” 13 Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.”15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

Hebrews 13:2 (NRSV)

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

DEVOTION – Todd Outcalt (Indiana)

During my high-school years I did yard work for Mrs. Buzard, a wonderful woman who lived a life of much caring and kindness.  Often after I had worked all afternoon in the hot sun, she would bring me a tall glass of lemonade.  She also showered me with small gifts and homemade treats.  Her grace-filled hospitality shaped my life.

The Bible is replete with example of, and request for, hospitality.   We are commanded to show hospitality to the stranger in our land (Gen. 18:1-7), as well as to open our homes to those in need.  (See Rom. 12:13, Isa. 58:6-10, Heb. 13:2.)  By doing so we may discover that God has drawn especially near to us.

Actually, hospitality is at the center of the gospel.  The Bible tells us that God has come to us in Christ, received us as children, and given us all that we need.  Our faith in God’s love moves us to show this same hospitality to others.

Each day we can be thankful for the hospitable acts of others.  And as a response to God’s love coming to us though them, we can look for ways to show “hospitality and welcome” to each one we encounter.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Hospitality can express God’s love.

Link2Life: To see a piture of Mrs. Buzard, go to devotional.  www.upperroom.org/blog

PRAYER:  Welcoming God, thank you for sustaining us with your love and giving us all that we need. Help us to open our hands and our heart to others. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Those Who Are Lonely

Look to the Hills Sunday, Jan 27 2013 

Psalm 121:1-8  (NIV)

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.3 He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; 8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121:1-2 (NIV)

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

DEVOTION – Anne Leonard Trudel (Tennessee)

When I moved to Middle Tennessee, I sorely missed the East Tennessee mountains where I grew up.  Never before had I realized how comforting their presence was to me.  I felt protected – almost enfolded by them.

For this reason, I can relate to the scripture quoted above.  It took awhile for me to appreciate the beauty of the mountains, and likewise, it has taken me years to become aware of the mountains, and comfort of God’s presence.  I’ve been though times of doubt in my faith journey, such as when my mother died and when I was diagnosed with a chronic disease; but like the mountains I love, God was always present.

When I get bogged down in the problems of daily life, I look at a picture of mountains that hangs in my office.  It reminds me to lift my eyes.  Even if these mountains are just in my imagination, seeing them reminds me that my help indeed comes from the Lord.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God is always present, watching over us.

Link2Life: Display a picture or object from nature to remind yourself of God’s continual presence and eternal love.

PRAYER:  Dear God, thank you for your constant presence with us, even when we don’t realize you are there. Help us always to trust in you. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Those Longing for Home

Other Sheep Saturday, Jan 26 2013 

John 10:14-16 (NIV)

14″I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me–15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay down my life for the sheep.16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

John 10:16 (NRSV)

Jesus said, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.  So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

DEVOTION – Alissabeth Newton (Washington)

When I was 17 years old, I participated in a foreign-exchange program.  For almost five months I went to school in Russia and lived with a Russian family.  It was my first time to be away from my family for more than a couple of days.  My well-meaning church back home sent several Bibles with me, certain that part of what I was called to do on that trip was to bear witness as a Christian.

However, after my arrival in Russia all those years ago, I soon discovered that God had been there long before I came.  I experienced God through the people I met and loved and depended on during my visit.  Although the ways we worshiped and understood God differed, we all nonetheless experienced relationship with our Creator.

When I recall this period in my life, I think about Jesus’ words in John 10:16 about his sheep that belong to another fold.  He doesn’t say that the disciple must find the other sheep or that they will listen to anyone other than their shepherd.  And he does not speak of them as being lost.  Instead, Jesus said, “There will be one flock, one shepherd.”  Let us listen to the voice of our shepherd, Christ Jesus.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Human diversity is part of God’s plan for our world.

PRAYER:  Holy one, help us to seek you and not to judge our ways of worship and belief above those of others. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Christians Around the World

Flash Freeze Friday, Jan 25 2013 

Genesis 39:1-23 (NIV)

1 Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there.2 The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did,4 Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned.5 From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field.6 So he left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. Now Joseph was well-built and handsome,7 and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”8 But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care.  9 No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. 11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12 She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.  13 When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, 14 she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed.  15 When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”16 She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. 17 Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. 18 But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.” 19 When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger.20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.22 So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there.23 The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.

Habakkuk 3:18 (NIV)

I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

DEVOTION – Jason Mills (Ontario, Canada)

This morning I awoke to a weather warning:  Beware of flash freezing.  This alert is issued when the temperature drops suddenly, quickly changing a rainy day into an icy potential disaster.  Something similar to this weather phenomenon happens to people, too.  Life brings “flash freezes” – sudden changes that leave us wondering where God is.  In the Bible, we read about Joseph, a man who experienced many flash freezes.  Ice didn’t make his journey treacherous, but the people around him did.  When his brothers sold him into slavery (Gen. 37:12-28), Joseph’s life changed in an instant.

Later he faced danger when Potiphar’s beautiful wife’s lies sent him to prison (Gen. 39:1-20).  While Joseph seemed doomed to misery, “the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden” (Gen. 39:21).  God knew Joseph’s road was dangerous, yet God provided reminders of divine grace, kindness, and favor.

When we face such sudden changes and losses, we may wonder where God is and be tempted to give up.  But in such times we can remember that as with Joseph, God is with us.  God will show us kindness in the midst of tragedy and loss.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God steadies us when our way becomes treacherous.

PRAYER:  Dear Lord, show us kindness and grant us favor in the eyes of others.  Teach us to trust you always.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Those Facing Sudden Reverses

Balancing Accounts Thursday, Jan 24 2013 

Titus 3:3-7 (NIV)

3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,  5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3:5 (NIV)

[God} saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but acording to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

DEVOTION – Gale A. Richards (Iowa)

When I balance my checkbook, I confirm that my record matches my bank’s record of my financial activity.  I am good with account balances with the bank’s.

This is not the way it works with spiritual accounts.  The Bible proclaims that all people have sinned.  Sin separates us from God.  If we hope to be in relationship with God, something positive must balance the negative of our sin.

But nothing we can do is good enough to compensate for our sin.  Only God has that power.  God loves us enough that, through grace, Jesus’ sacrifice outweighs our sin.

With my bank account, I do my part for it to balance.  But when it comes to sin, only God is mighty enough to balance our account.  God does this through grace.  Praise the Lord!

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Only the love of God can cancel sin.

PRAYER:  Dear God, thank you for loving us so much that you are willing to forgive us of our sin.  Help us to love you in return.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Bank Employees

Play With Passion Wednesday, Jan 23 2013 

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV)

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

DEVOTION – Carol Purves (Cumbria, England)

The two soccer teams were eagerly awaiting their match.  Over the years they’d had a stormy history, and on this particular Saturday afternoon emotions were running high.  Every player was fit and raring to go.  The visitors played with skill and enthusiasm, and they won.

When fans were interviewed after the game, one man said, “The visitors won because they played with passion.”

Passion makes a difference in many areas of life including our faith journey.  Are we passionate in serving God?  Do we take every opportunity to share what we believe?  Do we try to live Christlike lives?  How wonderful if those who know us well can say of us that we live full of passion for Christ!  I want to “press on toward the goal” (see Phil. 3:14) of obedience to God, looking neither to the right or the left but fixing my eyes on Jesus (see Heb. 12:2).  What about you?

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: How passionate am I in serving God?

PRAYER:  Heavenly Father, may we see clearly our one purpose in life: to serve and follow you as we pray, “Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread.  Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.  And lead us not into temptation.” Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Student Athletes

One Lost Sheep Tuesday, Jan 22 2013 

Matthew 18:10-14 (NIV)

10″See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.  12″What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off ? 13And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off  .14In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.

Luke 15:6 (NRSV)

The shepherd said, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.”

DEVOTION – Doug Ralls (Tennessee)

I don’t know about you, but when I think about the practical aspects of the parable of the lost sheep, I don’t understand it.  Why would the shepherd leave 99 sheep unprotected just to look for one that was lost?  Wouldn’t some of those 99 sheep wander off or even be attacked and killed by wild animals?  Going after one sheep is simply not a practical solution to the problem.  It seems to be a bad business decision.

But ultimately, I don’t think this parable is intended as a practical solution to an everyday problem.  I see it more as a description of the radical love that abounds in the kingdom of heaven.  God loves us with such reckless abandon that God will ignore practicality in order to find us and bring us home.  That’s astounding love.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: How will I respond to God’s radical love today?

PRAYER:  Dear God, we can’t fully understand your radical, unmerited love for us. We can only kneel in thankful awe and humility. Help us to be like children in your presence, and grant us the faith to be disciples who fully love you in work and deed. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Those Who Feel Lost

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