“Don’t Quit” Friday, Oct 31 2014 

Isaiah 38:1-5 (NIV)

1 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”  2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, 3 “Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. 4 Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: 5 “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life.   

Isaiah 38:16 (NIV)

16 Lord, by such things men live; and my spirit finds life in them too. You restored me to health and let me live.   

DEVOTION – Debra Pierce (Massachusetts)

King Hezekiah was “at the point of death” because of his illness.  But he recovered with God’s help.  Hezekiah’s story reminds me of an illness from which God helped me recover.

Mine was mental illness.  Several years ago loneliness, financial struggles, and workplace issues felt like relentless adversaries, and I began suicidal thoughts.  I wanted relief from my emotional pain and came to believe suicide would be the way to attain it.

As I headed toward the parking garage one night, I was thinking about the note I had scribbled on yellow-lined paper and various methods of carbon monoxide poisoning.  When I reached my automobile, I noticed a laminated prayer card on the pavement beside the driver’s door.  It was titled, “Don’t Quit.”

I could taste my salty tears as I read it.  Despite the fact that I had not involved God an any aspect of my life, I felt God reaching out to me through that prayer card.  The following morning, I contacted a physician.  With counseling and medication I recovered from my illness, and a few months later a pastor led me to Jesus.  I keep that prayer card on my dresser as a reminder that God values our lives and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18).

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Don’t quit.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, we praise you for your divine mercy when illness steals our health and hope.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: PEOPLE SUFFERING FROM MENTAL ILLNESS

Yank Out That Weed! Thursday, Oct 30 2014 

Romans 12:25-21(NRSV)

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly;  do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God;  for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.   

Hebrews 12:15 (NRSV)

15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled.   

DEVOTION – Shirley Myers (New York)

After examining the moss rose I had planted again this year, I was not disappointed.  The roses in all their varied colors had burst into bloom.  These lovely flowers had never failed to spread out quickly to fill my flower patch.

Then I took a closer look to see that some of the space was filled with a weed that looked a lot like the moss rose, but they are real troublemakers and difficult to pull out.  After I cleaned out the flower patch, I had to watch for those nasty weed to spring up again.  They weren’t finished making trouble for me!

The Bible tells about a weed, bitterness, that – if allowed to grow and develop in our lives – will cause us lots of trouble.  If bitterness takes hold, we will use words that hurt  others instead of helping and healing them.  The only way to get rid of bitterness is to pull it out by the root.  And to do that, we need God’s help.  When we ask God to clean bitterness from our lives, we must watch and pray, or it might spring up again.  Removing bitterness allows love and forgiveness to spread and makes life beautiful again.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Tending the garden of life with prayer will produce the blooms of a beautiful spirit.

PRAYER: O God, take away our bitterness and replace it with love and kindness.  May your love spread to those around us.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: GARDENERS

Keep Your Hands Up Wednesday, Oct 29 2014 

Exodus 17:8-13 (NRSV)

8 Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some men for us and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the sun set. 13 And Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the sword.   

Exodus 17:12 (NRSV)

12 But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the sun set.   

DEVOTION – Stanislav Prokhorov (Samara, Russia)

During rehabilitation for drug addiction, I accepted Christ as my Savior and invited him into my life.  When I completed rehab I had a hard time finding work.  I did not have much money, and a sea of temptations – both new and old – surrounded me.  Then my mother fell seriously ill.  At times I was in despair and on the verge of a breakdown.  I prayed, but it seemed as if I was receiving no answer or support from God.  However, that was not the case.

God directed me to a church where the brothers and sisters welcomed me joyfully.  They prayed for me, empathized with me, helped me in whatever ways they could, and strengthened me with their words and faith and encouragement.  The pastor said, :Keep    your hands up (a Russian expression meaning “Don’t give up”).  All will be well.  You can do it.  God will support you and we -your family-will be close at hand.”  The youth group helped to decorate the apartment where I lived with my mother, and when she died the whole church supported me.

Now I am serving as a deacon in the church and try to be near those who need my help-so I can hold up their hands.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God acts through us in this world

PRAYER: Dear God of encouragement, help us to see those people who need our support – and then to give it to them wholeheartedly.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE STRUGGLING WITH ADDICTIONS

Camp Grace Tuesday, Oct 28 2014 

John 15:8-17 (NRSV)

8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become  my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 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.   

Romans 8:26 (NRSV)

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes  with sighs too deep for words.   

DEVOTION – Daniel R. Nelson (North Carolina)

For three decades, adults with special needs, along with many volunteers, have attended Grace in the mountains of North Carolina.  At his “family reunion” I have found the campers’ love for one another and their love and acceptance of me very moving.  The highlight is Saturday’s talent show in which nearly all the campers select a talent to share.

Susan, who rarely speaks, usually dances.  However, this year, she wanted to sing “Jesus Loves Me.”  She stood, quite anxious, in front of the microphone and said, “Hi.”  As our accompanist quietly tried to prompt her with the words, she said “hi” again.  Then, voices began to arise from Susan’s Camp Grace family, until we were all singing “Jesus Loves Me,” softly and sweetly, on her behalf.  Susan grinned as she received our love and affirmation and knew she was not alone.

Through the Holy Spirit, God was illustrating Romans 8:26.  When Christ ascended, he left us a Comforter who intervenes for us with God when we struggle.  As we lifted Susan’s song to God, we were bearing the fruit of God’s Love.  (See John 15:16-17.)

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:Jesus loves me.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, help us to bring your comfort to others in their times of hardship.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: PEOPLE WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

God The Craftsman Monday, Oct 27 2014 

Exodus 35:30-35 (NIV)

30 Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts 32 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 33 to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship. 34 And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. 35 He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers–all of them master craftsmen and designers.   

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.   

DEVOTION -Marion Turnbull (Manchester, England)

I watched the craftsman as he made a beautiful piece of furniture in his workshop.  He took his time, carefully making each cut and then to look at his work.  Some mass-produce their work and make money, but the master craftsman concerns himself with creating a thing of beauty and integrity.  He may never be rich, but he has great satisfaction.

God chose Bezalel and Oholiab to make artistic designs for the Tebernacle.  God filled them with skill, ability and knowledge.  God is a craftsman whose divine spirit gave these men the ability to make beautiful things.  The beautiful furnishings of the Tabernacle were unseen by most people, but God saw and was pleased.

The apostle Paul says that we believers are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.  And God never does a shoddy job.  The hand of the Craftsman is at work in us and through us, shaping us to be more like Christ.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Even when we can’t see it, God is working in our lives.

PRAYER: Because it is you, dear God, at work in us, we know we can do the works you have prepared for us to do.  We pray as Jesus taught us, saying, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread.  And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.  And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” (Luke 11:2-4, KJV).  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: FURNITURE MAKERS

“People Like Him” Sunday, Oct 26 2014 

Matthew 7:1-5 (NIV)

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.   

Ecclesiastes 7:20 (NIV)

20 There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.

DEVOTION – Lisa Stackpole (Wisconsin)

For years I worked for a prison ministry, training Christians to share God’s love with inmates.  I also spoke to secular groups about problems that prisoners face.

During those years, a man was arrested in my hometown and convicted of grisly crimes, including the murders of 15 young men.  For months the sensational story with its shocking details made headlines.  People often approached me after my presentations, mentioned this man, and said, “You don’t have anything to do with people like him, do you?”  Their tone implied that, while sharing God’s love with some prisoners might be acceptable, there was a degree of evil beyond which even God should not intervene.  I was saddened that it was not only at secular gatherings that I encountered this attitude; sometimes I heard it in churches too.

Too often we are quick to rank sins, forgetting that everyone sins and that all sin is abhorrent to God.  We seem unable – or, worse, unwilling – to believe that the blood of Christ can cleanse any repentant person from any sin.  As forgiven people, we should be eager to share God’s grace with everyone.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Christ can forgive any sin.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, help us to forgive, even as you have forgiven us.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: PRISON MINISTRIES

Mornings With God Saturday, Oct 25 2014 

Psalm 1:1-3 (NRSV)

1 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; 2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. 3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.   

Psalm 1:2 (NRSV)

2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night

DEVOTION – Norma P. Marroquin (Texas)

I woke up and immediately started rehearsing my to-do list for the day.  Sprinkled throughout my mental list were worries and concerns about my family.  The things to do and family cares seemed to assault my whole body, not just my mind.  My neck muscles tensed up, and my mind could not focus even on my waking-up routine.

I reached for the Bible and sat up in my bed.  Focusing on reading the Bible and The Upper Room daily meditation began to dissolve the stress I felt.  I continued with The Upper Room Disciplines devotional and my prayer journal.  I finished with prayer.

After spending this time with God, I still had my to-do list, but I had more perspective on it.  Tomorrow might yield another to-do list; but if I handle it with God, through prayer and meditation, it will be manageable.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Reaching for God’s word in the morning helps us face the day.

PRAYER: Ever-present God, when the cares of our lives press in on us, quiet our minds enough to focus on you.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE OVERWHELMED BY DAILY CONCERNS

Water For The Thirsty Friday, Oct 24 2014 

John 4:1-26 (NIV)

1 The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John,  2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 When the Lord  learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. 4 Now he had to go through Samaria.  5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”  8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans. ) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”  11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.  20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”  21 Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.  23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” 25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”   

Matthew 25:34-35 (NIV)

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,   

DEVOTION: Jim Reaspsome (Illinois)

One hot, humid summer afternoon I was sitting on my deck when I heard  a delivery truck approaching our cul-de-sac.  I watched as the driver knocked on my neighbor’s door.  Mary greeted him with a smile, took a small parcel, and then said to him.  “Would you like a glass of cold water?”  The driver eagerly accepted her kind offer.

As this scene of Christian love and service unfolded before my eyes, I recalled how Jesus had declared that his kingdom people would be marked by their deeds of mercy, like giving a drink to a thirsty person.  A simple gesture like that, he explained, was like giving a drink to him.  After the driver pulled away, I went next door and thanked Mary for what she had done.  She told me, “After the driver thanked me he said, “God bless you,” and I told him I believe in Jesus, and he said he did, too.”

Their conversation caused me to ask myself, How many opportunities like this come my way, and I fail to do something as simple as offering water to a thirsty worker?  Mary’s example reminds us as Christ’s followers to always be ready to offer both the water that quenches our thirst and the water of eternal life that Jesus gives us to thirsty world.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: We serve Jesus by showing deeds of kindness and mercy to others.

PRAYER: Dear God, remind us to supply those in need with sustenance for their bodies but also the water of life that brings salvation to all who believe.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: DELIVERY WORKERS

Belonging Thursday, Oct 23 2014 

Lamentations 3:22-33 (NRSV)

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,  his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” 25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. 26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. 27 It is good for one to bear the yoke in youth, 28 to sit alone in silence when the Lord has imposed it, 29 to put one’s mouth to the dust (there may yet be hope), 30 to give one’s cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults. 31 For the Lord will not reject forever. 32 Although he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; 33 for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.   

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NRSV)

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,  his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.   

DEVOTION – Cindy Love (Texas)

Last year my husband and I sold or gave away half of our possessions and moved from the area where we had lived all our lives to a retirement center hundreds of miles away.  Even though we knew the Holy Spirit was present through the whole process, the move was still a traumatic and exhausting ordeal.  We had become strangers in a foreign land.

Last Sunday, however, God’s faithfulness envelopes me in joy – I realized we were no longer displaced!  Through the year our apprehension of new surroundings has been eclipsed by a sense of belonging among loving neighbors and a vibrant church eager to have new hands and feet to help serve in the name of Jesus Christ.  The endless sea of unfamiliar faces is now generously dotted with identifiable smiles of recognition.  Concerns about old age and diminished health are met with encouragement and new coping skills.

Today, filled with thanksgiving and courage and God’s help,  we are considering passing on what we have been given.  We intend to answer yes to the call to invite two college-aged foreign exchange students into our lives to help them make the journey from being strangers to belonging.  Each day we anticipate a new sign of God’s faithfulness.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Each day brings new signs of God’s faithfulness.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, thank you for your mercies, blessings, and faithfulness.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: NEW RETIREES

Becoming New Wednesday, Oct 22 2014 

2 Corinthians 5:11-21 (CEB)

11 So we try to persuade people, since we know what it means to fear the Lord. We are well known by God, and I hope that in your heart we are well known by you as well. 12 We aren’t trying to commend ourselves to you again. Instead, we are giving you an opportunity to be proud of us so that you could answer those who take pride in superficial appearance, and not in what is in the heart. 13 If we are crazy, it’s for God’s sake. If we are rational, it’s for your sake. 14 The love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: one died for the sake of all; therefore, all died. 15 He died for the sake of all so that those who are alive should live not for themselves but for the one who died for them and was raised. 16 So then, from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn’t how we know him now. 17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived! 18 All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation. 20 So we are ambassadors who represent Christ. God is negotiating with you through us. We beg you as Christ’s representatives, “Be reconciled to God!” 21 God caused the one who didn’t know sin to be sin for our sake so that through him we could become the righteousness of God.   

2 Corinthians 5:17 (CEB)

17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!   

DEVOTION -Cindy Garrard (Florida)

When I became a Christian at the age of 19, I thought I had to change  my personality.  I assumed a Christian should be quiet and reserved.  For someone like me who was outgoing and loud it was a struggle.  I felt that I was supposed to be someone else.  But when I grew in age and in faith, I realized that the change I needed was actually a new outlook, focus, and vision of the life God had planned for me.

I discovered that God loves us both before and after we become Christians.  God’s children come from all over the world: we look different; we speak different languages; we have different personalities.  And that is part of God’s big, beautiful plan.  When we decide to follow Christ, we know the new change within our hearts is one that comes with great blessing and the true meaning of life.

God made me with this outgoing personality, and that enables me to easily engage people and invite them to church or Bible study.  God made each of us, and we can embrace who we are and confidently be ourselves in God’s name.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God loves us before and after we become Christians.

PRAYER: O God, we embrace our newfound life with comfort and joy.  Amen

PRAYER FOCUS: NEW CHRISTIANS

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