The Great Physician Sunday, May 31 2015 

James 1:19-25 (NIV)

19 My dear brothers,1 take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak2 and slow to become angry, 

20 for man’s anger3 does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. 

21 Therefore, get rid of4 all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you,5 which can save you. 
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.6 
23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror
24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom,7 and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does.8

Matthew 14:29 (NIV)

9 The heart1 is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?                            

DEVOTION – Tom Fuller (Oregon)

Recently a friend of mine went to the doctor for some tests.  My friend said, I was on deck for a major heart attack.”  The doctor told him that 90% of one of his arteries was closed and another was completely blocked.  Fortunately, the doctor was able to clear the blockage without surgery.  My friend had thought his heart was okay, but it had desperately sick.

In the scripture verse above, Jeremiah wasn’t talking about the physical heart, of course, but our souls, our character – the way we go about satisfying our needs, wants, and desires.  The prophet says that our own souls deceive us.  Something’s wrong, and we don’t know it.

In contrast, Jesus’ character was perfect.  Any time we do, think, or say something that Jesus would not do, think, or say, it is like plaque building up in an arterial wall.  To help restore our hearts to spiritual health, we can see how Jesus acts as recorded in the Gospels.  Watching Jesus, then looking at our behavior, is like a good self-examination.  As we see how our thoughts and actions differ from those of Jesus, we can ask God in prayer to help us act the way Jesus did – loving God ask the time and loving others as ourselves.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God can heal my brokenness.

PRAYER: Dear God, heal the parts of our heats that we don’t realize are damaged.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: CARDIC PATIENTS

Depending On Each Other Saturday, May 30 2015 

Ephesians 4:11-16 (NIV)

11 It was he who gave1 some to be apostles,2 some to be prophets,3 some to be evangelists,4 and some to be pastors and teachers,5

12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ6 may be built up7 

13 until we all reach unity8 in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God9 and become mature,10 attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.11 
14 Then we will no longer be infants,12 tossed back and forth by the waves,13 and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.14 
15 Instead, speaking the truth in love,15 we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head,16 that is, Christ. 
16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows17 and builds itself up18 in love,19 as each part does its work.

Mark 9:24 (NIV)

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief !”                            

DEVOTION- Suzanne Dyer (California)

I used to think that faith has a static quality, that a person possesses either all or none of it.  But through the years I have learned that faith can waver.  When our faith is strong, it is important to show our faith through our actions and in our words.  Because of our faith, others can claim the courage to believe when belief seems impossible.  They can be made strong again because they can, in their doubt, trust in our faith.

When our faith is weak or when we question or doubt, we can rely on the faith of those around us.  In times of struggle and transition, I always know my friends are praying for me.  Despite their own afflictions, they have the faith to rally for me.  In their devotion and steadfastness, I see God working through them.

It is okay to cling to the faith of others.  God’s church was designed to be a community of interdependent believers.  Abiding faith will draw the seekers and sustain the doubters.  When our faith is strong, we can reach out in Christian  concern for those around us; even amid a world of doubt, we can reassure others that faith abides.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Believers are an interdependent community.

PRAYER: Dear God, remind us to share our living and active faith with others when our faith wavers.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: SOMEONE WHOSE FAITH IS WAVERING

Spring Scents Friday, May 29 2015 

Psalm 19:7-11 (NIV)

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple;

8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV)

26 I will give you a new heart1 and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone2 and give you a heart of flesh.3                            

DEVOTION – Meg Mangan (New South Wales, Australia)

Our garden was created in part to showcase the amazing scents of spring.  It includes violets, lavender, diosma, freesias, and lilac.  This spring, I could see the beauty of these lovely plants and hear the bees busily at work, but I couldn’t enjoy the heady scents of the plants.  As a lingering effect of a particularly difficult bout with bronchitis my sense of smell was compromised.  I felt cut off from fully enjoying this season I love.

The situation made me think about my spiritual life.  At times I feel totally “I tune” with God, and life seems fulfilling and complete.  But at other times I feel more distant from God – as though I am going through the motions rather than being fully alive to God.  That’s when life seems frustrating or dissatisfying.  It’s not that God has moved away from me; it’s that I’ve allowed other things to get in the way of my relationship with God.

When any of us experience such a time and then turn back to God, we don’t need to worry about being given the cold shoulder.  Instead, God is there, with open arms, to welcome us back.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Am I filling my life with God – or something else?

PRAYER: Loving Father, help us to become ever more responsive to you.  May our lives be filled with you – your love – your Spirit, and your goodness. Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: PEOPLE WHO FEEL SEPARATED FROM GOD

Secret Things Thursday, May 28 2015 

Deuteronomy 29:2-6, 29 (NRSV)

2 Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 3 the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders. 4 But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind to understand, or eyes to see, or ears to hear. 5 I have led you forty years in the wilderness. The clothes on your back have not worn out, and the sandals on your feet have not worn out; 6 you have not eaten bread, and you have not drunk wine or strong drink—so that you may know that I am the Lord your God.                            

29 The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things belong to us and to our children forever, to observe all the words of this law.

Deuteronomy 29:29 (NRSV)

29 The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things belong to us and to our children forever, to observe all the words of this law.

DEVOTION – David Fillingim (North Carolina)

When I went away to college, I discovered many new ideas.  As a very earnest young Christian, I struggled to reconcile the new things I was learning – especially in philosophy and religion classes – with the simple doctrines and slogans I had been taught in church.  When I questioned my minister about my struggles, his advice was that I should just avoid thinking about such things.

My grandmother lived with us, and one day when I was home between school terms, her pastor came to visit.  He asked how school was going.  I said, “Fine.”  But he must have sensed something in my voice because he dug deeper and engaged me in real conversation about my questions and struggles.  Finally, he quoted to me the words of Deuteronomy 29:29.

The words of this verse spoke to me deeply and suggested to me that it is okay not to know everything.  Some things are “secret things,” things that will always remain a mystery.  It is good to question, to explore new ideas, to expand our minds as far as we can.  But some questions will never be settled with a final answer.  No matter how smart we are or how educated we become, we will reach a point where intellect can take us no further.  At that point, we can rely on faith, hope, and love to carry us the rest of the way.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God’s majesty is beyond human understanding.

PRAYER: Dear God, grant us wisdom as we explore the mysteries of your universe, and help us to be faithful in following you.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: CHRISTIAN SCHOLARS

A Simple Question Wednesday, May 27 2015 

2 Kings 22:11 – 23:3 (KJV)

11 And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes. 12 And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the scribe , and Asahiah a servant of the king’s, saying , 13 Go ye, enquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found : for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us. 14 So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college;) and they communed with her. 15 And she said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me, 16 Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read : 17 Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched . 18 But to the king of Judah which sent you to enquire of the LORD, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, As touching the words which thou hast heard ; 19 Because thine heart was tender , and thou hast humbled thyself before the LORD, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee, saith the LORD. 20 Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place. And they brought the king word again .     

1 And the king sent , and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem. 2 And the king went up into the house of the LORD, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the LORD. 3 And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant.                        

Exodus 20:7 (KJV)

7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.                            

DEVOTION – Ginger Robinson (Texas)

“Ginger, do you love God?” my friend Sherry asked.  “Well yes!  You know I do.”  I was shocked by this question.  Sherry walked with me every day on our breaks, and we talked about our faith and life in general.  We came to know a lot about each other, or at least I thought we did – until I heard this question.  We had talked about the changes we had been through and how God had delivered each of us.

“then why do you constantly take God’s name in vain?”  Just like that, she had let the wind out of my sails.  I accepted the loving admonishment and made a change that very day.  I wasn’t raised to disrespect God in any way, big or small.

King Josiah also knew he needed to make a change.  When a book of the law was found, he had it interpreted by the prophetess Huldah.  The interpretation let him and the people know that they had abandoned God and that God was angry.

Just like Josiah, I began a new relationship with God.  I thanked Sherry that day for pointing out something that I had been too careless or blind to see.  I’ll never forget how much love she showed for me and for God with one simple question.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: How do my words express my love for God?

PRAYER: Dear God, you know our hearts and that our desire is to be close to you.  Correct us when we wander from your path.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: SPIRITUAL FRIENDS

Midday Peace Tuesday, May 26 2015 

Psalm 23:1-3 (NRSV)

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; a 
3 he restores my soul. b He leads me in right paths c for his name’s sake.

Matthew 14:23 (NRSV)

23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,                            

DEVOTION – Sue Fairchild (Pennsylvania)

When I switched jobs a few years ago, I started taking my lunch hour at a local park.  Even in the winter months, I try to make at least one loop around the park I order to breathe in the fresh air and to be in God’s presence.  Time away from office noise, stress and artificial light allows me to focus my mind so that I can tackle the afternoon with renewed sense of energy.

Jesus took time for himself as well.  Even with all demands from the people who surrounded him, Jesus took time alone to speak to his Father.  He used the time – surrounded by nature and away from his disciples and the crowds – to cry out, to be vulnerable, and to find the strength to move on.  If Jesus needed a moment for prayer and meditation, surely we do too.

Psalm 23 tells us that God leads us to quiet pastures and still waters to refresh our souls.  My daily walks have helped me to see what God has provided for me in the trees, water, wind, and serene outdoors.  My lunchtime walks help me maintain a peaceful attitude and renew my faith.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Taking time away brings us closer to God.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, thank you for giving us time to enjoy the natural world and to find peace with you.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: PEOPLE WITH BUSY LIVES

“She’s Pretty” Monday, May 25 2015 

Galatians 3:26-29 (NIV)

26 You are all sons of God1 through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ2 have clothed yourselves with Christ.3 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free,4 male nor female,5 for you are all one in Christ Jesus.6 29 If you belong to Christ,7 then you are Abraham’s seed,8 and heirs9 according to the promise.10

Mark 10:15 (NIV)

15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”1                            

DEVOTION – Jeff Abram (Florida)

When my son began second grade, he was assigned to a teacher of a different race than ours.  After he had been in class for a few days, I asked him what he thought of his teacher; he simply told me that she was nice.  Deciding to delve into tis little further, I asked him what she looked like.  He didn’t answer by telling me her race; he didn’t even tell me if she was tall or short, thin or heavy, blond or brunette.  All he said was, “She’s pretty.”

From that conversation, it was apparent to e that my son showed no prejudice, and I became more aware of my own prejudices.  Prejudice is learned over time, and I began to pray that my son would not learn it from me.

Nearly 40 years have passed since that day.  My son now has a successful career with a multinational corporation and deals with people of different races and cultures every day.  I am proud of him.  In asking for God’s help in raising my son, not only did God help me to overcome much of my own prejudice; but also I learned what the Lord meant when he talked about receiving the kingdom of God like a little child.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: God blesses those who seek the kingdom of heaven like a child.

PRAYER: Dear God, help us to see all people as your children, focusing on the content of their character, and cherishing our differences.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: PEOPLE WORKING TO OVERCOME RACIAL PREJUDICES

What Is Right Sunday, May 24 2015 

2 Kings 18:1-16 (NIV)

1 In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, Hezekiah1 son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign.

2 He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years.2 His mother’s name was Abijaha daughter of Zechariah.

3 He did what was right3 in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father David4 had done.

 4 He removed5 the high places,6 smashed the sacred stones7 and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake8 Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was calledb Nehushtan.c )

5 Hezekiah trusted9 in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.

6 He held fast10 to the LORD and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the LORD had given Moses.

7 And the LORD was with him; he was successful11 in whatever he undertook. He rebelled12 against the king of Assyria and did not serve him.

8 From watchtower to fortified city,13 he defeated the Philistines, as far as Gaza and its territory.

9 In King Hezekiah’s fourth year,14 which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, Shalmaneser king of Assyria marched against Samaria and laid siege to it.

10 At the end of three years the Assyrians took it. So Samaria was captured in Hezekiah’s sixth year, which was the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel.
11 The king15 of Assyria deported Israel to Assyria and settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in towns of the Medes.16

12 This happened because they had not obeyed the LORD their God, but had violated his covenant17–all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded.18 They neither listened to the commands19 nor carried them out. 

13 In the fourteenth year20 of King Hezekiah’s reign, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah21 and captured them.

14 So Hezekiah king of Judah sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish:22 “I have done wrong.23 Withdraw from me, and I will pay whatever you demand of me.” The king of Assyria exacted from Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talentsd of silver and thirty talentse of gold.

15 So Hezekiah gave24 him all the silver that was found in the temple of the LORD and in the treasuries of the royal palace.

16 At this time Hezekiah king of Judah stripped off the gold with which he had covered the doors25 and doorposts of the temple of the LORD, and gave it to the king of Assyria.

2 Kings 20:3 (NIV)

3 “Remember,1 O LORD, how I have walked2 before you faithfully3 and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.                            

DEVOTION – Holly Dickson-Ramos (Ontario, Canada)

in the Old Testament, people’s lives are repeatedly classified in one of two ways, as a sort of scriptural eulogy: either “he did evil in the eyes of the Lord” or “he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.”

I rarely consider my life in such simple terms.  Media messages entice me to dwell on how nice I look as I age, the type of décor in my home, and what I do for a living.  It is easy to forget that – in light of eternity – obedience to God is much more important than such trivialities.

It can be tempting to ignore God’s standard of selfless love, but all those life summaries I the Old Testament remind me that my choices need to be anchored to something bigger than my shifting emotions.  My choices should revolve around God and what pleases God.  When God reflects on the sum of my life – who I was and what I did – I want to hear, “She did what is good in the eyes of the Lord.”

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:Today I can choose to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.

PRAYER: Help us, O God, to love you with all or hearts and with all our souls and with all our strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: SOMEONE FACINGA SERIOUS CHOICE

Follow Me Saturday, May 23 2015 

1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1 (NIV)

31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved.                            

1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV)

1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

DEVOTION – Mary Ziober (Louisiana)

“Follow me,”  I instructed my son-in-law.  We were headed in separate cars to a restaurant in a part of town he did not know.  As I started down the road, I felt the responsibility to drive slowly. As we made the necessary turns, I was careful to signal well in advance.  I kept a close eye on him in my rearview mirror to confirm that he was following me and did not get off course.  In the end, we all arrived at the restaurant for an enjoyable lunch together.

That day, it occurred to me that believers are changed with the task of being an example for others to follow, leading them to Christ.  As we find ourselves at the market, at work, or at school, our actions are being viewed and evaluated by others.  As we direct our lives toward heaven, we can bring others wit us by living a life that models the life of Jesus Christ.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: If someone’s going to follow me, I want to lead that person to Christ.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, remid us that the actions of our lives show others the way to our destination.  May our actions always direct  them to Christ and his eternal glory in heaven.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: TRAVELERS

Love Tracks Friday, May 22 2015 

2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (NRSV)

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; a even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, b we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, c not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

James 1:17 (NRSV)

17 Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

DEVOTION – Shannon Hale (Missouri)

Our town was buried by a record snowfall.  Walking outside, I noticed the tracks of animals of many different kinds, even animals I had never seen in my neighborhood before.

I was reminded of a time when the heaviness of life, like that snowfall, had hit me with full force.  Alone in a hospital waiting room, I learned that my mother’s exploratory surgery had revealed terminal cancer.  As the surgeon left me, a friend from church peeked around the corner and said, “Just thought I would check in on you.”  My stunned silence turned to sobbing as I collapsed into her arms.

My friend’s presence right then was just the gift I needed.  But how many times had I taken such a simple kindness for granted?  Are acts of love, like silent tracks of creatures on my snowy walk, treasured only when the bleakness of life makes them obvious?

A review of my day so far reminds me that evidences of God’s love are all around me: a kiss on the check from my husband, an “I love you, Mom” note from my son, the laughter of neighbors chatting at the mailbox.  Even though the snow I melting, I can choose to treasure the “love tracks” in my life today and every day.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Today, I will leave love tracks in the lives of those near me.

PRAYER: God of all comfort, remind us each day to notice the tracks of love and care you have left in our lives.  May we never take for granted the special people you place on our path.  Amen.

PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE FACING A TERMINAL ILLNESS

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