LESSON LEARNED Monday, Sep 30 2013 

Acts 2:42-47 (NRSV)

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds  to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home  and ate their food with glad and generous  hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Mark 6:41 (NRSV)

41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all.

DEVOTION – Rebecca Seaton (Tennessee)

The small-group Bible meetings held in our home were enriching out lives with both spiritual growth and fellowship.  Before we realized what was happening, our group had out-grown the facilities of our home, a sure sign that the time had come to “birth” another group to be hosted at someone else’s home.

This was very difficult for us as we had come to love member of our group.  I especially had a difficult time, because I did not want to give up any of them to another group.  A while alter, as I was pondering the situation, the Lord brought to my mind the scripture passage about the loaves and fish.  I remembered that the loaves and fish were multiplied until Jesus blessed and divided them.  I then realized that in order to multiply and grow, it would be necessary to first bless and then divide.

As difficult as it was, it has been wonderful since that time to witness several new small groups created by simply releasing, blessing, and dividing.  After all, each small group belongs to God!

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: What we release to God, God will bless and multiply.

PRAYER: Thank you, Lord, for all the lessons of life you teach us.  Enable us to yield everything to you, that you may bless and multiply in our lives.  We pray this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: SMALL-GROUP BIBLE STUDIES

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Love And Power Sunday, Sep 29 2013 

Philippians 2:5-11 (NRSV)

5 Let the same mind be in you that was  in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Ephesians 1:19-20 (NIV)

19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,

DEVOTION – William H. Smith (Virginia)

For days my wife and I had been looking for help for my mother, and we had met numerous warm, gracious folks who seemed genuinely concerned.  However, none of them could actually help us put together the resources we needed – until one social worker responded, “Yes! I can help you.”  This was the news that we had been searching for and longing to hear.

Love may inspire in us compassionate and comforting words for others, but that alone is not enough.  (See James 2:16) In raising Jesus from the dead, God gave us the good news that help is here, thereby showing both for us and the power to defeat sin and death.  The Lord loves us and also has the resources to bring us home, from death to eternal life.  The Lord brings together Love and power.  With Christ at work in us, we have both compassion and capability.  The good news we bring to the world proclaims, “Yes! We can help.”  We believe that God is always at work for good and through our caring makes a difference in people’s lives.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: The risen Christ is living in us with love and power.

PRAYER:  Dear Lord, may we experience your love and power in our own lives and happily share that gospel with other.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: FOR THE WILL AND THE ABILITY TO HELP

ANGRY WITH GOD Saturday, Sep 28 2013 

John 13:36 – 14:4 (NRSV)

36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.”

4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.”

John 14:1 (NRSV)

1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe  in God, believe also in me.

DEVOTION – Walter A. Puciata (Arizona)

While in graduate school, I was falling in love with a women I wanted to marry.  But it was not to be.  I was so brokenhearted that I grew disillusioned and angry with God.  In fact, while on a walk in the woods one day, I felt so angry with God that I picked up a downed tree limb and smashed it into pieces against a tree.  Though disappointed and angry with God, I continued to read my Bible.  One day, I was reading the end of John13, where Jesus foretold Peter’s denial, and I thought about my own anger with God during that walk in the woods.  But, remembering that chapter divisions did not exist in the original manuscripts, I read on.  I suddenly understood for the first time that the very questions Peter was asking Jesus in John 13, Jesus continued to answer in John 14!  Jesus had not spoken the words “Do not let your hearts be troubled” into thin air; he was speaking to Peter and the other apostles.  These words could be for me as well.

How comforting are the words of Jesus – especially in the context of Peter’s questions.  Jesus loves us so much and is so very confident in his ability to save us that he is preparing a place for us.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Though we may be angry with God, God always loves us.

PRAYER: O God, thank you for the light of your word that gives us hope, even when things seem looks like they are falling apart.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE WHO FEEL THEY’VE DISAPPOINTED GOD

SIGNIFICANCE Friday, Sep 27 2013 

Psalm 8:1-9 (NRSV)

1 O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!   You have set your glory above the heavens. 2 Out of the mouths of babes and infants  you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger. 3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; 4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals  that you care for them? 5 Yet you have made them a little lower than God,  and crowned them with glory and honor. 6 You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 9 O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8:3-5 (NRSV)

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; 4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals  that you care for them? 5 Yet you have made them a little lower than God,  and crowned them with glory and honor.

DEVOTION -Suzie Tors (California)

A few days ago while I was driving, I saw the most beautiful sunset.  I had just read psalm 8 that morning, so it was fresh in my mind and I pulled over to watch.  The sun was a vibrant orange as it sank over the horizon, painting the clouds with gorgeous shades of gold, red, and purple.  I spent some time praising God for this beauty, and I was reminded of the pictures recently taken by the Hubble space telescope that orbits our planet.  I marveled at the gigantic, swirling clouds of colorful galaxies that are simply the work of God’s fingers.

Sometimes I wonder as the psalmist did, “What are human beings that you are mindful of them?”  Looking at the vastness of our universe can make me feel quite small and insignificant.  But God reassures us that we are “crowned with glory and honor.”  Throughout God’s word we are assured that God loves us and we are significant.  What an honor!

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: As insignificant as we may seem within our vast universe, God cares intimately for us.

PRAYER: Loving Creator, thank you for the beauty that you created and for being mindful of us.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: FOR AN AWARENESS OF GOD’S CREATION

Living In The Moment Thursday, Sep 26 2013 

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NRSV)

16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)

5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

DEVOTION – Roger C. Palms (Florida)

Our cousin’s daughter shared an insight she dah while watching her father and her young son eating ice cream cones together.  Her father was battling dementia, each day a bit less cognizant of what was happening around him.  Her son was growing more aware of his surroundings and his place in the world with each passing day.  Now they have passed each other – her father sliding downward and her son growing upward.  But for a moment they met around those two ice cream cones; for that short time, they were both in the same moment.

Our moments are just that, moments.  They don’t last; they disappear and we move on.  We live in the moment, and those moments keep changing.

God is with us in the moment, even in our difficult moments.  Our troubles are far out weighted by the eternal glory ahead.  God our past and God of our future is right here with us – in the moment.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Wherever this moment finds me, God is here

PRAYER: Eternal God, we are grateful that you know every one of our moments. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: CHILDREN OF PARENTS WITH DEMENTIA 

The Ministry Of Hospotality Wednesday, Sep 25 2013 

3 John 1-12 (NRSV)

1 The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth. 2 Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. 3 I was overjoyed when some of the friends  arrived and testified to your faithfulness to the truth, namely how you walk in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 5 Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the friends,  even though they are strangers to you; 6 they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on in a manner worthy of God; 7 for they began their journey for the sake of Christ,  accepting no support from non-believers.  8 Therefore we ought to support such people, so that we may become co-workers with the truth. 9 I have written something to the church; but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. 10 So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing in spreading false charges against us. And not content with those charges, he refuses to welcome the friends,  and even prevents those who want to do so and expels them from the church. 11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. 12 Everyone has testified favorably about Demetrius, and so has the truth itself. We also testify for him,  and you know that our testimony is true.

Romans 12:13 (NIV)

13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

DEVOTION – Nola Passmore (Queensland, Australia

In southern India, our short-term mission team learned a few phrases in the local language and then set out in pairs to use those words with people we met.  My friend and I saw a man sitting outside a house.  We tried to start a conversation using our few phrases, which roughly translated, “Hello.  I am Nola, and this is John.  We are trying to learn your language, we cannot speak your language properly.”  The man spoke English and invited us into his home.  His family prepared some food and drink for us, and he spent an hour helping us to learn different words.  We were overwhelmed with the hospitality shown to us, especially as we were strangers from a different culture and religion.  I wonder if I would have been so generous if someone from another country had knocked on my door.

Hospitality is sometimes undervalued, but it has been an important ministry from the first days of the church.  Gaius, one of the early Christians, welcomed traveling missionaries and thereby shared in their work.  Diotrephes was more interested in his own position in the church.  Not only did he fall to welcome the missionaries, but also tried to prevent others from doing so.  Whose example will we follow?

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: To whom can I show hospitality this week?

LINK2LIFE:Go to devotional.upperroom.org/blog to see a picture of Nola with other members of the mission team.

PRAYER: Dear God, help us to welcome others and to show them your love so that they can see you in our words and actions.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: SHORT_TERM MISSION TEAMS

Baby Steps Tuesday, Sep 24 2013 

Isaiah 40:28-31 (NRSV)

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. 30 Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; 31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles,  they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

DEVOTION – Jada Pryor (Illinois)

The first steps of my one-year-old daughter, Jubilee, brought me overwhelming happiness.  I spread my arms wide to receive her, and she joyfully bounded into my embrace.  Becoming  sure of her new footing took time, and she often stumbled.  Every fall made me cringe, but I helped her to her feet and encouraged her to take a few more steps.  As her parent, I knew the freedom that walking would give her.

My journey with Christ is similar.  When I first began to walk with him, I was thrilled by my new discovery.  With the feelings of lightness in my heart and the excitement of moving toward Jesus, I could hardly keep from running.  Upon being saved, I thought that my life would be easy, that I could move about freely as a follower of Christ and never stumble or fall again.  That is not what God promises.  God knows that we grow tired and slip in our faith, but God also assures us.  If we continue to move toward the Lord, God will reach out a hand to steady us and will guide us back to the path laid out before us.  God, like a good parent knows the freedom that lies ahead.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Every step toward God is a step in the right direction.

LINK2LIFE: To see a picture of Jada and Jubilee, go to devotional.upperroom.org/blog.

PRAYER: Dear Father, please help us remember that we will fall down as we learn to walk and that you rejoice when we get right back on our feet and move again toward you.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: CHILDREN LEARNING TO WALK

God’s Help Monday, Sep 23 2013 

Matthew 5:43-48 (NRSV)

43 “You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,  what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew  5:45 (NRSV)

45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

DEVOTION – Voly Georgieva Koruderlieva (Varna, Bulgaria)

Some years ago I lost my job, and I was on public assistance.  Then one day while I was riding the bus, someone robbed me and took my purse.  I was very upset; this was the first time I had suffered this type of abuse.  I did not worry about the money because I had only a small amount in my purse.  The big problem for me was that my purse contained my card for the labor market.  Without it I would not receive my unemployment benefits.

In a few days I was able to regain my sense of peace.  Also, I began to pray for the person who stole my purse.  I hoped that this man had been in need and that my money would help him.  However, I asked God to help me find my documents.  And this happened!  I received a call from the labor market; a young man had found my purse and had taken it there.

I sought God’s help every day, and God heard my prayers.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Today I will trust in the power of prayer.

PRAYER: Thank you, O God, for your goodness and for your steadfast love that endures forever.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: PEOPLE WHO STEAL TO MAKE A LIVING

FINDING HOPE Sunday, Sep 22 2013 

Romans 15:8-13 (NRSV)

8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,  “Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name”; 10 and again he says,  “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”; 11 and again,  “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him”; 12 and again Isaiah says,  “The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;  in him the Gentiles shall hope.” 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 5:5 (NRSV)

5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

DEVOTION – Hayes Mizell (South Carolina)

In a discussion group, someone asked us where we find “ultimate happiness.”  People answered the question in different ways.  Some said they find it in the love of family and friends, others in the satisfaction of productive work.  But a women of deep faith had a unique perspective.  Her job is to help parents identify appropriate educational settings for their children with serious emotional and behavioral problems.  For her, ultimate happiness is “finding where the hope is.”

We live in troubled times, when many people are without hope.  Yet God is always present, always at work.  Because of the life, ministry, and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, millions of Christians throughout the world bring hope to people in need.  Every kind word is a seed of hope.  Every act of mercy sows hope.  Every moment of teaching and learning is a path toward hope.

Even for Christians it is not always easy to “abound in hope,” especially in circumstances of individual and global despair.  But through worship, scripture, and prayer we can gain the vision and strength to help others find where the hope is.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Every kind word is a seed of hope.

PRAYER: Gracious God, open our eyes to the needs of people near and far, and empower us as agents of your grace.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: SCHOOL COUNSELORS

HESITATION TO LISTEN Saturday, Sep 21 2013 

1 Samuel 8:1-9, 9:15-17 and 10:1 (NRSV)

1 When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. 2 The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beer-sheba. 3 Yet his sons did not follow in his ways, but turned aside after gain; they took bribes and perverted justice. 4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5 and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord, 7 and the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8 Just as they have done to me,  from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. 9 Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”

15 Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to Samuel: 16 “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be ruler over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have seen the suffering of  my people, because their outcry has come to me.” 17 When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, “Here is the man of whom I spoke to you. He it is who shall rule over my people.”

1 Samuel took a vial of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him; he said, “The Lord has anointed you ruler over his people Israel. You shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their enemies all around. Now this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you ruler  over his heritage:

1 Samuel 9:17 (NIV)

17 When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD said to him, “This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.”

DEVOTION – Georgia Bruton (Florida)

Samuel heard the Lord speak clearly.  He didn’t hesitate or question; he followed through immediately and anointed Saul as king.  Samuel knew what God desired because Samuel listened.

However, our reading today tells of Samuel’s wicked sons who failed to walk in the ways of their father.  When I read that chapter I wondered why Samuel’s sons had not followed his example.  I don’t know/  I feel sure that this godly man prayed for his family.

But I know sometimes I’ve felt like a failure as a parent, even though I’ve tried to be good example.  I’ve prayed for myself and for my children, asking for wisdom about how to rear them.  But still they don’t always choose wisely, and sometimes I feel that Their mistakes are my fault.

Then I remember Samuel.  His problems with his sons could have caused him to waver and doubt his ability to hear God.  Instead, he continued to listen to God and to obey.  I have that same choice:  I can let my failures, perceived or real, keep me second guessing my ability to hear God; or like Samuel, I can choose to listen and obey.

 

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: We don’t have to be perfect to hear God’s voice.

PRAYER:  Dear Lord, sometimes, even when we seek your direction, failure comes and we question if we really heard you.  Help us to listen when we feel like hesitating.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: PARENTS OF PRODIGALS

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