Renovations Tuesday, Mar 31 2015 

Galatians 5:22-25 (NRSV)

22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,

23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

Isaiah 64:8 (NRSV)

8 Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.                            

DEVOTION -Ann Stewart (South, Australia)

My daughter-in-law walked past some old houses that were being renovated.  She told me how messy they looked during the process and wondered how they would look when they were finished.  She was anxious to see the renovations completed – the final result of all the hard work.

This conversation reminded me of our spiritual renovation process through the work of the Holy Spirit in us.  As the Spirit works in our lives, God brings tot he surface areas that need healing, attitudes that need changing, sins that need repentance, and relationships that need restoring.

Like the house renovations, the process can be messy and sometimes painful.  However, God deals with us lovingly and gently.  God is the Master Builder with perfect timing.  We are works in progress, and we become more like Jesus during our spiritual transformation.

When we lean on God and persevere, God will transform and sanctify us.  How exciting it is to know that God is in the process of renovating us so we are becoming the children we were created to be!

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Today I will strive to be all that God wants me to be.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for the work of your Holy Spirit in us.  May we reach our full potential as your children and serve you well and with joy.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: BUILDERS

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Not A Hummingbird? Monday, Mar 30 2015 

Psalm 139:13; Romans 12:3-8 (NIV)

13 For you created my inmost being;1 you knit me together2 in my mother’s womb.3 14 I praise you4 because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,5 I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made6 in the secret place. When I was woven together7 in the depths of the earth,8 16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained9 for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

3 For by the grace given me1 I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,2 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body,3 and each member belongs to all the others.6 We have different gifts,4 according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying,5 let him use it in proportion to hisa faith.6 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;7 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage;8 if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously;9 if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Psalm 139:14 (NIV)

14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.                            

DEVOTION – Roger Wayne Hicks (Arizona)

A beautiful purple finch was trying desperately to drink from our hummingbird feeder.  Watching it furiously flap its wings in an attempt to maintain an airborne drinking position, I said, “Don’t you know you’re not a hummingbird?”  Eventually the finch hurried to secure footing on a nearby tree branch.  It seemed to have realized that it could not hover like a hummingbird.

Observing this finch caused me to ask myself, ” How often do I attempt to be, or wish to be, something or somebody I am not?”  No matter how much I have wished I had the wood-crafting talent of my two brothers or my wife’s ability to play the piano by ear, I have come to realize that these abilities are not mine.  That is not the way my Creator put me together.  But God has given me some talents that neither my brothers nor my wife have.  In divine wisdom and grace, God made us each different.

Realizing that god has created each of us as unique individuals, we can confidently live as the people God created us to be.  This means we can celebrate our personal uniqueness and search for special ways that we may effectively share that uniqueness with family, community, and church.  Such celebrating and sharing can be a tangible way for us to praise and thank God for creating us the way we are.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Our uniqueness is a living example of God’s boundless grace.

PRAYER: Marvelous Creator; help us to celebrate our uniqueness and to use a positive difference in the lives of others.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE SEEKING A WAY TO SERVE

Palm Sunday Monday, Mar 30 2015 

John 13:36-14:6 (NIV)

36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” 37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!                            

1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.                            

John 14:6 (NIV)

6 Jesus answered, “I am1 the way2 and the truth3 and the life.4 No one comes to the Father except through me.5                            

DEVOTION -M. Thomas Thangaraj (Massachusetts)

Once I asked a young man for directions to a place in an unfamiliar city.  Instead of giving me directions, he offered to go with me.  He not only showed the way; he became the way!  I just had to follow him.  Thomas asked Jesus, “how can we know the way?”  Rather than giving directions, Jesus answered, “I am the Way.”  He became the way, and Thomas simply had to follow him.

What does it mean to accept Jesus as my way to follow him?  In John 13:36 Simon Peter asked Jesus,  “Lord, where are you going?”  The conversation that followed clearly points to how Jesus actually talking about the way of the cross – the offering of his life in self-sacrificial love.  It is the way of laying down one’s friends.  (See John 15:13.)  When Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me,” he was talking about how one comes to God.  Jesus was teaching us that there is no way to reach the heart of God, except through self-sacrificial and unconditional love.

Early Christians were known as those who belonged to the Way.  (See Acts 9:2.)  If Jesus is our Way, then we will walk with Jesus today and love our neighbors with an unconditional and self-sacrificial love.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Jesus shows us the way.

PRAYER: Loving God, give us hearts to love you and to love others unconditionally.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: TRAVELERS

Jesus Has Arrived! Saturday, Mar 28 2015 

Matthew 21:1-11 (NRSV)

1 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples,

2 saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me.
3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately. a ” 
4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
5 “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them;
7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them.
8 A very large crowd b spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 
9 The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Psalm 22:22 (NRSV)

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; a in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:                            

DEVOTION – Debra Pierce (Massachusetts)

On Palm Sunday 1997, I stood at the church pulpit and held my testimony in shaking hands – silently asking Jesus to grant me the courage to read it.  I shared with the congregation that my brother’s death the year before had forced me to evaluate my life.  I told them how meaningless and purposeless my life had felt.  I said that even though I had not attended a church in many years, I had sensed God guiding me to theirs, so I had called to speak with their pastor.

Whenever I glanced up at the parishioners, I was nervous.  To calm myself I focused on the palm fronds they held to commemorate the day that the crowds proclaimed Jesus’ triumphant arrival by spreading branches on the road into Jerusalem.  When I shared my testimony that Palm Sunday, I was proclaiming the arrival of Jesus into my heart.  I told the congregation that their pastor had led me to Jesus and that the gift of salvation brings hope and healing.  I asserted that serving in God’s kingdom brings purpose and peace.  On this Palm Sunday, we all can celebrate and proclaim the day Jesus entered our lives.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Jesus is still making triumphant arrivals.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus Christ, give us the boldness and joy to proclaim your glorious gift of salvation.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: SOMEONE SHARING THEIR TESTIMONY

Things I Take For Granted Friday, Mar 27 2015 

John 15:10-21 (NIV)

10 If you obey my commands,1 you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.2 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.3 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.4 14 You are my friends5 if you do what I command.6 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.7 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you8 to go and bear fruit9–fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.10 17 This is my command: Love each other.11

2 Thessalonians 3:1 (NIV)

1 Finally, brothers,1 pray for us2 that the message of the Lord 3 may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.4

DEVOTION – Ruth L. Snyder (Alberta, Canada)

I sat in my cozy chair and read my Bible.  Then I canned Facebook.  My attention was captured by a memorial to William Tyndale carved with a statement that Tyndale was convicted of heresy and on October 6, 1536 was executed for translating the Bible into English.

This memorial made me think of how often I take things for granted.  I have freedom to attend church, to read, my Bible, and to share my beliefs.  My family honors God and supports my faith.  I don’t have much money, but I’m rich in freedom.  Jesus died to save me from my sin.  Soldiers died defending my freedoms.  William Tyndale dies so I can read the Bible in English.  While I enjoy these privileges, some people today face rejection and death threats from their own families for following Jesus Christ.  Others are persecuted, imprisoned, or killed for their faith.

Knowing all this, I now pick up my Bible with renews reverence.  I sing with a grateful heart and pray for fellow believers in other countries who are suffering for their faith.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: We have freedom to pursue our faith today because of choices people made yesterday.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for the gifts of salvation, the Bible, and freedom.  Be with our brothers and sisters who are suffering for you.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: BELIEVERS SUFFERING FOR THEIR FAITH

Our Father’s Strength Thursday, Mar 26 2015 

Job 42:1-6 (NIV)

1 Then Job replied to the LORD: 2 “I know that you can do all things;1 no plan of yours can be thwarted.2 3 [You asked,] ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’3 Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.4 4 [“You said,] ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’5 5 My ears had heard of you6 but now my eyes have seen you.7 6 Therefore I despise myself8 and repent9 in dust and ashes.”10

Job 42:1-2 (NIV)

1 Then Job replied to the LORD: 2 “I know that you can do all things;1 no plan of yours can be thwarted.2

DEVOTION – George A. Nye (Oregon)

From the time I was five, wrestling with my dad was our ritual. He’d pin me; sometimes he let me win.  As I grew, the struggles got more intense.  When I was 13 I beat him, and I could tell that he had used all his strength.  I was elated – for about 30 seconds.  As Dad walked quietly away, a feeling of sadness washed over me.  I’m stronger than my dad.  That’s not supposed to happen.  If Dad’s not stronger than me, how can he be my authority and my protector?

Since the Garden of Eden, we’ve yearned to be smarter than God.  In his desperation, Job came to that point.  (See Job 10.)  Job didn’t want to be greater than God, any more than I wanted to actually pin my dad.  If I was stronger than Dad, then I seemed to me that my 13-year-old’s strength was all I had to rely on.  Job wanted God to be ultimate resource with the assurance that he was a child of God.  “Before, you were only a theory to me,”  Job was saying.  “Now, I know that you are my ultimate reality.”

How reassuring it is to discover that our salvation does not lie in our own cleverness and strength!  God’s power is a loving power  in which we, like Job, become free to experience a peace and comfort that only God can give.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: When we acknowledge God’s power, we can experience peace.

PRAYER: O God, help us to remember that our achievements matter only when your power resides in us.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: FATHERS AND SONS

An Unlikely Offering Wednesday, Mar 25 2015 

Psalm 142:1-7 (NIV)

1 I cry aloud1 to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy.22 I pour out my complaint3 before him; before him I tell my trouble.4 3 When my spirit grows faint5 within me, it is you who know my way. In the path where I walk men have hidden a snare for me. 4 Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge;6 no one cares7 for my life. 5 I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge,8 my portion9 in the land of the living.”10 6 Listen to my cry,11 for I am in desperate need;12 rescue me13 from those who pursue me, for they are too strong14 for me. 7 Set me free from my prison,15 that I may praise your name.16 Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.17

Psalm 142:2 (NIV)

2 I pour out my complaint1 before him; before him I tell my trouble.2                            

DEVOTION – Peggy Booher (Pennsylvania)

One day while on break at work, I was worrying about some health problems I was facing.  Angry about these problems, I realized that I had been complaining.  I considered giving these concerns to God but then had second thoughts.  Several scriptures make it plain that God doesn’t want to listen to a complaining spirit.  (See Num. 11:1, Phil. 2:14, 1 Pet. 4:9.)  However, I started unloading my concerns to God anyway.  No one else was there to hear my complaints, and I needed release.

Then a strange thing happened.  I had expected to feel God’s displeasure, but instead I felt peace.  The tension I had experienced just a few minutes before had disappeared.  I felt God was pleased, not with my complaining but with my willingness to trust God enough to express even the unpleasant things in my life.

Before this experience, I thought of an “offering” as a money I put into a collection plate at church.  That particular day at work the only “offering” I had to give to God wasn’t pleasant.  But God – in grace, mercy, and compassion – accepted it and showed me that my offerings of trust are valued.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God wants to hear the good and bad in our lives.

PRAYER: O God, we thank you that in trusting you with the difficult things in our lives we find peace, hope and healing.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: SOMEONE FACING A HEALTH PROBLEM

The Old Pink Chair Tuesday, Mar 24 2015 

2 Timothy 1:3-14 (NRSV)

3 I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.

4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy.
5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.
6 For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands;
7 for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.
8 Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God,
9 who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,
10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
11 For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, a 12 and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. 
13 Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
14 Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.

2 Timothy 1:5 (NRSV)

5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.                            

DEVOTION – Michael Adam Beck (Florida)

My biological mother struggled with drug addiction throughout her life.  I was raised by my grandmother.  She took me to Sunday school and church, and she held on to the hope that I would become a pastor.  In my youth, I made bad choices that put me on the path of drugs, gangs, and crime.  Every morning my grandmother sat in her old pink chair, reading her Bible and her copy of The Upper Room.  On some mornings, I was just coming in from the night before.  She sat up entire nights waiting, worrying, and praying for my safe return.  She never gave up hope for me.  Ultimately, through my grandmother’s love and witness, I found Christ and became a pastor.

A couple years ago, my teenage daughter decided she would run away.  I found myself powerless and sick with worry.  I discovered that I too have “an old pink chair”; I sat reading my Bible and The Upper Room, praying for my daughter’s safe return.  She did return home, and today she seems to be inheriting the faith that I learned from my grandmother.  I will never forget my grandmother’s old pink chair and the great faith it represented.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: How are we living a legacy of faith for our children?

PRAYER: Dear God, help us to live our faith in such a way that our children will see and believe.  Thank you for the witness of those who have gone before us.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: WAYWARD CHILDREN

Aware Of God’s Timing Monday, Mar 23 2015 

Matthew 7:7-11 (NIV)

7 “Ask and it will be given to you;1 seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds;2 and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts3 to those who ask him!

Matthew 7:7 (NIV)

7 “Ask and it will be given to you;1 seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.                            

DEVOTION -Richard N. Ryley (New York)

I recently retired after 51 years in ministry, and I was struggling with how to be useful.  One morning in my prayer time, I asked God to show me how I could be of service both to him and others that day.

A few hours later I was driving through the local mall parking lot when I noticed a bloodmobile and a sign asking for blood donors.   As a long-time donor, I thought, That is something I can do;  I’ll have to do that sometime.  Then that inner voice that the Holy Spirit uses to get our attention reminded me that I had asked God to give me something to do today.  So I walked over to the bloodmobile and signed up to donate then and there.

That experience reminded me that when we ask God for direction for our lives, we need to look and listen for the answers that God gives.  Otherwise, we may miss the very moment we prayed for.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God’s timing is perfect.

PRAYER: Gracious God, who listens to all our prayers, give us eyes to see and ears to hear your answers – and a willing spirit to respond.  As Jesus taught us, we pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”  (Matt. 6:9-13, NIV).  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: BLOOD DONORS

5th Sunday In Lent Sunday, Mar 22 2015 

 

John 15:1-9 (CEB)

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper.

2 He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. 

3 You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you.
4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me.
5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything.
6 If you don’t remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown out and dries up. Those branches are gathered up, thrown into a fire, and burned.
7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
8 My Father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples.
9 “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love.
John 15:5 (CEB)
5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything.  

DEVOTION – Pamela Hawkins (Tennessee)

I first noticed the little branch after a harsh night storm.  Bent down

in an awkward position, it caught my eye during morning prayer as I looked out my bedroom window.  Other branches reached out and up toward the sky, strong and unscathed.  But this one slender branch dangled toward the ground – damaged but not detached from the tree.

I was surprised to see this little bent-down branch still hanging there the next morning.  I had expected it to drop to the ground, but there it was – still dangling and vulnerable.  The same was true the next day and the next.  Watching this damaged branch became part of my morning prayer for the season of Lent.  No matter what storm blew through, the branch clung to the life-source of the tree.

How like that branch I often am – bent down and vulnerable to life’s storms!  And like the branch, I cling to Christ, my life-source, trusting that even when I am “hanging on by a thread,”  Christ will cling to me as well.  My wounded, fragile, and awkward self will always be connected to Christ.  In our reading today, Jesus says,”  I am the vine; you are the branched.  If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit.  Without me, you can’t do anything” (v.5).  In Christ there is life that holds on to and remains in us at all times.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Jesus’ presence sustains and strengthens us.

PRAYER: Dear God, help us to cling to you throughout the storms of life.  Thank you for the peace you offer us.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: SOMEONESTARTING A NEW LENTEN DISCIPLINE

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