4th Sunday In Lent Sunday, Mar 30 2014 

Ephesians 5:8-14 (NRSV)

8 For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— 9 for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. 10 Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; 13 but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,  “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead,  and Christ will shine on you.”

1 Thessalonians 4:14 (NRSV)

14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.

DEVOTION – Mark Carter (Texas)

I never attended church growing up, so for me Easter was all about hunting eggs and getting off from school or work.  Even after I began attending church regularly, I still didn’t  completely understand what was special about Easter, or what the Resurrection meant.

At that time my focus was more on being successful.  I had built for myself the life that I thought I had always wanted.  But then I developed epilepsy, and a 30-year career was suddenly ended.  Unable to work, or even to drive, I felt dead inside.  Life as I had known it was over.  All I could think of was, Lord, what will I do now?

It would have been easy then to lose all hope and just give up.  But after much prayerful thought and consideration, I realized that even though my old life might have ended, there was still much that I could do.  So I began to put my efforts into the ministries of the church.  As God gave new meaning to my life, the message of Easter has become clear to me.  No matter what disasters we face, with God’s help we can build from the ashes – and with Jesus, experience new life.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God can raise to life anyone who feels dead inside.

PRAYER: Precious Lord, we thank you for presence with us and for being our hope when our own hope is gone.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE RECEIVING A SERIOUS MEDICAL DIAGNOSIS

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Prepared For Life Saturday, Mar 29 2014 

John 12:23-33 (KJV)

23 And Jesus answered  them, saying , The hour is come , that the Son of man should be glorified . 24 Verily, verily, I say  unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall  into the ground and die , it abideth  alone: but if it die , it bringeth forth  much fruit. 25 He that loveth  his life shall lose  it; and he that hateth  his life in this world shall keep  it unto life eternal. 26 If any man serve  me, let him follow  me; and where I am , there shall  also my servant be : if any man serve  me, him will  my Father honour . 27 Now is  my soul troubled ; and what shall I say ? Father, save  me from this hour: but for this cause came I  unto this hour. 28 Father, glorify  thy name. Then came there  a voice from heaven, saying, I have  both glorified  it, and will glorify  it again. 29 The people therefore, that stood by , and heard  it, said  that it thundered : others said , An angel spake  to him. 30 Jesus answered  and said , This voice came  not because of me, but for  your sakes . 31 Now is  the judgment of this world: now shall  the prince of this world be cast  out. 32 And I, if I be lifted up  from the earth, will draw  all men unto me. 33 This he said , signifying  what death he should  die .

Psalm 23:4 (KJV)

4 Yea, though I walk  through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear  no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort  me

DEVOTION -Nancy C. Todd (Kentucky)

My mother was 95 years old when she died.  Two weeks prior to her death, she was signing birthday cards.  But she didn’t select only the few needed for the next two months; she signed cards to be used through the next six months.  Then she mailed them.  On the outside of each envelope my mother wrote, “better early than never.”  In her own way, my mother was preparing us for her death.

Jesus did the same with his disciples.  In his last months on earth, he told them, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will drawn everyone to me.”  He was preparing them for his death, but he didn’t stop there.  He also said, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, And to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NRSV).  Jesus was preparing his disciples for his death and for their life!

It is the same for us.  Prepared for death, we still mourn our loss.  Prepared for life, we become witnesses for Christ, I want to be prepared for both.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: If we live for Christ, we will be prepared for death.

PRAYER: Dear Father, help us to be willing to live for you even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  In Christ’s name we pray.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE MOURNING A PARENT

A Way In The Wilderness Friday, Mar 28 2014 

Exodus 14:21-25 (NRSV)

21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. 22 The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. 23 The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. 24 At the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. 25 He clogged  their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”

Isaiah 43:19 (NRSV)

19 I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

DEVOTION -Gerald McCann (Cape Town, South Africa)

My wife and I were driving through a desolate area when our dirt road entered a shadowed mountain gorge, winding beside a stream.  Above us towered enormous rock buttresses.  Time and time again we seemed to face a dead end in the road.  At the last moment, the single lane wound around a huge rock and continued before us.  Because there was barely enough space to turn around, our fear was that the road would truly dead end, leaving us stranded.  Finally, after endless heart-stopping  twists and turns, we entered a spacious valley with grazing sheep and cattle.  We had passed through the heart of that dreaded mountain range.

Sometimes life is like that road: we seem about to be trapped in a dead end, with no apparent way of escape.  Our dead end may be financial, marital, or health-related.  How wonderful to hear God say, “I am about to do a new thing…I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  The way may be narrow and tough, but God makes a way.  The Lord has done this for me over and over, and in the time of my worst fears, I trust God to do it again.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: With God there is always a way forward.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, give us the faith to keep trusting you, even when the way ahead seems hopeless.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: SOMEONE IN A SEEMINGLY HOPELESS SITUATION

Healing Hurtful Hearts And Homes Thursday, Mar 27 2014 

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.

Matthew 14:29 (NIV)

7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

DEVOTION -Diana C. Derringer (Kentucky)

The telephone rang at 2 a.m.  “This is the police department.  We’ve picked up a mother and three children.  The kids are in pretty bad shape.”

Such calls have become a routine part of my life in my almost 30 years as a social worker.  Witnessing the physical, sexual, and emotional abuse or severe neglect by out-of-control adults has colored my world and filled me with deep anger.  Sorrow followed anger as I saw many children had learned the defense, I’m gonna hurt you before you hurt me.”  I knew that without intervention, they could easily follow their abusive parents’ pattern.

Many of these adults had never experienced genuine love and acceptance. They didn’t know how to appropriately care for a child.  Often I was tempted to go through the motions of trying to help them without showing genuine love and respect.  But I learned that when I allowed God to love through me – to change me – I increased the likelihood of seeing lasting change in both parents and children.  By confessing my own brokenness, I could more effectively minister to theirs.  When we acknowledge our own imperfections, we can point others to God’s love, which heals the brokenness in each of us.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: In order to give love, we must first receive it.

PRAYER: O God, work through me, love through me, heal through me.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: ABUSIVE FAMILIES

Encountering God Wednesday, Mar 26 2014 

John 14:5-14 (NIV)

5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” 9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

John 5:39 (NIV)

39 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me,

DEVOTION – Susan McBride (Florida)

Early one morning as I stood motionless on the back deck sipping my coffee, a ruby-throated hummingbird hovered just inches away from my face, beak to nose.  I could feel the rush of air from his wings.  Incredibly, he appeared to be as fascinated with me as I was with him!

After that experience, I wanted to know as much as I could about hummingbirds – their habits and their habitats, what they ate, and what kind of flowers they liked.  I wanted to spend more time with these fascinating creatures.  Personal experience is often like that.  The more intimate our encounter with something or someone, the more profound our desire to know and experience more.

This is especially true in our search to know God.  The Bible points the way for us to experience an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus.  Knowing God is about encounter!  And when we truly experience the love of the living Christ through the scriptures and the circumstances of our lives, we always want more.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Jesus came so that we could know God.

PRAYER: The cry of our hearts is to know you more, Lord Jesus.  Thank you for your love that draws us ever closer to you.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE WHO ARE SEEKING GOD

Can I Get A Witness? Tuesday, Mar 25 2014 

1 John 1:1-5 (NRSV)

1 We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— 3 we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that our  joy may be complete. 5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.

1 John 1:3 (NRSV)

3 we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

DEVOTION – Derl G. Keefer (Wisconsin)

While a pastor in Three Rivers, Michigan, I became good friends with one of the other pastors in our community.  Over the 18 years I ministered in that community, he and I exchanged pulpits often.  On other occasions I was privileged to hear him preach.  After making a particular point he would say, “Can I get a witness?”  He was saying, “Is there someone who agrees with me?”

Perhaps that is the essence of witnessing – agreeing with Jesus by sharing with others the experiences we have had since we turned our lives over to him.  This includes the good, bad and ugly experiences that we all have during our lives;  Jesus has been with us through them all.  In his defense before King Agrippa, the apostle Paul told of how he persecuted believers and then later how God had chosen him to “bear witness to the lowly and the great” (Acts 26:22, CEB).

Thomas Aquinas once stated that when you want to convert a person to your view, you go over to where he is standing, take him by the hand, and guide him.  You don’t stand across the room and shout at him.  This is what we need to do:  take the hands of those around us and guide them to the love and salvation of Jesus Christ.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Who around me needs to be guided to Christ?

PRAYER: Dear God, open our hearts to those around us who need to hear the good news of your love and eternal life.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: FOR COURAGE TO WITNESS

Right Time, Right People Monday, Mar 24 2014 

Esther 3-4:14 (NIV)

1 After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles. 2 All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor. 3 Then the royal officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why do you disobey the king’s command?” 4 Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai’s behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew. 5 When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged. 6 Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes. 7 In the twelfth year of King Xerxes, in the first month, the month of Nisan, they cast the “pur” (that is, the lot) in the presence of Haman to select a day and month. And the lot fell on the twelfth month, the month of Adar. 8 Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed and scattered among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom whose customs are different from those of all other people and who do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. 9 If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will put ten thousand talents of silver into the royal treasury for the men who carry out this business.” 10 So the king took his signet ring from his finger and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. 11 “Keep the money,” the king said to Haman, “and do with the people as you please.” 12 Then on the thirteenth day of the first month the royal secretaries were summoned. They wrote out in the script of each province and in the language of each people all Haman’s orders to the king’s satraps, the governors of the various provinces and the nobles of the various peoples. These were written in the name of King Xerxes himself and sealed with his own ring. 13 Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews–young and old, women and little children–on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. 14 A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so they would be ready for that day. 15 Spurred on by the king’s command, the couriers went out, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was bewildered.

14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”

Isaiah 6:8 (NIV)

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

DEVOTION – Jim Brunner (Arizona)

Recently our Jewish  friends celebrated the feast of Purim, which commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from death.  King Xerxes I of Persia had ordered the eradication of all the Jews in his kingdom.  This would have included Mordecai and possibly even his niece, Xerxes’ own Queen Esther (whose Jewish heritage had been hidden).  This led Mordecai to issue Esther a challenge to plead with the king on behalf of her people:  “Who knows whether you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

This is a question for all of us!  In each generation, God appoints men and women to work for justice in that age.  We are alive in this amazing day and hour when the whole world is longing for answers and God is saying, “Whom shall I send?  And who will go for us?”  He is awaiting those who will come forward and say, “Here am I.  Send me”  But know this:  Deliverance will come for all those who trust in God.  We all can ask ourselves, Would I rather God use someone else for the task chosen for me?

God calls each of us, and each of us can rise to the occasion!

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Where can I volunteer to go for God today?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, may each of us be ready to accept your challenge to follow and serve.  For Jesus’ sake we pray.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE WHO ARE PESECUTED

3rd Sunday In Lent Sunday, Mar 23 2014 

Psalm 51:1-10 (NRSV)

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;  according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight,  so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. 5 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. 6 You desire truth in the inward being;  therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right  spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10 (NRSV)

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;  according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight,  so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. 5 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. 6 You desire truth in the inward being;  therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right  spirit within me.

DEVOTION – Daniela Rotaru (Comunidad Valenciana, Spain)

Our lives are full of changes – some good and some not so good.  Most of us dislike change; we often go kicking and screaming into a new way of thinking or a new way of doing things.  Nevertheless, we know that we will experience change from time to time.

Sometimes we even embrace change, especially when it improves our physical or emotional comfort.  We often make changes to improve our image, the way we look, with new clothes or new hairstyles. But while such changes may affect the way others see us, they are only one aspect of our being – the exterior.

Sometimes it is more difficult to embrace inner changes.  Changing our inner selves begins with prayer.  Have we asked God to help us to be free from hatred, resentment, a lack of forgiveness?  Have we asked to be free from fear or pride that can easily harm us and others?

Maybe Psalm 51, David’s prayer, is a good place for us to start: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Meaningful change begins with prayer.

PRAYER: Dear God of grace, thank you for the many blessings that have enriched our lives.  Place a right and noble spirit within us.  Help us remain close to you in the face of all the changes in our lives.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: SOMEONE I NEED TO FORGIVE

Interruptions Saturday, Mar 22 2014 

Mark 5:21-34 (NIV)

21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet 23 and pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him. A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. 30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Mark 2:4-5 (NIV)

4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

DEVOTION – Gene C. Burgess (south Carolina)

“Come see,” I called to my mom; and she would leave the laundry to study an inchworm.  When my experiment was complete, she returned to the unfolded clothes.  “mom, let’s go for a ride.”  Though she had been elbow-deep in dishwater, she would join me for a jeep ride.  When we returned, she finished the dishes.  Mom saw these interruptions as opportunities to build a relationship with me – her youngest child.

The healing of the paralytic is one example of how Jesus dealt with interruptions.  When other people found Jesus involved in something else, they interrupted.  Our savior seldom objected; he stopped,listened, and met their need.  Jesus was available to those who needed him.

We may feel we have no room for interruptions.  But suspending our ordinary duties to reach out to other people could be the defining moment in their lives and possibly in ours.  By considering the way Jesus responded to interruptions, we can begin to view interruptions as opportunities to be Jesus for other people.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Interruptions can be opportunities to share the love of Christ.

PRAYER: Thank you, dear God, for interruptions that give us opportunities to reflect Jesus’ love to those around us.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: TO RESPOND TO INTERRUPTIONS AS JESUS DID

Life Beyond Death Friday, Mar 21 2014 

John 14:1-3 (NIV)

1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

Romans 8:28 (NIV)

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

DEVOTION -Patricia Wilson (Nova Scotia, Canada)

Her name was Tee.  She had been a patient several times on the Palliative Care Unit where I am a music volunteer.  With an inoperable tumor on her spine slowly sapping her strength, she had come to the end of her life’s journey.  She lay on her special air bed., her face slack and unresponsive.  In the room with her were her husband and her two small children, as well as her mother and sisters and a host of friends.  I pulled out one of my wooden flutes and played a song for her.  As the last note was sounding, Tee passed from this life.  She was only 28 years old.  Most would say Tee died too young.

The followers of Jesus probably thought the same thing as they watched him die.  I’m sure that was the end of the story, but we now know that it wasn’t.  Because Jesus overcame death, he lives in our hearts and lives today.

It wasn’t the end of Tee’s story either.  She lives on in her two little girls and in the love that her family had for her.  She lives on in the eternal life promised to us through Jesus Christ.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: No matter how long or short our lives may be, God will be there to welcome us home.

PRAYER: Dear God of life, thank you for the lives of those who are no longer here on earth with us.  Thank you for their witness and their love.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE WHO WORK IN PALLIATIVE CARE

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