When It’s Hard To Praise Saturday, May 31 2014 

Psalm 145:1-7 (NRSV)

1 I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. 2 Every day I will bless you, and praise your name forever and ever. 3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable. 4 One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. 5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. 6 The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed, and I will declare your greatness. 7 They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

Psalm 45:1 (NRSV)

1 My heart overflows with a goodly theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.   

DEVOTION -Mark M. Redfearn (California)

From a writer’s perspective, nothing is more daunting than a blank page.  When I open a new document on my computer, I know that I have to fill that page – and many more – with words.  Getting started is often the hardest part.

Tentatively at first, I write one word and then another and another.  Once I commit those first words to paper, more words usually follow.  They may not be the best I could choose, but at least they are words.  I keep writing – sentence after sentence, revision after revision – until I have created something worth reading.

Sometimes praising God is just as difficult for me as putting words on paper.  I feel as though I have nothing to say to the Holy One.  But if I am willing to utter a few tentative words of thanks and praise, then the Holy Spirit comes to my rescue.  My heart soon overflows with a goodly theme:  the grace and mercy and love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:The cure for “praiser’s” block is to start praising

PRAYER: Thank you, Holy Spirit, for helping us to praise God.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: WRITERS

Free To All Friday, May 30 2014 

Romans 10:10-17 (NRSV)

10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” 16 But not all have obeyed the good news;  for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.

Romans 10:15-16

15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” 16 But not all have obeyed the good news;  for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?”   

DEVOTION – Frankie Kapendo (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)

I waited anxiously at the registration desk.  It was 30 minutes past the scheduled starting time, yet only three participants had arrived.  The organization had brought in the best instructor and organized every detail of the professional training.  All the students have to do was come and learn; no payment was required.  Why didn’t they come?  I thought.  Day I a disaster.

Later that night as I lay in bed exhausted, I prayed:  “Lord, help me not to give in to discouragement.  Please bring more participants tomorrow because this course could help them so much with their careers.  Amen.  On Sunday the course ended with 52% of the expected number of participants.

This experience reminds me of an event infinitely greater than this professional training session.  God gave us the gift of salvation.  Jesus stands with open arms and bids us to come and receive everlasting life at absolutely no cost.  Many have accepted this gift; yet many more have not.  As co-workers in God’s vineyard, we can pray for the many who have not accepted the gift of salvation, and we can act as God’s hands and feet to spread the message to everyone we meet.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Every day I can be available to tell the good news of Christ.

PRAYER: Dear God, give your children a heart of compassion and tenacity to carry your gift of salvation to unbelievers.  Prepare their hearts to welcome your son.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE WHO ARE DISCOURAGED IN TELLING THE GOOD NEWS

Everyday Mission Work Thursday, May 29 2014 

John 15:12-17 (NRSV)

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants  any longer, because the servant  does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.   

John 15:12 (NRSV)

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

DEVOTION – Brenda Motter (Florida)

Over the past year, my mother’s health challenges required an inordinate amount of time in hospitals and doctors’ offices.  Even though her energy was very low, her illness gave her the opportunity to reach out to those who needed compassion.  A grumpy health technician and several individuals who live alone are just a few were up lifted by her friendliness during uncomfortable medical treatments and by the daily phone calls she made from her bed.  Mom did what Jesus would do:  she reached out to others when she herself was experiencing a major challenge.

During this same time, my dad stepped up and changed his usual routine in order to take superb care of my mother.  By making sure she rested, fielding her phone calls, and assuming all household chores, he not only helped her face the health crisis but also conserved some of her energy so she could still tend to others.  In the midst of this challenge, they both adjusted their daily routine to continue to serve others, both in and out of the home.  Small, quiet, everyday missions like these are likely common, but they often go unnoticed.  We can share Jesus’ compassion by serving others in the midst of difficult times.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Reaching out to others with love of Christ refocuses our challenges.

PRAYER: Dear God, help us to remember to show your love to others, especially when we ourselves are suffering.  Amen

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE FACING HEALTH CRISES

Remembering Wednesday, May 28 2014 

Exodus 12:14-19 (NIV)

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.   

Luke 22:19 (NIV)

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”   

DEVOTION – Mark A. Wallace (Suffolk, England)

Many years ago, when my wife and I got married, we had the wedding ceremony and evening reception videotaped; recently we watched the video again.  It was amazing how many details we had forgotten, even though we had often talked about the wedding over the years.

Throughout the Bible, God tells people to do certain things so that future generations will remember important events.  God instituted the Passover meal to remind the Israelites of their release from Egypt.  Offering sacrifices reminded the Hebrew people of their sins and the forgiveness that they could receive.

Jesus commanded his disciples to remember his death and sacrifice by observing the Last Supper.  The early disciples celebrated this meal regularly.  No doubt they focused on how the events affected their lives and recalled the words Jesus had spoken while he was with them.

How important it is that in addition to remembering the everyday events of our lives, we also take time to remember and tell others what God has done for us.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Today I wo;; remember the good things God has done for me.

PRAYER:Dear God of past, present, and future, we thank you for all that you have done for us, and we ask that you help us to always remember your goodness and love.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: HISTORIANS

More Fruit Tuesday, May 27 2014 

Galatians 5:17-26 (NIV)

17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.  18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.  19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.   

Isaiah 27:6 (NIV)

6 In days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and fill all the world with fruit.   

DEVOTION – Donna Savage (Nevada)

When Spring arrives, I can smell a rosemary bush before I see it.  Healthy rosemary plants can produce masses of fragrant leaves and tiny purple blossoms with no help from their owners.  Fruitful growth is part of the plant’s DNA.

Blooming plants like these remind us that fruitful abundance is also God’s plan for humans, both the Israelites of the old covenant and Christ’s followers.  Just as healthy trees produce a wealth of apples or apricots, healthy Christians yield a profusion of love, joy, and peace.  God didn’t design us to live a stingy existence with only enough compassion and patience for a few people.  God wants the abundance of our spiritual fruit – the love, joy, and patience that reflect God’s image in us – to fill our homes and communities with the fragrance of Christ.

Picture a single fruit, and then image more of it.  More strawberries.  More peaches.  More fresh melons.  If there’s more fruit on the plant, isn’t there more for everyone to enjoy?  That’s the reward of abundance, both for plants and trees and for God’s children.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God designed us for fruitfulness.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, we open our hearts to you as the source of spiritual life.  Tend our hearts until they overflow with the fruit of your love.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: CHURCH VOLUNTEERS

Nothing Can Separate Monday, May 26 2014 

Psalm 34:18 (NRSV)

18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.

Romans 8:38-39 (NRSV)

38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.   

DEVOTION – Bill Pike (Virginia)

Over a year later, we still can’t believe it, I remember the phone call from my wife’s middle sister when their older sister passed away.  Another call, later in the evening, explained that their sister had taken her own life.  My wife was devastated.

None of us had seen her sister’s suicide coming, and all of us wondered why.  While I can speculate and offer opinions, I probably will never understand why the tragedy occurred.

The outpouring of love from family, friends, neighbors, and church members helped my wife through those challenging days.  Friends had the courage to tell her their stories of losing loved ones in similar ways.

Even though suicide creates a sad and unexplainable void in many lives, I am certain that as Romans 8:38-39 assures us, nothing can separate us from the love of God.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Even in tragic times, we can bear God’s light to others.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, when our hearts are broken in tragedy, help us to feel your love.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: FAMILIES DEALING WITH SUICIDE

On Day At A Time Sunday, May 25 2014 

Matthew 6:25-34 (NRSV)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,  or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?   28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?’ or “What will we drink?’ or “What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God  and his  righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.   

Matthew 6:33 (NRSV)

33 But strive first for the kingdom of God  and his  righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.   

DEVOTION – Jeanette Krige (Gauteng, South Africa)

Many in our church community are without work.  Most people are struggling to make ends meet, and as a number of churches are hurting financially.  recently, there were insufficient funds in the church account to pay out basics and not much for further budget cuts.  We wanted to continue our ministry of worshipping, caring and growing toward a Christ-healed Africa, but our mission needed money.  I confess I was anxious.

As I was sitting at the funeral of a colleague on a Friday morning, I had the distinct sense of God encouraging me to stop fussing and fretting about the church and to get on with the work to which I have been called.  God’s peace enfolded me.  That very Sunday, a church member handed me an envelope and explained that she had dreamed that her late husband instructed her to give this to the church.  The envelope contained enough money to wipe out our deficit and keep us going for another few months!  God had provided.

I know full well a church cannot rly on one-time gifts for daily running costs, but I thank God I have learned all over again that this is primarily God’s work, not mine.  We are privileged to be called to play a part and to trust God one day at a time.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God is in charge, so I will trust.

PRAYER: Dear giving God, this day we choose to serve you and trust you for our every need.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: CURCHES STRUGGLING FINANCIALLY

Rightousness Saturday, May 24 2014 

 Hebrews 1:16-22(NIV)

16 “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”  17 Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”  18 And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God,  22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.   

Romans 3:22(NIV)

22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference,   

DEVOTION – Lisa Stackpole (Wisconsin)

Because I don’t do much baking, I haven’t invested in many utensils and often have to improvise.  For instance, when following directions that call for “a large mixing bowl,” I can compare only among the dishes I own myself.  Surely this bowl is large enough, I reason.  Look how much bigger it is than my others.  Unfortunately, this sometimes results in overflowing batter when, in fact, my largest bowl is too small.

Personal righteousness is similar.  We compare ourselves to things most familiar to us – other people.  We may think, Since I haven’t committed adultery or murdered anyone, and I don’t cheat on my taxes like others do, surely God is pleased with me.

Scripture tells a different story.  God doesn’t compare to our neighbors or even to the likes of Christian martyrs.  The measure of righteousness is God’s own perfection.  When called “Good Teacher,” Jesus answered, “No one is good but God alone” (Mark 10:18, NRSV).  Compared to this standard, we all fall woefully short.  Thankfully, our compassionate God “made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21, NIV).  Through Christ we can approach God in confidence, knowing that instead of our sinfulness, God sees the righteousness of Jesus Christ in us.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God measures us against Christ’s sacrifice.

PRAYER: Dear Father, thank you for making a provision for us through the sacrifice of your son.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: FOR GREATER TRUST IN GOD

Still Enjoying Life Friday, May 23 2014 

Isaiah 12:3 (NRSV)

1 You will say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me. 2 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God  is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. 3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4 And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. 5 Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known  in all the earth. 6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal  Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.   

Isaiah 12:3 (NRSV)

3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.   

DEVOTION – Bill McDermet(Tennessee)

For 12 years Sheral and I owned an inn in Iowa where we hosted a variety of interesting guests.  One of them, Dave, visited us frequently.  He was a graduate  of Harvard and a retired newspaper editor.  He acted and directed plays into his 80s.  He and his wife had no children.  Ten years ago Dave’s wife entered an Alzheimer’s care center.  She has not recognized Dave for years – but every day Dave visits her, taking her a cut flower.

One evening Dave and I were sitting on our front porch when he reflected:  “Every night I get some cheese and crackers and something to drink, and I sit in my living room and turn off the lights.  Then I thank God for what I have: my art, my music from Mozart, My books, and my memories.  I thank  God that I can still enjoy life.”

In the 12th chapter of Isaiah we find the prophet saying, “Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name.”  Isaiah also knew difficult times, yet he gave thanks for the comfort, trust, and strength that he received from “the Holy One of Israel.”  Isaiah and Dave both made time to thank God for the joy of living.  They inspired me to do the same – daily.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: I will thank God, who helps me enjoy all of life’s wonders.

PRAYER: O God, even if life at times is busy, stressful, or boring, direct our lives in such a way that we can love and enjoy you forever.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE WHO LIVE ALONE

Desert Places Thursday, May 22 2014 

Philippians 4:10-14 (NRSV)

10 I rejoice  in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it.   11 Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 14 In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress

Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NRSV)

17 Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation.   

DEVOTION – Narda Luz Vargas Guerrero (Dominican Republic)

Can anything bear fruit in the desert?  I believe people of faith cans answer with a resounding “Yes!”

I am learning to put into practice some principles that I have read and heard about for a long time.  Even in great financial stress and crisis, we should continue to tithe and to help those  in need.  I am fascinated by Jesus’ story of the poor widow who offered all she had to the temple treasury and received praise from Jesus. (See Mark 12:41-44.)  It is difficult at times for us to give.  When our resources diminish, so does our generosity.  But this story of the widow’s offering acknowledges that no matter our circumstances, we have something to give.  In the desert places of life, I have learned to be more grateful. I have found God’s peace no matter the conditions or circumstances of my life.  And in doing so, I have been able to offer encouragement to others.  I have also found my own faith renewed.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God always provides streams of water for our journey through the desert.  (See Isa. 35:6.)

PRAYER: Dear loving God, in our desert places you fill us with hope.  We thank you and trust you in all the circumstances of our lives.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE IN FINANCIAL CRISIS

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