Strength And Weakness Thursday, Apr 30 2015 

2 Corinthians 12:6-10 (NRSV)

6 But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me,

7 even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep a me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. b

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References for 2 Corinthians 12:7

  • Œ 12:7 – Other ancient authorities read [To keep]
  •  12:7 – Other ancient authorities lack [to keep me from being too elated]
8 Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me,
9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power c is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NRSV)

9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power a is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.                            

DEVOTION – Chase Martin (Tennessee)

When I found out I had Type I diabetes, my life changed forever.  I was scared; but in time I became more connected with my family, friends, and God.  I found out that when I’M weak, with God I can be strong.

Our pastor had asked my family to talk with the church about our experience with diabetes.  I was nervous when the pastor asked us questions.  I told him, “I know that God will use my diabetes for good,” but I wasn’t sure what the good would be.

I’ve had diabetes for three years now.  I still get tired, and I get frustrated that I need to check my blood sugar seven or eight times a day and wear an insulin pump.  But God has made me stronger; now I’m not as scared.  Sometimes, I ask God why I have this disease, and I hope that one day there will be a cure.

God has used my experience for good.  After my family spoke at our church, we heard about a man who had listened to the service.  He had been diagnosed with diabetes and was struggling with all the changes he had to make.  After he heard us, he thought, If that boy has the courage to deal with it, so do I.

Everyone has some burden to bear.  Mine is diabetes.  With God’s help, I’m going to do something good with it.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: How does God give me strength in my weakness?

PRAYER: Thank you, dear God, for turning our weaknesses into strengths and for using our troubles for good.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: CHILDREN WITH DIABETES

Speaking Firth God Wednesday, Apr 29 2015 

John 20:30-31, 21:25 (NIV)

30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs1 in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.2 31 But these are written that you maya  believe3 that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,4 and that by believing you may have life in his name.5

25 Jesus did many other things as well.1 If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

Psalm 102:18 (NIV)

18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord:                            

DEVOTION – Pam Pointer (Wiltshire, England)

One of the joys of The Upper Room is being able to read the experiences of people worldwide and heir encounters with God.  We’re united in our love of God and the world God created as we share our thoughts together.  I imagine people reading The Upper Room as they wake up each morning or go to bed at night, creating a continual outpouring of prayer and praise to God through the different time zones of the world.

When I consider that the psalmist’s words are being read thousands of years after his death and think about the impact they have had on so many people, I wonder  how what we produce might affect the next generation.  All of us who love God and follow Jesus have something we can write about or speak about or sing about.  Our words can help others to know and love God, too.  We do it not for our own glory but for God’s – for the sake of those not yet born.

The apostle John reckoned that the whole world couldn’t hold the books that could be written to chronicle all that Jesus dis while here on earth.  And Christ is still working in the world.  Our stories and songs proclaim this good news every day.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: How can I share my faith with others today?

PRAYER: We praise you, dear Lord, for all you do in our lives.  May we show others your love and goodness so that they will praise you, too.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: CHRISTIAN WRITERS

Struggling To Pray Tuesday, Apr 28 2015 

Matthew 6:9-15 (NIV)

9 “This, then, is how you should pray: ” ‘Our Father1 in heaven, hallowed be your name,10 your kingdom2 come, your will be done3 on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread.4 12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.5 13 And lead us not into temptation,6 but deliver us from the evil one.a7 14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.8 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.9

Matthew 6:12 (NIV)

12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.1                            

DEVOTION – Sarah Negroni (Louisiana)

I could not understand how someone I trusted could have committed such a horrible offense against me.  The person had broken my trust so much that it seemed that everything I believed about the relationship was wrong.  I was devastated and angry.  Alone in my room, I tried to pray.  “Dear God,”  I began, but I couldn’t finish.  The only thing I could do in mu anguish was cry and moan.  I spoke with my sister-in-law, someone who has also been a spiritual sister to me, about my inability to pray.  She suggested that I try praying the Lord’s Prayer until I was able to put what was on my heart into words.

Even though it was difficult to do, I recited the prayer.  When I got to “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us, I couldn’t continue.  I suddenly realized that I had done this very same ting to someone else years before.  I wondered if that person had been as distraught as I had been in the past few days.

Too often I overlook the Lord’s Prayer as something I say without really thinking about it.  This experience helped me understand how important this prayer is, how important it is for me to forgive others, and how much I need God’s forgiveness.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: We need to forgive as much as we need to be forgiven.

PRAYER: Dear God, help us to remember the forgiveness you have shown us.  Give us strength to offer that forgiveness to others as we pray,  “Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom some.  Give u 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).

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE STRUGGLING TO FORGIVE

Taming Fear Monday, Apr 27 2015 

Genesis 50:15-21 (NIV)

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge1 against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?”2 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions3 before he died:17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins4 and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’5 Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.6” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.7 18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him.8 “We are your slaves,”9 they said. 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?10 20 You intended to harm me,11 but God intended12 it for good13 to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.14 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.15” And he reassured them and spoke kindly16 to them.

Romans 8:28 (NIV)

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good1 of those who love him,a whob have been called2 according to his purpose.3                            

DEVOTION – W. Edward Clymer (Oklahoma)

At the age of 60, and after 21 months of incarceration, I am preparing to leave federal prison.  This causes me to think of the despair and fear I felt when I entered prison.  I was angry and bitter.  My wife divorced me.  I lost everything I had.  But God was revealed to me, and I began to learn what Job and Joseph learned: In times of tragedy, God does not leave us.  In fact, God is never closer.

The stories of biblical heroes affirm the truth that when we are faced with opposition, faith restores us.  God uses our trials to develop our character and faith.  We naturally seek God most desperately when we are walking through life’s valleys.  I have learned that God is never closer than when I am in the valley.  Fear has strengthened my faith.  God awaited my earnest and sincere cry for help.  God has used my incarceration to grow my faith and character beyond anything I thought possible.  God stands ready to give us comfort and strength,

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Our fear can bring us nearer to God.

PRAYER: Dear God, sometimes we forget your promise to be with us and to sustain us.  Forgive us, and help us to grow in faith.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE BEING RELEASED FROM PRISON

That Distinct Voice Sunday, Apr 26 2015 

John 10:1-10 (NRSV)

 1 “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit.

2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.
5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.”
6 Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7 So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.
8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them.
9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
John 10:3-4 (NRSV)

3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

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

DEVOTION -Lin Daniels (Massachusetts)

Early in the morning, when my nephew Joe began to stir, I went to his crib, gathered him up, and carried him downstairs.  My identical twin sister, Joe’s mother was cooking breakfast.  “Hi Joe,” she greeted him.  He looked at her, looked back at me, and yelled, “Mama!” as he held out both arms.  My twin and I laughed as he distinguished his mother from the imposter.

Just as Joe recognized his mother’s voice, we learn to recognize God’s distinct Voice.  Sometimes we hear God’s voice when we pray; someone comes to mind or we feel the need to reach out to help or encourage.  At other times, we hear God’s voice in scripture.  One verse might speak to our particular situation while another offers comfort, strength, or peace.

We also hear God’s voice through the Holy Spirit.  John 16:13 says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears.”  The Holy Spirit comforts, teaches, and bears witness to the truth.  The Spirit gives us discernment and wisdom to recognize God’s voice and to walk with God.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: When we listen for God’s voice, we will find comfort and truth.

PRAYER: Thank you, dear God, for reaching out to us and calling us to you.  Help us to recognize the ways you speak to us.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE SEEKING DISCERNMENT

A Slug’s Lesson Saturday, Apr 25 2015 

Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.1 14 “You are the light of the world.2 A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.3 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men,4 that they may see your good deeds5 and praise6 your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

16 In the same way, let your light shine before men,1 that they may see your good deeds2 and praise3 your Father in heaven.                            

DEVOTION – Carolina Maia Faria (Minas Gerais, Brazil)

I have always liked to observe the world around me, especially the tiny things.  I remember one day I noticed marks on the wall that gleamed in the light.  I realized that a slug had passed there.  I did not need to see the slug because its tracks were there as evidence.

I began to reflect on this observation.  I wondered if my spiritual life was as clear to others as the marks left by the slug.  As Christians, we must leave marks of God’s love in our journey.  Our walk must reflect that Jesus is our Savior, showing the love and mercy of Jesus Christ to those around us.  What a wonderful lesson I leaned by observing the tracks of this slug!  Whatever we walk, we can leave the marks of Christians, saved by Jesus Christ.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Does my daily life leave marks that point to Christ?

PRAYER: O God, help us show those around us that we are Christians by sharing your love with the world.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE AFRAID TO BE IDENTIFIED WITH JESUS

Patience Friday, Apr 24 2015 

Psalm 27:1-14 (NRSV)

1 The LORD is my light1 and my salvation2— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold3 of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?4 2 When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh,a when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.5 3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear;6 though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.7 4 One thing8 I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,9 to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. 5 For in the day of trouble10 he will keep me safe11 in his dwelling; he will hide me12 in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.13 6 Then my head will be exalted14 above the enemies who surround me;15 at his tabernacle will I sacrifice16 with shouts of joy;17 I will sing18 and make music19 to the LORD. 7 Hear my voice20 when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me.21 8 My heart says of you, “Seek hisb face!22” Your face, LORD, I will seek. 9 Do not hide your face23 from me, do not turn your servant away in anger;24 you have been my helper.25 Do not reject me or forsake26 me, O God my Savior.27 10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me. 11 Teach me your way,28 O LORD; lead me in a straight path29 because of my oppressors.30 12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses31 rise up against me, breathing out violence. 13 I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD 32 in the land of the living.33 14 Wait34 for the LORD; be strong35 and take heart and wait for the LORD.

Psalm 27:13-14 (NRSV)

13 I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD 1 in the land of the living.2 14 Wait3 for the LORD; be strong4 and take heart and wait for the LORD.

DEVOTION -Robert Boyce (Tennessee)

After struggling for months with breathing difficulties, my mother had a serious heart attack.  Despite the care of many good physicians, the diagnosis and solution to her problems remain unclear.  As an orthopedic trauma surgeon, I like to fix broken bones and to see immediate results;  but I have learned to wait on the Lord for hope, perspective, and healing.

Whether the problem is a broken bone or malfunctioning heart and lung, we cannot always control the healing process; but the Lord is with us.  Even without clear answers, I see the goodness of the Lord in the prayers and support of family members, coworkers, and church members.

The most helpful physicians involved in my mother’s care have taken the time to answer questions and to offer encouragement in hope and faith.  They have inspired me to communicate confidence and the need to wait upon the Lord, regardless of the problem or the proposed solution.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Regardless of the problem, begin and end with faith.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, comfort those suffering from disease, especially when answers are not clear.  Give them strength to be patient and to wait upon you for answers only you can give.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: SOMEONE LIVING WITH HEART DISEASE

A Super God Thursday, Apr 23 2015 

1 Corinthians 12:27-31 (NRSV)

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues.
29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?
30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?
31 But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Genesis 1:26 (NRSV)

26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind a 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, b and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

DEVOTION -John Porte (New South Wales, Australia)

I was looking through some childhood mementos – old photographs and the like – and I remembered how in my dreamy, idle moments as a youngster I would contemplate what I would do if I had certain superpowers like some of my cosmic-book heroes.

In reality, though, we all have superpowers:  Our skin can heal when it’s been cut’ broken bones can mend; we can see color and movement, hear sounds, taste food, smell roses, and recall happy memories.  More importantly, we have the superpowers of patience, tolerance, understanding, empathy, and love.

God has given us an astounding array of skills, functions, and abilities – which all too often we take for granted.  Just like those superheroes in the comics, we can put God’s superpowers to great use with those around us every day, whether by offering physical or financial assistance, being willing to listen, or by telling someone about the God who offers these gifts to all.

I may not be able to bend steel with my bare hands as I imagined in my childhood, but I hope that I can allow God’s love to flow through me to all those I meet; to help the lost become found; to battle evil and injustice in the name of Jesus.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: How can my God-given powers benefit someone I encounter today?

PRAYER: Source of strength, we thank you for the amazing powers you have given each of us through your Holy Spirit.  Help us to use our gifts in ways that reflect your love and grace.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE WHO DOUBT THEIR OWN WORTH

The Pause That Refreshes Wednesday, Apr 22 2015 

Psalm 46:1-11 (NIV)

1 God is our refuge1 and strength,2 an ever-present3 help4 in trouble.5 2 Therefore we will not fear,6 though the earth give way7 and the mountains fall8 into the heart of the sea,9 3 though its waters roar10 and foam11 and the mountains quake12 with their surging. “Selah” 4 There is a river13 whose streams14 make glad the city of God,15 the holy place where the Most High16 dwells.17 5 God is within her,18 she will not fall;19 God will help20 her at break of day. 6 Nations21 are in uproar,22 kingdoms23 fall; he lifts his voice,24 the earth melts.25 7 The LORD Almighty26 is with us;27 the God of Jacob28 is our fortress.29 “Selah” 8 Come and see the works of the LORD,30 the desolations31 he has brought on the earth. 9 He makes wars32 cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow33 and shatters the spear, he burns the shieldsa with fire.34 10 “Be still, and know that I am God;35 I will be exalted36 among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 11 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob37 is our fortress.38 “Selah”

Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

10 “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”                            

DEVOTION –  Kay L. Campbell (Connecticut)

Selah is a word used in the Bible, chiefly in the PSalms.  While selah is a word of uncertain meaning, some have interpreted it to mean “pause, and think of that.”

Pause?  Even with my good intentions to study God’s word daily, how often do I truly pause to deeply ponder its truths?  How often do I stop to “smell the roses” in my life instead of focusing on the thorns?  How often do I sincerely enjoy what God gives to me moment by moment?

Our lives can be extremely fast-paced, demanding, and tiring.  God recognizes the need for us to refresh our souls and knows that such renewal, can only be achieved if we slow down, take a breath, and rest in God’s presence.  That means setting aside all our distractions and turning our hearts and minds toward God.

Just as sleep is necessary for our physical health, pausing to reflect on God’s goodness is required for our spiritual well being.  With God’s help, I’ll add selah to my daily practice.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God is our true source of daily refreshment.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, please help us to pause and reflect on your goodness today.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: SOMEONE UNABLE TO FIND REST

Fatherhood Tuesday, Apr 21 2015 

Matthew 1:18-24 (NIV)

18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.1

19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce2 her quietly. 
20 But after he had considered this, an angel3 of the Lord appeared to him in a dream4 and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,a5 because he will save his people from their sins.”6
22 All this took place to fulfill7 what the Lord had said through the prophet: 
23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”b8–which means, “God with us.”
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel9 of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

Ephesians 6:4 (NIV)

4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children;1 instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.2                            

DEVOTION – Wayne W. Greenawalt (Illinois)

Watching the church youth reenact the Nativity story, I developed a deeper appreciation for Joseph.  As I viewed the scene where the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph, instructing him to take Mary as his wife and name her son Jesus, I was struck by this thought:  Jesus not only needed a mother, he needed an earthly father, I had always regarded Joseph as a minor influence in the birth and life of our Lord.  Not so!  God’s infinite wisdom ordained that Joseph serve as Jesus’ earthly father.  What a significant role and an awesome responsibility!

I volunteer at a Christian ministry that serves men who are homeless and addicted.  Their past lives often reveal a common denominator; they were raised in homes where their father was either absent or abusive.  Their lives are in disarray, in part because their fathers failed them.  One of the key courses in the men’s recovery program teaches them the biblical principles of fatherhood.  The objective is that those who have children will become the fathers that God intends them to be.

Every child deserves a godly father.  If Jesus, God’s son, needed an earthly father to provide nurture and give guidance, how much more so we?

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Today I will give thanks for the godly father figures in my life.

PRAYER: Compassionate God, we pray for fathers everywhere.  Help them to see the importance of setting a godly example for their children to follow.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: CHILDREN OF ABUSIVE FATHERS

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