Under God’s Wings Thursday, Feb 28 2013 

Psalm 91:1-16 (NIV)

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 8 You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.9 If you make the Most High your dwelling– even the LORD, who is my refuge– 10 then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. 11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.16 With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.

Psalm 91:4 (NIV)

4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

DEVOTION – Elizabeth Ann Bussey (Ohio)

One afternoon while washing dishes, I watched a mother robin in the holly bush just outside my window.  When the rain began, she gently settled herself over her hatchlings.  The rain soon became a downpour;  the robin stood up in her nest and spread her wings wide.  She rocked back and forth a few times stretching her wings to create an umbrella over the nest.  The rains pounded harder, yet she did not move.  I watched her in amazement as I continued cleaning my kitchen.  My chores completed, I hesitated to leave the room.  The robin was still standing with wings outstretched, protecting her young.

The beauty of this scene reminded me of Psalm 91:4 and the refuge we have under God’s protective wings.  Life’s trials are sometimes only a drizzle and at other times a fiercely pounding storm.  But regardless of the intensity of the storms, God will be faithful.  Though we may not always see God’s wings spread over us, we can rest assured that they are there to offer us shelter and comfort.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:  No matter how severe life’s storms may be, God’s wings are stronger and more constant.

PRAYER:  O God, like that strong and faithful robin, you spread your love over us in life’s storms. May we rest secure and feel your comfort even in times when we may not sense your presence. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Someone enduring a storm in life

God’s People Too Wednesday, Feb 27 2013 

Romans 15:1-7 (NIV)

1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Romans 12:13, 16 (NIV)

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.    …be willing to associate with people of low position.

DEVOTION – Charles P. Axe (Pennsylvania)

I understood the people’s reaction to me – the glancing looks, keeping their distance in silence.  Like others in the waiting room, I was there to see the cardiologist because I had recently experienced a heart attack.  But my orange prison jump suit, shackles, handcuffs, and two armed guards didn’t exactly help me to fit in.  Then and elderly woman walked in, smiled, and said, “God bless.  I hope you are doing well.”

I responded, “I’m fine.”  Suddenly my anxious feelings were replaced with calm.  “Thank you,” I added.

Afterwards in the van heading back to the prison, I thought how that one person looked beyond the outward signs of what most considered a second-class citizen and saw a person – a person who, though surely one of God’s own people, was in many ways estranged from the human family.  Maybe it was simply that she saw an opportunity to do good.

The apostle Paul reminds us that as Christians we are called to show consideration and care for others, particularly for those in need and “of low position.”  While such actions may not always come naturally, that special effort can make a significant and lasting impression on people’s lives.  It did for me.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:  How can I reach out to someone who doesn’t fit in?

PRAYER:  Dear God, open our eyes to those around us who are in need. Help us to see them as you do and to care for them with your compassion. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Those in Prison

Out of the Ruts Tuesday, Feb 26 2013 

Matthew 14:13-33 (NIV)

13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” 16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. 18″Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.  22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29″Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Matthew 14:28 (NRSV)

Peter answered [Jesus], “Lord, if it is you, comman me to come to you on the water.”

DEVOTION – Jean Bonin (Alberta, Canada)

It seemed that one winter storm with heavy snow and driving winds would barely end before the next storm blasted in, leaving us homebound and waiting for the skies to clear.  Those who lived in town might have enjoyed a brief respite from their usual routine, but here on the farm we either had to get the food to the livestock or the livestock to the food.  Horses pastured a mile from the house didn’t seem far away until I had to haul feed to them on a road made invisible by snow drifts.  Lucky for me someone had ventured out before me and “broken a trail” that left a narrow, slippery track of ruts.

As I was maneuvering that track and praying, “Lord, please keep me in the ruts,” I realized that spiritually I really needed God to do the opposite for me.  I was in a spiritual rut.  I was unwilling to face new challenges.  I had often asked the Lord not only to keep me safe in uncomfortable experiences but to keep me out of uncomfortable experiences.

Ruts are a safe place in a blizzard, but in our spiritual life ruts can be hazardous to our relationship with Christ.  The passage from Matthew 14  tells us that Peter trusted Jesus enough to get out of the boat during a storm.  We too can trust God enough to get out of the ruts that keep us from living more faithfully and abundantly.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Anything we can easily do ourselves doesn’t require faith.

PRAYER:  Dear Lord, help us to trust you more than we fear situations that may surround us. Help us to get out of our ruts. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Farmers and Ranchers

Falling Short Monday, Feb 25 2013 

Romans 3:21-26 (NIV)

21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference,23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Romans 3:23 (NRSV)

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

DEVOTION – Joe E. Pennel, Jr. (Tennessee)

More than any time in the church year, the season of Lent brings us face to face with sinfulness.  Though it may be difficult for some of us to think of ourselves as sinners, Paul boldly said, “All have sinned and fall sort of the glory of God.”  None of us is spared the taint of sin because all of us have asserted our will against God.

Sin has such a hold on us that we do not have the power to break out of sin by our own actions or through our resolutions or decisions.  Sin is always there before us, and it is vast and inescapable.  We cannot run away from it or hide from it or deny it.  If we compare ourselves to others, we may feel virtuous; but we are no better and no worse than our neighbors.  However, another comparison is larger and more important.

During Lent, we compare ourselves not to our neighbors but to Christ and to what God wants for us.  We sin each time we fail to love as Christ taught us.  Lent helps us to see ourselves as sinners, and Easter brings the good news that Christ redeems us from that sin.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Christ bridges the gap between who we are and who God calls us to be.

PRAYER:  O God, thank you for loving us enough to redeem us from our sin. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: For Faithfulness in Lenten Practices

2nd Sunday in Lent Sunday, Feb 24 2013 

John 15:5-14 (NIV)

5″I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.9″As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.14You are my friends if you do what I command.

Matthew 6:10 (KJV)

Jesus prayed, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”

DEVOTION – Einar Ingvi Magnusson (Hofudborgarsvaedid, Iceland)

When I looked into the beautiful, innocent eyes of the child in front of me, I realized that I was a part of the world she was experiencing.  It was in my hands to express for her what our world is like – the world she had been born into.  I vowed to grant her glimpses of heaven because heaven is what I wish for her.  When she looks at me, I want her to feel joy, peace, and love.  And I want this not just for her but for all people.  In many ways we can offer glimpses of heaven on earth for people around us.

When we live out Jesus’ commandment to love one another, we can bring heave to people living in hell on earth.  By helping to meet people’s needs and treating them with love and kindness, we can help to change our world into God’s kingdom on earth.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: What kind of world does God want for our children?

PRAYER:  Help us, dear God, to bring your kingdom on earth for the people we encounter by showing them the love that you have for us all. We pray as Jesus taught us, saying, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.” Amen. Dear Lord, remind us that you are always with us. Teach us to trust you even when we cannot see you. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Those Who Work With Children

I’m Thankful Saturday, Feb 23 2013 

Psalm 105:1-6 (NIV)

1 Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. 2 Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.3 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. 4 Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. 5 Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,6 O descendants of Abraham his servant, O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones.

Psalm 92:1 (NRSV)

It is good to give thanks to the Lord.

DEVOTION – John M. Drescher ( Pennsylvania)

Many people greet each other by saying , “Hello.  How are you?”  I noticed that if I reply with the usual, “Fine,” few people seem to notice.  So I began to respond, “I’m thankful.”

My answer brings interesting responses.  My neighbor called across our yards, “How are you?”  When I replied, “I’m thankful,” he asked, “Why?  What happened?”  He assumed that something had gone well in order to cause me to be thankful.  Clerks in stores often greet me with “How are you?”  My “I’m thankful” causes them to look up and to respond, “That’s great,” “Wonderful,” or “That’s terrific.”  Some express appreciation for my positive answer and than me.  This week, the school principal said, “I look forward your saying, ‘I’m thankful,’ each day.”  Some people ask, “Why are you thankful?” and I have an opportunity to tell them about God’s blessings in my life.

If we take a moment to reflect, all of us can think of many reasons to thank the Lord.  Expressing gratitude is good for us and can be a blessing to others.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: How am I?

Link2Life: Consider answering “I am thankful” when folks ask, “How are you?”  And be ready to say why.

PRAYER:  O God, give us thankful hearts so that we may acknowledge and share your goodness. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: To Be More Thankful

God Is With Us Friday, Feb 22 2013 

Isaiah 41:13-16 (NIV)

13 For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. 14 Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel, for I myself will help you,” declares the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. 15 “See, I will make you into a threshing sledge, new and sharp, with many teeth. You will thresh the mountains and crush them, and reduce the hills to chaff.16 You will winnow them, the wind will pick them up, and a gale will blow them away. But you will rejoice in the LORD and glory in the Holy One of Israel.

Matthew 22:39 (KJV)

Love your neighbor as yourself.

DEVOTION – Neri R. Gattinoni (Chubut, Argentina)

My life was difficult.  My husband made me feel worthless.  He told me not to go to church because I was not worthy of Jesus’ love.  I began to believe him, and I stopped going to church.

A lovely woman from the church came to visit me.  During our conversation, she advised me to talk to the pastor about my situation.  In her sweet manner, she asked: “Neri, what was the first Bible verse you memorized?”

I responded, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  It became clear to me that I was not loving myself.”  I knew that changes had to be made in my life and in my children’s lives.

Later I read the passage from Isaiah that is our reading today and found the courage to put an end to a marriage that had entrapped me.  My children and I relocated to another city.  I began to breathe the fresh air of new life.

Today, one of my sons is studying for the ministry and the other son is a member of a musical group that leads worship in our church services.  I took a lay pastor’s course and have had many opportunities to put into practice what I have learned.  I give thanks to God for transforming my life, and I know I have God’s blessing.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God offers us freedom from all that limits and oppresses us.

PRAYER:  Dear God, thank you for your transforming love that brings us out of the despair of weakness and gives us strength to overcome adversity. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: People In Abusive Marriages

Hidden Talents Thursday, Feb 21 2013 

Romans 12:3-8 (NIV)

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

1 Corinthians 12:4 (NIV)

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.

DEVOTION – Mary Berger (New Mexico

As I watched the liturgical dancers, choir members, and musicians during a church program, I was envious that I did not have similar talents.  I wondered what talent I had that would create the joy and excitement I saw on the faces of the people around me.  I started to check off on a mental list the talents I do not have:  I do not dance.  I do not have a voice that any choir director would welcome.  I am not musically inclined in any way.

As my “do not” and “cannot” list grew, my self-esteem plunged.  What talent had God given me?  Discouraged, I closed my eyes and prayed.  Romans 12:6 came to mind: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”  In the fog of my doubt, I saw a glimmer of hope.  God has given me the ability to listen patiently and to offer encouragement to those who come to me with their problems or concerns.  I can also write; and that talent combined with my eye for photography, allows me to create a variety of multi-media projects to entertain family and friends.  I realized that no matter what our gifts, God loves each of us.  God’s only request is that we use our talents wisely and fully.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: What are my talents, and how can I use them to serve God?

Link2Life: List four or five of your talents and alongside them, ways you might use them to serve God.

PRAYER:  Thank you, God, for the gifts you have given each of us. Help us to appreciate them and to value them as you do. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Those who feel untalented

Called to Pray Wednesday, Feb 20 2013 

James 5:13-16 (NIV)

13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

James 5:16 (NRSV)

The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

DEVOTION – Laura A. Martinsen (Virginia)

In a sermon near the beginning of Lent, our pastor suggested that instead of giving up something for Lent we take up something – some healthy habit or a practice helpful to others.  I decided to take up the habit of praying each time I heard an emergency siren.

My prayers vary in length, but they always include thanks to God for the emergency personnel – their selflessness and expertise – and a request that the lifesaving equipment they use will work as it should.  I pray that the helpers may arrive safely and that they situation they are responding to may be resolved as efficiently and effectively as possible.  I pray also for those receiving emergency help, that they stay calm and realize how best to allow the rescue workers to help.  I pray for healing and awareness that God is with them and all who are involved.  Even though one emergency siren is one too many, God is with both the helpers and the ones begin helped.

This was my Lenten practice.  For believers, many ordinary situations can become calls to prayer if we are open to God.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: What life-giving spiritual practice can I take up for Lent?

PRAYER:  Dear Lord, we are thankful for the path of prayer, by which we may come to you on behalf of our neighbors. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Emergency Personnel

Our Security Tuesday, Feb 19 2013 

Exodus 12:1-28 (NIV)

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2 “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast.9 Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire–head, legs and inner parts.10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn–both men and animals–and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD.13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD–a lasting ordinance.15 For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat–that is all you may do. 17 “Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.18 In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. 19 For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And whoever eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel, whether he is an alien or native-born. 20 Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.”21 Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. 22 Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. Not one of you shall go out the door of his house until morning. 23 When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down. 24 “Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. 25 When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. 26 And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ 27 then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’ “ Then the people bowed down and worshiped.28 The Israelites did just what the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron.

 Exodus 12:13 (NRSV)

The Lord said, “The blood shall be a sign for you…when I see the blood, I will pass over you.”

DEVOTION – Ruth Nussbaumer (Alsace, France)

I accepted Christ as my Savior in my early childhood.  However, my life was filled with fear for many years.  I believed that if I were in the act of sinning when Jesus came back, I would be lost.  This lack of assurance deprived me of the joy of being a child of God.

One day as I was reading a passage from Exodus 12, the reason that Israel’s firstborns were spared suddenly became clear to me.  God told the people to take some of the slaughtered animal blood and put in on the door frames of the houses.  Then God added: “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.”  God did not say, “Here lives Moses.  He is a man of God.  So I will pass over.”  Or “Here, Miriam is not good enough.”  God did not decide according to the person inside the house.  The blood on the door post causes the destroyer to pass over.

This was a reminder to me that Jesus shed his blood for us.  “In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us” (Eph. 1:7-8).  The blood of Christ shed for us by grace is the source of our security.  When doubts arise about our worth or our salvations, we can trust Jesus’ work and words and not our feelings.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Our salvation depends not on who we are but on what Christ did.

PRAYER:  Thank you, Christ Jesus, for taking our place and cleansing us of our sin. In your name we pray. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: Fearful Believers

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