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Daily Christian Devotional

Discussion in 'Christianity DIR' started by Green Gaia, Aug 15, 2004.

  1. Green Gaia

    Green Gaia Veteran Member

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    All of these devotionals will come from http://www.upperroom.org

    Luke 16:10-13 (NRSV)
    "Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."



    "ABOUT eight years ago I started playing the violin. Every day I have to practice scales in order to learn well the basics of playing my instrument. Eventually I want to play the music of Bach, Vivaldi, and Handel. But I can never expect to play great musical compositions unless I first build a foundation of good habits.

    Similarly, building a strong foundation in the Christian life requires that we be faithful in learning the basics of our faith. Daily prayer, Bible study, and worship are basic to our faith. So is being part of a church, where we can support and encourage others and be supported and encouraged by them. Loving our neighbors, our co-workers, and our family members and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with those who do not know it are also foundational.

    By practicing these basics we grow in the likeness of Christ and prepare ourselves to be used in greater ways for God's glory."
    Bob La Forge (New Jersey, U.S.A.)


    Prayer:
    God, help us to be faithful in the small, daily things so that we grow in our faith and allow you to use us however you see fit. Amen.
     
  2. Green Gaia

    Green Gaia Veteran Member

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    Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.

    -Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NRSV)
    SOMETIMES I take for granted the trees in our yard. The beautiful green branches provide shade, and they look lovely. This morning, however, as I looked up at one spruce tree in particular, I was amazed at how tall and straight it appears. Every year this tree endures high winds, heavy rain, snow, and both hot and freezing temperatures. The roots of this tree obviously are well nourished.

    When I look at this tree, I think about a parallel in our Christian life. We all eventually face sickness, death of loved ones, and broken relationships, along with other trials. How firmly do we stand when we're confronted with adversity? Are we mature enough in our faith and deeply rooted enough in God's word to stand against the storms, the changes, and the winters of life? Jeremiah assures us that God is able to sustain us through whatever we may face, if only we trust.

    Nancy Jane MacLellan (Ontario, Canada)


    Prayer:
    Dear heavenly Father, help us as we face our trials. Thank you for the Bible. May it nourish and sustain us always. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
     
  3. Green Gaia

    Green Gaia Veteran Member

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    Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today.

    -Hebrews 3:13 (NIV)

    I was failing. Though I was failing only one class, it was perhaps my most important class. Why? I was a senior in Bible college, and I needed credit for the class in order to graduate.

    The year before, I had felt like giving up. I had been afraid to continue, feeling that I would fall short of graduating. On this day, it seemed my fears were becoming a reality. I cried as my heart began to break.

    However, God did not leave me there. God had encouraged me to persevere and try to finish school, and God would not forsake me in my hour of great need. God sent two people my way. They prayed for me, they told me that I was important to them, and they encouraged me to press on. My heart was lifted, and God filled me with strength. Because those two caring people took the time to encourage me, I was able to pass the course and to graduate.

    Encouraging one another builds Christian community and helps us go on when we feel like giving up.

    B. J. Ward IV (Kentucky, U.S.A.)

    Prayer:
    God, help us to encourage one another, for we never know when someone is on the verge of giving up. Amen.
     
  4. Green Gaia

    Green Gaia Veteran Member

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    Genesis 12:1-9

    Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

    So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother's son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram, and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the LORD and invoked the name of the LORD. And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.


    ONE of my favorite plaques in my home shows a little girl sewing on a piece of cloth while a small black kitten sits quietly and patiently by her side. The picture is one of peace and contentment. The words accompanying the image proclaim, "Life's pattern is stitched a little at a time."

    How I love that statement, and yet how often I forget its meaning! As a busy mother of three sons, I often find myself wanting everything to be done right now. I am impatient to know God's will for my life. For people like me, Abraham is an example of faith and patience. Abram, soon to be Abraham, was 75 years old when God called him to leave Haran; but with faith and perseverance, Abraham traveled toward the Negeb.

    The Bible doesn't say that Abraham made it in one day. Scripture says that he "journeyed on by stages towards the Negeb." In my life, I want to heed the example of Abraham and remember the words on my plaque. The pattern of my life will unfold gradually as I journey by stages through the years, answering God's call day by day.

    Lenela Glass-Godwin (Alabama, U.S.A.)

    Prayer:
    O God, help us to recognize your will for our lives. Help us to be open to your leading at every moment. In Jesus' name. Amen.
     
  5. Green Gaia

    Green Gaia Veteran Member

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    We also boast of our troubles, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance brings God's approval, and [God's] approval brings hope. This hope does not disappoint us.

    -Romans 5:3-5 (TEV)
    WHILE on vacation, our family visited the Atlantic Ocean. We built a detailed sand castle at the edge of the wet sand. We had taken a few photographs when the tide began to rise. Each wave came closer to our creation until the sand castle was under siege by the rushing water. Eventually there was no sign of what we had worked so hard to build. All that we have are the memories and the photographs.

    Life can be something like that experience. Often we see what we have worked hard for or loved leave us, be taken away, or die. When this happens, it can cause us to feel lost or defeated. In those times we can find encouragement in remembering that this life with all of its joys and troubles is not the end of the story. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has prepared an everlasting home where all is at peace and the love of God reigns forever and ever. Thanks be to God!

    David L. Bridges (Tennessee, U.S.A.)


    Prayer:
    Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, for reminders of our total dependence on you. Keep us focused on eternity, and help us to make the most of the time we have. Amen.
     
  6. Green Gaia

    Green Gaia Veteran Member

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    Jeremiah 29:1-10 (NRSV)
    These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. This was after King Jeconiah, and the queen mother, the court officials, the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the artisans, and the smiths had departed from Jerusalem. The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah son of Shaphan and Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom King Zedekiah of Judah sent to Babylon to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. It said: Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the LORD.

    For thus says the LORD: Only when Babylon's seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.



    WHEN we moved from Tamil Nadu in South India to the city of Varanasi in the north, I felt sad about the poor condition of the roads there. One day I read the passage from Jeremiah above, and God spoke to me especially through the seventh verse. God led me to pray for the welfare of Varanasi and for the salvation of its people. So I gathered a few interested people, and we prayed once a week for Varanasi.

    After a few months, new roads were built in the city. When the welfare of the city improved, so did our welfare. I thanked the Lord for the roads. Wherever we live, our welfare is linked with the welfare of the people in our village or city.

    Just as our common physical welfare matters, so our spiritual welfare is linked with that of others. We are meant to be and to share the light of Christ in the world. When the number of people who receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior increases, we may be sure that our own spiritual welfare increases too.

    Daniel Sathiaraj (Hyderabad, India)


    Prayer:
    Lord, thank you for encouraging us to pray for our locality or city. Help us to be faithful to work for the physical and spiritual betterment of the people among whom we live. Amen.
     
  7. Green Gaia

    Green Gaia Veteran Member

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    Psalm 42 (NRSV)
    As a deer longs for flowing streams,
    so my soul longs for you, O God.
    My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
    When shall I come and behold
    the face of God?
    My tears have been my food
    day and night,
    while people say to me continually,
    "Where is your God?"

    These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
    how I went with the throng,
    and led them in procession to the house of God,
    with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
    a multitude keeping festival.
    Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you disquieted within me?
    Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my help and my God.

    My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember you
    from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
    from Mount Mizar.
    Deep calls to deep
    at the thunder of your cataracts;
    all your waves and your billows
    have gone over me.
    By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.

    I say to God, my rock,
    "Why have you forgotten me?
    Why must I walk about mournfully
    because the enemy oppresses me?"
    As with a deadly wound in my body,
    my adversaries taunt me,
    while they say to me continually,
    "Where is your God?"

    Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you disquieted within me?
    Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my help and my God.

    Pray without ceasing. -1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NRSV)

    SCRIPTURE encourages us to give thanks always. The apostle Paul calls us to recognize God's constant work in our lives and the many opportunities to live according to God's love and grace.

    Paul's Letter to the Galatians contains these encouraging words: "Let us not be weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Gal. 6:9). When I read this passage for the first time, I wondered how anyone could be weary or tired of doing good. Then I thought about this text from a farmer's point of view. A farmer's patience could wane when something invested in for a long time takes "forever" to bear fruit. As such dynamics can affect a farmer, so they can affect any of us.

    When I am weary in my spiritual life, I go back to the basics -- prayer and Bible study. I remember previous blessings and the appreciation from persons whose lives I've touched. And I remind myself that, like the psalmist, I will again feel God's presence and joy.

    Mark N. Buenafe (California, U.S.A.)

    Prayer:
    Dear God, help us in dry times to remember that our joy will return. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
     
  8. Green Gaia

    Green Gaia Veteran Member

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    John 20:24-29 (NRSV)
    But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."

    A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."



    IT was Friday afternoon; the weekend had begun. At work, I had been criticized for not communicating. The criticism was partly justified, and my self-esteem was below zero. I felt tired, burned out, sad, and alone; and I cried for Christ to come near and to give me strength and comfort.

    "Show yourself to me," I prayed. "I need to see you."

    When the apostle Thomas doubted that Jesus had risen from the dead, Jesus appeared to him. I wished that Jesus would touch my life in a similar way. I felt my faith withering, and my life seemed meaningless. I slept badly that night.

    The next morning I went outside and picked some flowers. They should have been dead and dry a long time earlier, but the autumn had been mild and rainy. Suddenly the sun broke through the mist, and I saw a beautiful rainbow. My heart was filled with joy, and I knew that Christ was near. The rainbow appearing at the moment I needed reassurance became a sign of God's love to humanity and to me.

    Brith Daviknes (Oslo, Norway)


    Prayer:
    Dear God, thank you for your love that never withers, even though we cannot see it all the time. Help us to see that you never fail to come near to us, on good days and bad. Amen.
     
  9. Green Gaia

    Green Gaia Veteran Member

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    Mark 11:24-25 (NRSV)
    So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

    "Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses."



    IT took me a long time to understand that God's commandments and Jesus' teachings were given to us for our own good. For many years I regarded them as burdensome rules and obligations. But I have gradually come to see that each one is a liberating gift of love, sent to us to enrich our lives and to enable us to live equitably and justly with one another.

    Take, for instance, Jesus' words in the Gospel of Mark that we should forgive those who offend us. That is a hard teaching. When someone says or does something to hurt us, we are angry. The anger feels good and righteous. To forgive is to let go of that anger.

    But the point we often miss is that forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves. The anger and sadness that can accompany unforgiveness are like poison. If left un-treated, unforgiveness can destroy us physically, spiritually, and emotionally. So Jesus says to us, in effect, "Forgive those who offend you, so you can be healthy and whole. For your own good, forgive one another."

    Dick Ryley (Pennsylvania, U.S.A.)


    Prayer:
    Gracious God, who is ever willing to forgive us, grant us a gentle spirit and a forgiving heart, that we may extend to others the mercy you show us. Amen.
     
  10. Green Gaia

    Green Gaia Veteran Member

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    1 Thessalonians 5:12-18 (NRSV)
    But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labor among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.


    AT 11:45, the call came. "Blanche has just died. Can you come?" Dressing hastily and with a fervent prayer, "Dear God, not Blanche. Please, Lord, let it not be true," my husband and I hurried to her home. We arrived just as the medics were removing Blanche's body from the house.

    Just that morning as we were leaving church, Blanche had winked, blown me a kiss, and called out that she loved me. Now, less than 12 hours later, she was dead at the age of 72.

    Blanche's greatest gifts to me had been her love and her prayers. She loved me fully and prayed for my family and me daily. Through that long night I wept for my loss, especially because I would no longer have Blanche to pray for me. Her prayers were a constant strength for me. At her funeral, her husband took me aside and said, "Blanche loved you and made me promise her something."


    "What was that?" I asked. "She made me promise to pray for you and your family - and I will."

    Kathy A. Rohloff (Vermont, U.S.A.)

    Prayer:
    Lord, teach us to pray. Help us to be faithful in our prayers so that others will be strengthened and will know your presence more powerfully. Amen.
     
  11. Green Gaia

    Green Gaia Veteran Member

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    Forgive Yourself

    Read Ezekiel 36:24-30

    I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleannesses, and I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the produce of the field abundant, so that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations.



    DURING a misunderstanding with a fellow worker, I spoke in haste, my voice rising. Immediately, my conscience convicted me, and I felt remorse as I walked away. In shame and embarrassment, I hurried back to her. "Please forgive me," I pleaded through my tears.

    "I forgive you," she replied softly.

    Thankful for her forgiveness, I retreated to my office, but I couldn't shake what I had done. How could I have done that? I asked myself. What kind of person am I? Dear Lord, I am so sorry I talked to her like that! I punished myself the rest of the week. Then on Sunday morning, the pastor's words shook me into reality: "Not only must we ask forgiveness; we must accept forgiveness ourselves. We are all sinners, saved by grace."

    My friend had forgiven me, and God had forgiven me. "Now I forgive me too," I said aloud. That statement liberated me. Confessing my sin and making a new start gives me determination to speak softly and turn away wrath (Prov. 15:1) the next time I have a misunderstanding. Knowing that God forgives me and "will remember [my] sins no more" (Jer. 31:34) enables me to forgive myself and move on with my life.

    Joan Clayton (New Mexico, U.S.A.)


    Prayer:
    Dear Lord, forgive us for wrong words spoken. Help us to forgive those who have hurt us and to forgive ourselves. Amen.
     
  12. Green Gaia

    Green Gaia Veteran Member

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    God's Presence

    Read Luke 12:4-7

    "I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God's sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows."

    IT all happened fast. Within a month, a series of medical tests showed that I had to have my cancerous prostate removed. I had always been scared of medical procedures, so a week before the operation I looked for something in the Bible to remove my fear and to give me strength. I decided to open the Bible randomly and read whatever verse my eyes fell on first. That verse turned out to be Deuteronomy 31:6. Those words kept me calm and strong throughout the days before and after my operation.

    When we are faced with life-threatening situations, we often forget that God is with us through it all. When we look back on our lives, we may recall occasions when we were in great despair, only to sense God's closeness and remember God's promise never to leave us or forsake us. Matthew 10:29-30 reminds us that if God cares even for sparrows that fall to the ground, surely we do not have to fear because we are more valuable than many sparrows!

    Edward A. Baryeh (Ashanti, Ghana)


    Prayer:
    Dear God, give us the faith to trust that the battle is yours and not ours. Help us in times of fear to trust that you are always with us. Amen.
     
  13. CocaColaKid

    CocaColaKid Member

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    Loved that one I think I use in my bible leason
     
  14. Dadball

    Dadball Member

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    A REFOCUSED LIFE

    _________________________

    Mark 4:1-20 (NRSV)

    Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold." And he said, "Let anyone with ears to hear listen!"

    When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that



    'they may indeed look, but not perceive,

    and may indeed listen, but not understand;

    so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.'"

    And he said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold."

    _________________________

    Happy are those who reject the advice of evil people, who do not follow the example of sinners or join those who have no use for God. Instead, they find joy in obeying the Law of the LORD, and they study it day and night.

    - Psalm 1:1-2 (TEV)

    _________________________



    MUCH too often I find myself feeling overwhelmed by my daily responsibilities. The demands of my job, the needs of my family and friends, even doing household chores can leave me exhausted.

    Not long ago I found an old copy of THE UPPER ROOM and decided to get up an hour earlier every morning to make time for devotions. As the days went by, I began to relax and feel less pressured. My family, friends, and co-workers noticed a difference in me also.

    Jesus said, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" (Luke 12:25, NIV). By refocusing my life on Christ, I find that my worries are no longer consuming me. No longer am I like the seed that Jesus talked about in the parable, a seed that grew and was choked out by thorns. Now the Lord is helping me to grow in good soil and teaching me that the way I lead my life can not only bring me peace but can also bring others to Christ.

    Prayer: Dear God, thank you for your most precious gift, your son. Help us to slow down and make time with Christ a part of our daily lives. Amen.
     
  15. Dadball

    Dadball Member

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    FROM PLACE TO PLACE

    _________________________

    2 Corinthians 2:12-17 (NRSV)

    When I came to Troas to proclaim the good news of Christ, a door was opened for me in the Lord; but my mind could not rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said farewell to them and went on to Macedonia.

    But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not peddlers of God's word like so many; but in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence.

    _________________________

    Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him.

    - 2 Corinthians 2:14 (NRSV)

    _________________________



    GOD calls each one of us into service. Each one of us has been given special gifts and a task to fulfill in life. As I set out to find the calling that God had for me, I felt weak and inadequate for the task. But I soon discovered that it is Christ who gives us the victory; Christ gives us the strength and the power that we need. It is only in Christ and through him that we are enabled to carry out God's will and serve the world.

    The apostle Paul traveled from place to place, preaching the gospel wherever he went. Sometimes he met with opposition and even persecution, but he triumphed in Christ. Paul said that believers are like a sweet-smelling perfume to those who are being saved, bringing life and hope through the good news of Jesus Christ. We are called to spread this good news, to tell others about Christ's life, death, and resurrection. Our task is to be messengers of our risen Lord.

    Prayer: In our weakness, O God, make us strong so that we can have victory through your strength. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

     
  16. Dadball

    Dadball Member

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    A REASSURING HAND

    _________________________

    John 1:1-14 (NRSV)

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

    There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

    He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

    And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.

    _________________________

    The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

    - John 1:9 (NRSV)

    _________________________



    WHEN I was a little boy I lived in a rural area of Tennessee. One day my uncle and I went to see some friends in another valley. I remember traveling on foot across a logging trail for two or three miles before we got there. While my uncle visited with friends, I played with the children in the family.

    By the time we left for home, it was almost dark. When we reached the logging trail, it was completely dark. I began to stumble over roots and stones in the trail because I could not see the trail. My uncle told me to look up and I could see the sky through the branches overhead. When I did that, however, I could not watch for the rocks and roots in the trail. Finally, he took my hand and reassured me that we would make it home safely. It was a frightening experience.

    Reflecting on that walk with my uncle reminds me that in our frightening experiences, we can always look to God for help and assistance. When we are not able to see clearly the way ahead, God knows where we are and how to get us home. Just as my uncle held my hand and helped me when I stumbled, God holds us with a strong and careful grip. No matter how rocky the road, God will help us find a way home.

    Prayer: Thank you, O God, for the assurance that we are never alone or lost because you hold us by the hand. Amen.

    THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:

    In a dark and fearsome world, God walks with us and holds our hand.

    -- William R. Gentry (Tennessee, U.S.A.

     
  17. Dadball

    Dadball Member

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    OVERCOMING OBSESSIONS

    _________________________

    Luke 12:13-31 (NRSV)

    Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me." But he said to him, "Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?" And he said to them, "Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions." Then he told them a parable: "The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, 'What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?' Then he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God."

    He said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 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. 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! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well."

    _________________________

    Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.

    - Luke 12:15 (NRSV)

    _________________________



    PEOPLE who are collectors can become obsessive. No matter how much they have, it is never quite enough.

    I collect children's dishes. I stopped counting after I had 200 sets. No matter how many I had, there was always one more that I wanted. My appetite was insatiable; I was as obsessive as an alcoholic, a drug addict, an overeater, or a gambler.

    As my collection increased, the prices escalated. Soon I was spending more money than we could comfortably afford.

    One day, in my daily devotions, Luke 12:15 jumped out at me. I realized that I had become a slave to my possessions and that I needed to rethink my priorities. I prayed for strength to overcome my problem.

    As with any addiction, I had to detach myself from temptation, so I stopped visiting antique shops and internet on-line auctions. When I was tempted, I asked myself, Will this satisfy me, or will I want more? Only by prayer have I been able to find the self-restraint to overcome this problem.

    Prayer: Dear God, help us to set priorities, and strengthen us to resist temptation. Amen.

    THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:

    God offers us freedom from all our obsessions.

    -- Arleen Whittaker (Kansas, U.S.A.)

    PRAYER FOCUS: Those who are controlled by their possessions

     
  18. Dadball

    Dadball Member

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    "Look how far you have fallen from your first love! Turn back to me again and work as you did at first."
    Revelation 2:5

    Do you remember when you first fell in love with your spouse? Remember how you wanted to make such a great impression? You would wear your best clothes, put your best foot forward, and use your best manners. Wherever you went, people could see you holding hands and looking into one another's eyes. Then there were those little gifts you would give to each other throughout the week, just to let each other know how much you loved one another.

    What brought you and your spouse together was your desire for companionship, for intimacy, for honesty. But when a husband and wife begin to take each other for granted, that marriage becomes endangered. A marriage is strong because you make it that way. Romance is kept alive by a conscious effort on your part. Romance is not something that comes and goes. It is something that you keep alive as you take part in the necessary activities to keep your marriage strong and vibrant.

    A Christian's relationship with God is similar. This romance that we have with the Lord is more than mere emotionalism. Our relationship with God involves continuing to take part in the right things that will keep us strong spiritually.

    Are you taking the Lord for granted today? If so, take the necessary steps to return to your first love—your love for Jesus Christ.
     
  19. Dadball

    Dadball Member

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    SPECIAL SHOES

    _________________________

    1 Timothy 4:11-16 (NRSV)

    These are the things you must insist on and teach. Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhorting, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.

    _________________________

    Be imitators of God, as beloved children.

    - Ephesians 5:1 (NRSV)

    _________________________



    WHEN my youngest daughter was a few months old, I purchased her first pair of shoes. When my wife and I tried to put the shoes on the baby, we noticed that her feet were slightly turned. The orthopedic doctor recommended special boots to correct the situation. In the following years, even though the corrective shoes were for my daughter's benefit and well-being, she did not feel comfortable wearing them because she saw her sister and her friends wearing regular shoes.

    I prayed for God's help in communicating to my daughter the importance of wearing the special shoes for as long as the doctor indicated. God placed in my heart the following thought: "The teacher is the role model for the student." I purchased some military boots for myself. I told my daughter that her sister wore shoes like her mother's and that she wore boots like mine. I wore the boots as often as possible, and my daughter never hesitated to wear hers.

    Similarly, in the spiritual realm, we can help those near us to live a life of faith by acting according to God's ways.

    Prayer: Lord, help us to be good role models for those around us. Amen.

    THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:

    Our actions speak louder than our words.

    -- Sammy Pillot Leoteau (Humacao, Puerto Rico)

    PRAYER FOCUS: Children with physical disabilities

     
  20. Dadball

    Dadball Member

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    FEEDING ON GOD'S LOVE

    _________________________

    Luke 7:36-50 (NRSV)

    One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him--that she is a sinner." Jesus spoke up and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." "Teacher," he replied, "speak." "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt." And Jesus said to him, "You have judged rightly." Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

    _________________________

    We love because [God] first loved us.

    - 1 John 4:19 (NIV)

    _________________________



    USUALLY when we sit down to a thanksgiving meal we are thankful for the feast in front of us. This is especially true for prison inmates because we think (and talk) about food a lot. However, yesterday when I sat down to eat, a sense of unworthiness hit me. Here I am in prison for murder, yet I have a tray overflowing with food while many innocent people around the world are starving. Overwhelmed by guilt and shame, I was tempted to push the tray away. However, the person next to me spoke with a bright smile, saying, "Isn't this meal awesome? The kitchen workers must have gone to a lot of trouble."

    I looked down at the food with new eyes. This food was prepared not because of anything I am but because it delighted the cook to do it. This is how God loves me, I thought as I feasted on turkey, potatoes, fresh baked bread, stuffing, gravy, and dessert. At that meal I became truly aware of and grateful for the lavish generosity of God's undeserved grace.

    Prayer: Thank you, Father, for loving us long before we knew you. Thank you for the huge portions of forgiveness and grace you give us every day. Thank you for feeding us so extravagantly with your word. Amen.

    THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:

    Each day we feed on God's generosity.

    -- Elizabeth R. Haysom (Virginia, U.S.A.)

    PRAYER FOCUS: Cooks and their assistants

     
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