The Man Who Was Willing Wednesday, Dec 31 2014 

 2 Corinthians 9:6-12 (NRSV)

6 The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. 9 As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.   11 You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; 12 for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.    

2 Corinthians 9:7 (NRSV)

7 Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.   

DEVOTION – Kathleen Hoover (California)

Excited to have a free hour to relax, I settled into my favorite chair with all my quilting supplies within reach.  A few minutes later the doorbell rang.  Grudgingly, I headed for the door, followed by my nine-year-old daughter, Emily.  In the cold, soft rain stood a man with no coat or umbrella, holding a clipboard.  After greeting us, he went on to explain that he was collecting money for a mission program.  Preoccupied by my desire to return to my project, I responded with a polite but short, “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you today” and slowly closed the door.

Emily asked, “Why”  Why did we give nothing?  He came out in the cold and rain to collect for the poor.”  Instantly, my heart sank.  The honest answer was that my self-centeredness had caused me to miss this opportunity to help someone, as well as the chance to teach my daughter about how God loves a cheerful giver.

A short time later, Emily handed me a drawing titled, “The Man Who Was Willing.”  She had expressed on paper what was in her heart.  On this day, my young daughter was the teacher.  Her childhood artwork remains both a treasured keepsake and a valuable lesson.  Fifteen years later, Emily still draws when her heart is profoundly touched, and I strive not to miss any opportunity God gives me to be a cheerful giver.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: In spite of our mistakes, God gives second chances.

PRAYER: Dear God, help us to be generous and truly willing to help others in need.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE WHO SERVE THE POOR

Our Anchor Tuesday, Dec 30 2014 

Hebrews 6:13-20 (NIV)

13 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself,  14 saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.”  15 And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.  16 Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument.  17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,  20 where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.   

Hebrews 6:19 (NIV)

19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,   

DEVOTION –  Ann Stewart (South Australia, Australia)

It was a glorious day, and we were in our boat at the mouth of the river.  My husband was engrossed in fishing, and I was focused on reading my book.  Suddenly someone called out, alerting us that we had lost our anchor.  Not only had we drifted dangerously close to another boat. but my husband could no longer keep fishing without our anchor.  So we headed for shore.

This experience reminded me of the truth that Jesus is our anchor.  He is our lifeline and our hope.  When he is our center, the one we rely on, he keeps us steady and productive.  On the other hand, if we take our eyes off Jesus and become involved in our own agendas, then with out even knowing it, we can find ourselves drifting away from the love and grace he offers.

That day I remembered the words of Hebrews the words of Hebrews 6 and the confidence I have because Christ is the steadfast anchor in my life.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Christ is reliable on both calm and stormy days.

PRAYER: Thank you, Father, for giving us Jesus as our anchor and our hope.  As he taught us, we pray, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever” (Matt. 6:9-13, KJV).  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: ANGLERS

God’s Unfailing Strength Monday, Dec 29 2014 

Isaiah 41:8-10 (CEB)

8 But you, Israel my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, offspring of Abraham, whom I love, 9 you whom I took from the ends of the earth and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant; I chose you and didn’t reject you”: 10 Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand.   

Isaiah 41:10 (CEB)

10 Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand.   

DEVOTION – Denise Kirk-Hall (Texas)

I felt the helicopter lit off the pad.  I was strapped onto a narrow stretcher, struggling to breathe through an oxygen mask.  An emergency medical technician watched me carefully.  “Are you doing OK?” she asked.

I nodded, but I wasn’t OK.  The emergency room doctor had ordered that I be flown  to a big-city medical center.  I knew I was in danger of dying.  “Is this it?”  I asked God.

“No, this isn’t it,” came God’s strong, certain reply.

I settled back and peered through the window at the white clouds and blue sky.  My anxiety subsided.  I felt a quiet strength flood my being.  I knew I was going to be OK, no matter what.

Isaiah reminds us that God chose a tiny, ragged band of people to be God’s own.  In doing so, God promised to hold them and to sustain them through all their trials.  They were not always faithful to god and not always grateful, but God was always with them.  god’s powerful love would not let them go.  Those promises belong to us, too.  God’s nature is to love and strengthen us through all the difficult times in our lives.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God is the source of our strength.

PRAYER: Loving God, thank you for sustaining us through all the trials in our lives.  Remind us that you are always close, and help us to be faithful.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: EMERGENCY MEDICAL TEAMS

Moments With God Sunday, Dec 28 2014 

Colossians 1:3-12 (NIV)

3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.  9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,  11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.   

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 (NIV)

17 pray continually;  18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

DEVOTION – Susan Griswold (Colorado)

Every Sunday my church takes time for anyone who has had an inspiring experience with God during the week to tell the congregation about it.  One Sunday, a woman who had volunteered to weed our church flowerbed told us how she watched people as they walked past our downtown church.  She said she wondered about each person – what they did, if they were happy or troubled, what their life story was.  Then she offered a brief prayer for those she saw, asking God to bless them, to ease their burdens, and to grant them peace.

Recently, I had been feeling that my prayer life was a rut, praying over and over for the same friends, family members, and concerns.  Inspired by this woman’s prayer practice, I decided to pray every morning and night for a week for a specific person, whether or not I knew him or her.  It might be a visitor to my church, someone I read about in the newspaper, or someone who caught my attention while I went about my day.

I hope that those for whom I pray feel God’s presence in their lives.  I know that praying for someone who will never know of my prayers surely brings God’s joy to me!

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Asking God’s blessing for someone else to blesses us.

PRAYER: Dear heavenly Father, bless those we pass by as we go about our lives.  Tend to their needs and give them your peace.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: FRIENDS AND STANGERS WHO CROSS OUR PATH

Unexpected Blessing Saturday, Dec 27 2014 

Psalm 121:1-8 (NIV)

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.  3 He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; 8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.   

Psalm 121:1-2 (NIV)

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.   

DEVOTION – Doug Wilson (New York)

I enjoy running.  One Saturday morning, I was hoping to do some training on a nearby hill.  But it was already humid, and the clear blue sky allowed for too much hot sun.  Both these factors reduced my chances to train very well.

But when I came to my training hill, something above the road caught my attention.  While I had noticed the row of green-leafed sugar maple trees along the street, I had realized the way they arched over the road, blocking the hot sun.  While the humidity was still in the air the unexpected shade allowed me to have a safe and productive workout.

When I realized what the shade of the trees provided to help me, the verses from Psalm 121 came to mind, “The LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day” (vv 5-6).  I found myself feeling very thankful for the unexpected and personal way I had experienced God’s blessing that day.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Today, I will watch for signs of God’s personal love for me.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank you for the unexpected surprises of your overarching grace and love in our lives.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: RUNNERS AND WALKERS

Only Temporary Friday, Dec 26 2014 

Matthew 6:19-33 (NIV)

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.   

2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)

18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.   

DEVOTION: Julia Denton (Virginia)

While putting the Christmas ornaments away, I discovered that one of them – a handcrafted treasure commemorating our oldest child’s first Christmas – was beginning to disintegrate.  Made of highly varnished bread dough, it had lasted almost 30 years.  “I guess I should have known this one would be temporary,” I said and then realized that all the ornaments are temporary.

Ephemeral, inanimate belongings make up such a large part of daily life.  Increasing numbers of us, it seems, have a hard time letting go of them.  When we are faced with the agonizing need to dispose of a few cherished preschool drawings or sports trophies, it helps to remember that absolutely none of our material possessions will last forever.

Often it is not the items themselves but what they represent that I prize.  As I learn to relinquish my grip on material things in favor of the intangible values they represent, I find the blessings of God’s presence each day.  Though bitter-sweet, letting go of things offers the grace of deepened wisdom as we learn to move forward in life, relying only on God’s eternal presence.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Material possessions will pass away, but God’s love and truth will endure.

PRAYER: Dear God, help us to let go of temporary things and focus on what will last-the truth you offer us in Jesus.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE TRYING TO SIMPLIFY THEIR LIVES

Christmas Day Thursday, Dec 25 2014 

Colossians 3:15-17 (NRSV)

15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ  dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.   17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.   

Galatians 3:26 (NRSV)

26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.   

DEVOTION – Jacob C. Schneider (Maryland)

Every Christmas season one of my responsibilities as music director is to prepare a cantata with my church choir for our congregation.  This year we also presented the cantata at a local nursing home and invited the residents to join us in singing familiar carols.  No lyrics were provided for this special performance, but when I gave the signal for the audience to join in, the residents – even those with dementia – sang with all their hearts.  They needed no help in recalling the carols they loved so much.  Those words of God’s love were etched into their memories, and nothing could prevent the words from bubbling up from deep within.

As we sang of shepherds, wise men, and angels, we saw that although we had obvious physical differences, the residents and choir members merely belonged to separate generations of God’s family.  They, the older brothers and sisters and we, the younger were all simply children of God, saved by grace.  In that glorious moment of singing together, God allowed me a glimpse of a time when his entire family will sing forever in the presence of our Savior.  And what a choir that will be!  Hallelujah!  Glory to the newborn King!

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God’s children come in all shapes and sizes – and ages.

PRAYER: Thank you, Lord for loving us so much.  Help us to look beyond our physical differences and to realize that we all belong to you.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: NURSING-HOME RESIDENTS

Christmas Eve Wednesday, Dec 24 2014 

Luke 2:41-52 (NRSV)

41 Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. 43 When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44 Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” 49 He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51 Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.   

Luke 2:49 (NRSV)

49 He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

DEVOTION – Michael Adam Beck (Florida)

I am a father of eight children in a blended family.  My wife and I both serve as stepparents to children from previous marriages.  Being a stepparent is often a tough and thankless job.  We have both heard words like:  “You’re mot my daddy” or “I don’t have to listen to you.”  While blended-family dynamics are often difficult, our family is strengthened as we have faced and overcome obstacles.  Knowing that God’s grace is greater than divorce and brokenness, we keep Christ at the center of our family.

Realizing that God through Christ Jesus chose to enter a human family gives us hope.  In today’s reading, Luke’s Gospel shares a very human situation from Jesus’ childhood.  Mary and Joseph lost Jesus in Jerusalem.  After searching for three days they found him, not at home but in the temple.  I can imagine Joseph’s feelings when Jesus told them,  “Did you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

This story reminds me that God is the Father of us all.  The good news is that Christ experienced a human life, a human family, and a human death to pay the penalty for our sins.  Through Christ’s sacrifice we are all one blended family, and we too can claim God as our Father.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: We are all children of God.

PRAYER: Dear heavenly Father, we thank you that through Christ we are all one family.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: BLENDED FAMILIES

Not Guilty Tuesday, Dec 23 2014 

John 3:16-17 (NRSV)

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.   

Romans 6:23 (NRSV)

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.   

DEVOTION -Roza Tyu (Moscow, Russia)

In Mesto Vstrechi(the Russian edition of The Upper Room), I met a sister from New Mexico (Oct. 4, 2012) who encouraged us to pray for “complacent church members.”  I began to think about each of our church members and tried to sort out the complacent ones.  For  some reason, I could think of no one.  But surely there must be someone?  I though.  Again I considered everyone in my church, and since I could think of no one else. I decided that I must be the guilty one.

The feeling of guilty is a continual struggle for me – to accuse myself of everything bad.  I could not escape from this habit even when I discovered salvation in the Lord.  I know that the Lord died a painful death to save people from the burden of guilt and sin.  But still I struggled with self-accusation.

Probably others have the same problem.  But each of us can receive freedom from guilt when we are able to fully accept and believe the word of the Lord.  I am grateful to this sister from New Mexico and to the staff of Mesto Vstrechi.  They have helped me today to hear the Lord bless me with words that give me peace and make me feel grateful:  “I love you so much that I have sent my son to take away your sins and guilt.”  (see John 3:16.)

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Christ offers forgiveness.  Do I accept it?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, help us to trust your promises so that we might feel the fullness of your joy.  Amen,

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE WEIGHED DOWN BY GUILT

Outward Appearance Monday, Dec 22 2014 

James 2:1-5 (NRSV)

1 My brothers and sisters,  do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?   2 For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, 3 and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,”   4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters.  Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?   

Acts 10:34 (NRSV)

34 Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality,   

DEVOTION – Tim Wood (Tennessee)

When I entered the grocery store, he caught my attention immediately.  The young man was of a different race than I.  He had an unusual haircut and was dressed in a manner that I considered offensive.  He looked out of place.

After shopping, I went to the self-checkout to pay for my groceries.  Fumbling with the items and my wallet, I scanned my groceries and paid for them.  As I walked out of the store, I felt a tap on my shoulder.  I turned around to see the man I had noticed earlier.  He handed me my wallet.  I had not realized that I had dropped it.

As much as I was relieved to have my wallet returned, I was ashamed at how I had “profiled: this young man.  As a teacher, I have worked successfully with students of many races and nationalities.  I should have known better than to make assumptions about someone based on their race and appearance.  Thankfully, God does not judge us by our appearance.  I re-learned a valuable lesson that day about not judging people by the way they look.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God sees what is inside each of us.

PRAYER: Holy God, help us to see the best in everyone and to look beyond outward appearances.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: TEENAGERS

Next Page »