Tired Legs Friday, Feb 28 2014 

Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 14:28 (NIV)

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

DEVOTION – Gina Bylsma (California)

We packed up the campsite.  Then my five-year-old daughter, Alison, and I hoofed it down the mountain to the fishing hole.  I was awed by the majesty of God’s creation.  The towering pines stood as sentries, allowing us to catch a glimpse of the magnificent panorama below.  Without averting my gaze, I said to Alison, “Isn’t this beautiful?”

“Well,”  she said, “not when your legs are tired.”

I realized that while my eyes were lifted in awe, Alison’s eyes were fixed on the difficult path.

We all have times when our “legs are so tired” that we can’t see the beauty around us.  The wearisome path of life may involve dealing with a difficult relationship, caring for an aged parent, struggling through loss, attempting to juggle too many responsibilities, or trying to stay afloat financially.  Whatever lies on the difficult path, Christ bids us, “Come to me.”  When we come to God in prayer and daily Bible reading, we learn from the Spirit and we feel God hand lifting our chin upward, taking the focus off our tired legs and allowing us to marvel at the magnificent beauty surrounding us.  The difficult path will remain, but our perspective will change and we will be blessed by the view.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: We can lift our eyes from the path and find hope in Christ.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE WHO HAVE TIRED LEGS

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Sock It! Thursday, Feb 27 2014 

Luke 11:9-13 (NIV)

9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Luke 11:1 (NIV)

1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

DEVOTION – Virginia Jelinek (Pennsylvania)

Last spring, my parked car wore two white socks, one on each side-view mirror.  I put then there to discourage a persistent sparrow that, seeing its mirrored image, would daily exhaust itself in fighting  its reflection.  The bird was trying to protect its territory by driving away the “other” bird.

When it comes to praying for my family members, I often mimic that feathered friend.  Anxious and fearful that evil might steal God’s blessings from loved ones, I attempt to defend their turf with fretful prayers.  I struggle and fight, rehearsing before God my worrisome concerns.  But I have found that such fear-based prayer is tedious and exhausting.  It also produces further anxiety:  Are my prayers strong enough to overcome the obstacles endangering those I love?  Whom or what situations have I forgotten to pray for?

          Sometimes when I slip into this unhealthy mode of praying.  I recall the sparrow and the effectiveness of my sock-solution.  Remembering this motivates me to “put a sock” on my anxieties and fears and cover them with positive and effectual prayer, such as the Lord’s Prayer.  Praying in this way for my loved ones is not exhausting and assures me that God, whose love far surpasses mine, knows the needs of my loved ones and cares for them.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: When in doubt, pray the Lord’s Prayer.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, keep us free of anxiety and fear.  As you taught us, 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: MY FAMILY

Dancing To God Wednesday, Feb 26 2014 

 

 

2 Samuel 6:12-22 (NIV)

12 Now King David was told, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went down and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. 13 When those who were carrying the ark of the LORD had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. 14 David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, 15 while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets. 16 As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart. 17 They brought the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the LORD. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes. 20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” 21 David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel–I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

2 Samuel 6:21-22(NIV)

21 David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel–I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

DEVOTION – Matthew L. Reger (Ohio)

While my family lived overseas, we attended an international church.  We were all committed followers of Christ but came from different countries and church backgrounds.  One woman’s way of expressing her love for Christ was an example of our different approaches to worship.  During the music, she was to the back of the congregation; and with tambourine in hand, she started to dance while the rest of us sang.

I was bothered the first time I saw her do this.  I wondered what she was doing and felt uncomfortable because dancing was not part of my idea of worship.  My initial thoughts about her dancing were similar to Michal’s response when she saw David dancing before God.  I saw dancing as undignified and inappropriate for a worship service.

Michael told David her feelings.  After reading David’s response, I realized that the dancing woman expressed her devotion to God by giving herself and her gifts to God without reservation.  She didn’t care what people thought; she worshiped God with all her mind, power, and soul.  I want to do the same.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Is God my sole focus during worship?

PRAYER: Dear God, help us to make pleasing you the focus of our worship.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: TO WORSHIP GOD WITHOUT RESERVATION

The Right End Of Jealousy Tuesday, Feb 25 2014 

James 3:13-18 (NRSV)

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Proverbs 27:4 (NRSV)

4 Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who is able to stand before jealousy?

DEVOTION – Nancy Nelson Larson (Texas)

Has anyone ever been on the right side of jealousy?  If I’m  the jealous one, I envy someone else because I see something they have that I want.  But if I  am the focus of someone’s jealousy, I may be hurt by their personal discontent and insecurity.

While it’s easy for me to focus my anger toward someone who hurts me, God gently reminds me that I am the first one who needs to change.  As a result, I’ve learned that my security is not in myself, in others, or in possessions.  My security is in God who is my strength and my hope.  Jealousy, whether I am expressing it or am its object, undermines my personal security.

I realize now that jealousy has no right side.  And I’m learning to avoid it.  My confidence is in God, who replaces jealousy with security.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Today I will try to model attitudes that honor God and make the world more like God wants it to be.

PRAYER: Dear God, help us to find our security in you.  Teach us to avoid jealousy and to stand firm in your unfailing love.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE STRUGGLING WITH JEALOUSY.

Faith In The Resurrection Monday, Feb 24 2014 

John 11:17-27 (CEB)

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Bethany was a little less than two miles from Jerusalem. 19 Many Jews had come to comfort Martha and Mary after their brother’s death. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him, while Mary remained in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. 22 Even now I know that whatever you ask God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha replied, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She replied, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, God’s Son, the one who is coming into the world.”

John 11:25 (CEB)

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die.

DEVOTION – Marlenin Roman (Dominican Republic)

In 2008, when my father died unexpectedly, I sank into depression and felt numb for a long time.  My sessions with a psychologist did not bring me out of the depression; I sank deeper into sadness.

When lifted me out of the depths of darkness with more understanding, faith, and strength was an event that happened more than 2,000 years ago.  The assurance of resurrection was like a balm to my constant and profound sadness.  The knowledge that Jesus did not remain on the cross or in the tomb but was raised from the dead, as he promised, was powerful consolation to me.

The truth of Christ’s resurrection became my anchor.  I gained confidence that one day, on the day of the glorious resurrection, we will all be together again in a place where fear, pain, and death will be no more.  With hope in the resurrection of Christ, I knew I had not lost my father, for he was with the Lord; and the Lord is with me.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:Christ’s resurrection assures us that love is stronger than death.

PRAYER: Living and loving Christ, comfort those who grieve, for your love is more than death.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: MENTAL HEALTH WORKERS

Small In Number, Large In Spirit Sunday, Feb 23 2014 

Philippians 3:12 – 4:1 (NRSV)

12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal;  but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters,  whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

James 1:22 (NRSV)

22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.

DEVOTION – Mark Alan Carter (Texas)

Our church was experiencing a slow, study decline.  The older members had died or were in poor health and unable to attend, and we were not attracting many younger members.  Consequently, we decided that even though our worship service was good, we needed to get our message to people outside our church.

We started an outreach program using both words and actions.  Several church members wrote a column in our local weekly paper sharing their personal stories of challenge.  They told how our church had brought them closer to God and increased their faith.  These members also volunteered  their time to help at the local Meals On Wheels center, our community thrift center, and other community-aid organizations.  Leading by example we could show, rather than just speak about, our faith.

This program started over a year ago.  And while our weekly attendance is still small, it is increasing.  Best of all, the new members contribute to these programs too, which helps us expand our ministry.  One member at a time, we are using our efforts not only to spread God’s word but also to do God’s work.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: With God as our guide, we can guide others to God.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, even though sometimes we are small in number, with you we are large in spirit.  Give us the faith to lead by example, and help us to share our faith with others.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: STRUGGLING CHURCHES

By My Side Saturday, Feb 22 2014 

Psalm 18:1-6 (NRSV)

1 I love you, O Lord, my strength. 2 The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 3 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, so I shall be saved from my enemies. 4 The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of perdition assailed me; 5 the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. 6 In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help.  From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.

Psalm 145:18-19 (NRSV)

18 The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. 19 He fulfills the desire of all who fear him; he also hears their cry, and saves them.

DEVOTION – Trent Somes, III (Pennsylvania)

Two years ago, when I was in Middle school, I was injured while playing football.  After I was moved off the field and onto the sideline, our team’s athletic trainer began to examine me.  My mom was on the other side of the field in the stands, watching the entire event.

I eventually told the athletic trainer that I needed to call my mom to come over to the table where I was being treated.  As soon as she received the call, she and my sister ran to my side.

The Bible says that when we pray to the Lord, no matter the reason, he will always give us an answer.  Just like my mom did for me, God will help us if we ask.  The Lord will always give refuge, help, and strength to those who need and request it.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: When we call, God will always answer.

LINK2LIFE:Go to devotional.upperroom.org/blog to see a picture of Trent with his mother and sister.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, help us to turn to you when we are in need and remember that you love us always.  Thank you for your son, Jesus.  In his name we pray.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: ATHLETIC TRAINERS

Chaos Friday, Feb 21 2014 

Genesis 1:1-8 (NRSV)

1 In the beginning when God created  the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God  swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God 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. 6 And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8 God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

2 Corinthians 4:7 (NRSV)

7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.

DEVOTION – Brad Reeves (Texas)

Conducting Vacation Bible School is a difficult mission.  We always have last-minute additions to the program and catch issues that had been overlooked in the planning.  We always have a helper or two who, for legitimate reasons, cannot make it.  Registration is always a madhouse.  Yet, God is good.  We instruct children about the goodness of God and God’s kingdom.  We teach them how to relate to God and how to conform their lives to god’s will.  In kingdom terms it is a success.  Yet, we always experience frayed nerves, anxiety, and general confusion and stress in the process.

This speaks to me of how God works in our lives. We are not perfect, and our lives are not perfect.  Yet, God forgives us in our mess.  God uses us anyway.  It is a good thing that God does, because without God we just have chaos.  I am glad that we serve such a God.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God can use us even though we are not perfect.

PRAYER: Loving God, teach us to be willing to serve whenever and wherever needs arise in your kingdom.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: CHRISTIAN EDUCATORS.

Seed Of Faith Thursday, Feb 20 2014 

Mark 4:26-32 (NIV)

26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain–first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”30 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”

Ephesians 6:19 (NIV)

19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,

DEVOTION – Margaret Skipworth (East Yorkshire, England)

For ease of maintenance, the previous owners of our house had paved most of the rear garden.  But we wanted a “proper garden” so we removed some of the paving blocks and filled the area will soil.  We spent several weeks discussing how we wanted the plot to look but kept putting off planting day.  As novice gardeners, we were nervous about putting a plant or bush in the wrong place.  Finally, we bought several packets of flower seeds and just scattered them over the soil, hoping some of them would grow,  In time we were rewarded with a carpet of beautiful colors and rich scents.

One day while enjoying the garden, I was reminded that God calls us to plant seeds of faith.  Often, instead of telling people about all the wonderful things God has done in my life, I remained silent because I worried about “getting it wrong.”

But since I learned the lesson from my garden, I don’t delay in sowing the seeds of God’s word to anyone who will listen.  Only by doing this can we ensure an abundant harvest of new believers.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Today, I will talk to a non-Christian friend about my faith.

PRAYER: Dear God, please give us the courage – and the right words – to tell others about you.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: GARDENERS

Moving Mountains Wednesday, Feb 19 2014 

Matthew 17:14-21 (NIV)

14 When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” 17 “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

Matthew 17:20-21 (NIV)

20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

DEVOTION – Tracey Maxey (Texas)

After a discussion with friends, I realized my application of this verse from Matthew 17 was different than most.  The disciples could not understand why they were unable to heal a young boy.  Jesus explained that their faith was weak.  With true faith we can do anything, Jesus said-even move mountains.

Reading this scripture, many people envision a majestic mountain picking up her skirts of rock and trees and stepping left or right – making a path for their purpose.  But in my vision, I am pushing a wheelbarrow and carrying a shovel.  I’m moving my mountain one rock at a time.

Even with strong faith, we rely on God’s timing for the mountain to move.  Just as we believe  in answers to our Prayers, patience and petition (wheelbarrows and shovels) help create the miracles we seek.. If it is God’s will, we can call on our faith in God’s power to move our mountains, rock by rock.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: With God’s help I can move mountains – one rock at a time.

PRAYER: Dear God, may our faith be strong enough to move mountains.  Sustain us as we move them according to your plan.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: SOMEONE CARRYING A HEAVY BURDEN.

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