Friday, December 11, 2009

Widows and Orphans

Read James 1:22-27

What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.
-James 1:27 (TEV)

WHILE I was in foster care, in the home of a minister, my friends taunted me, saying that my mom would never return to get me. But they were wrong. She came for me after proving she could be a responsible adult by holding down a job and securing living quarters for her children.

As I was getting ready to leave his home, the minister spoke to my mom in private. I later found out that he had saved all the money he had received for my foster care. He gave it to my mom to help her get a fresh start. My foster dad was living out the truth of the scripture verse above.

But that verse from James goes much deeper in its meaning. An orphan is someone who has no living biological parents, but in a sense we are all spiritual orphans until we recognize God as our father. If we are to live "pure and genuine religion," we must care for spiritual orphans by guiding them to relationship with our Father in heaven. My foster dad surely did, and my mom and I are living proof of the power of God to redeem broken lives through those who obey God's word in scripture.

by Sandra Kay Ramirez (Ohio, USA)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Christmas Joy

Read Mark 12:41-44

[Jesus] called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury."
-Mark 12:43 (NRSV)

FOR many years I have been helping the Salvation Army by operating one of their kettle stations and ringing a little hand bell in front of a local grocery store. Some days the winter cold makes the bell ringing challenging and unpleasant, but the faces of the coin droppers make it all worthwhile. Last Christmas season, a dear elderly woman stood near the kettle searching a long time in her purse for some coins. She appeared as if she were the one who needed financial help. Finally, she beamed with success as she deposited her rather meager offering. But as Jesus noted in his story of the widow and her penny, it was the sacrificial giving from the heart that mattered.

Often during my Salvation Army bell-ringing experience, I noticed that the people who gave the most often were ones who seemed to be the poorest, and their beaming countenance reflected their joy in giving. But the ones I remember the most are the children who deposited coins given to them by a parent. When they heard the words "Merry Christmas" they flashed wonderful smiles. Yes, giving -- however small the amount -- can bring us a bright face and a soaring spirit.

by Jack Ballard (Colorado, USA)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Checking the Fence

Read Psalm 119:97-106

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living.
-2 Timothy 3:16 (TEV)

MANY mornings on my way to work, I see two ranchers carefully checking their fence that borders a busy road. They make sure the posts are secure and the wire is intact to keep their cattle safe from the dangers of the road and from wandering onto property that doesn't belong to the ranchers. Their diligence is necessary, since many times I see cattle leaning over the wire trying to snatch a mouthful of grass or to satisfy their curiosity. Without that fence, the cattle would wander.

In many ways, God's word is like that fence. The Bible tells me how to set safe boundaries in my life to keep me from the dangers of sinful actions and bad decisions. Whatever the day brings, God's word offers me the answers I need for living that day. But, like the ranchers, I need to "check my fence" daily. Some days I don't want to hear from God's word because I'm "leaning on the wire" trying to go my own way. But daily Bible reading keeps my spiritual fence in good repair and helps me remain in God's safe pasture.

by Laurinda Wallace (Arizona, USA)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Painting God

Read 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
-Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)

MY grandmother is a talented artist. She has twelve grandchildren, and we all had our turn in her studio to see if we inherited her gift. I soon realized that my talents lie elsewhere. As hard as I tried, I could never make my painting look real, as Grandma's did. My attempts at art looked more like cartoons. She told me that I should pay attention to what I was seeing and draw that, not what I thought my subject should look like. Although I never caught on to painting, Grandma did teach me a lesson about God.

I spent many years "painting" God as I thought God should be. Because I could not understand some things about God, I made up my own image. Like my paintings, the end result was pretty pathetic. And when times got hard for me, my hope crumbled. But my grandmother's advice has helped me in my Christian walk. It has helped me let go of what I think God should look like and look to the Bible to see what God is really like.

by Sarah Negroni (Louisiana, USA)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

God will strengthen us

Read Nehemiah 2:17-20 and 6:9, 15-16

The gracious hand of my God [was] upon me.
-Nehemiah 2:18 (NIV)

I kept fretting over the persistent pain in my hands. Housework, weeding the garden, and even helping my children dress caused my hands to scream in protest. When I tried to spend time with God, I found myself thinking about the pain instead.

At the time, I was reading the book of Nehemiah. This man who loved God was striving to rebuild the wall around God's city, Jerusalem. Nehemiah rallied hundreds to help. Throughout the massive project, Nehemiah prayed and then depended on God for success. Amazingly, in just 52 days the new wall was completed. Everyone knew it was a work of God.

During the rebuilding process, enemies of Israel threatened and taunted God's people, trying to intimidate the workers. These enemies cast doubt by shouting, "Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed." Nehemiah wasn't distracted by their attempts at intimidation. Instead he prayed, "Now strengthen my hands" (Neh. 6:9).

As I read Nehemiah's prayer, I realized my focus was badly misplaced. Pain had distracted me from praying, but Nehemiah's life reminded me to pray despite obstacles. I adjusted my focus. Depending on God, I chose to watch for God's power in my life.

by Linda Walstrom (Illinois, USA)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Joyful Testimony

Read John 4:1-39

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in [Jesus] because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I ever did."
-John 4:39 (NIV)

SOMETIMES I hesitate to talk about God with those around me. Feeling inadequate, I wonder how I can explain that Jesus is alive and loves us deeply. Arguing will not persuade them of the truth. Today's reading showed me how one woman successfully shared the good news about Jesus.

Quite simply, the woman at the well could not hide her excitement. "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did," she exclaimed, eager for others to get to know him, too. Instead of a clever argument, she enthusiastically described her meeting with the Savior, making him real to those who listened. Because of that woman's testimony, many Samaritans in her town believed in Jesus.

So when I struggle to find the right words, I think of the Samaritan woman and remind myself that I can simply explain that God knows all about me -- the good and the bad -- and still loves and accepts me. Why would I make sharing the gospel more complicated than this? No amount of clever arguments will win hearts as much as will our communicating the joy of knowing God -- and the joy of God's knowing all about us and loving us anyway.

Emma J. Peterson (Buckinghamshire, England)

A Lost Sheep

Read Luke 15:1-7

The Lord says, "I will come to you and save you."
-Jeremiah 30:11 (TEV)

AT one point in my life, my faith began to falter. I had abandoned my God and the strong faith I'd had since childhood. I was no longer wearing my cross, the symbol that constantly reminded me of Jesus' sacrifice. I had even removed all religious pictures from my walls. I'd had enough of religious dogma. I had not prayed for many days, and I felt lost. Eventually, when I could not bear my situation any longer, I turned to God for help.

I took the Bible from my bookshelf and held it in my hands, uttering desperately, "If there is a God, please help me. Maybe there is something you would like to tell me, Lord." Then I opened my Bible and read these words: "I am the Lord who created you; from the time you were born, I have helped you. Do not be afraid" (Isa. 44:2).

My eyes filled with tears. I clearly felt the strong presence of God's living Spirit coming that afternoon to guide me, a lost sheep.

Einar Ingvi Magnusson (Bratislava, Slovakia)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Blessed by Beauty

Read Psalm 104:1-24

The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof.
-Psalm 24:1 (KJV)

I live in the beautiful city of Cape Town in South Africa. On my way home from dropping my children at school, I often go into a botanical garden situated on the slopes of Table Mountain. I spend half an hour walking, communing with God, before I start my day's work.

As I walk, I feel exhilarated by the fresh air, the sun on my face, and the rhythm of my body as I move. I am immersed in a feast for the senses: the glint of sunlight on water, the flash of red as a sunbird darts across my path, the rich scent of plants, and the calls of birds that fill the air. Towering against the brilliant blue of the sky is Table Mountain with its white tablecloth of cloud.

I walk nearly every day. If it's raining, I enjoy feeling the rain on my face, knowing that in our dry climate, water is life. I always return home feeling refreshed. My body is energized by the walk, my spirits are lifted, my hope is revived, and my heart rejoices in the beauty of the world God has given us. I am thankful for those who work to maintain this beautiful place and for the way God feeds my spirit through it. I am thankful for this and for all the ways God speaks to me.

by Sally Argent (Cape Town, South Africa)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Submit to Legitimate Human Authority

1Peter 2:13,14 Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

The practice of submission to human authority is a good thing, given that it is with regards to legitimate human authority acting within their legitimate realm of authority. In fact in Peter's time Christians had to disobey authority. For there came a time when the Emperor required Christians to worship him, which was not his God-given right to command. For all human authority has only a limited realm of authority outside of which they are not legimate authority, such as if they were to command people to sin. However if one steps outside of their legitimate realm of authority, such as the Emperor demanding worship, that does not mean they are no longer to be reckoned legitimate authority figures within their legitimate realm of authority. Daniel was an excellent example of one who practiced this type of submission.

Likewise Paul writes on this subject saying, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience." Rom 13:1-5

And he says, "I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man." Acts 24:16 Part of having a clear conscience is submitting to legitimate human authority.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Crave the Milk of the Word

1Peter 2:2,3 Like newborn babies, crave the pure milk of the Word, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Those who have been saved have an inherent craving for the Word. Thus one indicator of a person's salvation status is whether they are regularly studying the Bible with a view towards application. Growing as a Christian is firstly a function of Bible study, apart from which there will be no spiritual growth. And then developing applications from Bible study indicates one has embraced its truths. Just as in school one first learns the facts and later learns to apply them, so also with the Christian life.

Beware of the tend some have gotten caught up in of replacing the Bible with an existentialistic experience of Christ. Growth is gained through Bible study and not simply by having "experiences". While Biblical Christianity contains both of these, many abandon the Bible, replacing it with a New Age type of Jesus that they "feel", and go on to make such a "Jesus" in their own image, making up their own doctrine. That's why we have the Bible - to ensure that our experience of Christ is an experience of the Biblical Christ and not some idol.

Start with the basics. What are the fundamentals of the faith. What are the essential elements of the gospel and what constitutes basic Christian living? Paul writes to the immature Corinthians, "I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready." 1Cor 3:2 Don't delve into issues of advance theology until you have embraced and applied the fundamentals. Realize also that you are required to mature and even to go on to teaching. Hebrews 5:12 says, "In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!" So get on with it! "Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteous living. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." Heb 5:13,14

Realize also that not all who have tasted of the good Word of God have been genuinely saved. By their fruits you will recognize them. And beware, for "it is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned." Heb 6:4-8

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Lawn to Mow

Read Luke 10:25-37

The teacher of the Law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?"
-Luke 10:29 (TEV)

"HEY, can you come over here?" yelled Ruby, leaning against her doorway. I walked across the yard, reaching her quickly. She asked if I knew someone who could mow her lawn. I explained that I was visiting my daughter and didn't know anyone in town. I added that I would let her know if I heard of anyone who cuts grass. She took a deep breath from her oxygen canister and thanked me.

Of course, I was capable of mowing her lawn, so I felt guilty. I made excuses to justify not helping Ruby: I take care of my 81-year-old mother; I help my children and grandchildren; I work at my church; Ruby is not my responsibility. But even to me, my excuses sounded lame. Jesus said, "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 19:19, NRSV). Ruby needed to see God's love in my love for her.

Pushing the mower to Ruby's small patch of lawn, I cranked the machine to life. Cutting the yard helped Ruby, and my action pleased God.

I realized then that our days are filled with chances to help our neighbors. Practicing kindness, offering genuine smiles, and easing a burden of someone in need says we are trying to live the life of love that God wants us to live.

by Irene Pruett-Wilson (Texas, USA)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Limps and Scars

Read Genesis 32:9-32

Paul wrote, "Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus."
-Philippians 3:13-14 (NRSV)

ONE of my favorite Bible stories recounts Jacob wrestling with God. I like it because it reminds me of life's dark moments when my dreams crumble around me and I am down in the dirt, wrestling with God. At times like these I have asked myself, What good can possibly come from this? Jacob's story answers that question. Jacob came away from his battle with a new name, Israel, because he had struggled with God and with humans and had overcome. (See Gen. 32:28.) When we wrestle with God, we too become strengthened to overcome the trials ahead.

Like Jacob, we may come away with a limp or a scar. But often our scars can remind us to reach out to those who need the good news of hope in the midst of their own struggles.

The "sun rose upon [Jacob]" (Gen. 32:31) as he moved on to deal with old struggles in a new way. Whatever our struggles may be, God helps us to leave yesterday's trials behind and to press on in hope toward tomorrow.

by Dyton L. Owen (Oklahoma, USA)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Working for God

Read 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people.
-Colossians 3:23 (TEV)

AFTER working with a title of "minister" for many years, I now work outside the church as a mental-health counselor. Even so, I don't feel any less a minister; my approach to this job is that of a Christian serving the Lord. Each person I see is a child of God. When I work with that in mind, my job becomes my ministry. Whatever job we have, whether a church job or a job in a secular field, we have opportunities to share the love of God.

In my current job, I see many people who would never enter a church. Because of this my ministry is more far-reaching than before. One day a co-worker asked me how I could treat our clients, who at times are belligerent, with such patience and kindness. I answered, "Because I'm doing it for God."

Each of us can look for opportunities to work for God in the way we do daily tasks.

by Malinda Fillingim (Georgia, USA)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pretentious or Plain?

Read Jeremiah 18:1-10

You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, "He did not make me"? Can the pot say of the potter, "He knows nothing"?
-Isaiah 29:16 (NIV)

I have to admit that I have trouble with the concept of being clay and not having a voice in my development. It's not that I'm rebellious and want my own way; it's just that I want some say in what happens to me. Okay, I admit it. I'm afraid that God's plan for me won't suit me. What if I would make a great ceramic bowl to be displayed and admired, but instead I get molded into an ashtray? All right, maybe being a display bowl is too pretentious. But what if I would make a great serving dish that could be useful in many ways, but I get molded into a chamber pot? (In that case, I think I'd rather be an ashtray.)

In my mind, I know that God wants not only what is good for me but also what is best for me. Still, I have trouble feeling that truth in my heart and living it in my life, especially when people around me treat me like I am an ashtray or worse.

I've learned that when I do what God wants me to do, I am being who God wants me to be. I won't have to worry about how that might look to me or to anyone else.

by Darlene Mackey (California, USA)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Watch what you say

Eph 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Jesus said, "I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken." Mt 12:36

But conversely words can edify.
Words are power things, often underestimated.

God left us with His Spirit and with His Word. And "the word of God is living and active." Heb 4:12a God says of His Word, "my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." Is 55:11 Likewise with us. Peter writes, "If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God." 1Peter 4:11a

Words influence.
Words have impact.

So consider carefully what you say.

"Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Col 4:6

And pray, "Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips." Ps 141:3

Let us learn to speak by listening to the Lord and receiving the grace given Isaiah who said, "The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught." Is 50:4

Be Dispassionate

Eph 4:26,27 "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

A dispassionate person is one who doesn't allow his passions to cloud his judgments. Yes there are legitimate reasons to get angry. God get's angry and we are to conform to his image. But God also is longsuffering. And besides, our emotions are often clouded by sin. One indication that our anger has sin in it is when we lose control over it. The devil can gain a foothold through roots of bitterness.

"Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD will hear when I call to him. In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Offer right sacrifices and trust in the LORD." Ps 4:3-5

Monday, October 5, 2009

In the Garden

Read 1 Samuel 3:1-10

"Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth."
-Psalm 46:10 (NRSV)

I love noise -- steady, constant reminders that I am not alone. Radio, television, the sound of other family members clanking around in the kitchen -- all of these are a joy to me. And when no one else is around to make noise for me, I create the illusion of company by making noise myself. This need for company even carries over to my relationship with God. More often than not, when I've run out of things to say, I start saying the same things over again.

Unfortunately, while I am busy talking, no one else is able to. Over the years, I have discovered that God is a very polite listener and refuses to talk when I am talking. God consistently waits to speak until I'm ready to listen.

Finally, knowing this day might never come, God gently began nudging me toward the hobby of gardening -- an activity that occupies me so well I didn't think about talking. Amazingly, as I pull the weeds out of the dirt to make room for my herbs and vegetables and flowers, I am silent. I hear the birds and feel the wind, but I am content with no need to comment. Thoughts about my day, my friends, family, and co-workers simply drift away, and I am with God. For me, time in the garden is prayer.

by Anna C. Gheen (Idaho, USA)

Friday, October 2, 2009

God's Time

Read Psalm 37

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
-Psalm 37:5 (NRSV)

ONE day, I learned an important lesson about making a cake. After mixing all the ingredients, I poured the batter into the baking pan and put it in the oven. After 40 minutes, the cake smelled so good that I could not help peeking through the oven's glass window. I saw that the cake had risen and looked ready. So I turned off the oven and took out the cake. I called my mother, showed her the cake, and asked her to taste it. However, when she cut into the cake she found out that the middle wasn't completely cooked. She told me that I should let the cake bake for another five minutes.

This experience reminded me of how impatient we are in waiting for God's answers to our prayers. My impatience in taking out the cake is like our impatient attitude toward God. We often want a "quick fix" from God when a hasty response might make matters worse. Often I have to be reminded that our God is an "on-time God" -- neither too late nor too early to help. We can trust that God wants the best for us and that we will see God's glory at last.

by Marcelina Dewi Kumalasari (Jakarta, Indonesia)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Memberi perpuluhan

Baca Maleakhi 3:6-12

Muliakanlah Tuhan dengan hartamu dan dengan hasil pertama dari segala penghasilanmu, maka lumbung-lumbungmu akan diisi penuh sampai melimpah-limpah, bejana pemerahanmu akan meluap dengan air buah anggurnya.
-Amsal 3:9,10

Bertahun-tahun saya bergumul dengan konsep perpuluhan. Saya tidak kisah menghulurkan sedikit ke dalam kantung persembahan pada setiap hari minggu, tetapi 10 peratus? Saya mereka-reka pelbagai alasan kenapa saya tidak dapat memberi perpuluhan, namun saya tidak menghadapi sebarang kesulitan untuk membelanjakan jumlah yang sama di pasaraya.

Kemudian saya bertemu dengan Anne, seotang ibu tunggal yang bukan sahaja memberi perpuluhan malah menyimpan setiap wang lebihan untuk misi. Anne memiliki sukacita dan keyakinan dalam Tuhan yang saya cemburui. Dia tidak mempunyai pekerjaan yang bergaji besar, namun dia hidup bergaya dan menngikut kemampuannya. Satu hari, saya bertanya tentang rahsianya. "Saya menuruti rencana Tuhan dan percaya kepadanya," katanya dengan yakin. Dia seterusnya menerangkan betapa memberi perpuluhan itu bukan satu kewajipan tetapi satu keistimewaan dan satu cara untuk menunjukkan yang kita menghormati Tuhan. "Tuhan tidak pernah mengecewakan saya, walaupun pada waktu-waktu paling sukar," kata Anne.

Tuhan mencabar saya melalui Anne. "Ujilah saya dalam hal ini," Tuhan seolah-oleh berbicara sedemikian kepada saya. Jadi saya menerima cabaran Tuhan dan tidak pernah berpaling lagi. Dengan penuh kesetiaan, Tuhan telah memenuhi segala janji-janji yang diberikan di dalam Alkitab, dan berkat-berkatnya melimpah kepada saya setiap hari. Kerana Tuhan setia dan murah hati, saya sentiasa berkecukupan.

oleh Karen Gallagher (Florida, USA)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Eager Efforts

Read Ephesians 2:1-10

We are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works.
-Ephesians 2:10 (NRSV)

ONE spring my wife and I planted gardenias. "We'll help," said our two young sons. We gave them trowels, and they began digging. Before we knew it, they were off playing with their toys, leaving a few shallow holes in the dirt. Of course we didn't mind. Actually, we were pleased by their effort.

But if I'd hired a landscaping firm to plant those gardenias, I'd have been upset. "You won't get paid until it's done right," I might have said. That thought reminded me of the difference between serving as a response to God's grace and love and serving in an attempt to earn these gifts of God with our works. It's the difference between the eager offerings that children give their parents and the anxious toil that workers may do for their employer.

Our position in our Father's house is secure. Even if our good works are mixed with the remnants of sin and the best we can do is dig shallow holes for the Almighty, God is pleased with our effort. When we look for salvation in God's grace and not in our own good deeds, we are free to offer joyful service.

by Marvin Lindsay (Virginia, USA)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Personal Best

Read Matthew 22:34-40

Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
-Hebrews 12:1-2 (NRSV)

WHEN I first started on the swim team at 11 years old, I wasn't a great competitor, but I loved records. I made it my goal always to break my own. Sometimes I would be the last one to finish in a race; but I would jump out of the water, run excitedly to the coach, and say, "Hey, coach, I beat my best time!"

My performance improved, and later I won the district in the 100-yard breaststroke during high school. But the best part about that race was that I beat my previous best time. This way of thinking became part of my personality, and it became part of my faith too.

In Matthew 22:34-40 Jesus taught the greatest commandment, but keeping it sounds difficult, almost impossible. Still, I've learned from swimming that we don't reach our goal on the first day of practice. Learning to love God and our neighbor takes a lot of persistence, and we will face many setbacks. It is easier to love others when we're not worried about who is winning and who is losing, who is better and who is worse. Instead, we can find ways to celebrate our gifts together. And though we will not become saints overnight, we can do a little better each day. I'm not yet what God wants me to be, but thank God I'm better than I used to be.

by David Turner (Texas, USA)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Menjadi saksi Kristus

Dalam amanat agungNya, Yesus menyuruh murid-muridNya agar 'pergi ke seluruh dunia, jadikanlah segala bangsa muridKu dan baptislah mereka dalam nama Bapa, Anak dan Roh Kudus...'.

Sebagai orang yang percaya Yesus, kita juga menjadi murid Kristus. Sebagai murid Kristus, amanat agung ini adalah untuk kita. Kita diamanahkan untuk melaksanakan amanat ini. Jadi kita harus 'pergi...jadikan....dan baptis mereka....'. Tugas ini bukan dipertanggungjawabkan kepada seorang individu sahaja tetapi kepada semua murid Kristus. Paulus mengatakan dalam suratnya, 'ada yang menjadi tangan, ada yang menjadi kaki...ada yang bernubuat, ada yang mentafsirkan mimpi, ada yang diberi karunia untuk berkhotbah' dan banyak lagi karunia yang berbeza-beza.

Dalam kebaktian Ahad kelmarin, gereja kami dikunjungi oleh sukarelawan dari kapal MV Dolous. Mereka ini menjadi sukarelawan sebagai hamba Tuhan dengan melayani melalui pelayanan bersama-sama dengan kapal MV Dolous. Firman Tuhan dalam kebaktian tersebut pula dibawakan oleh rombongan dari Gideon International, satu pergerakan Kristian antarabangsa yang memberi fokus kepada penyampaian firman Tuhan kepada semua bangsa. Saya percaya di luar sana ada banyak lagi persatuan, pertubuhan, institusi dan sebagainya yang bergerak dengan satu tujuan iaitu untuk mencapai jiwa-jiwa untuk Tuhan. Namun adakah semua murid Tuhan perlu mengambil bahagian dalam pertubuhan atau gerakan sebegitu?

Saya melihat mereka yang terlibat dalam pelayanan sepenuh masa, penginjilan dan sebagainya ini merupakan mereka yang diberi karunia dan hikmat untuk melayani dalam bentuk sebegitu. Ada antara kita yang tidak berkesempatan untuk turut serta dalam pelayanan sebegitu kerana kekangan tertentu namun kita mampu melayani dalam bentuk yang lain. Antaranya pelayanan di gereja, di tempat kerja malah di kalangan keluarga kita sendiri.

Malah pelayanan melalui doa merupakan pelayanan yang sangat dituntut. Doa yang sungguh-sungguh mampu menggoncang sorga dan menggerakkan gunung. Berdoa boleh dilakukan di mana-mana jua. Sama ada berdoa secara sendirian mahu pun secara berkumpulan, Tuhan akan mendengar doa itu. Doa mampu mengalahkan segala bentuk tentangan. Malah doa merupakan senjata yang paling afdal bagi jiwa manusia. Dan doa yang paling berkuasa adalah doa dalam nama Yesus Kristus. Sesiapapun boleh mengambil bahagian dalam pelayanan doa ini. Jadi berdoa untuk pelayanan dan penginjilan juga merupakan satu bentuk pelayanan kepada Tuhan apabila dilakukan dengan sepenuh hati dan dengan kerendahan.

Seorang ibu atau ayah yang tidak mampu terlibat dalam pelayanan sepenuh masa untuk menggapai jiwa-jiwa di luar sana boleh dipakai Tuhan dengan luar biasa untuk bersaksi kepada anak-anak dan ahli keluarganya yang lain. Malah tulisan-tulisan dalam majalah, surat khabar ataupun laman web boleh menjadi berkat buat ramai orang.

Kerana itu, gunakanlah segala hikmat dan bakat yang Tuhan berikan kepada kita untuk melayani Tuhan dan menggapai jiwa-jiwa untuk Tuhan. Melalui kesaksian kita, baik dalam perkataan mahu pun perbuatan, akan ada jiwa yang akan diberkati. Melalui kehidupan kita, Roh Tuhan akan bekerja di dalam kehidupan orang lain dan menggerakkan hati mereka untuk mengenal Tuhan. Maka Tuhan pasti akan mengirim hamba-hambaNya yang diberi karunia untuk menginjil kepada orang itu seterusnya memimpin mereka untuk menerima Yesus sebagai Tuhan dan Juruselamat.

Longings Fulfilled

Read 1 Samuel 1:21-28

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
-Proverbs 13:12 (NIV)

AS I sat in the obstetrician's office, I felt heartbroken. For the second time, my husband and I had lost a baby through miscarriage. Our hope of starting a family was deferred again. Less than a year later, I was overjoyed when God fulfilled my longing and gave us a son.

While reading 1 Samuel 1, I identified with Hannah's desire to have children. Pouring out her heart to the Lord, she prayed for years that God would bless her with a son. She eventually conceived and gave birth to a son, Samuel. "I prayed for this child," she said, "and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord" (1 Sam. 1:27-28).

Hannah's story reminds me that my child is a gift that I should continually surrender to the Lord. It would have been easy for Hannah to keep Samuel to herself after years of hoping for a child. But she offered him back, in thanksgiving and praise, to serve the Lord.

Indeed, all of our fulfilled hopes are gifts from God and reminders that all we have comes from and belongs to the Lord. Our proper response to God is gratitude and surrender.

by Kelley Brown (Alabama, USA)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lean on God

Read 1 Kings 19:1-18

[Elijah] prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, Lord," he said. "Take my life."
-1 Kings 19:4 (NIV)

I had lost my job. After a six-month search, I found work 2500 miles away. My wife and children stayed behind until we knew this new job would work out. My first three months alone were a nightmare. The new work was challenging, and I missed my family. I felt alone and defeated, and I cried in despair.

In times like this, I can really identify with Elijah. After he had been empowered by God to resurrect a dead child, to stop the rain, and to bring fire down from heaven, Jezebel vowed to kill him. The fear and pressure became too much for Elijah. When I see the great prophet in despair and know the end of his story, I thank God because this means there is hope for me. When pressures such as money problems, family illness, stress at work, or internal struggles make us feel defeated, we can remember Elijah and how God tenderly cared for him.

We can do this by reading the Bible daily to become encouraged and better tuned to God's voice. When we express our pain in prayer and seek Christian companionship, God helps us through our dark valleys. Elijah recovered and returned to serve God. When we feel defeated, we too can lean on God and find hope.

by Tom Smith (Utah, USA)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Forgiving Others

Read Matthew 18:21-35

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
-Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

SUNDAY morning. Time for church. My husband and two older children had walked out the door, but I stayed behind, too hurt and angry to get myself and the baby ready to go. I felt bitter and slighted from a problem at church. God knew I had a right to cry. I decided to stay home and nurse my hurt feelings with angry tears.

Reaching for the baby's bottle, I heard a voice speak one word in my heart. Forgive. I paused, startled. I knew whose voice I had heard. God was gently nudging me. It wasn't easy, but in time and with God's help, I did forgive.

Now, at 80 years old, I look back to see how many times in the past 50 years I have needed to heed God's simple command -- "Forgive!" Sometimes I delay and sometimes I complain, but, with God's help, I forgive. When I pray the Lord's Prayer, asking to be forgiven as I forgive others, I know what I must do. The peace and comfort of God's presence are worth the effort. We can forgive others with love because Christ first loved and forgave us.

by Joyce Woeste (Iowa, USA)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Penyembahan yang tidak berbelah bahagi

Sering kali apabila saya berurusan dengan seseorang, orang itu akan menghulurkan kad perniagaannya sebagai tanda perkenalan. Dan juga kalau-kalau saya memerlukannya untuk berhubungan dengan mereka pada masa yang lain. Satu kelaziman yang saya dapat perhatikan ialah apabila menghulurkan kad, orang itu akan menghulurkannya dengan kedua-dua tangan. Pada mulanya tidak timbul rasa hairan namun apabila ianya berlaku berulang kali, tercetus juga rasa ingin tahu.

Seorang rakan memberitahu kepada saya bahawa dalam budaya orang berbangsa Cina, apabila memberi sesuatu kepada seseorang, harus dihulurkan dengan kedua-dua tangan. Ini merupakan tanda bahawa pemberian itu diserahkan dengan sepenuh hati. Agak masuk akal juga kerana menghulur dengan satu tangan sementara tangan yang satu lagi sibuk bermain 'handphone' agak kurang sopan dan menunjukkan rasa tidak ikhlas. Menghulur dengan kedua-dua tangan memerlukan segala aktiviti yang lain dihentikan dan sepenuh perhatian diberikan kepada tindakan menghulur itu sahaja.

Lantas saya terfikir perkara yang serupa dalam penyembahan kita kepada Tuhan. Adakah kita menyembah dengan kedua-dua tangan yang terhulur? Atau adakah hanya satu tangan kita terhulur sementara tangan yang satu lagi sibuk dengan tugas duniawi yang lain? Melihat ke dalam diri saya, sering kali satu daripada tangan saya penuh dengan kesibukan duniawi walaupun tangan yang satu bersungguh-sungguh menyembah Tuhan. Kesannya penyembahan itu tidak dilakukan dengan sepenuh hati!

Apabila kita datang menyembah Tuhan, Dia menghendaki agar kita menyembah dengan sepenuh hati. Namun sering kali kesibukan duniawi mengganggu penyembahan yang sepenuh hati. Separuh perhatian kita tertunpu kepada tugas-tugas kita di pejabat, masalah perniagaan, masalah rumahtangga, masalah kewangan dan sebagainya. Hasilnya penyembahan kita tidak bermaya di depan Tuhan.

Adakah kedua-dau tangan kita terhulur apabila kita memberi penyembahan kepada Tuhan atau adakah tangan kita yang satu lagi masih sibuk dengan hal-hal duniawi?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

God's plan

We need to have faith that He can hide us in a field. Fields are wide open spaces and at first glance would seem to be not a very good place to hide.

I need Him to hide me sometimes, and instead of hiding me in a cave or a forest or an underground super secret impenetrable fortress, He chooses to hide me in a field.

I may feel exposed, but I realize that in hiding me in a field He is asking me to have trust in Him to keep me safe and hidden. My faith grows in knowing He could hide me anywhere and I would be safe.

Psalms 27:5 For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Children and parents

Proverbs 22:6 and Ephesians 6:1-4 (NRSV)

Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother"--this is the first commandment with a promise: "so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth."

And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Baca Wahyu 3:11-13

In all these things we are more than conquerors through [God] who loved us.
-Romans 8:37 (NRSV)

Sebagai seorang kanak-kanak, kita sering kali cuba meniru wira-wira dalam buku komik; siap sedia untuk bertarung bersenjatakan pedang kayu, berperisaikan gabus dan dipenuhi imaginasi yang seakan nyata.

Buku Wahyu juga seakan-akan kisah sebuah komik. Dipenuhi dengan wira-wira yang perkasa dan musuh-musuh yang ganas. Dalam semua kisah wahyu, wira-wira sentiasa dapat menakluki musuh dan menerima ganjaran.

Lalu kita bertanya, "Siapakah musuh dalam kisah ini?"

"DOSA," adalah jawabannya.

Alangkah bahayanya berdepan dengan musuh ini! Kita perlu menggunakan pedang, perisai dan kadang-kala penumbuk kita.

Cuba kita fikirkan akan makna perkataan 'takluk' ini. Melalui pengalaman, kita diyakinkan bahawa musuh kita yang paling licik ialah musuh yang dengan ribuan cara, cuba untuk mengalihkan kita daripada berdoa dengan tetap, membaca dan merenung firman Tuhan, datang ke gereja, memuji dan menyembah Tuhan. Marilah kita sentiasa peka kepada tekanan yang tidak kelihatan namun sangat berkuasa ini kerana ia akan sentiasa berusaha untuk memesongkan fokus kita kepada Tuhan.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cries for Help

Read Psalm 86:1-8

The psalmist wrote, "In the day of my trouble I call on you, for you will answer me."
-Psalm 86:7 (NRSV)

As children of God, we are blessed to know that God does hear our prayers. Sometimes we may panic when there is a crisis. However, if we call out in prayer, we will find that God is always there to help us and give us peace.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Our Father

Read Psalm 19:1-6

[Jesus] said unto [his disciples], "When ye pray, say, Our Father ..."
-Luke 11:2 (KJV)

AS a child of about five, I looked up in awe of the bright stars flickering against winter's dark sky. My warm breath made momentary shallow clouds above me as I shivered in January's chill. Mom and my two older sisters were just steps ahead of my dad and me as we walked to a covered-dish supper at church. My dad held my hand snug in one hand while balancing a dish of steaming scalloped potatoes in the other.

Darkness always frightened me except when my dad was near; I felt safe and peaceful when he was nearby. He had a strong trust in God's faithfulness and love, and he lived confidently in that assurance. Dad helped me grow in the shelter of God's love and set my feet on a path that led me to find my own way to my heavenly Father.

When Jesus invites us to call God Father, wonderful images of my dad remind me of the tender love God has for us. God welcomes us to take his hand and walk in the shelter of divine presence. Even the greatest example of human love can't compare to the depth of love God has for each of us. The Creator of the magnificent stars that decorate the night sky graciously gives each of us the privilege of calling him Father!

by Dori Magee (New York, USA)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Khusus buatku....

Baca Keluaran 16:11-18

My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
-Philippians 4:19 (KJV)

Ketika saya berjumpa kawan saya Jan bertahun yang lalu, dia merupakan orang yang paling baik yang saya temui. Namun dia tidak mengenal Yesus Kristus. Salah satu daripada berkat-berkat dalam hidup saya adalah melihat perubahan yang berlaku dalam hidupnya semenjak Jan mengenal Kristus sebagai Juruselamatnya. The Upper Room merupakan salah satu alat yang membantunya untuk bertumbuh sebagai seorang Kristian. Satu jenaka kami yang biasa ialah mengatakan yang setiap renungan harian itu ditulis khusus untuk kami: "Saya tidak tahu apa yang dikatakan oleh renungan anda hari ini, tetapi renungan saya sememangnya ditulis khusus untuk saya." Baru-baru ini, pada harijadi saya, saya merupakan orang yang paling gembira kerana Fokus Doa untuk renungan hari itu adalah "mereka yang menyambut harijadi pada hari ini."

Walaupun Jan dan saya berjenaka tentang perkara itu, namun sebenarnya Tuhan mengetahui apa keperluan-keperluan setiap kita pada setiap hari. Tuhan boleh dan bercakap kepada hati setiap kita melalui perkataan-perkataan yang kita baca, senyuman seorang asing, panggilan telefon daripada seorang kawan dan banyak lagi kejadian yang membantu dalam keperluan-keperluan peribadi dan pergumulan. Kita hanya perlu terbuka kepada Roh Kudus dan sedar akan "kebetulan-kebetulan" yang terjadi dalam kehidupan kita seharian untuk mendengar Tuhan berbicara atau melihat tangan Tuhan bekerja.

oleh Donna Heizer (Kentucky, USA)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Apa ada pada nama?

What's in a Name?

Baca Efesus 5:1-10

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.
-Proverbs 22:1 (NRSV)

Sewaktu melanjutkan pelajaran ke kolej saya berpindah dari bandar kediaman saya yang didiami oleh tiga ratus orang. Pernah sekali, apabila saya kembali untuk melawat bandar tersebut, saya pergi ke pekan bersebelahan untuk membeli-belah. Apabila saya hendak membayar, saya teringat yang cek saya adalah cek luar negeri.

"Adakah kamu menerima cek dari luar negeri?" saya bertanya kepada jurujual. Saya membuka terlebih dahulu cek saya.

Dia melihat kepada nama keluarga saya, Bothof, yang mana bukanlah nama kebiasaan. "Kamu anak John?" dia bertanya.

"Bukan, saya anak Henry, dari Chandler. John adalah pakcik saya."

"Baiklah. Tiada masalah dengan cek kamu," kata jurujual itu.

Saya menulis cek itu dan membuat pembayaran. Kerana pakcik saya sudah membina reputasi yang baik, maka saya mendapat kepercayaan. Dan cek saya juga tidak bermasalah; saya tidak memalukan pakcik saya dan ayah saya.

Saya mempunyai nama lain: Kristian. Saya adalah milik keluarga Kristus. Kristus membina reputasi, dan saya menuruti jejaknya. Dalam kehidupan harian saya, adakah saya menggambarkan sifat Kristus? Saya ingin agar orang didekatkan kepadad Kristus kerana saya.

Adakah sikap dan sifat seharaian saya membawa malu atau hormat kepada nama Kristian?

oleh Diann Bothof Lopez (Arizona, USA)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Masa untuk rehat!

Baca Matius 6:25-34

The psalmist said to God, "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!"
-Psalm 119:103 (NRSV)

Lebah madu terkenal dengan ketekunannya yang tidak kunjung pudar. Di dalam sarangnya berjalan pesat aktiviti yang pelbagai. Tidak menghairankan. Seekor lebah pekerja mengeluarkan 1/12 sudu teh madu sepanjang hayatnya, dan sarang yang baik menghasilkan 50 ke 60 paun madu untuk bertahan pada musim sejuk. Tugas tersebut tidak pernah berakhir!

Namun, sedikit yang tahu akan kebenaran bahawa lebah madu yang rajin pun akan mencari satu ruang di dalam sarangnya, menghentikan segala aktiviti---langsung tidak melakukan apa-apa untuk seketika! Tiada yang produktif dalam pandangan dunia. Namun masa penyegaran dan pembaharuan ini adalah sangat mustahak. Lebah memerlukan sedikit waktu untuk keluar daripada kesibukan hidup dan ini kelihatannya tidak langsung merosakkan sarang mereka.

Ramai antara kita menyedari yang tahap tekanan dan kebimbangan kita meningkat kerana tugasan harian kita yang tidak pernah berakhir. Kita risau sama ada kita dapat bertahan. Pada waktu-waktu sebegini saya mendapati yang terbaik ialah mengikuti teladan lebah madu dan berhenti sekitika. Lagi pun, Yesus juga melakukan yang serupa. Apabila dia sangat sibuk, dia mendaki ke bukit untuk berdoa -- mengujudkan satu waktu dan ruang buat Tuhan menyegarkan kembali rohnya. Sekiranya Yesus pun memrlukan waktu sebegitu, pastinya kita juga.

Hari ini, sekiranya kita terhimpit oleh tugasan yang bertimbun, ambil waktu walaupun sedikit untuk keluar dari kesibukan itu. Gunakan waktu itu untuk berdoa, melakukan aktiviti yang lain daripada tugasan kita. Pada waktu yang sama, roh kita akan disegarkan. Selepas itu kembalilah kepada tugasan kita dengan kesegaran yang baru!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Strong Again

Read Hebrews 3:12-14

Jesus said, "I have told you this so that you will have peace by being united to me. The world will make you suffer. But be brave! I have defeated the world!"
-John 16:33 (TEV)

AFTER 32 years of marriage, my husband wanted a divorce. I felt defeated, rejected, and unloved, wondering if I was even important to God anymore.

In this troubled time, my faith was crucial. I needed and wanted to stay in touch with God through reading scripture and praying. My friends and family encouraged me and reminded me how important I am to God -- so important that Jesus died for me. How much more important could I be? One of my friends even phoned me and read scripture to me. When I lay down at night, wiping away tears, I felt God's arms around me. I thanked God for caring and for giving me faithful Christian friends.

Isaiah 40:31 tells us that those who trust the Lord will become strong again. God has made me strong again and given me a desire to help others in their troubled times. Knowing that God would never betray me is my source of strength. No one will ever have a problem-free life. But faith in God and in our worth as beloved children of God will give us the hope and encouragement we need to remain strong and to witness to others for Christ.

by Debbie Gillis (South Carolina, USA)

Monday, July 27, 2009

God's Lifeline

Read Romans 10:8-17 and 1 Corinthians 1:18-30

Moses said to the Israelites, "I have set before you life and death. ... Now choose life, so that you and your children may live."
-Deuteronomy 30:19 (NIV)

A documentary on television showed a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter rescuing two people who had been lost at sea for three torturous days and nights. Their commercial fishing boat had capsized in a violent storm that killed the rest of the crew. As the two survivors were pulled to safety, I could not only see but also feel their gratefulness and jubilation. They were saved from the threat of death.

After watching this dramatic event, I began to think of how God seeks to rescue the lost. Rescue workers cast lifelines to victims in distress. In a spiritual sense, God does the same for each of us, offering us eternal life. Can you imagine anyone who would refuse to be rescued from death?

Every day millions of people remain lost, cast adrift or separated from relationship with our loving Savior, Christ Jesus. As believers, as those who have been rescued, we have the privilege and responsibility to offer God's lifeline to those in danger of drowning in life's turbulent seas. For them it is a matter of life or death.

by Donald L. Maly (Texas, USA)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Praying Always

Read Ephesians 6:10-20

Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication.
-0Ephesians 6:18 (NRSV)

AT a busy city intersection, my wife and I waited to cross the road. I pressed the button for the pedestrian walk sign once, twice, half a dozen times.

"Why did you do that?" asked my wife. "Once is enough. You are not going to speed anything up by doing it again and again."

"I know," I replied, "but it makes me feel better."

Her question made me think of one of my own "whys." The Bible encourages us to pray with confidence, knowing that our requests are heard. But it also tells us to pray constantly. I have wondered why, but I have concluded that prayer is so much in the realm of mystery that I cannot expect to understand. Nevertheless I try.

Prayer is as much for me as it is for God. Though I would like to think that the world is different because I pray, I know that all I can do is rely on God and simply pray in faith. But regardless of what happens in the world outside me, when I pray, something happens within me. Not only do I feel better, but I am also changed by the experience. Sometimes I don't want to pray about a problem that is troubling me, and I resist. When I pray, God sorts out my motives. Then the world seems different because I am different, and I am more confident in leaving the final answers to God.

Bill Adams (Queensland, Australia)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Expecting the Best

Read Ephesians 3:14-21

Now unto [God] that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory.
-Ephesians 3:20-21 (KJV)

A few years back, I injured the rotator cuff in my shoulder. Suffering great pain, I decided to see an orthopedic surgeon. He gave me a shot of steroids and prescribed physical therapy. Frankly, I was not expecting much relief. But to my surprise, within a few weeks the pain was virtually gone.

This led me to think about my spiritual life. Sometimes I pray, then pray again; but whether I pray about finances, relationships, or peace of mind, I do not really expect the Lord to answer. So I decided to start praying expectantly. I did not imagine that God would say "yes" to all of my prayers, but I prayed with a new attitude and new hope regarding God's response to my petitions. And I have not been disappointed.

by Edward Sarp (Pennsylvania, USA)

Dear God, however you answer our prayers, let us be at peace with your response, knowing that you have our best interests in mind. As Jesus taught us, we pray, "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil."* Amen.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hidden Fruit

Read Psalm 119:7-20

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
-2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NRSV)

ONE of my favorite summer activities is picking wild raspberries. I love to stand in one spot and pick as many raspberries as I can find before moving on to the next patch. Often when I think I have exhausted the supply of berries before me, I prepare to move on, only to spy the ripest, biggest, most luscious berry yet. How did I miss this one? I wonder. The answer is simple: Changing my stance and my line of sight lets me see what had been there all along, waiting for me to claim it.

In a way, the same is true with God's word. At times I become complacent, even bored, with a passage of scripture, thinking I have exhausted its meaning and relevance to my life. When time and experience have changed my outlook on life, however, I find myself re-reading the passage and thinking, Wow, how did I miss that? Surprised I didn't see some message sooner, but grateful to have the newfound insight, I am enriched. The wisdom is fresh and new every morning. (See Lam. 3:23). Thanks be to God!

by Kristine Liknes (Ohio, USA)

Friday, July 10, 2009

My Hope

Read 1 Peter 5:6-10

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts.
-2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NRSV)

MY life has been filled with hard trials. When I was just two or three days old, I almost died because of the midwife's carelessness. Ever since then, I have suffered from various illnesses. Then, when I was a teenager, I had a kidney operation that left me unable to have children.

When I got married, I decided to adopt a child, Iva. Although I loved her unconditionally, I was upset because she too was ill. I struggled alone with her illnesses, without the support of my husband, an alcoholic. While I was taking care of Iva, my mother-in-law tried to take her away from me. Eventually, Iva died in my arms at the age of 13. I felt absolutely helpless but managed to find strength for the next trial -- my husband divorcing me.

I wouldn't be alive right now if I didn't know Christ. Fortunately, during all those long years of suffering I was a Christian. When my daughter died and I couldn't see a direction in my life, God showed me the right way and gave me a message of comfort. Through my struggles I learned an important lesson: We cannot blame God when we suffer. We live in a sinful world filled with imperfect people, but God is perfect and merciful. God is our hope.

by Anna Georgieva Georgieva (Pleven, Bulgaria)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Spiritual Balance

Read Isaiah 40:28-31

Because so many people were coming and going that [the apostles] did not even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."
-Mark 6:31 (NIV)

IN retirement I found myself becoming a full-time volunteer. While volunteering is personally rewarding, at times it can also lead to stress and frustration. One day a friend shared her concern that I was on overload. This led me to stop and think: Why am I volunteering? Is it because I can't say "no?" Or is it something deeper inside, such as the need to be needed and noticed? Have I been serving just to receive the affirmation of others?

I've since learned to pull back some and to spend more time in prayer and reflection. In neglecting my inner being, I was becoming spiritually unbalanced. In serving and doing for others, I wasn't waiting on the Lord for strength and direction. I'd forgotten what Jesus said: "Apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

No one was more pressed into doing for others than Jesus. The crowds gave him no relief. So it was necessary -- even for Jesus -- to draw apart and pray for strength and wisdom in serving others. Should we seek anything less?

by Donald Joiner (North Carolina, USA)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Faith Under Crisis

Read Psalm 56 and Deuteronomy 20:1-4

The psalmist wrote, "In the shadow of your wings [O God] I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by."
-Psalm 57:1 (NRSV)

I picked up the magazine, eager to be inspired by its cover story about military chaplains striving to live the word of God under fire in Iraq. To my dismay, the article began with the story of one young chaplain whose faith had been so shattered by what he saw in war that he wanted nothing to do with God; he had become sick of religion and had come to hate God.

It hurt to read this account of faith in crisis. But I had to ask myself: What would it take to turn me away from God? A bitter divorce? The death of one of my children? Incurable cancer? I understood how that chaplain's inner struggles had caused him to become bitter, angry, and alienated.

I read on to discover that the chaplain, now counseling wounded military personnel at a government hospital, had recovered his faith. After agonizing months of adjustment back home, he found and described a new relationship with God brought about by what he had experienced. After enduring a life-changing and belief-eroding time, this soldier/pastor returned to God, a different person but still a believer.

As his story showed me, times of doubt can become a doorway to renewed faith.

by Prudence Schofield (Maine, USA)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Root of Bitterness

Read Genesis 27:30-41

Pursue peace with everyone. . . . See to it . . . that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble.
-Hebrews 12:1415 (NRSV)

THE company I have worked for over the last 21 years recently reorganized. When the dust settled, I found myself in a new position. A younger engineer with much less experience was given the job that I loved. The injustice I felt created bitterness within me.

Today's scripture reading tells of "a root of bitterness" that sprouts within Esau after Jacob steals his birthright and blessing. The bitterness grows into such hatred that Esau plans to kill Jacob, his own flesh and blood. Bitterness can work that way - consuming us as a briar consumes a garden. Left unchecked, it grows stronger and stronger and chokes out the fruit in our lives. And like a briar, its root must be removed entirely or it will sprout up again.

I discovered this painful truth: Bitterness hurts the one who harbors it more than the one to whom it is directed. I came to realize that my bitterness was stealing my joy, breaking my fellowship with God, and contradicting God's will. But when we discover briars of bitterness, God can help us to forgive and so uproot them.

by Terry Thomas Bowman (North Carolina, USA)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Our Own Path

Read 1 Corinthians 3:1-4

Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.
-Psalm 34:3 (NIV)

I grew up in the mountains of Colorado. Near my home, a canyon road begins as a single highway and then splits into two roads that appear to go in different directions. However, the roads actually encircle a mountain and then re-join in a state park. Although they end in the same place, the routes are unique in beauty, terrain, and history.

In a similar way, early believers in Corinth were divided. They were quarreling over whom they should follow. Some said, "I follow Paul," while others said, "I follow Apollos." However, Paul stressed that he and Apollos were only servants, saying, "Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who gives the growth" (1 Cor. 3:7, nrsv).

A common temptation among believers is to talk more about a particular church or leader than about Christ. Perhaps we think our journey in faith is the best way to Christ. The two routes to the state park remind me that although we journey with other believers to a common destination, we are individually unique creations of God with our own stories and our own path to walk. Some day our paths will converge and we will discover that we were each on the right path.

by Barbara Gail Bliss (Colorado, USA)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Letters of Christ

Read 2 Corinthians 2:17–3:4

You are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
-2 Corinthians 3:3 (NRSV)

SEVERAL years ago, my husband and I went to Haiti on a building mission from our local church. There were 13 of us on the team, and we lived in some rooms behind the church. We decided to ask each team member to lead a devotion for one morning after breakfast. In searching for something to use, I read from 2 Corinthians, "You are a letter from Christ." After reading several other verses, those six words kept coming back to me. I wondered if our friends in Haiti thought of us in that way. They were also letters from Christ to us as they extended hospitality to us by being so generous with what little they had.

Then I realized that no matter where we are, we are letters from Christ to our families, friends, and neighbors in the communities where we live. We can be letters of encouragement and letters of love whether we are at home or in some other part of the world. Perhaps we may at some time in our lives be "letters of introduction" about Christ for someone who doesn't know him.

by Annette Kinney (North Carolina, USA)

Friday, June 26, 2009

work our land

Proverbs 12:11
He who works his land will have abundant food,
but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment.

I love this one. We all have land. Opportunities that we are given and asked to work. And when we do, they yield abundant food. But how often do we ignore the land we have? The jobs we have? The friends we have? The situations we have and chase fantasies in far off lands with far off people instead? I struggle with this every time I visit a really interactive blog. I immediately think, “I need to be doing more with video and live chat and graphics and and and.” Suddenly, the land I have, writing, becomes really small and unimportant as I chase fantasies.

What land do you have that you are taking for granted right now?

What fantasies are you chasing?

by Prodigal Jon

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fully Ripe

Read Isaiah 40:27-31

No one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
-Isaiah 64:4 (NIV)

EVERY year it happens. I wait and keep checking my blackberry vines to see the white flowers turn from green berries to red and then finally to a delicious black.

I'm so impatient that I usually pick that first blackberry too soon. It's never sweet enough. Eventually I remember the art of just gently touching the darkest one. If fully ripe, it will fall into my hand.

My blackberry vines remind me that God knows the right time for everything that will happen in my life. Recently I sensed this when I felt frustrated about my job. I was tempted to complain or quit. I wanted relief because I felt powerless. But waiting for God's timing meant learning patience with unreasonable coworkers. Waiting meant believing God could stretch my paychecks. And as I waited, I saw God use these frustrating circumstances to bring forth fruit in my life.

Trying to force things to be a certain way is like pulling fruit off the vine prematurely. Instead, if we patiently persevere, we can become less consumed with our wanting and more focused on the sweet fruit that will come in God's time.

by Dolly Dickinson (North Carolina, USA)

Monday, June 22, 2009

No Substitute

Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

The psalmist wrote, "Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all day long."
-Psalm 119:97 (NRSV)

MY dentist's office is full of very expensive and sophisticated equipment. The high-tech gadgetry helps him to monitor possible problems with my teeth and treat whatever problems may arise with greater precision and less pain for me.

But there's one dental-health issue that all the fancy equipment can't address: the results of not flossing daily. Standing in the middle of all that equipment, my dentist told me, "There's no substitute for running that piece of floss between your teeth." It's hard to believe that an action so simple can have such great effect.

Sometimes in the pursuit of good spiritual health, we try to substitute complicated and advanced methods for the simple ones we have readily at hand. We may go to conferences or seminars to deepen our spirituality but neglect daily meditation and Bible study.

There's no substitute for flossing, and there's no substitute for praying and reading scripture daily.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Giants in the Road

Read Numbers 13:25–14:9

The people who live [in Canaan] are powerful, and their cities are very large and well fortified. Even worse, we saw the descendants of the giants there.
-Numbers 13:28 (TEV)

A tiny, orange salamander rested at the edge of the expansive black road. From the other side of the road, the waters of a mountain stream beckoned. The creature crept forward, but froze as we "giants" blocked its path.

At the same time, my friend and I stared at the small animal on the road. Just a few feet from the safety of the stream, it stopped, seemingly paralyzed by fear. I realized that often my life mirrors this. At times, I am eager to reach a goal but afraid to face the "giants," just like the Israelites who lost courage even with the Promised Land in sight. Joshua and Caleb's response to the people's fear reminds me: "The Lord is with us . . . so don't be afraid" (Num. 14:9).

We all face giants such as financial difficulties, temptations of the flesh, and selfish desires. One of my scariest giants appeared when I had to decide whether or not to leave my dream job to move closer to my wife's family. I made the move, and in my new location I found the abundant love of family and friends who helped me to grow closer to Christ. Once I acted on my trust in the Lord, I discovered that I had entered my "promised land."

by Jesse F. Stewart (South Carolina, USA)

Answering God's Call

Read 1 Samuel 10:17-24

[The people] inquired again of the Lord, "Did the man come here?" and the Lord said, "See, he has hidden himself among the baggage."
-1 Samuel 10:22 (NRSV)

THE date of our church's annual meeting was drawing near. My wife and I were praying to discern God's will because I had received an invitation to join the governing board of our church. I could think of many good reasons to decline the invitation. However, I wasn't sure.

Just before departing for the meeting, I read that day's meditation in El Aposento Alto (the Spanish edition of The Upper Room). It cited the scripture above, which told about Saul trying to hide from God's call. I knew I had been trying to hide "among the baggage," but I felt God was clearly asking more of me. I was left with no doubt in my mind: I should take on the challenge. I was elected to serve the church in a position of great responsibility.

We all have gifts and talents to offer. If we place them at God's disposal, in God's time and plan, the Holy Spirit will give us power to serve God and God's people.

by Antonio Mario Schar (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Watered Rose

Read Ephesians 4:31–5:2

The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
-Isaiah 58:11 (NRSV)

HAVE you ever stood still, looked into the head of a rose, and marveled at its beauty? Days before, such a beautiful rose was a small, tight bud. Who could imagine that within a few days this would become a beauty so large it seemed impossible that it ever fit into that bud? What's more, the rose can overwhelm with the pleasure of its exquisite fragrance.

Becoming a Christian is like this. Without Christ, we "are limited and small" but once we have been "united with Christ," (Phil. 2:1, niv) our loving Savior, we unfold and expand like that rose. In Christ we can become full and rich in compassion, spreading the fragrance of love.

by Alison Mason (Victoria, Australia)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Running the Race

Read Philippians 3:10-16

Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
-Isaiah 40:31 (NRSV)

MY brother, Art, often took part in Colorado's annual Pike's Peak run, which is 14 miles. One year Art's 13-year-old daughter, Ruth, decided to enter. But about a quarter-mile into the race, Ruth called, "Daddy, I'm dropping out. I can't do it." "Can you run if I run with you?" Art asked.

"Well, I can try," came Ruth's answer. So as the other runners raced up the mountain, Art and Ruth plodded along. At miles 5, 10, 12 and 13 they were still going. When they finally crossed the finish line, Ruth fell to the ground, exhausted but elated, and said, "Daddy, I think this is the closest I've ever felt to you."

Art died after a two-year battle with injuries sustained in a major fall. But I know that he did not run that last race alone. God ran with him as he struggled "up the hill," and I know that Art was truly close to our heavenly Father at the finish line.

At times when we are struggling with life and think we can't go on, we discover that God is "running the race" with us. God can give us the strength to do what we had believed was impossible.

by Walter H. Everett (Pennsylvania, USA)

A Patient's Prayer

Psalm 28:6-9 (NRSV)
Blessed be the LORD, for he has heard the sound of my pleadings. The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts;so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. The LORD is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed. O save your people, and bless your heritage; be their shepherd, and carry them forever.

In all thy ways acknowledge [God], and he shall direct thy paths.
-Proverbs 3:6 (KJV)

A patient came to my office seeking a hip replacement. His former cardiologist believed that the man's heart was too weak for him to survive a major operation. However, a new cardiologist had stated that while the man faced risks in undergoing surgery, his condition appeared stable. Therefore, he gave his permission to proceed.

Our patient soon passed all preliminary tests. Still, on surgery day I could sense tension in the room among the nurses, anesthesiologist, and me. Our patient could likely sense this as well. He said, "Doctor, I know this is a busy time, but I would like to ask you for one moment to pray." In my 20 years of medical practice, no patient had ever made such a request. All chatter ceased. With his heart monitor beeping in the background, our patient prayed for God to take care of him and all of us in the room who were trying to help him. He thanked God for the opportunity to get better, acknowledging the human limitations of the staff in trying to repair his fragile body.

A sense of calm filled the room. The surgery was a success. In all my professional experience, I never have felt more strongly than on that day the presence of God sent through my patient to me.

by Thomas S. Woo (Indiana, USA)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Arm of the Lord

Read Romans 8:35-39

Cast all your anxiety on [God], because he cares for you.
-1 Peter 5:7 (NRSV)

EVERYWHERE I looked, I saw problems in my family. My mother, living at the other end of the country, had been admitted into the hospital in an emergency. My sister, her caregiver, had been diagnosed with the same infection. My husband feared losing his job; my younger daughter was having difficulties in her student accommodations, and my working hours had been cut from 28 to eight hours a week. Having broken my ankle, I felt overwhelmed, helpless, and as if I were a liability rather than an asset to my family. I could see no solutions. I needed to be in two places at once, and I could barely cope with the situation in one place.

Then I felt God say in my heart, "Come to me." Walking to a nearby window, I looked out at the vast expanse of sky. I relaxed and slowly exhaled a deep breath. The inward voice spoke again, "Am I too small?"

With sky illuminated from horizon to horizon, what could I say? "No, Lord!" I breathed.

"Then give me all your cares."

A tiny silver speck of an airplane emerged from between the vast, billowing clouds. My problems must seem like that to God. I realized then that knowing God is with me is enough.

by M. S. Foster (England)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

More than Money

Read 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
-Hebrews 13:16 (NRSV)

WHEN I arrived in the city where I now live, I saw a beautiful place, where many people vacation. To show God how I appreciated being able to live in such a city, I engaged in social work. For 15 years, as a volunteer I have managed a Christian organization that meets the needs of almost five hundred impoverished children.

Recently, I was surprised when a skeptical friend expressed doubt that I would work for free. The friend thought I am crazy to work without pay.

While meditating on what my friend had said, I received a call from my mother, who is 82, lucid, and healthy. She told me how beautiful Sunday worship had been. When we hung up, the phone rang again. My six-year-old grandson, filling my heart with joy, asked if we could go to the beach that week. Of course I said we could.

I don't work for money, but I am rich. My mother's good health, a hug from my grandson, the beauty of the city, a walk on the cool sand on summer mornings, a family dinner, laughter in the living room - what blessings! They are immeasurable, and more valuable than anything money can buy.

Orlando Lima Coutinho (Santa Catarina, Brazil)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pray! Pray!

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:11-21

Be very careful . . . how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity. . . . do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.
-Ephesians 5:1517 (NIV)

MY two-year-old daughter often repeats one word as many as six or seven times before moving on to the next. I admit that I tune her out sometimes, especially if I am attempting to have an adult conversation.

Our next-door neighbor came over one day just as we were sitting down to lunch. Feeling a little inconvenienced, I nonetheless invited her to sit with us. The neighbor began to pour out her heart about a serious medical condition she was facing. She was very worried. I could hear the Lord speaking in my heart, nudging me, "Don't just say you're going to pray for her. Do it now. Pray in her presence." I tried to disregard the Spirit.

Suddenly, I heard the word my daughter was repeating. "Pray! Pray!" she was saying, waiting for me to give thanks for her food. I grabbed her hand, and as she held the neighbor's, we gave thanks for our food and prayed for this woman we both love. As I closed the prayer "in Jesus' name," I saw that my neighbor's eyes had filled with tears. I blinked back a few tears of my own, hoping that this would be one of many opportunities to share my faith.

by Sarah Beth Snook (South Carolina, USA)

Power and Responsibility

Read Acts 2:1-11

Jesus said, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
-Matthew 28:19 (NIV

ONE of the most memorable lines from the first of the recent Spiderman movies is when Peter (Spiderman) Parker's uncle Ben tells him, "With great power comes great responsibility." Ben didn't know how powerful his nephew had become, but those words were to remain with Peter as he faced many challenges.

At Pentecost, Jesus' disciples experienced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit which equipped them to follow Christ with the almighty power of God. But with this new power came a responsibility to others, for they were commissioned to go into the world and tell everyone of God's love.

God's power, through the Holy Spirit, is available to Christ's followers in every age, yet often we forget it is offered. We may not travel to all the ends of the earth, but most of us meet people who need to hear about Christ as we go to work, the gym, the school, neighborhood spots. How wonderful that with our responsibility to share God's message comes the Spirit's great power!

by Rosemary Gemmell (Renfrewshire, Scotland)

Friday, May 29, 2009

God's Presence

Read Isaiah 58:6-12

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
-1 John 4:12 (NRSV)

A year after Hurricane Katrina, I went to New Orleans with other students in my campus ministry group. We spent a week hanging drywall, spackling, and sanding in Alice's home. Alice was an older woman who had lost three siblings in the year after the hurricane. As she served us peach tea and showed us her paintings of Jesus and Mary, she told us about her life.

By the end of the week, Alice's warmth, gratitude, and faith had inspired and strengthened our faith. Before we could thank her for sharing her life with us, she put her arms around us and told us, with tears in her eyes, "Y'all have been God's presence in my life. You don't know how much you've blessed me. God has been good to me by sending you."

That night during our evening devotions, we reflected on the reciprocal nature of God's rich blessings. Alice had taught us about faith, hope, and love as much as we had helped her as she rebuilt her house and grieved her losses. God truly does become present through the people in our lives; God lives, heals, and loves through our interactions with one another.

Alison VanBuskirk (New York, USA)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"Maybe Yes and Maybe No"

Read Proverbs 3:1-7

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
-Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)

YEARS ago a little girl in our preschool class would always sit up front next to me for our morning "circle time." When I'd show the children's name cards for the helper chart, she'd blurt out, "What about me?" Or she would ask, "Is it my turn today?" I finally began telling her, "Maybe yes and maybe no." For some reason, that answer seemed to comfort her, and she would smile and echo my words.

Over and over again, I'm reminded of my words to her. If I want to know if something is going to happen in the future, I'll think, Maybe yes and maybe no. If I want to know if certain prayers will be answered, I'll repeat those words to myself.

When I do this, it somehow comforts me as it did that student. I realize that it does me absolutely no good to try to figure out all the little details. I just have to trust in the Lord. I repeat the words over and over - "maybe yes and maybe no" - until they are planted in my heart to stay. They remind me that I can trust any decision to an all-powerful God who loves me.

by Beth DeLong (Hawaii, USA)

Planting Tomatoes

Read 1 Corinthians 3:5-9

Paul wrote, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth."
-1 Corinthians 3:6 (NRSV)

MY dad loved to plant and grow vegetables, particularly tomatoes. However, because he was in the military, we had to move every three or four years. Even if we knew we were about to be moved, Dad would plant and tend a garden anyway, and say with a smile, "I'm planting tomatoes for someone else to pick."

Dad's words come back to me at times when I feel my work for God is not showing any result. I have never helped someone find God in a single encounter, nor have I ever helped guide a straying Christian to return to God's path in a single conversation. Frankly, most of what I have done for God may not bear fruit in my lifetime.

Each act I do for God nudges someone closer to God's grace, but never all the way. In the few cases that I've been present when someone does find God for the first time or is restored to spiritual health, it's always been the last of a long series of events in that person's path.

God calls us to work in the garden. We can plant or water, whether or not we get to enjoy the harvest.

by James M. Playford (Kansas, USA)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Praying the Psalm: Praising God In Every Situation

Read Psalm 103:1-5

Let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God . . . will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
-Philippians 4:67

I received devastating news: I had breast cancer. Teary-eyed and frightened, I returned home from doctors' appointments and lab tests to find a message on my answering machine. My aunt's voice said, "Read Psalm 103:1-5. Read it over and over again. Read it every day."

I picked up my Bible and read: "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being." I marked that page in my Bible. "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits . . .who . . . heals all your diseases" (niv). I typed out the words to take to the hospital.

As I repeated the verses, I replaced the word your with my: ". . . who redeems [my] life from the pit" (verse 4). I read the psalm through surgery and recovery and while I waited for test results: ". . . and crowns [me] with love and compassion" (verse 4). I continued reading it through my treatments, more than once a day when I was weak, exhausted, and afraid of the future - if I had a future - "so that [my] youth is renewed" (Ps. 103:5, niv).

I read those verses daily for over a year, until my strength was renewed and I had another opportunity for life. Today my life is back almost to what it used to be, but I am not the same. Now I understand the importance of praising God in every situation.

by Carol A. Lowe (Texas, USA)

Friday, May 15, 2009

More than Words

Read John 14:15-27

The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
-Romans 8:26 (NRSV)

I have always loved books - new hardbacks with crisp pages, musty volumes with yellowed leaves, or well-worn paperbacks. Books take me to adventurous places. So it seemed a dream come true when I became the owner of a quiet little bookstore located in the tranquility of the mountains. I happily traveled there every weekend.

After some time, I began to feel uneasy. My children were going to church without me. The Holy Spirit began leading me to pray that I could sell my beloved bookstore, go to church with my children, and be involved in that part of their spiritual education. Almost immediately, I was asked to teach my daughter's Sunday school class. I sold the bookstore, trading thousands of books to study the Bible, the greatest book of all, with my daughter's class. And in doing so, I found the peace I needed.

When we try to live by our own wisdom, we often end up feeling that something is missing. By following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can find the life that God offers us, life that feels complete and right.

by Madsen-Ostinato (Virginia, USA)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sustainable Monday

Read Philippians 2:12-18

God . . . works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
-Philippians 2:13 (NIV)

I am not fond of Mondays because they mean the return to another long week of problems at work. A study published in the American Journal of Hypertension showed that the risk of having a heart attack and stroke is higher on Monday than on any other day of the week. My moment of truth came one Sunday evening as I once again began to worry about everything that could go wrong the next day at work where I was surrounded by complaints, problems, and negative people. As I struggled to trust God with my worries, I remembered God's past faithfulness and promises to keep us safe and to give us strength to sustain one day at a time.

Since then, my morning meditation and prayers have sustained me through Mondays and other difficult days. Through God's grace, I have been able to react differently in many difficult circumstances.

Philippians 2:13 says that God is working in us, giving us the desire and power to do what pleases God. I am learning to struggle less and to believe more as God gives me the power to do what accomplishes that "good purpose," even in the most difficult times. God's mercy and grace are sufficient and new every day, including Mondays, so our lives can shine brightly in all circumstances.

by Era Pawlowski (Illinois, USA)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Love's Example

Read John 13:1-17

Jesus said, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you."
-John 13:15 (NIV)

JESUS' words in the Gospel of John, chapters 13 to 17, tell us about the days just before the Crucifixion - how Jesus washed the feet of the disciples and prayed for them and for us. It was Jesus' time to be glorified, to give his life for us. My human mind is too limited to understand the greatness of this act of love; I can accept it only from my heart.

And once I accept this gift, how do I show my gratitude? By doing what Jesus tells me to do. Jesus said, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35, nrsv). Loving our neighbors is often not easy or simple, but for the Christian it is compulsory. Nothing can justify us if we are able to help the needy but choose not to.

We find the strength to love others and give ourselves for them by the power of the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of truth. That powerful witness for the Savior who loved us to the end gives us strength to do his works. When fear and despondency try to pull me down, the Spirit encourages me. And as I meditate on the words and actions of Jesus in the final days of his life - how he washed the disciples' feet and prayed for them and for us, how he gave himself for us - I find hope in his example of love.

by Alice Atanassova (Varna, Bulgaria)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Helping the Fallen

Read Galatians 6:1-5

My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted.
-Galatians 6:1 (NRSV)

RECENTLY I had an accident while I was working with my guide dog, Elko. I tripped on a bad section of sidewalk, lost my balance, and fell into the street. I wanted to continue our route, but I was in a lot of pain and could not manage to get up. Fortunately, someone stopped and helped me. Elko and I continued on our way.

This incident reminded me of today's Bible reading. When someone in a congregation "falls" into sin, the church's members have a responsibility to help that person back onto his or her feet. We offer this help not as superior and saintly but in a spirit of meekness and humility, knowing that we are all sinners, fallen and in need of God's grace.

God and God's people pick us up when we fall and set us on the right path again. When we confess our sins, God "will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). When we see fellow believers sin, we do not stand aside and wish them well; we work to restore them and to show them God's love and grace. Then other people can see that God's love and forgiveness are real.

by Roger E. Brannon (Florida, USA)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Daily Bread

Read Matthew 6:9-13

One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
-Matthew 4:4

I love it when people wish me "bon appetit" or simply say, "Enjoy," as they place a meal before me. What a blessing it is to have a good appetite!

While living in Africa, we experienced many food shortages. On one occasion visitors brought supplies, and so my refrigerator was full. But then I lost my appetite because I was ill. I needed healing - and asked for it.

Although it is as important for us to feed on God's word as it is for us to eat food, sometimes we lose our appetite for studying the Bible. We can ask for healing for this too.

Living alone now, I often feel I don't want to eat. But I know if I am to stay well, I must eat good, balanced meals. So I thank God for my daily bread, both physical and spiritual, and I ask God to give me an appetite to enjoy it.
Pauline Lewis (South Wales, United Kingdom)
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