Broken Becomes Beautiful Saturday, Jan 31 2015 

Ephesians 4:14-16 (NIV)

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.  15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.   

2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV)

18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.   

DEVOTION -Pamela Crowe (Delaware)

The oceans offer up objects of astounding beauty – sea-shells and sea glass cast up on beaches – free for the taking.  With sea glass, the sea is the sculptor.  A bottle breaks, and the pieces are cast into the sea.  Waves and tides tumble the shards; their sharp, rough edges are smoothed.  At the same time, seawater reacts chemically with the glass, pitting and frosting the surface.  The sea transforms the broken, discarded glass into colorful gems.

When I behold a piece of pure sea glass, I am reminded of God’s ability to transform our souls.  When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, God accepts our broken selves and begins to work in us.  As we seek God’s help and obey God’s word, our rough edges, our sinful natures, are worn away.  We become more like God, transformed into pure and perfect souls pleasing to God.  Christians who are maturing reflect the beauty of the Holy Spirit at work in them.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: As God transforms us into mature Christians, broken becomes beautiful.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, we want to grow close to you.  Help us to obey your word always.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: OCEANGRAPHERS

What If ? Friday, Jan 30 2015 

Luke 12:25-30 (NRSV)

25 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?   26 If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;  yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them.   

Luke 9:23-24 (NRSV)

23 Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.   

DEVOTION – Mark Harper Anderson (Pennsylvania)

Many times in life I have tormented myself with “What if?” questions, asking,  “Where would I be if only I had made this or that decision?”  Other times I worry about the future:  “What if this happens or what if that happens?”  This habit often leaves me overwhelmed.

However, I’m coming to see that Jesus does not instruct us to live in the future or the past.  We can do very little in this moment about either one.  Jesus allows us to live fully in the present, where eternity and our current moment in time meet.  I think that when Jesus said, “Take up their cross daily,” he meant for us to deal with our present situation, whatever that may be.  He tells us to ask for and seek his guidance, and follow him.  Jesus Christ is eternal, and from eternity he will shed light on the present situation to show us our way.  He may give us only enough clarity and courage to take a single step forward, but it is up to us to “take up” our present situation and take that step.  When we look back, we will see that our whole journey was in Jesus’ light.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Today, I will follow Jesus – a single step at a time.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, please help us to trust in you, that you will guide us through this present time to a glorious eternity.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE BURDENED BY WORRY AND DOUBT

Never Alone Thursday, Jan 29 2015 

Isaiah 49:14-15 (NRSV)

14 But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.” 15 Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.   

Matthew 14:29 (NRSV)

5 Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”   

DEVOTION -Terri Meehan (Surrey, England)

I have a good friend who offers me comforting advice when I need it.  However, since an ocean divides us, I see her only once a year.  I often wonder how we remain close despite the time and distance.

The cost of telephoning long distance is expensive, so my friend and I have a one-ring code.  When my telephone rings only once, I know my friend is thinking of me.  God sends similar signals to me every day.  When I hear a kind word from a stranger or I am wrapped in the arms of a loved one, I know that God is with me just as my friend and I remain close in thought.

God’s love lives forever in my heart.  I have never seen God, yet I know that God is with me always.  I know that through  my thoughts I can reach God, who hears my prayers and showers me with loving-kindness.  I talk to God as I do my friend, and I can sense God’s presence in the world around me.  I am never alone.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God is with us – always.

PRAYER: Dear God, relieve our worries and cares today.  May your love guide us from morning until night, when we lie down in peaceful sleep as 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: THOSE WHO NEED TO KNOW THAT GOD IS NEAR

Embrace The Pain Wednesday, Jan 28 2015 

Romans 8:35-39 (NIV)

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

James 1:2-4 (NIV)

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.   

DEVOTION -Anthony Collins (Tennessee)

When I was a teenager, my father died suddenly.  He was the first person I really and truly loved whom death had taken from me.  It was devastating, and I was inconsolable.  But as I look back at that event now, I can see the blessings of the Lord on the life of our family in spite of my grief and our loss.  While we missed my father terribly, our family grew much closer as a result of his passing.  We were able to show our love toward each other in ways we never had while he was alive.  The truth was that in spite of the pain, I became a stronger and better person after my father’s death.

Sometimes it seems difficult to have the proper perspective when we are going through a trying time.  When we experience a great loss, such as financial ruin or the loss of a significant relationship, we can easily emerge with a broken heart or broken spirit.  But to continue to allow our feelings of despair to overwhelm us is neither healthy nor wise.  Instead, we can remember the words in today’s quoted scripture – that God works through distress to bless.  Every trial can bring us closer to God – if we let it.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Every test of life can bring us closer to God.

PRAYER: Dear God, help us to embrace the pain of our lives and find you at work even in our grieving.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: FATHERS

God’s Calm Presence Tuesday, Jan 27 2015 

2 Chronicles 15:1-7 (NIV)

1 The Spirit of God came upon Azariah son of Oded. 2 He went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The LORD is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.  3 For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach and without the law.  4 But in their distress they turned to the LORD, the God of Israel, and sought him, and he was found by them. 5 In those days it was not safe to travel about, for all the inhabitants of the lands were in great turmoil. 6 One nation was being crushed by another and one city by another, because God was troubling them with every kind of distress. 7 But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”   

Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.   

DEVOTION – Sue Fairchild (Pennsylvania)

A problem at work plagued me for two weeks.  I ran every scenario, checked every figure, and double-checked all my work.  I still had no solution.  I walked away from the problem and asked others for help, but I was still stuck.    Why was my assignment so hard?

My job title was Budget Analyst, and I analyzed every figure as if my life depended on it.  I had done everything within my power and knowledge to make the numbers match.  Fear of being fired and frustration with my lack of skills weighed heavily on me.  I did the only thing left:  I got down on my knees.

I thought of Philippians 4:6 and 1 Thessalonians 5:17, which instructed me to pray.  Right there in my office, I cried out to God.  I put my problem in God’s hands.  I begged for peace, clarity, a solution.  I hesitated to go to God with what I considered a trivial problem; but my heart and various Bible verses told me differently.  When I got back on my feet, I felt God’s calm presence.  I knew that whatever happened, I would be OK.  Although the solution wasn’t immediate (coming a few days later), my heart was immediately filled with peace.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Today I will seek God’s guidance even for the small stuff.

PRAYER: Dear God, teach us in every situation to put our faith and trust in you.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE WHO STRUGGLE IN THEIR JOBS

How God Heals Us Monday, Jan 26 2015 

Psalm 6:1-5 (NIV)

1 O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. 2 Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony.  3 My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long? 4 Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.  5 No one remembers you when he is dead. Who praises you from the grave ?   

Exodus 15:26 (NIV)

26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.”

DEVOTION – Keith Williams (Alabama)

Soon I will be retiring from my job of 43 years.  About two months ago I began experiencing health problems that I never had before.  I frantically began going from doctor to doctor, taking handfuls of vitamins and other supplements, in hopes that my health would be restored.  However, none of my efforts afforded me any improvement.

During the time I was looking for answers for my health problems, I also began searching the scriptures, reading devotionals, and praying fervently for God to heal me.  But I’ve come to understand that God does not always answer prayers according to our schedule.  In my case some issues in my life before healing can come.

Now I am diligently working to resolve issues from my past.  I have forgiven those who have hurt me and have asked for forgiveness from those whom I have hurt.  I am working to clear out all the “debris” that has been clogging my spiritual life for many years.  Whether or not my physical health is restored, I will continue to praise God.  Even if I am not healed physically, my spiritual health has been made new.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Even if we are not pain-free we can be Spirit-filled.

PRAYER: God of compassion, instill in our minds and hearts that even in the presence of pain, you are beside us holding us in your hands.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: NEWLY RETIRED PERSONS

in God’s Image Sunday, Jan 25 2015 

Genesis 1:26-31 (NRSV)

26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind  in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth,  and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27 So God created humankind  in his image, in the image of God he created them;  male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 29 God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.   

Job 33:4 (NRSV)

4 The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty  gives me life.

DEVOTION – Mary Jane Hoffmaster (Pennsylvania)

Several years ago, while browsing in an antique shop, my husband and I came across a display of crocks created by a local potter who had made them well over 100 years before.  The crocks had been discarded by the potter because they had become misshapen in the firing process.  He put the rejected pots in the scrap pit behind his business.  Then, over the years, the potter’s work became well known and highly collectable.  When the damaged crocks were excavated from the pit, they were considered valuable – not because they were beautiful or even functional but because of who had made them.

The story of these pots reminds me of the nature of God’s children.  We are all misshapen in some way.  But each of us is made in the image of God, our creator.  As with the crocks, our worth does not come from how we look or how functional we are.  We are valuable because of who made us.

After viewing the results of creating the world and everything in it, God said that it was very good.  We may sometimes view our fellow humans as less than good.  But we are each made in God’s image.  Our worth, our value, comes from God.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Every single person on earth was created in the image of God.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, help us to see others through your eyes, remembering that each of us is made in your image.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: POTTERS

Changed By The Spirit Saturday, Jan 24 2015 

Acts 9:26-28 (CEB)

26 When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him. They didn’t believe he was really a disciple. 27 Then Barnabas brought Saul to the apostles and told them the story about how Saul saw the Lord on the way and that the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them about the confidence with which Saul had preached in the name of Jesus in Damascus. 28 After this, Saul moved freely among the disciples in Jerusalem and was speaking with confidence in the name of the Lord.   

Luke 18:27 (CEB)

27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible for humans is possible for God.”   

DEVOTION – Terry W. Gabrielson (California)

Since my retirement six years ago, I have volunteered to help in the kitchen of a local rescue mission two days a week.  Several months ago a new resident admitted into the mission’s rehabilitation program was assigned to the kitchen for his work duty.  He was loud, confrontational, and unpleasant to work with.

After his work assignment was changed to another area of the  facility, I had no contact with him for several weeks – until one day recently.  While I was helping to set up for the morning meal, he walked up and asked how I was doing.  I rather warily gave the pat answer:  “Fine”.  He then said he wanted to pray with me.  He lead me over to a quiet corner of the dining room, held my hands, and prayed the most gentle, humble, heartfelt prayer I have ever heard.  It was immediately obvious to me that the Holy Spirit was deeply at work in his life.  I was stunned, and moved to tears.  He gave me a quick hug and left.

When I first met this man, I had felt there was little chance he could turn his life around.  But I had viewed him from an earthly perspective, not from the perspective of what God might be ready to do in his life.  I realized anew that no addiction, no pain, no regret is too overwhelming for the redeeming love of God.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: No problem is beyond the redeeming love of God.

PRAYER: All-powerful God, you are an awesome God for whom nothing is impossible.  In the midst of dealing with life’s problems, may we always keep your eternal perspective in focus.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: RESCUE MISSION VOLUNTEERS

Getting Rid Of Worry Friday, Jan 23 2015 

Luke 8:4-15 (NIV)

4 While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 5 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. 6 Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” When he said this, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, ” ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’  11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.  12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.  14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

Psalm 1:1-3 (NIV)

1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.   

DEVOTION -Lynn Karidis (Michigan)

The pink flowers in my garden brought joy to my heart.  On the day I planted them, the petals and leaves consumed all the available space.  But sometime later weeds began to appear, and O was too busy to address the problem.  By the end od summer, the bed that once overflowed with colorful flowers was filled with weeds.  If only

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God’s word can help us overcome worry.

PRAYER: Dear Father, thank you for providing a way to cope with worry.  Help us to apply your word daily so you can produce abundant fruit in our lives.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: GARDENERS

Competence From God Thursday, Jan 22 2015 

2 Corinthians 3:1-5 (NIV)

1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody.  3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.  4 Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.   

2 Corinthians 3:5 (NIV)

5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.   

DEVOTION – Gayla C. Carreon (Quezon, Phlippines)

For most of my life I was full of hubris (excessive pride or self-confidence).  My rationale was, “God has given me abilities and resources, and I honor God by using them to accomplish my task.”  Never did I ask whether the opportunities and challenges that came my way were in line with God’s plan.  And even when I failed, I attributed the failure to myself, to my inadequacy.  I would eventually ask God for help, but prayer was always my last resort.

The one day, overwhelmed by the demands on my time and energy, I stopped what I was doing, fell to my knees, and confessed to God that I was helpless.  I surrendered my whole being to the Lord, putting everything in God’s hands.  Very quickly, my schedule eased up.  From then on, I have tried to listen to and follow God’s leading.  As a result, I chose to leave corporate work – with its recognition, privileges, and pleasures – in favor of working in ministry.

I’ve learned to attribute the completion of every task, the endurance of every trial, to God.  My prayer is for God to give me true humility as exemplified by our Savior Jesus Christ.  (See Phil. 2:1-11.)

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (Jas. 4:10, NIV).

PRAYER: Loving God, forgive us for our pride.  Help us to humble ourselves and to trust fully in you.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPIANS

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