Road To Health Thursday, Jul 31 2014 

Hebrews 5:11-14 (NRSV)

11 About this  we have much to say that is hard to explain, since you have become dull in understanding. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food; 13 for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.   

Hebrews 5:13 (NRSV)

13 for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness.   

DEVOTION -John McCutcheon (Limpopo, South Africa)

A mother brought her rather thin child to our clinic.  She had weaned him at one year of age.  I asked her what she was feeding him now.  She said, “Tea without milk and cornmeal porridge.”  I asked to see the child’s “road to Health Chart,” a medical chart that includes a very useful graph indicating how the child is gaining weight over time in comparison with the 50th percentile for all children of that age.  This child had stopped gaining weight and was heading for malnutrition, a most serious condition.  I explained to his mother what to feed him, emphasizing foods high in protein to supplement the carbohydrates in his diet.

In Hebrews we read of Christians who were suffering from spiritual malnutrition and therefore had stopped growing.  This too is a serious condition.  Christian spiritual growth is aimed at ultimately attaining the likeness of our Savior.  Our nourishment comes from studying God’s word and daily prayer contact with Jesus, who described himself as the bread of life.  Jesus promised that those who come to him and believe in him would never go spiritually hungry or thirsty. (See John 6:35.)

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Are we gaining weight on the “spiritual health” chart?

PRAYER: Loving God, give us a new hunger for your word.  Help us to be faithful in prayer and petition with thanksgiving.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: MALNOURISHED CHILDREN

Calling Pigs Wednesday, Jul 30 2014 

John 10:1-5 (NRSV)

1 “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.”   

John 10:4 (NRSV)

4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.   

DEVOTION – Xavia Sheffield (Maryland)

As a little girl on the farm I was responsible for slopping the pigs; so I learned how to call them to the fence for their feast.  Years later, when my family visited the restored village of Sturbridge, Massachusetts, my knowledge of calling pigs came back in handy.  As we strolled along a wide path toward a barn, we saw people standing on the fence, shouting and waving their arms.  A herd of pigs huddled under the shade of a distant tree.  The people were trying frantically to get the pigs to come to the fence.  I calmly climbed up on the fence and used my “pig voice.”  The Whole herd of pigs can running to the fence.  The tourists asked, “How did you do that?”  I explained simply, “They know the distinctive call and responded.”

The same is true for followers of Christ.  When we hear the distinctive call of the one who knows us by name, we respond because we know his voice.  John 10:5 says, “They will not follow a stranger…because they do not know the voice of stranger.”  We hear many voices in our lives, but only one, the voice of Jesus Christ our Lord, can lead us to the eternal feast.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: The Lord is my shepherd, and he knows me by name.

PRAYER: Good Shepherd, when we hear you calling us by name, we know to come running to you for everything we need.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: NEW BELIEVERS

Service With Love Tuesday, Jul 29 2014 

Matthew 25:31-46 (NRSV)

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,  you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”   

Matthew 25:35 (NRSV)

35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,   

DEVOTION – Anton Kuzmin (Saint Petersburg, Russia)

Lately, our church has been preparing hot meals for people who are hungry or homeless.  But this is not the first time we have had a ministry to poor people.  In the past, when we did not have our own building, the young people collected bags of food and distributed them.  We went around the neighboring areas and sought out those who needed food.  Now we have our own building where we can invite people in and feed them with hot soup, sandwiches, and tea.

Part of me was disappointed; we had prepared a meal for 20 people.  However, I noticed between the church and a business project:  numbers are not as important as the quality of the achieved result.  But what is the point in having large numbers of guests if I didn’t even know how to talk to our one guest or conduct around him?

I know that Jesus would have done things differently.  Jesus calls us to feed those who are hungry and welcome strangers as if we are welcoming him.  Jesus would have found the right words that night.  I know that with a tiny bit of faith and courage we can follow Jesus’ example.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: When we welcome others we are welcoming God.

PRAYER: Dear God of compassion, help us offer hospitality to our neighbor with out fear or hesitation.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE WHO ARE HOMELESS

Who Will Roll THe Stone Away? Monday, Jul 28 2014 

Mark 16:1-7 (NIV)

1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”  4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. 6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ “   

Mark 16:3 (NRSV)

3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

DEVOTION -Judi F. Light (Pennsylvania)

As a little girl, I adored my daddy.  When he and my mother were in their eighties, my family enjoyed having them live with us.  One evening, my dad had a massive stroke.  Hospitalized, he made minimal progress; so he was admitted to a nursing home. I feared the prospect of facing life without him.

During Dad’s remaining four months, my mother was amazing.  At times, she became weary and worried about the future; but she quickly regained her strength and faith.  I  marveled at her ability to do so, and she explained that whenever she became fearful, she thought of the women who made their way to Jesus’ tomb.  Worried about how they would move the massive stone and enter the tomb, they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away?”  When they arrived at the tomb, the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.  God had not only provided the solution to their worry but had given a gift that was beyond all hope.

Throughout my father’s illness, when my mother or I began to worry, we reminded each other, “Who will roll the stone away?”  Then, we smiled, knowing we could trust God to help us along the way.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God will roll the Stone away.

PRAYER: Dear Father, when we fear the future, help us to trust you completely.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: FAMILIES OF THOSE WHO ARE TERMINALLY ILL

Look Above Sunday, Jul 27 2014 

Revelation 7:13-17 (CEB)

13 Then one of the elders said to me, “Who are these people wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” Then he said to me, “These people have come out of great hardship. They have washed their robes and made them white in the Lamb’s blood. 15 This is the reason they are before God’s throne. They worship him day and night in his temple, and the one seated on the throne will shelter them. 16 They won’t hunger or thirst anymore. No sun or scorching heat will beat down on them, 17 because the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them. He will lead them to the springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”   

Revelation 7:15 (CEB)

15 This is the reason they are before God’s throne. They worship him day and night in his temple, and the one seated on the throne will shelter them.   

DEVOTION –  Annette McGhee (Alabama)

It was sundown on a Friday when my husband and I completed out long-awaited patio, and we were exhausted.  As we sat together on the patio celebrating our achievement, we faced the back of our house.  “I don’t think I’ve ever noticed this view of our house, have you?”  I asked.  “Look above the house,” he said, pointing at the huge oak tree hanging over the roof.

We built our house so that this 100-year-old oak would be in our front yard because the trunk was so beautiful, but now we were seeing it from a different view.  All those years, I thought, all those problems and blessings we shared together in this house, and I never noticed that tree sheltering us from above.  It gave me a whole new perspective.

That tree reminds me of our loving Creator.  Day after day, we go about our routines of working and taking care of our families, dealing with disappointments and struggles that life presents, learning to accept the tragedies as well as the blessings of life.  We tend to forget that through it all, God covers us, cares for us, and loves us unconditionally.  And when we do acknowledge God with praise for the glory of it all, we gain a totally new perspective.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Today I will look above my circumstances to the one who loves and cares for all of us.

PRAYER: Dear God, help us to glorify you in all that we do today so that others will see your glory through us.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: SOMEONE WHO NEEDS GOD’S COMFORT

No One Understands? Saturday, Jul 26 2014 

Hebrews 4:14-16 (NIV)

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.  16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

John 1:14 (NIV)

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.   

DEVOTION – Jason Ponzio (Georgia)

At times we may feel all alone and that no one understands what we are going through.  That’s when we have forgotten that Jesus became fully human and experienced life as we do.  He was tempted as we are.  He dealt with grief and sadness.  He also felt joy and happiness.  He shared intimate moments with close friends.  The only thing Jesus didn’t experience was sin; but because he paid the price of sin, he knew the suffering of sin’s consequences.

Whenever we feel that no one understands, we can remember that Jesus does.  God sends people into our lives to be with us and to help us.  What we experience today may help us to help another person tomorrow.  As we receive grace, we can extend grace.  We do not need to bear our burdens alone.  We can allow Christ to work in our lives and use us to work in someone else’s life.  We are not alone. Not only do we have Christ, we also have each other.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Jesus understands and is with me always.

PRAYER: Dear God, we pray for your strength and for your presence, especially when we are alone.  Help us to accept the compassion of those you send to us in Christ’s name.  As Jesus 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” (Luke 11:2-4, NIV).  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: SOMEONE WHO HELPS ME

Connecting But Not Communicating Friday, Jul 25 2014 

Psalm 145:17-19 (NIV)

17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made.  18 The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. 19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.   

1 Chronicles 16:11 (NIV)

11 Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.

DEVOTION – Kathleen Armentano (North Carolina)

“It’s Good to hear your voice, Kathleen,” my friend said.  “I’m so glad you took the time to call me.”  That simple statement made me realize that too often I use fingertip technology, and not meaningful conversation, to stay in touch with family and friends.  Facebook, e-mails, and texting allow me to post photos or send short blasts of information to people I care about but don’t see very often.  We may be staying connected, but I’m not sure we’re really communicating.

This experience made me wonder how well I’m staying in touch with God.  Busy with chores and responsibilities, I try to remember to thank or praise God when particular blessings come during the day.  But often I feel that even though I’m connected to God I’m not really communicating because I’m not setting aside the quiet prayer time that keeps me mindful of God’s word in my life.

Pray is our direct line to God who longs to hear our voices.  Technology has its place in connecting us to others, but we need real conversation to strengthen and maintain any relationship – especially with God.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: How much time do I spend talking and listening to God?

PRAYER: Dear God, slow us down so that finding prayer time with you becomes a priority.  Keep us focused so that our conversation builds a stronger relationship with you.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: SOMEONE WHO NEEDS TO HEAR MY VOICE

Calloused Feet, Calloused Hearts Thursday, Jul 24 2014 

Ezekiel 36:24-28 (NIV)

24 ” ‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.  25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.  26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.  28 You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.

Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV)

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.   

DEVOTION – David Ladd (Virginia)

Growing up in Hawaii, I didn’t have to wear shoes to school until the fifth grade.  This meant that for all those years, I never wore shoes at all.  And I didn’t need them, because the soles of my feet were as tough as any shoes leather.  Whether I was walking on the rough asphalt of the street or the coarse sand of the beach, my feet were so calloused that I never felt any discomfort.  But I also missed out on the joy of the springy softness of a lush lawn under my toes.  Hardened soles lose all feeling, for good or ill.

The same can be true of our hearts.  As feet can be toughened by years of contact with rough surfaces, our hearts can be hardened through years of contact with the rocky road of life’s experiences.  We can become so tough and cynical that we have trouble experiencing the joy of God’s love and acceptance.  Our souls can become so hardened by tuning away from pain – our own and that of others – that there is no longer any room in our hearts for the joy we can find in Christ.

When we see areas of our lives where we have become insensitive, we can pray and read God’s word to better feel God’s love and to share that love with others.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God can soften even the toughest heart.

PRAYER: Dear Father, soften our hearts so we can accept you and your joy in our lives.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: TO ACKNOWLEDGE MY INSENSITIVITY

Completely Dependent Wednesday, Jul 23 2014 

Psalm 43:3-5 (NIV)

3 O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling. 4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God. 5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.   

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.   

DEVOTION – Deborah Pow (Alberta, Canada)

I received a phone call that turned my world upside down.  I was told that I had cancer.  Though doctor appointments, tests, and awaited results, I seemed to be living in a dark tunnel.. I could not see, could not plan, and could not focus on simple daily tasks.  As darkness threatened to pull me under, I found that I was completely dependent on God.

The more I depended on God.

The more I depended on God, the more peace I felt.  God was my light in the darkness. I realized that the question I should ask was  not Why me? but Why not me?  Can’t God use every circumstance in our lives for a greater purpose?  My prayers were transformed.  I no longer asked God to take the cancer from me.  I asked God to use my cancer diagnosis for God’s greater good.

God answered my prayer, giving me peace as well as the desire and ability to walk with others through their experiences with cancer.  God gave me gifts of encouragement, compassion, love, and care so that I could reach out with understanding and support for others.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Our struggles give us the opportunity to show God’s love to others.

PRAYER:Thank you, God, for guiding us in our daily lives and for carrying us through difficult times.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: SOMEONE WHO HAS JUST RECEIVED A CANCER DIAGNOSIS

Expunged Record Tuesday, Jul 22 2014 

Romans 3:21-26 (NRSV)

21 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ  for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement  by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26 it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.

Psalm 51:1 (NRSV)

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.   

DEVOTION – Thomas Buice (Tennessee)

Our state recently passed a law that will expunge certain criminal records.  Applicants who are approved may leave the courthouse with a clean slate.

As a probation officer, I once went through my files to see which offenders qualified to have some of their rights restored.  I was given a checklist of requirements on which to base my judgment.  Once I came to a disqualifying factor, I put the file back in the drawer.  The process was cut and dried.

I am glad that God doesn’t have a list of disqualifying factors to check before expunging our records.  God doesn’t say, “Sorry, your sin is too awful,” or “Look, you did this more than once.  Your whole life marks a pattern of corruption.”

There is no record that God cannot expunge.  There is no life so messed up that God cannot restore it.  And once our record is expunged, we can maintain a clean record with confession and forgiveness.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:God can erase my sin.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, we are eternally grateful for your forgiveness.  We were without hope.  Thank you, Jesus.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: PRISONERS AND PROBATIONERS

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